Ohio Famous Top Athletes | 15 of the Best State Sports Stars

Ohio Famous Top Athletes

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Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback CJ Stroud runs with the football during game against the Michigan Wolverines

There’s no shortage of sporting heritage when it comes to Ohio. Some of America’s best athletes, across many different sports, have either come into their own playing here or plied their trade in the state during their peaks.

Here, we compile a list of Ohio’s 15 most famous and top athletes, in no particular order.

Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield was a first overall pick for the Cleveland Browns in the 2018 NFL draft and signed a four-year rookie contract following his selection. A quarterback, Mayfield played a vital role in ending the Browns’ 19-game winless run in his debut season.

He really came to attention after leading the team to its first playoff appearance in 18 years during the 2020 season, which was followed by a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card Round – this was the Browns’ first victory in the playoffs since 1994. 

Mayfield struggled with injuries in the 2021 season, which led to a lot of inconsistencies in his performances for the Browns, but there was a lot of drama off the field as well. In his final two months, a reported rift between himself and head coach Kevin Stefanski led to the 27-year-old not exercising his fifth-year option. He requested a trade and has been representing the Carolina Panthers since. 

Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson joined the Cleveland Browns on a five-year contract from the Houston Texans in the 2022 NFL season. Watson is a quarterback and was a first overall pick for the Texans in 2017.

During his time in Houston, he led the franchise to two division titles and is considered one of the best quarterbacks in the league. 

Watson had to wait for his first Browns game because he was serving an 11-game suspension due to off-field conduct violations. Watson did not play a single game for the Texans in the 2021 season. 

Joe Burrow

Joe Burrow plays as a quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals. He was selected by the franchise as a first overall draft pick in 2020. Injuries marred his first season at the franchise, but he followed that up with a memorable second one, where the Bengals didn’t just win their first playoff match since 1990 but also made it to Super Bowl LVI, losing to the Los Angeles Rams in the end. 

Burrow has moved around a lot in his short career. He was born in Ames, Iowa, moved to North Dakota in 2003, and had a short stint in Fargo before settling in Athens, Ohio, in 2011. Having spent some of his formative years in Ohio, he has fully adopted the state as his home. 

Myles Garrett

Myles Garrett is a defensive end for the Cleveland Browns and was the team’s first overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. He has been representing the Browns ever since he joined the NFL. He is known for bringing a lot of aggression on the field and has sometimes taken it too far - one can’t forget his infamous brawl with Mason Rudolph in 2019. 

He has been named in the Pro-Bowl three times and is one of the top players in the league in his role. No player in Browns’ history has managed to get more sacks than Garret; he broke Clay Matthews Jr’s record of 62 sacks for the Browns this season. 

Nick Chubb

Nick Chubb plays as a running back for the Cleveland Browns and was the team’s second-round NFL draft pick in 2018. The Browns have been praised heavily for their running game over the years. In the 2021 season, the Browns ranked first for rushing yards thanks to Chubb’s efforts along with Kareem Hunt. 

Chubb has become a real fan-favorite despite having no previous connection to the state - while Burrow has taken to Ohio during his many stints here, it is the opposite with Chubb. Many expert analysts consider him as the best running back in the league. The question for the Browns is whether his attributes can help propel the franchise to greater glory. 

Denzel Ward

Denzel Ward plays as a cornerback for the Cleveland Browns and was born and brought up in Macedonia, Ohio. He plays with his heart on his sleeve and is adored by the Browns faithful. 

In the years when the Browns had the likes of Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. representing the team, players like Ward were part of the reason the Cleveland Browns made it to the playoffs. Ward was a fourth pick for the Browns in the 2018 season. He’s a top athlete with excellent ball-hawking skills. 

Along with Myles Garrett, he has been one of the standout defensive players for the team over the years. He’s currently out with an injury, having sustained a concussion. This is a worrying sign for the player, as this isn’t the first time that he’s been on the receiving end of one.

Sam Hubbard

Sam Hubbard is a Cincinnati Bengals defensive end and was a third-round pick for the team in the 2018 NFL draft. He is as local as they come, and it’s no surprise that he is beloved by the Bengals fans. 

He is one of the emotional leaders of the side, which should come as no surprise since he’s an Ohio native. He has also been a reliable defensive presence, most evident in the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2021 season. 

