Louisville is the birthplace of highly regarded and world-renowned athletes.
Throughout the course of sports history, these famous Louisville athletes have excelled at their craft becoming championship winners and Hall of Fame inductees. Click here to download a PDF version of Noteworthy Louisvillians.
Ali is undeniably the most famous person to call Louisville home. Born and raised in Louisville, Ali was loved and revered throughout the world but always considered Louisville to be his home. It held a special place in his heart, and the city reciprocated that feeling back to him. Ali, originally known as Cassius Clay, was born in Louisville on January 17, 1942. It was here he honed his ability as a boxer, and it was here he returned to after winning Gold in the 1960 Rome Olympics. He returned often after capturing the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World. After his retirement from boxing he was involved with the vision and direction of the Muhammad Ali Center. And it is here, in Louisville, that “The Greatest” has his final resting place in Cave Hill Cemetery.
Former men’s college basketball coach at the University of Louisville who guided the Cardinals to two NCAA championships and six Final Fours. He is honored in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and is one of the major figures in the history of sports in Kentucky.
The all-time leading rider at Churchill Downs, Pat Day is a local legend. He has been inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and has won the Eclipse Award for outstanding Jockey four times. Day won the 1992 Kentucky Derby on Lil E. Tee. Day retired in 2005, and has committed to spend the rest of his life spreading the Gospel.
Darrell Steven Griffith, also known as “Dr. Dunkenstein,” was born in Louisville and got his basketball career start at Male High School. Though heavily recruited by colleges across the country, Griffith stayed at the University of Louisville and delivered the school’s first-ever NCAA men’s basketball championship in 1980. Griffith spent his entire professional career with the Utah Jazz.
17-year-old John A. “Bud” Hillerich crafted the first bat for local baseball star Pete Browning in his father’s woodshop. The first use of the term “Louisville Slugger” was in 1893 when the bat became a baseball staple.
Heisman Trophy winner, and an inductee to the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Paul Hornung was a player for the Green Bay Packers. Each year the Paul Hornung Award is given to the most versatile player in college football.
University of Louisville’s star quarterback who is the most recent winner of the Heisman Trophy. At 19, Jackson is the youngest player ever to win college football’s greatest award, and the first player from the University of Louisville ever to win the award.
The first woman and the first American to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1992. She was also the first woman and first American to ski to the geographic South Pole and the first woman to climb the Lewis Nunatak in the Antarctic. She is the president of Spalding University, a private Catholic university in Louisville.
An African American jockey who was the first to be elected to the hall of fame at the National Museum of Racing as well as one of the first jockeys to pace his mount for a charge down the homestretch—a technique soon described as the “grandstand finish.” He rode in the Kentucky Derby 11 times.
Baseball player who got his start in the minor leagues playing for the Louisville Colonels. An inductee to the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame, he contributed to seven National League Championships for the Dodgers and was himself a 10-time All Star. Reese is also famous for his support of teammate Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player in the major leagues.
When you visit Louisville, make sure to keep an eye out for some of the “famous Louisvillians” gazing at you from banners that hang on buildings around the city. With the purpose of building pride within the local community and enhance Louisville’s image as an exciting city, these banners recognize and honor the city’s famous sons and daughters. Visit www.louheroes.org for information and locations of all the banners.