Oklahoma's 100 Greatest Athletes
By Berry Tramel and Bob Burke
Oklahomans have always excelled in sports competition. The high level of achievement began with Jim Thorpe’s domination of the world sports stage at the 1912 Olympic Games. He was called “the greatest athlete in the world.” The excellence continued as Oklahoma athletes began “giving it their best effort” in high school and college competition in the young state.
It was not long after statehood that Oklahoma began producing national stars in baseball, football, and basketball. Many local boys made the big leagues in baseball and amateur and college basketball teams too national titles in the 1930s and 1940s. Oklahoma A & M was the first college in the nation to win back-to-back NCAA basketball championships. After World War II, football became the favorite sport of many supporters of Oklahoma high school and college programs. The University of Oklahoma became the number one sports venue as the Sooners played football weekly before the largest gathering of fans in the history of the state.
However, Oklahoma athlete’s success in the last half of the twentieth century has not been limited to football, basketball, and baseball. Oklahomans have won world and Olympic championships in wrestling, gymnastics, softball, and rodeo.
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