ESPN list of top 10 "all around" athletes of all time - Do you agree with selections?

List of the best all around athletes

First page of article

In reverse order

10th. Lou Gehrig
9th. Gordie Howe
8th. Michael Jordan
7th. Jackie Robinson
6th. Rafer Johnson
5th. Wilt Chamberlain
4th. Bo Jackson
3th. Dave Winfield
2nd. Jim Thorpe

1st. Jim Brown

I suppose this list is defensible if they are listing the greatest North American athletes of all time. Otherwise, it is clearly crap. At best, it is a listing of the greatet NA athletes that played one of the “big four” US sports, and a couple of decathletes.

I also have trouble with any list that includes three (our four) baseball players, but not Babe Ruth. We all know that he not only hit for power and percentage, but was a very good pitcher, also. The problem is we have all only seen pictures of him when he was older and fat.

I find it hard to accept any such list that does not include Secretariat near the top.

A) Secretariat is a horse.

B) How was Secretariat a great “all around athlete?” I don’t recall it ever doing anything except run.

Was he ever not fat? FWIK, he was never in the best of shape.

Yes, the travesty, it’s only composed of North Americans. Of course, ESPN is, to my knowledge, primarily a North American sports network (though they have expanded). If they were to add some Sir (Something) (Something) (Something) IV it would probably be met with a, “Huh?” If you don’t agree with the selections, then make a suggestion of your own and list the athlete’s qualifications.

The only one I see missing is Babe Didriksen. All of those other athletes played more than one sport at a high level (except maybe Howe?). All the baseball players listed were star athletes in other sports. I’ve heard it said that baseball was the sport where Jackie Robinson was least talented. He played football at UCLA (and maybe basketball or track?).

Bo Jackson was a two sport athlete, and dominant in the time he did play.

Dave Winfield was drafted in three professional sports (MLB, NBA, NFL).

Chamberlain was a pretty good track and field athlete in addition to being a decent basketball player.

I was previously unaware of all of Jim Brown’s accomplishments, but I guess he was a very good lacrosse player and was offered a contract with the Yankees.

I’m sort of mystified by why Jim Brown is No. 1. Does he have a history of achievement in other sports that I’m not aware of?

My vote goes to Bo Jackson - that guy has incredible athletic ability.

According to Roger Kahn’s essay in The Baseball Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary Book, Robinson played baseball, football and basketball and ran track at UCLA. Robinson told Kahn he concentrated more on the other sports. Robinson was a record-breaking long jumper in college and the nation’s leading football ground-gainer in 1939, but batted just .097 for UCLA in 1940, the essay says.

I beg to differ- didn’t he make most of his money at stud? NONE of the ones in the top 10 list can say that!

Well, I hear Chamberlain was a stud. (haha)

What about Deion Sanders?

Deion didn’t really excel at baseball - lifetime line of .263/.319/.392 with 39 homers in 641 games.

Secretariat excelled at all distances and on all track conditions. A hell of an athlete.

Gordie Howe played only hockey but he played in the NHL from 1946-1980 except for 2 years in the mid 70’s and then played a game for the Detroit minor league team in 1998 at 70 years old. Incredible athlete.

From the ESPN site:
Brown was one of the greatest NFL running backs of all time, an All-American lacrosse player who was one of the finest ever, averaged 38 points per game in high school basketball and lettered in hoops at Syracuse, finished fifth in the 1956 national decathlon championship, was offered a minor-league deal by the Yankees, and could have been a pro boxer after he retired.

I’ve read elsewhere that Brown is considered the greatest lacrosse player ever.

But I know nothing of lacrosse, just relating what I’ve read.

All in all, very hard to argue with his selection at #1

This is a males-only list from ESPN. They have a listing of the top-five female athletes as well, and Babe is #1.

Bo Jackson wasn’t an especially good baseball player. He had power, but couldn’t really hit the ball consistently and was a comically dreadful outfielder. So he’s a weird choice. Sure, he was immensely strong, but so are a lot of guys. Emmitt Smith’s a hell of an athlete, too.

I know Jackson got hurt, but A) he would not have been a great baseball player even if he’d been healthy and B) staying healthy’s part of an athlete’s job.

Same with Gordie Howe; great hockey player, but not the best ever, and his playing as old as he did was 98% publicity stunt. Lots of players could probably hang around in a half-assed semimajor league, too, they just have the decency to quit. The comment about his being good at other sports is interesting, in that you wonder what Wayne Gretzky has to do to get that mention; in addition to being the greatest hockey player ever, Gretzky by all accounts absolutely WOULD have been a major league baseball player had he tried to be, and is a terrific golfer. According to people who know him, he’s amazing at everything; volleyball, bowling, whatever he plays he masters effortlessly. So why not him?

Babe Didrikson is #2 easy, IMHO. I’ll grant Brown #1.


Huh? Who considered him a comically dreadful outfielder? He had probably the best arm in left field in the majors when he was playing, and it was spectacularly accurate. I saw him throw a perfect strike for an outfield assist from the deepest part of left field at then-Royals Stadium.

Bo Jackson’s stats.

Compare those fielding numbers to Ichiro’s, who has one of the best arms right now. They’re nearly identical.

More importantly, this list is about all around athletic ability, not defensive skills. I think it’s obvious from the choices on the list that physical gifts were given more weight than pure game ability, i.e. speed and jumping over shooting and dribbling in a baskeball player. Bo Jackson ran a (reported, I know) 4.19 40, could jump, did that little flip-up-off-the-ground-without-hands thing, was one of the most powerful running backs of all time, and was a legitimate major league slugger. He got hurt a bunch, and he didn’t have a fantastic career in either sport, but in terms of quantifiable athletic ability, he deserves it.

But not a great show jumper or dressage horse, so hardly a great all-rounder.

Frankly, given the fact that the article fails to mention that it’s a list of (possibly) the greatest American all-round athletes, it’s worthless.

Well, re: the nationality of the list, we need to realize that almost always when such lists are composed, “American” or “North American” is replaced with “World”. You don’t have to go farther than Cafe Society to see that almost every list is US-centric. But, I don’t think it is deliberate. Just the way the culture works here. An outsider might be grated by it but he just needs to recalibrate his meter!