Bryce Harper lived up to the hype as the “LeBron of baseball”; Now he has a chance to join James on the exclusive list

Bryce Harper has been living up to the lofty expectations of being a sports prodigy since wearing the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2009 and being crowned baseball’s LeBron. He was a 16-year-old who could hit the ball 500 feet and was touted as more advanced than either Alex Rodriguez or Ken Griffey Jr.

His career has been filled with many ups and some downs, but ultimately he has achieved the kind of achievements one would expect from a generational talent.

In 2010, he won the Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation’s top amateur baseball player. He became the first position player to win Rookie of the Year as a teenager, and three years later he became the youngest MVP winner in MLB history (22) before adding another in 2021. In 2019, he signed the largest contract (13 years/$330 million) in major North American esports history (then) and left the Nationals for division rivals the Phillies.

The only thing not ahead of schedule is post-season success. The pressure only mounted after the 2019 Nationals won the World Series in Cinderella fashion, the season after Harper left with the help of her new phenomenon, Juan Soto.

Harper went into 2022 without a playoff series win, but all of that pressure evaporated about ​​quickly when Harper’s pennant home run left the stadium on Sunday. It’s the biggest swing of his life so far and will be one of the game’s iconic home runs.

His legend is now assured, but what lies ahead is something no one in baseball history has accomplished. He could become the first number one overall in MLB history to win Rookie of the Year, MVP, and Championship honors.

The MLB amateur draft began in 1965, and number one picks include names like Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Darryl Strawberry and Stephen Strasburg. None of them did this.

Strawberry came very close, winning the 1983 NL Rookie of the Year, a World Series title with the 1986 Mets, before finishing second to Kirk Gibson in the 1988 NL MVP pick. In many ways, he had a better statistical profile than Gibson that year as well.

Chipper narrowly missed this feat as well. He finished second in the 1995 NL Rookie of the Year poll behind rookie sensation Hideo Nomo. He won a World Series ring that year and won the 1999 NL MVP. Kris Bryant and Justin Verlander also narrowly missed the club. Both won Rookie of the Year, MVP, and a ring, but finished second overall.

Harper’s potential performance is also rare territory in the rest of North America’s major professional sports leagues. It has only happened 14 times in the history of the MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL, NWSL and WNBA.

It’s most common in basketball, where prospects’ games have carried the best over to the pros and where the best players have a greater chance of influencing championships.

#1 votes to win Rookie of the Year, MVP and Championship

WNBA: Six players

  • Aye Wilson
  • Breanna Stewart
  • Nneka Ogwumike
  • Maya Moore
  • candace parker
  • Diana Taurasi

Six have achieved this in the WNBA, which dates back to 1997. A’ja Wilson recently joined a club that included Breanna Stewart, Nneka Ogwumike, Maya Moore, Candace Parker and Diana Taurasi.

NBA: Five players

  • Lebron James
  • Tim Duncan
  • Shaquille O’Neal
  • David Robinson
  • Kareem Abdul Jabbar

It’s happened five times during the NBA’s joint drafting era (since 1966), most recently by prodigy LeBron James. Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, four of the greatest big men in league history, also made it.

NHL: Three players

  • Alex Ovechkin
  • Patrick Kane
  • Mario Lemieux

Since her first amateur draft in 1963, three players in the NHL have pulled the trick.

NFL: Zero players

Surprisingly, this has never happened in the NFL, despite the number of all-time great QBs drafted with top picks like Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning. Cam Newton is one of the closest. He won the 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and the 2015 NFL MVP before losing in Super Bowl 50. Lawrence Taylor and Marshall Faulk ticked all the boxes except being the second overall picks in their respective drafts.

MLS & NWSL: Zero players

This has never happened in the 26-year history of MLS or the 9-year history of NWSL. There were no skimpy calls either. Landon Donovan is a perfect example of this. Considered the greatest MLS player of all time, he has never been drafted since breaking into the league after being loaned out of the Bundesliga to the San Jose Earthquakes.

However, Harper’s accomplishment in baseball might be the most impressive apart from an athlete who achieves this in football. Compared to most sports, you see more draft picks in baseball fail because of the difficulty in developing prospects. Also, winning a title in baseball is probably less dependent on one person than in any other sport. Just look at Mike Trout (and now Shohei Ohtani). A positional player in baseball has fewer opportunities (and variability) to directly affect the outcome of a game.

Harper made the most of his swings on Sunday, and now baseball’s “chosen one” stands four wins away from a prophecy fulfilled.


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