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On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I Have A ... List. Of the Best Black Athletes in the History of Ever

While a lot of you are off work today, take time to remember and refresh the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The rest of us? Let's commemorate MLK Day with an impossible task: Selecting the world's all-time greatest black athletes.

First step, choosing the criteria. Sheer athleticism? Popularity? Accomplishment? Social activism? Transcendence? All of the above? Nothing of the sort?

The task, in and of itself, is absurdly difficult.

I wound up taking into account everything, nothing and random bits in between. I also wound up including one local athlete and -- can't believe I'm typing this -- excluding the likes of LeBron James, Willie Mays, Usain Bolt, Oscar Robertson, Walter Payton, Daley Thompson, Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, Jim Brown, Roberto Clemente, Deion Sanders, Jackie Joyner-Kersey, O.J. Simpson, Kobe Bryant, Kip Keino, Emmitt Smith, Rickey Henderson, Bill Russell, Edwin Moses and Lawrence Taylor.

Wow ...

 

10. Pele -- Indomitable skill and irrepressible smile introduced America to the world's most popular sport.

 

9. Serena/Venus Williams -- Dominating women's tennis by transforming the game from deft finesse into violent physicality.

 

8. Bob Hayes -- Cowboys' mercurial receiver has a Hall of Fame bust to accent his unprecedented Super Bowl ring/Olympic gold medal combo.

 

7. Wilt Chamberlain -- Decades ahead of his time in size and strength, he averaged -- I repeat -- averaged 50 points and 25 rebounds per game in the 1962 NBA season.

 

6. Muhammad Ali -- Floated like a butterfly. Stung like a bee. Changed the world.

 

5. Tiger Woods -- In a predominantly white sport, his athleticism and aggression are destined to reward him with every one of golf's hallowed records.

 

4. Michael Jordan -- Six NBA championships, five MVPs and the coolest nickname in the history of sports: Air.

 

3. Jesse Owens -- At the 1936 Olympics in Germany he rammed four gold medals (100, 200, 4 x 100 relay and long jump) up Adolf Hitler's Aryan ass and became the first black athlete to earn a shoe endorsement (Adidas).

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2. Bo Jackson -- In 1989 he became the first and only athlete to make All-Star teams in the NFL and Major League Baseball in the same season.

 

1. Jackie Robinson -- Not only broke Major League Baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn  Dodgers, but at UCLA he also led the nation in football kick returns and led the Pacific Coast Conference in basketball scoring.

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