The best Chicago athletes: A list of top athletes who hail from Chicago

The best Chicago athletes: A list of top athletes who hail from Chicago

Ciku Njuguna
updated at August 12, 2023 at 5:26 AM

Popularly known as the Windy City, Chicago has become synonymous with sports, art and culture. The city has over a thousand professional athletes and several major league sports teams. Dig in and learn more about the best Chicago athletes.

How many professional athletes are from Chicago?
Adbert Alzolay (#73) and Tucker Barnhart (#18) of the Chicago Cubs celebrate the 6-4 win against the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field on August 06, 2023, in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Quinn Harris.
Source: Getty Images

What makes Chicago popular? In addition to famous sports personalities, the Second City is home to retired United States President Barack Obama. This article will dive into the riveting details of Chi-Town and its dedication to its resident's athletic endeavours.

Is Chicago a sports town?

The city sits on a 60,000-hectare piece of land along the shores of the picturesque Lake Michigan. Known for its skyscrapers and awe-inspiring architecture, the city has numerous sporting facilities, including 500 playgrounds, 307 sports fields, 540 outdoor and indoor tennis courts, 80 swimming pools and 350 plus miles of bike lanes.

Is Chicago the best sports city?

In 2020, the city topped Forbes' America’s Best Sports Cities list at fourth place behind Boston, San Francisco Bay Area and Philadelphia. It has an impressive record on Sporting News' Best Sports Cities Rankings winning the 1993, 2006 and 2010 awards. The city has also made it to the TSE’s international Ranking of Sports Cities every year since 2012.

How many professional athletes are from Chicago?

A recent survey revealed that the city has produced the most professional athletes in the US, with over 1,061 male and female sports personalities playing in major leagues. Out of 15 cities covered in the survey, Los Angeles was the closest producer of athletes, with 818 professional players born there. Scroll down and have a look at the 15 most famous athletes from Chicago.

The best Chicago athletes of all time

The rich, palpable sense of culture and history around sports in the town is undeniable. Additionally, surveys reveal that the city has the most loyal sports fans, with NBA's Chicago Bulls, NHL's Blackhawks and MLB's Cubs topping Chicagoans' favourite team rankings.

15. Isiah Thomas

The retired point guard holds one of the highest records in NBA history, with an average of 13.9 assists and over 20 plus points per game. Here is a list of awards the ESPN analyst accrued over his 13-year career in the league.

  1. 2021 Hall of Fame Inductee
  2. 1990 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player
  3. 1984, 1986 NBA All-Star Most Valuable Player
  4. 1982 NBA Sporting News Rookie of the Year
  5. 1982 - 1986 All NBA
What is the most popular sport in Chicago?
Isaiah Thomas (#4) of the Charlotte Hornets shoots the ball during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on March 27, 2022, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE.
Source: Getty Images

14. Ray Nitschke

During the 1968 Super Bowl II, Green Bay Packers middle linebacker Nitschke led the team to victory over Oakland. In 1971, the linebacker who spent his 15-year career with the Packers was honoured with a Ray Nitschke Day ceremony. In addition to retiring his number 66 jersey, the team named one of their outdoor practice fields in the American football player's honour.

13. Mark Aguirre

Before joining the NBA, Aguirre played for the DePaul college basketball team, winning several awards in 1979 and 1981, including the Naismith College Player of the Year, Adolph Rupp Trophy, NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Teams and the Sporting News Player of the Year. His NCAA success was replicated in the NBA, where the small forward won two NBA Championship rings in 1989 and 1990.

12. Richard Butkus

At the start of his professional football career, Richard Marvin Butkus played for the University of Illinois and became a two-time All- American player. The eight-time Pro Bowler played for the Chicago Bears between 1965 and 1973 before retiring due to an injury.

Which state produces the most professional sports players?
Former Chicago Bears player Richard Butkus was pictured cheering before the NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field on January 06, 2019, in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Dylan Buell.
Source: Getty Images

11. Ray Schalk

A Harvel native, Schalk maintained his honesty and humility from his hometown in Central Illinois to the largest MLB diamonds he played in. Schalk was an active baseball player during the 1919 Chicago White Sox cheating scandal and did not publicly dispute his teammates' truth publicly, despite having doubts. He joined the White Sox coaching staff in 1927 as a player-manager and thereafter began a long coaching career in the minor league teams and later with Purdue University.

10. Shannon Sharpe

A former sports analyst and co-host of the Skip And Shannon: Undisputed, Shannon Sharpe was born in Illinois Chicago. The eight-time NFL Pro Bowler played 204 regular-season games between 1993 and 2003. The 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee averaged 815 receptions, 10,060 yards, 12.3% Y/R and 62 touchdowns.

9. Hank Bauer

New York Yankees batter Bauer is remembered as one of the professional athletes who served their country in the Second World War. The right fielder, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942, played for the New York Yankees and Kansas City Athletics before joining the coaching staff at the Baltimore Orioles.

Where are most professional athletes from?
Hank Bauer was pictured laughing during the New York Yankees' 59th annual old-timers' day before the start of the Yankees game against the Cleveland Indians on July 9, 2005, at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Indians defeated the Yankees 8-7. Photo by Jim McIsaac.
Source: Getty Images

8. Kirby Puckett

Puckett is known for his dedication to the team, with 1,783 games played, 2,304 hits and 207 home runs for the Minnesota Twins. Puckett was voted into the Top 10 in MVP seven times throughout his twelve-year career. Scroll down for more of the 2001 Hall of Fame inductee's awards and honours.

