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Thread: Greatest sporting Legend

  1. #31

    Re: Sky 'Greatest Sporting Legend' Boxing

    writehooks, you make great points.

    Taking a worldwide perspective, you have to include sports that the world, and not just the US, cares about. And being famous around the world is also important.

    I would like to add another popular world sport that has not been mentioned: cricket. Cricket is the ultimate gentleman game, and there are more cricket fans in the world than baseball fans. Cricket is especially popular in the UK where this poll is being held. If the greatest baseball player of all time, Babe Ruth, is included then the greatest cricketer of all time, Sir Donald Bradman, should also be on the list.

    As far as sports legends go, worldwide, I would list the following 10 in no particular order (You have to have two football players in a worldwide list because of its popularity in the world):

    Muhummad Ali
    Babe Ruth
    Martina Navratilova
    Carl Lewis (huge impact overseas and arguably the greatest track and field athlete ever)
    Sir Donald Bradman
    Edson Arantes de Nascimento (ie Pele)
    Diego Maradona
    Michael Jordan
    Jim Thorpe
    Michael Schumacher (although I'm not familiar with the sport or his impact)


  2. #32
    Sebastian Guerriero

    Re: Sky 'Greatest Sporting Legend' Boxing

    Just for me, it has to be Secretariat. His performance at Belmont is forever etched in my mind as the closest thing to perfection I've ever seen.

  3. #33

    Re: Sky 'Greatest Sporting Legend' Boxing

    Alexander Karelin (born September 19, 1967 in Novosibirsk, Russia) was a dominant Greco-Roman wrestler for the Soviet Union and later, after its dissolution, for Russia. He won gold medals at the 1988, 1992, and 1996 Olympic Games. Nicknamed the "Russian Dan Gable", and commonly referred to in the media as "The Experiment", he went undefeated in international competition from 1987 until 2000, when he was upset by American Rulon Gardner in the gold-medal match at the Summer Olympics. Karelin went the last 10 years of his unbeaten streak without giving up a point.

    He competed at the heaviest weight class of his day, 130 kg (286 lb). His conditioning and incredible physical stature for his weight, perhaps combined with his dominance of the sport, led to him being known as "The Experiment" by much of the rest of the world. The term connoted at least a little bit of jealousy from others that could not match his strength and skill, and because of that assuming it was only possible through some kind of science experiment. When asked why he thought he was called that, Karelin noted that others don't understand because "I train every day of my life as they have never trained a day in theirs." He could have been referring not only to sports media, but perhaps also to other wrestlers and athletes.

    Karelin was famous for his body lift, the "Karelin Lift", where facing the opponent who was lying flat on the mat to keep from being thrown, Karelin was able to lift the opponent from around his waist and throw him all the way over the opponent's shoulders, scoring from 2 to 5 points depending on the height of the throw. Karelin's ability to make this throw against opponents weighing 130 kg, also in elite physical condition, was simply amazing to audiences and other participants in and observers of the sport.

    Karelin holds a PhD in Physical Education. He is also active in Russian

    from wikipedia

    I have to go with this guy as number one. 10 years of international wrestling competition and he doesn't give up a freakin point. I've always considered wrestling the tougest sport with the best conditioned athletes. I wrestler (very little ) in high school and 3 minutes was enough to totally exhaust every muscle in my body. It requires strength and balance as well as using stamina.

    1. alexander karelin
    2. carl lewis
    3. michael jordan
    4 ray robinson
    5 pele
    6 gretzky
    7 bo jackson
    8 jim thorpe
    9 wilt chamberlain
    10 bjorn borg

    i excluded females and race car drivers. I feel if you nominate a race car driver, you might as well nominate iditarod sled drivers as well. to much depends on ones car and pit crew.
    carl lewis for all his track accomplishments. multiple gold medals
    Just watching a tape of ray robinson jump rope in slow motion was enough for me to nominate him. total control of his body. 173 wins over the best fighters in his day eclipses anything ali did. Pele for being the best in another sport played around the globe. he continued to dominate even after being continuously be targeted by other teams. same reason i chose gretzky. he continued to score even when they designed defenses around him.
    bo jackson didn't have a lengthy career, but I'll never forget how he dominated at running back. Plus he had eye/hand coordination from baseball and world class speed.
    wilt was just a dominating figure. a lot of people are tall, but he was just dominating.
    bjorn borg because I once heard a report his pulse rarely rose even during matches. he dominated tennis during his time.

