Open Mic: Which Sport Has The Greatest Athletes?

Jeremy KaufmanSenior Analyst IJune 19, 2008

One of the age- old debates within the realm of sports is, which sport has the world’s greatest athletes? Prior to attempting to answer this question, it is essential to first define the meaning of the world “athlete”.

For the purpose of this debate, I will operationally define the word “athlete” as a person who possesses extraordinary physical ability which can be utilized advantageously in sport, as well as permeate and translate successfully into the utilization of auxiliary sports.

With this definition in mind, I will now attempt to decide which sport is home to the greatest of athletes. It is also vital to note that I will only consider team sports for the purposes of this debate

Note: Sports are listed and analyzed in no particular order.


1)     Baseball

Baseball players may have the greatest hand-eye coordination in the world. Batters must see and identify a pitch, and then initiate a proper swing in order to hit the pitch, all within a matter of a second.

In baseball, body mechanics are essential to success, and players usually must play the game from a very young age if they are to hope for success. Strong arms and legs are a requirement for the game, and good speed undoubtedly is to a player’s advantage, although it isn’t quite a requirement.


2)     Basketball

Basketball often requires extraordinary athletic ability in order to succeed. Jumping ability is at a premium in the sport, and hand-eye coordination and body mechanics for shooting is key for success.

Strength isn’t a core requirement of the game for all positions, although it is certainly advantageous for a basketball player to be strong. Pure speed isn’t necessary for all positions either, although quickness and an explosive first step are vital qualities for a player to possess.


3)     Football

Football is a sport that is based almost entirely off of athleticism and heart. Every single position in the game requires an extreme amount of athleticism in a very specific aspect.

For example, a defensive back must have blazing speed, a wide receiver must have great hands and hand eye coordination, and an offensive lineman must have great strength.

In addition, unlike almost any other sport in the world, pure athleticism can lead to success on the gridiron, even for athletes who have little previous experience playing football. For example, track stars or basketball players with great athleticism are often able to find homes in the NFL, with Antonio Gates being the most prominent example of such an athlete.

The allowance for extraneous athletic ability to permeate and translate successfully into football play creates a strong case for football in having the worlds best athletes.


4)     Hockey

The athletic abilities required in hockey are very unique in that it is the only team sport that requires its participants to be effective skaters, which can be considered an athletic endeavor in and of it self. In addition, athletes must have superior hand-eye coordination and speed on skates.

Strength and power aren’t always necessary, though it is certainly a great advantage in hockey.


5)     Soccer

In some ways, the athletic requirements of soccer are somewhat limited in that they only require athletic talent in the lower extremities of the body, with the exception of some utilization of the head and core.

While upper body strength can be somewhat advantageous for a soccer player, in that it allows one to play more physically when fighting for the ball, it is far from a core requirement of the game.

Speed is certainly a necessity in soccer, although its utilization in soccer is based more on endurance and longevity, as opposed to the quick and powerful bursts of speed that are required in basketball and football.

Powerful legs are undoubtedly a requirement of soccer, although the overall body power of a soccer play is significant less in comparison to a typical football player.


6)     Lacrosse

Lacrosse is often dubbed as the fastest game on two feet, and rightly so. Lacrosse players must be extremely fast and have extraordinarily high endurances, especially midfielders.

Body mechanics and strength are also at a premium in lacrosse, as hitting and hard shots are both quintessential in the game.

In addition, lacrosse abilities have a clear history of permeating into other sports, as many former and current lacrosse stars have stared in other sports as well. Jim Brown is the most prominent example of this, as he is considered to be one of the best players ever in the history of football as well as lacrosse.


7)     Rugby

The level of athleticism required in rugby is phenomenal. First, speed and endurance are absolute requirements of the sport.

Furthermore, the hitting in rugby is as intense as any athletic activity in the world, thereby making strength a requirement not only for success on the field, but also for the player’s safety. While in football a weaker player can foreseeably contribute as a kick returner or slot receiver, the lack of pads in rugby makes every player on the field vulnerable to injury if they are not in the condition to avoid or absorb a big hit.

In addition, the flow of rugby is constant, with very few interruptions, while there also tends to be very few substitutions. For this reason, rugby players may have the best endurance in all of sports.

However, at least in the United States, the fact that other sports tend to allure many of the country’s top athletes hinders rugby’s chances for the honor of holding the world’s best athletes.


8)     Cricket

Cricket, like baseball, requires great hand eye coordination and solid physical mechanics. However, the strength and speed requirements in cricket are light in comparison to other sports, and less natural athletes are far more likely to succeed in cricket than many other sports.

While the game undoubtedly requires athletic talent, it simply isn’t as high of a premium in comparison to baseball or most other team sports.


After assessing the athletic characterisitics of the aforementioned eight sports, I have come to the conclusion that football is the sport that holds the greatest athletes.

Football players have incredible speed, endurance, hand eye coordination, and strength, and are often able to succeed on their field entirely as a result of their athletic talents. While other sports, such as baseball, require more experience and familiarity with the sport to succeed, football is tailor-made to utilize to the best athletes in roles that will bring out their best physical traits.

While rugby and lacrosse proved to bring strong consideration in my mind, these two sports do not currently draw in the world’s top athletes, thereby making me feel uncomfortable about handing either one the title of having the world’s best athletes.

Basketball was given heavy consideration as well, although the lower requirements for pure strength and long distance speed deterred me from this option.

In conclusion, I believe that football is the most athletically-inclined sport in the world. So what’s your opinion? Which sport holds the greatest athletes in the world?


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