Sports Dominance We Should Appreciate While We Can

Laura Depta@lauradeptaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2017

Sports Dominance We Should Appreciate While We Can

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    Tom Brady and Bill Belichick must be appreciated, if not always liked. The duo has gone to seven Super Bowls together, won four and could win five Sunday night. The Pats are one of the greatest sports dynasties of this era, maybe ever. 

    That is dominance that must be respected by sports fans, because it might never happen again. 

    You don't have to like the following sports juggernauts, and you definitely don't have to root for them to keep winning. But, as a fan, you should appreciate the greatness while you still can. These are the people you might tell your kids or grandkids about one day. "Man, I couldn't stand Tom Brady, but he was a great football player."

    So, set aside the negativity for a brief moment, and simply marvel at the sports history being forged in front of your eyes.

Jimmie Johnson

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    Any time all-time records are within reach, you know you're dealing with historic dominance.

    With his 2016 NASCAR Cup win, Jimmie Johnson secured a seventh season title, tying Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most all-time.

    On that title, secured at Homestead Miami Speedway in November, David Smith of the Washington Post wrote, "For NASCAR observers, it radically alters the long-held opinion that Petty and Earnhardt are untouchable, forcing old-school fans to consider a new reality: Johnson might just be the best NASCAR driver of all time."

    Over the course of his 16-year career, Johnson has won 80 races in 543 starts and secured the pole position 35 times. The National Motorsports Press Association voted him Driver of the Year seven times, and he was named AP Male Athlete of the Year in 2009.

    Nick Bromberg of From the Marbles went as far as to write, "It's time to call Jimmie Johnson what he is: The best driver in NASCAR history."

Nick Saban's Crimson Tide

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    Nick Saban joined Alabama in 2007 and won four national championships during a seven-year span from 2009-2015. He's got a fifth from his time at LSU as well, making him just one title short of Bear Bryant's record.

    Saban's teams are almost always in contention for college football's top prize. The Crimson Tide have reached the AP No. 1 ranking at some point in each of the past nine seasons and captured four SEC titles under Saban.

    His recruiting classes are regularly in the top of the sport—literally, including 2017, Saban has pulled in the No. 1 recruiting class for seven consecutive seasons. He also locked up his 200th win in November, becoming the third youngest to reach the milestone and requiring just 261 games to do so.  

    Running back Damien Harris said, per Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com, "You have to tip your hat to Coach Saban. What he's done not only for us, but for college football ... it's something we may never see again."

    Sure, Alabama's dominance has reached the point of expected, boring even, but it's still a marvel to behold.

LeBron James

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    LeBron James might not ever take over the GOAT label from Michael Jordan, but that doesn't mean his dominance on the basketball court is not historic and worthy of admiration.

    Even before he left high school, it was apparent James was something special. Since then, the Cleveland Cavaliers forward has not only won three NBA titles, but he has also taken his teams to an astonishing six straight Finals. He is a 13-time All-Star and four-time league MVP.

    In the 2015 NBA Finals, James nearly won the series MVP despite a losing effort. In a victorious 2016 Finals, he notched a triple-double in Game 7, just the third player ever to do so.

    James is currently No. 8 on the all-time NBA scoring list and looks poised to jump over Shaquille O'Neal before season's end. He has proven he can single-handedly take over a game and likewise distribute and facilitate.  

    Teammate Richard Jefferson told Bleacher Report's Howard Beck in May, "He can do that if he chooses, but that's just not who he is naturally. He's not a Kobe. He's not a guy that does that naturally—like, 'I'm going to dominate the game by scoring.' He wants to dominate the game in different aspects of it."

     

Crosby vs. Ovechkin Rivalry

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    Sometimes it's not just individual dominance that deserves recognition—it's the convergence of two great individuals into one epic rivalry. Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin have given that to hockey fans for over a decade.

    Both No. 1 draft picks, each player came into the league in 2005 (because, lockout), Crosby with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ovechkin with the Washington Capitals. Since then, their individual prowess has only fueled the rivalry.

    Crosby has won two Hart Trophies as league MVP, two Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada.

    Ovechkin has collected three Hart Trophies, led the NHL in goal-scoring six times and scored his 1,000th career point in January. He is still searching for that elusive Stanley Cup, however.

    Crosby said in January, per Tim Wharnsby of CBC Sports, "We've played against each other for a long time in playoff matches and stuff like that. It's there. I think it was more heated when we were younger. But it's there. We both want to win. We both want to be at our best."

Gregg Popovich

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    San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is seventh on the all-time wins list for NBA coaches. All but one of those ahead of him (George Karl) are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

    Since taking over the head coaching job in 1996-97, Pop's teams have made 19 consecutive playoff appearances and won five NBA titles. He is also a three-time NBA Coach of the Year.

    To be as consistently good as Popovich's Spurs have been is no easy feat. 

