Individual dominance in a sport

If we stick to team sports, I fully agree that Babe Ruth and Wayne Gretzky stand alone, in their ability to dominate. In their primes, both men were not only the best of all time, they were miles ahead of whoever was #2. I don’t think ANY other player in ANY team sport has ever stood as high above the rest of the league.

In pro football, it’s probably IMPOSSIBLE for any one player to impose his will on the other team. But of all the NFL players I’ve seen, the one who came CLOSEST to that kind of dominance was the young Lawrence Taylor.

For a few years, he was so much better than any other outside linebacker that he practically re-defined the position. NOBODY could block him one-on-one, and a lot of teams found that TWO blockers weren’t enough. Offenses had to redesign and regear their entire game plans to account for LT.

Now, mind you, I suspect that a lot of current players are better, stronger and faster than LT was. I have a hunch that Ray Lewis, at his peak, could have gone back to 1982 and dominated the NFL more thoroughly than LT. But great as Ray Lewis was, he couldn’t dominate the league the way Taylor did.

Rickey Jackson was every bit as good as LT, but Jackson played for the Saints and didn’t get the attention LT did.

I’ll nominate the Dome Patrol as the most dominant discrete unit in NFL history. Jackson, Johnson, Mills, and Swilling struck fear in the hearts of opponents–and started the Pro Bowl as a unit.

I again have to point out that Ruth is not, historically speaking, as dominant as he’s being made out to be.

Ruth certainly was the greatest player of his time but there are arguments to be made that he is not the greatest player of all time; while I personally would place Ruth first, by some measures Barry Bonds was greater, and arguments can be made for Willie Mays, Honus Wagner, and Ty Cobb. Unlike Gretzky, Ruth does not actually hold very many records. He used to but most have been eclipsed.

Again, I’d place Ruth first but if you said it was Bonds I couldn’t prove you were wrong. Conversely, I can’t think of any reasonable argument that Wayne Gretzky is not the best player of all time, end of story. You could argue that Bobby Orr and Mario gusted up to Gretzky’s level at their very best - I actually think Orr’s 1970-71 season was the single greatest regular season in hockey history - but they couldn’t sustain it.

Ruth is noteworthy is his rather astounding domination in the specific field of hitting home runs. But Ruth was merely the first player to make home runs his specialty, and many players prior to his time - Wagner, Cobb, Speaker - were close to Ruth in terms of their greatness, they just didn’t do it with homers.

I often wonder what kind of number Orr would have put up if he had been born in 1965 rather than 1948. Sports medicine improved by a huge amount in that time and I think his knees wouldn’t have been his downfall. Plus that would have put his prime years in what was a golden age for scoring in the NHL.

A strong claim can be made for fast pitch softball player Eddie Feigner, aka:

The King and His Court

The King regularly fielded a four-man team against nine-man teams, pitching
every one, and winning 95% of the time, for a total of 9743 victories in a career
of over 40 years. (the MLB record is 511 by Cy Young, who also lost 316)

He would stike out batters delivering the ball blindfolded, between his knees,
and from 2nd base. In an exhibition in 1967 he struck out five future HOF MLB
players in their prime: Wille Mays, Brooks Robinson, Harmon Killebrew,
Willie McCovey and Roberto Clemente. In 1981 (age 56) he led his his 4-man
team to a win over a 9-man team of MLB players which included several All-Stars.

He was also an excellent hitter, with 83 in one year’s 250-game season.

The King’s last pitch was the honorary 1st pitch of the 2000 Olympics
Women’s Fast-pitch competition. Sadly he suffered a stroke the next day
at age 75, and never took the field again.

I was speaking of how dominant each man was in his day, not in historical terms. In 1923, Babe Ruth was at LEAST as far ahead of the rest of the major leagues as Wayne Gretzky was ahead of the rest of the NHL in 1982.

Certainly, Ruth has had many more serious challengers SINCE then than Gretzky has.

I mean no disrespect to Mr. Jackson, but… sorry, I don’t buy it.

You want to argue that Rickey Jackson didn’t get enough adulation in his day, go right ahead. But it has nothing to do with geography or “New York media bias.”

New York football players are NOT overexposed or overhyped, and never have
been. You COULD argue that the Yankees get more exposure than they deserve, even when they aren’t very good, but the Giants? Not at all.

The Giants have never gotten more than their fair share of the limelight. Indeed, they’re only the third most glamorous franchise in their own division (the Cowboys and Redskins get more media attention, as a rule).

I guess this all depends on what you mean by dominance. Winning? Stats? Just watching them play? All time? Just for their specific era?

It’s already been pointed out that Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 points a game once, 19 (!) ahead of 2nd place, but he only won 2 titles compared to Bill Russell’s 11. Wilt has a ton of absurd NBA records that will never, ever be approached, let alone beaten, but if you transported Wilt to the present day he wouldn’t average 50 points or 25 rebounds. Other players could average 50 in the early '60s (Kareem, Shaq, Jordan for sure) but they weren’t born yet or still growing up.

