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Who's the Greatest Athlete of All Time?


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In the wake of the Football World Cup and Messi finally getting his hands on the greatest trophy in sports history this question has been floated around a lot the past hours.

 

It's obviously an impossible comparison; different sports and different eras, but it's still an interesting one. Among my friends it's not really a question, since Football is the "one and only" sport, but I would assume you guys have different opinions.

 

I didn't make it as a poll since there's too many options here and I don't even know who I would be adding to the poll. Instead I do it as an open thread, where you can write who you think is the "GOAT" and why.

 

For me it's Messi and it's not because of this world cup (although it was a perfect icing on the cake), but for what he's done the past 15+ years. If you've watched football you know, if you haven't, this should be a good summary of his incredible career:

With Barcelona - 10x league winner, 7x cup winner, 4x Champions League winner

With PSG - 1x league winner, 1x Super cup winner

With Argentina - 1x Copa America, 1x World Cup

 

Individual:

8x Top scorer in La Liga

6x Top scorer in Champions League

10x Player of the year in La Liga

7x Ballon D'or winner

2x World Cup' best player of the tournament

 

For those who don't know. Ballon D'or is given annually to "The male player deemed to have performed the best over the previous year, based on voting by football journalists, coaches and captains". It started in 1956 and has been given out every year since. There's a few players in history that have won 3, Cristiano Ronaldo won 5, Messi has 7. He might also be in the running for his 8th this season.

 

Anyone better?

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15 minutes ago, Pete said:

Gretzky or Jordan. 

 

I find soccer to be highly manufactured. What Gretzky and Jordan did, how good they were vs their peers, and longevity... Those are my picks. 

I'll give you Gretzky, but was Jordan so much better than everyone else? Isn't it still a debate about who's the basketball goat?

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3 minutes ago, Zuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuc said:

I'll give you Gretzky, but was Jordan so much better than everyone else? Isn't it still a debate about who's the basketball goat?

I don't know, I'm not much of a hoops fan. But I think part of being "the greatest" is drive, intensity, pushing yourself, compete level, will to win. Like, this guy wouldn't even play a friendly game of golf.

 

Similarly, Gretzky retired when he was 1 year removed from a 90 point season...His retirement year he put up 62pts in 70 games which is a highly productive season in that era, but it wasn't "Gretzky-like", so he walked away. He said he couldn't compete at his level with all the clutch and grab, so he'd rather walk away when he could have played probably 2-3 more seasons.

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47 minutes ago, Pete said:

Gretzky or Jordan. 

 

I find soccer to be highly manufactured. What Gretzky and Jordan did, how good they were vs their peers, and longevity... Those are my picks. 

 

 

I can dig these, Pete.  I'll throw one more in there:  Bo Jackson.

 

I always thought that guy was Superman.  I just wish he had lasted longer.

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This is such a tough and touchy question because we're inclined toward team sports and that leaves a LOT to circumstance.

 

Is Messi in the GOAT conversation without teammates like Pique and Xavi and Iniesta at Barca (among others, since Barca routinely had 20 top tier players), or Mascherano and Higuain and Zabaleta and Aguero and so on internationally? Or even without his rivalry with Ronaldo?

Is Gretzky as great as he was without Coffey and Messier and Kurri and Anderson and the rest of that 80s Oilers contingency? Honestly..is he as great as he was without playing in that abortion of a division for over half a decade where he and seven other hall-of-famers just ran over a smattering of expansion teams and WHA dregs?

Is Jordan the same without Pippen and Rodman and Grant and Kukoc? Or the mystique around his retirement and return?

Is Brady remotely as effective without Belichick? 

 

All of this is detail and circumstance - to some extent, greatness is "right person, right place, right time" - and that's the awesome thing about team sports and the GOAT conversations. But all of this makes me really hesitate to give the GOAT athlete title to a team sports athlete. I'd have to lean toward an individual competitor, and that leads me to Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, or someone in that ilk.

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16 minutes ago, LindG1000 said:

This is such a tough and touchy question because we're inclined toward team sports and that leaves a LOT to circumstance.

