Every state in this great country of ours has an identity, special to it and it alone. Each state produces different products, crops, accents, idioms, people. While most of those people are regular shmoes like you or us, some of them are phenomenal athletes, the best of the best. We wanted to take a look at every state in the union (plus D.C.) and see which active athlete was the best from every place.
For ease of this list, we went with an athlete's birthplace as the breaking rule for where they are "from." If someone was born in Illinois but raised in California, they counted toward Illinois. And, again, these are active athletes. Maybe one day we'll do the best of all time.
To the 51!
Alabama -- Julio Jones
Born in Foley, Alabama, Jones has emerged as perhaps the most dominant wide receiver in the NFL today. He made two catches in the Super Bowl that he, and only he, could have made, including a fourth quarter catch that should have sealed the game for the Falcons. Alas.
Matthew EmmonsMatthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Alaska -- Lance Mackey
The 46-year-old dogsledder Lance Mackey has won the Iditarod four times, which he did consecutively in '07, '08, '09, and 2010. A cancer survivor, Mackey will sit out the '17 Iditarod to focus on his health, but it wouldn't surprise us if he was back next year ready to go.
Arizona -- Max Aaron
The Scottsdale native won the United States national championships for figure skating in 2013, and was the U.S. junior champion in 2011. Note: We initially had Phil Mickelson here, until an eagle-eyed reader noted that Mickelson was actually born in California before being raised in Arizona.
Rob KinnanRob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Arkansas -- Mike Conley Jr.
The 29-year-old point guard is more than just a wonky answer to the trivia question "Who is the current highest paid player in the NBA?" He's a team leader for the Grizzlies, a phenomenal scorer and passer of the ball, and perpetually one of the most underrated players in the game.
Brad MillsBrad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
California -- Tom Brady
This one doesn't need much explanation. Brady is the G.O.A.T., a five-time Super Bowl champion who just led the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time at age 39. He says he wants to play until he's 45. We don't doubt him.
Greg M. CooperGreg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Colorado -- Ben Bishop
The 6'7" goaltender, recently traded to the Los Angeles Kings, has been one of the most dominant players in the NHL -- at any position -- for the last few seasons. The Kings brought him in to split time with Jonathan Quick, who's recovering from a groin injury, before he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He's got a good chance to make a run at a Stanley Cup in the meantime.
Brad RempelBrad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Connecticut -- Dwight Freeney
The 37-year-old native of Hartford just had, improbably, another great NFL season, this time as one of the defensive leaders of the Atlanta Falcons. He was especially dominant in the postseason, when he seemed to turn back the clock in the Falcons' run to the Super Bowl.
Matthew EmmonsMatthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Delaware -- Elena Delle Donne
The former WNBA MVP was born in Wilmington, and in her career in the WNBA has grown from gifted scorer to perhaps the most complete shooter in basketball. She's now on her way to join the Washington Mystics after a mega trade with Chicago, which means she'll be a short-ish drive from her home state.
Kevin JairajKevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Florida -- Chris Sale
With Alex Rodriguez saying he's done with baseball, the title of "Florida's best" moves to Chris Sale, the Florida Gulf Coast University product who was born in Lakeland. Sale has been a monster for the Chicago White Sox for the past few seasons, and now heads to Boston, where he looks to become the ace of the staff.
Jasen VinloveJasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Georgia -- Cam Newton
Cam Newton was born and raised in Atlanta, where he quickly stood out as a football player as Westlake High School. Now he's one of the most dominant quarterbacks in the NFL, a star for the Carolina Panthers who will look to bounce back to greatness after a disappointing 2016 season.
Kim KlementKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Hawaii -- John John Florence
Surfing fans have been stunned to watch the young John John Florence skyrocket to the top of the sport at such an early age. With hearty endorsements from Kelly Slater and the big wave riders of Hawaii (who have known him since he was just a kid), Florence already captured the World Surf League Men's Championship in 2016, making him the first Hawaii native to do so since Andy Irons.
Idaho -- Paul Kruger
With all respect to fellow Idaho native Brock Osweiler, we decided to give the Idaho crown to Kruger, a former Super Bowl champion with the Ravens who racked up 11 sacks with the Browns in 2014 and was a veteran leader for the Saints defense this past season.
Chuck CookChuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Illinois -- Anthony Davis
Chicago has produced a ton of incredible basketball players, but right now we're giving the state title to Anthony Davis, who has emerged as one of the most gifted and complete big men in the NBA. Sorry, Dwyane Wade.
