Who is the Greatest Athlete of All-Time?

Simone+Biles+participated+in+her+first+Olympics+at+age+19.

Photo via wikimedia commons under creative commons license

Simone Biles participated in her first Olympics at age 19.

Nick Holt, Editor-in-chief

What does it take to be the greatest athlete of all-time? Is it personal or team accomplishments? Social, cultural, and/or political impact? Probably a combination of it all.

It’s a debate that will never really truly have a clear cut answer and will likely go on for the rest of time, but for now, let’s do our best to determine who the G.O.A.T. of all athletics is.

There’s no one with more of a social, historical impact than both Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson, defying the racial boundaries of their respective sports.  With Owens winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics, not only becoming the first American to win four gold medals but making a statement for all of America against the discrimination of minorities in Nazi Germany, along with Jackie Robinson, the first African-American baseball player in the MLB, breaking the color barrier, and also a 6-time All-Star and NL MVP.  Though, personally, I think both Owens and Robinson lack the accomplishments that other athletes considered in the G.O.A.T conversation possess.  So let’s talk about the most decorated athletes in history.

Michael Phelps easily dominates the conversation of the most accomplished, decorated athlete of all time.  Twenty-three Olympic gold medals and 4 world records for the American swimmer, his current feats are unmatched and likely will never be surpassed, making a very good case that he is perhaps the greatest athlete of all time, but there are plenty of competitors to his achievements. Two other extremely successful and dominant athletes of their time are no other than Tom Brady and Michael Jordan.  There’s no one who has competed for a longer time, with barely any decline than Tom Brady, earning his 7th ring at age 43 years old, turning 44 in August of 2021, though lacks the worldwide impact of some of our other candidates.  Jordan is a better example of someone who had an insurmountable impact both on and off the court.  Six championships and the Jumpman logo seen all across the globe.  Though is his legacy diminished by the success of Lebron James? With questions of Jordan even being the G.O.A.T. of his own sport, it’s difficult to call him the greatest athlete of all time.

Similar to the Jordan and Lebron debate, there are people who believe Brady isn’t the G.O.A.T. of football, and I think for one to be the greatest athlete of all time, they have to be undisputed in their own respective sport, which rules out the majority of those athletes that participate in team sports, considering that situation and surrounding pieces is extremely relative.  This would leave us with Phelps and Owens.  For Owens, he lacks achievements, and with the presence of Usain Bolt, it’s once again a conversation whether he dominates his own sport, making him fall under the category of Brady, Jordan, Lebron, etc..  So is it Michael Phelps?  Maybe.  But there’s one more athlete who we’ve yet to talk about who’s dominance gap may be even greater than Phelps’: Simone Biles.

Biles is the most decorated U.S. gymnast of all time, dominating both the Olympics, winning 4 gold medals and one bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (the first U.S. female gymnast to win that many gold medals at a single Olympics), competing at just 19 years old and World Championships (having the most consecutive wins 2013-2015).  Though, what really sets her apart from the rest of the candidates is just how much better she is than everyone else in her sport.  The talent and accomplishments that she possesses have reached the point where she has begun attempting things that have literally never been successfully completed in the history of gymnastics.  There is no conversation whether she is the greatest gymnast of all time or not, it’s already set in stone, and she’s only 24 years old. These successes have been achieved despite having to overcome family difficulties, being abandoned by her mother and subsequently raised by her grandparents, and personal trauma by being part of the sexual assault case by USA team doctor, Larry Nassar.  Simone Biles has become one of the most powerful young voices and role-models in today’s world, a trait that some may consider Phelps lacks.

The debate is certainly still open and will never go away, but for right now, Simone Biles is all around the best option for greatest athlete of all-time, and hey, she wears a goat on her leotard for a reason.

The Tokyo Olympics begin on July 23, 2021, tune in to see the greatest athlete of all time once again, add to her gold medal count.