- Harrison Brooks
BCMG's Top 20 Male Athletes Of The Last 20 Years: Part Three
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Last week we rolled out part two of our list of the top 20 male athletes of the last 20 years. If you missed it, check it out here. Today we are unveiling numbers 10 through six.
10. Floyd Mayweather, Boxing (89 points)
The record of 50-0-0 speaks for itself with Floyd Mayweather. There are only a handful of boxers to ever end their careers undefeated but nobody was as high profile as Floyd "Money" Mayweather. Even other legends like Manny Pacquiao, Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammed Ali ended their careers with at least a handful of losses. However, Mayweateher has received some criticisms about avoiding other top fighters for so long that it becomes questionable. The best example of this is "the fight of the century" against Manny Pacquiao in 2015. Despite being similar ages and their careers happening at the same time, these two all-time greats never met in the ring until they were both in their mid to late 30s with their careers winding down. For me, that will always be a black mark on Mayweather and the reason he just barely made the top 10. He essentially robbed boxing fans of what could have been an all-time great series of matches like we have seen from all the other greats of the past. However, that doesn't take away from how truly great Floyd Mayweather was. One of, if not the most technically sound boxers of all-time, Mayweather was almost impossible to hit cleanly. For the most part he won his fights with defence but still packed enough of a punch to finish more than half of his fights (27) with knockouts. He is undisputedly one of the greatest boxers to ever step in the ring, but there will always be that question surrounding him; if he had fought his biggest competition in their primes would he still be 50-0? If, in this hypothetical world, the answer is yes, then there would have been no doubt who the greatest all-time is. But for now, it is still up for debate.
9. Sidney Crosby, Hockey (101 points)
The pride of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, Sidney Crosby is one of hockeys all-time greats and a true generational talent the likes of which has only been seen a handful of times in the history of the NHL. In his 15 years in the league, Crosby has collected more than his fair share of hardware including three Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe trophies as playoff MVP, two Art Ross trophies as regular season points leader, two Maurice Richard trophies as regular season goals leader, two Hart trophies as regular season MVP, two Ted Lindsay awards as MVP voted by the players and two olympic gold medals. But what makes Crosby so great isn't the stats or the trophies or even the fact he scored the gold medal winning goal in overtime against the USA on home soil. It's the commitment to his game that makes him great. Crosby exploded on to the scene with 102 points as a rookie in 2005. But he wasn't happy with his face-off ability so instead of sitting back and enjoying the fact he was already the best player in the world, he worked all off season on his face-offs and became one of the best in the league at them. Then, he wasn't happy with how he was getting his goals, so he changed his curve, and worked on his shot and became a yearly threat to take home the Maurice Richard trophy. In his first trip to the Stanley Cup Final he played Detroit and got beat easily. He was frustrated by the lack of time he had in the offensive zone because of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk's back checking and defensive ability, so once again he changed his game and dedicated himself to playing defence and has since finished in the top 10 of Selke Trophy voting four times. Almost from the second he stepped on the ice as a rookie, Crosby has been the best player in the league. And 15 seasons later that hasn't changed. And yes I know about Connor McDavid but I'm sorry you can't be the best player in the league when you are literally one of the biggest defensive liabilities in the NHL. It may be a long shot that he wins any more Stanley Cups, but don't fool yourself, Sidney Crosby still has a lot of elite hockey left in him.
8. Cristiano Ronaldo, Soccer (103 points)
Coming in at seven and eight on our list is a pair of all-time great footballers in Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. But we'll get to Messi in a moment. For now, at least one paragraph's worth of time, we are all about Ronaldo. Much like the Roger Federer/Rafael Nadal debate in Tennis, Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have essentially been joined at the hip for their entire careers, with fans constantly going back and forth in the debate of who is better. If you're going by our list, it's Messi by a hair but nothin is set in stone. Ronaldo is a seven-time league winner, five-time UEFA Champions League winner, four-time Golden Shoe winner and ranks second all-time with five Ballon d'Or's - to go along with six second place finishes. Ronaldo's 134 goals and 41 assists in UEFA Champions League play are both the most all-time. Despite being neck and neck with Messi when it comes to accolades and stats, the one thing that is clearly in Ronaldo's favour is his international success. In 2016 Ronaldo led Portugal to a European championship, whereas Messi has never won an international trophy. At 30 years old, Ronaldo is also a few years younger than Messi, potentially giving him more time to make up the slim margin and perhaps even surpass Messi for good. However, regardless of which side of this debate you are on, one thing is clear. This rivalry is far from over.
7. Lionel Messi, Soccer (110 points)
Again, much like the tennis rivalry between Nadal and Federer, had one of Messi or Ronaldo never existed, the other would probably have run away with the greatest of all-time honours. But I don't think soccer fans would give up this rivalry even if it meant their favourite player becomes the GOAT. That's how special watching these two battle has been. In the previous paragraph I mentioned how Ronaldo is second all-time in Ballon d'Or trophies with five wins and six runner-ups. The only person ahead of him is - you guessed it - Messi, with six Ballon d'Or's and five runner ups, proving my point of how great one would be without the other. Despite never winning an international trophy, many still give the edge in this debate to Messi and even consider him one of the greatest of all-time. The biggest knock on Messi isn't just that he hasn't won in international play, it's that he has never scored a goal in a knockout round game at the FIFA World Cup. But all that aside, Messi is one of the most creative and gifted ball handlers of all-time and holds the edge over Ronaldo in almost every advanced metric. According to the Expected Points Added statistic, Messi makes better decisions with the ball and scores or sets up goals that are more important to the outcome of games. While Ronaldo is a physical beast, Messi plays a much more skilled game and uses his teammates more effectively. This shows in their all-time club stats where despite appearing in more than 100 fewer matches, Messi has just six less goals and over 50 more assists than Ronaldo. The debate is far from over and an international tournament win or two could go a long way for Messi to not only separate himself from Ronaldo but also cement himself firmly in the GOAT conversation.
6. Roger Federer, Tennis (113 points)
Speak of the devil and he shall appear. Roger Federer finishes just outside the top-five on our list. Last week I wrote about Rafael Nadal in part two of our list. And even though they finished 11 spots apart, there is a debate to be had that they should be side by side just like the previous two athletes. Tied at 20 Grand Slams a piece with Nadal, Federer holds a significant lead in total titles won with 103 versus Nadal's 86. While Nadal got his 20 Grand Slams on the back of his clay court dominance where he won 65 percent of his Grand Slams, Federer was always more consistent, spreading his wins out pretty evenly among three of the four major tournaments - specifically, the ones not played on clay. Despite the relatively close nature of the Federer-Nadal debate, no one - not even Nadal - has reached the peaks of the sport that Federer has. Throughout his career, Federer has spent a total of 310 weeks ranked at number one, including 237 consecutive weeks in the top spot - a record which may never be surpassed. At 39 years old, while he is no longer dominating the sport, Federer is still playing at an extremely high level with wins at the Australian open in 2017 and 2018 as well as Wimbledon in 2017. And just last year, he lost a five-set thriller to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon finals that would have given him 21 career grand slams and a definitive edge over Nadal. But alas, it wasn't meant to be and GOAT status in tennis is still up for grabs.
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