The state of Alabama might be known for a rich college football tradition, but some of the greatest athletes in sports have come from the Yellowhammer State.

You probably know all about the players that went to college in the state and starred for Crimson Tide or Auburn Tigers, but you might not know that some of the all-time greats also got their start right here in Alabama. Some of them moved away at an early age while others crafted their skills all the way through high school in this state.

Take a look at 15 current and former stars that have excelled in their sport and find out where they were born below.


  • Jesse Owens

    Born in Oakville

    Recognized as the greatest athlete in track and field history, Owens was born and raised in Oakville until the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio when he was nine. His four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics might be one of the most culturally significant performances in the event's history. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1970.

  • Ozzie Smith

    Born in Mobile

    'The Wizard' spent the first six years of his life in Mobile before moving to California with his family. The first ballot Hall of Famer won a World Series and was selected to the All-Star team 15 times.

  • Joe Louis

    Born in Lafayette

    Considered by some as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all-time, Joe Louis was born in the eastern part of the state. His impact went far beyond his 66-3-1 boxing record as he also enlisted in the US Army during World War II and was widely regarded as the first African American to be perceived as a national hero.

  • Carl Lewis

    Born in Birmingham

    Arguably the nation's most-recognizable track and field stars of the last 30 years, Lewis was born in Birmingham at the height of the civil rights struggles. His family moved him north to New Jersey, where he would soon join a local track club and eventually go on to win 10 Olympic medals.

  • Craig Kimbrel

    Born in Huntsville

    Maybe the best closer in baseball today, Kimbrel was born and raised in Huntsville. He played college ball at Wallace State before becoming an MLB All-Star with the Atlanta Braves. He was traded to the Padres before the start of the 2015 season.

  • Ben Wallace

    Born in White Hall

    The 10th of 11 children, Wallace grew up in a small Lowndes County town. He earned all-state honors in basketball, baseball and football before focusing his attention on the hardwood. Wallace played for five NBA teams but earned most of his recognition with the Detroit Pistons. There he won an NBA championship and was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times.

  • Willie Mays

    Born in Westfield

    One of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game, 'The Say Hey Kid' grew up just outside of Bessemer and played at Fairfield Industrial High School. He led the Birmingham Black Barons to a pennant before enjoying one of the greatest MLB careers of all time.

  • Mia Hamm

    Born in Selma

    One of this country's greatest soccer players - male or female - grew up a child of the Air Force, which moved her from city to city after her birth in Selma. Winner of the first two FIFA World Player of the Year awards (2001, 2002), Hamm also held the record for most internationals soccer goals until 2013.

  • Terrell Owens

    Born in Alexander City

    Growing up with his grandmother in Alexander City, Owens wasn't allowed to play until high school. The wide receiver would star in multiple sports at UT-Chattanooga before being drafted by the San Fransisco 49ers in 1996. Owens finished behind only Jerry Rice for career receiving yards in NFL history.

  • Delmon Young

    Born in Montgomery

    The 2012 ALCS MVP was born in the state capital before moving to California. He returned to Montgomery in 2005 for a stop with the Double-A Biscuits, where he earned Southern League Player of the Year honors. He currently plays for the Baltimore Orioles.

  • Michael Curry

    Born in Anniston

    The current head coach of the Florida Atlantic Owls, Curry was born in Anniston but spent most of his childhood in Augusta, Georgia. He would go on to play 11 seasons in the NBA and eventually earn a head coaching position with the Detroit Pistons from 2008-09.

  • Justin Tuck

    Born in Kellyton

    The two-time Super Bowl Champion began his life in Kellyton, which had a population of just 217 as of 2010. Tuck starred for Central Coosa County as a linebacker and tight end while also winning two state championships in basketball. He would earn a football scholarship to Notre Dame before being drafted to the New York Giants. He currently plays for Oakland.

  • Matt Cain

    Born in Dothan

    The two-time World Series champion was born in Dothan, lived in Vincent, Alabama for a year, and eventually moved to Tennessee. Cain has compiled more than 1,500 strikeouts as a member of the San Fransisco Giants and pitched the 22nd perfect game in MLB history on June 13, 2012.

  • Philip Rivers

    Born in Decatur

    The son of a football coach, Rivers played football in northern Alabama at an early age. He earned the starting quarterback position at Athens High School in the 7th grade and didn't lose it again until his rookie year with the San Diego Chargers.

  • Alex Rios

    Born in Coffee

    The Kansas City Royals outfielder was born in Coffee but grew up in Puerto Rico. His 11-year career has included stops with the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Rangers. Rios was named an All-Star in 2006 and 2007.

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