Legends Michael Jordan, Jim Brown and more share birthdays

ByJeremy Willis ESPN logo
Friday, February 17, 2023

Break out the cake and balloons because Feb. 17 might be one of the best days for athlete birthdays.

On this day, 60 years ago, Michael Jordan came into this world. The college and NBA stardom would follow along with movies, sneaker dominance, business ventures and a world of iconic moments and classic memes.

Jordan isn't the only notable sports star to be born on Feb. 17. He's joined by Jim Brown and Luc Robitaille. There are a couple other dates featuring birthdays of multiple all-time sports figures. When adding great birthdays from pop culture, however, does Jordan's big day make it the GOAT of GOAT birthdays? Let's blow out the candles and look at some big days and compare.

The date: Dec. 30

Sports GOAT(s) born today: Tiger Woods and LeBron James

Woods has the record for PGA Tour wins (82) and the second-most major wins (15). James has four NBA titles with three different teams and is the NBA's all-time leading scorer. Both Tiger and LeBron are also among the few athletes whose net worth is more than $1 billion, according to Forbes.

What else the day gave us

The brilliance of Sandy Koufax: He packed a lot into a 12-year career. Koufax won four World Series with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. He was the World Series MVP in two of those series. He also, unanimously, won the Cy Young three times.

The Punk Poet Laureate meeting the Boss: American singer, songwriter, punk music icon and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Patti Smith was born on this day in 1946. While she has made 11 albums, and written 27 books, Smith's cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Because the Night" remains her most well-known song. It reached No. 13 on the 1978 Billboard Hot 100 list.

Anything else?: "The Jungle Book" (Rudyard Kipling, born 1865); Roman Pearce from the "Fast and the Furious" franchise (Tyrese Gibson, born 1978); one Roman emperor (Titus, born 39 A.D.).

The date: Feb. 17

Sports GOAT born today: Michael Jordan

In 1963, His Airness arrived. We know the rest. An NCAA title, two Olympic gold medals, six NBA titles, five league MVPs, iconic shoes, "Space Jam," "The Last Dance" and many memes -- Jordan is an icon of sports and pop culture whose influence continues nearly 20 years after his playing career ended.

What else the day gave us

Maybe the best running back ever: At one time, Jim Brown, born this day in 1936, held every significant NFL rushing record. He did it in just nine seasons (1957-65) with the Cleveland Browns. Brown held records for rushing yards in a game, season and career. He was also, at the time, the league's all-time leader in rushing and total touchdowns.

He retired to become an actor and was immediately awesome in "The Dirty Dozen."

Hard rock icons: In 1972, about 1,700 miles apart, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and the Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins arrived. Here's Hawkins from the band's song "Times Like These."

Anything else?: An Oscar winner (Brenda Fricker, born 1945); the 46 defense (Buddy Ryan, born 1931).

The date: June 11

Sports GOAT born today: Diana Taurasi

ESPN voted Taurasi the greatest player in the first 25 years of the WNBA. Longevity and consistency have set her apart while also being incredibly clutch -- so much so that Kobe Bryant gave her the nickname "White Mamba." She's also an incredible winner. Taurasi has an NCAA title, Olympic gold medal, FIBA World Cup and WNBA title.

What else the day gave us

More from the UConn dynasty: Taurasi won three NCAA titles with the UConn Huskies, the last in 2004. The Huskies went through an uncharacteristic down period, not winning a title until 2009. That came with Maya Moore who was also born on June 11. Moore won two college titles and four WNBA crowns before leaving basketball for philanthropic work. June 11 gave us players who, in total, accounted for five NCAA titles, seven WNBA titles and seven Olympic golds.

More winners, NFL edition: One has his name on the Super Bowl trophy. The other has won that trophy four times. Vince Lombardi (born 1913) is regarded as one of the NFL's greatest coaches. He turned the Green Bay Packers into a dynasty and never had a losing season.

Joe Montana (born 1956) became a Hall of Famer leading the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowls in the 1980s. If we're keeping score, June 11 is responsible for 11 NFL championships.

Anything else?: The original Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder, born 1933); Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage, born 1969); the Toyota (company founder Kiichiro Toyoda, born 1894).

The date: Sept. 26

Sports GOAT born today: Serena Williams

She's the best tennis player ever, winning 23 Grand Slam titles. Williams was ranked No. 1 by the Women's Tennis Association for 319 weeks in her career. She is the only player to win three straight Grand Slams -- which has been dubbed the "Serena Slam." She did it twice. She is also a fashion icon and a minority owner of the Miami Dolphins.

What else the day gave us

The continuing Buss dynasty: As the controlling owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, Jeanie Buss (born 1961) is one of the most powerful people in sports. She is continuing the family business, started by her father, Dr. Jerry Buss, of making the Lakers a winning franchise and one recognized all over the world. In 2020, Buss became the first female controlling owner to win an NBA title.

Speed of light: Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity was "born" on Sept. 26, 1905 when he published a scientific paper on the subject. Stephen Hawking defined the theory in "A Brief History of Time" as stating that "the laws of science (including the speed of light) should be the same for all observers, no matter how they are moving, in the absence of gravitational phenomena." Einstein's theory led to his work on mass and energy and the world's most famous equation: E=mc.

Anything else?: NASCAR (founder Bill France, born 1909); Hockey power twins (Daniel and Henrik Sedin, born 1980); "Physical" (singer Olivia Newton-John, born 1948).

The date: Jan. 26

Sports GOAT born today: Wayne Gretzky

He is literally The Great One. Gretzky owns the scoring records for goals in one period, in a single season and in a career. He holds or shares six assist records as well to go along with four Stanley Cup titles.

What else the day gave us

The dunk god: Vince Carter (born 1977) is probably the best dunker ever. Who needs to explain it? Just watch.

Reggie Dunlop and "Fast" Eddie Felson: Paul Newman (born 1925) was one of America's greatest actors with memorable performances in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Cool Hand Luke," "Hud" and others. However, his filmography also features three great sports movies. He was the hockey player/coach who, let's say, encouraged some dirty play in "Slap Shot." Newman plays pool shark Eddie Felson in "The Hustler" and "The Color of Money," the latter of which he won his only acting Academy Award.

Anything else?: A five-star general (Douglas MacArthur, born 1880); one half of The Road Warriors (Michael Hegstrand aka Road Warrior Hawk, born 1957); a former SmackDown Women's Champion (Sasha Banks, born 1992); the maker of this guitar solo (Eddie Van Halen, born 1955).

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