Jerome MironJerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana -- Tony Stewart
Stewart, a native of Columbus, Indiana, is the only driver in history to win championships in both IndyCar and NASCAR. The success he's found as a racer and owner is hard to duplicate, and he remains one of the most engaging and polarizing figures in motorsports to this day.
Peter CaseyPeter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa -- Zach Johnson
The Iowa City native has won two major championships in just about the most Iowa way imaginable -- without a lot of fanfare. The 2007 Masters and 2015 Open Championship winner has quietly built one of the most impressive resumes in golf ... though it was fun to see him let loose and rip off some big celebrations during last year's Ryder Cup.
Jason GetzJason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas -- Matt Besler
Kansas has produced a lot of great athletes, but Besler, an Overland Park native, deserves more recognition for his greatness. Besler worked to become a first-choice for the USMNT at central defense and has made 200 appearances for his home club, Sporting Kansas City, since joining the team in 2009.
Yes, American Pharoah is no longer technically active as a racehorse. Yes, American Pharoah is also, technically, a horse and not a person. But we got to see a Triple Crown winner in our lifetime, and that deserves recognition. It wasn't just the Kentucky Derby where American Pharoah established its greatness -- the horse was born in Lexington.
Richard MacksonRichard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Louisiana -- Odell Beckham Jr.
The 24-year-old Giants wideout was born in Baton Rouge and also attended Louisiana State University, where he won an SEC championship in 2011. After being taken twelfth overall in 2014, Beckham has gone on to become one of the NFL’s best aerial threats.
Geoff BurkeGeoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Maine -- Ryan Flaherty
Flaherty, 30, hails from Portland and is a utility man for the Baltimore Orioles. He played college baseball alongside David Price and Pedro Alvarez at Vanderbilt and has put together a modest MLB career. Flaherty heads into 2017 with a .216 lifetime average with 35 home runs and 124 RBI.
Dan HamiltonDan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Maryland -- Michael Phelps
The jury is out as to whether or not Phelps is active, but there’s certainly no debate when it comes to his merits. The Baltimore-born swimmer is not only the best athlete to come out of Maryland, but also the greatest and most decorated Olympian of all-time. After winning five golds at the 2016 Rio Games, the 31-year-old has 28 total Olympic medals, including 23 of the gold variety.
USA TODAY SportsRob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Massachusetts -- Aly Raisman
The 22-year-old gymnast hails from Needham, MA and captained both the “Fierce Five” and “Final Five” women’s Olympic gymnastics teams at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Games, respectively. She has six total Olympic medals, including three golds, as well as four medals from the World Championships.
USA TODAY SportsRobert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Michigan -- Serena Williams
Williams, 35, was born in Saginaw and is one of the most dominant tennis players in the history of the sport. She leads active players with the most major titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles, and her 23 Grand Slam singles titles are second on the all-time list.
USA TODAY SportsRobert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota -- Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald grew up in Minneapolis and actually worked as a Vikings ball boy before going on to become one of the best receivers the game has ever seen. Heading into the 2017 season, the 10-time Pro Bowler is third all-time in receptions, ninth in receiving yard and eighth in touchdown receptions. Fitzgerald has shown remarkable consistency and longevity in the NFL, as the soon-to-be 34-year-old is coming off a 107-catch season in 2016.
Kelvin KuoKelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Mississippi -- Malcolm Butler
A native of Vicksburg, Butler’s rise to prominence in the NFL has been a remarkable thing. After going undrafted in 2014, Butler was working at a Popeyes when he secured a tryout with the Patriots. Less than a year later, he was a Super Bowl hero and on his way to becoming one of the league’s top cornerbacks.
Isaiah J. DowningIsaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Missouri - Jake Arrieta
Arrieta was born in St. Louis but has become a champion with his hometown’s rival in the Chicago Cubs. The 30-year-old Arrieta is one of baseball’s most respected starting pitchers, with a Cy Young Award, an All-Star appearance and two no-hitters to his name. Oh, and he won two World Series starts to help the Cubs secure their first championship in over a century.
Ken BlazeKen Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Montana -- Marc Mariani
Mariani was born in Havre and went on to attend the University of Montana, where he was a walk-on with the football team in his sophomore year as a receiver and return specialist. He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the 7th round of the 2010 NFL Draft before making the Pro Bowl as a returner in his rookie season. He owns the Titans franchise record for most kick return yards in a single season with 1,530.
