Yesterday ESPN came out with a list of the top 20 athletes of the last 20 years. The first thing that struck me was that you had a hard chance making the list if you were non- American. Only 3 did so.
ESPN made Michael Jordan number 1. Really ESPN? By 1995 Jordan was in his twilight phase and most of his success was achieved before 1995. Strangely Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds also made the list. Which made me wonder if the compilers were on something alcoholic at the time of drafting the list. Then again yesterday was April’s Fools.
The full list is as follows
20. Sidney Crosby (Canadian, Hockey)
19. Barry Bonds (USA, Baseball)
18. Mia Hamm (USA, Soccer)
17. Floyd Mayweather Jr (USA, Boxing)
16. Usain Bolt (Jamaica, Athletics)
15. Brett Favre (USA, NFL)
14. Tim Duncan (USA, Basketball)
13. Lance Armstrong (USA, Cycling)
12. Lionel Messi (Argentina, Soccer)
11. Shaquille O’Neal (USA, Basketball)
10. Derek Jeter (USA, Baseball)
09. Michael Phelps (USA, Swimming)
08. Kobe Bryant (USA, Basketball)
07. Peyton Manning (USA, NFL)
06. Serena Williams (USA, Tennis)
05. Roger Federer (Switzerland, Tennis)
04. Tom Brady (USA, NFL)
03. Tiger Woods (USA, Golf)
02. Lebron James (USA, Basketball)
01. Michael Jordan (USA, Basketball)
I would have agreed with the above if the listing was on the top 20 sporting brands 1995-2015.
My own list would be vastly different and goes
01. Serena Williams (USA, Tennis) – 19 Grand slam singles titles & 15 Grand slam doubles. Has seen off Henin, Hingis, Davenport, Sharapova and Venus to remain at the top and still number 1.
02. Usain Bolt (Jamaica, Athletics) – His run of 19.19 for 200 metres is enough for me. Also won 6 Olympic and 8 World Championship gold medals.
03. Roger Federer (Switzerland, Tennis) – 17 Grand Slam singles titles. Class and grace on the courts.
04. Tiger Woods (USA, Golf) – 14 majors. Raised the sports profile and the bank balances of professional players.
05. Lionel Messi (Argentina, Soccer) – Continues to rewrite the record books in Spanish and European football.
06. Michael Schumacher (Germany, FI Racing) – 5 times world champion during the era where he bullied his rivals into submission.
07. Roy Jones Jr (USA, Boxing) – At his best Jones was a treat to watch – if you could follow the speed of his punches.
08. AP McCoy (Northern Ireland, Horseracing) – British jump racing champion jockey from 1995-2015 in one of the most dangerous sports. Thankfully (for his rivals) he retires this month.
09. Michael Phelps (USA, Swimming) – 18 Olympic golds, 26 world championship golds says it all.
10. Lebron James (USA, Basketball) – One of the top five players of any era. Trascended the game.
11. Shane Warne (Australia, Cricket) – Regarded by many as one of the top 5 cricketers of all time.
12. Tirusnesh Dibaba (Ethiopia, Athletics) – The greatest middle distance female runner? 3 Olympic golds, 7 world championship gold medals, 5 word cross country gold medals. Her last laps in championship races was always blistering.
13. Kenenisa Bekele – 3 Olympic golds, 5 world championship golds and 11 world cross country golds. Hardly lost a 10,000 meters race.
14. Ronaldinho (Brazil, Soccer) – “Ronaldinho was responsible for the change in Barça… I learnt a lot from him” – Lionel Messi
15. Richie McCaw (New Zealand, Rugby Union) – If you can captain New Zealand over 100 times that greatness in itself. In an era of many superb number 7s McCaw continues to raise the bar.
16. Randy Moss (USA, NFL) – Easily the best wide receiver of the last 20 years.
17. Joel Calzaghe (Wales, Boxing) – If Calzaghe was American then the conqueror of Jeff Lacey, Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones jr would probably be more celebrated.
18. Mick Kinane (Ireland, Horseracing) – The quiet man whose numerous victories in big races across USA, Ireland, England and France etc did the talking.
19. Annika Sorenstam (Sweden, Golf) – 10 majors and 8 times player of the year during this era.
20. Kobe Bryant (USA, Basketball) or Rafael Nadal (Spain, Tennis) – Hard to leave either out.
Ever harder to leave out the likes of Michael Johnson, Tom Brady, John Eales and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Each sports fan to their own list.