The hometown hero is always a local legend we want to cheer for. These are the homegrown talent that may have lived next door, showing flashes of the greatness that was to come.
With Pacific Northwest fandom reeling after the trade of Seahawks superstar Russell Wilson, the region still has the playing services of Damian Lillard… for now. Despite the city’s pedigree for producing world-class athletes, not one area superstar excelled with a professional local team. The closest you’ll get is former Seattle Mariner Harold Reynolds, who grew up in Corvallis, and was a two-time MLB All-Star and three Gold Gloves recipient in the 1980s.
With that said, there are still plenty of standouts that were eventually lured away by professional drafts or contracts. As the University of Oregon continues to produce stellar talent, let’s take a look back at the Greatest Professional Athletes From Oregon:
Runners consider Pre an icon of their sport. The middle-distance competitor was completely Rip City-based. Starting at Marshfield High School, the Coos native built himself a track and field reputation that earned him admittance to the University of Oregon, eventually claiming three NCAA cross-country titles.
Though he didn’t place at the 1972 Olympics, Pre was the first Nike-sponsored athlete that claimed American records in several metered races. Tragically, he was killed in a freak car accident in Eugene at the age of 24. His legacy includes two films that were simultaneously released the same year: one star Billy Crudup, the other Jared Leto.
Troy Polamalu may have the coolest Hall of Fame bust of all time. Each lock of his Head & Shoulders lathered hair is finely sculpted — an obvious standout to the Class of 2020.
The Winston standout graduated from Douglas High School, eventually embarking on a 12-year NFL career that lasted entirely with the Pittsburgh Steelers. As an eight-time Pro Bowl defensive back, Polamalu accounted for 770 tackles and 32 interceptions. Besides being genetically gifted, on both the field and on the scalp, Polamalu also boasts two Super Bowl rings.
Okay, maybe this is cheating, but it can’t be understated how important Phil Knight is to the competitive field, court, rink, and arena. Basically, any sports staging ground was changed forever by the Multnomah legend.
A runner at Cleveland High School, Knight went on to become the founder and largest shareholder of Nike, the world’s largest athletic footwear and sports apparel. According to Bloomberg, he is the 24th richest person in the world, worth over $48 billion.
It took the 1985 debut of the Air Jordan to completely revolutionize the industry. In 2019, the Jordan brand alone earned its first $1 billion quarter.
Fun fact: there must be something in the water. Multnomah is also the birthplace for Mike Dunleavy, Damon Stoudamire, and Tonya Harding.
Born in Clackamas, Love attended Lake Oswego before heading to UCLA for one season, leading the team to a Final Four appearance. In the 2008 NBA draft, he was taken fifth overall, eventually earning five NBA All-Star selections, gold medal-winning efforts for both the 2010 FIBA World Championship and the 2012 Summer Olympics, and won an NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.
Since the title — nearly six years ago — Love has battled a series of injuries. This year marks a turnaround for the veteran, accepting a Sixth Man role as the Cavs are slated for their first playoff visit since losing the Finals in 2018.
Allegedly, he never lost a round, even though he finished his career with 17 losses.
Another Oswego native, Chael Sonnen attended West Linn High School and was a state runner-up in wrestling. At the University of Oregon, Sonnen earned All-American honors, was a two-time PAC-10 runner-up, and was a silver medalist at the 2000 Greco-Roman World University Championship.
Sonnen began his mixed martial arts career in 1997, fighting 49 times, and earning two ‘Fight of the Night’ honors in the UFC. A fan favorite, he is now a renowned sports commentator and analyst.
Born in Portland and raised in Deschutes County, Eaton stayed local, impressing at Mountain View High School and attending the University of Oregon.
Throughout his national and international career, he earned a record in points for the decathlon and indoor heptathlon, including standing on the podium twice as a gold medalist. He still holds the world record for the indoor heptathlon event.
Ainge excelled in three separate sports at North Eugene High School, earning his alma mater back-to-back state titles in basketball, two all-state selections in football, and a Parade All-American in baseball. A short stint with the Toronto Blue Jays led to a career transition to the NBA, where he competed for 14 seasons with the Boston Celtics.
A long tenure with the C’s as general manager led to an additional championship in 2008; he earned executive honors that same year.
Born in Portland and competing at Benson Polytechnic High School, Green ended up playing his collegiate career here in town at Oregon State University.
Nicknamed “Iron Man”, the Tony Stark type was incredibly durable in the NBA, earning the record for the most consecutive regular-season games played with 1,192 and winning three championships with the purple-and-gold. In 2003, he was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame.