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Old 03-03-2011, 11:53 AM
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Michael Jordan is the greatest athlete to ever live. In my opening post I discussed how his accomplishments, his athletic prowess, and his legacy made him the best. I have reiterated these original points and proved how they easily make MJ a better athlete then both Tiger Woods and Mario Lemieux.

Mario was one of the best hockey players ever but he wasn't the best. He was a tremendous athlete but not even top 10. MJ, Jim Brown, Babe Ruth, Ali, Gretzky, Deion Sanders, Jim Thorpe, Jackie Robinson, Gordie Howe, Tiger Woods, Wilt Chamberlain all were definitely better athletes as were names like Jerry Rice and Dave Winfield, shit Mario would struggle to make top 15. As great as Lemieux is, he belongs no where near this discussion and I have shown that throughout the thread.

Tiger Woods is a great athlete but he participates in a sport where it's easy to look like a superior athlete to your competition. And now Tiger when he is supposed to be in the prime of his career can't even buy a win. That doesn't sound like the greatest athlete to me.

Both of my competitors throughout this debate have said that they believe Michael Jordan is the second best athlete ever. However, Habs doesn't see Lemieux as close to the top and LSN doesn't see Woods as close to the top. I have my own competition admitting that the athlete I chose was the greatest next to their choices. That shows that his greatness as an athlete is something that cannot be disputed.

Michale Jordan accomplished more in basketball then anyone else has. His athletic prowess and abilities could be seen in his domination of the sport of basketball and also his short run in baseball after a 19 year layoff. In terms of legacy there is no one greater either. Michael Jordan is not only the greatest basketball player ever, he is the greatest athlete of all time.
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Old 03-03-2011, 01:55 PM
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The three of us have discussed at length our beliefs as to why our chosen player is the greatest athlete of all time. We have defined criteria, and attempted to back up said criteria with factual information. I am not here to claim that Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan aren't all time greats in their game, nor am I trying to deny their place AMONG the greatest athletes of all-time. However, neither demonstrated all the traits that Mario Lemieux did in making him the greatest player of all time.

With regards to Tiger Woods, he comes in with the inherent disadvanatge of golf being his sport. Simply put, it precludes many of the factors that basketball, football, and certainly hockey possess in terms of great athleticism. The physical endurance, speed, strength, agility, speed of play, and ability to make incredible split second plays that one would call "defining" simply aren't there. There's no doubting the concentration, mental focus, hand-eye coordination and precision that golf possesses. But those factors alone simply don't measure up favorably with hockey. While Tiger may be in great shape, it's not a prerequisite for the game. Golfers such as John Daly, Craig Stadler, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer have all carved out excellent and Hall of Fame careers being in less then stellar shape. When's the last time you say an overweight hockey player? You haven't because shape and conditioning, parts of athleticism, are a must, not an option.

Golfers such as Jack Nicklaus have won the Masters at age 46, and Julian Boros won the PGA championship at age 48. Golf is a gaame one can play at a high level even as they grow old, because of its lack of athletic demands. In contrast, Tiger is in the prime of his career at 35 and has yet to win a tournament in 2 years. Attribute it to highly publicizied marital infidelities that caused a lack of focus or other extraneous variables, but Tiger has looked like a shell of his current self for the past two years. One must take an athletes entire body of work into consideration, and Tiger missing cuts, flubbing shots, and failing to win have certainly hurt said body of work. Factor that in in all the inherent disadvantages that golf presents in terms of athleticism, and it's impossible to name Tiger Woods the greatest athlete ever.

In looking at Michael Jordan, there's no denying his athletic prowess at his given sport. But I have shown that while a great player from day one, he wasn't a complete player. One must factor in the entire body of work, again. He was not a good three point shooter, as i attested. Lemieux, on the other hand, hd a shooting percentage of 20.6 his rookie year, better then Gretzky's in the same year. Jordan also failed to be able to play inside as a post player until much later in his career. Lemieux, on the other hand, possessing a rocket shot, could play the point on the power play. His strength allowed him to outmuscle others for pucks, stickhandle and deke his way around players, and use his speed, agility, and phenomenal hand-eye coordination to not only beat goalies but set up others for easy goals. His 43 goals and 57 assists for an incredible 100 point rookie year on the worst team in hockey attests to this. He was a complete player from day 1.