  4. #34

    Re: Sky 'Greatest Sporting Legend' Boxing

    no offense to any women. jackie joyner kersee and babe didrickson would definitly be on any list of top 10 athletes. I just limited myself to the male side.

  5. #35

    Re: Sky 'Greatest Sporting Legend' Boxing

    Nice post, jyoung...Hard to argue with much of that. But I wouldn't include Jackson because his career was too short. Tragic, but, them's the breaks...

  6. #36
    walsh b

    Re: Sky 'Greatest Sporting Legend' Boxing

    Youngfan, are you seriously not putting Ali in the list.....Why???.....As for Schumacher and motorsports drivers. They are very good, but a hell of a lot has to do with the car and team you have. It's not a sport on an equal footing, the team with the most cash and greater technology will usually produce the world champion. If they all had equal cars, then I'd give credit where due. Schumacher has done nothing this season, why???, because his car isn't as dominant as it was in the past. The only guy I'd consider would be Sena, he was without doubt the fastest driver to ever race in F1 and I'm in no doubt tha if he and Schuey raced in identical cars, Senna would prevail everytime....

  7. #37


    these new guys. What about the great drivers of the past? Andretti, Unser, Petty, Jackie Stewart, etc.?

  8. #38


    Whenever I hear somebody opine that the cars are the real stars of auto racing, I'm reminded of Mark Martin's reply when the 15-year NASCAR veteran was asked why professional drivers should be classified as "athletes."

    "Drive a car as fast as you're comfortable driving," said Martin. "Okay, now imagine driving it twice that fast much faster than it was designed to go. There are other drivers on all sides of you, who are also driving their cars faster than they were designed to go. You're in 135-degree heat, barely able to move your body, and mere inches away from the other cars for four hours, at speeds eclipsing 200 miles per hour. You have mental and physical stress that's incredible. Afterwards, you're physically whipped out of breath to the point that you can barely speak. That's what race car drivers are up against, week after week."

    Of course, a lot of them get killed, too. All of which, in my opinion, makes Schumacher's astonishing success in F1 more than simply a testament to his ability to pilot a combustible coffin faster than anyone else (at least until this season). Apart from Ali and Pele, no athlete in the last few decades has so combined complete dominance of his sport with a truly global profile, which I humbly submit is the equation for a true "legend." And while I have tremendous respect for, say, Lance Armstrong and what he's overcome to totally dominate his sport, cycling can hardly be considered routinely lethal. Anyone who's spent time on the streets of Beijing or Shanghai is virtually surrounded by a Tour de France-type pack 24-7, but the fatality factor is negligible.

  9. #39
    walsh b

    Re: He's Cynical...He's Cynical Not...

    Writehooks, the point is that how can you really determine which driver is the best when they're all driving different performance cars. At least in boxing and soccer and swimming and tennis, it's man against man and you don't have any real advantage apart from your own skill, guts, courage, stamina, luck and determination.
    And in boxing it's man against man, weight pretty much equal....that's a real test of an athlete. I'm not saying they aren't great, but their is very very little to separate them in terms of their own skills, what mainly determines the great driver from the truly great is the car they happen to be in. F1 has been a joke over the last 10-15 yrs, because Ferrari and Williams and Maclaren have been out on their own, and not all together. Each season, it's usually one of them that is vastly superior.

    I almost forgot to include gymnastics in my list. It's got to go down as one of, if not the most skillful, tough and brave sports on the planet......That said you may have to put either Comaneci, Korbut, Vitaly Scherbo, Larissa Latyianna into a top ten..............And remember, these weren't doing the sport for cash!!!!!

  10. #40

    Re: He's Cynical...He's Cynical Not...

    Ali is larger than life at this point. some people think he's the greatest everything of all time and look at his career with rose colored glasses. His legend grows with each generation. I left him off the list for a few reasons. The first reason was his dirty fighting. If you watch his fights, he continuously grabs opponents behind the head and holds them close. Plain and simple, its illegal. Its very effective, just ask frazier whom he grabbed over 100 times in their second fight, but its still illegal.
    Also, he rubbed ernie terrells face aginst the ropes. Look at the after fight picture of terrell. He never gave Foreman, Young, or Terrell a rematch.
    the second reason i left him off the list are his losses. He lost to leon spinks and trevor berbick. yes, they were at the end of his career. I just don't think his 61 fights compare with robinsons 200 fights, peps 242, or henry armstrongs 182 fights.
    ali is not the greatest boxer of all time so how can i put him on the list ahead of the others?
    I have nothing against race car drivers. But I believe too much depends on the car and pit crew. Same reason I didn't put willie shoemaker on the list. A jockey legend and a great athlete, but a lot depended on the horses he rode.

