Most dominant athlete of all time (in their sport)

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robeiae

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With the Olympics in full swing and with a number of seriously dominant athletes on display, I thought this might be an interesting issue to weigh in on.

No poll (too many choices), no real ground rules (though I think time has to factor in here: athletes should be dominant over a decent period), just names, sports, and whys. Obviously, comparing athletes in different sports is highly subjective, but them's the breaks...

To start the ball rolling and to knock off a couple of current hanging curve balls:

Usain Bolt--running (sprints). Almost a given. Fastest person in the world continues to be so, across almost a decade.

Michael Phelps--swimming. 28 medals, 29 world records.

Serena Williams--tennis. Okay, she lost in the Olympics. But her longevity plus number of titles, it's just too much.

Tom Brady--American football. Love or hate him, he has mastered the game imo, like no one else ever has.

Who's next?
 

mirandashell

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For American Football it has to be Joe Montana, surely? Are we only doing athletes that are still performing?
 

CassandraW

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Muhammad Ali, boxing, because he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. Also, he was the greatest.

ETA:

Babe Ruth, baseball, because who else had a candy bar named for him and a stadium nicknamed for him. Also, he's the great bambino.
 
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mirandashell

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Well, boxing is Muhammed Ali, obviously. Football ... for me, between Pele and Beckenbauer and Stanley Matthews. Tennis.... hmm.... I think you have to consider Billy Jean King. Not just for what she won but for the effect she had on women's tennis. Both on and off the court.
 

Xelebes

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For Hockey, it could be Wayne Gretzky (120 GP - 68 G - 138 A - 206 Pts). Hayley Wickenheiser (67 GP - 49 G - 70 A - 119 Pts) however might have a case of being more dominant in women's. I am using international performance for fair comparison.

For Curling, the word seems to be Kevin Martin. 15 Grand Slam Championships and 3 Briers.
 
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cornflake

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Mario Lemieux, the greatest player to lace up skates.

Terry Sawchuk, greatest goaltender who ever lived.

Tom fucking Brady? Really? Before Jim Brown? Before Montana? Before Jerry Rice?

Martina Navratilova has to top tennis. I get the argument for Serena, I suppose, but Navratilova kicked more as and is, I believe, way ahead on longevity and number of titles, though I'd have to look.
 

robeiae

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In Grand Slam titles, Serena is at 22, tied with Graf in second place, two behind Court.

Serena's first singles GS title was in 1999, her most recent in 2016. Navratilova's first was in 1978, her last was in 1990. That puts Serena ahead in longevity and GS titles, I think, though Navratilova certainly has more singles titles (not just GSs). Add in doubles and she's admittedly way ahead of everyone. But for a good chunk of Navratilova's career (like, the 70's), Evert owned her.

Regardless, it's all debatable.
 
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cornflake

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Since when does slams = titles?

Navratilova has far, far more titles, time ranked at the top, god knows more doubles titles, and a damn longer career (we're counting career by timeline of slam wins now? Eh?).
 

robeiae

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As I said, it's debatable. :)

Graf was ranked number one longer than Navratilova or Williams. And Court and Evert have better career winning percentages than any of the others.

But I'll just say that at this point, Serena Williams blows me away with her play, still. She wins bigger than the others, imo. That's what makes her the most dominant, imo. Prior to her, I would have said it was Graf. Navratilova's problem--for me--is that Evert kicked her ass in the 70's. And Navratilova used this--her inability to get over on Evert--to transform herself and her game, to her great credit. And she reversed things completely with Evert. But again, it wasn't always that way. Not even close.
 

CassandraW

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I'm with robo in that it's less about counting wins than it is about indisputably owning your sport in your prime and having your legend ring long after you're done competing. And ideally, your name is synonymous with the sport even to non-fans who never saw you compete. Hence, my nomination of Ali and Ruth.
 
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mirandashell

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I totally agree with Ruth and Ali. And I don't think anyone can argue about Pele. But Brady? Not sure that many people who don't follow NFL will know him. Serena is a big name but then so are Graf, Navratilova,King, Sampras, McEnroe, Borg. Pete Sampras totally owned men's tennis in his time. Utterly dominant. So why not him?

If we are going to debate this we should come up with better reasons than 'because I say so'.
 
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mrsmig

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Tiger Woods for PGA golf. No question that he has dominated the field. Jack Nicklaus is right behind, for the sheer longevity of his excellence.
 

mrsmig

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I totally agree with Ruth and Ali. And I don't think anyone can argue about Pele. But Brady? Not sure that many people who don't follow NFL will know him. Serena is a big name but then so are Graf, Navratilova,King, Sampras, McEnroe, Borg. Pete Sampras totally owned men's tennis in his time. Utterly dominant. So why not him?

If we are going to debate this we should come up with better reasons than 'because I say so'.

You forgot Chris Evert. :)
 

nighttimer

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This isn't about who I like because if it was Joe Montana would be my all-time favorite football player. But the most dominant in the NFL would still be Jim Brown. The man was an unstoppable force.

They were too.

Michael Jordan
Usain Bolt
Wayne Gretzky
Jack Nicklaus
Reggie White
Martina Navratilova
Muhammad Ali.


Those are some of my dominators. There are nearly always more than only one. Agree or disagree? That's cool. Who are yours?
 
