Who Is the G.O.A.T.?

It was the kind of tweet guaranteed to get a lot of responses:

And the answers contained some obvious choices:

  • Roger Bannister (first person to break the 4-minute barrier in the mile
  • Cal Ripken (baseball player who played in 2,632 straight games)
  • Michael Phelps, swimmer
  • Jesse Owen, track and field
  • Aleksandr Karelin, a wrestler with 13 year undefeated streak at the world level and a career record of 887-
  • Edwin Moses, a runner with 107 consecutive world level wins in the 400m hurdles
  • Usain Bolt, runner
  • Cael Sanderson, a wrestler who went 159-0 in college
  • Serena Williams, tennis
  • Wayne Gretzky, ice hockey
  • Don Bradman, cricket (this is for Clive)
  • Nolan Ryan, pitcher
  • Tom Brady, football

One problem with such a list is trying to separate out an amazing single accomplishment (Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in one game vs Bill Russell with multiple NBA championships) vs. a lifetime of excellence in athletic competition,

When I think of the greatest athlete, I try to think of someone who dominates their sport, with no one even a close second. It’s hard to think of such a person. It took awhile, but someone finally lived up to my expectations.

I’ll admit it’s a biased choice because it is a swimmer and she is currently competing, so her accomplishments are fresh in my mind – Katie Ledecky.

In the 800-meter freestyle race at the 2016 Olympics, Katie wan by 11 seconds, a mind-boggling differential. Through the 2016 Olympics, Ledecky has entered and won gold in all 22 individual events she has entered at the Olympics and World Championships. And by margins unheard of.

And while I would not include Secretariat in such a listing as this, some people do. And perhaps it’s because of how much Secretariat dominated the filed at each leg of the Triple Crown.

I’ve always wondered why there isn’t more separation among the top athletes at certain events. Is everyone just so good once they reach the elite level that there is little difference among them. I never thought so; I kept thinking there just had to be athletes out there that are just way ahead of everyone else.

But it took a while to find such an athlete, and then Katie Ledecky came onto the scene, and has dominated her sport, or any sport, like no one ever has..

I wish her he best at the net Olympics, whenever that may be…

57 thoughts on “Who Is the G.O.A.T.?

  1. It’s hard to compare apples and oranges, but watching Tom Brady win almost twice as many Super Bowls as anyone else and make his job look easy when he’s twice the age of almost everyone else on the field is pretty awe inspiring. And that’s coming from a cheesehead.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can think of many athletes who dominated their sport. I admired a Decathalon athlete who won gold at 4 Olympics straight, Mo Farrah, Brian O’Driscoll, Jonny Sexton, Jessica Ennis, Sebastian Coe, Joe Root, Bjorn Borg, Rafael Nadal, Tessa Jowl, Ian Botham, George Best, Rory Best, and many others. Some of these are cricketers and rugby players so you may not have heard of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There have been many great athletes, and it is tough to compare across sports and eras. But you mention a lot of great ones, although as you point out, I don’t recognize all the names you mention. Hope all is well.


    1. it is a strange acronym, since we often refer to somebody that ruined a game as a goat, or when we are looking for someone to blame, we call them a scapegoat. So to use GOAT to refer to the greatest of all time is a bit strange… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. People like to debate these things, but how can we compare athletes from different eras, let alone different sports? The other thing that bugs me is that when someone sings the praises for one athlete, they like to say something negative about another. For example, why do we feel this constant need to tell whether Jordan or LeBron was better. Can’t we admire both of them? The other thing that seems ridiculous to me is declaring someone better in a team sport because he/she has more championships. Plenty of tremendous athletes never won one championship because other great players didn’t surround them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you, Pete, it is hard to compare across sports, particularly team vs individual sports. But it’s still fun to think of who the greatest athletes are. I also think it’s much better to simply celebrate the greatness of one athlete without having to demean another athlete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with Pete that championships in team sports are likely not the best indicator of individual talent or excellence. As a teaching and accounting professional, with an avid love of his own stats, I would rely on your determination of the title “GOAT”, but I think you could pick one from any particular sport, as it is often a apples to oranges comparison. Then there are guys like Dick Fosbury, the first to use his unique style of high-jumping, the “Fosbury Flop” to completely change the sport.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I rememebr the Fosbury Flop, and I also like when someone changes a sport like that. In swimming, and I don’t know whow started this, but now in many events when they start, they stay underwater for quite a while before surfacing and staring to swim. I love such creative breakthroughs.