  1. 2001 MLB Hall of Fame
  2. Six-time Twins Calvin R. Griffith MVP Award winner
  3. 1984 Twins Outstanding Rookie Award winner
  4. Ten-time AL All-Star
  5. Six-time AL Silver Slugger
  6. Six-time Rawlings AL Gold Glove winner

7. Belal Muhammad

Palestinian-American fighter Bellal Mohammed is highly ranked in the UFC. The number 5 mixed martial artist fights in the welterweight division, a division he previously conquered in 2016. The jiu-jitsu purple belt currently holds records in the Ultimate Fighting Championship as the fourth highest decision wins per win percentage at 83.3%, the sixth most unanimous decision wins in UFC history, and the ninth most decision wins in UFC History.

Current Chicago athletes
Belal Muhammad (L) kicks Jordan Mein (R) in their welterweight bout during the UFC 213 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 8, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC.
Source: Getty Images

6. Derrick Rose

One of the most loved Chicago athletes is Memphis Grizzlies' number 4 point guard, Derrick Rose. In 2011, he became the youngest basketball player to win the NBA Most Valuable Player award in NBA history. In addition to conquering the league, he played for Team USA at the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Cup, capturing gold in both tournaments.

5. George Mikan

Besides Michael Jordan, Mikan is the greatest basketball player in NBA history and the first NBA Superstar who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA Championships between 1949 and 1954. The Illinois-born legend is credited with inventing modern basketball. Mikan was regarded as one of the most dominant players in the league, such that matches would at times be promoted as Mikan versus a team, for example, the 1950s match between the Minneapolis Lakers against the Knicks that was simply advertised as,

“Geo Mikan vs. Knicks.”

4. Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Who is the greatest female athlete of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated? Following a successful Olympic career, Jackie Joyner graced the 1988 September issue of Time magazine and became Sports Illustrated's choice as the “Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century.” The four-time Olympian won six Olympic track and field medals, including three gold, one silver and two bronzes in the seven-event heptathlon and the long jump.

Who is a famous athlete from Illinois?
Jackie Joyner-Kersee (#367) competes in the long jump of the Heptathlon event at the 1988 Olympics Trials at IU Michael A. Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium on January 01, 1988, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Focus on Sport.
Source: Getty Images

3. Andre Iguodala

Golden State Warriors retired small forward Andre Tyler Iguodala was born on the 28th of January in 1984 in Springfield, Illinois. The four-time NBA Champion forward is one of the longest-tenured Chicago athletes who played for 18 seasons in the NBA, is a 2012 All-Star and is a two-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team.

2. Dorothy Hamill

At 19, Dorothy Hamill became America’s Sweetheart and Chicago's most-loved athlete. She won her first and only gold medal at the 1976 Innsbruck Olympic singles figure skating event with a unique routine later named the Hamill Camel.

1. Dwyane Wade

Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Dwyane Wade was born in Illinois Chicago on the 17th of January 1982. The 2006 NBA Champion is a seven-time All-Star and six-time All-Pro. At the peak of their careers, Wade and Warriors small forward Iguodala were the highest-paid Chicago athletes.

NBA players born in Chicago
Dwyane Wade (#3) of the Miami Heat handles the ball against the Washington Wizards on February 10, 2012, at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE.
Source: Getty Images

Notable mentions

  1. Harold Osborn
  2. John Kinsella
  3. Johnny Weismuller
  4. Dianne Holum
  5. Ray Nitschke
  6. Otto Graham
  7. Pierre Thomas
  8. Benjamin Agosto
  9. Jimmy Connors
  10. Bart Conner

What pro teams are in Chicago?

Chicago is home to seven major league professional sports teams, including the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Wolves, Red Stars, Sky and Fire. Other professional teams in the city include the Lions, Rush, Bandits, Golden Gloves, Windy City ThunderBolts, Oakbrook Polo Club, Libertyville Vipers Basketball, the 1914 Club, Northside United Football Club and more.

Which NBA players grew up in Illinois?
Chicagoan NBA legend George Mikan (#11), Shaquille O'Neal (#34), and Kareem Abdul Jabbar (#33) of the Los Angeles Lakers posed for a portrait circa 1996 in Inglewood, California. Photo by Peter Read Miller/NBAE.
Source: Getty Images

What are some of Chicago's greatest sports moments?


The Invention of Softball by George Hancock


Chicago White Sox's First World Series Championship


Chicago Cubs' First World Series Championship


Chicago Cubs' Second World Series Championship


Chicago White Sox's second World Series Championship


Chicago Cubs' third-longest undefeated MLB game with 21 consecutive wins

First Chicago Heisman Trophy by Jay Berwanger


Walter Payton's All-Time NFL Records


Chicago Bears' First NFL Super Bowl

1991 - 1993

Three NBA championships in a row

1996 - 1998

Three NBA championships in a row


Chicago Fire's First MLS Cup


Chicago White Sox's First World Series Championship in 88 years


Chicago Blackhawks' First Stanley Cup Championship


Chicago Red Stars' First National Women's Open Championship


Chicago Blackhawks' Second Stanley Cup Championship


Chicago Blackhawks' Third Stanley Cup Championship


Chicago Cubs First World Series win in 108 years

The best Chicago athletes have graced Championship podiums severally. However, since players such as Dorothy Hamill and Michael Jordan's tenure, the city has lost its star power.

READ ALSO: Andre Iguodala's net worth: How much is the NBA superstar worth?

Sports Brief recently published an article on one of Chicago's most dominant athletes, Andre Iguodala. The number 28 Golden State Warriors small forward remains one of the few performers who played into his late years. Click on the link above and discover more about the NBA legend who has built a billion-dollar investment portfolio and net worth.

Ciku Njuguna photo
Ciku Njuguna
Ciku Njuguna is a journalist with 3 year’s experience in content creation based in Kenya. She currently covers sports personnel as well as team biographies.