Who Would Make The Mount Rushmore For Utah Sports?

Jul 28, 2019, 5:43 PM | Updated: 5:43 pm
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)...
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The state of Utah has a fairly rich sporting history from the Utah Jazz to the universities around the state, but what if you had to come up with a Mount Rushmore of sporting figures?

This conversation was sparked due to the recent news that former Utah Jazz coach and Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan’s health is declining, so it got KSL’s Unrivaled thinking who are the best ever sports figures from Utah, and using the four slots allotted for Mount Rushmore makes this a tough choice.

Picking the best four of anything is a tough challenge, especially in Utah where the three names that come to mind nearly immediately are all Hall of Famers who were part of the best Utah Jazz run ever in Sloan, John Stockton, and Karl Malone.

Picking Just Four Is Really Hard

Going through the history of Utah sports there are legends upon legends. BYU has LaVell Edwards who did once in a lifetime things for the Cougar football program by winning numerous WAC titles, had a Heisman trophy winner in Ty Detmer — speaking of Detmer he is a name to be considered, and winning the national title in 1984.

Rick Majerus at Utah took the basketball program to a national championship game and nearly pulled off the upset over Kentucky back in 1998, a pair of Sweet 16 showings, and an Elite Eight.

Even the short stint by Urban Meyer at Utah should be considered as he led the Utes to a 22-2 record and became the first team to qualify for a BCS bowl from outside of a BCS conference.

Coach Sloan obviously makes this list for his time with the Jazz and there are so many other names to consider, and KSL Sports’ Scott Mitchell reiterates that when trying to come up with his list.

“Here is what is hard to me. You have Jerry Sloan, LaVell Edwards, John Stockton, and Karl Malone,” Mitchell said on KSL’s Unrivaled. “I don’t want to take this away from anyone as they have been tremendous for sports in the state of Utah, but it seems that it should be more.”

Mount Rushmore is a permanent structure and is not changing and that is the issue Mitchell struggles with when picking only four.

“To me, Mount Rushmore it is in stone and they are not going anywhere,” Mitchell added.

Who Do Those Outside Of Utah Think Of First?

KSL Sports’ Alex Kirry makes his case in what four should be there and his thinking is that it has to be a grouping that goes beyond just the Utah borders and people anywhere in the country could hear a certain name and pinpoint it back to the state of Utah.

“What people recognize us in the state of Utah in the state of sports, Jerry Sloan has to be up there, I think LaVell Edwards has to be up there and I think John Stockton and Karl Malone as the people who identify the state of Utah in mainstream sports and those two guys always come up,” Kirry said.

There are other names that people may think of but having just one major pro sports franchise can limit who can go on this list since college athletes are around for just a handful of years. So, even for how good Alex Smith was for Utah being a Heisman finalist and going to the Fiesta Bowl is great it is nothing compared to the longevity and awards that Stockton, Malone, and Sloan earned with the Utah Jazz for well over a decade.

Mitchell is still conflicted on who should go on Utah’s Mount Rushmore and part of his rationale is that the trio from the Jazz have never won a title despite those being all-times and Hall of Famers in the NBA.

“What it feels like to me is our Mount Rushmore when compared to other places is not all that great,” Mitchell said. “Take the state of Mississippi who has Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Brett Favre… and Mississippi is not like a hotbed of a state compared to Texas, California, or Florida where there is a mass population of people. That is a heck of a Mount Rushmore.”

Mitchell and Kirry have a back and forth over what should be the merits to be on a Mount Rushmore.

“I am not diminishing any of these and they all have national recognition. Jerry Sloan, again no disrespect, but I do not think he goes down in NBA history as one of the greatest coaches,” Mitchell concluded.

There is nothing that the state of Utah can easily do to just magically make its four best sports figures ever and the ones that are from Utah are pretty good. For the record, Mitchell never did make his Mount Rushmore of sports for the state of Utah.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast.

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