35 of the Best Black athletes born in the state of Florida
We all know the state of Florida is ripe with athletic talent. From football to baseball and many sports in-between, the Sunshine State has produced stellar sports stars throughout the years.
Many Black athletes get their due recognition, but many are forgotten. With Black History Month coming to a close, I wanted to take some time and look at who I thought are the best Black athletes that the state of Florida has ever produced.
This list is by no means the final word or a decisive list. I surely overlooked someone. There is no doubt that names have been left out of this list that could be in the running. But, I have carved it down to a Top 35. The athletes on this list range through so many sports and years of competition. I tried to pick this list solely on impressive stats and memorable field performances.
#1 Deion Sanders, football and baseball
Born Aug. 9, 1967 in Fort Myers.
Sanders played his college football at Florida State University and was selected in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He was All-State in three sports in high school. Sanders played in the NFL for 14 seasons and also played for nine season in Major League Baseball. Sanders was selected eight times for the Pro Bowl and is a two-time Super Bowl champion with back-to-back wins with the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX and the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX. Sanders also appeared in the 1992 World Series with the Atlanta Braves, giving him the distinction to be the only athlete to appear in both a World Series and a Super Bowl. Sanders is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
#2 Emmitt Smith, football
Born May 15, 1969 in Pensacola.
Smith played his college football at the University of Florida where he rushed for more than 3,000 yards. He is in the school’s Ring of Honor. Selected in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys, Smith played 15 seasons and won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys, (XXVII, XXVIII, and XXX). Smith is an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and retired as the all-time rushing yards and rushing touchdowns leader in the NFL. Smith ended his career with 18,355 yards rushing and 164 touchdowns. In 2010, Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
#3 Bob “Bullet Bob” Hayes, track and football
Born Dec. 20, 1942 in Jacksonville. Died Sept. 18, 2002.
At Gilbert High School, Hayes, playing halfback, led the Panthers to a 12-0 record and a state title in 1958. They were later recognized as one of the best teams in Florida state high school football history. Hayes was also a track star, running the 100 meter dash. At the 1964 Olympics, Hayes was a superstar. He won two gold medals, one in the 100 meter dash and he anchored the world record-setting 4X100 team to also win gold. Hayes was drafted by both the NFL and the AFL. Hayes went to three Pro Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and is credited with having 7,000 receiving yards with the team. In 2009, Hayes became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (Hayes wore the number 22 at Dallas, which was later worn by fellow Floridian Emmitt Smith).
#4 David “Deacon” Jones, football
Born Dec. 9, 1938 in Eatonville. Died June 3, 2013.
Jones was a tough defensive end drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1961. Jones is widely looked at as one of the best defensive players of all time. He was a master of the sack, and is credited with coining the term. It’s believed Jones had more that 170 sacks in his career, but sacks were not an official stat at the time. Jones’ childhood in Eatonville was tough. Growing up, he witnessed several racially driven crimes that fueled his violent play on the field later in life, Jones said. The seven-time Pro Bowler was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980.
#5 David Robinson, basketball
Born August 6, 1965 in Key West.
Robinson was the son of a Navy man and became a Navy man himself. He played for the US Naval Academy for four years, becoming an All-American and two-time national shot blocks leader. He was named College Player of the Year 1987. After his college career, Robinson served his two years of active duty as a civil engineering officer. Robinson began his NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs. He was NBA Rookie of the Year in 1990. Robinson went on to be a 10-time NBA All-Star and two time NBA champion with the Spurs. In 2009, Robinson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He also won two Olympic gold medals with Team USA, in Barcelona (1992) and Atlanta (1996).
#6 Artis Gilmore, basketball
Born Sept. 21, 1949 in Chipley.
Gilmore played his college basketball at Jacksonville University, leading the Dolphins to the NCAA finals in 1970 where they lost to UCLA. Gilmore’s average of 22.7 rebounds a game over his two seasons is the highest in college basketball history. Gilmore was drafted in 1971 by the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA and Chicago Bulls of the NBA. He went to the ABA and was instantly an All-Star. He led the Colonels to the 1975 ABA Championship. The next year when the ABA disbanded, Gilmore was the first overall pick in the draft, going to Chicago. He was an 11-time All-Star in both leagues. In 2011, Gilmore was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
#7 Sylvia Fowles, basketball
Born Oct. 6, 1985 in Miami.
