Top Ten Influential LDS Athletes

You know that creating a top ten list about anything is probably asking for trouble; no matter what you put on the list, someone is going to disagree.  I think this would be especially the case with this topic.  There are a great many fine LDS athletes, and I can’t list them all.  But I would submit this list of influential athletes who may or may not fit in your list of top ten, but are nevertheless very influential in their respective fields.  I submit this list to you in no particular order.


Photo: Excel Entertainment

1. Jimmer Fredette (NBA)

-Jimmer is an up-and-coming professional basketball player in the NBA.  His prowess and character endeared him to the nation, as he shattered scoring records as a player at Brigham Young University.  He scored so many points his name was used as a verb.  An opponent against which he scored a lot of points was “Jimmered”.  He now plays for the New Orlean Pelicans.  The euphoria surrounding his success earns him a place on this list.






steve young
Photo: Russel Yip, The Chronicle

2. Steve Young (NFL)

Steve Young is often considered one of the greatest NFL players of all time, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.  He is also a college Hall of Famer He holds some of the highest quarterback passer ratings.  He played first for Brigham Young University, had a brief stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and then spent the rest of his career with the San Francisco 49ers.  Truly a great athlete, Young was respected on the field and off and inspired a generation of football players.



Photo: Ralph Barrera

3. Ty Detmer (NCAA/NFL)

Ty Detmer is a Heisman trophy winning quarterback.  While at Brigham Young University, Detmer broke several NCAA records for passing, touchdowns, and quarterback rating.  He played for a number of teams in the NFL, but was often overshadowed by other starting quarterbacks, such as Brett Favre.  He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012.






Photo: Ronald Martinez, Allsport

4. Shawn Bradley (NBA)

At 7’6” Shawn Bradley was one of the tallest players in NBA history. He played only one season of college basketball (Brigham Young University) but made a notable impression.  After serving an LDS mission, he entered the 1993 draft instead of returning to college football. His height contributed in excellence in blocking for the 76ers, Nets, and Mavericks.  After his basketball career he contributed to various philanthropic and charitable projects.






Photo: Jonathan Daniel, gettyimages
Photo: Jonathan Daniel, gettyimages

5. Merlin Olsen (NFL)

Merlin Olsen is also considered by some to be one of the greatest football players of all time, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.  He is known for his prowess as a defensive tackle. After his football career, Olsen worked as an actor, broadcaster, and pitchman.







Photo: Matt and Whitney Dellinger
Photo: Matt and Whitney Dellinger

6. Dale Murphy (MLB)

Dale Murphy was an outstanding outfielder and first baseman.  He is one of only four outfielders to obtain consecutive MVP awards (1982-1983). He was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame for both Georgia and Oregon and was one of the top players in the 1980s.  He was known for being a clean player on and off the field and a devout member of the LDS church.






Photo: Matt Heinrich
Photo: Matt Heinrich

7. Thurl Bailey (NBA)

Thurl Bailey played as a center and power forward for the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves.  He also had some brief stints with teams in Italy and Greece.  An NCAA champion in 1984, he was picked by the Jazz for not only his ability as a player, but also for his great character.  Bailey is also heavily involved in community service, including basketball camps for kids, particularly those who are disadvantaged.  Certainly, he has influenced the lives of many young players.





Photo: Stephan Savoia
Photo: Stephan Savoia

8. Danny Ainge (MLB/ NBA)

Danny Ainge had the distinction of playing in the MLB and the NBA.  He played for the Blue Jays while still in college and has the record for the youngest player on their team to hit a homerun.  As a BYU basketball player, he earned the John R. Wooden award, which is given to the best collegiate player in the nation.  He was also a two-times national champion while playing for the Boston Celtics.  Ainge is also a basketball executive and was an NBA champion in 2008.






Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe
Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

9. Jason Smyth (track and field)

Probably less well known than some of the other players on this list, I put Jason Smyth here for his accomplishment as a legally-blind runner.  This Irish sprinter won two gold medals in the 2008 Summer Paralympics. He also holds the world record for the Men’s 100 m for paralympics.  He also competes in non-paralympic events.







Photo: Macho Carioca
Photo: Macho Carioca

10. Valerie Adams (track and field)

Valerie Adams is a shot-putter from New Zealand, who holds the World Championship record for an outdoor throw and is the first woman to win four consecutive individual titles at the world track and field championships.  She had 54 consecutive event wins.





So there you have it–our top ten list of influential LDS athletes. Who would you choose?


Source: Wikipedia. List of Latter Day Saints.