Believe it or not, certain athletes are prone to to represent the city that adorn their jersey better than others for a variety of reasons. Call it the luck of the draft, but it’s apparent when a certain athlete falls into a city that perfectly fits him. History provides us with some great examples: Magic Johnson’s electric style of play and camera-friendly smile made him a major star in a city full of them. Babe Ruth’s lovable personality and unreal numbers will always be associated with New York. And, for those that remember him, Bernie Kosar’s unorthodox recipe for success will endear him to the city of Cleveland forever.
As such, the following is a list of active athletes who, for better or worse, embody the spirit of their respective cities. Feel free to chime in with other examples.
Derek Jeter and New York City – The Big Apple has had a love affair with Jeter since he first stepped on the diamond. Timely hitting and flashy glove-work deserve credit, but DJ has a swagger that perfectly embodies the Five Boroughs: cool and mysterious. Jeter’s star power just aligns with the City That Never Sleeps. It's as simple as that.
Kobe Bryant and Los Angeles – Exciting, selfish, larger than life – on and off the court, Kobe fits the Hollywood bill maybe like none other before him. Point to his 81 point game for a flashy highlight package or to his five championship rings for a more traditional storybook ending. Taking the torch passed by Magic Johnson and running with it, Black Mamba is an ideal L.A. athlete.
Tim Lincecum and San Fransisco – No need to beat around the bush with this one: Tiny Tim likes his bud. That fact has to make him all the more endearing in one of America’s most liberal cities. Two Cy Young awards and a World Series ring probably help, too.
Peyton Manning and Indianapolis – There’s nothing particularly flashy about Manning. Using a series of calculated, efficient passes to dissect a defense, he’s more likely to kill you with an extended drive than on a home run play. And Indianapolis is pretty far from exciting. I’m from the mid-west, so I’m allowed to say that.
Ray Lewis and Baltimore - He may have found God in recent years, but that doesn’t make Ray Lewis any less intimidating. Like the rugged streets that inspired The Wire, Baltimore’s inside linebacker is dangerous and one of the absolute last people I’d want to run into in a dark alley.
Dustin Pedroia and Boston – Boston has a history of embracing the scrappy and the gritty. Dustin Pedroia, with his 5'7" frame and receding hairline, fits the bill. Pedroia is more likely to be mistaken for an extra from The Departed than an MVP-winning second baseman, making him the embodiment of the Boston success story.
Gordon Hayward and Salt Lake City – The Jazz’s 2010 first-rounder is still a work-in-progress, but he sure as hell looks the part of a Salt Lake City athlete. No other way around it: Utah’s biggest city is very white, and Hayward can only be described as “pasty.” A baby-faced 21-year-old, he wouldn’t look out of place bagging groceries part time at Kroger.
LeBron James and Miami - Shallow and superficial. Sorry, Tins, but as good as LeBron is (and he is very, very good), the American public will never fully dissociate him from being the douche behind “The Decision.” The debaucherous, club-friendly nature of Miami suits him like a fresh pair of LBJ 9s.
Brandon Inge and Detroit – A hard-worker who’s far from flashy, Inge is the blue collar Motor City. Hardly the best player on his own team, Inge has remained a staple on the Tigers because of his versatility: he has can play catcher any corner position, infield or out. He is definitely one of the more under-appreciated players in baseball.
Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City – Traditionally a college town, OKC proved to be the best home for the low-key Kevin Durant. Those that follow basketball’s best scorer on Twitter know that he’s more prone to playing his Xbox 360 or working out than scouring the land for a night club. It should come as no surprise that KD signed a max-year contract back in 2010.