Sporting Gods

Written by Andy

 

Welcome again sports fans and today you’re in for a treat.

I am going to discuss 20 Sporting Gods from a variety of sports I love and enjoy. These men will have at some point inspired me to either watch or take part in these sports and I hope they have done the same for you as well.

I have even added coach’s and commentators in this list as well as I feel their contribution has made some sports even bigger also.

So lets get started lets explore some sporting legacies from some of the greatest ever.

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Michael Jordan – This man literally inspired generations of basketball players. He even has a hugely successful line of trainers or sneakers as Americans would say worn by many basketball players today. Known as ‘Air Jordan’ he won 6 NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and was an All-Star on 14 occasions along with 2 Olympic Gold Medals in Los Angeles 1984 and of course part of the ‘Dream Team’ in Barcelona 1992. Still to this day one of the greatest ever and that’s such an achievement when you consider the number of amazing talent on show today. When you think basketball Michael Jordan is one of the first names you think of. Legend.

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Seve Ballesteros – This man is the reason millions of people have picked up a golf club. A true inspiration to many and respected all over the world. The great Seve won 5 Majors in his career (The Open 3 times,Masters twice). He would win over 90 tournaments worldwide including the World Matchplay a record 5 times in his outstanding career and is one of the main reasons Europe competes with USA in the Ryder Cup. Seve was a lead figure back when USA dominated this event inspiring Europeans that we could win this trophy. Seve would win the Ryder Cup 5 times as a player and captain and even as I write this to honour the first Ryder Cup since we sadly lost Seve the European team have his legendary salute as logo as does the European Tour. Europe’s greatest ever without question and easily one of the greatest ever. Golfing God.

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Muhammad Ali – I don’t think there is anyone on this planet who hasn’t heard of Muhammad Ali. As soon as you hear the words boxing and great you think of Ali. An inspiration in and out of the ring he is easily one of the greatest heavyweight boxers ever. An Olympic Gold Medal winner in Rome 1960 Ali would win the heavyweight title on 3 occasions and defend it 21 times. He was involved in many super-fights with the likes of Sonny Liston,Henry Cooper,Smokin Joe Frazier and of course George Foreman in The Rumble in the Jungle. Ali has coined so many techniques and phrases in boxing such as Ali Shuffle,rope-a-dope and his infamous ‘float like a butterfly,sting like a bee’. A man who also made ‘trash talking’ famous and something that’s still used to this day! One of the most famous people in the world and an icon to many Ali certainly is ‘The Greatest’. Inspiration.

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Zinedine Zidane – Quite simply one of the most outstanding and naturally technically gifted footballers the world has ever seen. French attacking midfielder Zinedine Zidane is a player any football fan will know and love. A career full of honours Zidane won 2 Serie A titles,1 La Liga,1 Champions League,1 European Championship and 1 World Cup all being his major honours. There were of course many domestic and other European trophies in his winners list along with his many individual footballer of the year awards. Fans of Cannes,Bordeaux,Juventus & Real Madrid along with his nation France (108 caps,31 goals) got to witness a truly special and unique talent. Many football fans would always remember this superstar and I’m sure would be in many peoples all time dream teams. Unique.

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Michael Schumacher – Formula One has had many greats but few can rival the success of legendary German Michael Schumacher. He has won a record 7 championships including an incredible streak of 5 in the years 2000,2001,2002,2003 & 2004. He may not be driving for them now since his comeback but when you think Schumacher you picture him in the famous red of Ferrari. Schumacher has won 91 races in his F1 career. Like Michael Jordan did with footwear for basketball players Schumacher actually helped develop the first lightweight carbon helmet, the helmet helps keep the driver cool by funnelling directed airflow through fifty holes. He is also a very charitable person as well and has done a lot of work with the UNESCO charity and I’ve seen him play in several charity football matches with celebs and legends. The greatest man to drive a fast car a record 7 titles that still stands today and will be very hard to beat.

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Roger Federor – When I think true sportsman I think Roger Federor the Fed Express. A class act on and off the court he is easily one of if not thee best ever Tennis player ever to play the game. He was an amazing 17 major titles including 7 Wimbledon’s,5 US Open’s,4 Australian Open’s & 1 French Open. When you consider how long and hard it took Andy Murray to finally get his first major recently the fact Federor has 17 of them shows how immensely good this man is. At 31 he is still winning majors as we saw at Wimbledon and with guys like Murray,Djokovic and Nadal currently the top 4 any major is a great win now. He has also been a major runner-up on 7 occassions losing 6 of those to rival Rafael Nadal and the other to Martin del Potro. Since turning pro in 1998 to date Federor has over $73 million in prize money and that along shows his success. Greatest Tennis player ever? For me he is at this moment in time.

