Former Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's recent complaint that he doesn't have a statue in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles got me thinking about which people in the NFL merit that type of tribute.
I came up with the following team-by-team rundown, using my own rules:
Their history includes the Chicago and St. Louis Cardinals, but it makes no sense to have statues of players from those teams (even the Hall of Famers) outside of a stadium located in Arizona. For now, the only statue that should be displayed outside of University of Phoenix Stadium is already there: The one of the late Pat Tillman.
Deion Sanders began his Hall of Fame career with the Falcons and spent a significant part of his multi-team career in Atlanta, so he gets a statue. So does former standout linebacker Tommy Nobis, the first player ever drafted by the Falcons. I know some of you would like to see a vote for Michael Vick, who was one of the most iconic figures in Atlanta sports history. But there are too many negative connotations from his arrest for involvement in a dog-fighting ring while he was a Falcon.
The most obvious choices are Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. The coach and architect of the Ravens' lone Super Bowl team, Brian Billick and Ozzie Newsome, should have statues, too, as should Hall of Famer-to-be Jonathan Ogden. Of course, the franchise already pays tribute to the city's previous NFL franchise, the Colts, with a statue of Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas. They could also have statues of fellow Hall of Famers John Mackey, Raymond Berry, and Gino Marchetti. I realize the Baltimore Colts' history is the official property of the Indianapolis Colts, but this is my list and these are my rules.
Their statue collection should come from a fairly cut-and-dried list of Hall of Famers, including Bruce Smith, Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Marv Levy. O.J. Simpson gets left off because that statue would symbolize more about wrongdoings than his tremendous accomplishments on the field. Non-Hall of Fame picks here: Jack Kemp, Andre Reed, Darryl Talley and Fred Smerlas.
They're still working on their statue-worthy history, but if anybody might be deserving at this point it would be Julius Peppers.
This is another team with a healthy number of bronze busts in Canton, Ohio. Some musts from that list: Newsome (yes, he's in two cities), Jim Brown, Paul Brown, Otto Graham, Paul Warfield, Lou Groza and Bill Willis.
Yet another club loaded with Hall of Famers, and one, Tom Landry, already is honored with a statue outside of Cowboys Stadium. Others who are deserving: Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Tex Schramm, Randy White, Tony Dorsett, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. Also deserving are a couple of non-Hall of Famers: Our own Gil Brandt, who had a major hand in helping to build all of those great Cowboys teams of the 1970s, and Jimmy Johnson, who brought Dallas back to life in the early 1990s.
Green Bay Packers
Where do you start with this team, which already has statues for Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau in front of Lambeau Field? Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Don Hutson, and Reggie White are among the more defining Hall of Fame players. A couple of others who are Canton-bound and deserve statues: Brett Favre and Mike Holmgren.
As their history is being written, it would make sense to honor some Houston Oilers history outside of Reliant Stadium in the form of statues of Earl Campbell, Warren Moon and Bruce Matthews. I realize the Oilers history belongs to the Tennessee Titans, but, again, my list and these are my rules.
They're a work in progress.
Kansas City Chiefs
Founding owner Lamar Hunt already has a statue. Len Dawson, Willie Lanier, Hank Stram and Derrick Thomas are other defining Hall of Famers for this franchise.
They already have a statue of Don Shula outside of Sun Life Stadium and one of Dan Marino inside. I would add Bob Griese, Larry Csonka and Paul Warfield (yes, he gets two).
Some obvious ones here: Bud Grant, Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page and Carl Eller.
New England Patriots
New Orleans Saints
New York Giants
With two franchises sharing the same stadium, a statue collection could get a little crowded, but it should be no problem displaying them in separate areas. For this Giants, the list has some obvious Hall of Famers, including Y.A. Tittle, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and Lawrence Taylor. A non-Hall of Famer vote goes to Bill Parcells, Phil Simms and Michael Strahan.
New York Jets
Among the Hall of Famers who are obvious for statues from this organization are Al Davis, John Madden, Gene Upshaw, George Blanda, Fred Biletnikoff, Dave Casper, Howie Long and Marcus Allen (even though his Raiders career was spent in Los Angeles, I am invoking an in-state rule that keeps his statue with the others). Non-Hall of Famer statues go to Ken Stabler, Tom Flores, Jim Plunkett and Tim Brown.
Art Rooney has a statue outside of Heinz Field. He should have plenty of Hall of Fame company from a list that includes Terry Bradshaw, Joe Greene, Franco Harris (whose "Immaculate Reception" is captured in a statue at Pittsburgh International Airport), Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, Mike Webster (who could be snapping to Bradshaw), Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Rod Woodson. A non-Hall of Famer to be considered: Jerome Bettis.
San Diego Chargers
San Francisco 49ers
Hall of Famers Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice are the obvious picks here. Dwight Clark also deserves a statue for "The Catch" alone.
St. Louis Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Best suggestion for a team with such a brief, but interesting, history is a statue commemorating the "Music City Miracle" play -- Frank Wycheck's lateral to Kevin Dyson -- that provided an improbable win over the Bills in a wild-card playoff game after the 1999 season. Looking for Oilers? See: Texans.