Becky Hammon, Billy Mills, Adam Vinatieri and Mike Miller are the four South Dakota athletes selected for the Mt. Rushmore of South Dakota Sports. For the past two weeks, we’ve collected YOUR submissions, and these are the top-4 individuals selected.
Becky Hammon (13%)
Becky Hammon is one of the best female professional basketball players in history. She grew up in Rapid City, attending high school at Rapid City Stevens. Hammon played college ball at Colorado State, and because of her success, she was given the opportunity to play in the WNBA. She was picked up by the New York Liberty in 1999, after she went undrafted.
Throughout her career, Hammon spent time with both the Liberty, and the San Antonio Stars. During her career, she was a six-time WNBA all-star, a two-time all-WNBA first team award winner, and a two-time WNBA second team award winner. In 2011, the league named Hammon as one of the top-15 WNBA players of all-time.
She became an assistant coach in 2014, first full-time female basketball coach in NBA history, with the San Antonio Spurs. This summer, Hammon was given the opportunity to head coach the Spurs Summer League team. Not only did she become the first female to ever have this opportunity, but she became the first female head coach in the NBA summer league to win the championship. Most experts and analysts believe she’ll be the first female head coach in NBA history, in the coming years.
Billy Mills (12%)
Billy Mills is an Olympic Gold Medalist, who grew up in South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. His native name was Makata Taka Hela, which means “love your country.” Mills later moved to Lawrence, Kansas to attend the Haskell Institute. It was here where he achieved a passion for running. In college he became an NCAA All-American cross country runner for the University of Kansas.
Mills won the gold medal for the 10,000 meter run at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. He was the first American to ever win the gold medal for this event. In 1965, Mills set U.S. records for the 10,000-meter run and the three-mile run. He also set a world record for the six-mile run in the Amateur Athletic Union Championships.
Adam Vinatieri (9%)
Adam Vinatieri is one of the more popular South Dakotans to make it as a professional athlete. He’s not just famous in our state, but he’s one of the best NFL kickers of all-time. Vinatieri is most famous for his two Super Bowl winning field goals with the New England Patriots (Super Bowl XXXVI vs St. Louis and Super Bowl XXXVIII vs Carolina). In total he has appeared in five Super Bowls, winning three with New England and one with Indianapolis. Vinatieri has a career field goal percentage of 83.7%, and in 2014 he was ranked #98 on the ‘Top-100 NFL Players’ list.
Vinatieri played high school ball at Rapid City Central, and would go on to play college ball at South Dakota State University. In 1995 he tried for an NFL career, but went undrafted. For one season only, he played in the American Football league in Europe with the Amsterdam Admirals. The New England Patriots signed Vinatieri in 1996, and the rest is history.
Mike Miller (9%)
Mike Miller, who is originally from Mitchell, South Dakota, is our final athlete for the Mount Rushmore of South Dakota Sports. He grew up in South Dakota, but after high school attended the University of Florida. Miller would go on to became the fifth overall pick in 2000 NBA Draft, selected by the Orlando Magic. Throughout his 15-year career, Miller has played for six teams. He’ll play for his seventh team, the Portland Trailblazers, in 2015-16 after being traded by Cleveland.
Miller is most known for his three-point shooting accuracy. His career average is 40.7% from beyond the arc. During his career, Miller spent three seasons with the Miami Heat (2010-13). In the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, the Miami Heat won the NBA Finals. He is also known for being the 2001 NBA Rookie of the Year and the 2006 NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
Other honorable athletes
Brock Lesnar (8%)
Chad Greenway (7%)
Randy Lewis (5%)
Sparky Anderson (4%)
Casey Tibbs (4%)