Sports statues are like pizzas: sometimes you don’t know how truly bad one is until you get a taste of the really good stuff. Thus, maybe you checked out our list of bad sports statues yesterday and thought to yourself, “these aren’t that bad, are they?” But they really are bad. And once you see what a sports statue can be—lifelike, visceral, kinetic, moving—then you’ll understand just how bad the others actually are.
So let’s not beat around the bush. Click “next” to check out our list of 11 fantastic sports statues.
This memorial to Magic Johnson outside the Staples Center proves that a statue can depict motion without going over the top. It would have been weird to show Magic dunking or something, since that's not what we remember him for. Instead, with this scene, they capture the guy's personality out there on the court—but without being boring. Bonus points for the larger-than-life size, and for actually looking like old Erving.
11. Magic Johnson (Los Angeles)
The Tigers could have immortalized the great Al Kaline with some stupid statue of him just standing around. Thankfully, the folks running the club had some sense, so they came up with this brilliant statue that sits right field (where Kaline played) at Comerica Park.
10. Al Kaline (Detroit)
The Braves made the wise decision to honor their Hall 0f Fame lefty (who of course played for the Braves long before they moved to Atlanta) with a statue depicting his distinctive windup. It also looks like the guy, which is surprisingly uncommon for sports statues. So nice work, Braves.
9. Warren Spahn (Atlanta)
Important lesson for sports teams everywhere: it never hurts to immortalize a famous player's greatest and most memorable play.
If you're doing a statue of Joe Carter, it should be of him jumping up and down on the base paths after hitting the World Series-ending home run in 1993.
If you're doing a statue of Bobby Orr, it should be of him flying through the air after scoring a goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals. (I am foreshadowing, here.)
And if you're doing a statue of Doug Flutie, it should be of him winding up to hurl the most famous Hail Mary pass in the history of football. (If you don't know what I'm talking about...look it up.)
8. Doug Flutie (Boston College)
Widely regarded as one of the nastiest guys to ever play "America's Pastime," Cobb's signature move was the way he would slide into bases with his sharp metal cleats up in the air—you know, just in case somebody was thinking about trying to apply a tag. So it's fitting that Detroit would honor Cobb with this awesome statue. The way his right fist is clenched, he looks pretty intimidating, doesn't he? It's like if he doesn't take you out with his cleats, he's all ready to punch you in the nuts.
7. Ty Cobb (Detroit)
It's unlikely that anyone ever played the game of baseball with as much grace as Willie Mays. The guy hit 660 HRs, and made them all look like a piece of cake. So this gorgeous statue is a nice way to commemorate the baseball legend.
Of course, they could have chosen to immortalize "The Catch." But that happened before the Giants moved from New York, so you can forgive the team for choosing a more generic pose.
6. Willie Mays (San Francisco)
I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for moving statues of great people whose lives were cut tragically short. And this statue of Payne Stewart fits that description to a tee. It overlooks the 18th green at Pinehurst, where Stewart sank a 15-foot putt to clinch his victory at the 1999 U.S. Open. As you may recall, this is the exact celebratory pose the late golfer struck when the ball fell in. Sadly, just four months later, the guy died in a plane crash.
5. Payne Stewart (Pinehurst, NC)
Speaking of amazing dudes who died too soon, how about this freaking awesome statue of hero Pat Tillman? It sits outside the Arizona Cardinals' stadium, in what the team has named the Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza.
You will recall that, after 9/11, Tillman quit the NFL, joined the Army Rangers, and served several tours of duty in Afghanistan. Sadly, he was killed by friendly fire...but not before reminding everyone that football isn't as important as we sometimes think it is.
4. Pat Tillman (Phoenix)
The Detroit Red Wings understand what so many sports franchises do not: when you are commemorating a totally badass motherf----r, the statue has to be totally badass. It's not rocket science.
Anyway, if you ever go to a game at the Joe in Detroit, you'll be treated to this awesome statue, which captures the spirit of Gordie Howe (and, really, hockey in general) as well as any lifeless statue possibly could.
3. Gordie Howe (Detroit)
A statue of Jordan doing anything other than this would be pure crap. This pose is Jordan. So nice work, Bulls. You didn't blow it.
2. Michael Jordan (Chicago)
When I mentioned Bobby Orr's goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals back in #8, I told you I was foreshadowing. And here he is.
This statue, of course, is based on possibly the most famous sports photographs of all time. There is not other way to adequately pay tribute to the greatest hockey defenseman who ever played the game. And it's one of the best monuments in all of sports.
1. Bobby Orr (Boston)
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