    In January, Cleveland Cavaliers forward (and fellow basketball legend) LeBron James called Popovich "the greatest coach of all time" and said, "You have to be sharp, mentally and physically, when you go against his ballclub. If you were an NFL player, it's probably the same as going against a [Bill] Belichick team," per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.

    Despite the retirement of legendary Spur Tim Duncan in 2016, Popovich has made no indication he plans to follow. Furthermore, he is set to coach Team USA until 2020.

UConn Huskies

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    The Connecticut women's basketball team hasn't lost an NCAA tournament game since 2012. They have won four consecutive national titles and compiled not one, but two win streaks of 90 games or more, the longest two streaks in NCAA basketball history.

    Geno Auriemma's teams are certainly in the conversation of greatest college basketball dynasties ever. And yet, not everyone is thrilled with the utter and complete dominance.

    In March, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy tweeted, "UConn Women beat Miss St. 98-38 in NCAA tourney. Hate to punish them for being great, but they are killing women's game. Watch? No thanks."

    Shaughnessy's comments were met with some criticism. In fact, Jill Martin of CNN.com wrote, "UConn's dominance may be disheartening to opponents, but ultimately, it is good for women's college basketball," and, "Don't hate how successful UConn is. Marvel at it."

    Indeed, the UConn women should be appreciated for their contribution to sports history.

Mike Trout

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    Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is only 25 years old, but fans surely know by now they are witnessing a historic career.

    Trout has already bagged a Rookie of the Year Award and two American League MVPs, and there are plenty who think he deserved more than that. In the 2016 season, Trout passed 32 Hall of Famers in career wins above replacement (WAR). Seriously.

    Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight put Trout's unbelievable career start in perspective in November and wrote:

    Through every single age in which he played a full season, Trout has been the all-time career leader in Baseball-Reference.com's WAR for position players. It was true through age 20, age 21, age 22, age 23 and — after posting 10.6 WAR in 2016, a performance that basically matched his previous single-season peak — age 24. No player has ever started his career on this kind of tear — not Ruth, not Cobb, not Mantle, nobody.

    Trout has been heralded as a true five-tool player, of which there are precious few. Enjoy this guy while you can folkshe is well on his way to all-time greatness. 

The Brady-Belichick Dynasty

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    In terms of quarterback/coaching duos, it doesn't get much more dominant than Tom Brady and Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots.

    Together, the two have made seven Super Bowl appearances and won four (so far—outcome of Super Bowl LI still pending) since 2001.

    During that span, the Patriots have won the AFC East 14 times, including eight straight. Brady is a 12-time Pro Bowler, two-time league MVP and three-time Super Bowl MVP. He holds the all-time playoff records for passing yards (8,628), passing touchdowns (61), completions (788), fourth-quarter comebacks (six) and game-winning drives (nine), per ESPN.com. For his part, Belichick is a three-time AP NFL Coach of the Year.

    In 2014, Chris Burke of SI.com ranked them No. 2 on the all-time list of NFL QB/coaching duos, behind only Joe Montana and Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers.

    Nate Scott of Fox Sports wrote, "The Patriots managed to take the luck of drafting the greatest QB ever in the sixth round and pair it with Belichick, a ruthless genius who not only understood the game better than anyone but also understood the business of building an NFL roster better than anyone."

The Williams Sisters

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    When Serena Williams defeated her sister Venus in the 2017 Australian Open, it marked the ninth time the siblings had competed head-to-head in a singles Grand Slam final.

    The victory was Serena's 23rd singles Grand Slam victory, a record in the open era. Combined, the two have 30 singles Grand Slam wins. And, as doubles partners, the Williams sisters have won 14 Grand Slams and three Olympic gold medals.

    Mike Wise of the Undefeated wrote, "Between where they came from, the privileged sport they dominate, and how long and fabulously they have played, we will never see the likes of the Williams sisters again—in any athletic discipline."

    Wise pointed out that together, the two have won almost half of the Grand Slam singles tournaments they have competed for (67) since 1997.

    The Williams sisters have a serious case for greatest sports siblings ever.

Messi vs. Ronaldo Rivalry

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    Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are two of the best footballers in the world, and to watch them run through their primes at the same time—that is special.

    Ronaldo—who has played with Manchester United and Real Madrid—has been a part of three Premier League titles, three Champions League wins and helped Portugal to its first major tournament victory at UEFA Euro 2016.

    Meanwhile, Messi has captured eight La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns with FC Barcelona. In June, he became the all-time leading goal scorer for his home country of Argentina.

    Between them, they have won every Ballon d'Or of the past nine years (Ronaldo four and Messi five). They are No. 1 and No. 2 on the list of all-time Champions League goal scorers.

    Bleacher Report's Matt Jones wrote in January, "As the two main attacking forces for two of the biggest clubs and fiercest rivals in football, comparisons have regularly been made between the pair throughout their playing careers."

    JJ Bull of the Telegraph simply wrote, "…may I recommend you take the opportunity to watch Leo Messi play as much as you possibly can, while you can."