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Jack Nicklaus – The Golden Bear is one of the greatest golfers ever to have swung a club. Like the great Seve we spoke about earlier Jack Nicklaus has been one of the great inspirations in the game of golf. A still to this day world record Nicklaus has 18 Major wins including 6 Masters,5 PGA’s,4 US Open’s & 3 Open Championships. He is 3rd all time winner on the PGA tour with 73 wins with only Sam Snead and Tiger Woods with more wins (82 & 74 respectively). Like many other great sportsman Jack helped develop the amazing competition I am currently watching as I write this The Ryder Cup. During the 1977 Ryder Cup at Royal Lytham & St Annes, Nicklaus approached the PGA of Great Britain about the urgency to improve the competitive level of the contest. The selection procedures and to allow more nations to take part. European was discussed and is used to this day and the event is competitive as ever. Golf is so competitive now it will take someone very special to break The Golden Bears major record. Amazing talent.

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Michael Phelps – Now I don’t watch swimming much and only really watch it at the Olympics like most others will but this blog had to mention Michael Phelps. He is only the most decorated Olympian of all time with an incredible 22 Medals. Phelps is a Backstroke,butterfly,freestyle & individual medley swimmer. From 2001 to 2009 Phelps broke an incredible 39 world records across his various swimming strokes. Phelps also setup his own charity foundation after the 2008 Olympics with the sponsor money he got from Speedo. It holds a very famous annual golf classic and is a fantastic cause. He recently retired at the age of 27 after an amazing London 2012 games.

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Stephen Hendry – Like all other sports snooker has had its greats but Stephen Hendry is easily up there as one of the greatest. He transformed the game with other greats back in the 80’s and 90’s and became the youngest ever world champion at the age of 21 beating Steve Davis in the final. Hendry would dominate the game in the 90’s and would go on to win a world record 7 World Championships and was Snooker’s number one player from 1990 to 1998 and a shorter reign in 2006/07. With 36 world ranking titles to his name Hendry also holds the record for century breaks with 775 competitive century breaks and along with great rival Ronnie O’Sullivan holds the record for competitive 147 maximum breaks with 11. The Edinburgh lad has done not too badly at all with over £8 million in prize money and inspiring many Scottish snooker players in years to come.

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Phil Taylor – Not many sportsman dominate like Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor has done. He has took the game of darts to a new level with his excellent displays on the big television stage. The man from Stoke-on-Trent has a record 15 World Championships along with over 150 professional tournaments and is easily the greatest darts player of all time. I hope there isn’t anyone reading this saying darts isn’t a sport as it very much is! If archery and shooting are classed as Olympic sports then so is darts. It has passion and takes a great deal of skill. But anyway back to Taylor and The Power has done many other great darting achievements such as becoming the first man to hit two 9 dart finishes in one match…doing one is very difficult never mind two! Taylor represented the BDO from 1988-1993 (seen on BBC 1) but has been with the ‘Premiership of Darts’ the PDC since 1993 as the players felt that the BDO was no longer serving the interests of the game at the top level. In 1993, some players broke away from the game’s ruling body, the BDO, and formed their own organisation, the World Darts Council (WDC), later renamed the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). Taylor has had many amazing matches with Wade,Anderson, Priestly and his great rival Raymond van Barneveld. Darts is very popular now and Phil Taylor is its stand out star. Dedication and good old fashioned hard work make you great as The Power has shown.

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Sid Waddell – Sticking to darts I will now discuss another man who has played a monumental part in taking darts to where it has risen to today. The legendary commentator Sid Waddell. His articulate poetry and sheer love and knowledge of darts made Sid one of the most well loved commentators to grace any sport. Darts wouldn’t be where it is today without ‘The Voice of Darts’ and he will be sadly missed by everyone who watches a darts match on television. Such was Sid’s intelligence darts wasn’t his only form of expression along with darts autobiographies he also wrote the novel Bedroll Bella and The Road Back Home the former being famously banned for being to racy by John Menzies and WH Smiths! Also a passionate supporter of his beloved Newcastle Sid would often articulate between football and Geordie slang making him as entertaining as the darts on show when he commentated. A true darts legend who was loved and will be missed by many. Sid Waddell The Voice of Darts.

