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Cycling getting props on ESPN (strange)(16 posts)

Cycling getting props on ESPN (strange)The Human G-Nome
Jan 16, 2004 11:47 AM
The top 25 athletes of the last 25 years
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist


To get down to a list of the 25 greatest athletes of the last quarter-century you have to make some cuts. My editors gave me an official ESPN list of 35 nominees the other day, and asked me to lop off 10 and rank those left standing.


Sorry Iron Mike -- you didn't quite crack the Top 25.

And so it is that we begin with a bloodletting ...

Gone from the list is Tim Duncan. Too early to say. Too many asterisks where it says NBA Champion.

To the gallows with Patrick Roy. I know it isn't right the way the goalie always gets the shaft. It isn't right, but it is tradition, and I'm not going to muck with tradition.

Cal Ripken's streak stops here. Open letter to my old friend Danny, who lives and breathes Baltimore: Forgive me.

Flo-Jo is a no-go, though she nearly made the cut on style points alone.

Marion Jones, fast as she is, feels too manufactured.

I can hear John McEnroe now: "You cannot be serious!"

Rank your top 25!
ESPN needs your opinion on the best athletes of the past quarter-century. We've narrowed the field to the top 35, but want you to rank them in order from 1 to 25. Click here to rank your list.

Emmitt Smith, John Elway, and Dan Marino must go, but only because their NFL competition on this list is so stiff.

And the last clip on the cutting room floor is of Mike Tyson, because this ain't a list about what might or could have been, and it ain't a list of the 25 most notorious athletes of the generation, and it ain't even a list of the athletes I'm most afraid might stumble across this piece and take exception to being left out and come looking for my skinnypunkass with a face full of loathing and fists full of fury. If it were, Mike, you'd be numero uno. But it isn't, so take a seat.

All right, now that I've mowed down 10 living legends like Speed Racer working the rotary saws on a stand of pesky trees, let's get on with the show ... Here's my top 25 from the last 25 (and just for kicks I'll roll each one out in 25 words or less).

25. Mia Hamm
Pity poor Nomar: Second fiddle at Fenway, second fiddle at home.

24. Sugar Ray Leonard
You measure a man by listing his vanquished foes -- Benitez, Duran, Hearns, Hagler -- well, that, and by how well he could windmill punch.

23. Serena Williams
Hey Serena, want to move up? Easy. Just play a handful of all-out matches with Venus. Or, tell me you're getting professional help for Pops.

22. Eric Heiden
Understand, he won at 500 and 10,000 meters (and everything in between). This is like ... no, it's like nothing, before or since.

21. Alex Rodriguez
That's 21 with a bullet.

20. Pete Sampras
You can't talk about Pete without talking about Andre. So let's say this: Pete was better; Andre was more interesting.

19. Shaquille O'Neal
A lot of people point to his laconic, understated work in "Blue Chips", but I'm a big fan of the emotional honesty of "Kazaam" myself.

18. Rickey Henderson
Maybe only Rickey truly appreciates how good Rickey has been. Fortunately, he doesn't keep it to himself.

17. Barry Sanders
If this were all about numbers or art, he'd be top-five. But it's about losses, too (which aren't his fault), and a weird departure (which is).

16. Dale Earnhardt
You think I'm putting him this high because of his untimely death, but really it was the way he wore those shades.

15. Joe Montana
Truth be told, I never liked him, the Niners, or Notre Dame. Still, truth be told, he was a stone-cold killer behind the line.

14. Jackie Joyner-Kersee
This is a great triumph because her sick, co-dependent relationship with Al should have DQ'd her.

13. Lawrence Taylor
I had LT around 18 on my first draft ... then there was a knock at my door and, um, one thing led to another.

12. Mario Lemieux
In every list there's one guy you're pretty sure you've
Please post part 2Sadlebred
Jan 16, 2004 12:20 PM
Please post Part 2.
oops, sorry - Part IIThe Human G-Nome
Jan 16, 2004 12:26 PM
12. Mario Lemieux
In every list there's one guy you're pretty sure you've placed correctly but you still don't feel good about it. He probably should be higher.

