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I think that the best overall athletes in the world play professional tennis. I know you've got people going crazy now saying LeBron James, Tom Brady, Mike Trout could kick their butts, however ... think about it. Speed. Endurance. Flexibility. Strategy. Mental Toughness. Strength.  What sport do you know thats one-on-one, lasts for multiple hours, and by the end they are still slugging it out at full speed?  Just look at the bodies on these men and women.... the fittest of them all! Or would you rather look like an NFL lineman?  There really is no other sport that combines ALL of these things so completely.  And now let the screaming begin ... HAHAHAH ...

but you see I just wanted to go down in history as the first poster on the Open Forum and now my legacy is secured! B)

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I think that the best overall athletes in the world play professional tennis. I know you've got people going crazy now saying LeBron James, Tom Brady, Mike Trout could kick their butts, however ... think about it. Speed. Endurance. Flexibility. Strategy. Mental Toughness. Strength.  What sport do you know thats one-on-one, lasts for multiple hours, and by the end they are still slugging it out at full speed?  Just look at the bodies on these men and women.... the fittest of them all! Or would you rather look like an NFL lineman?  There really is no other sport that combines ALL of these things so completely.  And now let the screaming begin ... HAHAHAH ...

but you see I just wanted to go down in history as the first poster on the Open Forum and now my legacy is secured! B)

Consider your legacy secured!

Ten years ago, I would have said "professional basketball players," because they have it all (with the possible exception of flexibility), *plus* they're like nine-feet tall.

And I *still* might say professional basketball players, but you make a compelling argument for professional tennis players as well.

Question: do you think that advances in racket technology have been accompanied by requirements of superior athleticism? We have a lot of Tennis Threads, and I've made this argument in at least two threads: the Rafael Nadal thread (asterisk), and the Greatest of All Time thread. Or is it the greater prize money that has drawn them into the sport? I think it's a combination of both, with the former carrying the most weight (after all, other sports pay mega-bucks also). I don't think you can say that the tennis players of the 1970s were the "World's Greatest Athletes at the time" but I think you can make a case for that being true now - assuming you agree with that statement, *something* has changed during the last 40 years: I think advances in equipment technology have made it so players can hit every ball with tremendous velocity and pinpoint accuracy, thus requiring the opponents to be able to essentially run wind-sprints for several hours - at the same time, they have to slug the ball back in order to prevent being massacred, so they have to be a lot stronger as well. As I see it, tennis has gone from being a game of hand-eye coordination and distance-style endurance (40 years ago, you could "rest" in the middle of the point by throwing up moon-balls), to being a flat-out competition of the fastest, the strongest, and the fittest. I believe it was John McEnroe (I may be wrong about the attribution) who said that the biggest difference in tennis between last generation and this generation is that 40 years ago, if a skilled tennis player played a great athlete, the skilled tennis player would tend to win; now, the opposite tends to be the case. I think that sums things up pretty nicely.

And yet, tennis players aren't 6'9", 240 pounds, who can sprint down the court and slam down a dunk over a 7-footer. And we haven't even gotten to soccer.

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And yet, tennis players aren't 6'9", 240 pounds, who can sprint down the court and slam down a dunk over a 7-footer. And we haven't even gotten to soccer.

And neither could swim a 400 meter Individual Medley which starts with a 100 meter butterfly (!) and then you still have 3/4 of the race to go!

I'm not necessarily suggesting that a swimmer is more athletic than tennis player, but I do think both of them blow basketball players (or any other team sport players) out of the water :P as far as athletic greatness goes.  In a team sport you can go sit on the bench, or dog it for a couple minutes, or not be involved in the play (so you just stand there watching).  You can't do that in tennis or swimming.  It's all you all the time.

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Soccer players, swimmers, ultramarathoners, tennis players, etc are all certainly very fit but does fitness=athleticism? I would say not. Any schlub, athletic or not,  can become fit. (This is not to say that fitness is all there is to being great at any of the aforementioned activities.) Non-athletic people can be incredibly fit and remain non-athletic. I would agree with Don's assessment of NBA players as the top of the athletic food chain.

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does fitness=athleticism? 

This question must be resolved before even attempting to have this conversation.

In my opinion, athleticism is "fitness+" ... it's fitness plus size, hand-eye coordination, leaping ability, and quickness - four things that you can work on and improve, but are mainly genetic.

Restated, fitness is a "necessary but insufficient" component of athleticism.

Who was a better athlete, Larry Bird or Michael Phelps? Personally, I can't answer this question with any degree of confidence.

We've discussed this topic before here - this thread is worth reading in its entirety.

But in the end, it's going to come down to how you define "athlete."

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So we all know professional cycling has doping issues but:

Typically the winner of the Tour de France has an overall average speed of 25 mph. The Tour covers about 2,200 miles with 21 stages competed over 23 days.

