The Five Most Overrated Houston Athletes

In Houston, we mostly love our athletes. It takes a lot to get on our bad side.

Of course, sometimes we overlove our athletes. Not only do they hold a special place in our hearts, but we insist that they were much better than they actually were.

So what athletes, judging them only by their time in Houston, were the most overrated? Let's count down the top five.

5. Billie "White Shoes" Johnson, Houston Oilers
Everyone loved White Shoes -- dude wore white shoes, after all. He also was a pioneer in the endzone celebration, bringing to life an art form that would be used and abused forever more. Oilers fans remember the long punt and kickoff returns that led to those dancing hijinks.

But the fact is Johnson pretty much had only two good years with the team. They were All-Pro years, to be sure, but Johnson wasn't a touchdown machine he's remembered as by some, and injuries started piling up and cut short whatever chance he had to live up to his oversized reputation.

4. Andre Ware,University of Houston Cougars
A Heisman Trophy winner, Ware was the QB in the center ring of the circus that was the run-and-shoot offense at UH. The offense was designed to score a lot of points, and the coaches tried inanely to insist there was no way to stop scoring points when, say, the Coogs got up by 49 late in the fourth quarter.

Ware did indeed win the Heisman, but it wasn't the strongest year for the award: The other top vote-getters were Anothony Thompson, Major Harris, Tony Rice and Darian Hagan.

Ware was a pure system QB who racked up gaudy numbers in an offense designed to have whoever was playing QB rack up gaudy numbers. He did it adequately, to be sure, but as his subsequent NFL career showed, it was the offense and not necessarily his unique skills that was responsible.

3. Nolan Ryan, Houston Astros
The pride of Alvin, the twangy hawker of everything from Advil to beef, Nolan Ryan's number has been gratefully retired by the Astros.


Did he ever win 20 games with the Astros? No, never came close. And that was while pitching in the Astrodome, the major league's friendliest park for pitchers. Yeah, yeah, he racked up strikeouts, but even in years when the `Stros were great, like 1986, he only managed 12 wins. Yeah, we know, "run support, blah blah blah." Winning matters, not stats. He needed some runs, he should have batted in a few himself.

2. Yao Ming, Houston Rockets
Yao is an international phenomenon, the man who sells a billion jerseys in China, the man who would lead the Rockets to a title -- if his foot could ever last through a season.

Staying in the game is part of what makes an athlete great. Potential doesn't count. That can lead to some harsh assessments, because often injuries are freaky, but Yao's career has been consistently marred by fragility. He hasn't lived up to the hype.

1. Craig Biggio, Houston Astro
The beloved Biggio, paragon of all that is good and right about the game of baseball. Ah, the magic of the night he got his 3,000th hit. The always-dirty uniform. And we mean always dirty, like suspiciously always dirty.

But the chase for the 3,000th hit was a joyless trudge through an extended slump, with Drayton McLane force-feeding him into the lineup at all costs. Biggio's baserunning was always suspect -- he'd hit double after double, but a triple? Forget it. And Jeff Bagwell's fielding at first base covered up Biggio's lack of range at second.

Nice guy, we're sure; great citizen, yeah. But you'd think he was Pope Biggio IV, infallible, the way some Astro fans go on.

He wasn't.

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