Dennis WierzbickiDennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Nebraska -- Alex Gordon
Born in Lincoln, Gordon played college baseball for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and was the second overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft. He was a highly-touted prospect before eventually establishing himself as a solid MLB third baseman and outfielder. Gordon has won four Gold Glove awards and is a three-time All-Star. He also won a World Series ring with the Royals in 2015, hitting two home runs and knocking in six runs during the postseason.
Peter AikenPeter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Nevada -- Bryce Harper
A product of Las Vegas, Harper became one of the most highly-touted baseball prospects of this generation, with Sports Illustrated dubbing him as “Baseball’s Chosen One” with a cover story at age 16. After being drafted first overall in 2010, Harper was an All-Star and Rookie of the Year at age 19. He went on to lead the NL in home runs and win MVP in 2015. Still just 24 years old, he appears to be headed for a long, long career of greatness.
Born in Nashua, Paul Michael Levesque grew up to be better known by his wrestling ring name, Triple H. He became a WWF/WWE superstar, winning a total of 25 championships during his career in the ring. He married into the McMahon family and now serves as Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative for WWE.
New Jersey -- Mike Trout
The Vineland-born Trout was a first-round pick of the Angels in 2009, but even they probably didn’t anticipate how good of a player he’d become. Still just 25 years old, Trout is already a five-time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner, has won the AL MVP twice (finishing second three other times) and is regarded by many as not only the best hitter in the game today, but also one of baseball’s best young players in decades, and perhaps ever.
Gary A. VasquezGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
New Mexico -- Holly Holm
The mixed martial artist and former boxer/kickboxer hails from Albuquerque, where her father was a Church of Christ preacher – hence her nickname “The Preacher’s Daughter.” Holm has a 10-3 record in the UFC but earned notoriety with a shocking knockout of Ronda Rousey for the Women’s Bantamweight Championship in 2015, ending Rousey’s dominant undefeated streak. Holm is the first person to win championships in both boxing and MMA.
An Amherst native, Gronkowski is typically the most dominant tight end in football when healthy. His career has been plagued by numerous injuries, but his 68 receiving touchdowns are third-most by a tight end ever…and he’s still just 27 years old. If the four-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion can stay on the field, he may go down as the best to ever play the position.
Kevin HoffmanKevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
North Carolina -- Madison Bumgarner
The Hickory product is one of baseball’s premier starting pitchers and a dominant postseason force. He’s a three-time World Series champion and a World Series MVP. He has the lowest career World Series ERA (0.25) for a pitcher with at least 25 innings in the Fall Classic. He’s also a four-time All-Star and a former Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (2014).
Kenny KarstKenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports
North Dakota -- Greg Raymer
Born in Minot, Raymer is a professional poker player more affectionately known as “Fossilman.” His biggest win came in 2004, when he won the World Series of Poker main event and took home $5,000,000 in prize winnings.
Jayne FurmanJayne Furman
Ohio -- LeBron James
Shoutout to Rio Olympics star gymnast Simone Biles, also a native of Ohio, but King James delivered the long-awaited Cleveland championship after a stunning comeback against the Warriors from, yes, down 3 games to 1. One of the best NBA players of all time, James has got a lot of mileage on the tires now (and leads the league in minutes played in 2016-2017) but he and the Cavaliers are favorites to claim the Eastern Conference again, setting up a possible Finals rematch against the Warriors.
Ken BlazeUSA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma -- Gerald McCoy
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected the 6-foot-4, 300 pound defensive tackle at No. 3 overall in 2010 and he has developed into the defense’s heart and soul. The Oklahoma City native has earned five Pro Bowl bids (2012-2016) and three First Team All-Pro selections (2012-2014).
Oregon -- Ndamukong Suh
Let’s head further west for another disruptive, run-stuffing defensive tackle. Although we all can’t agree on the Dolphins lineman’s tactics at times (i.e. dirty play), the Portland native often requires attention from two blockers and frequently manages to break through those double teams.
Pennsylvania -- Matt Ryan
The 2016 NFL MVP came awfully close to adding a Super Bowl ring before, well, the New England Patriots. Nevertheless, the 31-year-old Falcons quarterback, born in Exton, Pennsylvania, enjoyed a major resurgence in 2016 with an improved offensive line and fuller complement of skilled players. He led the league with a 117.1 passer rating and 9.26 yards per attempt, more than a full yard more than the next guy (Tom Brady).
