In Greek mythology there is a Titan named Atlas who held up the world, or held up the sky so that it didn’t crash down on the Earth.
In the world of sports, each team has its own “Atlas” who keeps the team from falling flat.
Some of the best “Atlases” in recent sports memory:
- LeBron James- Cleveland Cavaliers. During LeBron’s tenure the Cavaliers were essentially James and a never-ending roll call of role players. Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace were the only really good players who James played with in Cleveland. And at that point both were in the respective twilights of their careers, and Wallace wasn’t scoring much (as per usual). Cleveland was so bad without “King James” that they set an NBA record for the longest losing streak: 26 games after he made the decision to go to South Beach.
- Derrick Rose- Chicago Bulls. A small sample size, but while Rose dominated Game One of the first round of the playoffs versus Philly, he tore his ACL towards the end of the game. After holding on for the win in that game the Bulls went on to lose the series 4-2 to the eight-seeded 76ers. As a follow up, this year with Rose out for an extended amount of time, most pundits and talking heads have Chicago in the 6-8 seed range in the playoffs. Quite a drop-off for the team who had the best record in the East last season.
- Luis Suarez- Liverpool. If you take away Suarez’s fantastic production, the Reds would likely be in the relegation zone if not in last.
- Dwight Howard- Orlando Magic. Orlando is so bad without Howard it compelled me to write an entire piece on it, you can see that here. Orlando is going nowhere fast.
- Steve Nash- Phoenix Suns. Obviously earlier on in Nash’s career he had Amare Stoudamire and friends, so the team wouldn’t be that bad off without him. However, the Suns of the past couple years have needed Nash to help them stay out of the cellar. With him they were camped on the stairs going to the cellar; now they’re the cellar’s likely tenants.
- Mike Trout- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Trout supporters love overusing the stat about the visible improvement of the Angels’ record with him, as opposed to their record without him. Take away Trout and a lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells goes nowhere offensively.
- Peyton Manning- Indianapolis Colts. Manning had the same general effect on the team as James did in Cleveland. Without him the team was horrendous and skidded into having the first overall pick. Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark are great, but without Manning, they are nowhere near the level they were at. The defense didn’t help at all either.
- Chris Paul- New Orleans Hornets. See Cavaliers, Cleveland and Colts, Indianapolis. The teams sucked without their “Atlas” and got a high draft pick as compensation for their turmoil. The Hornets were identity-less without their former face-of-franchise.
- Kevin Durant- OKC Raiders. Take away the ridiculously good Durant and you get an offense that features Russell Westbrook throwing bricks at the rim and nothing else. Nothing.
- Juventus-Italian National Football Team. The saying goes something like this — the Italian National Team goes as Juventus goes. Proof– at the 2012 European Championships, Italy reached the Final, before losing to Spain. They beat the globally ranked number-two Germans, sixth-ranked English and drew those same Spaniards in the group stage. Around the same time Juventus was in the midst of compiling a 49-game unbeaten streak.
- Pau Gasol- Memphis Grizzlies. After initially getting robbed by the Lakers, the Grizzlies went on to win one singular game in February with Pau in LA. It only got worse as Memphis thought OJ Mayo was a better fit than Kevin Love in the next draft.
- Chris Bosh- Toronto Raptors. Bosh carried the Raptors to two playoff appearances and first-round losses with an evolving roster of sidekicks that made the LeBron-era Cavaliers not named LeBron look like the Dream Team.
- Tom Brady- New England Patriots. The Patriots would be nowhere close to their current dynasty without the future Hall of Famer. While Brady seems to have a mini armory at his disposal, in terms of offensive weapons, the pass-catchers haven’t always been league average.
- Felix Hernandez- Seattle Mariners. This title used to be Ichiro’s, then it was a joint venture between the two, and now it’s Felix’s. To put it in perspective, the Mariners have averaged 82 wins a year since Felix has broken into the big leagues. Since then, Hernandez on his own averages 14 wins a year. Take him out and you go from .500 to .420 and an average of 68 wins a year. Also, in 2010 when the M’s won just 61 games, King Felix had 13 wins. Take him away and you have 48 wins. Only two teams have had fewer wins in the last 50 years.
- Roy Halladay- Toronto Blue Jays. The only reason to watch the Blue Jays before Jose Bautista came along was to see Doc Halladay. That being said, I cringe to think of those Blue Jays teams without him. Halladay carried the team.
- Steven Jackson- St. Louis Rams. I only really know about the Rams a good deal because the Seahawks generally wax them nine times out of ten. You take out Jackson and the Rams’ offense goes nowhere. It’s the epitome of stagnant and, well, it’s just horrendous. Ask a Rams’ fan.
- Ryan Braun- Milwaukee Brewers. With Prince Fielder in Detroit, Braun picked up some of the slack (I say that because unless you find a hitter of Fielder’s caliber, it just isn’t going to work with any replacements) and made the Brewers a permanent home on the fringes of playoff contention.
- Adrian Peterson- Minnesota Vikings. In a measuring-stick game against Seattle, Minnesota accounted for 287 total yards and two touchdowns on offense. Peterson was accountable for 193 of the yards and both
scores. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder threw for 61 yards. Can I get an “Atlas” please?
- Peyton Manning- Denver Broncos. Peyton carried a team with aforementioned Harrison, Wayne and Clark. Denver is much worse off at the skill positions. The Broncos are where they are offensively because of Manning.
- Maurice Jones-Drew- Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are bad. Mo-Jones Drew is all they have.
- Joe Mauer- Minnesota Twins. The Twins, like the Jaguars, are bad. Mauer is all they have, and without him they might be even worse. Start getting those shovels out to dig below the cellar.
- Andrew Bynum- Philadelphia 76ers. Bynum has a lot riding on him seeing as the team traded their former “Atlas” to get Bynum. The early returns without him are not pretty in the slightest. Which only puts emphasis on the fact that he has to carry the team.
So what do you think? Did I leave anyone out? Tell me who you think I left out in the comment section below.