 

Is Messi in the GOAT conversation without teammates like Pique and Xavi and Iniesta at Barca (among others, since Barca routinely had 20 top tier players), or Mascherano and Higuain and Zabaleta and Aguero and so on internationally? Or even without his rivalry with Ronaldo?

Is Gretzky as great as he was without Coffey and Messier and Kurri and Anderson and the rest of that 80s Oilers contingency? Honestly..is he as great as he was without playing in that abortion of a division for over half a decade where he and seven other hall-of-famers just ran over a smattering of expansion teams and WHA dregs?

Is Jordan the same without Pippen and Rodman and Grant and Kukoc? Or the mystique around his retirement and return?

Is Brady remotely as effective without Belichick? 

 

All of this is detail and circumstance - to some extent, greatness is "right person, right place, right time" - and that's the awesome thing about team sports and the GOAT conversations. But all of this makes me really hesitate to give the GOAT athlete title to a team sports athlete. I'd have to lean toward an individual competitor, and that leads me to Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, or someone in that ilk.

You're in PED territory here.

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1 hour ago, Ozzy said:

 

 

I can dig these, Pete.  I'll throw one more in there:  Bo Jackson.

 

I always thought that guy was Superman.  I just wish he had lasted longer.

One of my favorite players of all time.  Kind of a dick in person though.  I have a custom painting of him made that I paid a nice chunk of change for, he did a signing at Steiner Sports at Roosevelt Field, I asked for him to sign the painting in a gold sharpie paint pen, he was an ass, took a blue sharpie marker and signed it.  

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Different categories of greatest athlete IMO. Most athletic athlete? Most skilled/talented? Greatest at individual sport relative to their competition, such that the gap between them and their competition was larger than other greats in other sports and their respective competition?
 

Athletic: Michael Jordan

Skilled/Talented: Babe Ruth (mastering both hitting and pitching - no equivalent in another sport)

Relative to Competition: Tom Brady, Tiger Woods

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I don’t even know how you begin comparing something like golf to hockey but my take is that hockey is the greatest sport and gretzky is the greatest hockey player so gretzky is therefor the greatest athlete.

 

My alternative answer would be Jordan and im not even a big basketball fan. 

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most athletic? 
gretzky was the most dominant in his sport, and there’s not really a debate if anyone is close to him.

 

messi? With the constant comparison to Ronaldo, he’s out. 
 

MJ might be the greatest winner. But there are legit debates about being the best basketballer.

 

i immediately thought Deion/Bo, but then went to Floyd Mayweather… before I realized he lost in the Olympics
 

I’ve settled for Michael Phelps edging Usain Bolt 

 

 

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On 12/19/2022 at 8:28 AM, Zuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuc said:

I'll give you Gretzky, but was Jordan so much better than everyone else? Isn't it still a debate about who's the basketball goat?

There is still plenty of debate over who the best soccer player of all time is. Messi winning the World Cup didn’t change that. He’s not Maradona, he’s not Pele, etc. 

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5 minutes ago, Keirik said:

There is still plenty of debate over who the best soccer player of all time is. Messi winning the World Cup didn’t change that. He’s not Maradona, he’s not Pele, etc. 

I don't think it's a debate at all really. There might be some recency bias here, but it looks like if not all, the majority of the Football community agrees. Even the Cristiano fans admits it now.

 

While I obviously never watched either Maradona or Pele, I don't think you can compare them to what Messi has done. Pele didn't even play in Europe, stayed in Brazil (and US) his entire career. Maradona was great, but he's in this company for more than just his play on the pitch. Maradona played 491 Club games. Messi has scored 701 club goals (in 853 games. 300+ assists).

 

Maradona and Pele are compared to Messi because of nostalgia. It's not really close at all when you see how Messi has dominated football for more than 15 years.

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3 minutes ago, Zuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuc said:

I don't think it's a debate at all really. There might be some recency bias here, but it looks like if not all, the majority of the Football community agrees. Even the Cristiano fans admits it now.

 

While I obviously never watched either Maradona or Pele, I don't think you can compare them to what Messi has done. Pele didn't even play in Europe, stayed in Brazil (and US) his entire career. Maradona was great, but he's in this company for more than just his play on the pitch. Maradona played 491 Club games. Messi has scored 701 club goals (in 853 games. 300+ assists).

