This is not just a collection of ESPN's Sports Century. These are players I saw play on TV or in person. So it reflects my bias. I didn't watch much hockey, so putting Gretzky or Lemieux in there would be me just putting people I knew should be in there. Also, sports like gymnastics and figure skating are hard because you may have some dominant people, but are this generation's any more amazing than last? I don't know if you can make the argument that Kristi Yamaguchi is better or worse that Katarina Witt. Both of them were great, but is one THAT MUCH better? That's why the only skater on here never won anything of much importance (largely due to racism on the judges part - not even kidding.)
Honorable Mention (6-20, no order)
- Andre Agassi - Anyone who can intentionally lose a set (6-0, too) of the Wimbledon Finals to conserve energy and win the title deserves some mention. Especially if they still are in the Semifinals of the US Open at 38.
- Lawrence Taylor - He was so fast when the league wasn't yet. His sack of Joe Theisman that shattered his leg demonstrated his ferocity and speed - and was a major gross out moment of my childhood.
- Surya Bonaly - French ice skater. Only person who ever completed a flip and landed on one leg. You should watch her on You Tube. She skated like a guy and the skating community hated her for it.
- Lance Armstrong - He was the best mountain racer AND the best sprinter and won seven Tour de Frances in a row.
- Herschel Walker - People forget how great he was. From 1980 to 1990 he was a force of nature. He was the first real workout freak in football.
- Magic Johnson - Amazing court vision and game knowledge. Why isn't he coaching?
- Carl Lewis - He won nine gold medals and one silver over the span of three Olympics - as a sprinter and long jumper.
- Michael Johnson - This dude was a freak as a runner. Totally unbelievable and unbeatable.
- Deion Sanders
- Steve Young
- Martina Navratilova
- Mike Tyson - He won the heavyweight title in 63 seconds. How do you do something like that?
- Jerry Rice
- Julius Erving
- Barry Bonds - Steroids or not, he was an amazing hitter.
5. Barry Sanders - I remember one game, Barry was racing up the sideline. The Lions were playing the Steelers. Rod Woodson was the All-Pro defensive back for Pittsburgh - widely considered best in the NFL. Sanders came running up and Woodson prepped for the tackle. Next thing you know, Sanders is on his way to the end zone and Woodson had blown his ACL. Sanders literally juked him out of his knee. At least Woodson had an excuse for missing the tackle. Sanders spent his career making everyone look like an idiot. He turned a mediocre Lions team into a feared opponent. His college record for yards in a season still stands - and was set in four less games than whoever breaks it will have played in (over 2600 yards in just 11 games).
4. Larry Bird - I could not STAND Bird. He was my least favorite player ever. I thought he was dirty and arrogant. There would be nothing better to me than leaving him off this list. But to do so would only highlight my ignorance. As I read Bill Simmons, I realize even more how amazing Bird was. I don't remember every detail. I just remember that game after game that should have been a loss for those blasted Celtics would turn into a victory because Bird hit some shot that shouldn't have gone in. He could pass, defend, shoot like crazy. Just not dunk - except for that one All Star Game.
3. Bo Jackson - What could have been. Jackson could have been the greatest player ever. If that hip had held up. He was an All Star in both baseball and football. He had amazing home run power and then would run right over players in football. I saw him in college, and hated it when he played Georgia. Then he spurned football to play baseball. I always have wondered what would have happened if he had been able to keep playing. Where would he have ended up? Probably at the top of this list.
2. Tiger Woods - It is weird saying that a golfer is the greatest athlete or whatever. They hit a tiny ball around a course. But he is so dominant. It is ridiculous. Some of what he has done is just incredible - from winning major events with an 18 under par to winning by 12 strokes at other majors. And he is so young. He's won 66 tournaments (or something like that) and he's 32. Add to that the sick money ($100 million from Nike alone). Gooooo.
1. Michael Jordan - It is going to take a supreme effort to ever top this guy. I have seen him do things that no human should be able to do. He hung in midair, hustled on both ends of the court, and could stick a dagger in your heart. The amazing thing was that he was Defensive Player of the Year several times, although he was known as a scorer. He played one of his finest games when horribly ill with the flu. I can't even limit his greatest plays to ten. Anytime he was on the court, Chicago had a chance and you didn't change the station.