The world of sports has always been a part of my life. I have always been a sports fan ever since I was young. What endears me to sports is the competition. It is what makes the sports clock tick. Winning separates the great ones from the good ones.
Here are ten of my favorite athletes and what separates them from the pack:
1. Michael Jordan
Take away the 6 title rings, 6 finals and 5 regular season MVPs and what have you? The high-flying Tar Heel who got Nike on its wings because of his dazzling dunks.
But what made MJ great was his desire to win at all costs. In game 5 of the 1997 NBA finals, he put mind over matter by playing through pain and nausea for 44 minutes, and scoring the game winning basket. Jordan later told the media “somehow, I found the energy to stay strong”. That’s greatness by his Airness.
2. Kobe Bryant
Haters call him lame for giving himself his nickname, Kobe Bryant was just telling us how he wants to play the game: like a “black mamba”.
The black mamba is one of the deadliest and most venomous snakes in the world. The mamba’s accuracy rate is 99% and that’s the kind of basketball precision he wants to have. After scoring 81 points versus Toronto in 2006 and winning titles without Shaq, Kobe’s killer instinct is indeed mamba-like.
3. Manny Pacquiao
Manny traveled to Los Angeles and presented himself to Freddie Roach with nothing except an powerful left hand and the work ethic that would later earn him an unprecedented 8 world titles in 8 different weight classes.
Pacquiao’s success can be attributed to his willingness to learn and evolve as a boxer. He also has the uncanny ability to put personal and national distractions aside while training. He zeroes in on his goal like a machine. That’s the why he’s the Pacman.
4. Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps is the most bemedalled athlete in Olympic History. At age 11, his coach taught him to write his goals on a sheet of paper so that he knew what he wanted to accomplish. Each time he failed, he read that sheet to remind him not to quit.
Back then, the goal was to make the Olympic team. Phelps has accomplished that and won a total of 18 gold medals, twice more than the next person in the record books.
5. Usain Bolt
Isn’t it a coincidence that the world’s fastest man has BOLT for a surname? Perhaps he should change his first name to LIGHTNING, because that’s how fast he is. It’s good to aim to be great. But Bolt believes that greatness has no limits.
To be the greatest is not about winning, but repeating again and again. After winning the sprint double gold for the 2nd straight Olympics in 2012, he declared himself as a legend, and the greatest in the sport. No one argued that.
6. Anderson Silva
The Spider is considered as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. He won a record 16 straight UFC matches including 10 title defenses during a 7 year period.
Silva beat his opponents by being a master of mind games. He knew if he beat the mind, the body will follow. He often toyed with his opponents’ minds by clowning and taunting. And when they reacted, he used their aggression against them to counter with his precise and vicious Muay Thai striking.
7. Roger Federer
The greatest tennis player of all-time held the number 1 spot for a record 237 straight weeks and a total of 302 weeks.
Federer’s strength lies in his ability to adjust during matches. While opponents tend to lose steam as the match wears on, Federer gets stronger when the going gets tougher. His mental strength gives him the ability to always deliver at crunch time. No wonder they call him Fed-Ex.
8. David Beckham
Beckham is not the best player in the world, but he is the most recognizable athlete in soccer. Although experts say his free kicks make him special, Beckham is a team player whose main assets are his leadership on the field and setting up his teammates.
His appeal is more than having Posh Spice as wife and having one of the prettiest faces in all of sports. Beckham’s greatness transcends titles and goals. It wasn’t about being a superstar, but one that made a difference worldwide.
9. Serena Williams
With Serena Williams, it’s not about being the best tennis player in the world. It’s how she made it back to the top of the tennis world again. Her rankings fell to below 100 when she had those injuries that caused her mental depression from 2005-2006.
But being the fierce competitor that she is, she worked her way back. She ended 2013 as world number 1, the oldest in history, proving that age and injuries are physical aspects that can be overcome by determination and will.
10. Bo Jackson
Bo Jackson is considered to be the best athlete in our era. It’s hard to disagree because he was a star in both the MLB and NFL during the 90’s. He was able to juggle both careers very well until he suffered a serious hip injury in 1991. His football career ended and he was written off as a baseball player.
Bo endured a hip replacement, and willed his body to full recovery. He successfully returned to the White Sox in 1993 and hit a homerun during his first swing on his first at bat. From that homer came Nike’s famous “Bo Knows” logo which alluded to Jackson’s bold prediction that he would return to the majors.
Following these athletes’ careers has taught me a lot of lessons in life. And here is the most important one: That talent is God given, but success is person driven. That’s what greatness is all about.
Whose your favorite athlete of all time? Tweet us @Attitude4Invtn and share!