Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article do not represent those of apolloKIDZ as a whole, they are simply the opinions of @blackhercules21 and probably will not be agreed with totally. But that’s what the comment box is for…
just make sure all disagreements are expressed politely because, if not, @blackhercules21 reserves the right to whoop your ass.
This is by far, the hardest question to answer in sports. But I’m going to take a shot at it. Before beginning to brainstorm the athletes I had to come with a grading system so to speak. Because today’s date is 7/7 and I’m choosing the 7 best athletes…I figured why not ask myself these seven questions?
1) On a worldwide scale, how much impact did the athlete have on their sport? Notability? Does the average sports fan know who they are?
2) How consistently great was the athlete? Or for how many years were they the best at the their sport?
3) How many Major Titles/Championships did they win?
4) How many records did they set?
5) Did they excel at another sport? Based on success do you think they could have excelled at another sport?
6) How much money did they earn for themselves? For their sport?
7) The dictionary definition of Athlete: A person trained to compete in sports or exercises involving physical strength, speed, or endurance. A person who has a natural aptitude for physical activities
FYI: I was born in 1985 and grew up playing Basketball, Baseball and Football. Those factors will, without a doubt, affect my ranking.
7) Jackie Robinson: Yeah he broke the color barrier and is the reason why (after Mariano Rivera) no other MLB player will be able to wear #42 but did you know he lettered in four sports in both high school and college (baseball, basketball, football, and track)? Or that he also won a junior Negro tennis title when he was 17? Rookie of the Year, Two-Time Stolen Bases Leader, MLB MVP & All-Star, Batting Titles etc etc. The Brooklyn Dodgers won 6 Pennants in 10 years with him on the squad. Success…Impact…and obvious athleticism have to get him a slot.
6) Jimmy Connors: First of all shout out to anyone that plays tennis. It’s hard as hell. Secondly shout out to Northwestern’s grad school. They developed a ridiculous ranking system that aided this choice. Replacing Federer with Connors was a tough choice but after reading the data it had to happen. Connors reached the World No. 1 ranking on July 29, 1974, and held it for 160 consecutive weeks, which was the record until Roger Federer beat it on February 26, 2007. Connors held the World No. 1 ranking for a total of 268 weeks during his career. But the deciding factor was the level of competition that Connors competed against and won. I’m talking beating the best players in the world year after year after year deep into his career (age 39). Bottom line…Connors won more matches (1,337) than any other male professional tennis player in the open era. And although his spot on this list won’t be permanent, he has to be on it right now.
5) Usain Bolt: 2008 Athlete of the Year. Grew up as a national Soccer and Cricket prodigy but when his parents saw his height 6’5″ and his speed, they immediately made him focus on track. Bolt opened peoples eyes to his pure speed and athleticism at the Beijing Olympics where he set world records in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes. Getting a chance to watch these live, it is my belief that he could have finished even faster had he not slowed down to look back at his competition. If he trains hard and comes into the 2012 games healthy I think he can knock even more time off of his World Record. What list would be complete without the Fastest Man In The World?
4) Muhammad Ali: It’s crazy to think how differently things could have ended up if he didn’t get stripped of his boxing license in the prime of his career and refrain from fighting for nearly four years. Even with the hiatus, he was a 3-time Heavyweight Champion. There wasn’t a top heavyweight in his era (The Golden Age Of Heavyweight Boxing) that he didn’t defeat. He still has the most Ring Magazine “Fighter Of The Year” Awards as well as the record for actual “Fights Of The Year.” Basically anything this guy did was a blockbuster event. Charisma and confidence is what set this guy apart more than anything and he did things for boxing (and athletes in general) that can never be matched by anyone at any point.
3) Wayne Gretzky: We all know he’s the best hockey player of all time. He owns every record in every statistical scoring category in history (2,857 points). And the best part is that the guy who is second in most categories, Mark Messier (1,887points), was his teammate for a long time. He owned the NHL in the 80s, winning the Hart and Art Ross year after year. He led the Oilers to 4 Stanley Cups, setting numerous playoff scoring records along the way. When it comes to play-making ability it’s no contest, we kept a basketball stat in college called the “Gretzky Assist.” His 1,963 career assists are more than 700 ahead of Ron Francis who sits in 2nd place. One can make the argument that no other player on this list was as dominant in their respective sport as Gretzky was…and they’d probably be right.
