Greatest Sports People in the World: Finding the Definitive List

Eamonn QuinnCorrespondent IIMay 15, 2011

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 08:  Lionel Messi of Barcelona waits for a corned kick to be taken during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Espanyol at Nou Camp on May 8, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

The idea here is very simple. I am going to give you guys a list of 10 names of my favorite sports people and a brief reason as to why.

Then I am going to sit back and allow you to agree or disagree as you see fit. Rip me a new one if you want. I'm a big boy. I can take it.

You see I am a big sports fan, but I have to assume that I am ignorant on some areas. I figure it's the same for everyone. So while I may have extensive knowledge on Rugby Union and Soccer, I know little to nothing about the MLB or NBA. Presumably you guys are in similar boats but with different areas of expertise/ignorance.

So I want you all to post your own lists in the comments based upon what sports you guys follow keenly. The more the merrier.

That will give us a broad sample base covering people's knowledge on all sports.

And then, based on my list and your suggestions and opinions, I will go back and redo the list in the form of a proper slideshow article and see if, by committee, we can't all come up with a definitive list of the 10 greatest sports people on the planet.

The only rule is that sports people mentioned MUST be currently active in their sport.

So here is my list:

10. Peyton Manning - Four-time NFL MVP, Superbowl champion and on more TV ads than Ronald McDonald. Peyton has revolutionized the QB role and will go down as an all-time great.

9. Brian O'Driscoll - The greatest Rugby player in the world and a fabulous ambassador for the sport. And he's Irish. So am I. That helps.

8. Tom Brady - Three Superbowl rings. Arguably the two greatest seasons ever by a QB. Awesomely talented and committed, Brady is another NFL all-time legend. Also, he has a supermodel wife and an ability to dance stupidly at Carnivale with dumb hair and still somehow look cool. Some people get all the luck.

7. Rafa Nadal - I know Novak Djokovic has been awesome so far this year, and I know also that Roger Federer is still the most decorated. But class is permanent and Nadal is utter class. He will come back better than ever. 

6. Yelena Isinbayeva - Russian pole vaulter who has broken the world record so many times she is actually just competing with NASA at this stage.

5. Usain Bolt - The fastest man on the face of the earth. Bolt is a physical freak and has the look of a man that could break any sprinting world record at any time of his choosing. When he retires, he will have a record book all to himself.

4. Keninese Bekele - Has more gold than Fort Knox. I thought about putting Gabriselassie in here, but Bekele is better in my view. By the time he retires, he may be the most decorated track athlete of all time.

3. Lionel Messi - This little magician will redefine soccer. He is 23, just around the time most strikers start showing the first signs of their true potential. This season he has scored 52 goals in 54 games, with 24 assists. Fifty-twp!!!! If these are only the first signs of what is to come, we are bearing witness to remarkable history. Pele's time at the top of the tree may be over.

2. Michael Phelps - What more can I say that hasn't been said already. The man is a demi-god. Eight from eight gold medals in 2008, He has 14 Olympic golds already, and he is only 25. This guy is so good that he is doing new events in London just so he can be challenged. Frightening.

1. Oscar Pistorius - The Blade Runner. The Bad Listener. No legs but he played Rugby. He competed in Motocross. He won gold medals at the 100m, 200m and 400m events at the Paralympics. He runs so fast on blades that he is now racing and beating able bodied men. He may even be at the able-bodied Olympics in London 2012.

I don't like getting sappy or over-reverential toward sports stars, but this guy is one of the most inspiring men I have ever heard of. He is living proof that anything is possible if you want it badly enough.