Those three things got us thinking about a list of the superstars who have played in Minnesota since I’ve been an adult — more or less, since Kirby Puckett’s final regular-season game in 1995.
It’s unscientific, but it’s thought out. Patrick Reusse was consulted. There are 13 in all, and they are measured both by their on-field impact and how they resonated with fans.
1) Kevin Garnett: For the combination of longevity (12 years the first time), greatness (MVP award, a top-10 player in the league for many years) and the intangible of being the face of the franchise, nobody tops KG. Some came close, but nobody tops him.
2) Randy Moss: Rookie Randy is about as crazy as it gets for sports fan mania here, and his entire (first) seven-year run was electric.
3) Adrian Peterson: I thought he had a great chance to wind up at No. 1 on this list someday. Now, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
4) Joe Mauer: Say what you want about the rise and fall of Mauer, but the St. Paul kid still has a mighty imprint on the state. Oh, and he also has three batting titles and an MVP award (with the chance to write a better ending and move up this list with some improved seasons in 2015 and beyond).
5) Lindsay Whalen: She galvanized the state with the Gophers women’s basketball team’s Final Four run in 2004. And she brought pro women’s basketball to prominence in Minnesota, helping the Lynx to two WNBA titles. She embodies exactly how the vast majority of Minnesotans want an athlete to play: with charisma, grit, selflessness and modest flash.
T-6) Brett Favre/Bobby Jackson: I lumped these two together because their tenures were remarkably similar: both had two seasons (sure, Jackson played with the Wolves for a bit, but let’s stick with the Gophers here). One of those years was irrelevant. And one of those years was among the best Minnesota has seen in the past 20 years — Favre with the Vikings in 2009 and Jackson with the Gophers’ Final Four run in 1996-97.
8) Johan Santana: He didn’t quite resonate with fans the way other superstars have, but his greatness (two Cy Young Awards) constantly had fans in awe of his ability.
9) Torii Hunter: When someone asks, “Who was the identity of the Twins when they turned it around in the 2000s,” Hunter is the name and face that comes to mind. The stats weren’t other-worldly, but the flashy glove, improved hitting and affable smile won him many fans.
10) Zach Parise: Another athlete who still has time to move up this list. Like Whalen, Parise embodies how we want our star athletes to play.
11) Justin Morneau: Averaged 30 HR and 118 RBI per year from 2006 to 2009 and won an MVP award. His reception at Target Field for the Home Run Derby left no doubt about how fans feel about him.
12) Maya Moore: The 2014 WNBA MVP’s best years are still ahead of her, which is a scary proposition.
13) Kevin Love: He’s not at the bottom as a cheap shot. Love’s ability is not in question, and his numbers say he was a star. But he accomplished less, team-wise, than any other Minnesota superstar of this era. It wasn’t all his fault, and he made sure we knew it.