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Greatest sportsman of your times

Rambunctious

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Walter Payton....
 

MarathonMike

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My sainted Grandpa used to tell me about seeing Babe Ruth play. My sainted Pop told me tales of Joe DiMaggio. They considered them the greatest sportsmen/athletes/celebrity jocks of their time.

Then I got thinking who dominated in my day. Personally, I think Muhammad Ali filled the bill for a kid born in the mid fifties, coming of age and awareness in the mid sixties and into adulthood in the seventies. And this from a guy who hails from the Pittsburgh area! Sure, Roberto Clemente was a hero. Franco Harris and Jack Lambert were awesome. But Ali was by far the most celebrated athlete in my eyes.

Who was it for you? Michael Jordan? No NBA franchise in the Burgh so it was hard to follow his career and compare him to his contemporaries. Jack Nicklaus? Tiger? Joe Montana? Tell me who, why and when.

I guess its how you define Sportsman. In my mind; the "sportsman" descriptor means that someone who excels at numerous sports. Dieon Sanders and Bo Jackson come to mind first. Russel Wilson (QB of the Seahawks) is an accomplished baseball player as well as a Pro-Bowl QB if I'm not mistaken.

If you're talking athlete; Micheal Phelps is probably the guy I'd pick. What, 28 medals? 23 World Records according to his Wikipedia page. Its probably not a close call using that barometer.

Now if you're talking success, Phelps again is probably the guy but converting that into commercial success is a different matter. Ali is probably the most marketed athlete ever just because of his longevity and status as the World's Heavyweight Champion. It used to be internationally revered. Now, the greatest "pound for pound" boxer is sort of the standard in boxing which, in and of itself, has lost it's luster.

Team sports are, I think, outside the description of the word "sportsman". If you put it into the context of excelling at one's position....Manning or Brady come to mind. I stick with these types of guys because the QB of an NFL team has so many calculations to make in 30 seconds and 4-11 guys who are trying to take his head off on every play.
I can see how Phelps can be admired for his outstanding accomplishments. But it's hard to argue swimmers. "Yeah, but you never saw Mark Spitz!" just isn't a come back you might hear.

I guess I'm asking who was the most celebrated athlete of your times. It's an ethereal quality, but one that could be made for Sanders or, especially Bo Jackson.

I'm a lifelong Steelers and Ohio State Buckeyes fan. While my teams had great quarterbacks, they really feature the running game. I went to school with two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin so...

Celebrated athlete...Probably Jordan. He's like Star Wars. He never goes away. Not that I want him to or anything but really.

As for Phelps, the records speak for themselves I would imagine. I'm sure there are some technological enhancements in terms of clothing and technique but it is essentially still just a man in the water competing against a clock.
ree that individual sports really highlight athletic talents. Golfers, boxers, tennis players. The ethos is 'I can beat you at this' while being a good sport in the process.

Don't know if it's true or not but here's an old story:

Sam Snead was playing a golf pro at a club. They bet $100.00. The pro beat Snead. Snead pulls out a $100 bill and hands it to the guy. The guy says, "Can you autograph it for me?" Snead says, "What for?" The golf pro says, "I want to frame it." Snead shoots back, great; I'll write you a check.

In terms of competition; I think all of the great ones have a little Sam Snead in them. I never saw him play or studied him much but as I understand it, he was careful with money and wasn't the most gracious loser.
As a kid I was lucky enough to see Sam Snead play in the PGA at Congressional in 1976. Even at his very advanced age his golf swing was gorgeous to watch. I saw him on the range warming up and marveled at how smooth and effortless he hit the ball and how it took off like a bullet. He had quite the life and yes he was old school ornry and a fierce competitor. And tremendous power in his younger days considering the crappy equipment he had.

I heard a story once that he competed in the British Open only one time because the expenses were so much more than the winnings.
That's true he only played once at St. Andrews in 1946 and won! That in itself is incredible. To play an unfamiliar links course and beat the greatest players in the world. He was so pissed at the $600 first prize because he spent much more on the trip and caddie fees he never went back. Which was a shame you'd have to think he would have won a couple more British Opens.

It shows how much the sports landscape has changed; doesn't it? Not always for the better.
I miss the old characters of golf. Nowadays the pro tour is full of golf terminators optimized for peak performance and all that crap. Give me the old guys that did it their way, the Sneads, Palmers, Chi Chi, Lee Trevino, I'd even put John Daly in there.
 

Ridgerunner

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I know this is probably against the rules, but what the heck that's just the kind of fellar I am...

Peyton Manning/Tony Dungy...

These two gentlemen are top of the line competitors... Not only are they both athletically inclined but they have mental abilities that most don't have... Class acts and benevolent beyond comparison... And they both fit like a pocket on a shirt...

This was really hard so I am going to thrown down and let everyone know that Bob Gibson of St Louis Cardinals fame was a close second...
 

candycorn

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I know this is probably against the rules, but what the heck that's just the kind of fellar I am...

Peyton Manning/Tony Dungy...

These two gentlemen are top of the line competitors... Not only are they both athletically inclined but they have mental abilities that most don't have... Class acts and benevolent beyond comparison... And they both fit like a pocket on a shirt...

This was really hard so I am going to thrown down and let everyone know that Bob Gibson of St Louis Cardinals fame was a close second...

Rules? Good choices in my book.
 

my2¢

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My time? I'd say hey it's Willie Mays
 

DGS49

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Interesting how little mention is made of the ideal of SPORTSMANSHIP. Sportsmanship is the character trait that makes one equally magnanimous in victory and defeat, never critical of an opponent and always recognizing the contribution of others to one's success.

It is outrageously ironic that someone near the top of this thread mentioned Cassius Clay/M. Ali. He personified the OPPOSITE of good sportsmanship. He PERSONALLY did more to demolish sportsmanship in American professional sports, particularly among Black athletes than anyone before or after him.

The sports where success is always limited (e.g., baseball, golf, hockey) are the ones where sportsmanship has always shown up best. You don't see many braggarts in baseball (where even the best hitters make an out 2/3 of the time) or those other sports.

So the best "Sportsmen" of all time must, in my opinion, combine superior performance with sportsmanship. The names of Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, Pete Sampras, and Bill Russell come to mind. Many baseball greats deserve a nod: Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, and Stan Musial.

Top of the list? Probably Tiger Woods. Incomparable dominance in his sport over a long period of time, combined with grace and poise. Ya just have to give him a pass on his personal troubles.
 

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