DIBIASE: Greatest athletes on display and still uncomparable

Justin Dibiase

Michael Phelps is just like you and me. Usain Bolt puts on his jeans the same way that I do. Tiger Woods enjoys a good book every once in a while just like you do. Wayne Gretzky sings cheesy ’80s songs in the shower. LeBron James likes to consume a bowl of ice cream while watching “I Love New York,” just like us. What makes these people different from you and me is what happens when they step foot in their respective athletic arenas.

All of us are dominant in different areas. Some of us can solve a rubix cube in less than five minutes. Others can paint a perfect rainbow with a few brushstrokes. Some can even belch the alphabet after drinking a can of soda.

So how can we compare the levels of dominance in unlike sports? What separates Bolt’s graceful, dominant strides from Kobe Bryant’s slick jump shot? This leads to the ultimate question, who is the most dominant player in sports?

The Olympic Games have always been a stage where heroes are born. Bolt and Phelps have established themselves as pinnacles of Olympic success. Phelps’ eight gold medals and numerous world records set in Beijing make it difficult to not call Phelps the most dominant person in sports. On the other hand, Bolt’s performance has earned himself the title of the fastest man ever.

Which is more impressive? The fact that Phelps swam 17 races in nine days or the fact that Bolt actually celebrated his 100-meter dash victory before even finishing the race? The world never thought it would see another Mark Spitz, but after the world caught a glimpse of 19-year-old Phelps at the ’04 Summer Games in Athens, it knew it had found something special. The world also never thought it would see another Carl Lewis, but the “Bolt” has struck. Twenty-four years after Lewis won the 100-, 200- and 4×100-meter races, Bolt accomplished the same feats in world record setting fashion.

While these amazing athletes shined in China, other dominant sports stars watched from home.

Tiger Woods is undeniably the most recognized face in golf. At the ripe age of 32, Woods has won 14 major championships and over 60 PGA Tour events. He is well on his way to becoming the first athlete to gross $1 billion in career earnings. His tremendous drives and tactful short game make him a wonder to watch. He quite possibly may be the most dominant player in sports.

Tiger’s Gillette buddy Roger Federer is not too shabby at his sport either. Federer, 27, has already captured 12 grand slam titles, including five at Wimbledon. The Federer train has lost steam lately, however. Spaniard Rafael Nadal has loosened Federer’s chokehold on tennis’s top spot by defeating him in the French Open and at Wimbledon. Nadal has overtaken Federer’s No. 1 world ranking at the moment.

On the hardwood, how can a talk about dominance begin without mentioning King James? At age 23, James is an unstoppable force in the NBA. Too quick to be guarded by big men and too tall to be guarded by guards, James’ dominance rivals that of world champion Shaquille O’Neil on the Los Angeles Lakers from years ago.

Alex Rodriguez is a juggernaut in the world of baseball but even he has his faults. A-Rod will most likely break Barry Bonds’ career home run record, but he may not even be the best player in Major League Baseball today.

Many people think Sidney Crosby is the next “Great One.” The Penguins young superstar is on the verge of eclipsing 100 career goals and 300 career points in just a few seasons in the NHL. Did I mention that Sid “The Kid” just reached the legal drinking age earlier this month?

So who truly is the most dominant player in sports? It would be easy to say Woods given his track record and tournaments won. Unfortunately, it’s just not that easy. Every sport has its own dynamics and its own level of competition. To say that one star is better than another star is like comparing a stand-up comedian to a movie star. The level of greatness of a sports hero will forever be linked to the game he or she plays.


Justin DiBiase is a senior civil engineering major from Franklinville, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].