Fowles played her college basketball at Louisiana State University leading the team to a pair of Final Four appearances. LSU has retired her number. In 2015, Fowles joined the Minnesota Lynx of the Women’s NBA. She would lead the team to the 2015 WNBA Championship, winning Finals MVP honors. She is a three-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, and in 2017 won the regular-season MVP award. Fowles also had an international impact by leading the USA Women’s Basketball team to gold medals in three straight Olympics, Beijing (2008), London (2012) and Rio (2016).
#8 Michael Irvin, football
Born March 5, 1966 in Fort Lauderdale.
Irving played his college football at the University of Miami, setting school records for career receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions. Irving played a vital role in the Hurricanes' 1987 national championship team that won the 1988 Orange Bowl. After being selected in the first round of the 1988 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys, he would spend his entire 12-year career with them. Irving was a five-time Pro Bowler, racking up receiving yards (nearly 12,000) and touchdowns (65). Irving is a three-time Super Bowl champion, helping to lead the Cowboys to wins in Super Bowl XXVII, XXVIII, and XXX. In 2007, Irving was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
#9 Mitch Richmond, basketball
Born June 30, 1965 in Fort Lauderdale.
Playing college basketball at Kansas State, Richmond scored more that 1,300 points in just two years. Drafted 5th overall in 1988 by the Golden State Warriors, Richmond was Rookie of the Year. He played 976 games in the NBA and averaged more that 20 points a game while being a six-time All-Star. Richmond played for Team USA in the 1988 Seoul Olympics winning bronze, and then again in 1996 winning a gold medal. He was a reserve for the Los Angeles Lakers when they won an NBA title in 2002 in the final year of his career. In 2014, Richmond was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
#10 Wilber Marshall, football
Born April 18, 1962 in Titusville.
Marshall played college football at the University of Florida where he is in the Ring of Honor and was a two-time All-American linebacker. He was selected in the first round of the 1984 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Marshall played 12 seasons in the NFL and was selected three times to the Pro Bowl. He is a two-time NFL champion with the Bears in Super Bowl XX and with Washington in Super Bowl XXVI. In 2008, Marshall was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
#11 Tim Raines, baseball
Born Sept. 16, 1959 in Sanford.
Attending Seminole High School, Raines played multiple sports and received many scholarship offers to play college football. But his passion and talent for baseball won the day. Raines was drafted in 1977 by the Montreal Expos. Raines is a seven-time All-Star outfielder with more than 2,600 hits in his career and more than 800 stolen bases. Raines won two World Series with the Yankees in 1996 and 1998. And as a first base coach with the White Sox, Raines would get another World Series ring in 2005. In 2017, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
#12 Anthony Carter, football
Born Sept. 17, 1960 in Riviera Beach.
Carter played his college football at the University of Michigan where he was a three-time All-America. At the time he left the school, Carter was its all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Carter was drafted into the USFL in 1983 and played for the Michigan Panthers for its three seasons. After the USFL folded, Carter signed with the Miami Dolphins; he ended up playing 11 more seasons in the NFL. Carter was a three-time Pro Bowler in his career. In 2001, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
#13 Dwight Gooden, baseball
Born Nov. 16, 1964 in Tampa.
After a stellar career at Hillsborough High School, Gooden was drafted in 1982 in the first round by the New York Mets. He was in the Majors two years later, winning National League Rookie of the Year honors after leading MLB in strikeouts and making the National League All-Star team. In 1985, Gooden won the Cy Young Award and helped lead the Mets to the World Series in 1986. Gooden played 16 seasons in the MLB and was an All-Star four times. He had nearly 2,300 strikeouts and threw a no-hitter in 1996 for the New York Yankees where he won a second World Series. He is a member of the New York Mets Hall of Fame.
#14 Harold Carmichael, football
Born Sept. 22, 1949 in Jacksonville.
Carmichael played his college football as a walk-on for Southern University. As a senior, he was an all-conference player. In 1971, Carmichael was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles and went on to an great career. In 1973, he lead the NFL in receptions and receiving yards and he was a four-time Pro Bowler. He was named the 1980 NFL Man of the Year for his work off the field and set an NFL record for catching a pass in 127 consecutive games while leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl XV appearance. In 2020, Carmichael was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
#15 Warren Sapp, football
Born Dec. 19, 1972 in Plymouth.