Another feat in which Jordan failed with regards to athleticism was the skill to make people around him better. All of the players he played with scored similar, some better, without Jordan then they did with. Ive shown how Mario Lemieux took virtual nobodies and turned them into stars using facts regarding Rob Brown and Kevin Stevens. Both never came close to having the success without Lemieux that they did with him, demonstrating Lemieux's athletic prowess in getting the most out of players. It was due to his dekes, stick handling, and precision passing that created this. Jordan was unsuccesful in doing this for much of his career, as Ive shown. Further, for all the accolades that are heaped on Jordan for his success during his career, he was hd plenty of letdowns as well. He was unable to defeat the Detroit Pistons for 3 straight years in the playoffs before succeeding. It wasn't until Phil Jackson was promoted to head coach and implemented the triangle offense that Jordan's game became more complete. His last two seasons were spent wallowing in mediocrity with the Washington Wizards. Again, full body of work must be considered when determining greatest athlete. As for Lemieux, he won his Cups with two different coaches. The second was with a coach the players won with in spite of in Scotty Bowman, who was instrumental in trading two of their best players and all-time greats away for virtually nothing because he didn't like them in Mark Recchi and Paul Coffey. So while part of Jordan's success can be traced to being part of a system, part of Lemieux's can be equally done so as rising above no real system being in place the second year of back to back championships.

Jordan also lost his passion for the game during the midst of his career. Although a minimal part of my argument, it's hard to consider someone to be the greatest athlete of all-time when they "lose their desire and passion" to go play another sport. Even if him playing baseball is slightly relevant, he was very unsuccessful in playing in an inferior league. Regardless of him not playing for a long period of time, skills don't erode if one is great, they simply become rusty. For Jordan to "improve tremendously" to barely make the Medoza line in a bad league is indicative of his lack of success in another sport. While Jordan was losing passion, some understandably so with the death of his father, Lemieux faced multiple obstacles that never caused his passion to erode. He had back surgery in the 90/91 campaign and was playing on a back he couldn't tie his skates on and missed three games only to score the most incredible goal in NHL history in a game he put his team ahead for good, and they never trailed in the series. Despite missing those games, Lemieux lead the NHL in playoff scoring with 44 points, second only to Gretzky's 47 in 1983. In the 91/92 campaign, he played through a broken wrist that forced him out 5 games, but returned the same series to oust the team that had injured him, and swept the following two teams to win his second consecutive Cup. The following year, noone could have blamed Lemieux if he had called it a career due to his cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, but not only did he return the night of his final radiation, he also lead the NHL in scoring that season despite missing two months. With all due respect to Jordan's passion that made him a great athlete, Lemieux's passion eclipsed his(and Woods) to make him the superior athlete. While Jordan was a great athlete, he didn't possess the combination of speed, agility, endurance, defensive acumen, strength, and all-around play that Lemieux did. Simply put, it made Lemieux the superior athlete.

I clearly outlined criteria for what made Lemeiux the greatest player of all time. The first is him being the complete package from day one. As I said earlier, his shooting percentage in his rookie year was higher then the league's leading scorer in 20.6 to 20.3. Despite his pinpoint accuracy and cannon of a shot that lead to 43 goals his rookie year, he also added 57 assists, showing he was equally adept at distributing the puck early in his career. 100 points in a rookie season is a phenomenal feat. Perhaps no one play demonstrates Lemieux's early greatness then him scoring a goal in hif first game on his first shot. He only made one of the all-time greats in Ray Borque look silly in doing so, by speedily stripping all-time great Ray Borque of the puck, quickly putting it through Borque's legs on the side boards, then using his incredible speed to race in alone before deking the goalie and blowing shot by him. His incredible speed, stickhandling and agility were on full display from that first goal on. In the video below of his first goal, it's easy to see how he displayed Lemieux and utilized those skills from day one.

