Legendary sports figure Jim Brown passed away today, leaving behind a legacy unmatched in both football and lacrosse. While most athletes excel in a single sport, Brown carved a niche in both, earning his place in sports history.
Jim Brown: The Football Phenom
Jim Brown is often recognized for his extraordinary accomplishments on the football field. As a running back for the Cleveland Browns, he showcased a remarkable blend of skills – rushing, catching passes, returning kicks, and even throwing three career touchdowns. This versatile athlete was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, affirming his status as one of football’s greats.
The Lacrosse Legacy
While Brown’s prowess on the football field is well-known, many overlook his passion for lacrosse, often referred to as “the creator’s game” or “the game of medicine.” In a 1984 interview with the New York Times, Brown declared, “Lacrosse is probably the best sport I ever played.”
Lacrosse, a game tracing back to the Native Americans in the 1630s, captivated Brown during his time at Manhasset High School in New York. His blend of speed, agility, and toughness earned him three All-Star honors and set him up for success at Syracuse University.
Brown’s lacrosse career at Syracuse was nothing short of phenomenal, earning him two-time All-American honors in 1956 and 1957. He led the Orangemen to an undefeated season, achieving a record of 10-0. His extraordinary performance earned him a place in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1983, making him the first African American inductee.
Influence and Impact: Jim Brown’s Role in Lacrosse
For Kyle Harrison, a star in the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) and head of its diversity and inclusiveness initiative, Brown’s impact extends beyond his playing career. Harrison expressed admiration for Brown’s accomplishments in breaking color barriers in lacrosse, referring to Brown as the sport’s first African American superstar.
Brown’s influence on the game of lacrosse remains evident today. His playing style helped shape the game into what it is now often called – “the fastest game on two feet.” In 2011, Brown was awarded the Tewaaraton Legend Award, essentially the Heisman Trophy of lacrosse.
Beyond his playing days, Brown remained actively involved in the lacrosse community. In 2012, he participated in the purchase of Major League Lacrosse’s New York Lizards. Recently, he served as an ambassador/advisor for the PLL, contributing to the league’s PLL Assist Program, an initiative aimed at building more inclusive and empathetic communities. The PLL also named its Most Valuable Player Award after Brown, a fitting tribute to his impact on the sport.
Indeed, Jim Brown was one man who dominated two sports, leaving an indelible mark on both football and lacrosse.