This argument is, by far, the most popular debate sports fans engage in. You can’t truly call yourself a sports fan unless you at one time or another have sat with fellow sports enthusiasts and fervently defended those you thought to be the greatest athletes ever. The opinions on these subjects are like Rocky movies; there’s a lot, and their quality varies. My opinons will cause some hullabaloo, but that’s the idea.
Greatest Quarterback: John Elway.
All right, this seems like a hometown choice and I admit I’m a bit biased, but this is not purely an emotional choice; the facts back it up. Elway is one of only two QBs in history to throw for 50,000 plus yards. He threw 300 TDs, also second all time. He has two Super Bowl rings, and he is the winningest QB in history. Montana doesn’t have Elway’s stats and Marino doesn’t have Elway’s versatility or Super Bowl rings. The choice is obvious to me.
Greatest Baseball Player: Babe Ruth.
This one is tougher because the game has been around so long that there have been so many great players. Williams, DiMaggio, Mantle and Cobb come to mind. But, Ruth gets the nod based on his versatility. Sure, Ruth is known as a chubby boozehound who was only good for hitting home runs, but people forget that he was an ace pitcher when he got to the majors. He won 25 games for Boston before they moved him to outfield. He completely revolutionized baseball. His stats and World Series rings are hard to argue with.
Greatest Hockey Player: Wayne Gretzky.
He is hands down, the greatest of all time. His nickname, “The Great One” pretty much says it all. He has more career goals than the next guy on the career scoring list has overall points. There have been some good ones; Orr, Howe and Lemieux to name a few. But none are in the same class as Gretzky.
Greatest Boxer: Muhammad Ali.
Once again, this is a pretty easy choice. He held the heavyweight title longer than any other boxer in history. He dismantled many of the boxers that historians say were among the best. Liston, Frazier, Foreman all took their turns against Ali and lost. Sure, today’s boxers are bigger and stronger, but I would still take Ali in his prime over any other boxer at their peak.
Greatest Basketball Player: Larry Bird.
I’m going to get some flack for this. I know Michael Jordan is widely considered not only the best basketball player ever, but also the best athlete, which could be true. I know his athletic ability is unparalleled. But a basketball player must be more than just a great athlete. Sure, Jordan is a great scorer, but he isn’t near the pure shooter Bird was. Bird was a better rebounder and passer than Jordan, and they were equally dominating on defense. Yeah, Jordan won a few more titles than Bird, but he didn’t have the competition Bird played against in the 80s with Magic and the Lakers. Jordan didn’t win a single title when Bird was playing. Jordan is a great player, one of the best of all time, but he makes it no higher than No. 2 on my list.