Second, I used accomplishments as a measure of making Lemieux the greatest player of all-time. Some of Lemieux's accomplishments include leading the NHL in scoring 6 times, while leading the league in goals or assists multiple times. He holds the NHL record for shorthanded goals in one season with 13 in 1988/89. Lemieux is also the only player in NHL history to score 5 goals five different ways, and I've demonstrated how remarkable they were earlier. Lemieux also was the last player in the NHL to lead the league in both goals and assists in 1988/99, a record that has lasted 21 years. Championships, while important, aren't the be-all, end-all criteria for judging the greatest athlete, or Bill Russelll(12 NBA rings), Jean Believau(11 Stanley Cups), or Yogi Berra(10) would surpass either Jordan or Lemieux, with relevance to their sport. Still, despite his setbacks, Lemieux won two, and did so in magnificent fashion. During his first Stanley Cup win, he re-injured his surgically reparied back, and was urged not to play again. Instead, he carried the team on his back to win their first Stanley Cup, and lead the team to their second Cup with a broken wrist the nexr year. Finally, he rebounded from cancer to not only play again at a high level, but lead the league in scoring. Ill take Lemieux's accomplishments rivaled with anyone in context of their sport and the magnitude of them.

Speaking of magnitude, I also looked at Lemieux's defining moments. I already demonstrated and showed video evidence of the first, in which he demonstrated he was great right away, scoring an incredible goal on his first shift in his first game. He defined what it meant to be a defensive forward when he scored 13 shorthanded goals in 1988/89, as Ive already mentioned. He defined what it meant to be the complete package, when he became the only player in NHL history to score five goals in five different ways. In the video I provided in post 14, Lemieux shows off HOW he was the complete package. His first goal was an example of his superior playmaking and his creativity by throwing the puck off the goalie's back and into the net. His second goal, the shorthanded goal, was an example of his unparralled acceleration, stickhandling, and ability to deke a goalie like no other. His third goal, on the power play, was an example of his phenomenal shot. pinpoint accurate shot. His fourth goal, on the penalty shot, showed how there was none better in open ice while displaying tremedous puck control and hand-eye coordination while beating the goalie. His fifth goal, the emoty netter, was an example of how positionally sound he was. Again, it demonstrated how he was the complete package in this defining moment.

Lemieux had more defining moments to come. In 1990/91, when the Penguins won their first Stanley Cup, Lemieux re-injured his back. Missing three games, he was urged by the doctors not to play. But trailing two games to one, Mario suited up, despite not being able to tie his skate laces. As I showed in post #4, he scored arguably the greatest goal in NHL history, where he took a pass, and challenged two defensemen. Putting it between ones legs, he accelerated past them, picked up the puck, and in one motion, he deked the goaltender right while flipping the puck to the backhand and scoring right. The Penguins never trailed again in the series, and Lemieux scored the second most points in NHL history for a playoff year with 44 despite those 3 games missed. The following year, he had his wrst broken purposefully in Game 1 against the New York Rangers, Missing the next 5 games and again going against doctor's advice that he have season ending surgery, he lead the Pens past the favored Rangers in game 7, then lead them to sweeps against Boston and Chicago to win back to back Cups. The following year, Lemieux was leading the league in scoring, and on pace to break Gretzky's all-time record for most points in a season. He was diagnosed with Hodgskins disease, a form of cancer, and missed two months. Yet he returned the night of his last radiation treatment and promptly went on to lead the league in scoring despite missing two months.

Lemieux wasn't finished. After retiring in 1996, he returned to the franchise as the owner in 2000, and promptly scored a goal and two assists in his first game back. He lead the team to the Eastern Conference Finals that year, and lead the league in points per game in the half season after he returned. Despite a firesale of all the Penguins best players in years following, he lead the NHL in points per game from his return in 2000 to his retirement in 2006. From start to finish, there was none greater. Jordan couldn't do it, and neither could Woods.

