Simone Biles: The Best May Still Be Yet To Come

If Simone Biles retired today would she do so as the best athlete of all time?

It is a question that most wouldn’t even consider, but Biles’ name should be up there with the likes of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, and anyone else who is deemed to be at the top of the list not only their sport, but in all of sports.

Biles problem in this argument is her lack of visibility. As a female gymnast, she dominates in a sport that is only visible to the larger American population, let alone the broader world population, every four years. When the Olympic Games are in full swing, then women’s gymnastics is popular. As soon as the Olympics finish, however, Biles is back to performing her craft well out of the media bubble.

Looking objectively at her career though, you can certainly make a case that Biles is the most dominant athlete of her time.

Being one of the premier athletes in gymnastics for any length of time is undoubtedly tough. It is a sport that chews up and spits out its athletes quicker than almost any other, with the need for a combination of strength and flexibility being practically impossible to maintain as age takes over.

Biles is the exception to this rule. She claimed her sixth all-around title at the 2019 US Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City, wrecking the rest of the field by five points in a sport that is almost always decided by decimal figures. Biles doesn’t just have one or two events she excels in and then holds on through the rest, she is legitimately dominant in all aspects of a sport where each routine – from floor to uneven bars – requires a distinct and unique set of skills.

Biles dominated the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, never giving her competition a chance to even put her under pressure. She is a cool, confident, and highly skilled athlete, one that never seems to get stressed or let the pressure to perform cause her problems in a sport when a slight misstep can mean the difference between a winning routine or low score by the judges.

Biles was asked a simple question on the Today Show by host Natalie Morales in 2018 after she had just won the US Gymnastics Championships that year. The question was, “Are you human?” to which she replied, “I am human, but I get that question all the time.”

That is a question reserved for premier athletes and players that have attained a different level than being a favorite sports star. A tier that is the elite of the elite. Simone Biles has reached that tier and, as she proves consistently, she has no plans to slow down any time soon.

Article by Premier Players

Best Ever In NBA Discussions Must Include Larry Bird

The debate around the best player ever in a sport will never be truly answered. Even comparing players of the same generation – Messi vs. Ronaldo, Brady vs. Manning – is difficult enough. So how do we look at two players from different eras and decide which of the two is the premier player?

When it comes to basketball, most of the debate around the best player ever focuses on Michael Jordan and LeBron James. They are seen as the 1a and the 1b of the game – in some order – with most people putting Jordan at the top due to his number of championships and the iconic ways he won games in an era where individual stars weren’t as prevalent as they are today.

There are some, a small minority based either in the 617 area code or in French Lick, Indiana, who will tell you that neither Mike nor ‘Bron is the premier player in basketball history. For those people, it is all about Larry Bird.

Larry Legend was a premier player. He’s talked about in mythical ways in some circles, even though his career in the NBA didn’t come to an end until the 90s. He, before LeBron, was widely regarded as the best small forward the game had ever seen. A player who could do it all on the court, and who always did so with a systematic style of play that belied his skillset.

Bird was a 12-time NBA All-Star, a nine-time All-NBA First Team selection, a three-time NBA Champion, and a three-time NBA Finals MVP. In addition to that stacked resume, Bird was voted the NBA MVP for three years in a row from 1984-1986. That means that for 36 consecutive months, – almost 1,100 days – there was (by popular opinion) no better in the game of basketball. Larry Bird was the premier player in the entire sport.

To see the value of Bird, you have to look past what Isaiah Thomas has coined the “winning plus” mindset. This school of thought – one that dominates the game today – is that merely winning is not good enough. Instead, you have to win with style and flash, you have to be an above the rim player who can be a SportsCenter highlight every night, and it is a mindset where only winning championships in the style of a Tim Duncan isn’t enough.

That is not to say that Bird wouldn’t have adapted. One look at his highlights on YouTube shows a player with a passing range that is unlike any small forward in the NBA today. That he was able to pass, dribble, and shoot his Celtics to three NBA Titles in an era where defenders could basically mug the attacking player is a testament to his otherworldly skill level. There is a school of thought that the greats could find their way to adapt and play in any era, with another school saying that if Bird’s Celtics had played in the Eastern Conference over the past decade, they would have made 10 NBA Finals trips due to Larry’s ability and work ethic.