      And speaking of the high jump, I got to see Dwight Stone set a world record one year at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. it’s really hard to define the greatest, as other commenters have said, there are so many factors involved, and each situation is different. that being said, there are so many incredible athletes from the past and present, and we are lucky that we have the chance to see so many accomplish these amazing things in real time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Frankly, it’s an impossible question. How can we really rate achievements in one sport over another? Should team sports players be excluded as, by definition, they aren’t ‘individuals’ in their playing context. How can we compare sports people from times before we were born with those we see now? Having said all of that, if my life depended on it Roger Federer would get my vote (and the occasional posts on ‘his’ parody blog would bear this out!).

    Thank you for the nod towards cricket. But an Australian? You have so much to learn, my friend (a good choice, though) 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, it’s impossible, but still fun to do. and it can lead to some friendly disagreements. In the sport of tennis, Roger is certainly my favorite as well.

      And there’s no doubt that I have a lot to learn about cricket! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s one of those ‘we’ll agree to differ’ things, isn’t it. I’ve seen him play, as well as Murray, Nadal and Djokovic. And going back a bit, Borg, Nastase, McEnroe and Connors. All amazing in their own way but I think Federer is the best all round player I’ve seen.

        You need to start with the basics of cricket, and then get into the long-standing rivalry between England and Australia – there’s much to do 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. before Federer, Jimmy Connors was my favorite player. He was such a fierce competitor.

        I’m hoping to be in England in two years; that will give me time to learn the basics of cricket!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. He was certainly that! He partnered doubles with Nastase and one time we came across them practicing against each other on an outside court at Wimbledon. It didn’t feel much like practice…

        Two years? Plenty of time! Books, YouTube, you’ll be an expert by the time you get here 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      4. It was a lot of fun. My now-ex wife was a big Nastase fan, and at one point she clapped a shot. He made eye contact, walked slowly over, and pretended to look stern. I thought she was about to faint. Then he winked and went back to the game.

        Just wait till you learn the different meanings of ‘wicket’ 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      5. He had an wicked sense of humour. I remember one year at Wimbledon it started to rain while he was playing. He didn’t say a word to the umpire, but just strolled over to a lady in the crowd and borrowed her umbrella. Then he stood there holding it in one hand, racket in the other, waiting to receive serve. Point made: the players came off court.

        Cricket is a simple game, made complicated by the technicalities surrounding it!

        Liked by 1 person

      6. That’s a funny story about Nastase. I think Djokovic has a good sense of humor as well.

        I guess it’s all those technicalities that make it hard for a newbie to understand the finer points of the game…

        Liked by 1 person

      7. He does – plenty of evidence of that on YouTube.

        Those technicalities can be offputting but it’s worth persevering – it’s a game that can be both exciting and tactically absorbing.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. The shortest form of the game would do well there, if someone took the chance and broadcast it. Plenty of explosive action, lots of room for commercial breaks and commentators’ waffle, and still finished within the four hours it takes for your one hour game to reach its end…

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve gotta go with Joey Chestnut. He’s won an unprecedented 12 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contests, and holds the world record for devouring an astounding 75 hot dogs in just 10 minutes. Let’s see Ledecky, or anyone else, beat that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. it is an incredible accomplishment, but I know personally, not one I would be interested in trying to beat. Now trying to be the fastest swimmer in the world has much more appeal to me…

      And I wonder what those hot dog guys feel like in an hour or so after the competition…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I understand they dip the hotdogs in water, to make them slide down easier. You being a swimmer, I’ll bet you could appreciate that.

        I’m sure an hour or so after the competition, they feel absolutely stuffed. I wouldn’t relish it.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. my apologies for overlooking motorsports; it’s not a sport I follow. And I’m not surprised you didn’t mention Hamilton 🙂

      I hope Katie is achieving her records without the help of drugs…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Jim, your choice of Ledecky is an excellent one. There is no doubt she has dominated her sport. I recently looked back at the career of golfer Ben Hogan. After recovering from a crippling car accident, he regained his ability to play competitive golf again. Due to physical limitations, he had to be selective with the number of tournaments he played each season. In 1953, he won five of the six tournaments he played in (including three of the majors). He passed on the PGA Championship and a chance at a season sweep of all four majors because his damaged legs could not hold up to the grueling match play format.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes; I often wonder if there is someone somewhere who could shatter the world record in the mile, but because of his or her circumstances doesn’t have the opportunity to show his or her talent…


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