View Full Version : ESPN's 50 Greatest athletes of the century.

Azim da Dream
12-27-1999, 12:02 AM
Any disagreements? http://bbs.clutchcity.net/ubb/smile.gif

1. Michael Jordan
2. Babe Ruth
3. Muhammad Ali
4. Jim Brown
5. Wayne Gretzky
6. Jesse Owens
7. Jim Thorpe
8. Willie Mays
9. Jack Nicklaus
10. Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
11. Joe Louis
12. Carl Lewis
13. Wilt Chamberlain
14. Hank Aaron
15. Jackie Robinson
16. Ted Williams
17. Magic Johnson
18. Bill Russell
19. Martina Navratilova
20. Ty Cobb.
21. Gordie Howe
22. Joe DiMaggio
23. Jackie Joyner-Kersee
24. Sugar Ray Robinson
25. Joe Montana
26. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
27. Jerry Rice
28. Red Grange
29. Arnold Palmer
30. Larry Bird.

Next was Bobby Orr at 31, followed by Johnny Unitas, Mark Spitz, Lou Gehrig, Secretariat, Oscar Robertson, Mickey Mantle, Ben Hogan, Walter Payton, and Lawrence Taylor.

Wilma Rudolph was 41st, followed by Sandy Koufax, Julius Erving, Bobby Jones, Bill Tilden, Eric Heiden, Edwin Moses, Pete Sampras, O.J. Simpson and Chris Evert.

Azim da Dream

12-27-1999, 12:05 AM
I didn't pay attention until the top 5. Looks pretty good. I was a little surprised Jordan was 1st. I thought Ali would be or maybe Ruth or Gretzky. But, you can't argue with him first. Any of the top 5 could of been first.

12-27-1999, 04:04 AM
I feel Hakeem Olajuwon is just as deserving as: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hank Aaron, Walter Payton, Joe Montana, Magic Johnson, and possibly even Wilt and Russell (I could make an argument on both)

And more deserving than: Joe Dimaggio, Larry Bird, Lawrence Taylor, Julius Erving, and possibly some of the others that I don't know much about (ie. Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Gordie Howe, Secretariat, Bill Tilden, Eric Heiden, Wilma Rudolph, etc.)

I also think Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson, and Mark McGwire could've made the list before some of the others.

I have a dream.........his name's Hakeem.

RocketMan Tex
12-27-1999, 08:33 AM
Yes I have a disagreement. Michael Jordan should not have been voted #1. The only reason he was is that those who voted were too young to see any of the other nominees perform in their prime. I think the whole thing was an overblown, hype-ridden waste of time.

Just Win Baby! More Than Four Times!

12-27-1999, 08:44 AM
Real confusion about this is ESPN's definition of an athlete. It appears as though they only considered what good they did for their sport.

I think many others think like myself that an athlete should be in multiple sports. In the top 5 only one played another sport even at the collegiate level, I think. Didn't Jim Brown play lacrosse?

Jim Thorpe was an athlete, even Jack Nicklaus went to Ohio State to play basketball, Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders in the modern day.

I agree with their list for the most part, I only wish they would have defined athlete when the list first started. But they accomplished what they wanted to: An interest in another year end list!

I also disagree with one choice: I think Lassie was a much better choice than Secretariat.

12-27-1999, 10:51 AM
My only real complaint was that a damn horse was included on the list. That and Jordan shouldn't have been #1.

Proud Cheerleader 'til we move to New Orleans

Azim da Dream
12-27-1999, 10:52 AM
Having Olajuwon in there is very debatable, but his name definatley would not feel out of place in that list.

However, I think the biggest injustice on that list is neglecting perhaps the greatest athlete of all-time, definately within the Top-10 -- Pele. I can't believe some of the guys that are ahead of him, there just has got to be something wrong with the guys that made up this list.

Along with Dream, I was suprised not to see John Elway and Mario Lemieux on that list, they no doubt left a mark on their respective games.

Its obvious their criteria isn't based on pure athletes and their versatality, otherwise Babe Ruth would not have been on that list. I think they're going by who made a difference in the game and played a major part in its development.

