The New York Giants' release of Victor Cruz means New York's Latino sports star club is now down a member.
Cruz, a native of Paterson, New Jersey, is also a proud Puerto Rican whom the city's large Boricua population embraced during his tenure. New York City is home to more than 2.3 million Latinos, 700,000 of whom are Puerto Rican, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
Cruz became well-known for showing off his salsa moves after nearly every touchdown. Cruz's celebration is a tribute to his deceased grandmother, Lucy Molina, who taught him how to dance. Through five seasons with the Giants, Cruz entered the end zone 25 times, giving him many a chance to show off his moves.
The wide receiver was also a big part of New York's last Super Bowl run, scoring a touchdown in Super Bowl XLVI despite having only four catches for 25 yards. The 2011 season as a whole was special for the former UMass standout, as he caught 82 passes for 1,536 yards -- the latter a career high -- and tied the NFL record for longest reception with a 99-yard touchdown catch against the Jets in their Week 16 matchup that season.
Despite the wideout's exit, the Giants will retain a Latino presence on roster for the 2017 season if linebacker Jonathan Casillas, of Puerto Rican descent, remains with the team in the coming months. Casillas was signed to a four-year contract in 2015 after stints with the Saints, Buccaneers and Patriots. In recent years, Hispanics have been a part of New York football's landscape, with Cruz succeeding quarterback Mark Sanchez's mixed tenure with the Jets at the end of the last decade as the city's go-to Latino NFL star.
How Victor Cruz became a Giants legend in such a short period of time https://t.co/eM8oTfvx61 #NYGiants pic.twitter.com/9yfrLrvbL5
— ESPN New York (@ESPNNewYork) February 14, 2017
Outside of football, New York recently embraced budding baseball star Gary Sanchez after a breakout rookie year with the Yankees. The 24-year-old catcher hails from the Dominican Republic and had a monster second half of the 2016 season, hitting 20 home runs in just 201 at-bats. Sanchez finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, behind Detroit's Michael Fulmer.
At spring training, Sanchez will join Cuba's Aroldis Chapman, whom the Yankees reacquired after sending him to the Cubs at the trade deadline last season. In December, Chapman signed a record deal for closers that will pay him $86 million. The fireballer has 105 saves in his past three seasons, with the Reds, Cubs and Yankees.
Other notables on the Yankees roster include second baseman Starlin Castro and pitchers Luis Cessa, Domingo German and Luis Severino. Mexican pitching prospect Giovanny Gallegos will get an extended look during spring training after he comes off a stint with his national team for the World Baseball Classic.
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Poems are hard,
Here’s Cespedes hitting a home run.
Happy #ValentinesDay pic.twitter.com/vEX6vOv5zf
— New York Mets (@Mets) February 14, 2017
Meanwhile, the Mets have their own Cuban star in Yoenis Cespedes, who followed his first Silver Slugger award with a four-year, $110 million deal that could keep him in New York through the 2020 season. The 31-year-old has wowed fans with his bat and his arm, which were on display on many highlight reels of his still-flourishing career.
Cespedes will be the centerpiece of a strong Latino group for the Mets that will likely include reliever Jeurys Familia, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and third baseman Wilmer Flores among others for the upcoming 2017 campaign.
On the basketball front, Carmelo Anthony remains a popular yet polarizing figure in New York. Though rumors have placed the Knicks superstar in Los Angeles or Cleveland over the past few weeks, 'Melo remains the biggest basketball star in the tri-state area. Feuds with team president Phil Jackson aside, Anthony is having a better season statistically than in 2015-16. Through 55 games, Anthony, of Puerto Rican descent, is scoring 23.2 points per game despite averaging fewer minutes in his age-32 season.
Of course, on the pitch the city also employs Hispanics of note. Both the New York Red Bulls and NYCFC of Major League Soccer have top-caliber players on their respective rosters. Spanish forward David Villa scored 23 goals in 33 games for NYCFC, while Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles was recently named to the United States men's national team.
ALSO SEE: ESPN's Jordan Raanan writes, "How Victor Cruz became a Giants legend in such a short period of time."