There are many more factors Ive pointed out and could go into great detail about again, but Ive highlighted the most important ones. Ive shown how from day one to the day Lemieux retired, there was no greater athlete. Ive used a myriad of video and statistical analysis to back this up. Lemieux's ability to make players better then they were was also shown, with stats to prove so. Lemieux's ability to fight through injury and still play at the top of his profession truly seperates him from anyone else. Noone else has ever missed two months and lead their league in scoring, especially after cancer. Noone has battled the back problems Lemieux has, and still lead the league in points per game in both time periods in which he played.

Big Sexy's argument in his closing statement is that because Habs and I put Jordan second and others before each other's choices it shows Jordan is overall number one. That's illogical, because we both put a player higher in vastly different sports, showing our difference in logic and opinion. And his correlation there is simply opinion, nothing more. The difference is that along the way, Ive used facts to show Lemieux's greatnes from day one, his accomplishments, his defining moments, his ability to make others better, and his statistical dominance, and his excellence despite injury and a dehabilitating disease. When you combine the facts I presented with the myriad of reasons why, there's only one logical conclusion one can come to, and no amount of speculation or opinion can change that. The fact is, Mario Lemieux is the greatest athlete of all time.

Last edited by LSN80 : 03-03-2011 at 02:01 PM.
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Old 03-03-2011, 08:33 PM
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First of all, let me congratulate both Big Sexy and LSN80 for another excellent round of debating. This was another interesting topic, which could be debated from now till the Detroit Lions win the Superbowl, or until the Pirates win the World Series, and even after the elapsation of such an extended period of time, I am sure we still would not arrive at a consensus. Both of my fellow debaters did an excellent job in this round, especially because they were operating from a position of weakness. The simple fact of the matter is, no matter how compelling the arguments of Big Sexy were regarding Michael Jordan, or how passionate the points were from LSN80 concerning Mario Lemieux, when it comes right down to it, both guys made the wrong choice. The greatest athlete of all time is clearly Tiger Woods. Allow me to summarize why.

The simple fact of the matter in this round is that both Big Sexy and LSN80 produced some well thought out and very long winded posts. In doing so, unfortunately, both guys tended to drift off topic, sometimes dramatically so, losing focus on the question at hand. In other words, when the question was simply who is the best athlete ever, it seems to me there was a lot of time spent on trivia questions and points of irrelevance. When we should have been discussing Tiger versus Mario versus Michael, I seemed to read an awful lot about minor league baseball, debates regarding Gretzky, Orr and others, the quality of teammates, and other such points which mattered little or nothing to the question at hand. I am not sure if this was a "baffle them with bullshit" strategy, you know, inundate the readers and judges with an endless plethora of facts, statistics and opinions which often skirted around the issues, rather than delving into them, and hope they will be overwhelmed into adopting a viewpoint which quite frankly is incorrect. Or maybe it was just a case of passion, especially in the case of our boy from Pennsylvania, arguing emotionally but incorrectly about Lemieux's consideration of top athlete. Either way, let's boil it down to the facts.

Golf is a legitimate professional sport, requiring a high skill level and terrific athleticism to play it at a level of the upper echelon of the world, and necessitating the God given talents, physical abilities, and mental fortitude to play it at the level of Tiger Woods. Throughout this entire thread, there was a persistently naive and incorrect bias from both of my fellow debaters regarding the athleticism required not only of a professional golfer, but specifically, of Tiger Woods. The simple fact of the matter is, golf is a legitimate professional sport, one which should not be discounted or trivialized just because people do not play it, do not follow it, or do not adequately respect it. To play PGA golf at a level of dominance like Woods has done, requires a lot more than hand eye coordination, timing, patience and persistence, although these area all paramount. It also requires strength, stamina (both mental and physical), endurance, and Tiger Woods is in possession of all of these attributes, and then some.