11. Larry Bird and 10. Magic Johnson
When Bill Simmons makes his list he can put Larry first, but this is my list, and on my list Magic gets the head of the horse costume.

9. Martina Navratilova
Chrissie or Martina? Forget steady and staid. Go with power and flair. Go with revolution. Go with Martina.


Roger Clemens ranks rather high -- and he's not done yet.
8. Jerry Rice
In the words of Archie "Gunslinger" Coolie (Jerry's college coach), "He could catch a BB on a dead run at night."

7. Roger Clemens
Ask Phil Bradley about April 29, 1986. He'll back me up.

6. Tiger Woods
When people talk seriously about lengthening courses just to rein you in, you're in my top ten. That's an old rule with me.

5. Carl Lewis
It's tough, but I'm ignoring the "Star Mangled Banner." Just putting it out of my head.

4. Barry Bonds
Sure I think about the juice, but I think about Ruth too.

3. Wayne Gretzky
In an age of irony and clay-footed heroes we called him "Great One" without smirk or suspicion. He'd hold a top-three spot in any era.

2. Michael Jordan
Forget rings and numbers. Just give me one moment. Give me the moment he switched the ball from left to right because he could.


Lance Armstrong -- the very best of the last quarter-century.
1. Lance Armstrong
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the genuine article.

That's it, that's all. These are my 25 and I'm sticking with 'em.

You got a problem with the list? Make your own.
Lance is good, but ...laffeaux
Jan 16, 2004 12:54 PM
Putting Lance above Gretzky? That's quite a leap.

Gretzky dominated hockey more than anyone else has ever dominated any sport in history. He has 8 of the top 10 places in the "most points in a season" category.

While Lance is great, was he better than Merckx? It's hard to say. There's absolutely no player that you could compare to Gretzky - Lemieux is a distant second.

I'm glad ESPN recognized Lance, who is definitely one of my top 4 (Gretzky, Jordan, Armstrong, and Woods), but I'd not give him first place even though I'm a cyclist.
AgreedThe Human G-Nome
Jan 16, 2004 12:58 PM
As much as I love cycling and admire LA, he probably wouldn't make my top 10.
Lance is good, but ...Dave Hickey
Jan 16, 2004 1:18 PM
I agree. Gretzky dominated hockey from the peewee level up through his pro career. Lance is in my top three but the Great One is my number 1
Come on...Dwayne Barry
Jan 16, 2004 1:32 PM
"While Lance is great, was he better than Merckx? It's hard to say."

You've got to be kidding me? Merckx dominated cycling for 10+ years, Armstrong has dominated the Tour de France for 5 years. Objectively (based on results in important races) Armstrong just last year cracked the top 20 cyclists of all-time (see analysis on cycling4all.com).
Get Real, this is ESPNchopper
Jan 16, 2004 2:02 PM
I bet the guy doesn't even know who Eddy is, don't dissect this too much. Heck, he doesn't even mention Pele or Cruijff or that English guy that's got like 5 gold medals from 5 Olympics in rowing.
Steven Redgrave.... this guy is amazingblakester
Jan 16, 2004 6:27 PM
Definitely a better "Athlete" than most on that list.
Yeah, that's him, he personifieschopper
Jan 16, 2004 7:14 PM
dedication and hard work. I onced watched a piece on him and his workouts are as gruelling as Armstrong's and he's been doing it for 20 years. He has superb mental capacities for pain.
Heiden tops my listhrv
Jan 17, 2004 6:43 AM
Not only was he in a sport that demanded the utmost of skill, he was the best sprinter and endurance athlete in it to boot. I guarantee we will not see someone else winning 5 golds in speedskating, in 1 olympics, for a long, long time.

hrv,
a very biased, former speedskater
part 2andy02
Jan 16, 2004 12:32 PM
12. Mario Lemieux
In every list there's one guy you're pretty sure you've placed correctly but you still don't feel good about it. He probably should be higher.

11. Larry Bird and 10. Magic Johnson
When Bill Simmons makes his list he can put Larry first, but this is my list, and on my list Magic gets the head of the horse costume.



