The student news site of South Hadley High School



Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

The GOAT of all GOATs – Settling The Debate

Who is the true Greatest Of All Time?
A display of all the most common “GOATs” from the five major American sports. Photo illustration by Brady Denniston.

Earlier this year, LeBron James became the first player in National Basketball Association history to record 40,000 points. He had previously broken Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record for most points scored in the league’s history, a record he held for decades prior.

But there are still many who think that LeBron and Kareem don’t even enter the debate for the greatest player of all time. And they might not be wrong for thinking that. The “GOAT debate,” as it’s colloquially known, is almost purely subjective, and happens in more than one sport.

There’s also a growing debate between whether to use advanced analytics to determine the GOAT, or the standard “eye test.” Is the GOAT debate more contingent on dominance or influence? And does difficulty in a sport play a role?

Let’s start with the sheerly dominant players. These athletes have either won outrageous numbers of championships, been a most valuable player many times, or just, for lack of a better word, dominated their sport.

Story continues below advertisement

Basketball: Bill Russell. He is tied for the most championships of any athlete in any sport, winning five MVPs along the way, including three straight from 1961-1963. Russell’s play style was a product of its time, mostly reliant on layups and close-range shots.

Baseball: Hank Aaron. He holds the Major League record for most runs batted in, hit 755 home runs, and ranks third in career hits overall with a touch under 4,000. His lone World Series title came in 1957.

Hockey: Wayne Gretzky. He’s the NHL’s all-time leading point scorer, even if you don’t count his goals. He won nine MVPs, including a dominant eight straight between 1980 and 1987.

Football: Tom Brady. Seven Super Bowl titles, three NFL MVPs, five Super Bowl MVPs, fifteen Pro Bowl selections. Some say it’s coaching, but the stats don’t lie. The NFL’s all-time leader in career passing yards and wins as a quarterback are surely something.

Soccer: Lionel Messi. Eight Ballons d’Or put him at the top of the list for most all-time. He also ranks second on the goals scored list in the UEFA Champions League.

Dominance is important, but would the players succeed if it weren’t for those who changed the game?

Basketball: Michael Jordan. His playstyle was generational. Most current NBA players grew up influenced by him. Furthermore, his Jordan lifestyle brand has transcended the sport of basketball.

Baseball: Ken Griffey Jr. He pioneered the modern outfielder. A relatively tall, yet smaller built player with impressive mobility. His stance and “sweet swing” at the plate has been emulated by millions of ballplayers worldwide.

Hockey: Sergei Fedorov. The top member of the famed Russian Five, he was a pure scorer, with incredible deking and explosiveness. He was the blueprint for the modern forward, and a primary influence for many current European players.

Football: Michael Vick. He was responsible for proving that quarterbacks are eligible runners, just like a running back or fullback. Without his mobility, we likely wouldn’t see successful careers for players like Kyler Murray or Lamar Jackson.

Soccer: Pele. Not only an incredible player, Pele was also the first black soccer star, inspiring people of color worldwide. He also changed the game itself, making fools out of opponents with his incredible dribbling.

Lest we forget that the GOAT doesn’t solely pertain to the five major sports in the United States. There have been some incredible athletes across other sports as well.

Boxing: Muhammad Ali. Another athlete whose influence transcended his sport. Ali was a trailblazer for Muslim athletes. He was also one of – if not the most – dominant fighters of all time.

Tennis: Roger Federer/Serena Williams. Two incredibly skilled and dominant players, you can’t pick between Federer and Williams for the greatest player in tennis history.

Lacrosse: Paul Rabil. The first truly dominant American lacrosse player, Rabil’s skill and influence on the sport led to the inception of the US’ premier lacrosse league, the PLL.

Swimming: Michael Phelps. Undeniably the greatest Olympian of all time, let alone swimmer. He holds the record for most gold medals of all time in any sport.

Golf: Tiger Woods. Five Masters, four PGA Championships, three US Opens, three British Opens. Aside from being so dominant tournament-wise, he’s also been able to overcome so much adversity.

So with dozens of athletes coming into the conversation, you may ask yourself: “How could you pick just one?”

Sure, it’s a tough ask, but personally, I lean towards Michael Jordan. His influence transcended the sport of basketball, creating a lifestyle out of its equipment.

He also was extremely dominant, and his skill encouraged casual fans to tune into more games. Without Jordan, the NBA just isn’t where it is today.

Michael Jordan setting up on defense. (

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All SPOTLIGHT Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *