By In Stuff

The Stupidest List Ever

We are eager for your outrage!”
— Editors of GQ

No, GQ, you aren’t. I know you write that you are eager for my outrage but, as Ferris Bueller once said, you don’t want this much heat. I don’t want this much heat. I didn’t begin reading your list of 50 greatest living athletes with the expectation of building THIS MUCH outrage. I expected that, if there was any outrage at all, it would be the fun kind, the sports kind, the “Ha ha, how could you have put Tom Brady on this list and not Peyton Manning,” kind of outrage.

So, no, I did not expect to feel a “This list is an abomination upon the earth and all people involved in it should be banished,” kind of outrage. I can’t sleep, GQ. I am sending angry texts to friends I haven’t talked to in 25 years. I am walking around with a cartoon bubble of “?#@*%!” floating over my head.

Yes, I’m letting this list get to me. I’m taking it too seriously. Read ahead at your own peril.

This week, the Editors of GQ — including my friend Devin Gordon — put together a list of what they call the 50 Greatest Living Athletes. What is wrong with this list? Well, I have done a quick count and determined that there are 48,593,271,408,679 things wrong.

No, check that, forgot one. So it’s 48,593,271,408,680 things wrong.

I’m not going to go through all the things that are wrong because my doctor has advised me against it, but let’s start with the main point which is: Whaaaaaaaaaaaat?

No, actually, let’s start with this paragraph, this astonishing paragraph, this soul-crushing, heart-stomping, brain-bursting, dream-crushing paragraph:

“Heck, before we argued about names, we argued about definitions: what does ‘greatest athlete’ even mean? Titles and honors and stats, yes, but also a pure physical dynamism—the creativity to reinvent your sport. Larry Bird couldn’t jump. Dan Marino couldn’t move. Out of the three quarterbacks who have led the San Francisco 49ers franchise to the Super Bowl, Joe Montana is the third-best athlete. Derek Jeter won five World Series, but he was often not even the best athlete on his own team.”

Whew. This won’t be pretty. First, apparently, they argued about definition — what does greatest athlete mean? That is absolutely a good place to start because as Mike Schur — one of the many friends I have driven absolutely insane with my fury over this list — texts: “Why make that list?! It’s an impossible list with vague criteria!!!”

But, no, the editors make clear that it is, in fact, an impossible list with CLEAR criteria. They say that greatest athlete does not just mean titles, honors and stats but also pure physical dynamism and the creativity to reinvent your sport. This paragraph has led me to having long imaginary conversations with the editors of GQ.

Me: Hmm. Interesting idea. Your criteria make me think Larry Bird. Won titles. Won all the awards. Physical dynamism galore. No one was more creative. So Larry Bird is on the list?

GQ: No! Larry Bird couldn’t jump!

Me: Wait, Larry Bird couldn’t jump? Really? He seemed to get a lot of rebounds.

GQ: Nah. Couldn’t jump.

Me: So wait, um, this is about jumping?

GQ: No, it’s about titles, honors, stats, pure physical dynamism, creativity to reinvent your sport.

Me: Oh, OK, that’s what I thought. You mean like Dan Marino. Quickest release ever. Incredible arm. Changed the way he the game is played; made the game more dynamic. True, he didn’t win a title but he came close …

GQ: We don’t care that he didn’t win a title.

Me: Oh, good, so Dan Marino is on the list.

GQ: No! Dan Marino couldn’t move.

Me: Wait, um, what? I’m pretty sure I saw him move.

GQ: Nope. Couldn’t move.

Me: So moving is an important part of this? Moving and jumping? Is Edwin Moses on this list … he did a lot of moving and jumping.

GQ: No.

Me: So, um, I’m confused. Moving and jumping and all the other stuff … I guess you mean Joe Montana, then. He did all those other things, AND he could move AND he could jump. So Joe Montana?

GQ: No! He’s the third-best athlete to take the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Come on!