Rhode Island -- Miguel Cotto
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Cotto (at right) has amassed a tremendous 40-5 record. He has 33 knockouts over his professional career spanning 2001 to present, his last fight a 2015 loss to Canelo Alvarez. Cotto was set to re-enter the ring in February at a 153-pound catchweight against James Kirkland, but the bout got cancelled after Kirkland fractured his nose during training.
Getty ImagesRich Schultz
South Carolina -- Dustin Johnson
DJ is currently the PGA’s No. 1 ranked golfer and the reigning PGA Player of the Year after winning the U.S. Open in 2016 and finishing fourth at The Masters. Born in Columbia, South Carolina and a Coastal Carolina University graduate, Johnson has played in five events this season and most recently won the Genesis Open on February 19, after which he claimed the PGA’s top spot.
South Dakota -- Adam Vinatieri
WWE/UFC crossover Brock Lesnar gets consideration, but no more than that, because it would be disrespectful to 44-year-old Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, a son of Yankton, South Dakota. Put simply, Vinatieri will go down as the NFL’s greatest kicker of all time and will get his bust enshrined in Canton.
Tennessee -- Mookie Betts
The Boston Red Sox outfielder hasn’t been on the scene long but announced himself as one of MLB’s best in 2016 with a league-leading 359 total bases and a runner-up finish in the AL MVP voting. Born in Brentwood, Tennessee, the 23-year-old is also an avid bowler who averages about 200 per game.
Texas -- Clayton Kershaw
We head southwest to the southpaw who has dominated the National League since arriving at Dodger Stadium in 2008. The 28-year-old Kershaw hails from Dallas, Texas, and has already claimed three NL Cy Young Awards, plus in 2014 he joined a small fraternity of pitchers to win the NL MVP Award.
Matt KartozianMatt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Utah -- Ted Ligety
The Olympic skier cut his teeth (figuratively but maybe also literally at one point) on the mountains in his home state where he began racing at age two. At 21 he earned his first Olympic gold medal in the combined at Turin in 2006 and then another gold at the 2014 games in Sochi in the giant slalom.
Vermont -- Hannah Kearney
From one mountainous state to another, as we stay on the slopes for Kearney, a three-time Olympian who won gold in the moguls in Vancouver (2010) and bronze in Sochi (2014). Born in Norwich, Vermont, the 31-year-old has also earned six medals in the World Championships, including two golds.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
Virginia -- Kam Chancellor
The Norfolk, Virginia native stayed in state for college (Virginia Tech) en route to becoming one of the most feared, hardest-hitting safeties in the NFL. The 6-foot-4, 225 pounder has made the Pro Bowl four times in seven seasons and served as a Seahawks defensive captain in 2016.
Washington -- Isaiah Thomas
Now in his second full season in Boston, the Tacoma, Washington-born Thomas is averaging nearly 30 points per game (29.6) plus 6.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds. The point guard has garnered All-Star bids in 2016 and 2017 and has the Celtics poised make a run at the Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference’s top spot come playoffs.
West Virginia -- Jedd Gyorko
The birthplace of Randy Moss and Jerry West is a bit leaner these days as far as prominent active athletes. No disrespect to Gyorko, though, who’s a solid utility infielder with a big bat. In his first season in St. Louis in 2016, the Morgantown, Virginia product clubbed 30 home runs in 400 at-bats.
Wisconsin -- J.J. Watt
Last season we learned that Watt is a mere mortal after getting shut down with a back injury. But the Waukesha, Wisconsin native and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year will probably be back with a vengeance in 2017 and ready to wreak havoc for the Houston Texans, with Jadeveon Clowney becoming a force on the other side.
Wyoming -- James Johnson
Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Johnson went 16th overall to the Bulls in the 2009 NBA Draft. The 30-year-old forward, now a member of the Heat, is in the midst of his most productive season yet, averaging 12 points, 4.9 boards, plus a steal and a block per game.
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Washington D.C. -- Katie Ledecky
The swimming phenom is still just 19 years old and has a trophy case filled with 19 golds between World Championships and Olympic competition. Raised in Maryland but born in D.C., the four-time reigning female World Swimmer of the Year honoree also holds a variety of women’s freestyle world records ... and probably broke another record in the time it took to write this.