Many people are good, some even become great, but very few people can be called legendary. When you think of legends of sports you would think of Michael Jordan in basketball, Tiger Woods in golf, Roger Federer in tennis, but in the world of motorcycle racing that man is known as Valentino Rossi. He has amazed the world with his skills on the track, but what deems him as a legend is not just that, it’s the intangibles that he possesses.
Like Jordan, Rossi is a winner and a competitor and both have a style and flair that has catapulted their status to legendary heights. Michael has had epic battles with Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler and Karl Malone, but in the end it is Michael who has won the championships. Although he knows just how amazing he is at his craft, he also understands that his legacy lives on through his fans. If you were to see MJ after his golf tournament, you would see how he takes his time to not just autograph countless of fans’ memorabilia, but to also make time to interact and talk with them as well. This not only amazes people that someone they see as a god would be “cool enough” to talk to them, but it also makes them want to keep seeing them and support all their idol’s endeavors.
Valentino Rossi, AKA the Doctor, is a competitor and he wins just as Jordan did on the highest levels. The Doctor is second in all time overall wins with 106 wins under his belt just behind Giacomo Agostini with a 122 wins. But what he has done that no one else has is that he has won on all levels of racing at the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc/MotoGP. He’s had epic battles with other rival stars such as Max Biaggi, Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo and you would think that with his stature that would be the “too good for his fans” but he’s so far from it. If you were lucky enough to venture out to Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway this past weekend and spent much time in the paddock, you may have been fortunate to get a glimpse of all your favorite riders. Some walked through the aisles looking straight ahead, some looking down, some without smiles, and some you didn’t even see at all, but that was never the case with Rossi. The man had the biggest following of them all, but he made it worth the hours his fans stood waiting for him. He would emerge smiling, waving and if time permitted, he would sign countless autographs while the legions of his fans rushed him. He understands that the love and appreciation for his fans will be what will keep him in their hearts which in turn will add to his legacy. Or maybe he’s just a really great guy.
Photographs and words by Mike V