Me: Oh, OK, um, wait, third-best athlete to take the 49ers to … who else took the 49ers … Steve Young? … Um, OK, I guess maybe you could make that argument, Young definitely … OH GOOD GOD YOU ARE NOT REALLY SAYING THAT JOE MONTANA IS NOT AS GOOD AN ATHLETE AS (let me breathe for a moment) COLIN KAEPERNICK??????????

GQ: 😉

Me: ?#@*%!

GQ: Wait ‘til you get to the part about Derek Jeter.

I should just stop here. I should. I told you, this is working me up, and I already have blood pressure issues and, no, I’m taking it too seriously, they meant it is a fun little list, and they’re obviously just out of their minds. So fine, they mean this to be a list of “athletes” with lots of quotations around it, sort of like the “50 living athletes who would have done well at the NFL Combine.”

GQ: Ha ha, by the way, Tom Brady is on the list.

WHAT? TOM BRADY? TOM BRADY? CAN TOM BRADY JUMP? CAN TOM BRADY MOVE? IS TOM BRADY THE BEST ATHLETE ON THIS TEAM?

GQ: 😉

I hate this list so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so much.

* * *

Basketball players on the list:
1. LeBron James (only numbered player on the list)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kobe Bryant
Julius Erving
Allen Iverson
Magic Johnson
Michael Jordan
Cheryl Miller
Hakeem Olajuwon
Shaquille O’Neal
Bill Russell
Diana Taurasi

Yes, there are 10 NBA players on this list. Ten out of 50. According to GQ, one out of every five of the greatest living athletes on earth plays or played in the NBA. It’s possible, just possible, that the editors of GQ might be insane.

But OK … so they love basketball. Love the game. Know it in and out. Have a deep love for the sport. So let’s see what women basketball players they chose, OK, Diana Taurasi is one, good, and the other …

They chose Cheryl Miller. Of course they did.

Let me say this up front: Cheryl Miller was a wonderful college basketball player in the early-to-mid 1980s. I want to be careful here and not diminish a wonderful player. But Cheryl Miller is — through no fault of her own — the player that guys who have not watched women’s basketball in 30 years still think is the greatest. We are now getting to the heart of why this list makes me truly angry, not just fun angry: It’s unbelievably lazy. You can imagine the editors coming up with it at a kegger without Internet access.

“Hey we need a couple of women basketball players too. Diana Taurasi, of course. And … how about Cheryl Miller?”

“Yeah! She’s Reggie Miller’s sister, right?”

“Right! And didn’t she score, like 105 points in a high school game once?”

I don’t use those two facts capriciously — those are the two facts the GQ editors trumpet in their Miller paragraph.

And, that’s cool. Here’s something else that’s cool, straight from Mechelle Voepel, another friend I’ve been driving up the wall with my outrage: Lisa Leslie once scored 101 points IN A HALF — the other team wouldn’t even come out in the second half. Lisa Leslie also won four Olympic golds, two WNBA titles and was named WNBA MVP three times.

Sheryl Swoopes? Candace Parker? Lauren Jackson? Teresa Edwards? Heck Cheryl Miller’s USC teammate Cynthia Cooper was the top scorer in Italy for 11 years, didn’t join the WNBA until she was 34 and was STILL good enough to win two WNBA MVP awards. There are at least a dozen others. Did they choose Cheryl Miller because, after weighing the brilliance of these more accomplished players (Miller was injured and did not play much after college), they determined that Miller is still a better athlete than any of them.

This is the point, the furious point, the enraging point. I doubt GQ even thought about it.

Oh, and by the way:

Allen Iverson is on this list; Larry Bird is not.

Allen Iverson is on this list; Oscar Robertson is not.

Allen Iverson is on this list; Jerry West is not.

Allen Iverson is on this list; Dirk Nowitzki is not.

* * *

Tennis players on the list:
Bjorn Borg
Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal
Martina Navratilova
Serena Williams

There are a million things wrong here — how can you not have Steffi Graf on here? I’d like to hear the argument how Bjorn Borg was a greater athlete than Novak Djokovic (Was he faster? Stronger? Better shape?) — but we don’t have time for everything.

* * *

Football players on the list:

Tom Brady

Jim Brown

Bo Jackson

Jerry Rice

Aaron Rodgers

Barry Sanders

Deion Sanders

J.J. Watt

So J.J. Watt is here, Lawrence Taylor is not. This is ludicrous on its face, but there is at least a reason for it. GQ — rather sneakily, I should say — decided “to eliminate all the players who cheated or, worse, behaved intolerably off the field.”

Then they made an exception for Jim Brown because, you know, they just did. It’s that kind of list.

See, if GQ had just called this “A dumb list of athletes we happen to like,” I would have been fine with it.

* * *

Olympic athletes on the list:
Usain Bolt
Nadia Comaneci
Michael Johnson
Aleksandr Karelin
Jackie Joyner Kersee
Carl Lewis
Michael Phelps
Lindsey Vonn

This part of the list, I admit, might have made me angrier than any other part, which is saying something. I have so many angry thoughts, but I’ll reduce them to three.

1. Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles Simone Biles.

I can only assume that someone literally just forgot to put her on the list. She’s mentioned in the introduction, so they are aware of her. I can only assume that they meant to put her on here and something happened, some computer bug or something. They have Nadia on this list, and I love Nadia, I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with Nadia, she is a joy and pioneer and a magnificent Olympian. Nadia Comaneci herself would never claim to being the athlete that Simone Biles is. It’s not close. Then, I’m not sure anyone on earth is the athlete Simone Biles is. Maybe they’ll release the non-computer bug version of this list later … I hope Nadia Comaneci AND Simone Biles are on it.

2. No Katie Ledecky? Really?

There is not a woman swimmer on this list. You are doing a fifty greatest living athletes, and you put Michael Phelps on here, and you have the choice of Tracy Caulkins and Natalie Coughlin and Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres and KATIE FLIPPIN’ LEDECKY and you don’t have room for one of them?

3. I wonder what that Lindsey Vonn discussion was like?

So here’s what I’m thinking … the editors of GQ were sitting around a table, and they knew that they needed to put a skier on the list, and they were emptying all of their passionate thoughts about whether it should be Lindsey Vonn or Janica Kostelić. One side of the table is furiously arguing for Vonn’s 20 World Cup titles, a record. But the other side points out that Kostelić won four Olympic gold medals (Vonn won one) and five World Championships (Vonn won two) and is pretty widely regarded as the best female skier ever because she won World Cup races in all five disciplines. Back and forth it went, deep dives into their skiing styles, the depth of the competition they faced, the conditions … and finally Vonn’s remarkable recovery from injuries and World Cup record carried the day.

Or Lindsey Vonn is the only skier they’ve ever heard of. It’s probably one or the other.

* * *

Baseball players on the list:

Henry Aaron
Ken Griffey Jr.
Rickey Henderson
Willie Mays
Mike Trout

There is not a baseball pitcher on this list. Most of the greatest pitchers in baseball history — Seaver, Koufax, Gibson, Maddux, Unit, Pedro, Clemens, Ryan, Kershaw — are living, but not one of them made the list. Because yeah.

Plus: Ken Griffey is just a weird choice. Great athlete? Of course. And I realize they didn’t choose Bonds because of the PED stuff. But even so, was Ken Griffey a greater athlete than, say, Eric Davis? Willie Wilson? Joe Morgan? Jose Altuve? Byron Buxton? Compared to everything else this is a minor point, but this list is so unimaginative, so unchallenging, so absurdly safe. It’s almost as if the GQ folks wanted to make one point (LeBron is the greatest athlete ever!) and then blandly filled in the rest.

* * *

Hockey players on the list:
Wayne Gretzky
Mario Lemieux

Soccer players on the list:
Mia Hamm
Lionel Messi
Pelé
Cristiano Ronaldo
Abby Wambach

Golfers on the list:
Jack Nicklaus
Tiger Woods

Other sports:
Kelly Slater (surfing)
Tony Hawk (skateboarding)
Sugar Ray Leonard (boxing)

I don’t know a single hockey person, a real hockey fan, who would put together a “greatest living athletes” list without Bobby Orr.

I don’t know a single soccer person, a real soccer person, who would put together a “greatest living athletes” list without Maradona

By putting Jack and Tiger on this list, they decided to redefine athlete away from the moving and jumping thing that seemed so important back when Larry Bird was involved. If they were TRULY choosing greatest athlete golfers, wouldn’t Dustin Johnson be on the list?

Then for variety they chose:

Kelly Slater and Tony Hawk and Sugar Ray Leonard.

Or:

Jimmie Johnson and Eric Heiden and Anderson Silva.

Or:

Sachin Tendulkar and Brian O’Driscoll and Katarina Witt.

Or:

Leigh Matthews and Greg Louganis and Teofilio Stevenson.

Or:

Mo Farrah and Ronda Rousey and Ma Long.

Or:

Ashton Eaton and Alain Prost and Laffit Pincay Jr.

Or:

Dan Gable and Pyrros Dimas and Rafer Johnson.

Or a million other combinations. In the end, any list like this is bound to be a failure because it says so little about the athletes and so much about the people who make the list (and, admittedly, so much about the people who rant for thousands of words about the list). And that’s where outrage comes from. There’s not one interesting choice on this list, and you had 50 chances, GQ. There’s not one choice that couldn’t have been thought up over a 43-minute lunch at Chipotle. There’s also no consistency through the process. You just chose people you like.

There’s also no Larry Bird, because apparently, he could not jump. And that’s what it’s all about.

So there’s my outrage. I really hated this list, GQ.

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71 Responses to The Stupidest List Ever

  1. Jeremy says:

    No idea how you can leave Karl Malone off either…he was totally ripped & missed like 5 games in almost 20 years. He’s less athletic than Shaq? Come on.

  2. Seamus a Chaca says:

    I don’t know if it’s possible to come up with a list that wouldn’t outrage people. I don’t even know if it’s possible to come up with a list that everyone could at least respect.

    But GQ doesn’t even come close.

  3. Josh in DC says:

    I’m so glad you keep bringing up Willie Wilson. As a Red Sox fan growing up in the 1980s (the 1982 team is the first I really remember), I am absolutely sure that Willie Wilson is the greatest baseball player of all time and the record books have somehow made an egregious mistake. I never saw him make an out. Heck, I never saw him hit a double. I’m quite sure that in 40,000 career plate appearances against Boston, Willie Wilson batted exactly 1.000/1.000/3.000.

    • Matt S says:

      You never saw him in the 1980 World Series then. He had a horrible series and it killed us. Yes I am a Royal for the purposes of this comment stream.

      • Matt S says:

        Wait that sounded bad. I love Willie Wilson, one of my all time favorite players. From 1979 to 1984 he had 17 home runs. 13 were inside-the-park. He was absolutely electrifying.

  4. BobDD says:

    Jack Nicklaus and Lindsey Vonn, but no Wilt Chamberlain or Jim Thorpe or Babe Didrikson Zaharias or Bruce Lee? I’d love to take the latter four in that argument.

    • JP says:

      I would take that bet with you in a second, BobDD. Nicklaus and Vonn would destroy all four of those stiffs, since, they are, in fact, dead, which definitely cost them points in the Greatest LIVING Athlete competition.

  5. Chris says:

    We tend to forget about rugby, cricket, and other sports, too. No way they aren’t at the same level.

  6. Keith says:

    Also, 3/4 of the greatest living athletes in the world are American, even though we have less than 5% of the population. I’m sure that’s exactly right.

  7. Rob Smith says:

    Yeah, my wife could have come up with most of that list, except for the stupid ones. She’d nail the obvious one and would have been as mystified as I am at the others. Sugar Ray is the boxing pick? There are a dozen better and imminently more interesting picks. Jack Johnson anyone? Dempsey? Picking Tiger and Jack for golf is really just mailing it in.

  8. Frank says:

    No one has mentioned Pete Sampras yet. As big a tennis fan as Joe is, I’m surprised Sampras’s name didn’t come up. Yeah, this is a real, real bad list.

