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Greatest athlete of all time.(37 posts)

Greatest athlete of all time.Sintesi
Oct 30, 2002 1:18 PM
It's slow so why not? Let's see some sutprizes out there!

Eddy Merckx is granted (WHAT A SHOCK).

Here's my nominee:

Olympic track and field champion EDWIN C. MOSES dominated the 400-meter hurdles for a decade.

Three-time Olympic medalist: gold in 1976 (Montreal) and 1984 (Los Angeles), and bronze in 1988 (Seoul)
1983 world champion and multiple world record-setter
1983 world record of 47.02 seconds was unbroken for nine years
Unprecedented winning streak: 122 consecutive victories, 1977-1987
Inducted into U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame, 1994
Leader in fostering drug-free sports

122 straight victories who can beat that?

Bonus points:

He is the Honorary Chairman of the Major Taylor Association.
May be a controversial pick, but I chooseCaptain Morgan
Oct 30, 2002 1:33 PM
Tiger Woods. In a world where there is not much separation between the top 50 golfers, he dominates like no one else has. When Eddie Merckx rode (and Lance for that matter), there were not 50 guys who were legitimate contenders. Tiger has done far more at age 26 than any of the previous golfing superstars. I have read that by the age of 40, he will have earned $1 billion from prize money and endorsements. Anyway, that's my vote.
"That's unpossible"tao
Oct 30, 2002 1:55 PM
as Ralph would say. I can't even fathom a guess. It's hard enough to figure out the best athlete in a sport in a given year, or the best athlete in a year. But all sports for all time...

That said, do you really believe there is something so inherently unique about golf so as to attract the top players in the world? And that other sports fail by this criterion? "Not much separation" can be more formally defined by minimizing the standard deviation of performance (sorry TJeanloz, can't help it) and other sports rank higher by this measure. Also, Tiger isn't even the greatest all-time in his sport yet, sure he has a good chance to become it, but how can he be the greatest athlete ever then?
Sheesh, golf isn't even a sport.....retro
Oct 30, 2002 3:12 PM
No, OK, I agree he dominates, and I admire his skill even though I'm not a golfer. I watch golf occasionally now just to see him, something I've never done before.
But I still have trouble thinking of it as a sport.
More than cyclingCaptain Morgan
Oct 30, 2002 3:57 PM
Websters defines a "sport" as a "physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively." I don't see how golf is not considered one. It definitely has more worldwide appeal than cycling. Perhaps sitting on the back wheel of eight of your teammates, letting them do all the work, only setting you up for one strong sprint, is more sporting? Hardly.

I'm not bashing cycling, but anyone can become good at cycling. I am a newbie, and already kicked some leg shaver's ass on a group ride. Cycling takes little coordination as well. Just about anyone can get on a bike and look somewhat respectable. Most beginning golfers can't even consistently hit a stationary ball. Endurance, yes, cycling has that. And Lance is a great athlete, but so is Tiger.

I don't know about the Cricket guy, though.
On that logic, you forgot bowling...VertAddict
Nov 5, 2002 6:44 AM
...not to mention lawn darts and horseshoes. I can see where golf (barely) meets the definition of a physical activity, but no more so than those other activities. Let's face it, golf is all about co-ordination and nothing about aerobic or muscular fitness. In my book, and I think most others' book, a sport is an activity that requires some level of fitness above that of the average shmo.

To put a finer point on it: any "sport" in which Duffy Waldorf, aka "The Walrus", and John Daly are competitive at a world level isn't a sport, it's a damn game. I am not trying to denegrate the achievements of those individuals within their game, they are skilled practitioners of what they do, and heaven knows I couldn't compete with them. Just don't call it a damn sport.
Benches 350Captain Morgan
Nov 5, 2002 7:02 AM
I read somewhere that Tiger pumps a lot of iron and can bench 350 pounds.

Also, Craig Stadler is the Walrus, NOT Duffy.

I thought that the thread was greatest athlete. In YOUR view, you are considering athletes only as individuals involved in endurance sports. Who said that the best athletes are the ones with the most endurance? Websters defines athletes in terms of "agility and strength;" there is NO mention of endurance.

In these terms, I think individuals such as Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce would be considered better athletes than cyclists. What they do physically is amazing.
Are you on the right website?VertAddict
Nov 5, 2002 7:04 PM
You're right, I had the wrong overweight and out of shape golfer. My apologies.