  11. #41


    Gymnastics, yes. Tough and deserving.

    I think jyoung makes good points on Ali, but "great sportsman" encompasses more than achievements within the ropes. It also encompasses social, political, cultural impact. In those aspects, Ali's career has no peer. And Ali was also a global phenomenon. His fights were important geopolitical events, played out on the world stage. What fighter since Ali could be wooed by a third-world country in the hopes that his fame would put that country "on the map," like the leader of Zaire did with Ali?

  12. #42
    walsh b

    Re: .

    Dscribe, well said. jimmy young fan. I'll be blunt: your reasons are ridiculous, you are entitled to them but I just think they STINK....Ali whether you think he was dirty or not was an A+ FIGHTER, Greatest fighter ever. Robinson was brilliant and so were many others. Plenty of the alltime greats used suspect tactics from time to time. There have been very very few great fighters thru history that have been complete 'angels' in the ring. Ali was no different, but to use that as an excuse along with not giving rematches, he beat Foreman fair and square. Would you give Foreman a rematch. The guy almost killed Ali......Ali proved his worth in the ring every time and proved it even more outside the ring....Leaving him off a top ten list is ridiculous in my view...

  13. #43

    Re: .

    Greatest fighter ever??? as i said, rose colored glasses.

    Ali is an Icon, he is the greatest. But I feel that title comes from as much of his out of the ring accomplishments as well in the ring. Dscribe is probably right as far as sports legends go, only Ali can go anywhere in the world without a passport. I took the list more in the direction of greatest athlete or athletic prowess.
    gretzky- greatest hockey player ever
    jordan-greatest basketball player ever
    chamberlain, just a hair short of jordan
    pele- greatest soccer player ever
    karelin- greatest olympic wrestler ever
    lewis- probably greatest track athlete ever
    robinson- greatest boxer ever
    borg- possibly greatest tennis player ever

    bo jackson is a strech. There was just something about him that you knew you were watching greatness every time he performed. It was kind of like watching Jim Brown run down a football field , going around or through everybody in his path. Almost like a man playing with boys. Jackson had as much power as brown, but a little more grace and hand/eye coordination from playing baseball. no matter what sport jackson took up, you just knew he could be one of the best.
    Tiger woods will probably be the greatest golfer ever and should make the list, knocking off borg in a few years.

    The trouble with lists is everyone has his own. Everyone has their own opinion. You can put 10 race car drivers on your list if you feel that way. A lot of people would say Joe Louis was a better boxer than Ali . You could make an argument for ultimate fighters being the greatest athletes. You could make an argument for Bruce Lee being the greatest all around athlete of all time.

  14. #44
    walsh b


    Jyoung, you say that all these athetes are the greatest in their sport as if it were a science, yet you dismiss the notion of Ali being the greatest in his sport . Robinson may be the greatest in your eyes, not somebody else's. Pele also, lot would say Cruyff or Maradona or Georgie Best. Its opinion. Jordan and Gretsky the same. As far as athletes go, Ali in my eyes was number 1. Carl Lewis was a superb athlete, Ali was better, Jordan was a superb athlete, Ali was better. He's like you said, a legend as much for his outer ring activity as in it, but let's say the list was on pure athleticism.....I'd still rank him the highest, greatest heavyweight fighter ever is the ultimate sports accolade. Lewis, Jordan, Pele, Ruth, Chamberlain etc do not come close. Most do rank him eithe number 1 or 2 in the greatest heavyweight list and even the farcical P4P list, he will be up there. It's a great poll anyway and I hope Ali wins it, as he is in my opinion the most deserving of the title.......One last thing, all the greats in their sports deserve a nod, I just feel the pro boxing at its best is just hat bit higher in terms of greatness, toughness and prestige as a sport. It has no equal......

