Earlier this week while watching ESPN I heard Steven A make the comment that LeBron was the “greatest athlete ever” and it made me wonder if he actually was? I’ve followed sports for the last 50+ years and I’ve seen a few athletes in my day. Having grown up with a weekly Sports Illustrated magazine at my disposal and parents who allowed me to watch sports every chance I got on our television. I admired the level in which professional athletes played their sport and aspired to be just like them.
Here’s my take on it:
First off, we can probably cancel out the “Greatest of all time” label because I would consider the likes of Jim Thorpe or Babe Didrikson to be closer to the “greatest athlete of all time” if we’re talking about all around athletes but I’ll consider all of the modern day greats that I can remember that would compare to the greatest of modern day times in my opinion. The first name that popped into my head as the greatest athlete of my time would have to be Mike Tyson. I don’t think I’ve ever missed a Mike Tyson fight having been a big fan of boxing since the days of watching Mohamed Ali and Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson pound for pound was a machine. His body mechanics and overall brut force was unmatched. I can remember watching the fear in his opponents eyes just before the bell would sound. Some of Tyson’s opponents were just looking for a soft place to land on the mat and hoped the brain damage from the upcoming blows from Tyson wouldn’t be permanent. That was Tyson and he was the best all around fighter I’ve ever seen. Does that make him the greatest Athlete? Tyson could probably play basketball no better than LeBron could box so who knows on that one. Believe it or not I could make a good argument that Bruce Jenner was the greatest athlete of all time if were talking about multiple sports. I can remember watching the rise and fall of Bo Jackson, Michael Jordan, Deon Sanders and a couple of other athletes I would classify as great athletes. How about Pete Rose? I watched him throughout his whole career and I can promise you there isn’t a ball player today that plays with the tenacity that Pete Rose played with. He legged out every hit and wasn’t afraid to mix it up with a few opponents. I believe it was Dave Winfield that was drafted by 3 separate professional sports teams if my memory serves me correctly so in terms of multi-talented athletes LeBron may not compare to other athletes of the past.
Don’t get me wrong here, I see Steven A’s point. I’ve been a big fan of basketball for years and spent plenty of winters growing up on Sunday afternoon watching Wilt the Stilt, Larry Bird, Kareem and his sky hook. Heck, I think Bill Laimbeer could actually be in the running for greatest ever for enduring some of the beatings he took back in the day, most warranted but nonetheless. Seriously though, could LeBron be the best athlete ever? I’ll give him this, he’s probably the strongest athlete out there and LeBron is able to impose his will like no other player. I attended several NBA games here in Atlanta during our daughters High School days and her short lived basketball interest during high school. Often times we had very nice seats just behind the visiting teams bench and sometimes we got to interact with a few of the players. During that time I was able to get a close up view of a lot of NBA players and I can say that of all the players I got to watch, Lebron was definitely the most intimidating. When he drives to the rim you might as well step aside because if you don’t he’s going to make you look stupid.
There’s no doubt in my mind that LeBron is the greatest basketball player of all time but from my 50 plus years of sports spectating, unless Lebron picks up a golf club or a baseball bat and impresses me he got a ways to go to be the greatest athlete of all time. What’s your take on the greatest athlete of all time?