Did You Know These 7 Famous Athletes Were From Illinois?

Illinoisans are almost as divided on their sports loyalties as they are on their political preferences. Whether you're from downstate and prefer to identify with St. Louis teams, or live up north and call yourself a cheesehead, no one can deny Chicago is the mecca for the state's professional sports teams, and also home to some of the world's most valuable franchises.

Here are some notable athletes (in no particular order) who were born in Illinois, along with a few of their career highlights that make them standout stars.

1. Kirby Puckett (March 14, 1960-March 6, 2006)


  • Born: Chicago
  • Sport/position: Baseball, center fielder
  • Team: Minnesota Twins
  • Career highlights: Hall of Famer, 10x All-Star, 2x World Series Champ, 6x Silver Slugger Award winner, 6x Gold Glove Award winner.

2. Hank Bauer (July 31, 1922-Feb. 9, 2007)


  • Born: East St. Louis
  • Sport/position: Baseball, right fielder
  • Teams: New York Yankees and Kansas City Athletics
  • Career highlights: 3x American League All-Star, 8x World Series champion

3. Shannon Sharpe (June 26, 1968-present)


  • Born: Chicago
  • Sport/position: Football, tight End
  • Teams: Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens
  • Career highlights: Hall of Famer, 8x Pro Bowler, 3x Super Bowl champion

4. Ray Nitschke (Dec. 29, 1936-March 8, 1998)


  • Born: Elmwood Park
  • Sport/position: Football, middle linebacker
  • Team: Green Bay Packers
  • Career highlights: Hall of Famer, 5x NFL champion, 2x Super Bowl champion

5. George "Mr. Basketball" Mikan (June 18, 1924-June 1, 2005)


  • Born: Joliet
  • Sport/position: Basketball, center
  • Teams: Chicago American Gears and Minneapolis Lakers (National Basketball League)
  • Career highlights: Considered the "original center" and pioneer of modern basketball, 7-time champion, All-Star MVP, holds three scoring titles.

6. Isiah Thomas (April 30, 1961-present)


  • Born: Chicago
  • Sport/position: Basketball, point guard
  • Team: Detroit Pistons
  • Career highlights: 2x champion, NBA finals MVP, 12x NBA All-Star, Hall of Famer

7. Otto Graham (Dec. 6, 1921-Dec. 17, 2003)


  • Born: Waukegan
  • Sport/position: Football, quarterback
  • Teams: Cleveland Browns
  • Career highlights: Hall of Famer, 3x NFL champion, 5x Pro Bowler

Check out 13 more famous Illinois athletes at Reboot Illinois, including tennis stars, Olympic medalists and basketball greats.

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