Who is the greatest athlete of all time? It’s a question that often leads to endless debate across the sports world. Fans tend to throw numbers to support their claims, with each side attempting to prove why their player is better than the rest.
Each sport has its own legends of the game. Players who performed so much better than the competition, they have entrenched their names in history. The NBA has Michael Jordan, who is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time. Hockey produced Wayne Gretzky, who to this day remains by far the best to ever play the game. But how do you compare the two, considering they each reached the pinnacle of their respective sports, ultimately changing the game forever?
Generally speaking, the game of basketball is more popular than hockey. Michael Jordan became of the face of the NBA in the latter part of the last century. MJ remains the best player of all time, dominating his opponents on his way to six championships, and making his teammates better in the process. He achieved many statistical accolades, and he was as clutch as they come, winning games at the buzzer with regularity.
While Jordan achieved incredible accomplishments, Wayne Gretzky was so far ahead of the rest, it’s hard to deny that he was the most dominant player in any team sport. Also known as “The Great One,” Gretzky eventually walked away from the game in first place on the all-time lists for total points, goals, and assists.
To further illustrate his greatness, consider that Gretzky had 2,857 points over the course of his career. Jaromir Jagr is second on the all-time list at “just” 1,921. It’s absurd to think that Gretzky beat out the field even with his assists alone, as he set up his teammates a grand total of 1,963 times.
When it came to scoring, Gretzky was no slouch either. He put the puck in the back of the net 894 times. At first glance, it appears he wasn’t as dominant in this area of the game, as Gordie Howe scored 801 times. But a more accurate analysis proves otherwise. Gretzky’s lofty goal total was achieved in 1,487 games, while Howe needed 1,767 appearances to reach the 800 goal mark.
No matter how you look at it, Gretzky was the most dominant player in the history any team sport. Could he have scored more goals? Sure. But the Great One was a master at setting up his teammates for success. A true artist of his craft, he had the natural ability and vision to anticipate his opponents, teammates, and the game as whole. With an effortless control of the puck, he was able to draw defenders to be in poor defensive positions, leaving him free to choose the best course of action at any given time.
When people think of the greatest athletes of all-time, Gretzky’s name tends to be overlooked. Part of this is due to the fact that hockey is less popular than other sports. This is even more true on a global scale. When Jordan became the greatest basketball player, he was able to leverage his success on the court, into becoming a brand name. His fame and remarkable performances left many in awe. That helped to create an image that is superior to all other athletes.
But if you look at their respective performances, Gretzky was the greatest athlete of all time in team sports.