  9. argo0 says:

    1. Maradona was probably excluded for his cocaine use (“behaving intolerably off the field”).

    2. If you don’t like someone else’s list, you could always create your own. No really, because I’d love to see it.

  10. DanBoyce says:

    The magazine is called “GQ”, not “IQ” for a reason.

  11. Tk says:

    Thank you for the Eric Davis shoutout and the flashback to my childhood when baseball was the best sport around.

    • Fin Alyn says:

      Eric Davis in his prime was the greatest athlete I ever saw on the baseball diamond.

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        Eric Davis is what Byron Buxton hopes to become. I mean, ED had consecutive seasons with: 27 HRs and 80 SBs (1986) and then 37 HRs and 50 SBs (1987). He was only caught stealing 6 times in 1987, too. Nobody besides Rickey and Barry had that type of power/speed combo.

        • moviegoer74 says:

          At the beginning of the 1987 season I bet my friend (I was in 7th grade at the time) that Davis and Darryl Strawberry would combine to reach the 80/80 club. They wound up at 76 HRs, 86 SBs. So I technically lost but I felt like I won the spirit of the bet.

      • invitro says:

        Eric the Red was something awesome and special, and I watched many of his games. But how about his contemporary, Bo Jackson?

  12. Fin Alyn says:

    Wayne was a great hockey player, but Wayne wasn’t much of an athlete. He should be DQ’d under the Larry Bird Rule. Abby Wambach over Marta? Just give up and call it the Top 50 Living American Athletes. Borg over Joker, Agassi or Pete? hahahahaha At least in terms of “athlete”. You mention J.J. Watt, but really the name that makes me shudder is Rodgers. I’m a Packer fan, and seriously, he’s not the athlete that Vick or Cunningham were, or that Cam IS. The only thing i disagree with is your take on the “Other” category, as many of the ones you mention took part in Olympic Sports, so should be in that category. Hawk and Slater are pretty much recognized as the greatest ever in their sport. I’d have tossed in Roger Decoster instead of Leonard.

    • nightfly says:

      The most extraordinary thing is, the greatest Olympic athletes are usually thought to be the decathletes… so much so, that I can recall the winner of the Olympic decathlon informally but regularly called The Greatest Athlete in the World. Heck, Gustav V said as much to Jim Thorpe in 1912, and the honorific stuck.

      Bruce Jenner was the Greatest Athlete in the World. Before him, it was Rafer Johnson. After him, it was Dan O’Brien – and that’s just American decathletes.

      I don’t see a single one of them on this verkakta list of theirs.

  13. KHAZAD says:

    It seems a bit too much outrage for an article by GQ of all things. Hell, I didn’t even realize they still existed. Weren’t they an 80s thing? Of course, I guess I am not up on things, as Google tells me they have a circulation of 900000. (Ranking 82nd in US magazine circulation, between American Hunter and Food and Wine, two other magazines I was unaware of))Even had I known it was still a thing, I would scoff at a sports article BEFORE reading it – and probably wouldn’t take the time to read it at all.

    I am guessing if Joe spent a long lunch coming up with top purveyors of Men’s Fashion or hair care products, GQ would be outraged as well.

    • invitro says:

      “(Ranking 82nd in US magazine circulation, between American Hunter and Food and Wine, two other magazines I was unaware of)” — +1 for research, going beyond the call of duty.

      • jim says:

        Actually, it should be a -1. If it has a circulation of 900k there is no way it ranks 82nd in US mag circulation. I don’t even need to look it up.

  14. invitro says:

    I agree with Joe that this is the stupidest list ever. And I think I agree with almost all of Joe’s reasons. Is this 2009?

  15. invitro says:

    Oh, here’s the real greatest living athlete:
    ***JUSTIN VERLANDER, SP, HOUSTON ASTROS***

  16. Marco says:

    I really didn’t think it was that bad of a list. Sure they left off folks I would have put on but other than a few folks I would have had trouble knocking many of their list off of a list. the trouble with lists like these is that you need about 200 athletes on a list of the 50 best if you don’t want to appear to overlook some worthy folks, even then you’d probably miss someone that should be included. I’d just rename it 50 of the greatest living athletes that are mostly Americans. It’s a difficult task but I enjoyed reading the GQ piece anyway.

