I really don't care what the record books say.
As much as I revere the greatness of Barry Bonds, I will never think of him as the home run king. That honor belongs to Hank Aaron. As much as I appreciate the cats that ran for 2,000 yards in a single season, I'll never hold Jamal Lewis, Chris Johnson, and Terrell Davis in the same light as O.J. Simpson rushing for 2,003 yards in 14 games. In a similar fashion, as much as I revere the greatness of Michael Strahan and Mark Gastineau, I'll never think of those two as the king of sacks. That honor belongs to Lawrence Julius Taylor.
I realized that there are young folks that don't know how good or even realize who the man is. He's the reason why you picked the Giants on Tecmo Bowl, because some would argue that Lawrence Taylor was an even better player than Bo Jackson was on the video game. He's the reason that James Harrison is as nasty as he is. He's the reason that Clay Matthews is as fearless as he is. He's the reason why Demarcus Ware is as dominant as he is. When those players were coming up, and they were placed into that outside linebacker position on the depth chart, they were immediately trying to play up to the standard that Lawrence Taylor set in his heyday.
"I leave all suckers in the dust/Those dumb motherfuckers can't mess with us." - DMC on Run-DMC's "Its Tricky" (1986)
What went on during the 1986 season was unprecedented for a defensive player. L.T. became the second player ever to record over 20 sacks in a season, in which led him to receive his third NFL Defensive Player of the Year award (in just five years), and became the first defensive player in NFL history unanimously voted the league's MVP. To cap it all off, L.T. helped led the New York (football) Giants to a resounding 39-20 victory over the Denver Broncos, as Phil Simms set the world on fire and the Giants defense made John Elway's life a living hell for 60 minutes in the Rose Bowl.
You'd think the man would be top of the world, right? He'd check off everything he had on his career to-do list. He was a king in a city where they put their heroes on the highest of plateaus, and yet this quote immediately following the Super Bowl win might've signaled what was to come:
"When the Super Bowl was over...everyone was so excited, but by then, I felt deflated. I'd won every award, had my best season, finally won the Super Bowl. I was on top of the world, right? So what could be next? Nothing. The thrill is the chase to get to the top. Every day the excitement builds and builds and builds, and then when you're finally there and the game is over...and then, nothing." - L.T.
When we think of L.T. now, as much as we want to remember his on-the-field exploits, his off-the-field improprieties will always creep into our minds. From the women, to the drugs, to the money, etc. L.T. was looking for that next thrill ride, and we were always willing to ride along with him. However, what we also got from the man was a free-spirit (remember when he got in the ring with Bam Bam Bigelow in WrestleMania XI?) who was respected by his teammates and opponents (Joe Theismann and Lawrence Taylor are still good friends to this day, even after this happened.) That egregious box slope haircut he had. The cross earring he always wore. The way he wore the uniform. The way he talked crazy to his teammates and coaches to get them riled up and ready to play.
L.T. was that live, and although there will be many like him in this age of football, there will never be another one like #56.