Is Jerry Rice Among the Greatest Athletes of Our Time?

Vince RiccioContributor IAugust 9, 2010

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Former NFL player Jerry Rice runs during a portrait shoot at Stanford Universtiy on September 8, 2007 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Before the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, there seemed to be a bit of controversy between coach Steve Mariucci, Rod Woodson, Michael Irvin, and Rich Eisen concerning Jerry Rice’s status among the many greats of the NFL and all of sports.

So let us take a moment and review some of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen.

What you will not find in this article is a ranking, because I leave it up to you, the readership, to comment and come up with your own ranking in the comments section.


How Do We Classify?

The purpose of this approach is to prove just how difficult it is to select only certain individuals.

Furthermore, it is very difficult to classify a certain criteria that must measure all of these athletes and from each of their different feats.

How do you compare records held in hockey versus cycling?

How do you compare a rushing record versus a goal streak in soccer?


What About Each Personality?

So we are left with a myriad of criteria choices and yet no clear answer at all.

Let’s break it down one step further now: How do we classify the person themselves?

Should they dominate in one sport only, creating records that are untouchable? Wayne Gretzky or Jerry Rice, for example.

Should they be inducted into two different Hall of Fames? Jim Brown, Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as lacrosse, for example.

Should they be able to compete in more than one sport simultaneously? Bo Jackson, for example.

The list can go on forever, yet we have so many possibilities that it is unfair to leave anyone out.

Now you can understand why it is subjective to each person, and hence why I have left it up to you to provide your own ranking.


Meet Only SOME of the Candidates

Lance Armstrong

Bo Jackson

Muhammad Ali

Jim Brown

Gordie Howe

John Elway

Michael Phelps

Emmitt Smith

Vince Lombardi

Usain Bolt

Diego Maradona

Carl Lewis

Magic Johnson

Michael Jordan

Hank Aaron


Larry Bird

Steffi Graf

Lou Gehrig

Tiger Woods

Mario Lemieux


Jim Thorpe

Jackie Robinson

Babe Ruth

Willie Mays

Roger Federer

Wayne Gretzky


Now how do you remove any one of these from the list? Do you see the problem?

I have missed so many potential candidates, but now I leave it up to you to take on the call, battle it out with the rest, and resurrect your ranking.

What’s your take?