  17. Bryan says:

    Let me try it and use their underlying categories 30 Male US, 10 Male non-US, 10 non-Male while creating more categories so I only have to justify Bird not being as good as Magic as opposed to Bird not being as good as 49 other entries.
    *
    30 greatest living male American athletes:
    NBA: 1960s Bill Russell, 1970s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1980s Magic Johnson, 1990s Michael Jordan, 2000s LeBron James, 2010s Russell Westbrook
    NFL: 1960s Jim Brown, 1970s Joe Greene, 1980s Jerry Rice, 1990s Barry Sanders, 2000s Tony Gonzalez, 2010s Calvin Johnson
    MLB: 1960s-1970s Willie Mays, 1980s-1990s Rickey Henderson, 2000s-2010s Mike Trout
    *
    NHL: none, probably Chris Chelios if I used an American slot
    Soccer: none, probably Christian Pulisic if I used an American slot
    Tennis: none, probably Pete Sampras if I used an American slot
    Boxing: Sugar Ray Leonard, Floyd Mayweather
    Golf: Tiger Woods
    Pioneers: Randy Couture, Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater, Rich Froning, Karch Kiraly
    Olympics: Michael Phelps, Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, Rafer Johnson, Dan Gable, Ashton Eaton
    Wild Card: Bo Jackson
    *
    10 greatest living male non-American athletes:
    NHL: Bobby Orr, not wasting 2 spots on Hockey for an American biased list
    Soccer: Pele, Ronaldo, not wasting 3 spots on Soccer
    Tennis: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, not wasting 3 spots on Tennis
    Sumo: Hakuhō Shō
    Olympics: Aleksandr Karelin, Usain Bolt, Steve Redgrave, Daley Thompson
    *
    10 greatest living non-male athletes:
    Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova, Caitlyn Jenner, Marta, Diana Taurasi, Ann Meyers, Jennie Finch, Hayley Wickenheiser, Simone Biles, Bonnie Blair

    • Dee says:

      Boxing picks, but no Real Deal Evander Hollyfield? Power, speed, agility, and 225 lbs? Taurasi is a meh pick, as is Jennie Finch. Ronda Rousey probably deserves a slot over those two.

    • Lee Carney says:

      Lance Franklin and Cyril Rioli need to be on your Non American living list

  18. Old Captain Nick says:

    Why are there any women in the list at all?

    Seriously, at her peak, Abby Wambach could never have made the roster for the worst team in Major League Soccer. Her US women’s soccer team regular for skunked by high school boys. How could any woman be one of the greatest living soccer players?

    Similarly, Serena Williams couldn’t beat the #200 ranked make tennis pro. How can she be one of the 50 best living athletes if she’s not even one of the 200 best living tennis players?

    • Karyn says:

      I suspect Serena Williams could beat the #200 men’s player.

      • invitro says:

        He’s probably referring to an event in 1998 where the Williams sisters told the ATP people that they wanted to challenge a male player ranked about #200. One Karsten Braasch, ranked #203, accepted their challenge. He played a set against each, and beat each easily, while smoking cigarettes and drinking beer between games.

        I personally don’t think Serena could beat the men’s #2000 player, or most players on college tennis teams, or good high school teams. She could probably beat me, though. 😉

  19. Rod Laver says:

    Dear GQ: I’m still alive, you know.

  20. Shermie says:

    If people are supposed to get points for “reinventing” their sports, why isn’t Dick Fosbury on the list? Who transformed a sport more than he did?

  21. John says:

    The key point of these sorts of list is the criteria that you use. Pure athletic skill is crappy, because it defeats women, golfers, and folks who played before modern conditioning was available. About the only one that makes any sense is most “dominant in the time and place they played.”