  15. #45

    Re: ???

    exactly, any sports list is just opinion.
    I just don't understand how you can say Ali was a better athlete than jordan or lewis? how can you say chamberlain and Pele don't come close? Atletecism is a combination speed, power, endurance, heart,conditioning, and coordination. I would not rank ruth as a great athlete because i think I could even beat him in a footrace. He is however, a great sports legend. Its all opinion. If you feel Ali is the highest form of sports evolution, so be it. On this board everyone is entitled to an opinion.
    I will be on vacation for the next week so I'll look forward to seeing other lists when I get back.
    Also, look to the experts. Hank kaplan and bert sugar rank Robinson as the greatest boxer ever and Hank Kaplan ranks Joe Louis above Ali in the heavyweight division.

  16. #46

    Re: ???

    About thirty years ago, a French poll listed Pele
    as the greatest athlete ever. Of course, ESPN
    listed Michael Jordan as the greatest athlete
    ever in North America at the beginning of the
    21st Century. But I feel that Pele is a very
    good choice because he played an old and
    popular sport.

    - Chuck Johnston

  17. #47
    walsh b

    Re: ???

    I just think as far as athletes and athleticism go...boxing is the sport that combines the most assets of a great great athlete. They do what other athletes could never do. Carl Lewis was a brilliant runner and jumper....he was born to do it, his whole physique and make up geard him for it. Boxers do not rely as much on this for success. Basketballers are the same, it's almost a necessity that you have to be extremely tall to be successful. Even Jordan was small for a basketballer, that's why he was so special. Are boxers the most finely tuned and conditioned athletes on the planet...I say definitely yes. You get any great boxer thru the years and I bet they could play most sports out here well. Get a sports man to try out boxing for 2-3 mins and it's a no no. What sport compares to two heavyweights throwing punches for 45 mins non stop, going forward, backward, and side to side. Slipping, parrying and taking shots for 45 mins. Absorbing what they do and still able to give an interview afterwards. If that's not the greates Feat of athleticism, I don't know what is. How do you compare what Carl Lewis does to that, or Jordan does or Pele or Gretzky or Spitz or anyone for that matter. They are fantastic athletes, but they're a notch below the great boxers. ESPN together with experts from all aspects of sport conducted a poll to find the toughest most demanding sport of all. It took into account speed, agility, endurance, nerve, strength, stamina, skill etc and Boxing ranked number 1....I'm not saying that's sold proof, but it was a very good read.....

  18. #48
    J Slade

    Re: Greatest sports legends

    In my opinion, the top 3:

    1) Jim Thorpe

    2) Babe Ruth

    3) Joe Louis

  19. #49

    Re: Greatest Sports Legends

    Legends... not greatest athletes? OK, let's see who I thought was amazing as a kid... these were the greatest sports legends in my mind:

    Jim Thorpe, Pele, Muhammad Ali, Mark Spitz, Jesse Owens, Fanny Blankers-Koen, Babe Didrikson, Babe Ruth, Maurice Richard, Bobby Orr, Johnny Weismuller, Bjorn Borg, Nadia Comaneci, Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jean-Claude Killy, Jackie Robinson, Stan Matthews, Paavo Nurmi, Martina Navritolova, Wayne Gretzky, Abebe Bikila, Emile Zatopek, and... where to stop?

  20. #50


    Ultimately, I think the word "legend" connotes something more than an athlete who possesses a supreme degree of skill, intelligence, nerve or endurance. It implies someone whose exploits -- on and off the field of play -- are "legendary," awe-inspiring and capable of being retold again and again over time by successive generations. I think the best of the examples given -- Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Jim Thorpe, etc. -- possess those qualities. Their achievements have become part of folklore, the sporting tradition. A legend needs to be larger than life, with accomplishments that reasonate over time and that transcend the universe of mere sports fans. And I think a "legend" should have a following that endures based on a sincere and lasting public affection, like Arnold Palmer's "Arnie's Army," for example. I'm surprised that nobody mentioned John L. Sullivan, in the boxing category, one of the few fighters who could reasonably be described as "legendary."

  21. #51
    J Slade

    Re: legend

    Well put DC. And I agree. The first 3 who come to my mind under that criteria are Thorpe, Ruth, and Louis. One can certainly argure that they weren't even the best in their respective games but I think each has transcended sports and the mention of their names makes most folks think of many other things besides sports.

    Babe Ruth became a folk hero even in his own time. And legendary today.

    Joe Louis was such an important sociological figure that in his time, unlike young Ali, just about everybody could identify with him in their own way. Regardless of race or social status. Represented American Might at a time when such a concept was being tested.

