June 20, 2008

The World's Greatest Athlete?: The Journal sought to identify the world's greatest athlete with an approach that, while not completely scientific, took a number of measures into account. A panel of five sports scientists and exercise physiologists was given a list drawn up by the Journal of 79 male athletes. Candidates had to be active in their sport and among the all-time best.

posted by BoKnows to general at 11:47 AM - 17 comments

Damnit bo, I was just about to post this but you beat me to it.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 11:55 AM on June 20, 2008

I'm glad to see that they put a hockey player in that list. Is Sidney Crosby the right choice, though? I don't know, that's why I ask. Is Ovechkin a better athlete? One of the attributes that should be given to hockey players is balance. I remember a number of years ago, the News & Observer wrote an article on the Hurricanes players' workouts and one of them was to stand on a big rubber ball while lifting weights. Or something akin to that type of craziness, just to improve their balance. That reminds me of Jagr in his prime in the mid-'90s. Nobody could knock him off the puck. It was nigh impossible. Also, Mario Lemieux. His skating was so fluid, so graceful that it was deceiving. He would have the puck in his own end and seemingly lumber up the ice, but in a blink of an eye he would be right in front of the opposing goalie, scoring a goal.

posted by NoMich at 12:32 PM on June 20, 2008

Not surprised that a decathlete finished on top (traditional since Jim Thorpe in the early 20th century), but I have issues with the top 10. No two athletes from the same sport (unless you count hurdles and sprints as both being track)? It looks more like what they did was rank the top athletes in each sport (of course, they only started out with a list of 79) and then rank those top athletes. I'd like to see the "scores" for each. I would think that the top decathletes might be the better athletes overall. And I would think that some basketball players (Kobe Bryant and Tony Parker are mentioned as having been beaten out of Lebron) might be better athletes than any baseball player. But then I have a problem with any list that puts ARod on it.

posted by graymatters at 12:51 PM on June 20, 2008

Bode Miller could beat them all. (Seriously, I'd go for a top decathlete first, but I think Bode could out-athlete most if not all of the remaining top 10)

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:22 PM on June 20, 2008

I'd like to see some wrestlers and some rowers on this list, but "speed" as a criterion probably holds them back. (Also the bogus "Success and Competitiveness" category.) Still, they've gotta rank pretty high for power, stamina/recovery, and coordination/flexibility. And what about competitive lumberjacks? They've got a lot going for them, especially when you factor in the logrolling part. On preview: Bode's an interesting suggestion--wouldn't have thought of him.

posted by Uncle Toby at 02:28 PM on June 20, 2008

graymatters: According to the article, "Sixty athletes were eliminated in the second round, either because of low scores or because they were not first in their field." So they considered LeBron the best basketball player and eliminated Kobe and Tony Parker. I don't think it's necessarily fair. As a former decathlete, I can attest that we the best all around athletes. :) For me, I got picked to be a decathlete by my track coach in junior college. I was better than most people in a lot of events, but I didn't excel at any one event better than anyone. Decathlon was what allowed me to compete on the college level. Next to decathletes, I'd put pole vaulters next. They have to have a sprinter's speed and a gymnast's strength and flexibility. In fact, many decathletes that I competed against in college were converted pole vaulters.

posted by cabuki at 03:09 PM on June 20, 2008

Good point, cabuki. Being the very best basketball player doesn't make you the very best athlete playing basketball. Someone like Charlie Ward who was good enough to choose whether to play football or basketball professionally wasn't the best basketball player in the NBA. Deion Sanders wasn't a superstar baseball player, but he was certainly high on any athletics scale.

posted by bperk at 03:58 PM on June 20, 2008

I'm glad to see that they put a hockey player in that list. I wonder if they even considered any goalies. Vision and Reflex (check); Stamina and Recovery (check); Power, Strength and Size (check); Coordination and Flexibility (check, check, check); Success and Competitiveness (subjective, but for the top goalies, I would definitely say check). Only question might be Speed, but seeing them sometimes outrace a skater to the puck or scramble back to the net, I would give them a check; and they do it on skates, in pads, and carrying a big stick.

posted by graymatters at 06:18 PM on June 20, 2008

Ronaldinho on this list is a joke. Maybe 3 years ago. But fat, slow and broken down does not a top athlete make.

posted by holden at 08:21 PM on June 20, 2008

From the article: A panel of five sports scientists and exercise physiologists was given a list drawn up by the Journal of 79 male athletes This is the primary fallacy of the article. We are given the expertise of the judges, but who chose the 79 candidates for the judges to judge? Unless I missed something, which is always possible. Where is the list of 79? Why no swimmers or ironmen?

posted by bobfoot at 10:18 PM on June 20, 2008

There is really only one tried and tested scientific way to determine the greatest athlete - Superstars. The Bode Miller suggestion may be correct. Skiers have done very well competing in Superstars. Bode won it, the Herminator also won it and I think I remember Tomba la Bomba being very impressive. Professional skiers seem to be some of the very best athletes. I wonder why? Off topic but Superstars was great TV.

posted by wduchene at 01:45 AM on June 21, 2008

I remember Superstars in the 70s... no memory of it since, but I relish any athletic 70s remembrance that's not Gladiators...

posted by bobfoot at 02:15 AM on June 21, 2008

Even three years ago Ronaldinho might have been a better footballer, but he certainly was never the best 'athlete' in football. I'd put a traditional box-to-box midfielder as the football representative - covering up to 15 km in 90 minutes, changes of pace, ball skills, reading the game and so on. Off the top of my head, someone like Michael Essien, the unsung but essential heartbeat of the midfield, would be my choice.

posted by owlhouse at 05:20 AM on June 21, 2008

I'm also suprised there is not a swimmer on the list.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 08:16 AM on June 21, 2008

Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie can run a mile in an astonishing four minutes, 45 seconds, and repeat the performance 26 times in a row All I could think of when I read that was "Holy Shit!" I know marathoners are incredibly skinny, eliminating them from any strength aspect of the comp, but that is incredible. To run even a five minute mile is beyond most people, but 26 consecutive sub-five minute miles? Astonishing. And yeah, I wonder why swimmers were omitted. They might not run or throw, but they are some of the finest athletes out there. And water polo players are freakish in their combination of endurance and toughness.

posted by tahoemoj at 02:44 PM on June 21, 2008

Six out of Ten Americans. Hmm. I think that says it all about the list.

posted by salmacis at 07:13 AM on June 23, 2008

Five. Are you counting Sidney Crosby as an American?

posted by NoMich at 07:58 AM on June 23, 2008

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