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Who is the best pro athelete of our generation?

Generation may be the key word here…I am going to exceed the generation gap and actually go back around 40 to 50 years in some cases just to make this interesting.

This is an intriguing question. One that I do not think can be easily answered due to bias. Everyone has bias, …whether they are loyal to a particular team, sport, or a cause…people like atheletes for different reasons.

Here are my finalists (I will highlight my personal favorite in each sport and then give you my top pick at the end):

NFL – Tom Brady, Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, or John Elway?

MLB – Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, or Nolan Ryan?

PGA – Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods, or Tiger Woods?

NBA – Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Larry Bird, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

FIFA (Soccer to Americans) – Pele, Diego Maradona, Franz Beckenbauer, or Garrincha?

WTA, ATP – Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg, or Andre Agassi?

IBF, WBA, and WBC – Muhammed Ali, Julio Cesar Chavez, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, or Mike Tyson?

NHL – Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, or Patrick Orr?

Of course, to me this isnt as hard a question as it might seem. The obvious answer is Tiger Woods. He was the highest paid athelete in the world in 06′ (how often does that happen in golf?) and many people say that he will most likely become the first ever billionaire athelete in the history of the planet…all that and he is also the most recognizable athelete on the planet.

Lets look at some more stats on Tiger:

Major Tour Championships – 13 (2nd all time)

62 PGA Tour events – (T-4th all time with Arnold Palmer)

9 time PGA Player of the Year (1st all time)

4 time AP Male Athelete of the Year (T-1st all time w/ Lance Armstrong)

Oh Yeah, and he won the Buick Invitational last week and is on his way to winning this week in Dubai.

He is also the youngest to achieve the Career Grand Slam and the fastest to win 50 tournaments.

…and he is only 32.

 

…Who did I leave out of the discussion and why am I wrong for picking Tiger Woods?

 

No comments yet to Who is the best pro athelete of our generation?

  • RW

    Jordan, then Tiger.

    Jordan plays defense as well as offense & was also the NBA’s best defender. Tiger plays against the course & his score is judged against others & he can’t do a thing about how Mickelson or Daly or Garcia are playing (save for the commenariat’s favorite conversational piece, the “mind game” that Tiger plays; which consists of a. being great and b. see A).

    Jordan helped keep the other 6’5″ ultra athlete from scoring. That’s why I give some players the edge, as they played both sides.

    Tiger *IS* unbelievable, isn’t he? You know what the best thing about him is? No matter what he does on the golf course, he gets to go home to THAT WIFE.

  • Are you asking for who was/is the most successful athlete? Or who was/is the best athlete? Those are two very different discussions.

    Some criticisms of your choices…

    NFL – only Quarterbacks? First of, rarely are quarterbacks the best “athlete” on a team. But even still, I am not sure how you can not include people like Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Deon Sanders, etc. And those are just the modern players. I would say all of those were better athletes, and probably better football players, than any of the players you mentioned in the NFL category.

    MLB – Nolan Ryan? Seriously? Last 50 years – you would absolutely need to include Willy Mays and Alex Rodriguez. And if Roger Clemens counts, Greg Maddux has to be in the same discussion. There are others… I would probably take of Hank Aaron and Ryan, and add Mays and Rodriguez, along with Steve Carlton, Sandy Koufax, and others.

    NBA – Larry Bird was good. But he simply doesn’t belong in the discussion. Kobe Bryant does. Lebron James already does. Magic Johnson absolutely does.

    Now… overall… Tiger Woods has easily been the most dominant player in PGA history, and probably the most dominant athlete since Babe Ruth.

    So in terms of “success,” Tiger probably gets the nod. But in terms of best athlete, combined with success, I would say that Michael Jordan wins running away.

  • Kim

    MLB = Greg Maddux :)

  • jadarm

    First of, rarely are quarterbacks the best “athlete” on a team. But even still, I am not sure how you can not include people like Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Deon Sanders, etc.

    I intentionally mentioned QBs only since it is the hardest position on the field. Sanders was a great Corner and Kick Returner but he will hardly pick his team up on his back and carry them to the Super Bowl. I personally think Rice to be the best reciever I have ever seen and I will take Sanders over any other running back during my day. But there again, with 1 minute and 30 seconds left in the 4th quarter and 80 yards to go, …you are not going to give the ball to your running back are you?

    I never personally saw Willie Mays play except for highlight reels but I have heard from plenty of people that played along side of him and that watch todays game that swear Andruw Jones is the best defensive CF ever. Offensively, Willie played great for about 12 seasons then was extrememly mediocre at best for the remainder of his career.