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Vince Lombardi – Considered the greatest NFL coach of all time, Lombardi took the Green Bay Packers to five championship titles, including consecutive wins in 1965, 1966 and 1967, a feat that has never been repeated. Lombardi’s Packers won the first two Super Bowls, and his lifetime winning percentage as a coach (.738) still stands as an NFL record four decades after his death. Known for his disciplined training programs and insistence on player conditioning, Lombardi turned around a struggling Packers team when he took over as head coach in 1959. In his second season as head coach, Lombardi took the Packers to the NFL championship game, where they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by a score of 17-13. It was the only post-season game Lombardi would ever lose.In 1970 after we sadly lost the great man The NFL honoured his achievements by naming the Super Bowl trophy for him. His contributions as a college coach are also remembered through the Lombardi Award, given annually to the best college lineman. Am sure anyone who has seen the film Any Given Sunday with Al Pacino you will recognise one of Lombardi’s famous quotes “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour – his greatest fulfilment to all he holds dear is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious”

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John Madden – For many fans, the name Madden is synonymous with football. A graduate of California Polytechnic State University, Madden was a stand-out offensive tackle who was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958. A training-camp injury prevented Madden from ever playing in a game, but his love of football remained.Madden began coaching at California colleges in 1958. In 1967, he was offered the job of linebackers coach for the Oakland Raiders. Two years later, during the AFL/NFL merger, Madden became the league’s youngest head coach at the age of 32 when he ascended to the top spot in Oakland. Over the course of the next 10 seasons, Madden won more than 100 regular-season games (the youngest coach ever to hit that milestone), never had a losing season and led the Raiders to a win in Super Bowl XI. His overall winning percentage of 76.3%, including play-offs is the best in NFL history, making him a true NFL legend.Madden is perhaps best known for his work off the field. After retiring following the 1978 season, Madden was tapped as a colour commentator for football broadcasts. An avid student and fan of the game, Madden spent time in the broadcast booths for all four major networks, with his final years spent broadcasting Monday Night Football for ABC and Sunday Night Football for NBC. With a deep understanding of football and the ability to break down the game’s complexity so that casual fans could understand what was happening on the field, Madden became one of the game’s greatest ambassadors and contributed to its growing success on television. Not many know more about the game than Mr Madden that’s for sure!

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Sir Alex Ferguson – Its quite simple really Sir Alex Ferguson is the greatest football manager past or present. His desire and success is second to none and the Manchester United manager has won the lot since his tenure began there in 1986. 12 English Premier League Titles,5 FA Cups,4 League Cups,2 Champions Leagues along with 3 Scottish Premier Leagues,4 Scottish Cups,1 Scottish League Cup,1 UEFA Cup Winners Cup & 1 UEFA Super Cup are just some of his major wins as a manager. When you look at some of the players he has managed,signed and brought through and where they went it just shows that greatness can rub off on any people if they choose to listen and work hard. I think once Sir Alex decides to call it a day Manchester United will struggle to get anyone like him. It could be argued only Jose Mourinho has the similar desire and will to win but even the Special One is miles behind Fergie. Greatest football manager ever and its going to be very difficult to beat the man from Govan’s achievements in the game. Take a bow Sir Alex you should be very proud,very proud indeed.

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Derek Jeter – One of the all time greats in baseball Derek Jeter has been an MLB (Major League Baseball) player for 18 years now with his beloved New York Yankees. Jeter is seen as one of the main reasons for the Yankees success in the 90’s & 00’s due to his outstanding hitting technique,baserunning &  leadership qualities. Jeter has won the World Series on 5 occassions with the Yankees and is their all time career leader in stats to date for hits (3294),stolen bases (348) and at bats (10,477). He has also been selected for the All Stars 13 times, 5 gold glove awards and 4 silver slugger awards along with being the all time MLB leader in hits by a short stop. One of baseballs most decorated players Jeter is a baseball and Yankees legend and like many others mentioned on this blog has done lots for charity off the field setting up his Turn 2 Foundation as well as being an ambassador for Weplay.

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Anderson Silva – The current UFC Middleweight Champion of the World is considered by many as the greatest MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter of all time. The Spider who is a Brazilian Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu specialist has fought 15 times in the UFC and has incredibly won every single one of them. He won the Middleweight belt in only his second UFC fight and he beat then champ Rich Franklin via KO. Such is his dominance Silva has even fought at the weight above his class in light-heavyweight on two occassions and has won both via KO. The only match where Silva came close to losing was when he fought American Chael Sonnen at UFC 117. Sonnen, a wrestler dominated the first 4 and a half rounds of the 5 round title fight only for Silva to lock a triangle choke with seconds to go and win via submission. Silva was much more convincing in the rematch with Sonnen at UFC 148 winning by TKO in round two. Silva’s next fight is at light heavyweight against The American Psycho and favourite of mine Stephan Bonner but I really can’t see anyone but George ‘Rush’ St Pierre or Jon ‘Bones’ Jones challenging the now seemingly unbeatable Silva. If you haven’t seen The Spider fight before October 13th is the date for you to do so! You won’t regret seeing this legend do what he does best in the Octagon. The most dangerous man on the planet Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva.