That is some sick fitness.

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Presented for your consideration.  Read about it before scoffing.

"Fitter than footballers and leaner than athletes: the word on the Formula One circuit is that racing car drivers possess the most finely tuned bodies on earth. Medical studies consent."

"Formula One - vital stats:

A racing car driver has to be in peak physical condition. This calls for:

A resting heart rate of around 40 beats per minute (the average, healthy human has a resting heart rate of around 60bpm)

Being able to maintain a heart rate of up to 200bpm for the duration of a two hour drive (the average healthy human has a heart rate of around 150bpm during an intense gym workout)

A constant body fat ratio of around 7%, similar to that of a marathon runner just before a big race.

Neck muscles able to support up to 24kg when rounding corners at high speed.

Hydration levels able to compete with the 3kg in weight a driver has been known to sweat off during a race."

Channel 4 website (archived article)

Are F1 Drivers Considered Athletes?

"As our driver sits on the grid waiting for the lights to go out, his heart rate has increased to 185 bpm even though he is not moving a single muscle. During the race adrenaline will push the heart rate up even higher, sometimes over 200 bpm.  This will give an average reading of approximately 170 bpm. That heart rate of 170 bpm is equivalent to almost three beats every second. Count it and then imagine your heart going through that for the full two hours."

F1 drivers are athletes, too

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I'm not scoffing; in fact, I find your presentation interesting - but I'm having trouble with the validity of this one claim:

Being able to maintain a heart rate of up to 200bpm for the duration of a two hour drive (the average healthy human has a heart rate of around 150bpm during an intense gym workout)

 

As long as we're out there with Formula One, I'm going to throw my hat into the ring with the biathlon. Yes, there really is a "Biathlon for Dummies." The essence of the biathlon argument is that cross-country skiers have to go full-throttle, with their heart rate pretty much maxed out, and then they have to immediately stop, and calm themselves down enough to shoot at targets 50 meters away while alternatively standing up and lying down, then, they have to get up and do it all over again, repeating this cycle of hell several times during the race.

I also can't imagine running a 4:43 mile for *26 consecutive miles*.

I'm still in favor of professional basketball players or professional tennis players as "the answer," mainly because of the exquisite skill and coordination and mental toughness thrown into the traditional combination of "strength and speed," but this discussion is more interesting than any definitive conclusion.

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Russell Westbrook might be the best pure athlete in the NBA right now:  Speed, quickness, power, change of pace, change of direction, etc etc. He was already an NBA star but last year with injuries to teammates he carried his team on his back and took over games.   He is NOT the best basketball player, but he might be the best athlete.   There are a lot of video pieces on him.  Here is one:

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In my opinion, athleticism is "fitness+" ... it's fitness plus size, hand-eye coordination, leaping ability, and quickness - four things that you can work on and improve, but are mainly genetic.

But in the end, it's going to come down to how you define "athlete."

Whenever this discussion comes up, I always put in the plug for hockey players.

However, I'd also like to remind people of who gets the title "world's greatest athlete" - the Olympic Decathalon gold medalist.

PS - For my tastes, female pole vaulters have the best bodies. :o

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Whenever this discussion comes up, I always put in the plug for hockey players.

However, I'd also like to remind people of who gets the title "world's greatest athlete" - the Olympic Decathalon gold medalist.

PS - For my tastes, female pole vaulters have the best bodies. :o

It's funny, I saw you had posted here, and said to myself, "If Joe mentions hockey, I'm going to chime in and say that pretty much *any* sport - at the highest levels - requires extreme, world-class athleticism, and it's true.

That said, I've never bought into the "World's Greatest Athlete" sobriquet for Decathalon gold medalists (I suspect it's borne of early Olympic competitions); and yet, there is an argument for it.

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I think that the best overall athletes in the world play professional tennis. I know you've got people going crazy now saying LeBron James, Tom Brady, Mike Trout could kick their butts, however ... think about it. Speed. Endurance. Flexibility. Strategy. Mental Toughness. Strength.  What sport do you know thats one-on-one, lasts for multiple hours, and by the end they are still slugging it out at full speed?  Just look at the bodies on these men and women.... the fittest of them all! Or would you rather look like an NFL lineman?  There really is no other sport that combines ALL of these things so completely.  And now let the screaming begin ... HAHAHAH ...

but you see I just wanted to go down in history as the first poster on the Open Forum and now my legacy is secured! B)

Certainly you make a great case for tennis players.  Interestingly though the game has changed and very few players venture to the net extensively.  One almost never sees two competitors at the net.   Alternatively doubles offers an exciting version of unique demonstrations of potentially rapid fire hand eye coordination responding to net to net play by members of the two teams...and sometimes all four players at once.   Really dramatic athleticism.  Yet it is the very opposite of the athletic demonstrations described above.

Lots of elements to athleticism.

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