Fab Five – one man’s opinion

Published 9:41 am Tuesday, August 7, 2012

As typical, the Summer Olympics have offered those with TV or Internet service in each and every corner on Earth a chance to witness the world’s best athletes dueling on the world’s grandest stage.

The beautiful thing about the Olympics are the heartwarming stories of obscure athletes….those who do not stand a snowball’s chance in you know where of winning a medal, but yet stand proud of the fact they are representing their respective countries and are an Olympian.

Have you heard of Nur Suryani Mohammed Taibi, an air rifle shooter from Malaysia? She placed 34th overall in the competition. Not bad for someone who is eight months’ pregnant.

South Korean Im Dong-hyun is legally blind, but yet is competing in men’s archery.

Adzo Kpossi of Togo swam her personal best in the 50 meter freestyle, but finished in 72nd place. At age 13, she is the youngest athlete in the 2012 games.

While we revel in the accomplishments of the underdogs, there is always one athlete that stands out above the rest. Just like four years ago with a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games, American swimmer Michael Phelps is being hailed as the greatest Olympian of all time. He retired from the pool on Saturday night after he and his three teammates captured gold in the 100 meter medley relay.

After three Olympics (he began in 2000 in Athens as a 15-year-old), Phelps holds the world record with 22 medals, 18 of the golden variety.

While we all marvel at Phelps’ amazing talent in the water, where does he rank among the all-time greats when it comes to individual efforts? That’s a debate that will wage for years to come.

In my humble opinion, there are at least five others whose athletic achievements, individual or as a member of a team, are better than Phelps. I rank them as follows:

#5: At age 21, Jesse Owens of Ohio State University broke three records (long jump, 220-yard dash and the 200-yard low hurdles) and tied another (100-yard dash) over a span of 70 minutes at the 1935 Big Ten Conference Championships. And he did all that after falling down a flight of stairs and was in great pain.

#4: Over the course of his pro basketball career, Bill Russell helped the Boston Celtics win 11 NBA titles. He won the league’s MVP award five times; played in 12 NBA All-Star games; scored 14,522 career points and hauled down 21,260 career rebounds.

#3: Over a span of 56 Major League Baseball games during the 1941 season, Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees recorded at least one hit. While other MLB records have fallen by the wayside over the years, “Joltin” Joe still owns the one for base hits in consecutive games.

#2: They don’t call Wayne Gretzky “The Great One” for nothing. When he hung up his skates in 1999, Gretzky held or shared 61 National Hockey League records, including one that will never be broken – 2,857 career points. He also has the most career regular season goals (894), career regular-season assists (1,963), most goals in a season (92) and most hat tricks (10).

#1: While Wayne was great, Michael was pure air. Over a span of 13 seasons with the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan was the NBA’s annual top scorer on 10 occasions; seven of those scoring titles came in consecutive years. The five-time NBA Player of the Year holds the league record for most consecutive games scoring in double digits (842), and has a half-dozen world Championship rings.

Do you have your own top five list? Let me hear about it.


Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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