Maybe the best way to put Bird’s career into perspective as one of the premier players of all time is too look at his scoring. Bird scored 21,791 NBA points, good for 24.3 points per game (while rebounding at a rate of 10.0 per game). This puts Bird 30th on the all-time scoring list. Bird also won the first-ever 3-point contest at an All-Star game. Even with those numbers, and that ability, Bird rarely practiced the outside shot as he played in an era where it was all about getting the ball inside.

If he played today, Larry Legend would be over 30,000 points without breaking a sweat. That is how the premier players in a sport cross generations and come into the conversation as the best to play their game and, based on that, no discussion about the best basketball player ever would be complete without the mention of Larry Bird.

Article by Premier Players, Inc.

Mike Trout Continues To Build Legendary Career

To reach the mountain top of being a legendary sports figure isn’t easy. It usually happens late in a players career (Tom Brady) or when a player dominates his game with a big play and a loud personality (LeBron).

Even then, these players are legends in leagues and sports that are still relatively young. What, then, would you say to the claim that we have a legendary player who at 28-years-old still has much of his career in front of him? Oh, and he is a premier player statistically destroying a sport that has been played professionally in this country since the year of the first east-west transatlantic radio broadcast.

Welcome to the career of Mike Trout.

Walking through Trout’s career before he hit his 28th birthday is a little ridiculous. He ranks in the top 10 in home runs, walks, and on-base percentage, just three of the many significant categories he is among the best all-time in at that age.

He is already an eight-time all-star and a two-time league MVP, with the odds being good that he will win a third MVP award at the end of the 2019 season. Trout, like most of the premier players we see, is only getting better as he gets older. This season he is going to break his personal career-high marks in RBI, home runs, and on-base plus slugging (OPS) categories. Given how stellar his stats already were, that is some achievement.

If this were four or five decades ago, Trout would be the most talked-about sportsman on the planet. Even in the days of Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, baseball was a factor in the national conversation. In 2019, however, the sport just hasn’t found a way to grip fans in the way football and basketball seem able to do. That is why Trout could walk through most towns in America as the premier player of the national pastime and most wouldn’t even recognize his face.

While Trout increases his home run numbers and his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) ranking seemingly every time he plays, it is the MVP numbers which might be his most impressive legacy when all is said and done. Trout has finished in the top-two of voting for the award every full season he has played the game. The only exception to this was in 2017 where he played just 114 games due to injury. Even then he finished fourth. Seven seasons in the top five is the longest such streak for any player since 1931. When the voters for the biggest individual prize in your sport are that enamored with your game, then you are the premier player on the planet.

Trout is a Hall of Famer in waiting. That he could potentially have another five to seven seasons in his sport is truly impressive. Watch the numbers grow and watch the legend increase as Trout does what he does day after day in the major league. One day, just maybe, Mike Trout will be more recognizable to the average American sports fan.

By Steve Wright
Independent Writer

 

From Track, To Soccer, To NFL & Beyond For Usain Bolt

When you have won as many premier awards in a career as Usain Bolt it feels like retirement must be a double edged sword.  Bolt retired when he was on top.  He was still the king of the sprinters, still the fastest man in the world.

Retirement in a situation like that preserves a legacy.  It allows Bolt to be looked at as the greatest of his, or any other, generation.  The flip side to that is it’ll always leave us wondering what more Bolt could have done.

The 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, both seem like they could have been realistic targets for Bolt to continue to dominate his sport.  Bolt would have been 33-years-old at the worlds and 34-years-old for the Olympics.  Obviously, that is up there in age for a sprinter, but with Justin Gatlin still at the top of the game – and defending his World Title after beating Bolt in London in 2017 – it is always going to make you think about how many more premier awards, how many more titles, and how many more medals the great Jamaican could win.

Bolt seems perfectly content with his life after track and field.  He attempted to play soccer professionally, never quite finding the right club for his talent, exposure, and salary needs.  This might sound like a failure on some level, but changing sporting careers after your 30th birthday to a new discipline was never going to be an easy task.  That he was ever offered a professional contract at all says everything about Bolts transcendent talent as a premier player, along with a little something about his marketability as an athlete.

