Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Best Athletes Of The 21st Century

I recently took a Sporcle quiz counting down ESPN's list of the top 100 athletes of the 20th century. While I could easily write a post decrying my problems with the list (Secretariat? That doesn't seem fair), it instead occurred to me that we're getting close to being able to fire up a list of the best athletes of the 2000's.

So, here's my take on the top sports stars of the decade thus far. A few major caveats....

* Like ESPN's list, I stuck to just North America-born athletes, which is why there's no Federer, Lidstrom, Ronaldo, Santana, Kaka, Ovechkin, etc.

* This is based solely on personal opinion and with only minimal glances at statistics. I have no doubt that there are cases where I've put a statistically inferior player lower or off the list entirely, but I'm also weighing things like championships won, impact on the sport, etc. Basically, I tried to go by the credo of who would you remember the most if you're thinking about sport in the Oughts.

* Athletes are only judged by what they did in the Oughts themselves. A number of these people would be much higher if I factored in what they did before January 1, 2000, but then it wouldn't be a proper 21st-century list, now would it?

Argue away! I look forward to finding out which athletes I unforgivably omitted. There have to be at least, like, a dozen that I will smack my head over forgetting.

100. Kurt Warner
99. Hines Ward
98. Hale Irwin
97. Vince Young
96. Randy Couture
95. Walter Jones
94. Steve Hutchinson
93. Shane Mosley
92. Jeff Kent
91. Misty May
90. Roy Oswalt
89. Tony Stewart
88. Simon Whitfield
87. Roger Clemens
86. Ben Roethlisberger
85. David Ortiz
84. Orlando Pace
83. Mia Hamm
82. Michael Strahan
81. Larry Johnson

80. Donovan McNabb
79. Bernard Hopkins
78. Dany Heatley
77. Randy Johnson
76. Todd Helton
75. Jason Taylor
74. Champ Bailey
73. Rafael Marquez
72. Lorena Ochoa
71. Adrian Peterson
70. Clinton Portis
69. Derrick Brooks
68. Edgerrin James
67. Dara Torres
66. David Wright
65. Chipper Jones
64. Ed Reed
63. Tony Gonzalez
62. Brian Westbrook
61. Chase Utley

60. Drew Brees
59. CC Sabathia
58. Joe Mauer
57. Pedro Martinez
56. Curt Schilling
55. Jeff Gordon
54. Jonathan Ogden
53. Trevor Hoffman
52. Chuck Liddell
51. Brett Favre
50. Lance Berkman
49. John Smoltz
48. Allen Iverson
47. Paul Pierce
46. Cindy Klassen
45. Joe Sakic
44. Priest Holmes
43. Landon Donovan
42. Vladimir Guerrero
41. Joe Thornton

40. Torry Holt
39. Usain Bolt
38. Derek Jeter
37. Jimmie Johnson
36. Jarome Iginla
35. Vincent Lecavalier
34. Matt Hughes
33. Roy Halladay
32. Randy Moss
31. Phil Mickelson
30. Sidney Crosby
29. Floyd Mayweather
28. Ray Lewis
27. Terrell Owens
26. Steve Nash
25. Jason Kidd
24. Georges St. Pierre
23. Marvin Harrison
22. Cael Sanderson
21. Dwyane Wade

20. Tim Tebow
19. Venus Williams
18. Manny Ramirez
17. Mariano Rivera
16. Shaquille O'Neal
15. Kevin Garnett
14. LaDainian Tomlinson
13. Martin Brodeur
12. Peyton Manning
11. Tim Duncan
10. Serena Williams
9. Alex Rodriguez
8. LeBron James
7. Tom Brady
6. Albert Pujols
5. Kobe Bryant
4. Barry Bonds
3. Lance Armstrong
2. Michael Phelps
1. Tiger Woods


Peter Lynn said...

Here's where you went wrong: including any golfer in the list. Ranking Tiger Woods first just compounds the error. Does he belong on a list of the most dominant sportsmen? Sure. Best athletes? No. You can't convince me that Tiger Woods can match, say, LeBron James for pure athleticism.

If you're making a list of the best athletes, it ought to be judged by all-round athleticism. Can LeBron James beat Tiger Woods at golf? It's no more likely than Woods beating James in a game of one-on-one. The question then becomes this: Who can run faster? Who can jump higher? Who can demonstrate that he's stronger?

The winner of the Olympic decathlon traditionally has the title of "world's greatest athlete" bestowed upon him. No one has owned that event in the 2000s like Roman Ć ebrle, who's my choice as greatest athlete in the world. But since he's Czech and is ruled out of the running (although I disagree that the ranking ought to be limited to North Americans), let's go with Bryan Clay, the reigning Olympic champion and world champion in three of the last four years. He also has the highest score ever recorded in football protocol of the SPARQ, a standardized test of athleticism measuring speed, power, agility, reaction, and quickness.

All that said, this article makes an argument that water-polo player Tony Azevedo might have a claim to the title of greatest athlete in the world.

Peter Lynn said...

Also, if dominance is is the main criterion for inclusion in this list, then I believe Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, currently ranked as the number-one competitive eater in the world, belongs in this conversation. Not only is he the guy who finally knocked off six-time hot dog-eating champion Takeru "Tsunami" Kobayashi, but he also holds 16 world records eating other kinds of food.

I'll throw another name out there: John Tavares. Not the hockey player -- his uncle, the lacrosse player, who is first all-time in first in National Lacrosse League career points, goals and assists.

Question Mark said...

Hindsight being 20-20, I probably should've titled it '100 Greatest Sportsmen.' If judging people just on pure athletic prowess, then probably it could've just been 100 decathletes, but where's the fun in that? There probably should be more Olympians on this list, but obviously I'm a lot more familiar with athletes from the big four sports than I am with some random trap shooter, for instance.

And I love that you complain about Tiger Woods being on the list and then champion Joey Chestnut.

I didn't know that about Tavares' uncle. That's pretty cool.

Peter Lynn said...

I thought about this all day yesterday and then someone coincidentally brought the topic up, and I got furious all over again!

My point in bringing up Joey Chestnut, really, is that competitive eating may be a fringe sport, but it nonetheless has about as much claim to being called a sport that golf does, if not more. In fact, competitive eating is quite similar to golf in that while fat guys are commonly associated with the sport (like John Daly in golf), today's top competitors actually show a high degree of physical fitness. Takeru Kobayashi's six-pack might well put Tiger Woods to shame.

What I'm wondering is this: If one were to make an all-time list of the best all-around athletes, the obvious choices would be multi-sport athletes such as Jim Brown, Bo Jackson, and Lionel Conacher. But who in the 2000s could stand up there with these guys? Maybe Terrell Owens, who competed in basketball and track in college along with his professional football career?

MattTheMan said...

Peter Lynn -- golfers are sportsmen, therefore they are athletes, therefore the best ones should be in the sport. I'd like to see you play 36 holes of golf, and not get tired.

Anonymous said...

38 people more athletic than /Usain Bolt/ ?

The person who wrote this is a blubbering idiot.

Question Mark said...

Re-reading this post with five years' hindsight is HILARIOUS. I was truly an idiot back then (and now).