Azim da Dream

12-27-1999, 10:58 AM
Azim -

I read somewhere that you had to ply your trade in North America to be considered for the list. Pele did play in NASL I think, but he just wasn't Pele anymore.

12-27-1999, 12:57 PM
What is happening to Jordan is exactly why in a recent interview he said that he DID NOT want to be 1st on the list.

He pointed out that it can be argued that he is not the best ever in his own sport and that in his opinion, Bill Russell is. And he also argued that many would point back to his baseball to show his weakness and lack of domination when he went on to another sport.

Here are two letters from fans that I think sums up best the arguments we are all going to make here pro Jordan and anti Jordan:


Michael Jordan was an excellent choice as the top athlete, as he is one of the few athletes on the list who competed against the best the world has to offer. He played in an era when all athletes, regardless of race, creed, color or religion are allowed the opportunity to participate. Babe Ruth at #2 was questionable at best, after all, wasn't Jim Thorpe unanimously voted Best Athlete of the first 50 years? And while he did put up great numbers, would they have been the same if the top pitchers from the Negro League had been allowed entry into our so called National Pastime?


Did Nike, Gatorade, MCI, etc. pay you guys off to make Jordan the No. 1 athlete of the century? I had a feeling that the No. 1 spot would be reserved for the only one of the top four still earning millions in endorsement dollars. Anyone with any sense knows that Ali should have been No. 1. I guess the outspoken Ali is still hated by many Americans. Oh well, at least he finished better than Secretariat.

[This message has been edited by Almu (edited December 27, 1999).]

12-27-1999, 02:01 PM
If the criteria was for pure athlete, I believe it should be Jim Thorpe or Babe Didrickson (sp?). Or like someone else stated, Bo Jackson or Deion (if he could tackle) should be on there.

If the criteria was how they dominated their sport when they played, arguments can be made for any number of athletes including Ruth, Gretzky, Jordan, Brown, or Ali.

I'm not dissapointed by the outcome; however, I still don't understand the Ali sentiment that has been pouring out lately. Of course he's the greatest boxer of all time, but does that really equate into best athlete?

My personal vote-Gretzky. He dominated his sport, holds numerous records that may not ever be broken, and his influence on hockey far outweighs anyone else's influence on their particular sport. Do you really think that there would be teams named the San Jose Sharks, Austin Ice Bats, Carolina Hurricane, Aneheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, any Western Professional Hockey Team (the Lubbock Cotton Kings for christ sakes) if not for the influence of Wayne Gretzky? I don't, and for those reasons, I think he should be athlete of the century.

Behind Dream!


12-27-1999, 03:18 PM
Continuing the debate that I always have with my wife and my in-laws, golfers are not athletes. If they are, so are bowlers, figure skaters, and race car drivers. Horses aren't athletes either, of course. The glaring omissions on that list are decathletes Bruce Jenner and Bob Richards. I know I'm leaving off others. Nicklaus, Jones, Hogan and Secretariat? Give me a break.

12-27-1999, 04:32 PM
In my most humble opinion, I would of voted for Carl Lewis.

Think about this. Carl dominated a sport for almost 20 years that require something athletes lose as they age. That is speed and quickness. He dominated when he was 18 and he continued to shine when he was 35(I believe). The man has 9 gold medals(hope thats right) in a sport that people peak after just one Olympic.

Also, I would consider Jackie Joyner Kersee. Talk about dominating in ALL aspects. She did that for almost 15 years. Thats an athlete.

You can debate Jordan. You can debate Ruth. You can debate Gretzky or Ali or Brown. But, can you really say that in that top 5, either one of those great athletes could be first.

I have no problem with that list. Its all hype anyways.

12-27-1999, 05:33 PM
all hype no doubt...

my choice for #1: jim brown

get this guys....5 sport athlete....

baseball, football, track, basketball and lacrosse (considered one of the gr8est lacrosse players ever)

also, he completely dominated his sport w/o much challenge. i mean, was there a close 2nd to jim brown's domination in his era? not only did he transgress racial lines in his football team in both college (syracuse, where they wouldn't give him a scholarship nor play him until the 2 people ahead of him got hurt & nfl (where black superstars where heavily weighed against)), he transgressed racial lines in the community - often meeting with the president. then - and now - he was HEAVILY involved in the community (something he criticized mj for). to this day he is all steak, little sizzle.

most impressive is the way he came into football, won the ROY, won the MVP the next season, won the Super Bowl, and retired in his prime after breaking all records. he dominated on and off the field. a man jim brown was, a man jim brown is.

