We need to talk about is the competitive fire that has Serena Williams looking at a 45-year old Tom Brady and feeling like her career is in any way less than complete.
As a spectator and consumer of women’s sports, and a fan of excellence, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like I was missing out on something every time an elite female athlete has to take a year off to grow and birth another human being.
It makes complete sense to me that Serena Williams would struggle to reconcile two of the best things in her life. The idea that because she’s a woman, parenthood takes away from the potential of athletic greatness is something I’ve never had to even consider.
That’s what brings me to my point. Maybe we, and by we I’m including Serena Williams, shouldn’t be looking at the physical labor of expanding a family as an unfair gender dynamic that leaves male athletes in a more admirable position to achieve longevity and maximize their potential.
Maybe we should look at it as proof that female athletes like Serena Williams, Candace Parker, Allison Felix and everyone else that has managed to not only return to form after pregnancy, but actually improve, are actually the pinnacle of athletic accomplishment.
Maybe the next time Tom Brady retires, we should be hearing him make aspirational references to the accomplishments of Serena Williams instead of the other way around.
Or maybe we don’t need to compare the greats at all. Maybe we can just chalk this up to the same competitive fire from Serena that would have her throw a second place trophy in the trash rather than put it on display in her home. Serena isn’t second to anyone. She’s one of one. And as her career winds down, I hope she can make peace with the idea that if anyone can say they had it all, it was her.
Tom Brady won his record sixth Super Bowl, which is the most of any player in NFL history. Brady passed linebacker Charles Haley, who won five Super Bowls during his tenures with the 49ers and Cowboys. But is he the greatest athlete of your lifetime and generation? Do Serena Williams, Tom Brady, LeBron, Michael Jordan, Jimmy Johnson, and Michael Phelps make your list?
Brady stands alone on the mountain as winningest NFL quarterback to ever play the game. Over the years, as the wins, records, and Super Bowls began to accumulate, Brady has started to earn the nickname of the “Goat,” which stands for greatest of all-time. For what it’s worth, I do believe Brady is the greatest of all-time in football, but I understand there are many sides to the argument. I did not see Jim Brown play and many believe he is the greatest football player of all-time. I also did not see Joe Montana play in the NFL and many also believe he is the greatest quarterback of all-time. These are all fair points.
However, I’m going to specify the question. Who is the greatest athlete of your lifetime? The answers will all differ depending on what year you were born, but I believe it’s a fair way of determining “Goat-status.” These are the athletes you have watched the most during your time on Earth so it will be easier to narrow down finalists for your selection as opposed to encompassing the entire history of sports.
I was born in 1993 and I have narrowed my list down to four athletes. You can call it my Mount Rushmore of “Greatest Athletes of my Lifetime.” Here are selections (in no particular order).
Am I a prisoner of the moment for including Brady on this list? Absolutely not. Brady has earned the right to be called one of the greatest athletes of all-time. Brady has 207 wins and 60 losses in the regular season, which is a .775 winning percentage. The next closest percentage is Brett Favre at .618. Brady completely separates himself from the pack due to his postseason dominance. Brady has an unprecedented 30 wins in the postseason. Joe Montana is second with 16. Brady is the Goat quarterback in my book.
“You bro. Who is the Goat, Michael or LeBron?” Every time I hear this question, I want to gauge my eyes out. It’s unfair to both players because LeBron James is still playing. When his career is over, then start the debate. Anyways, LeBron is currently the greatest living and breathing basketball player on the planet. LeBron is a 3x NBA champion with 3x Finals MVP in nine appearances (eight straight trips to the finals and counting). The 15x All-star and 12x All-NBA First Team player is fifth all-time in scoring with 32,008 points. LeBron easily cements his place on my Mount Rushmore.
If I had to describe Serena Williams in one word, I would use “dominant.” Serena has dominated her competition ever since she turned pro as a 14-year-old in 1995. Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, which is most in the Open Era and second on the all-time list behind Margaret Court. Between singles, doubles, and mixed doubles, Williams has won 39 major titles, which is second in the Open Era. Williams has been the world’s No.1 ranked player eight times and has been the No.1 ranked player for 319 weeks total. Perhaps the word “dominant” is undervaluing Serena’s legacy. Serena is a Goat in my eyes.
Unlike the three previous athletes, Michael Phelps might have the best case for Goat-status. Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all-time, having won a total of 28 medals in both individual and team events. Now you might think to yourself that because of Phelps’s silver and bronze medal totals, that is the reason why he has the most medals. If that was your belief, you would be wrong. Phelps has 23 gold medals, which is obviously first on the list. The second most decorated athlete in the Olympics is Larisa Latynina, a Russian gymnast, who accumulated 18 total medals. Phelps has more gold medals than any other Olympian’s total amount of medals. Phelps rarely lost in the Olympics and when he did, he’d usually walk away with a silver or bronze. Don’t expect any athlete to break Phelps’s record any time soon.
After laying out all of their cases, who is the greatest athlete of my lifetime?
I may need some more time to think…
Let me know who your greatest athlete selection is in the comments below!
*Disclaimer: I’m not selecting Michael Jordan because I was too young to watch and appreciate his greatness. Michael walked away from the game twice: once when I was five-years-old and then when I was ten-years-old. I simply did not see him play enough even though he is one of the greatest athletes of all-time.