Every sport has a different debate about who the greatest player of all time is. When deciding on a player to add to the roster, many factors come into play. People often consider statistics, championships, and the evolution of the game when they make their decisions.
Two things that have changed over the past 20 to 30 years are that athletes are more likely to switch teams, and they are bigger, faster, and stronger.
The reason for this is a combination of factors, including the fact that players are cashing in on big paydays, and we have also learned more and more about fitness in the same time period.
Until the 1970s, pro athletes didn’t start lifting weights in pro sports such as football.
In this article, we will give examples of ways in which the Greatest Of All Time for a sport can be measured.
We will also talk about some cases where measurements can be inaccurate. Let’s take a look at each sport in turn.
Football is by far the most challenging sport when determining which athlete is the GOAT, as there are many things to take into consideration. There are very few players who have played on both offense and defense in the last 40 years.
The only player who could do it at a high level was Deion Sanders. For him, both sides of the ball were essentially the same position—cornerback and wide receiver.
When you watch football, you can’t just measure a player’s stats- you also have to decide how well each player played in their position. This is because the stats measured by defense teams cannot be compared directly to the stats measured by offensive teams.
There’s one way to look at this particular issue, and that’s by considering the relative standing of a certain player among other players.
For example, at quarterback you’ll see that Tom Brady has more than 50 records; you could simply call him the Greatest Of All Time and say it because he has seven Super Bowls. This is more than any other franchise in history.
However, Brady also had the benefit of playing behind some very good defenses—none of which he was a part of.
Similarly, every quarterback in the history of the Super Bowl has been just as nervous before the big game.
Each position has its own set of statistics, depending on what the position does most often. Cornerbacks and safeties will often be measured by interceptions, and pass rushers will often be judged by the number of sacks they get in a game.
It is easier to judge the offensive performance of football players because all quarterbacks, wide receivers, and running backs are measured by yards.
Even in that scenario, quarterbacks and wide receivers will naturally have more yards than running backs.
This is because some balls are caught well behind the line of scrimmage, whereas running backs usually get the ball behind the line of scrimmage.
Baseball, like football, has similar issues when it comes to naming the Greatest Of All Time.
Some players have statistics that are entirely different from others, but most players have more opportunities to be strong as hitters and defenders.
Position players have it a little easier than pitchers, at least in theory. A five-tool player is a baseball player who excels in all five categories of the game: hitting for average and power, running speed, throwing accuracy and arm strength, fielding ability, and instincts, and knowledge of the game.
A five-tool player is someone who can hit for power and steal bases, has good speed and plays good defense by making good throws and getting to a lot of balls.
For pitchers, it’s even more complicated. Most are not good hitters, and they often have lower batting averages than position players.
A good batting average for a position player is 300 or above, and for a pitcher, it’s much lower.
In the early 2020s, only one player has consistently pitched and hit well at a high level: Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
In August 2022, Ohtani had a batting average of .255 with 22 home runs and 62 runs batted in.
On the pitching side, he is 9-6 with a 2.81 earned run average, which would be a career-high if he can keep it up.
The only other player to accomplish this feat is Babe Ruth, who held the record for most home runs in baseball history when he retired. He played much of his career with the Red Sox and Yankees.
A baseball player’s legacy is also measured by how many World Series’ they’ve won.
It’s similar to football in that players don’t often represent all facets of the game, which requires a lot of training, and since players often move around, it’s rare for any one team to win a large number of championships in baseball.
The last time a team won three World Series in a row was at the beginning of the 2000s, when the New York Yankees won three consecutive World Series between 1998-2000.
To identify the last time an American League team won as many consecutive World Series titles, you’d have to go back to the Oakland Athletics in the 1970s.
Basketball is easier in the sense that everybody gets to play both offense and defense. However, some players are expected to be better at certain parts of the game than others.
In basketball, forwards and centers are expected to excel in rebounding and blocked shots, while guards tend to be better at three-pointers and steals.
Over the past 20 years, the first part of that example has changed, which is why it can be hard to measure the GOAT in basketball.
When it comes to defining success, championships can be a greater and more accurate measure than individual accolades.
In order to do this, however, they rely on the help of supporting characters.
Let’s compare Larry Bird and Paul Pierce in order to illustrate why this is the case.
Pierce, who was considered the Celtics’ best player throughout the 1990s and 2000s despite often having mediocre talent around him and several coaching staff, said that he’s excited to see what the team’s new roster can do next season.
He averaged almost 20 points a game for his career.
While Bird and Pierce both had many similar statistics in their careers, there is no doubt that Bird had a much better supporting cast for a portion of his career than Pierce did.
Pierce only played with Garnett and Ray Allen for one year when they won the 2008 NBA championship.
Larry Bird had Kevin McHale as a teammate, who was a low post-force for the Celtics from 1980-1993.
Robert Parish also played for Boston from 1980-1994, and both he and Larry Bird played for five years longer than Parish.
On the other hand, Bird’s supporting cast was so strong that he averaged a double-double for his career at 24 points and 10 rebounds per game, along with six assists per game.
What factors need to be considered when trying to decide which player is the greatest of all time in American football, basketball, and baseball?
We need to consider how the statistics and rules affected each other- as well as the supporting cast.