    I think Thorpe was probably under-appreciated in his time by those outside the sport's circle, but his achievments in sports are unparrleled even today. And those who competed against him attributted phenomenal abilities to him. And leading a small Indian school to victories against gridiron powerhouses like Harvard and Army.... Truly the stuff of legends in hindsight.

    Good point about John L Sullivan too. Probably the first individual in American sports who people began to collectivley live vicariously through. His popularity and force of personality would have been amazing if he had the venues of radio and television during his reign.

  22. #52


    Another strike against Sullivan is that in any kind of "list making" exercise, more recent personalities are overemphasized and those from prior generations underemphasized simply because they were before the voters' time. People will vote for Jerry Rice, not Red Grange, Tiger Woods not Ben Hogan, etc.

  23. #53

    JOHN L.


    Go back & read the begining of this thread I mentioned Sullivan along with Louis & Ali. Sullivan was the first American superstar & deserves notice.


  24. #54


    when I'm speaking of sports fans generally, of course I am excepting the real die-hard scholars. If only the avg person voting on these things had your perspective, this tunnel vision wouldn't be a problem.

  25. #55
    walsh b

    Re: He's Cynical...He's Cynical Not...

    Just to add that Jack Nicklaus and Navratilova progressed thru to the final. They got top votes in Golf and tennis. The final line uo so far is Pele, Ali, Navratilova, Nicklaus....they are still voting on the greatest motor racer and greatest jockey....Senna, Schumacher, Mansell, Lester Pigott, Tony McCoy are some of the names in for this one.....

  26. #56


    jack nicklaus ahead of arnold palmer and ben hogan. interesting.
    navratilova I can see
    shoemaker would get my vote for jockey
    motor racer, I would vote for mario andretti.
    should willie mosconi be considered? possibly the greatest pool player, which requires strategy, hand/eye coordination, nerves, patience, and practice.

  27. #57

    Re: Soccer Players

    Since soccer isn't popular in the United States, so I
    can understand soccer players are not highly regarded
    as athletes by many Americans. But in order to be a
    top soccer player, one has to have alot of stamina,
    skill, a high tolerance of pain, and desire. Yes, I am
    an American and love American sports, but I also
    like to watch European soccer.

    - Chuck Johnston

  28. #58

    Louis top legend

    Think about it Joe Louis, a black man with equal billing, filled Yankee Stadium 5 times against a white opponent-in the 1930's !! And as far as not being an international legend recall that he faced Max Schmeling in 1938, the most important sporting event of the twentieth century, as the whole world was watching. Louis was represented as all that is good in a "free democracy." against the evil of fascism. Louis had virtually the full support of the whole nation. Even most white people in the deep south felt it was their patriotic duty to root for the "negro" Louis.
    I think time has diminished what Louis meant to breaking down the barriers, his role in social change in this country has been vastly underestimated by the modern mainstream press who are slow to to give credit to anything that concerns boxing and long before the Jackie Robinson breakthrough in "elitist baseball." He is much more important than Jackie Robinson-Joe was the greatest sports legend !

  29. #59

    Re: Louis top legend

    During a period of fifteen years before the U.S.'s
    entry in World War II, the amount of world-class
    black athletes increased dramatically in the
    country. For example, compare the middle 1920s
    with the early 1930s when there was a dramatic
    increase of top black fighters. Moreover, there
    were an increasing number of black track stars
    even before Jesse Owens came on to the scene.

    But I still agree with Chuck Hasson that the
    advent of Joe Louis had a huge impact. This
    is a man who was drawing tremendous crowds
    to see his fights at a time when boxing, like
    all other sports, was hit very hard economically
    because of the GREAT DEPRESSION. Moreover,
    millions of people would listen to radio broadcasts
    of his bouts throughout the country. Because
    Louis was such a tremendous gate attraction
    during such a tough time, it signified that black
    athletes were here to stay and there wasn't
    anything that was going to change that fact.

    In regards of Organized Baseball, I think that
    it was far behind the times. Of course, you
    wouldn't learn that if you read recent books
    on baseball history and articles by current

    - Chuck Johnston

  30. #60


    As I wrote earlier in this thread without Joe there would have been no Jackie Robinson. & Chuck is right, the Schmeling bout was the single most important sporting event of the 20th Century.

    Every athlete of color -including Jackie Robinson - owes Louis a huge debt that has somehow been forgotten in the bloody mitts of time ...


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