SPORTSNATIONS MOST CRED-CARRYING ATHLETES
YEARS | TITLES | PLAYER | %
11 | 8 | TIGER WOODS | 34.8
6 | 3 | TOM BRADY | 26.8
9 | 3 | TIM DUNCAN | 14.6
6 | 0 | ALBERT PUJOLS | 13.8
22 | 3 | STEVE YZERMAN | 9.7
CRED | kred |
n. 1. AN ELUSIVE QUALITY THAT DEFIES STATISTICAL MEASURE. 2. WHAT EVERY JOCK WANTS
When mentioned by those who play the games, it tells us everything we need to know, everything we need to hear.
CRED. Short for credibility. Athletes live by it, die for it. Cred separates the haves from the never-wills. Too many athletessuperstars, evenjust dont cut it. How can they, when so much goes into it?
WINNING. Confidence. Character. Talent. Execution. Dependability. Respect, given and received. Charisma. Appeal. Individuality. Work ethic. Trust. Credibility subsumes all of those. Everyone wants it. Some even say theyd rather have it than fame and money. Others are quick to recognize those who have it, and in their voices you hear them wish they did too.
UNDERSTAND, cred is not to be confused with clutch, not to be mistaken for rings and things, not to be defined by the love one gets in the streets or on Madison Avenue. Its not just about backing up your words or meaning everything you say. Its not for the legend at Rucker who averages 1.3 ppg in The League or the guy with a school named after him in his old neighborhood who never visits once its open.
CRED SHIFTS like Neo, from boardroom finesse in NASCAR and golf to accountability and stability in the NFL and NBA. And yet it stays constant. Cred mixes what Chauncey Billups did this season with what Reggie Miller did his whole career with the ball in his hands and fewer than 10 seconds on the clock.
ITS T.O. without the drama, Brett Favre without the indecision, Fred Taylor without the injuries, Michael Vick without the excuses. Its what you get when you add Albert Pujols home run in Game 5 of last years NLCS to Big Papis love for his Dominican Republic to Greg Madduxs latest April to Barry Bonds defiance.
ITS WHAT former Oklahoma quarterback Jason White retained when he put up better numbers on battered knees the year after knucklehead fans demanded he return his Heisman. And its what Virginia linebacker Ahmad Brooks must regain to have any prayer in the upcoming supplemental draft.
AS NASCAR driver Carl Edwards says about Kyle Petty: I cant define cred, but I knew it when it was staring me in the face.
Its all of this.
BUT THATS NOT ALL IT IS.
HEISMAN WINNER JASON WHITE SAYS JANUARY LOSSES DONT DEFINE HIM
To me, cred comes down to how people remember you. Your stock can rise or fall with one game. One day Im winning the Heisman, tomorrow Im a bum. Its part of the territory.
Sitting at the Yale Club with the best in college football, just a year after tearing my second ACL, I still didnt think I had a chance. What I felt when they said my name only a few guys will ever know.
Three days later, I was back at practice, getting ready for LSU in the Sugar Bowl. All year, folks were calling us one of the best teams ever. Then we lost to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game, and we became a joke to some people. We all felt pressure to show what kind of team we were. What better way than to win a national championship?
I prepared the same as always: watched film, went over the game plan with coaches, quizzed myself on plays and audibles until kickoff. I didnt play my best, but I never stopped believing wed win. Not until I got sacked on fourth down with less than three minutes to go, down 21-14. All that work in the off-season, the ups and downs through the year, all for one gameand it slips away.
That night, I got an e-mail saying I should give back the Heisman. It wasnt the last. Its hard to read stuff like that. I got the award for a reason, and one game cant change that. I tried to steer away from the doubting talk, but it didnt help. Instead, I started taping newspaper stories to my wallthe ones that said I wasnt favored to win the Big 12 MVP, let alone the Heisman again; the ones that questioned why I even came back.
My knee was worn out, but I needed another shot at the title, and that K-State game kept me fired up. I played even better that fall and finished third in the Heisman voting, so nobody will ever be able to call me a fluke. We beat Kansas State but lost the title to USC in the Orange Bowl.
I know I didnt put up numbers in our big losses, but even great ones have bad games. My teammates know one guy doesnt lose a game, and 99% of Sooner Nation has been supportive.
Other fans? They remember my missteps, but theyll also remember the good Ive done. Eventually.
Jason White is now training to trade stocks in Oklahoma City.
While we were asking athletes in locker rooms around the country to talk about cred, the same names and themes cropped up time and again. Which got us thinking: What do 100-plus athletes know, anyway? So we asked you, the couch jockeysat least 1,000 per sportwhat and who make your cred cut.
ON WHOSE AUTHORITY?
You (the fan) believe that we (the media) can make or break a players cred. You should think more highly of yourselves.
SN POLL: Who most defines an athletes cred?
Stats and awards are earned on team time, but apparently a rep is honed in downtime.
SN POLL: What most determines cred?
WORK ETHIC 38.7%
OFF-FIELD BEHAVIOR 24.4%
ADORATION OF FANS 7%
Kobe over Shaq? Duncan over Kobe? Anyone over Garnett? Heres how you ordered the pros top five.
SN POLL: Which NBA player has the most cred?
TIM DUNCAN 34%
KOBE BRYANT 24.4%
SHAQUILLE ONEAL 18.2%
LEBRON JAMES 17.3%
KEVIN GARNETT 5.8%
No one will be shocked at the peoples choice in golf. Okay, maybe Vijay will.
SN POLL: Which PGA player has the most cred?
TIGER WOODS 64%
PHIL MICKELSON 23.8%
DAVIS LOVE III 4.5%
RETIEF GOOSEN 4.3%
VIJAY SINGH 3.2%
AND THE PLAYERS SAY ...