 

Maradona and Pele are compared to Messi because of nostalgia. It's not really close at all when you see how Messi has dominated football for more than 15 years.

I don’t agree with any of that lol. I’ve watched over the last days many in the football community still say others are as good if not better. For so,e reason, people feel the need to live in absolutes. It makes very little sense to me. I think you are just trying to romanticize things because you got to see Messi accomplish his ultimate team goal. The majority of Messi’s accomplishments are with an utterlly stacked Barcelona. Even going to PSG, you’re talking about a team stacked. Messi, Mbappe, Neymar lol. 
 

football isn’t the sport where statistics hold even remotely the same meaning as other sports because they don’t translate at all to other leagues around the world. Hell one of the Champions League wins he has was when he was very young and barely playing. Barcelona has always been a powerhouse.  Messi is up there as one of the greats in football. Best footballer of all time? Nope, but he certainly benefits from always being on a,a big teams and is a great compiler.

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2 minutes ago, Keirik said:

I don’t agree with any of that lol. I’ve watched over the last days many in the football community still say others are as good if not better. For so,e reason, people feel the need to live in absolutes. It makes very little sense to me. I think you are just trying to romanticize things because you got to see Messi accomplish his ultimate team goal. The majority of Messi’s accomplishments are with an utterlly stacked Barcelona. Even going to PSG, you’re talking about a team stacked. Messi, Mbappe, Neymar lol. 
 

football isn’t the sport where statistics hold even remotely the same meaning as other sports because they don’t translate at all to other leagues around the world. Hell one of the Champions League wins he has was when he was very young and barely playing. Barcelona has always been a powerhouse.  Messi is up there as one of the greats in football. Best footballer of all time? Nope, but he certainly benefits from always being on a,a big teams and is a great compiler.

I've had Messi as the goat long before this World Cup, just so that's clear. What he's done with a football has never and will never be replicated. I hate Barcelona more than probably any club in the world, I got no bias here whatsoever, but there's just no one close to him, and all his ballon d'ors are proof of that.

 

Besides Messi and Ronaldo, no one has won more than 3. Then Messi won 7, while playing at the same time as Ronaldo (who won 5 himself).

 

I don't really buy the "powerhouse" argument. They competed with Ronaldo's Real Madrid for most of his time there and all the top clubs in Europe are "powerhouses". Messi was the main reason Barcelona was as good as they were for as long as they were. They've been complete shit after he left.

 

And the Argentina team he won the World Cup with was far from a powerhouse. Not comparable to Pele's Brazil teams.

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Just now, Zuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuc said:

I've had Messi as the goat long before this World Cup, just so that's clear. What he's done with a football has never and will never be replicated. I hate Barcelona more than probably any club in the world, I got no bias here whatsoever, but there's just no one close to him, and all his ballon d'ors are proof of that.

 

Besides Messi and Ronaldo, no one has won more than 3. Then Messi won 7, while playing at the same time as Ronaldo (who won 5 himself).

 

I don't really buy the "powerhouse" argument. They competed with Ronaldo's Real Madrid for most of his time there and all the top clubs in Europe are "powerhouses". Messi was the main reason Barcelona was as good as they were for as long as they were. They've been complete shit after he left.

 

And the Argentina team he won the World Cup with was far from a powerhouse. Not comparable to Pele's Brazil teams.

I didn’t say you were biased. I’m not sure why the Ballon d’Or is the end all be all. It’s a ridiculously subjective award. Lewandowski was robbed of one that was given to Messi. It was comical. Even some of the years Messi got it, some were left scratching their heads as to why. It’s just so subjective.  

im not even sure how there is an argument about Bar Leona being stacked throughout Messi’s career. It doesn’t mean Messi isn’t the best of those players on his teams, but it’s not like he was winning all by himself and not with world class players. 
 

Pele won 3 world cups. The first was with him as a 17 year old leading Brazil I being the youngest player at the time to participate, youngest to ever get a hat trick, and scored. 2 goals in the World Cup final. 
 

But anyway, he’s a generational player. We are lucky to be around to see him. I just don’t think he’s the best of all time in the sport, let alone translating to other sports as well. 

 

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