Who Are The Best Athletes in the World?

I have always wondered which sport has the best athletes. I look at professional athletes that play in the NBA, NFL, MLS, and MLB and wonder how you can compare the athletic abilities of some of the world’s best competitors. This conversation also leads to the discussion of where Olympic athletes play into the mix. Do world class sprinters, gymnasts, rowers, or other Olympic athletes compare to American professional superstars? While I can now appreciate the determination and hard work of endurance athletes, I have to say they are not, in my mind the best athletes in the world. Although it takes years of training to be an elite endurance athlete, I almost feel like their skills are limited. Which leads me to endurance sports such as soccer. Soccer adds agility and speed to the equation along with limited amounts of jumping. I also think that the size of athletes has to be a part of the answer. Soccer players, although very athletic, have a lot less to move around then say players in the NFL or NBA. So, I believe that the debate about the world’s best athletes comes down to professional Football and Basketball players.

The players in the NBA and NFL have size and speed, agility and quickness. They are constantly in contact with one another, and in a lot of situations put their bodies into uncomfortable positions to make big plays. I personally have a slight bias towards football players because it is the sport I love. When it comes down to athletic ability, however, I really think that professional basketball players are the greatest in the world. Basketball players have to poses all forms of athleticism. They have to be fast and have great endurance to run up and down the court for sixty minuets every game. They have to posses the hand-eye coordination to pull up and make shots, or pass the ball through traffic while running at full speed. What they also posses is the agility to cover the most agile point guards in the world. All these attributes are impressive, but the fact that most of the players in the NBA are over six feet three inches tall makes it that much more impressive. If you look at a player like LeBron James, it is almost unbelievable that he is able to do what he does. He stands at six feet, eight inches tall and weights any where between two hundred and fifty and two hundred and sixty pounds. Watching a man of that size run up and down the court and make some of the most acrobatic plays ever seen  shows just how athletic the elite players in the NBA are.

In my opinion, professional basketball players are the most athletic athletes in the world. Who are the most athletic in your opinion? What makes them more athletic than other athletes? Is it fair to compare one set of athletes to another?

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2 Responses to Who Are The Best Athletes in the World?

  1. Flipper Flipper says:

    Good questions. You have completely overlooked one set of incredibly “athletic” athletes, however: NHL. Everything on ice is accelerated and increased in comparison to land sports – from the speed of the players/puck to the forces behind the hits. If my math is right, an athlete running a 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds is traveling at a speed of about 18.2 miles per hour. Professional ice hockey players are reported to reach speeds of 30+ miles per hour regularly in the midst of games. Not only that, but they have to have extremely high agility and explosive power in order to stop on a dime and change direction when traveling that fast. Not to mention the superior hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills that comes with tracking, catching, and handling a fast-moving puck. Keep in mind that Zdeno Chara’s slap shot is consistently over 100 miles per hour (record 108.8 mph last year). How fast does a football or basketball go? Plus, a small black puck is certainly tougher to see than a large ball. Then there’s also the heightened level of mental awareness and decreased reaction time that comes with the accelerated pace of this game in comparison to other sports. I completely disagree with you that basketball players are the most athletic athletes… in my opinion, it’s hockey hands down. Plus, if toughness is a factor in athleticism, put ANY NBA tough-guy in a battle against Donald Brashear (6’2) and I promise you he would be destroyed in a matter of seconds. How often does this happen in basketball: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1-25s4uwFQ

  2. No eggs says:

    Your last question is the one which intrigued me the most. I do not think it is fair to make this comparison. There is no way to tell if football players are more athletic than basketball players. Lebron James is clearly more athletic than Peyton Manning, and Reggie Bush is clearly more athletic than Brian Scalabrine. The best athletes will be found in all different sports. It’s almost impossible to determine who the most athletic player is. Calvin Johnson or Lebron James, your choice. And it’s even more difficult to determine which set of athletes is more athletic, because there are large portions of those athletes who aren’t necessarily going to be athletic, such as quarterbacks and some centers. I think one place you should look if you’re looking for the best athletes is NFL pass rushers. They can be 6’4″ 260 lbs. and run 40 yard dash times in the mid 4 second range. They don’t have elite top speed that wide receivers and defensive backs have, but they usually have better acceleration. Many of them are what draft experts call “two-steppers”, those people who are essentially at top speed after they take two steps from rest.

    One name that I mentioned on my post about 40 yard dash times that I want to bring up is Bo Jackson. My dad tells me that he is the greatest athlete of all time. 6’1″, 230 lbs, A 4.12 (hand-timed) 4o yard dash, and played professional baseball and football, and football. Even Deion Sanders (who also played pro baseball and football) admitted that he couldn’t hang with Bo.

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