If you want to get into dueling Webster's, you conveniently left out the last part of the definition to suit your purposes. They define an athlete as participating in events requiring "physical strength, agility or STAMINA". Now to connect the dots, if you look up stamina you'll see that it is defined as "staying power, ENDURANCE" (and that is all of the definition).

I guess you might try to sneak golf in under the agility umbrella; it's defined as the "ready ability to move with quick easy grace". I don't know, though, it makes me think more of a tennis player or perhaps a figure skater than a golfer.

To quote Michael Douglas from Black Rain: Don't pull it unless you're going to use it.

I guess I'm a little surprised to be having an argument about whether cyclists are athletes on a cycling discussion board. Maybe you meant to log into
Sorry, I thought this was "non-cycling" boardCaptain Morgan
Nov 6, 2002 6:36 AM
First, I quoted from my Websters and did not leave anything out 'to suit my purposes.' There are tons of different versions of dictionaries out there, so mine must not have matched yours.

I never said cyclists weren't athletes. I simply was defending my position that atheletics means more than endurance.

Might as well choose Earl Anthony.............................nmchopper
Oct 30, 2002 3:48 PM
re: Don BradmanPureClimber
Oct 30, 2002 2:04 PM
In case you are wondering he was a cricketer from Australia.

The Don's key statistic is a batting average of 99.94 runs per innings in International Test Cricket. Scoring 100 runs (a century) in an innings is a great feat in itself. "The Don"'s average was at this level.

Next best all-time is around 60.

The Don is head, shoulders and chest above all-comers over 100+ years from all cricketing nations. On a bell curve his record is so far out to the right it is incredible.

Statistics (I have read) across all sports show no such dominance by any other athlete in any other sport.

Other statistics others have read or devised would no doubt show otherwise.
Edwin Moses gets style points for the beard alone!sn69
Oct 30, 2002 3:46 PM
I'd have to vote for Alex Lowe for reasons too many to list. Suffice it to say, Alex dominated at every form of climbing short of sport bouldering during his stay on this planet. His feats and the ease with which he accomplished them were incredible.

Other noteable athletes of merit:
Teddy Ballgame
Paula Newby Frasier
Mark Allen
Emmitt Smith (can't deny the numbers)
Mark Spitz
Martina Navratalova
Michael Jordan
Bobby Orr (for the flying picture if nothing else)
Prefontaine (who know what he WOULD have achieved)?

...okay, Tiger but only if we concede that golf is a sport (which it isn't)

and, of course, the master, Eddie.
Oct 30, 2002 3:58 PM
...heptathletes, pentathletes, triathletes, etc.

Sorry, but you might be the greatest cyclist, golfer, cricketeer, hurdler, etc. in the history of the world, but if you are only good at one thing, you can't be the greatest athlete.

The greatest athlete must excel at using all the muscles in their body. Running, jumping, throwing, swimming, riding, shooting, lifting, etc., as well as using their mind strategically and tactically in competition. You wanna be great? Let me see you use your entire body in several different/unrelated competitions over two days. (Driving and putting over 72 holes doesn't count.) Let me see you outwit your competitors and force them to beat you by jumping higher, running faster, throwing further, etc.

No one mentioned yet even comes close. Try Dan O'Brian, Rafer Johnson, Bruce Jenner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Much lower on the list would be someone like Eric Heiden, who excelled in two sports, or Dave Winfield, who so excelled in baseball (he's a Hall of Famer), football, and basketball, he was drafted by the NFL, ABA, NBA, and MLB.
Oct 31, 2002 6:31 AM
I think your argument is essentially valid but I do think there is something to be said for specialization. One could argue that none of the people you mention are particularly great at anything. Nor does your view point disprove the relative potential of other athletes since they have not been tested in similar fashion. Also, out of these disciplines who was the clearly dominant figure? I think to be considered the "greatest" you have to be head and shoulders above your competitors. Are Dan O'Brian, Rafer Johnson, Bruce Jenner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee equally great?

But I agree "all-roundedness" is important.
Oct 31, 2002 7:40 AM
The question was who is the greatest athlete, not who is the greatest athlete in their sport. I think if you want to be the greatest, you can't be a specialist, because there is no basis for comparison across sports. There is no way to compare Tiger Woods to Eddy Merckx to Mark Spitz to Barry Bonds to Michael Johnson to Katarina Witt, although Witt is definitely better looking.