Tiger has been so dominant physically that he necessitated changes to tour events and layouts. There are numerous examples of "Tiger-proofing" courses just to keep tournaments competitive and to keep the rest of the field with a fighting chance to stay in the hunt. Pushing tee boxes back to lengthen yardages, narrowing fairways, increasing the length of the rough, or re-positioning and deepening bunkers to try to increase the demands upon Tiger because he was simply so superior to everyone else. And what happened? Tiger's over powering strength was unfazed by the additional yardages. When faced with narrower fairways, he simply put away the drivers and tore the cover of the ball off with long irons. Longer rough and deeper bunkers, more strategically placed, were simply no match for the power and strength in Tiger's repertoire. To suggest that his physicality and athleticism were not fantastic is ridiculous, biased, and naive. Simply put, despite the different physical demands of the different sports, Tiger is undoubtedly a supremely gifted and strong athlete from a physical standpoint. There does not have to be physical contact, or aggression, or the necessity for speed, agility, or flexibility, for a sport to be considered physical, or for one of it's competitors to be considered a supremely gifted athlete, in fact the greatest ever. This is nothing more than a short sighted opinion based upon biases and personal preferences.

My fellow e-friends spoke a lot of the fact that golfers in general are not necessarily athletic, and that as such, athleticism is not a prerequisite, and so therefore, Tiger should be devoid of consideration as the greatest athlete of all time. And that's all well and food to say except it conveniently misses the point and misleads the reader. I am not comparing the physical prowess of golfers in general to basketball players. I am not assessing the relative athleticism of the average Joe on tour to that of hockey players. I am talking specifically about Tiger Woods. I am not comparing John Daly, or Angel Cabrera, or Vijay Singh, to Michael Jordan or his Bulls teammates. I am not suggesting that Phil Mickelson, or Mark Calcavecchia, or Craig Stadler are more physically gifted than Mario Lemieux. Then again, these guys haven't won 14 Majors before their 36th birthdays. They haven't won 96 professional titles in their careers. They haven't dominated their sport for a decade and a half. They haven't taken the golfing world by storm and forever changed the where and how of it's play. They haven't Sergio Garcia'd any courses due to his physical dominance. Simply put, these guys are not Tiger Woods. So let's not get sidetracked here, or worse yet, let's not try to dupe our readers or judges. Let's not compare Lemieux or Jordan to the stereotypical golfer, with caddy in tow, but instead, let's compare them to the man I am comparing them to, the incomparable Tiger Woods. The fact of the matter is this. Tiger Woods is a physical specimen. The strength he has displayed in muscling the ball out of deep bunkers and treacherous and unforgiving rough is not to be discounted. The depth of his drives, while maintaining precision and accuracy, not to mention the balls it takes to conceive some of the shots he produces, never mind the flawless execution of them, these are all hallmarks of the greatest golfer of all time. But much more so than this, they are the trademarks of the greatest professional athlete of all time.

We haven't even ventured into the mental aspect of the game, and the psychological superiority of Eldrick. Granted this applies well to all 3 guys, but it cannot go unmentioned that Tiger is the prototypical ice water in the veins type of guy. While Jordan's grace under pressure cannot be faulted, Tiger's ability to take over a tournament, and psych everyone out in the process, is unparalleled. His ability to protect a lead is noteworthy. His propensity to be the predator, pursuing and overtaking his prey, is legendary. As unflappable as Lemieux was, no one goes for the jugular like Tiger does. No one plays and competes with more passion, or shows less compassion for his peers, than does Tiger.

Then there's the whole issue of accolades, "statistical dominance" as a learned but biased poster once spoke of, and while all three of these guys have amassed awards and accolades like few before them, Tiger has simply achieved more. More championships, at a more torrid pace. More dominance, at an earlier age chronologically as well as in terms of the point in their career. I am not going to go through the accolades again, we have been subjected to such an onslaught of trivia and facts already in this thread. Let's just state with certainty that while all guys have done a lot from a statistical perspective, Tiger has simply done more, sooner, more dominantly, more impressively, and all by himself.