Reaching the level of fame and acclaim that Bolt managed over his career may never happen to a track and field athlete again.  The sprinter won eight Olympic gold medals, two in Beijing (2008) and three each in London (2012) and Rio (2016).  In each of those games he won the 100 meter and 200 meter crowns, while he is the world record holder in each event with times of 9.58 seconds in the 100m and 19.19 seconds for the longer distance.  These records have not been approached since, with no one (other than Bolt himself) running anything under 9.74 seconds for the 100m in the decade since he set the record in 2009.

Bolt’s last brush with heavy media attention came during the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine week.  At 32-years-old and – allegedly – “definitely out of shape”, Bolt tied the scouting combine record of John Ross with a 4.22 second time in the 40-yard-dash.  It makes you wonder what type of player Bolt could have been in the NFL, perhaps something akin to a Randy Moss as the Jamaican stands at 6-foot-5 and has the type of game breaking speed that Moss – the holder of the record for most touchdown catches in a season with 23 – used to tear open defenses.

Bolt is the ultimate example of an athlete that would find his niche in any sport.  He has won so many premier awards as a track guy, but he could easily have won Super Bowl rings as a big part of an NFL team.  Perhaps most importantly, Bolt will be remembered in the sporting world as a showman, but one who is humble and generous at heart.  You can’t ask for much more than that out of a career.

Article by Steve Wright
Independent Sports Writer

Coco Gauff Rises To A Premier Player of Tennis

Making your mark on the world stage as a premier player isn’t easy. Many competent athletes never find their name in lights and never rise to the center of attention in their sport. This is much more difficult in individual sports, where merely being a cog in a machine isn’t enough to get recognition. You have to do all the hard work to get there yourself.

Imagine, then, becoming a world-famous player in your sport before you have even celebrated your Sweet Sixteen birthday. Welcome to the life of Coco Gauff, the next American tennis phenom who sits with the world at her feet at the tender age of just 15-years-old.

Gauff is an example of the old adage that if you are good enough, you are old enough. She is also a reminder that becoming one of the premier players in your sport can happen at any age if the talent, the desire, and the surroundings are in place to nurture the athlete.

Cases like this are unusual because it is time after the breakout moment that will define Gauff’s career path. After she beat Venus Williams in the opening round of the women’s singles at Wimbledon this year, Gauff could easily have immediately failed under the increased pressure and scrutiny that comes with beating an American tennis icon. Instead, she took the victory in her stride beating Magdelena Rybarikova and Polona Hercog. She then lost to eventual winner Simona Halep in the fourth round of her breakthrough event.

Gauff has the mental strength, the physical strength, and the technique of a player many years her senior. All of these attributes, attributes that will make anyone one of the premier players of tennis, will have to be honed over the course of the coming years.

She is far from the first young tennis player to make an impact on the world stage. Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova were both starlets of the sport, and both are cautionary tales. For Gauff to become the player she can be, one that could be talked about with some of the greats of the game, her focus will need to stay on tennis and not have her head turned by the fame that is sure to come her way.

Athletes have different ways of reacting to such a sudden change in their standing. For some, the trappings of fame are very real. The classic example is the difference between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf; the quarterbacks selected No. 1 and No. 2 overall in the 1998 NFL Draft. Manning, a player so intently focused on the sport that he became a living meme before memes were even a thing, went on to become one of the greatest NFL players of all time. Leaf, a player who celebrated his drafting by partying in Las Vegas, is considered one of the most significant draft busts in history.

Gauff stands at a divergent point where she can become either Manning or Leaf. Reports of her looking to “buckle down” for future tournaments can only be seen as a good thing. Her desire to practice seen during Wimbledon week is also a promising sign. There is every reason to believe we will still be talking about Gauff as one of the premier players in tennis a decade from now if her post-Wimbledon routine is anything to go by.

Story by Steve Wright
Independent writer

NCAA vs. NBA: The battle for the top high school ballers

For the premier players looking to take their basketball careers to the next level, the path has always been pretty clearly defined.