2) Jim Brown: A man who was clearly ahead of his time. A lot of my Jim Brown knowledge comes from my dad passing down stories but can you imagine being the best college football and lacrosse player in the country? At the same time that is. An obvious All-American in both sports he led the nation in scoring and won a Lacrosse title at Syracuse. I believe he also destroyed the competition in Track & Field Decathlons. For those of you that aren’t aware, a decathlon consists of 10 Track & Field events ranging from sprints to jumps to throws and everything in between. Brown also received offers from the Yankees minor league affiliate as well as a pro boxing career. But that was after retiring from the NFL as “the best football player to ever play the game.”
1) Michael Jordan: Why did he have to play baseball? I have seen the documentaries, I know how much it meant to him. But you are making my clear cut #1 not so clear cut. When I think of Ali’s speed and athleticism, I can only fantasize how good he would have been at any sport he attempted. Can you imagine Usain Bolt returning punts? Having played multiple sports I know how well abilities from one sport correlate to others. Highlight videos from Jordan in the early 90′s had me feeling that he was almost more than a man. But Jordan’s attempt at baseball proved one thing…that he was human. Eighteen months away from basketball in the prime of his career to be a sub-par, at best, baseball player and he still gets the #1 nod. Amazing. He’s the reason why people around the world play basketball. Iconic moments, title runs, signature moves. Can’t be matched. EVER. I’m pulling for LeBron to win seven rings and average a triple double so we can finally see a list where Jordan is not on top…but until then…he should get pretty comfortable atop any list attempting to name the “best ___” ( <–insert any word pertaining to sports)
Tiger Woods: Woods has been the PGA Player of the Year a record ten times. Woods has been the PGA Tour Player of the Year a record ten times. Woods has been the PGA Tour Money Leader a record nine times. Woods has been the Vardon Trophy winner a record eight times. Woods has been the recipient of the Byron Nelson Award a record nine times. Woods is the reason why I, as a Black man, can have a conversation about Golf. But I’ve lost in Golf to far less superior athletes…so no Golfer can make the list. It’s my list so I can do what I want. Plus Golf is what all “athletes” play when they lose their “athleticism” (aka get old and fat) right?
Michael Phelps: The most gold medals in a single Olympics. He has won a total of fifty-nine medals in major international competition, fifty gold, seven silver, and two bronze spanning the Olympics, the World, and the Pan Pacific Championships. His unprecedented Olympic success in 2008 earned Phelps Sports Illustrated magazine’s Sportsman of the Year award.The fact that he has broken so many records while getting pulled over for DUI’s and admitting to smoking Marijuana makes him that much more impressive.
Steffi Graf: Do you know what a Calendar Grand Slam is? It means she won the Australian Open, The French Open, Wimbledon and The US Open in the same calendar year. Impressive? She’s the only player male or female to ever do it….but get this…Do you know what a Golden Slam is? It means she won the Calendar Grand Slam the same year that she won an Olympic title. Again, the only player (male or female) to ever do that. 1988 was hers. But on top of that, she won 22 Grand Slam titles, was ranked atop the rankings for 186 consecutive weeks and 377 weeks overall. Ridiculous.
Wilt Chamberlain: One hundred points in a basketball game. Only NBA Center to lead the league in assists. Track Medalist in Shot Put, Hurdles and High Jump. Sleeping with 20,000 women (that takes athleticism doesn’t it?) Enough said? No? Okay well how about the fact that he ran marathons for fun? Still no? How about the fact that he turned down professional football and boxing careers? Seriously? Still no? Alright I have nothing else…except those 20,000 women…
Others Taken Into Consideration:
Bill Russel (11 Championship Rings), John Elway (H.O.F. QB. Drafted to MLB by KC Royals after HS & by NY Yankees after college), Jim Thorpe (blame his snub on the Great Depression), Roger Federer (see Jimmy Connors description), Dave Winfield (only athlete ever drafted in 3 pro sports), Bo Jackson (won the Heisman in his “hobby” sport), Bobby Orr (led NHL in Goals as a defenseman) & Jason Boone (career to be continued…)