The ultimate sports showdown: Atlanta vs. New York

Kareem is the all-time leader in points scored (38,387), field goals made (15,837) and career wins (1,074). Photo by Thousandwords on

The Big Apple and Peachtree are two cities that have hosted professional teams for nearly half a century. New York is known as “The Mecca” with a vast history of professional athletes coming out of the five boroughs. Down south, Atlanta may be a smaller city, but they’ve had their fair share of professional athletes in their younger years.

The Hawks and Knicks playoff series brought the Atlanta and New York rivalry into the spotlight during the 2021 NBA playoffs. The feisty Knick fans, combined with Trae Young’s ability to settle in and accept his role as the villain, made for five games of pure entertainment. Young’s bow to cap off his game five daggers added fuel to the fire and cemented a long-lasting rivalry.

With both cities having over a million people in their metropolitan areas, there has been room for plenty of people to make a name for themselves in the sporting world. As such, both cities have had some all-time greats represent them. 

Walt Frazier

Born and raised in Atlanta, Walt “Clyde” Frazier attended the same high school as Martin Luther King Jr. and David Maynard. Ironically, Frazier played for the now rivaled New York Knicks for ten seasons, becoming the defensive catalyst and floor general on two championship-winning teams in 1970 and 1973. 

A seven-time All-Star, Frazier began his career by earning a spot on the 1967 NBA All-Rookie Team. From there, he won 1975 All-Star game MVP and earned seven All-Defensive First Team selections. Frazier was also selected to an All-NBA roster six times, with four First Team and two Second Team selections. The Knicks retired his number 10 in 1979 and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987. 

“[Frazier] was a superb defender, turning the steal into an art form,” Bleacher Report’s Ricky Frech wrote.

Dwight Howard

Though some may be skeptical, there is no denying Howard’s impact on the NBA during the 2000s and into the early 2010s. After the Orlando Magic selected him first overall in the 2004 NBA Draft out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, the expectations were high. However, Howard met them and, some would say, surpassed them. 

An eight-time All-Star, Howard has been on eight All-NBA teams: Five First Teams, a Second Team, and two Third Teams. Howard won three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards from 2009-2011 with the Magic. He also led the league in rebounds five times and blocks twice. But none of those achievements trump the 2020 NBA championship he won with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Robert Mathis

Though Mathis had humble beginnings in Dekalb County, he built himself a Hall of Fame resumes up north in the NFL. Mathis played defensive end for the Indianapolis Colts for 14 seasons, becoming a vocal leader and a defensive captain. 

Mathis was a five-time Pro Bowler, an All-Pro First Team member and the AFC Defensive Player of 2013. Mathis the NFL’s all-time leader in forced fumbles and strip-sacks.

Cam Newton

After carrying an Auburn Tigers football team that featured no future NFL players on the offensive side to a national championship, the Carolina Panthers took Newton with the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. 

With the Panthers, he would garner the name “Super Cam,” winning the Offensive of Rookie of the year and receiving Pro Bowl honors three times. 

Newton’s breakout came in the 2015 season when he took home the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year before ultimately leading the Panthers to appear in Super Bowl 50. 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Abdul-Jabbar’s end-all, be-all is simple: nobody’s scored more points (38,387), made more field goals (15,837) or won as many games (1,074) in an NBA uniform. In 20 NBA seasons, he won six championships, including two Finals MVP awards. He was an All-Star in all but one year.

He was a member of 15 All-NBA teams and 11 All-Defensive teams. He also led the league in scoring twice, rebounds once and blocks four times.

Many consider Abdul-Jabbar the best center in NBA history, and some even call him the greatest player in NBA history.

Alex Rodriguez

Originally from Manhattan, Rodriguez began his legendary career with Seattle Mariners as a shortstop before a stop with the Texas Rangers. Then, he returned home in 2004 and brought a World Series Pennant to the New York Yankees in 2009. A-Rod was a 14-time all-star, a three-time American League MVP and a two-time Gold Glove Award winner. 

Rodriguez is also a 10-time Silver Slugger, a four-time AL Hank Aaron Award winner, a five-time AL home run leader, a two-time RBI leader and an MLB Batting champion. His 696 home runs rank fourth all-time and he hold several MLB records including most career grand slams (25).

Simply put: the guy is one of the best to do it in the majors over the last 25 years. 

Mike Tyson

One of the most feared boxers ever, Tyson was born and raised in the infamous Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. He is considered one of the hardest-hitting heavyweight boxers ever and many consider him one of the greatest boxers ever. He held the Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship from 1987 to 1990. 

Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history, winning the belt at 20 years old, four months and 22 days old. He started his career off winning 19 straight fights, 12 of which were knockouts. He was also the first boxer to hold the WBA, WBC and IBF titles at the same time before becoming the lineal champion by defeating Michael Spinks in 91 seconds.

Lou Gehrig

Born in Manhattan, Gehrig would play the first baseman for his hometown Yankees for 17 seasons. With Gehrig’s ability to hit the ball and durability, he became known as the “Iron Horse.” Gehrig was a seven-time All-Star, a six-time World Series champion, a two-time AL MVP, a three-time AL home run leader and a five-time AL RBI leader. 

Gehrig also won the Triple Crown and the AL batting championship in 1934. Following Gehrig’s career, he would have his number retired by the Yankees and become a Major League Baseball All-Century Team and MLB All-Time Team. 

Although he retired in 1939, he still holds four career MLB records, including Most Consecutive seasons with 120-plus RBIs and the highest on-base percentage by a first baseman at a phenomenal .447. 

“No one will ever forget Lou Gehrig, the baseball player of man,” Bleacher Report’s Giancarlo Ferrari-King wrote. “He’s an all-time cultural icon whose character and will to fight [to] stand the test of time.”