Which Hawaii sports figures excelled when the spotlight shone brightest? Who came through on the sports world’s biggest stages? We compiled a list of names – there’s no shortage of worthy candidates – and pared it down to our Top Ten. Yes, some of our favorite coaches and athletes didn’t make the cut. Colt Brennan, for example, had a Heisman Trophy-type season in 2007, but he and the rest of the Rainbow Warrior football team laid an egg in the Sugar Bowl. Bob Nash and Anthony Carter had impressive college basketball careers but were bit players in the NBA. Derek Tatsuno was a great baseball player at UH, but never made it to the Major Leagues. And even though BJ Penn once sat atop the MMA world, his subsequent failures inside and outside the octagon ultimately dropped him from our Top Ten.
Here’s who did make the cut:
1. DUKE KAHANAMOKU: The greatest ambassador of surfing that the sport could ever have. Oh, and he won five Olympic medals – three gold, two silver – as a competitive swimmer.
2. JESSE SAPOLU: Was an anchor on four Super Bowl-winning teams. ‘Nuff said.
3. ROBBY NAISH: A 24-time windsurfing champion, perhaps no athlete dominated his sport quite like Naish. He captured his first world title at age 13.
4. DAVE SHOJI: Led the Rainbow Wahine volleyball program to more than 1,000 victories and four national championships.
5. CHAD ROWAN: As Akebono, the 500-pound Waimanalo native became the first gaijin (foreigner) to reach the rank of Yokozuna (Grand Champion) in Japan’s ancient sport of sumo.
6. SHARON PETERSON: Coached the UH-Hilo women’s volleyball program to seven national championships. She’s also been inducted into five different Halls of Fame.
7. TOM HENDERSON: Regarded by many as the greatest UH basketball player of all time. Played on the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team and was the starting point guard for the 1978 NBA champion Washington Bullets.
8. SID FERNANDEZ: In his first start at Kaiser H.S., he pitched a no-hitter. So you know “El Sid” was destined for greatness. Was a starting pitcher for the 1986 New York Mets World Series championship team and made two MLB All-Star Game appearances.
9. MICHELLE WIE: This one-time golf prodigy hasn’t lived up to her lofty expectations, but remains one of the biggest names in her sport and has won five LPGA Tour events, including the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.
10. MAX HOLLOWAY: Has dominated the UFC’s featherweight division with most wins (16), most wins by KO or TKO (8) and most consecutive wins (14).
HONORABLE MENTION: Marcus Mariota, Sunny Garcia, Tua Tagovailoa, Mark Tuinei, Jesus Salud, Natasha Kai, Brian Viloria, B.J. Penn, Ilima-Lei MacFarlane, Angela Lee, Jason Elam, Colt Brennan.
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