    Also, as others have pointed out, the international angle is clearly lacking, but since GQ is for an American market, this list is implicitly “greatest living athletes our readers probably know about,” and that’s okay. But I wonder what a truly international list might look like. The methodology would be tricky, but I suspect Ronaldo, Messi, and Bolt would lead the way among the active athletes and I wonder what Americans would make the cut.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Interesting points about women. I know there are people here that don’t think women should be on the list because they couldn’t beat men? But is that the standard? If you listed the best baseball teams of all time, the 1927 Yankees would be there even though they probably couldn’t beat most modern teams. The main difference between men and women from an athletic standpoint is size and strength, but that’s not really the same thing as athleticism. You could take the strongest man in the world (say, the guy that wins Olympic gold in weightlifting or something)and he would be stronger than most other athletes, but that wouldn’t make him the best athlete. That’s the problem I have with Invitro’s dismissal of Serena Williams. Yes, she could not beat most male tennis players because she isn’t as big or strong, but I wouldn’t say she isn’t one of the best athletes in the world. It’s like saying that Sugar Ray Robinson wasn’t one of the best boxers in the world because he couldn’t beat a heavyweight. I just don’t think that’s the correct standard.

  22. Arthur Frampton says:

    Where’s Laffit Pincay, the winningest living jockey of all time?

  23. Jeffsol says:

    I read as far as the Jordan comment nd gave up because of idiocy. Obviously Jordan belongs, but their biggest justification was around his foul line dunk….which Dr J had done years earlier. THATS your best explanation for inclusion of MJ? Really?

  24. Crazy Diamond says:

    Uh, this list was for ENTERTAINMENT purposes. Why get angry about it? Usually I see these lists, skim over them, chuckle to myself at the absurdity, and then go read something better…like Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson. (Seriously, go check out that book. It’s FASCINATING!)

  25. otistaylor89 says:

    Allen Iverson attended Bethel High School in Hampton, Virginia, and was a dual-sport athlete. He earned the Associated Press High School Player of the Year award in both football and basketball, and won the Division AAA Virginia state championship in both sports.
    Iverson was far from the best basketball player, but I think it’s very easy to say he was the high school athlete ever.

  26. Dan says:

    World. Class. Rant.

  27. Levon says:

    My dog Billy Gibbons is about the best athlete I’ve ever seen. The boy can go! And jump! And catch balls at the most absurd angles! And he’s going strong at 12! And he’s as cool as the coolest man on earth who he’s named for!

  28. Curtis says:

    Maybe they left Maradona off because he has had quite the checkered history since leaving the game, plus the whole “Hand of God” play that was a clear handball that eliminated England from the World Cup.

    Karch Karily ought to be on here somewhere too.

    It would be interesting to do this. Maybe you could have the readers do this for you. When defining greatest athletes, what are we talking about? So we put together 5 or 10 criteria and weight them – some of the stuff they had and maybe other stuff like grit or clutch, and then we take the 500 or so nominees, grade them according to those criteria, and then see what pops out.

  29. Sean Boulton says:

    Joe, I love the most about this that the list has made you so foaming-at-the-mouth angry that you’ve allowed yourself to equate “basketball players on the list” with “NBA players on this list”. Ten basketball players listed, but since two of them are women, only eight played in the NBA.

    It’s such an uncharacteristic slip for you, and fits so perfectly into this rant as a result.

  30. MikeN says:

    What did Jim Brown do that makes him an exception?

    • invitro says:

      Jim Brown did a whole lot of bad stuff. He’s a very violent man. I’ll just copy from Wikipedia…

      In 1965, Brown was arrested in his hotel room for assault and battery against an 18-year-old named Brenda Ayres; he was later acquitted on the charges.[34] A year later, he fought paternity allegations that he fathered Brenda Ayres’ child. In 1968, Brown was charged with assault with intent to commit murder after model Eva Bohn-Chin was found beneath the balcony of Brown’s second-floor apartment.[35] The charges were later dismissed after Bohn-Chin refused to cooperate with the prosecutor’s office. Brown was also ordered to pay a $300 fine for striking a deputy sheriff involved in the investigation during the incident. In Brown’s autobiography, he stated that that Bohn-Chin was angry and jealous over an affair he had been having with Gloria Steinem and this argument is what led to the “misunderstanding with the police.”[36]