Jason Kidd is one of the best PGs of all time with a long and healthy career and is in his 17th NBA season and is second all time in assists. But he’s still over 4000 behind Stockton. That record won’t be beaten for at least 20 or 30 years, assuming the guy who’s gonna do it is even alive right now.

I did not mean to imply that it did. New York was a good football team in those years. Won two Superbowls. The Saints…not so much. For Jackson to put up the numbers he did on a historically bad team is more impressive to me than LT racking up good numbers as part of a championship team. LT got a lot more chances to play with a lead, knowing the other team had to throw the ball. It’s hard to get many sacks when your team is usually behind, and the other guys are running the ball to kill the clock, which was often the situation facing Jackson.

Joe Louis went undefeated from August of '36 all the way through the '40s – and even into the '50s – serving as heavyweight champ for well over a decade of that stretch, from the time he kayoed James J. Braddock to the time he kayoed Jersey Joe Walcott.

Absolutely. Indeed, Ruth was preposterously dominant, and I’d agree at his peak he dominated MLB as much as Gretzky dominated the NHL. And not just for one season.

But those weren’t historically bad teams. Both players spent 1981-1993 with their primary team. In those 13 seasons, the Giants went 115-84-1 with 7 playoff appearances and 2 Super Bowls and the Saints went 105-95 with the first 4 playoff appearances in a franchise history that dates to the late 1960s. Sure, the Saints only won the division once in that time, but that was enough to match the Rams for most NFC West titles by a team not based in San Francisco over that period.

Only once in that time had the team finished below .500. In the time Jackson was there, they finished below .500 five times, never after 1986. Before 1981, their best record was 8-8, accomplished once. Next best was 7-9, also done once. Those were the historically bad teams, not the Saints of the 1980s and early 90s. By way of comparison, the Giants finished below .500 four times in those seasons, including a 3-12-1 season, which is worse than the Saints ever did in that period.

Bradman played over a range of 20 years, 5 of which were WWII. If you want to compare vastly different types of stat between sports (a first class match is 3 days of play, sometimes a player will play 2 baseball matches a day) , Gretzy had 2,857 career points, a number which even a mediocre country cricketer will probably surpass in runs in 4-5 years.

Michael “Schummi” Schumacher must deserves a spot in there as the man who managed to make a sport where people zoom around at 200mph boring. While he was at his peak, there simply was no point in watching Formula One at all. You already knew he’d win. The guy was a damn machine.
He’s returned to racing recently after a long hiatus, but I don’t know how well he’s doing these days.

He scored a total of 1447 points over his career. Second place is Alonso with 855.
He set 76 lap records. Second place holds 41.
Schummi won 91 races. Second place won 51.
He held the World Drivers’ Championship title 7 times. The runner-up is Fangio with 5 and that was in the 50s.

I haven’t followed F1 racing in an eternity, but I doubt anyone’s ever topping him.

Eddy Merckx dominated cycling. He won the Tour de France 5 times, which has been bested by Lance Armstrong, but Armstrong dominated the event, not the sport. He won the 3 major tours (France, Italy [Giro d’Italia], and Spain [Vuelta a Espana]) and all the classics. It’s hard to pick the best accomplishments because there are so many, but it’s simply a given among cycling fans that he’s the best there was, the best there will be.

Further to Heather McKay - apart from the British Opens, she won both World Opens played during her career. After losing twice in her first year, 1962, she never lost a match again until she retired in 1981 at the age of 40. Her dominance at her peak is shown in the finals 1968-70 where she beat the second best player each year. She won these finals 9–0, 9–0, 9–0; 9–2, 9–0, 9–0 and 9–1, 9–1, 9–0.

She also played hockey for Australia and from the age of 38 until she was 44 won 9 racquetball titles in the US and Canada. She is in the US racquetball hall of fame.

Speaking of racing, Richard Petty won 200 races. Second place is David Pearson with with 105.

Jimmie Johnson has won 5 Cup championships in a row and has the opportunity to make it six this year. Cale Yarborough won 3 in a row in the 70’s and was the only person to have ever done that until Johnson. I used to think that it must have been miserable watching one person win that many years in a row. Little did I know…

The points record will be beaten sometime within the next few years, but only because the system is so different these days. Currently, it’s 25 points for a win and the top 10 score points, but for most of Schumacher’s career it was 10 points for a win and only the top 6 scored points.

Had the modern scoring system been in use for Schumacher’s entire career, he’d currently have 3770 points.

Everyone who follows F1 knows how dominant Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna were from the mid 1980’s to the early 1990’s - if Schumacher gets one more win, he will tie Prost and Senna’s combined career win total.

Any chance they’ll go back and adjust point totals to reflect that? Seems weird not to.

I don’t know if checkers is a “sport” but I find the record of Marion Tinsley to be beyond astonishing. The Wiki article states he lost only 7 games in his 45-year career. He was so invincible he stopped bothering to enter tournaments.

By now, computers can play perfect checkers, but what I find singularly impressive is that for a few years the Chinook checkers program was apparently able to beat every single human on the planet … except Marion Tinsley.