    Although I think that Arod may break most of Bonds’ records he hasnt yet, single season walks, Intentional Walks, Career Walks, Career HR, Single Season HR, OBS, Career SB’s and HRs (400+ SBs and 700+ HRs),and on and on.

    While Arod is truly an all around great and will wind up breaking a lot of career offensive marks…Bonds just hits like a freak.

    I also thought about adding Kobe to the list but decided for Shaq instead because of the Championships and total dominance when he was at the top of his game. LeBron James is starting to come on strong but needs to play at this level for several more years.

  • Davey

    I have to say that I agree with the issue of why Greg Maddux isn’t involved yet Roger is…

    Not many pitchers did what he did in an era like that ((when people like Sammy and Mark are hitting 63 homeruns)) and especially with an 88 MPH fastball. Maddux was a master of his craft. Speed, location, predicting batters…that’s the kind of pitcher I’ll take any day on my roster, while Roger did it with is high heat and stuff.

    And I’m not downplaying Roger one bit, I’m just saying if he accomplished that with the stuff he has, Maddog should be recognized as well.

    As far as the best in MLB history? Who can tell really…times change, hitters and pitchers have gotten better over time, I can’t really say that if you take Babe Ruth out of his generation and put him in ours he’ll be just as successful, which is the same with Walter “The Train” Johnson and others.

    It’s amazing how ridiculous the strikeout total is for Nolan, and then to consider the fact that he never won a Cy Young.

    Then again, it’s not about the K’s, is it?

  • RW

    Although I think that Arod may break most of Bonds’ records he hasnt yet, single season walks, Intentional Walks, Career Walks, Career HR, Single Season HR, OBS, Career SB’s and HRs (400+ SBs and 700+ HRs),and on and on.

    Don’t forget that the last season that A-Rod was at the position, he won the gold glove as a shortstop. Which meant that he was both the best offensive player and best defensive player at his position. A-Rod – barring in jury – will end up being the Jordan & Tiger of his sport.

    As far as the best in MLB history?

    When someone else wins 23 games in a season, leads the league in shutouts & sets the world series record for most consecutive scoreless innings, then goes on to hit more than 700 homers, THEN I’ll consider talk about them being better than Ruth.

  • Davey

    True, but how does Ruth’s league compare to the modern day league?

    Players get better.

    There was a time not too long ago when 35 bombs a season was very rare.

    Now, you have players hitting 40-50 every year. ((steroids or not.))

    Pitching?

    It’s also gotten better over the years.

    The league Babe played in was similiar to a beer league, if you ask me.

  • Davey

    Alex Rodriguez has won a total of two Gold Gloves in his career as opposed to Barry Bonds’ eight.

    Although, last I heard, Barry nor Arod has ever won a World Series.

    Bonds has always 7 MVPs, over twice as many as Alex’s 3.

    Bond’s career year came in 2001, where he hit a monstrous line of:
    .328/.515/.863/1.378 with 73 HR’s, 137 RBIs, 177 BB with 35 IBB.

    Rodriguez’s came last year, where he also hit a stunning:
    .314/.422/.645/1.067 with 54 HR’s, 156*RBIs, 95 BB with 11 IBB.

    Apart from the RBIs, he’s spanked. But when you’re hitting in the heart of a 200 million dollar roster, there is a lot more people in front of you getting on base.

    Barry is a better hitter than Rodriguez and also a better fielder. He’s also the only 500/500 player in the history of the game.

    Bonds also totaled 120 IBB in one season…the most Arod has ever totaled is 12.

    The pitchers are obviously terrified of Bonds.

    As for Ruth, if I’m not mistaken the scale was limited to fifty years or so…which is why we’re comparing ballplayers to ballplayers, not eras to eras. You can’t really compare eras.

  • jadarm

    As for Barry being the only 500/500 player in history…did you know that no other player in history has ever reached 400/400?

    That used to be a benchmark of how good a player really was. A true mix between power and speed.

  • RW

    True, but how does Ruth’s league compare to the modern day league?

    Can’t play with things like that. Otherwise, one could say that George Mikan wouldn’t be a hall-of-famer because he’d be a slow, white center in today’s NBA. Gotta compare ‘em to what they did while they played, else almost EVERY player would pale in comparison to the next generation. George Washington, after all, couldn’t even figure out a way to keep the head lice from attacking, so he wore a wig (okay, bad analogy, but you get my point). No matter what happens 50 years from now, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders & Jim Brown are three of the greatest running backs, ever. Because they were born when they were isn’t a detriment.