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VeryBigBeard

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Gonna go a little off the board with this not (solely) because these are players I happen to like a lot, but because I think they've had a big influence on the sport without being that person everyone thinks of.

First, Pavel Datsyuk. Possibly the most entertaining hockey player to watch in the past 15 years, give or take Ovechkin. More cups than Crosby. I love both Crosby and Ovechkin's games for their pure power and speed of instinct. Datsyuk's is speed of thought and creativity that neither of them have ever matched. In his prime he could just go through players twice his size. This isn't his prime, and he goes through one of the better defensive teams in the league before embarrassing a Vezina-calibre goaltender.

While we're on the Red Wings: Nick Lidstrom. There are a lot of great defensemen who think the game of hockey--Bourque, Blake, Orr--but Lidstrom is in that conversation for doing what they did in a faster, more athletic league and making it look almost childishly easy. And he was drafted in the late rounds as an obscure Swedish prospect.

In soccer, I think Messi has to be legitimately considered one of the best ever, but it's hard to evaluate when he's played most of his career with Xavi and Iniesta, both of whom could also possibly be in the conversation, especially if we can nominate an entire team, in which case Spain from 2008 - 2012--nobody in the entire world could figure out a way to even come close on them.

But to continue going off the board: Ferenc Puskas. Perhaps Gheorghe Hagi, too. Both changed the way the game was played tactically, and were incredible players in their own rights.

The whole discussion is a little silly because dominance is so culture-dependent, and to some extent dependent on what parts of the game appeal and perhaps on rivalries and such. Still, I think if we take that personal element out of it we're ignoring a big part of what makes an athlete so important as to be called dominant.

I'm enjoying reading everyone else's picks, by the way.
 

cornflake

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As I said, it's debatable. :)

Graf was ranked number one longer than Navratilova or Williams. And Court and Evert have better career winning percentages than any of the others.

But I'll just say that at this point, Serena Williams blows me away with her play, still. She wins bigger than the others, imo. That's what makes her the most dominant, imo. Prior to her, I would have said it was Graf. Navratilova's problem--for me--is that Evert kicked her ass in the 70's. And Navratilova used this--her inability to get over on Evert--to transform herself and her game, to her great credit. And she reversed things completely with Evert. But again, it wasn't always that way. Not even close.

I'd have understood Graf as a choice more than Williams. I know the stats. Having played while there was another very dominant, long-term player is not, imo, a diminishing thing for Navratilova. Williams has been bested by people far down the ladder in spurts, and didn't really have a rival of her general caliber for a long stretch of her career (besides perhaps her sister, which could be another entire discussion).

Navratilova has more wins, more time on top, more longevity, longer streaks...

I totally agree with Ruth and Ali. And I don't think anyone can argue about Pele. But Brady? Not sure that many people who don't follow NFL will know him. Serena is a big name but then so are Graf, Navratilova,King, Sampras, McEnroe, Borg. Pete Sampras totally owned men's tennis in his time. Utterly dominant. So why not him?

If we are going to debate this we should come up with better reasons than 'because I say so'.

I think people who don't follow NFL know Brady, but not for any football-based reason, heh.

Though that criteria would put Gretzky on top and I will argue that all day, every day.
 

CassandraW

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I'm with nighttimer that I rank Nicklaus over Tiger Woods -- though that one is damn close and I can see the argument for Woods. I never saw Nicklaus play except in old film clips, I'm not a screaming golf fanatic, and yet I know all about him. And he was great for a very long time. No question Tiger dominated the game while he played, though, and he brought an excitement to the game.

If it were about favorites, I'd pick Phil the thrill Mickelson.

I hate to say it, but despite the scandal, Lance Armstrong, cycling.


Eta -- am also with nighttimer on Jordan and Gretzky.

Tennis and football are harder for me to call.
 
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cornflake

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Lance Armstrong and his chemically- and otherwise-enhanced blood? I include him in nothing save a list of phenomenal jackholes who happen to have been professional athletes (a list that also includes Tom Brady).
 

CassandraW

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Lance Armstrong and his chemically- and otherwise-enhanced blood? I include him in nothing save a list of phenomenal jackholes who happen to have been professional athletes (a list that also includes Tom Brady).

I agree on his character and his doping. moreover, even before that stuff came out, I thought he was kind of an asshole.

but is there any other cyclist who brought such name recognition to the sport? whose name is so overwhelmingly synonymous with cycling? who is known by people who don't give a crap about cycling? (and not just for the scandal).

I'd bet my 401K they were pretty much all doping during those years, unfortunately. and -- not that I'm defending doping by any means -- but while the doping helps you train harder, you still need the talent and hard work.

who else would qualify as having "dominated" cycling?
 
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mirandashell

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Football is tough to call. Apart from Pele cos everyone knows who he is.

But it can come down to the team you play for. For instance George Best. He was in the Man United team that arguably dominated in the 60s in England. But his international career is totally unremarkable because he played for Northern Ireland. Team players can't do it on their own. So you have to wonder how good Messi would be if he were playing for Real Zaragoza and came from Panama
 

mirandashell

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who is known by people who don't give a crap about cycling?

In a lot of countries, Eddie Mercx. And of course, Sir Bradley Wiggins. Huge personality that people remember.
 
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