Top 10 Greatest Black Athletes
I'd like to quiz you to find out who you think should be included among the top 10 greatest black athletes of all time. I'd like this to be interactive, so please feel free to disagree with me, that's what makes this interesting.
Top 10 lists are always a challenge, but this one was a monster. But, in honor of February being Black History Month, I present to you one man's opinion on who the best 10 black athletes of all-time are.
While there were certainly some terrific players missing from this list, I tried to focus on athletes who were not only great at their sport, but who made a long-lasting impact as well.
Note that I did not consider non-African American athletes like Pele or Roberto Clemente. But I did include Tiger since he's been widely adopted by the black community and has opened the door to blacks everywhere in the game of golf.
So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the brief show.
Here we go...
10. Dave Winfield
While Mr. Winfield did not appear to have the social impact of some other black athletes, he is the very definition of the term "athlete."
In fact, after college, Winfield was drafted by four teams in three different sports. And even though he never played college football, the Minnesota Vikings selected Winfield in the 17th round of the NFL draft.
In 2004, ESPN named him the third-best all-around athlete of all time in any sport.
That he chose baseball is in stark contrast to the trend today, where MLB is losing many great talents to other sports. But Winfield, who played parts of 23 seasons in the majors, had a hall-of-fame career.
He is currently Executive Vice President/Senior Advisor of the San Diego Padres and an analyst for the ESPN program Baseball Tonight.
With 465 home runs, a slash line of .283/.353/.475/.828, and a seven-time gold glove winner, this 6'6" Minnesota native barely eclipsed some other fine athletes to take the distinction of starting our list.
9. Bo Jackson
Bo knows football. Bo knows baseball. How can you leave off a guy who played two sports at such a high level, albeit for only a short time?
Yet if it wasn't for a serious hip injury, who knows how great this man would have been? Blessed with a powerful arm and tremendous power, his overall stat lines in baseball weren't impressive, yet over 162 games, his seasonal averages were 33 homers, 97 RBI, and 19 stolen bases.
As a football player, he was better. So much better, in fact, that he was once considered to be one of the most explosive runners ever to take the field.
This former Heisman Trophy winner had a 5.4 yards per carry average in the NFL, once running for 221 yards in a game, which is still a Monday Night Football record.
Bo was the first athlete to be named an All-Star in two major sports. Yet it may have been as a sports advertising icon that he is even better known, through the Nike "Bo Knows" campaign,
Bo knows, all right. And I know he makes my list.
Jackson beat out "Neon" Deon Sanders to make this list.
8. Tiger Woods
Tiger might be higher on this list if he played a sport where there is no debate over whether or not these guys are athletes and if he was purely of African-American descent.
Woods is half Asian (one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Thai), one-quarter African American, one-eighth Native American, and one-eighth Dutch.
Tiger is poised to be considered the greatest golfer of all time, if he's not that already, and there is no doubting that he has opened doors for young black people everywhere to be interested in a sport that had been considered a largely white man's game.
Woods has won 14 professional major golf championships, the second highest of any male player, and 71 PGA Tour events, third all time.
Oh, and he's only 34. But he's No. 8 here.
7. Hank Aaron
Hammerin' Hank was baseball's all-time home run king before a juiced-up Barry Bonds, who otherwise might have made this list, stole his title.
While his .305/.374/.555/.929 slash line is impressive, lesser known is the fact that he also stole bases and played a solid left field for a time.
Just his being the home run king for so long energized the black community and seemed to deliver on what our next guy promised.
6. Jackie Robinson
While he was a hall of fame baseball player, his spot on this list is not solely based on stats. For what he did for the black community in becoming the first black to ever play in the majors is legendary.
We have all heard stories of what this man was forced to endure during his career, yet he maintained his poise and dignity throughout.
His career was brief, but outstanding. A 311/.409 BA/OBP with an average of 23 stolen bases per season, Robinson was the NL's MVP in 1949.
Over 10 seasons, he played in six World Series and his impact extended beyond his playing days. He was the first African-American television analyst in Major League Baseball, and the first African-American vice-president of a major American corporation
His number was retired by all MLB teams.
5. Jesse Owens
Jesse Owens makes this list by virtue of his incredible talent as a track and field athlete but also for his role in challenging the racial supremacy of Hitler-led Germany.
His participation in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, where he achieved international fame by winning four gold medals, is legendary.
Owens won gold in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump, and as part of the 4x100 meter relay team.
That he was never given an opportunity to make serious money or obtain the respect from the government he deserved after the Olympics, there is no questioning his impact.
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
His sky hook was basically impossible to stop and he is the leading scorer in NBA history. His exploits as Lew Alcindor in high school and college were just as legendary.
In college at UCLA, he played on three championship teams, and his high school team won 71 consecutive games.
During his 20-year professional career in the NBA, from 1969 to 1989, he scored the highest points total of any player in league history (38,387), in addition to winning a record six Most Valuable Player Awards and six NBA championships.
On May 1, 1971, the day after the Bucks won the NBA championship, he adopted the Muslim name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Since retiring from basketball, he has been known as an author, coach, and actor.
3. Jim Brown
Jim Brown was not only a hall of fame football player, but his impact in the black community as an activist is still being felt to this day.
In addition to sports, Brown was an actor, starring in the 1967 war movie The Dirty Dozen.
In 2002, he was named by The Sporting News as the greatest professional football player ever. He made the Pro Bowl every season, and won the MVP every three years that he played.
In college, he excelled in basketball, track, and especially lacrosse. Brown also earned a spot in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, giving him a rare triple crown of sorts as well as being one of the few athletes to be a Hall of Fame member in more than one sport.
When he retired, Brown was the NFL record holder for both single-season (1,863 in 1963) and career rushing (12,312 yards), as well as the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (106), total touchdowns (126), and all-purpose yards (15,549).
2. Michael Jordan
As a Chicagoan, call me a homer, but I believe MJ belongs highly on this list for two simple, yet powerful reasons: He was unarguably a terrific athlete, and his impact to sports was felt well beyond the basketball court.
"Air" Jordan was simply the greatest NBA player ever. Apart from his records, perhaps his most legendary impact was as one of the fiercest competitors the sports world has ever seen.
His will to win was awe-inspiring, and the fact that he was able to try his hand at baseball only solidified his tremendous athletic ability.
No, he wasn't good at baseball, but he didn't exactly embarrass himself either. He had a strong arm and was extremely fast, but his long swing made it impossible for him to play the game professionally.
Off the court, Jordan is synonymous with success. As an advertising icon, Brand Jordan is unparalleled. And he has stayed active in ownership and other pursuits, showing young blacks a positive role model.
Look, he wasn't perfect - he had a great team of PR people around him. But this is not a character dissertation or Tiger wouldn't be on this list.
As an athlete and businessman, Michael was one of the best ever. And his legacy as a champion lives on to this day.
1. Muhammad Ali
Was there any doubt? He floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee and was infamous in the black community for his outspokenness over political and religious views and in his support of black charities and world events.
His contribution to sports transcend boxing, although he is known as arguably the greatest boxer of all-time. As Cassius Clay, he he won a gold medal in the light-heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.
As a pro, Ali was a three-time World Heavyweight Champion. His trash talking made him a TV icon in a time when professional athletes, particularly blacks, were not as highly visible.
In 1993, the Associated Press reported that Ali was tied with Babe Ruth as the most recognized athletes. Over 97 percent of Americans, over 12-years of age, identified both Ali and Ruth.
He was "The Greatest" all right. And that makes him tops on this list.