That's why I hate these arguments. I think ESPN voted Muhammed Ali the athelete of the century, and I just shake my head. Ali was good, but come on! When boxers compete daily or weekly instead of once or twice a year (if that), they can merit consideration.
Well then. . .Sintesi
Oct 31, 2002 8:15 AM
Who is the greatest athlete? Name one person not a category. Just asking your opinion for fun. Proves nothing other than you hold such-and-such in highest esteem because. . .

Definitely Witt however this would be after she had her single eyebrow split into two separate brows.

ESPN didn't even mention our beloved Eddy.
Jim Thorpemr_spin
Oct 31, 2002 8:36 AM
I think this a ridiculous discussion that should only be held in a bar with a beer in my hand.

My rant is simply that whenever this question is asked, the responses are always specialists, which in my mind is fairly meaningless.

My choice is Jim Thorpe. He won Olympic gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics. He played major league baseball, then switched to football in what is now the NFL. He was good at everything and as fine an athlete as there ever was.
Jim Thorpe??!! You have got to be joking.Sintesi
Oct 31, 2002 8:40 AM
Just kidding. : )
Thorpe is a good choice...Brooks
Nov 1, 2002 5:15 PM
Also worth consideration is Wilt Chamberlain: so dominant in basketball that they changed the rules just because of him. Imagine an NBA player today who never fouled out in his career and averaged over 48 minutes a game one season (games are only 48 minutes long, so add in overtimes) scored 100 points in one game, averaged(!) over 50 rebounds a game, and on and on. A very good volleyball player and a track star in college (high jump).

And my favorite choice is...Babe Didrickson Zaharias, a woman. Dominated in track and field in a number of events, then switched to golf and dominated there as well. And in an era where women weren't thought of as athletes, she was a stud(ette)!
How about greatest athlete with bad plastic surgery?mickey-mac
Oct 31, 2002 3:46 PM
Bruce Jenner was certainly a remarkable athlete, but have you seen a close-up of his face lately? He looks a bit like a white Michael Jackson (is that redundant?). Anyhow, I'd put Eric Heiden on the short list. In terms of athletes dominating a particular sport or event, Sergei Bubka would be near the top. I'm going to have to go back and review my old tapes of ABC's "The Superstars" before I reach my final judgment. ;-)
How about Gretzky?PaulCL
Oct 30, 2002 6:26 PM
I'm not a hockey fan but he fits the criteria...dominated his sport like none other, won many championships, has unbreakable records, was in a sport requiring endurance, power and finesse, married a total babe - what more could you want? Besides, he's already called "The Great One"

...just another name to 'chew on' for a while
Oct 31, 2002 1:02 PM
"The Greatest" was Muhammad Ali! I don't know why, but I wouldn't cast a vote for any boxer as the greatest athlete of all time.
If we use the criteria of athleticism, longevity and dominance in more than one event or game, any number of people would be eligible.
Michael Jordan wasn't a good baseball player, loses money betting on his golf matches, and should therefore be disqualified according to the above restrictions, but I would have to vote for him. He had so much talent that I think he would have stood out no matter what he decided to concentrate on. Jim Thorpe may have also been the same type of athlete, but in his day there was no financial incentive to specialize in one sport so he excelled at many.
Theagenes of Thasos: 2,200 straight victoriescarnageasada
Oct 30, 2002 6:52 PM
1,800 of those victories were won by killing his opponent(old school boxing). He also won the olympics as a runner, and what the Greeks call a, I can't remember exactly but it sounds like, pancakest.
Simply, Theagenes was a nasty-brutish-just-climbed-out-of-the-trees-subhuman who, I'd guess, could have chased down Lance Armstrong, Mercyx, Edwin Moses and so on and ripped off their legs and juggled them while beating Mike Tyson into a mushed replica of Tammy Faye.

And he was drug free.
Oct 30, 2002 9:18 PM
Holds all the water sprinting and distance records. Who can beat that?
Time trialingMcAndrus
Nov 1, 2002 7:19 AM
One of my favorite lines.

"Is there a heaven?"

