In honor of February's Black History Month, I set out to pinpoint a pristine list of the world's all-time greatest black athletes. But using what criteria?
Sheer athleticism? Popularity? Accomplishment? Social activism? Transcendence? All of the above? Nothing of the sort?
The task, in and of itself, is as absurd as trying to convince Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price that, sure, 28 days is adequate celebration of your race.
I wound up taking into account everything, nothing and random bits in between. I wound up including one local athlete and - can't believe I'm typing this - excluding the likes of LeBron James, Usain Bolt, Jesse Owens, Oscar Robertson, Walter Payton, Daley Thompson, Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, Jim Brown, Roberto Clemente, Deion Sanders, Jackie Joyner-Kersey, O.J. Simpson, Kip Keino, Rickey Henderson, Edwin Moses and Lawrence Taylor.
Jump for the best, most difficult list I've ever whittled ...
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 now 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. Willie Mays - Baseball's first 30-homer/30-stolen base man also won 12 Gold Gloves patroling center field and slugged the sport's fourth-most homers, all without a lick of steroids.
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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