After starring at Apopka High School, Sapp played his college football at the University of Miami where he was an All-American defensive tackle. In 1994, he was named the best defensive player in the country after making 84 tackles and 10.5 sacks. Sapp was drafted in the first round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1995 and became part of a defense that would win the franchise's first Super Bowl after the 2002 season. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1999. In 2007, Sapp was named to the Florida High School Athletic Association All-Century Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
#16 Ray Lewis, football
Born May 15, 1975 in Bartow.
Lewis played his college football at the University of Miami and was a first team All-American. He was drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens. The linebacker was a two- time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 13-time Pro Bowler and a two-time Super Bowl Champion. Lewis was named Super Bowl MVP in his first appearance in the game. In 2018, Lewis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
#17 Nat Moore, football
Born Sept. 19, 1951 in Tallahassee.
Moore began his college football career at the University of Tennessee-Martin before transferring to the University of Florida as a junior in 1972. He had more than 1,300 all purpose yards for the Gators that first season on his way to being selected to the All-SEC first team. He was taken by the Miami Dolphins in the 1974 NFL Draft. Moore appeared in the 1977 Pro Bowl. By the time of his retirement, Moore had broken almost all the Dolphins' receiving records. In 1978, Moore, who still works for the Dolphins, was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame.
#18 Derrick Thomas, football
Born Jan. 1, 1967 in Miami. Died Feb. 8, 2000
Thomas played his college football at Alabama where he broke many of the defensive records at the school. He had 27 sacks in 1988 and earned unanimous first-team All-American honors. Thomas was drafted in the first round by the Kansas City Chiefs. He earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 1989. Thomas was a nine-time Pro Bowler and the 1993 NFL Man of the Year. He had more that 120 sacks in his career. Thomas is a member of the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
#19 Derrick Brooks, football
Born April 18, 1973 in Pensacola.
Brooks was an All-American linebacker at Florida State University, after starting his career at safety. In 1993, Brooks was part of the Seminoles' national championship team. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Brooks was drafted in the first round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (same class as Sapp). He was an 11-time Pro Bowler and won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2002, the same season the Bucs won their first Super Bowl. In 2014, Brooks was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
#20 Willie Galimore, football
Born March 30, 1935 in St. Augustine. Died July 27, 1964
Galimore played his college football at Florida A&M University where he was a three- time Black College All-American. Galimore was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1956. As a running back with the Bears, Galimore helped lead the team to the 1963 NFL Championship. He played in one Pro Bowl. In 1999, Galimore was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
#21 Wes Chandler, football
Born August 22, 1956 in New Smyrna Beach.
Chandler played his college football at the University of Florida where, in 1976 and '77, he was a first-team All-SEC and first team All-American receiver. He caught 92 passes for more than 1,900 yards in his college career. Chandler was the third overall pick of the 1978 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. He was selected to four Pro Bowls and had almost 9,000 career receiving yards in the NFL. In 2015, Chandler was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
#22 Vernon Maxwell, basketball
Born Sept. 12, 1965 in Gainesville.
Maxwell won the 1984 title of Florida’s Mr. Basketball before moving on to the University of Florida and helping lead the school to its first NCAA tournament appearance. He was drafted in the 1988 by the Denver Nuggets but then traded to the Spurs. He spent most of his 13 seasons in the NBA with the Houston Rockets. He once held the NBA record for most three pointers in a season. Maxwell is a two time NBA Champion with the Rockets, 1994 and 1995.
#23 LeRoy Butler, football
Born July 19 1968 in Jacksonville.
Butler played his college football at Florida State University. As a three-year starter as a defensive back, Butler had more than 190 tackles. Butler was drafted in the second round in 1990 by the Green Bay Packers. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and a vital defensive member of the Packers' Super Bowl XXXI championship.
#24 Udonis Haslem, basketball
Born June 9, 1980 in Miami.
Haslem played his college basketball at the University of Florida where he helped the team earn four straight NCAA tournament appearances and one national championship game appearance. Haslem was a two-time first team All-SEC player. He went to the NBA as an undrafted free agent to play for his hometown Miami Heat - and remains on their roster more as a player-coach these days with little time on the court. Haslem earned NBA All-Rookie Second Team honors his first season. He has played 19 years in the NBA, and is a three-time NBA Champion.
#25 Kevin Carter, football
Born Sep. 21, 1973 in Miami.
Carter played his college football at the University of Florida, where he was a three-time SEC Champion. Carter was drafted in the first round by the St. Louis Rams. He played 14 season in the NFL and was a two-time Pro Bowler. Carter won Super Bowl XXXIV with the Rams and was the NFL sacks leader in 1999.