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Randy Couture – Sticking with MMA it would be very rude for me not to include UFC hall of famer and life inspiration Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture. A catch wrestler and Roman Greco wrestler Randy has fought and beaten the best. He has won against names like Vitor Belfort,Chuck Liddell,Tito Ortiz,Tim Sylvia and Mark Coleman. A 3 time winner of the UFC Heavyweight championship Randy also won the Light Heavyweight championship on 2 occassions. The biggest inspiration is Couture’s fitness levels. Even at the age of 49 he is still fitter than most people half his age. He goes a run in the mountains on god knows how many miles per time when he is bored! His 3rd win of the heavyweight title against Tim Sylvia was one of the finest moments in MMA I’ve ever seen. Couture holds some unique UFC records as well such as most championship reigns (5) and most championship matches (15) along with oldest fighter to win a title at 43 years of age and a year later was the oldest fighter to defend a belt in UFC! Now people who don’t watch MMA may have seen Randy in The Expendables films with Stallone,Arnie and the rest as he makes his move into films after MMA. An MMA legend and inspiration Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture.

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Diego Maradona – Considered by many as the greatest footballer of all time and every Argentine prospect who plays in the attacking role gets compared to Diego Maradona was a unique talent. Maradona while an amazing player really should have won more honours in his career but he did manager 2 Serie A titles,1 UEFA Cup & 1 Coppa Italia but he did famously captain Argentina to the World Cup in 1986. A man who had many controversies Maradona was a superb player and had unique dribbling skills and would glide past players with ease. Maradona would represent Argentina 91 times and score on 34 occassions while in his playing career he would play 589 and score 311 goals from his games in Argentina,Italy & Spain. Often in many conversations against Brazilian Pele in the who is the best of all time a new conversation has came up. Argentina have finally got a player who can and has (as some will say already)  overtook Maradona in quality and achievement and that man is of course Leo Messi. Many fans of Maradona will say Messi won’t be better until he wins a World Cup and many fans of Messi will say he has achieved much more already than Maradona. Either way both are super natural talents and The Hand of God was one of the best no doubt.

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Floyd Mayweather Jr – Now I know this one might cause a stir especially from fans of Manny Pacquiao but this isn’t the time or place for a petty who’s fault is it they haven’t fought or who’s better argument as we know the answer to the latter question and I’m about to talk about him now! Yes he is a controversial outside of the ring and has many bad marks against him but in the ring he is a genius and was under appreciated by many for so long. His speed and counter punching really is second to none and is one of the best defensive boxers to ever fight. Still unbeaten after 43 fights ‘Money’ is still going strong and has been very impressive recently particularly against Miguel Cotto in his last fight. Mayweather is a five division World Champion and has won 8 World Titles as well as the lineal championship in three different weight classes. At the moment he holds the WBC Welterweight belt and WBA (Super) Light Middleweight belt but more importantly is regarded as the worlds best pound for pound boxer. We all want Mayweather v Pacman but politics and greed could cost us of that fight. For me it should have happened a year or two back as both were in their absolute prime. It would still draw huge interest and numbers no doubt but for me and I’ve said this all along Mayweather would beat Pacman by a good few rounds in my view. But Floyd Mayweather amazing talent and I hope he has a few fights left in him.

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Usain Bolt – Well lets end this with the fastest man to ever live and current superstar from Jamaica Usain Bolt. With 6 Olympic Golds already in 100m,200m and 4x100m relay Bolt has proved his credentials in fine form. Imagine being that fast and having a surname like Bolt…that is a marketing/advertising dream right there! The great man has also dominated World Championships as well winning several Golds there as well. I believe Bolt has only lost in two 100m sprints which is quite incredible really. He did of course famously not get to compete in the 100m World Championships final in 2011 due to a false start but in London 2012 he showed the world who was the main man by winning Gold yet again. Who can stop this running machine? and Can Bolt still be the man to beat in Brazil in 2016. Either way he is a legend and fastest man to ever live until someone proves different.

Well thanks again everyone this was a very long and detailed blog but one I enjoyed very much and I hope I have done some of these greats justice!

Until next time

Thanks for stopping by The Sports Lab

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