BCMG's Top 20 Male Athletes Of The Last 20 Years: Part Two
Last week we rolled out part one of our list of the top 20 male athletes of the last 20 years. If you missed it, check out the start to the list here. Today we are unveiling numbers 15 through 11.
15. Rafael Nadal, Tennis (41 points)
No matter who you are or where your allegiances lie when it comes to your favourite tennis players, it's hard to make an argument against Nadal being a top-two player of all time. Tied atop the leader board with 20 Grand Slam titles a piece, the rivalry between Nadal and Roger Federer over the past 20 years has been nothing short of a treat for tennis fans. While Federer has the edge in total titles, 103-86, Nadal has the edge in Olympic hardware taking home a gold medal in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Through his 19-year career Nadal has received the nickname "the king of clay," and deservedly so. Of his 20 grand slam titles, a whopping 13 have come on the clay courts of the French Open - the most all-time. If it wasn't for some recurring knee and wrist issues throughout his career, Nadal might already be the undisputed GOAT of the sport. However, the debate is still on but one more Grand Slam title by the left handed Spaniard might be just enough to catapult him ahead of Federer.
T-14. Mike Trout, Baseball (43 points)
No other sports league in the world is as ingrained with nostalgia as the MLB. And for that reason, when the conversation of the best players of all time comes up, the first names mentioned are always Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and so on and so on. But that needs to stop because Mike Trout might just be the best baseball player in history. It's hard to wrap your head around the fact that he is only in year eight of his career. It feels as though he has been around for so long and done everything you can imagine - other than winning the world series, of course. And the reason for that is, his name is almost synonymous with the league today. You can't think about the MLB without thinking of Trout. He is a three-time MVP and eight-time Silver Slugger, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Trout is 2nd among all active players in wins above replacement (WAR) despite being six to 12 years younger than everyone else in the top 10. He has finished 1st in offensive WAR in seven of his eight years in the league. But to further put Trout's greatness into perspective, of all the players to have ever played in the MLB, Trout is the only player to have a WAR over 70 before turning 28. Simply put, Mike Trout is in a class of his own in today's MLB and is currently on pace to be the greatest player of all time whether or not he gets there, we'll have to wait and see.
T-14. Georges St. Pierre, MMA (43 points)
Like I said in part one, when covering Anderson Silva, there are many ways for a fighter to win in the UFC. But that didn't matter to Georges St. Pierre. Also known by his initials, GSP had one of the most well-rounded skill sets and was one of the most technically sound fighters to ever step foot in the octagon. But to really paint the picture of GSP's greatness here is what contributor and host of Boom-Town Podcast, Andrew Kaun - who knows more about MMA than I ever will - had to say about the mighty French-Canadian. "GSP is a true Canadian icon who revolutionized the sport of MMA and put Canadian fighters on the map. His complete domination of the sport in the 2000s is something rather incredible. Think about it this way, the nine best welterweights in the world between 2006 and 2013 were all defeated by almighty French-Canadian. With wins over guys like Dan Hardy, Matt Serra, Josh Koschek, Jake Shields, Nick Diaz and Johny Hendricks, the man was simply unstoppable. His retirement in 2013 really shocked the world as he was still at the height of his prime. Fast forward four years, GSP returned and even moved up a weight class just to prove to the world that he could still beat the best of the best. At that time Michael Bisping was the UFC Middleweight Champion but a submission victory secured GSP the title making him a champion in two different UFC divisions. He has since retired and has been running his own gym. But pound for pound, GSP will always be #1."
12. Peyton Manning, Football (49 points)
Seeing Peyton Manning at this point of the list, you could probably make a pretty reasonable guess as to a name that will be appearing in a later edition. But this section isn't about anyone else. Tom who, right? This is about the greatness that is Peyton Manning. A two time Super Bowl champ, Super Bowl MVP and five-time regular season MVP, Peyton Manning is unquestionably a top-two quarterback to ever play the game. He
also holds the dubious honour of being called "the greatest regular season quarterback of all time." Now this can be looked at two ways. First is the criticism that he couldn't get it done in the playoffs. Second - and the best way to look at it - is he absolutely was the best regular season quarterback of all time. Peyton holds both the single season passing touchdown record with 55 in 2013 and the single season passing yard record with 5477 yards that same year - edging out Drew Brees' 2011 season by a single yard. But more than that he is one of just three players to ever put up 50 touchdowns in a season (Brady, Mahomes) and is one of only three QBs to ever put up multiple 40+ touchdown seasons (Rodgers, Brees - most likely joined by Mahomes at season's end.) He has two of the top four passing touchdown seasons of all time, throwing for 49 scores in his second straight MVP season in 2004. However, the most wild thing about Peyton Manning is these amazing stats aren't even the greatest thing about him. His brain is. There's a reason he's got such a big dome and it's because the dude's brain is gigantic. Every time he stepped out of the tunnel, he was the smartest guy on the field - coaches included. In fact, at points in his career he basically was the offensive coordinator. We all know about the no-huddle offense and his ability to audible based on the slightest tell by the defence. But what some might not know, is Manning would often run the offense meetings for his team. He truly was just like another coach on the field and was always one step ahead of the defense. He may not go down as the GOAT but he might have been the smartest QB to ever play the game.
11. Kobe Bryant, Basketball (87 points)
Kobe Bryant was the closest thing to Michael Jordan that we have seen or likely will ever see. Bryant, also known by his bad-ass nickname, Black Mamba, was an MVP, a five time champion and two-time finals MVP. He was one of the greatest scorers of all-time currently sitting 4th on the all-time list just ahead of Jordan himself. He also has been immortalized in a way that no other player, including Jordan ever has. Every time anyone picks up a piece of trash and shoots it towards the garbage can like a basketball, the first thing out of their mouth is an emphatic "Kobe!" Now I realize that might not come across as that important in the grand scheme of things but it's pretty cool if you think about it. Bryant is not in the running for greatest player of all-time, that's just the truth, so for him to be the guy every basketball fan immediately thinks of when shooting anything like a basketball is a pretty phenomenal accomplishment in its own right. Kobe was one of the most competitive players to ever play and had a work ethic to match. There are stories out there of players showing up to the court to get a little extra pre-game work in to find Kobe, who was already there for an hour, stay on the court for hours more, then go drop 50 in that night's game, just to show anybody who was paying attention that no matter what you are willing to do, he was willing to do more to win. Adding to the legend of Kobe Bryant was his ability to always make people take notice. Of course I'm talking about the 81 points he dropped on the Toronto Raptors in 2006 - one of the greatest single game performances in NBA history. But I'm also talking about how he left the league. In his last game, challenged by long time friend and teammate Shaquile O'neal to go out with a bang and get 50 points, Kobe took that and raised it, finishing with 60. The perfect way to cap off the career of one of the best scorers in history. RIP Kobe and Gianna.
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