I respect guys who play hard and study the game. If you dont do those things, I dont respect you. -KOBE BRYANT, Los Angeles Lakers
You can quote stats, but if a guy doesnt play hard, hes riding the fence with the players. Players know who goes about their business the right way. -SEAN CASEY, Pittsburgh Pirates
Cred is how someone treats players in his own dressing room and how he respects the players on the opposing team. -COREY PERRY, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Were all drivers, but there are only a handful of racers. A racer can jump into any car, anywhere, anytime, kick your ass and never talk about it afterward. Thats cred. -JEFF BURTON, NASCAR
Even a special-teams guy can have cred. Its about being a guy who can be counted on. -ANDRE JOHNSON, Houston Texans
In action sports, cred comes from how far you can push yourself and the sport. In team sports, you dont want a guy who throws the Hail Mary every down. In our sports, we need that guy. -TRAVIS PASTRANA, freestyle motocross
... WE KNOW CRED
You can lose cred on a single play. Maybe you hit a guy and injure him, maybe you say something to an opposing player or mock a fan. -KEVIN WEEKES, New York Rangers
Out here, it means you can talk to a CEO and still be on par. -BRAD FAXON, PGA golfer
Kyle Petty pulled me aside after I wrecked him last year, and I never thought about doing anything but shutting up and listening. I cant define cred, but I knew it when it was staring me in the face. -CARL EDWARDS, NASCAR
Someone who voices his opinion, then does something to change things, has cred. During the lockout, Brendan Shanahan said the game needed change. He gathered us together and did something about it. -MIKE KNUBLE, Philadelphia Flyers
Cred has to come from your peers, and thats what makes it special. Randy Moss has it. But if a new guy looks like Randy and plays like Randy, does he necessarily have cred? Theres more to it than that. Its a feel. I do know one thing, though. If your team can get by without you, you dont have a lot of cred. -RONDE BARBER, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Say what you want, but what Barry Bonds has done is amazing and consistent. Thats cred. -BOBBY CROSBY, Oakland As
FORMER ALL-AMERICA AHMAD BROOKS HOPES BAD DECISIONS WONT DEFINE HIM
Ahmad Brooks watched the entire NFL draft alone. Virginias former standout linebacker barely budged through 17 hours of coverage, riveted to the couch by one thought: That should be me.
I know I let a lot of people down, he says.
Brooks is an immensely gifted player. In 2004, as a 260-pound sophomore with 4.5 speed, he actually returned kickoffs when he wasnt making his 90 tackles. The first-team All-America could have turned pro then, but a cyst behind his right knee made him wait.
Surgery to remove it caused him to miss the first three games of 2005, and when Brooks returned, he was way out of shape. He made only 27 tackles and sat out a bowl game with a sore back. For two months this winter, rumors swirled that Brooks would be booted. Speculations ranged from blown-off workouts to a positive drug test (in 2003, he pleaded no contest and received six months probation on a misdemeanor marijuana charge). In March, Brooks read on ESPN.com that hed been dismissed. Too many missed classes and workouts, he was finally told.
Maurice Claretts flop has made it a bad time to be a gamble. Still, instead of transferring, Brooks applied for the supplemental draft (held in July). Hed have to face skeptical NFL scouts sooner or later. The first way I can prove Im not who they think I am is by showing them, he says. By action.
GMs see combines and pro days as job interviews, says ESPN analyst Rick Spielman, the former Dolphins GM. A player who doesnt approach it like that is making a huge mistake. So Brooks went to Duluth, Ga., in April to train with Chip Smith, who prepped another NCAA exile, USCs Mike Williams, for his pro day last spring. Brooks 285 pounds prompted a ban on salt, sugar and late-night binges. And Brooks started eating breakfast, which hed seldom done before. Workouts begin at 9. If hes late, hes gone. Hes usually 45 minutes early, Smith says. Brooks is already 12 pounds closer to the 260 he wants to be for a pro day in June.
Another key for Brooks, Spielman says, is how he explains his past. GMs already know what he did. Theyre more interested in seeing if hes up-front about discussing it.
Taking responsibility wont be a problem for Brooks. I was the one who did the damage to my reputation, he says.
Now hes the only one who can restore it.
A CUT ABOVE
The players think Bonds still has it. But apparently youd pitch to him with first base open.
SN POLL: Which MLB player has the most cred?
ALBERT PUJOLS 44.9%
DEREK JETER 30.8%
ICHIRO SUZUKI 14.4%
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 6.8%
BARRY BONDS 2.8%
Good looks. An A-list Rolodex. Those Super Bowl rings. No surprise here.
SN POLL: Which NFL player has the most cred?
TOM BRADY 53.3%
PEYTON MANNING 29.3%
SHAUN ALEXANDER 9.1%
LARRY JOHNSON 4.3%
RAY LEWIS 3.8%
With ageand 22 seasons in the leaguecomes experience. And according to you, a special respect.
SN POLL: Which NHL player has the most cred?
STEVE YZERMAN 39.1%
MARTIN BRODEUR 30.3%
JOE SAKIC 25.2%
SCOTT NIEDERMAYER 2.8%
TEEMU SELANNE 2.3%
HOW THEY ROLL
Cup championships can take a driver anywhereand yet nowhere close.
SN POLL: Which NASCAR driver has the most cred?
MARK MARTIN 37.5%
DALE EARNHARDT JR. 21.9%
JEFF GORDON 20.2%
TONY STEWART 18.5%
KURT BUSCH 1.7%
SportsNation has picked its top athlete in five sports. But only one can be the leader of the pack.
SN POLL: Which athlete has the most cred?
TIGER WOODS 34.8%
TOM BRADY 26.8%
TIM DUNCAN 14.6%
ALBERT PUJOLS 13.8%
STEVE YZERMAN 9.7%
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