By Rick Morris
Inspired by a similar column from my good pal Russ Cohen of Sportsology, I’ve set a Top 10 list of the greatest athletes of all time. And given that it’s commonplace for members of The 21st Century Media Alliance to syndicate content among ourselves, we’ve got Russ’s original column.
Jackie Robinson (listed because of his prowess in multiple sports in addition to baseball: football, basketball, tennis and track & field)
10 Oscar Robertson – His famous “triple-double” average for a season epitomized his unmatched versatility. He could score inside and outside with equal aplomb and he was a key innovator in terms of the big guard position and some revolutionary means of scoring.
9 Willie Mays – The game of baseball has never before seen, and may never see again, his blend of offense and defense.
8 AJ Foyt – Open-wheel, stock cars, endurance races – he could win in any format.
7 Sugar Ray Robinson – The greatest pound-for-pound fighter ever. He established sustained dominance at the amateur level before even entering the pro ranks.
6 Pele – The most accomplished player in the one game played in all corners of the globe.
5 Bobby Orr – He revolutionized the game, dominating offensively as a defenseman. Until his knees went bad, he defined the word unstoppable.
4 Jim Brown – He was a man among boys physically, running amok against the defenders of his day. He is also a member of the Lacrosse Hall of Fame!
3 Babe Ruth – He is on a short list of the greatest sluggers of all time and surely would have ranked in the same spot among pitchers had he stayed on the mound.
2 Babe Didrikson Zaharias – The greatest female athlete of all time – by far – dominated at track and field and golf and made a mark in countless other sports as well.
1 Jim Thorpe – The man defined versatile dominance with his exploits in track and field and football – to say nothing of the fact that he was also a good enough baseball player to crack the major leagues!
By Russ Cohen
I know the minute I post this that there will be tons of comments telling me I left out this guy or should have included another guy. My criteria relate to how dominant they were in their sport and as an athlete. I’ve been putting together this list mentally for quite some time and now I am ready to reveal it.
10) Babe Ruth – Before you kill me for this, remember the vast majority of pictures and video clips of “The Babe” are from the time he got a bit heavy, but he was in great shape for a good portion of his career. Nobody has ever dominated one sport at two different positions the way that he did. Some football players have come close, but to pitch the way that he did and then become the all-time homer king is off the charts. He still has records that haven’t been broken in pitching and hitting.
9) Gordie Howe – His longevity, strength, and dominance on the ice gets him on the list and I don’t think Wayne Gretzky would disagree. Six Hart Trophies, Six Art Ross Trophies, and he played after fracturing his skull. Plus, he could shoot righty or lefty!
8) Wilt Chamberlain – He had his 100-point game, he was a beast under the boards, and he could dribble the ball up the court. His only downfall was the fact that he couldn’t shoot a foul shot. He could high jump 6-6, he ran the 440 in 49 seconds and broad jumped 22 feet! He was also a wiz at volleyball and played that professionally.
7) Muhammad Ali – He was the “greatest,” and I wasn’t fan but I respected his athletic prowess. He had a long and prosperous career and nobody could inflict punishment and take punishment like he could. He could dance for 15 rounds!
6) Michael Johnson – He won four gold medals and he was a world champion eight times. He is the only athlete in the history of the Olympics to win a 200m and a 400m at the same event. He would gain speed on the turns!
5) Jackie Robinson – His baseball career speaks for itself but it was his basketball, football, and track career at UCLA, before he made it in baseball, which set him apart. In the sport of baseball he could dance off the bag and just create havoc. Nobody has ever and will ever steal home the way that he did over and over again.
4) Jim Brown – He could carry a pile of players on his back and still gain 10 yards. He made the biggest impact in his sport in a very short time because he chose another profession – not because his skills were in decline. His six games with at least four touchdowns remain an NFL record and he was arguably the best lacrosse player in the history of that sport.
3) Bruce Jenner – A knee injury ended his football career and started his decathlon career? Really? He trained eight hours a day until he won a gold medal in the Olympics, setting a world record at the time.
2) Jim Thorpe – He won two Olympic gold medals for the pentathlon and decathlon, and played professional football, baseball and basketball! In 1950, the AP voted him the greatest athlete of the first half of the twentieth century.
1) Lance Armstrong – The “Tour de Lance” is still going. He won an amazing seven-consecutive Tour de France races after surviving testicular cancer. This sport is grueling, and yet he excelled at it, and he continues to race at the age of 39!