Which brings me to yet another point. Individual sports versus team events. I have no intention of emphasizing the virtues of solo sports versus team based ones, that would not be a fair comparison. You cannot penalize a player and trivialize his accomplishments because of the fact that he plays in a team sport. But all of Tiger's tremendous accomplishments, all of his successes, all come down to him and him alone. No Pippen. No Jagr. No safety net. Just facing the pressure and demands totally alone, and more often than not, triumphing over them.

Of course, the discussion would not be complete without going down the road of the post 12/11/09 Tiger Woods. You know, the one that the National Enquirer, and TMZ, and certain unnamed posters, have attached themselves to and attacked and exploited. Make no mistake about it. Tiger Woods has fallen on hard times. He has faced tremendous physical challenges, such as knees, hips, etc., which incidentally are directly related to the power and torque that only a player of his strength and power could possibly generate. He had been on the shelf for a while, and as such, swing problems have crept into the equation. And of course, his fall from grace, with his marital indiscretions, association with hookers, etc,, quite simply put, the man's life has been in shambles for the last 15 months or so. It should hardly be surprising to anyone that his game has suffered. After all, just because the man plays with the power of a machine and the psyche of a cyborg, he is still a human being and will undoubtedly pay a price for the media circus which revolves around him and hovers over him, as only dirty laundry can elicit.

It has only been 15 months, and he is still only 35 years old. If past experience is any guideline, not only is it possible for him to recover and reascend to the pinnacle of the golfing world, but in fact, it is quite likely. He has fallen on hard times before. He has faced challenges before. He has been written off by naysayers and critics in the oats, and he has come back, bigger and better than ever. I think it is both premature and frankly a little silly to assume that the man is done, just because his physical dominance and mental grit have been temporarily suspended. If I were a betting man, my smart money would be on an eventual resurgence by Tiger. It may take a while. Who know, maybe he will remain in his current funk for another 15 months. But safe to say he will be back. Sure, this is opinion and speculation only, but that is a significant component of the debating process. But I think reports of his demise are grossly over exaggerated and unbelievably premature. When he comes back, and make no mistake about it, he will, he will only add to his superb legacy. Despite what Jordan and Lemieux have accomplished, which cannot be discounted, they are both definitely done. Maybe Tiger is too, but maybe not. And if not, his accolades will only continue to escalate. His legacy can only grow. And his claim to the moniker of gnu greatest athlete of all time will only become more decisive, with the gap between himself and number two Jordan, and the distant consideration Lemieux, growing even larger.

Even if he never returns, even if he toils in futility for a couple of years and then hangs up the cleats, I still maintain he is the greatest athlete ever. His 15 year professional career is comparable in longevity to Lemieux and Jordan, but is more impressive and awe inspiring. His career, as of 03/03/11, already earns him the designation of the greatest athlete of all time. Anything else left to potentially be achieved is merely icing on the cake. Plenty of potential upside, little or no potential downside.

So cloud the discussion all you want with talk of two sports athletic endeavors and fantasy dabbles of below mediocrity in Double A baseball. Inundate us with trivial pursuits such as bailing out failing franchises financially , or scoring 5 different style of goals in one game, or other such points of irrelevance. Put up all such smokescreens to your heart's desires. In the end, it all comes down to one clear consensus. Tiger Woods is the greatest athlete of all time. Not Michael Jordan, he would get the nod for second place. Certainly not Mario Lemieux, who would be in a dog fight (unsuccessfully) to even be the greatest hockey athlete of all time.In the end, the choice is clear. The nod, all biases and tangents aside, has to go to the one and only, the incomparable Tiger Woods.

Let's not forget, Augusta is only around the corner. We may be getting ready to see history unfold, yet again, in typical Tiger-esque fashion. I, for one, would not bet against it. After all, that is when the greatest of the great tend to assert themselves. And make no mistake about it, in any discussions of the greatest of the great, there is no need to look beyond Mr. Tiger Woods.

Last edited by hatehabsforever : 03-03-2011 at 08:59 PM.
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