    Alex Rodriguez has won a total of two Gold Gloves in his career as opposed to Barry Bonds’ eight.

    First base.
    That’s where the 8th best defender plays. LF is 7th (pitchers are chosen because of their arms, so there are really only 8 to rank). Even if he were a RH, Bonds couldn’t play the infield because he never had an arm.

    Any suggestions to the contrary can be directed through Sid Bream. :)

    Barry is a better hitter than Rodriguez and also a better fielder.

    Nonsense.
    Better hitter, yes, especially after he hit the synthetic juice. Never – ever – a better fielder.
    Never.
    10 years from now, when Rodriguez’s skills start to decline, the Yankees will ponder moving him to the outfield (or first base). The place where Bonds began.

    As for Barry being the only 500/500 player in history…did you know that no other player in history has ever reached 400/400?

    Which makes his decision to juice even weirder. The guy was already the best player of this generation, bar none. Why cheat?

  • I never personally saw Willie Mays play except for highlight reels but I have heard from plenty of people that played along side of him and that watch todays game that swear Andruw Jones is the best defensive CF ever.

    Umm… I never said that Mays was the best defensive CF ever. I said Mays has to be included in the MLB athletes ever. Andruw Jones has never been, and never will be, as good of a hitter or base runner as Willie Mays. And Mays played great defense, even if it wasn’t quite as good as Jones.

    I intentionally mentioned QBs only since it is the hardest position on the field.

    That is fine… but that doesn’t mean that they are the best athlete or best player on their team.

    True, but how does Ruth’s league compare to the modern day league?

    That is not the point. I believe that Babe Ruth was more dominating than any athlete anyone has ever seen. Sure… the league may not compare, but that is part of the point. Ruth’s numbers compare to the greatest players playing today, when the rest of his counterparts didn’t come anywhere close.

    Although, last I heard, Barry nor Arod has ever won a World Series.

    Last I heard baseball was a team sport. No one player can take a crappy team to the world series by himself. And no one player can win a world series.

    As for Ruth, if I’m not mistaken the scale was limited to fifty years or so…which is why we’re comparing ballplayers to ballplayers, not eras to eras. You can’t really compare eras.

    You cannot compare eras by saying somehting like this: Look… Ruth was as good of an athlete as Bonds, because they have similar home run numbers. But you can try and look at how players performed within the era. Hell… even in the original post this was done. I don’t believe that Unitas, Larry Bird, even Pele, would be able to compete in the 2008 in their respective sports. But that doesn’t mean that they were not great athletes and great football, baseball, and soccer players.

    Essentially, the players playing now, in most, if not all, sports, are the best athletes ever to play the game. This is due to modern science, technology, and medicine that assist athletes in training, rehab, game preparation, etc.

    LF is 7th (pitchers are chosen because of their arms, so there are really only 8 to rank). Even if he were a RH, Bonds couldn’t play the infield because he never had an arm.

    Well… this is may be true, but I would argue that it is irrelevant. First, Bonds won 8 OF Gold Gloves, not LF Gold Gloves. Bonds was a phenomenal defensive player, and he had a pretty strong arm.

  • RW

    Bonds was a phenomenal defensive player

    Yes, he was. As a left fielder. There was a reason that he wasn’t in center field (range) or right-field (arm).

    and he had a pretty strong arm.

    Sid.
    Bream.
    Short.
    Throw.

    Bonds was phenomenal in LF before he started to balloon. No one will argue that. Strong arm?
    Guy couldn’t throw out the slowest player in the NL from short left field. While Bonds was in his defensive ‘prime’ of winning gold gloves.

    Sorry, his arm was always his weakest point. With his athletic ability (back then) he’d have been in CF if he had any sort of arm. He didn’t. So, they stuck him in LF.

    Agree with you on all the rest, so I’d say we’re doing pretty well. :)

  • jadarm

    The guy was already the best player of this generation, bar none. Why cheat?

    Wholeheartedly agree! But that is a different discussion entirely.

    I’ll never forget the slide! Go Sid !

  • Mike

    The greatest NHL player of all time is no doubt Mr. Hovkey himself, Gordie Howe. No one can do what he did for as he did, with a consistent level of prowess, and ability. He has crossed multiple generations over his career, and has even been the idol of Bobby Hull, and Wayne Gretzky, among others.

    I am by no means discounting the great feats of Gretzky, but could he have stood the test of time like Howe? Unfortunately we were never abel to find out.

    Howes longevity will go unmatched, unless of course Chris Chelios decides to stick around a few more seasons to make some more rookies get a close up look at the boards.

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