      In 1970, Brown was found not guilty of assault and battery, the charges stemming from a road-rage incident that had occurred in 1969. In 1975, Brown was sentenced to one day in prison and two years probation, and to pay a fine of $500 for beating and choking his golfing partner Frank Snow.[37] In 1985, Brown was charged with raping a 33-year-old woman.[38] The charges were later dismissed.[39] In 1986, Brown was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend Debra Clark. Clark refused to press charges, though, and Brown was released.[40] In 1999, Brown was arrested and charged with making terrorist threats toward his wife. Later that year, he was found guilty of vandalism for smashing his wife’s car with a shovel.[41] He was sentenced to three years’ probation, one year of domestic violence counseling, and 400 hours of community service or 40 hours on a work crew along with a $1,800 fine.[42] Brown ignored the terms of his sentence, and in 2000 was sentenced to six months in jail for refusing the court-ordered counseling and community service. He was released after 3 months.[43][44][45]

      from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Brown#Legal_troubles_and_controversy

    • Brad says:

      Despite Brown’s violent past, he was a fantastic football player, some say the best ever, and also a great lacrosse player. He was also a pretty decent basketball player and decathlete in college.

  31. […] Posnanski went even further, calling it “the stupidest list ever,” and then he really got mad: “There’s not one choice that couldn’t have been thought up over a […]

  32. steve says:

    Joe, the only “best” list of any sort that I know of that isn’t stupid is your baseball 100.

  33. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    Physical dynamism? What about George Foreman? The folks who compiled this list probably only remember the fat guy who sold grills (and STILL competed at a high level), but the Foreman of the 1970s was such a dominant force that even after Ali outfoxed him in 1974, he never allowed Foreman a rematch.

    As far as people who “reinvented the game,” last I heard, Elgin Baylor is still alive (Dr.J. didn’t invent hang time; we just lost Connie Hawkins, or he would be a strong candidate for the list as well). And, as noted in the article, so is the Big O.

    I assume the purpose of this article is to convince GQ readers that their superficial understanding of sports and sports history is spot on and so they can go back to worrying about the things (fashion, travel, etc.) that GQ’s advertisers want them to focus on.

  34. Mike says:

    Wilt Chamberlain!!!

  35. Brad says:

    First off, I believe there are far more than 50 great living athletes. Narrowing it to fifty is ignorant. For football, basketball and baseball, you could get fifty in each sport, easy.
    Second, it’s GQ. GQ is a men’s fashion rag. If you want to know what overpriced undershorts you should be buying or what hair gel or the current cool length beards should be, GQ is probably your rag.
    Sports? Not so much.

  36. Richard says:

    If there weren’t a subtle bias towards female gymnasts, one would have to include Japan’s Kōhei Uchimura. He is a seven-time Olympic medalist (all-around, team, and floor exercise), winning three golds and four silvers, a 19-time World medalist (all-around, team, floor, high bar, and parallel bars) and is considered by many to be the greatest gymnast of all time. He is known for becoming the first gymnast (male or female) to win every major all-around title in a single Olympic cycle. He accomplished this feat twice by winning six world all around titles (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015) and the 2012 Olympic and 2016 Olympic all-around titles.

  37. shagster says:

    Speaking of lists …

  38. Brian says:

    I agreed with every person on the list and the order they were placed

  39. Andy says:

    I’m dumber now for knowing that this list exists. Thanks, Joe.

  40. Namor says:

    How many people really have ever revolutionized or reinvented a sport or a sports position?

    Knute Rockne

    Babe Ruth

    Bobby Orr

    Dick Fosbury

    Lawrence Taylor

    Who else?

  41. willshad says:

    Not the worst list ever, buttt…

    Aaron Rogers, and not Brett Farve?

    Brady, and not Manning( or any of 100 other quarterbacks who were more athletic)

    No Dave Winfield? The guy could have played three (maybe four) sports professionally.

  42. […] GQ’s list of the greatest living athletes had some issues, this profile of LeBron, focusing on his off-field persona more than his on-court dominance, is […]

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