Ja’Marr Chase

Ja’Marr Chase plays as a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals and was a fifth overall pick for the franchise in the 2021 NFL draft. His exploits in his first season were good enough to land him the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Chase brings an infectious energy to the entire team, which has helped him warm himself to the Bengals fans. Along with Joe Burrow, he was one of the stars in the Bengals’ run to Super Bowl LVI. He represents both the exciting present and future of the franchise. 

What makes Chase such a threat to the opposition is his telepathic relationship with Burrow. There might be better quarterbacks and wide receivers in the league, but few who are as good together as Burrow and Chase. As long as the two are in the same team, they’ll be causing havoc on defenses. 

C.J. Stroud

C.J. Stroud plays quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Ohio State Buckeyes have an incredible legacy in college football. Stroud has already got his name etched into the history books after managing 573 passing yards in a game and breaking the record for the team. He was a mainstay at 21 years old.

He was crucial to the Buckeyes’ run to the Heisman Trophy final in 2021. Some big NFL teams will certainly look for his services soon if he keeps going at this rate. He’ll certainly be one of the top prospects in the 2023 NFL draft. 

Jaxson Smith-Njigba

C.J. Stroud’s partner in crime, Jaxson Smith-Njigba, is the Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver, and like his teammate, he has already broken a few records. He managed the most catches in a single game with 15 and the most receiving yards in a single season with 1,606 in the 2021 season. 

He had a few niggling injuries in recent years, including some hamstring troubles. But he has endeared himself to the Buckeyes fans, who hope he remains consistently fit and influential on the field.

LeBron James

Arguably the greatest player in NBA history, LeBron James needs little introduction. The 37-year-old currently represents the Los Angeles Lakers, but his time in the NBA will most fondly be associated with his two stints at the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Born in Akron, Ohio, he joined his hometown team as the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft. Few players have come with the sort of hype James did, and even fewer have managed to live up to it. His first stint with the Cavaliers showed everything he was about, but an NBA championship was lacking.

After representing the Cavaliers for seven years with no championships and many near misses, he made a controversial switch to the Miami Heat, playing alongside fellow superstars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. 

He won two NBA championships with the Heat but had unfinished business and decided to return to Cleveland after four successful years with the Heat. It looked like another stint with many near-misses before leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a historic comeback against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA finals. 

James redeemed his reputation with the Cleveland faithful, helping the team win its first NBA championship. He has been a Laker since 2018, winning another championship. He has won four NBA championships overall, four NBA MVP awards, and four NBA Finals MVPs. He is considered one of the greatest sportsmen of all time - and probably the best one to grace Ohio. 

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving, currently a point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, spent six years in Ohio representing the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2011-2017. He was the first overall pick for the Cavaliers in 2011 and has been one of the stars of the NBA since. He won the Rookie of the Year award in his very first season for the Cavaliers. 

His performance in the game 7 of the 2016 finals against the Golden State Warriors lives long in the memory of most NBA fans. He is one of the most skillful point guards ever to have played the game, but his NBA career has been controversial.  

Kyrie Irving’s talent has never been in doubt, and he has won an NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but many critics and fans believe that he would have achieved more in the game if it wasn’t for all the distractions off the field.

Kevin Love

Along with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love formed the big three of the NBA championship-winning Cleveland Cavaliers side in 2016. Love switches between the power-forward and center roles and has represented the Cavaliers since 2014. 

Prior to that, he spent three seasons representing the Minnesota Timberwolves. Love is a five-time NBA All-Star. His last few seasons in the NBA have been plagued with injury, but he seemed to show some of his best form in the 2021 season, ending the season as runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year award. 

Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell plays shooting guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He joined the franchise in 2022, having previously represented the Utah Jazz since 2017. He is already a three-time NBA All-Star, and is one of the current stars of the NBA. 

Mitchell is an explosive scorer and was one of two stars for a promising Utah Jazz side with Rudy Gobert in the last couple of years. The Cavaliers had to pay a pretty penny for the trade, but the trade made a lot of sense for the Cavaliers. 

The Cavaliers team has needed some injection of energy and excitement since the days of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. Mitchell should provide the team with enough for a playoff berth in the 2022 season alongside his talented teammates. 

Darius Garland

Darius Garland plays point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers and was a fifth overall pick for the side in the 2019 season. He was an NBA All-Star in the 2021 season and was hoping to kick on in the following campaign. 

This is one of the best Cavaliers’ sides in some time, and his performances alongside Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley will be key to how the team performs in the coming years. He’s both a shooting and playmaking threat, which should make his emerging partnership with Donovan Mitchell one of the most exciting stories to play out in the NBA.

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