#26 Tracy McGrady, basketball
Born May 24, 1979 in Bartow.
McGrady played at Auburndale High School where he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. In 1997, McGrady was voted Mr. Basketball USA. He was drafted in the first round in 1997 by the Toronto Raptors. McGrady was a seven-time NBA All-Star and two-time NBA scoring champion.
#27 Chandra Cheeseborough, track and field
Born Jan. 10, 1959 in Jacksonville.
Cheeseborough was the fastest female high school runner of the day. She ran a blistering 11.13 seconds in the 100 yard dash in 1976, at the time the fastest in the nation. She went to college at Tennessee State where she won a national indoor championship. Cheeseborough qualified for the 1980 Summer Olympics but was not able to compete due to the US boycott of the games. In 1984, she was able to make the Los Angeles Olympics where she won silver in the 400 meters and took home two gold medals in the 4x100 and 4x400 relays.
#28 Vince Carter, basketball
Born Jan. 26, 1977 in Daytona Beach.
Carter was an McDonald’s All American and Mr. Basketball in Florida. He went to college at the University of North Carolina where he helped lead the team to consecutive ACC tournament titles and back-to-back Final Four appearances. Drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the first round in 1998, he was then traded to the Toronto Raptors. In his first year, Carter’s high flying style made him a fan favorite and he won NBA Rookie of the Year. In 2000, Carter won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. He was an eight time NBA All-Star.
#29 Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins, basketball
Born Jan. 11, 1957 in Orlando. Died Aug. 27, 2015
Dawkins was a high school star, making national news while averaging more than 30 points and 20 rebounds a game his senior season. He was a Parade All-America in 1975. Dawkins was drafted in the first round out of high school by the Philadelphia 76ers. He may be most remembered for a thunderous dunk he made in 1979 in Kansas City when he shattered the backboard glass. He would do it again later in the season and those feats led to backboards with flexible rims. Dawkins helped the 76ers get to the 1977 NBA Finals.
#30 Tony McQuay, track and field
Born April 16, 1990 in West Palm Beach.
McQuay ran track in college at the University of Florida where he won multiple individual and team national championships. In 2011, McQuay won the 400 meters open event at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. He was a two-time SEC outdoor champion in the 400 meters. McQuay was a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic relay team that won silver in the 4 x 400. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, McQuay ran in the 4 x 400 meters relay team that won gold.
#31 Arman Hall, track and field
Born Feb. 12, 1994 in Miami.
Hall was an All-USA high school track star and won the 400 meters at the 2011 World Youth Championships in Athletics. In college, Hall ran track at the University of Florida and won multiple individual and team national championships. In 2016, Hall won the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 400 meters. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, he won a gold medal when he ran lead-off in the 4 x 400 meters relay.
#32 Lomas Brown, football
Born March 30, 1963 in Miami.
Brown played college football at the University of Florida, where he was part of “The Great Wall of Florida." Brown, who played offensive tackle, was drafted in the first round by the Detroit Lions and played 18 seasons in the NFL while making the Pro Bowl seven times. In his final season, Brown won Super Bowl XXXVII with the Buccaneers. In 2020, Brown was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
#33 Erin Jackson, speed skating
Born Sept. 19, 1992 in Ocala.
Jackson's love for speed skating was honed on the inline track. She began ice skating in 2016 and qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. In 2021, she won the 500 meter Speed Skating World Cup, making her the first Black woman to win a World Cup in speed skating. Earlier this month, Jackson won the gold medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in the 500 meter women’s speed skating event. She is the first Black woman to win an individual gold medal in the Winter Olympics.
#34 Ottis Anderson, football
Born Jan 19, 1957 in West Palm Beach
Anderson played his college football at the University of Miami. He was drafted in the first round in 1979 by the St. Louis Cardinals. He was a two-time Pro Bowler. As a member of the New York Giants, Anderson helped the team win Super Bowl XXI and Super Bowl XXV.
#35 Andre Dawson, baseball
Born July 10, 1954 in Miami.
Dawson was drafted by the Expos in 1975. The outfielder was the MLB National League Rookie of the Year in 1977 and National League MVP in 1987. He was an eight-time All-Star, and an eight-time Golden Glove winner. Dawson was also a four-time Silver Slugger winner. In 2010, Dawson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.