[This message has been edited by verse (edited December 27, 1999).]

brahma rocket
12-27-1999, 09:54 PM
real athelete of the century:

wilt chamberlain.

no one will ever score 100 points in a game again.no one will ever average 50 ppg again.
no one will ever average 20 rebounds per game again.and no one but no one will ever have sex with 20,000 women again.

12-28-1999, 09:42 AM
verse, a person with a history of violence against women is in no way a "man" in my book.

12-28-1999, 10:38 AM
I'm sorry, but I agree with Carl Lewis. The Olympics offer a chance to compete with the best atheletes in the world. There's no 82 game schedule...just one chance to prove you are the best in the business, and Carl Lewis did that, time and time again. Not only did he do it, he did it in many different events such as running and jumping. Think about what normal friend you have that you consider "atheletic", he or she probably does many sports well... that's an athelete. That's Carl Lewis.

12-28-1999, 11:26 AM
A list that doesn't include Pele on it can't be very credible in my opinion. Martina Navratilova isn't from North America, yet she's on it. Pele should be in the top 5 of any list, but he isn't on this one. Something tells me that Olajuwon probably isn't too worried about not being on a great athletes list that doesn't include Pele.

12-28-1999, 08:56 PM
Secretariat was a freakin' horse!

no horses on this site: http://members.tripod.com/~HoustonRocketsFan

12-29-1999, 11:19 AM
Jordan as the 1 seed is a farce.

Players who dominated their sport more than Jordan while winning multi titles:


Basketball players who had greater all around skills:

the Big O
Magic Johnson
Wilt Chamberlain

Basketball players who were absolutely more dominant

Big O
Wilt Chamberlain
Bill Russell

Better pure atheletes

Bo Jackson
Carl Lewis
Jesse Owens
Jim Thorpe

Atheletes who redifined their sport
Jesse Owens
Carl Lewis
the Galloping Ghost

Lets look at what makes in most peoples eyes Jordan the greatest.

1. He scored alot
2. He won many titles
3. He had a decent all around game.

Jordan didn't dominate on offense to the point where rules had to be changed just to make the competition more fair. Like a Wilt. He won only about 1/2 the titles Bill Russell did. And definately didnt have the all around game Big O had. Oscar used to average 30 some points also. But he also averaged a triple double one year, and game withing tenths of a digit of doing it four other years.

Too me, it would of been even more logical to put Rice ahead of Jordan in any poll. Gretzky definately deserved to be higher, and Bo was 5 times the athelete Jordan was.

12-29-1999, 12:01 PM
I think pele should of been in the top 5. Jordan should of been second and Ali should of been first. Ruth should of been like 4 or 5. Gretzky deserved to be like 8 or 9.

Azim da Dream
12-29-1999, 03:33 PM

I completely agree that it takes no raw athletic ability to be a great golfer (although a lot of people would disagree), but as dumb as this may sound, race car drivers and even figure skaters do require it. I wouldn't believe it myself, until a friend convinced me otherwise. While a Andretti doesn't have much "hops" or "hang'time", race car drivers lose a large number of lbs (don't know exact number), and the intense pressure they face at such a unbelievable speed requires them to have overwhelming strength, endurance, and most of all - guts (or a lack of judgement, take your pick)

Another point I thought I might add is that a list like this is so freaking hard to make. Arguements and contraversy are inevitable, given you not only have to compare athletes from an entirely different time and a different position, but a totally different sport as well. Its hard enough to say who's better between Oscar Robertson and Jordan or Gretzky and Orr, but how can you compare an Ali to a Pele? Society as a whole has changed and advanced so much, the nutrients and medicine today's athletes take make them much stronger. The high-tech training facilities result in better conditioned players. Lets not even start with the 'legal' and 'illegal' drugs they take, such as the one Mark McGwire took.

Like Almu said, the top 5 can be any order, this list is just another opportunity to give repect to the century's finest.

Azim da Dream