Taylor ranked 40th-best athlete
By Larry Schwartz
Special to ESPN.com

"I got to live my life the best way I can. I answer to no man, and when all is said and done, it will be one hell of a testimony," says Lawrence Taylor on ESPN's SportsCentury show (Friday, April 16, 10:30 p.m. ET). Taylor, the first to play in 10 consecutive Pro Bowls, was voted No. 40 among North American athletes of the 20th century by SportsCentury's distinguished 48-person panel.


Nov. 27, 1988 -- The Giants were hurting. Quarterback Phil Simms was injured and so were Harry Carson and Carl Banks, Pro Bowl linebackers last season. Taylor himself was severely hurt, with a torn deltoid muscle in his right shoulder. But with his three teammates out for tonight's game against the 9-3 Saints in New Orleans, L.T. knew he couldn't sit out with the 7-5 Giants fighting for a playoff berth.

 Lawrence Taylor
Lawrence Taylor earned the respect of Giants coach Bill Parcells for playing hurt.

Playing in excruciating pain and with his shoulder lacking its usual strength, all L.T. did was make three sacks, four other tackles and force two fumbles. With the defense preventing the Saints from reaching the end zone for the first time all season, the Giants registered a 13-12 victory.

"When you see a guy play like Lawrence did tonight, it picks everyone up," said Giants linebacker Gary Reasons.

After the victory, Giants coach Bill Parcells went over to L.T. and they touched foreheads. "He knew and I knew, but no one else knew what he had gone through," Parcells said.

The coach told his star player, "You were great tonight."

L.T. replied, "I don't know how I made it."

While Taylor's coach and teammates were praising him, the linebacker was back in the trainer's room. "I wanted to cry because I felt like somebody had torn my shoulder off," he said.


In his All-American senior season at North Carolina, L.T. had 16 sacks and was the ACC's Player of the Year.

The only player picked ahead of Taylor in the 1981 draft was running back George Rogers, by the Saints.

L.T. bolted from the Giants' rookie training camp after learning Steve Streater, his college roommate, had been paralyzed in a car accident. Taylor was so despondent he considered quitting football.

In 1983, Taylor agreed to a four-year, $3.25 million contract with the USFL New Jersey Generals. The Giants countered with a six-year, $6.55-million package, and the linebacker stayed with them.

L.T.: "Sunday is a different world. It's like a fantasy world which I'd rather live in. Then I go back to the rest of the world and that's when the trouble starts."

Taylor admitted to cheating on random drug tests in 1985 by slipping an aspirin bottle containing teammate's urine into his jock strap.

On Aug. 15, 1987, Taylor failed an NFL drug test. Because it was his first offense, he wasn't penalized but only received a warning. The following August he was suspended for 30 days for failing a second drug test.

L.T.'s No. 56 was officially retired at halftime of the Giants-Vikings Monday night game on Oct. 10, 1994.

Needing money, Taylor wrestled Bam Bam Bigelow in Wrestlemania XI for $500,000 in April 1995.

Also in 1995, his business, All-Pro Products, collapsed. Because of stock fraud by two former traders, the company was worth practically nothing. It had been valued at $10.8 million after going public in 1993. L.T. lost several hundred thousand dollars.

In 1996, he was arrested in Myrtle Beach, S.C., for allegedly trying to buy $100 worth of crack cocaine from an undercover cop.

In 1997, he pled guilty to filing a false federal tax return.

He was arrested three times in 1998: once for failing to pay child support and twice on drug-related charges. In October, he checked into a rehab center after being arrested for allegedly trying to buy crack from an undercover office in St. Petersburg, Fla. In December, he surrendered to Teaneck (N.J.) police to face charges of possession of narcotics and paraphernalia.

In 1998 he also filed for bankruptcy to keep creditors from seizing his $605,000 house in Upper Saddle River, N.J.

L.T. had a part in the movie "The Waterboy" and also will be in Oliver Stone's upcoming film, "On Any Given Sunday," a fictitious look at life in the NFL.

On Jan. 30, 1999, Taylor was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.