Becoming a professional athlete requires immense skill, intense training and unwavering determination.
But does where you’re born also play a factor when it comes to finding athletic success?
While cities like New York, Boston and Los Angeles are famously known for their rich sports history, we decided to take a deeper dive and analyze which cities and states are most likely to produce the most professional athletes.
Our study analyzed the birthplaces of more than 50,000 professional athletes across four major sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA) with birth records dating back to the late 1800s. The results were then ranked per capita based on the current populations of each city and state. Overall, all 50 states and more than 9,700 cities, towns and places across the country were included within the analysis.
#1 St. Louis, Missouri
When it comes to the cities that produce the most athletes, St. Louis is the epicenter.
Since the late 1800s, St. Louis has been the birthplace of 553 professional athletes across the MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA. When compared to the city’s current population, St. Louis has produced roughly 18 professional athletes per 10,000 residents. Overall, “The Show-Me State” is the birthplace of 1,201 professional athletes including 318 MLB players, 35 NBA players, 14 NHL players and 186 NFL players.
#2 Cincinnati, Ohio
Coming in at No. 2 is Cincinnati. The city has produced nearly 500 professional athletes (495 to be exact) since the early 1800s. Ohio cities also dominate the list of top 10 cities that produce the most athletes. Youngstown (No. 3), Cleveland (No. 7), Canton (No. 8) and Dayton (No. 9) all rank within the top 10. Maybe it’s something in the water?
#3 Youngstown, Ohio
We travel from one end of Ohio to the other in order to find the third city on our list. Youngstown has produced 106 professional athletes across MLB, NFL, NHL and the NBA, which is roughly 16 athletes per 10,000 residents.
#4 Galveston, Texas
With a population of just over 50,000 residents, Galveston is the smallest city on our top 10 list. The island city on the Gulf Coast of Texas ranks No. 4 with a total of 82 athletes who were born in the city since the late 1800s (16 per 10,000). The bulk of Galveston’s professional athletes played in the NFL (56) and MLB (24). However, no NHL athletes have been born in Galveston and the city has only produced two NBA players.
#5 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Rounding out the top five cities is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The city has produced a total of 371 professional athletes or roughly 12 per 10,000 residents. Pennsylvania also ranks within the top five states that have produced the most athletes with 3,271 or roughly 25 per 100,000 residents.
Which States Produce the Most Professional Athletes?
When taking a broader look at the birthplaces of professional athletes, certain states are more likely to produce athletes than others. However, the South in particular is a region that tends to produce a high volume of athletes. Overall, half of the top 10 states that produce the most pro athletes are in the South (Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Oklahoma and Arkansas).
When it comes to producing professional athletes, Mississippi is a powerhouse.
The state has produced an incredible 1,044 athletes who have played in the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, or roughly 35 per 100,000 residents. Overall, 680 Mississippians have played in the NFL, 270 in MLB, 93 in the NBA and one in the NHL. The state capital of Jackson is home to 99 of those athletes.
We don’t have to travel very far from Mississippi to find the No. 2 state on our list. Louisiana is home to 1,431 pro athletes or roughly 30 per 100,000 residents. The bulk of those athletes (963) have played in the NFL. New Orleans is home to 364 professional athletes while Baton Rouge is the birthplace of 159 athletes.
We stay in the South but travel east to find the No. 4 state on our list of states that produce the most athletes. Alabama has produced 1,361 professional athletes and similar to Mississippi and Louisiana, NFL players dominate the list. Overall, 781 NFL players have been born in Alabama along with 485 MLB players, 92 NBA players and 3 NHL players.
When compared to the state’s current population, Pennsylvania has produced roughly 25 athletes per 100,000 residents, which means 3,271 athletes have been born in Pennsylvania since the late 1800s. Overall, the state has produced 1,504 NFL players, 1,488 MLB players, 241 NBA players and 38 NHL players.
Considering five out of the top 10 cities that have produced the most athletes are in Ohio, it’s probably no surprise that the state also ranks within the top five states that have produced the most athletes. Overall, 2,881 athletes have been born in Ohio, which is roughly 24 per 100,000 residents when compared to the state’s current population.
Which States Produce the Least Professional Athletes?
With any sport, there are winners and there are losers. For whatever reason, some states simply lack the ability to produce pro athletes. According to our analysis, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Alaska and Colorado have produced the least number of professional athletes since the late 1800s. Although these states rank in the bottom five, they are still the birthplace of hundreds of different athletes across the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB.
Overall, New Mexico has produced 84 (4 per 100,000), Nevada has produced 140 (4.5 per 100,000), Arizona has produced 376 (5.2 per 100,000) and Colorado is the birthplace of 330 (5.7 per 100,000).
Along with analyzing the cities and states that produce the most athletes, NY.Bet also took a look at which states are home to the most players by league.
When it comes to MLB players, Pennsylvania ranks No. 1 with 1,488 players or 11.48 per 100,000. Mississippi is the home of the most NBA players with 93 or 3.15 per 100,000 as well as NFL players with 680 or 23.1 per 100,000 while Minnesota takes the top spot for NHL players with 290 or 5.08 per 100,000.
To conduct our analysis, we analyzed data from the Sports Reference basketball, baseball, football and hockey player databases. Overall, the birthplaces of more than 50,000 professional athletes were analyzed across more than 9,000 cities, towns, villages and places within the United States. The number of athletes was then divided by the current population of each city and state in order to determine the rankings. Birth records dated back to the late 1800s. Athletes born abroad and within U.S. territories were not included within the analysis.
Sources: Sports Reference, Basketball Reference, Baseball Reference, Pro-Football Reference, Hockey Reference, U.S. Census Bureau
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