The Greatest Athletes of Our Time

Bill StellContributor IJanuary 20, 2009

Who are the greatest athletes of our time?  This is always a great conversation or debate for sports fans.

The first thing we must do is define "our" time.  Is it the past five, 10, 20 years?  Since you can remember? Since the 1900s?  For the purposes of this article, I am going to use my lifetime as far as I can remember.

The next thing to do is define which sport.  Now everyone has their favorite sport, but I am going to list my favorites by sport, which includes most of them but not all.  I don't follow soccer or cricket or volleyball.  If I don't list your favorite, don't feel bad; I'm sure someone somewhere will let me have it over the omission.

Let's get to the listing (with some notes as to why I include them where needed).



The '72 Dolphins (what a group of players), "Mean" Joe Greene, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Johnny Unitas (the greatest two-minute drill I have ever seen), Bart Starr, Randy White, Howie Long, Emmitt Smith, Big Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and the one sure to start a debate, "Neon" Deion Sanders.



Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, the Killer B's for the Astros, Roger Clemens, even though he was greedy and went to whoever paid the most, Craig Biggio, who even though he was small for a ball player still put up amazing numbers, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa.


Indy Car/F1

Only two here—Mario Andretti (European class) and A.J. Foyt (brash and crass)—but what great races they had.



Richard Petty.



Dr. J, Magic Johnson, Pistol Pete, Michael Jordan, and of course, the Phi Slamma Jamma group.



Now I know some of you do not think pro golfers are athletes, but trust me, they are.  Jack "The Golden Bear" Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, "The Elder Statesman," and of course, Tiger Woods.


Well, there you have it.  My personal list of the greatest athletes of our time.  I'm sure I forgot a lot of great ones, but I tried to limit the list to those that have stuck in my mind over 40+ years in such a way that I can still see them in my mind playing.