"Yes. But do you really want to time-trial against Jesus?"
And at the opposite end of the spectrum?mickey-mac
Oct 30, 2002 10:28 PM
Here's one man's opinion on the 50 worst athletes:

I'd disagree with some, thinking that instead they might qualify as the most notorious athletes. I did see Chuck Nevitt play in person more than once and would go along with that vote. However, he was fun to watch, in a perverse way.
Alan Shepard?mr_spin
Oct 31, 2002 7:46 AM
I was laughing until I got to "Alan Shepard. An 18-handicap astronaut who hit golf's most famous shot." What the hell? Why would hitting a golf ball on the moon rank him as one of the worst athletes?
Yeah, pretty sillymickey-mac
Oct 31, 2002 2:50 PM
By that reasoning Jackie Autrie is one of the world's worst athletes because she threw a crappy first pitch at the World Series.
OOp! Aren't we forgetting someone? So obvious.Sintesi
Oct 31, 2002 5:56 AM
In 1988, Siberian-born Aleksandr Karelin easily defeated his first four opponents in the super heavyweight division of Greco-Roman wrestling. He trailed Bulgaria's Rangel Gerovski 3-0 with 30 seconds left in the final. He then used a reverse body lift to score a 5-point takedown. Undefeated between Olympics, Karelin had no trouble winning his second gold medal in 1992. Once again, only one of his opponents lasted until the time limit. At the 1996 Atlanta Games, Karelin outscored his five opponents 25-0 and became the first wrestler to win the same weight division three times. By the time of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Karelin had wrestled for 13 years without being beaten. He made it to the final once again, but his quest for a fourth gold medal was thwarted when he experienced a rare lapse of concentration and lost 1-0 to Rulon Gardner of the United States. Despite his intimidating presence, Karelin was a soft-spoken student of literature. In 1999, he was elected to the State Duma lower house.

We're talking real man here. Cyclists are weak and puny.
Here he is in pensive repose with a bowlful of apples.Sintesi
Oct 31, 2002 5:57 AM
Scary strongPaulCL
Oct 31, 2002 6:55 AM
I remember him. I felt sorry for him when he lost to Rulon Gardener. Rulon is just a big, strong farm boy that never should have won. This Russian guy is solid muscle and truly intimidating. He could break anyone of use in half.

Reading all of these posts brings me to a conclusion that there isn't one greatest athlete. There are so many. No one person can excel in all athletics. Each person mentioned could probably perform very well in any of the other sports mentioned. OK, the Russian wrestler probably couldn't fly up Alp D'huez....but he might beat me out of sheer strength.
I agree.Sintesi
Oct 31, 2002 7:36 AM
It's ultimately a silly and unanswerable question but it's one that everyone seems to have an opinion on. So it's fun that way. I got to hand it to these guys, they didn't pick just the Jordans and the Gretskys of the world we got a cricket guy I'd never heard of and an ancient Greek. Which goes to prove what I've always known: This ain't your average peanut gallery.
Oct 31, 2002 4:27 PM
do you remember the story on the olympics about him getting his first refrigerator? they said he was so excited that he picked it up and carried it up the stairs to his apartment!
re: Greatest athlete of all time.OTG
Oct 31, 2002 10:10 AM
Miyamoto Musashi. Japanese swordsman, fought (and won) 60 duels, pioneered a new fighting style (with 2 swords), and
considered a great artist to boot. Considered greatest swordsman of all time.

Royce Gracie?firstrax
Oct 31, 2002 2:17 PM
For a small guy he sure kicked a lot of ass.
hard to pick, but here are some nomineestrekkie1
Nov 5, 2002 7:17 AM
First, a definition of "athlete": to be an athlete, one must participate in a competition that requires extensive training and fitness, some combination of endurance or explosive speed and power, is often painful during competition; it is differentiated from a skill in that endurance or speed is emphasized over eye/hand coordination.

(this is admittedly American/cycling/late 20th century centric, due purely to ignorance)

Edwin Moses
Wilt Chamberlain
Michael Jordan
Bruce Jenner
Eddy Merckx
Mohammed Ali (although boxing is barbaric)
Jim Brown
Lance Armstrong (based upon physiology numbers, if nothing else)

Who I would black ball:

Tiger Woods -- golf is more of a skill than athletic competition - Tiger might be an athlete, but that cannot be proven playing golf

Babe Ruth/Hank Aaron, etc. -- almost the same thing; fairly one dimensional, skill oriented
Roger Bannister?Eager Beagle
Nov 5, 2002 8:35 AM
First 4 min mile. Set the standard by which others have been measured ever since.