9. Martina Navratilova
Chrissie or Martina? Forget steady and staid. Go with power and flair. Go with revolution. Go with Martina.

Roger Clemens ranks rather high -- and he's not done yet.
8. Jerry Rice
In the words of Archie "Gunslinger" Coolie (Jerry's college coach), "He could catch a BB on a dead run at night."

7. Roger Clemens
Ask Phil Bradley about April 29, 1986. He'll back me up.

6. Tiger Woods
When people talk seriously about lengthening courses just to rein you in, you're in my top ten. That's an old rule with me.

5. Carl Lewis
It's tough, but I'm ignoring the "Star Mangled Banner." Just putting it out of my head.

4. Barry Bonds
Sure I think about the juice, but I think about Ruth too.



3. Wayne Gretzky
In an age of irony and clay-footed heroes we called him "Great One" without smirk or suspicion. He'd hold a top-three spot in any era.

2. Michael Jordan
Forget rings and numbers. Just give me one moment. Give me the moment he switched the ball from left to right because he could.



Lance Armstrong -- the very best of the last quarter-century.
1. Lance Armstrong
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the genuine article.

That's it, that's all. These are my 25 and I'm sticking with 'em.



You got a problem with the list? Make your own.



You think I'm afraid of you? I don't sweat you. Bring it.

Except you, Mike. You I sweat. A lot. You got a problem with the list, I got a problem with the list. You got a problem with the list and (should you allow me to live) I'm taking a mulligan on the whole ill-fated enterprise right here and right now.



Yeah, let's see, it says here: No. 1, Iron Mike Tyson. No. 2, Mr. Mike Tyson, No. 3 ...



Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.
i mostly agree that this is a typical american top 25Bonked
Jan 16, 2004 2:24 PM
when si did there top 100 of the century, it was almost all baseball, basketball, hockey and football players. merckx (who didn't make that, or this, list) was probably the most dominant sports figure of any sport at any time; there are probably only a few other possibilities...like pele who was also way down si the list. while this list includes people i wouldn't include as atheletes (people who drive cars?), it does include people like heiden and hamm that are outside the american mainstream...so points for that.
The article said last quarter century...Triphop
Jan 17, 2004 8:14 AM
That leaves out those such as Merckx annd Pele.

As for Gretzky being the most dominant athlete in their respective sport...sorry but that has to go to Michael Jordan, maybe Woods if you consider golf a sport. Gretzky was an amazing player, but he was great at a time when hockey needed a representative to give it a boost. If you recall, Gretzky NEVER got hit...if it had been open season like it is now, he would have been knocked out of the game many years before he retired due to concussions and such. Look at Mario Lemieux...guy is like 6'3" 215, larger than most defensemen of the 80's and he took a BEATING...Forsberg takes a BEATING...these are exceptional players, that if they had played in the 80's, assuming the place of Gretzky, would have been protected just as Gretzky was and acheived many scoring records...Gretzky was not only protected by the enforcers on the team...but under the unspoken rule of the NHL..."Don't hit Gretzky."

Jordan on the other hand, he took basketball to a whole new level...that we will most likely never see again, atleast I dont think in my life time. The man was truly the great one. Unfortunately he had to come back out of retirement the other year...which I think took away from the aura of who he was as a basketball player. I don't follow the NBA much, but didn't they allow for zone defense to come back? If they had allowed zones in Jordans time...I can't imagine the points he would have put up.
re: Cycling getting props on ESPN (strange)Landsharkrider
Jan 18, 2004 3:03 PM
"16. Dale Earnhardt
You think I'm putting him this high because of his untimely death, but really it was the way he wore those shades."

What the $%@@(^%#@@ is that? I'm sorry, I thought it said athlete????????????

I would agree that resisting G-forces and heat for 500 miles takes some talent but he deserves to be nowhere near this list (and this is blasphemy where I live - I'm sitting about 5 miles from Mooresville, NC)
How many on this list are'nt American?Dutchy
Jan 18, 2004 4:25 PM
I can't tell from the original post whether this was a world wide list or only for the USA. If it is a world wide list it seems very short sighted.

CHEERS.

Mark