Starting out shooting hoops with dad, a player would then slip into the junior ranks and play ball in local gyms and leagues. Next would come a jump to AAU and high school ball, with a player showcasing his skill set in tournaments at the regional, and even national, level to get scouted by college programs. Next would come a scholarship offer, and a player would decide to play anywhere between one and four years in college depending on skill level and ability to make a move to the NBA.

The one-and-done rule has always been a controversial one. It is a rule that some college coaches took to immediately, with John Calipari at Kentucky being the obvious example. Coach Cal deliberately goes after players who need just a single year of seasoning before entering the NBA, gambling that he can teach enough fundamentals and teamwork into what can primarily be seen as a bunch of one-year mercenaries to make Kentucky competitive every year. In fairness to Coach Cal, it works.

The threat to the college game was initially thought to be through the NBA. That is one of the reasons why this rule was adopted in the first place. We never got to see the likes of LeBron James or Kobe Bryant tear up the courts in college because they jumped ahead one level and went straight into the league.

For players of their skill, it was a beautiful thing. They were able to adapt to the game and now sit as two of the top 25 players that have ever played the game. For every LeBron and Kobe, however, countless other players made the mistake of trying to jump immediately to the NBA, only to see their careers fade out quicker than they would have with college seasoning.
College is not for everyone. This is especially true for a college athlete who has to balance studying with the demands of their sport. Top level college basketball is a grueling concept, with players traveling all over the country (and sometimes outside of it) to play in games, while still having to practice and maintain their lives.

That is why players are looking for other options. The latest player to do something a little different is Texas native RJ Hampton. Hampton is one of the premier players in the nation. He is the fifth-ranked prospect in the class of 2019, and until recently he had been expected to sign for Kansas, Memphis or Texas Tech. Instead, Hampton will spend 2019 playing for the New Zealand Breakers of the National Basketball League of Australia.
It is a fascinating decision for an 18-year-old to make. Hampton wants to follow in the steps of Luka Doncic, a player who was a professional at 14-years-old in Spain and who entered the NBA ready to compete at professional speed.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has already taken note of this trend. He wants the premier players to stay in America, and he is looking at ending the one-and-done rule by the 2022 draft to make this happen.  The big question is where does this leave the NCAA?

By opening the league up again, it is likely that we will never see the likes of a Zion Williamson, for example, playing in college. We want to see the premier players playing in college because college basketball is both a tradition and a fun sport to watch. Short of paying players, it is hard to see what the NCAA would do, but let’s hope that the game is not negatively impacted by players choosing other routes to their NBA dreams.

Article by Steve Wri

Nowitzki Success In Dallas Ends In Hall of Fame Career

Dirk Nowitzki made his mark on the NBA as one of the premier players in the game not only of his era but of all time. He is a sure-fire Hall of Famer as soon as he is eligible as he put in a 21-year shift with the Dallas Mavericks to go down as the greatest player in the history of the franchise.

Nowitzki was born in the West German town of Wurzburg in 1978. Wurzburg is not precisely a hotbed of NBA talent, but as the son of a professional basketball playing mother and an international handball playing father, the young Dirk certainly had the athletic ability in his genes.

Dirk also had height on his side from an early age, often standing a foot or more above his peers as he excelled as a handball and tennis player. His decision to join the local DJK Wurzburg team as a 15-year-old set Nowitzki on a path that would see him become one of the most recognizable athletes on both sides of the Atlantic.

What people grew to love about Dirk, his carefree and fun attitude off the court playing in stark contrast to his talent and focus on it, was apparent even at this age. It is impossible to bottle whatever combination of genes and outside factors it takes to make a player a star, but have no doubt about it, Dirk was always going to be a star.

Progressing through the ranks at his local club, this premier player had to spend a year doing compulsory military service alongside advancing his basketball career. At 6-foot-11, with unnatural quickness and ball handling for a player of that size, Nowitzki started to have his progress noted by those outside of his native Germany.

Playing in the Nike “Hoop Heroes Tour,” Nowitzki was placed in a showpiece match against NBA stars like Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley. His dunk over Barkley was the most impressive play of the entire game, and it was at that moment it became apparent his future, and his path to becoming a premier player was to be through the NBA.

A prep-to-pro player back when that was allowed, Nowitzki passed up scholarship offers across the country to declare for the NBA. Selected with the ninth overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks, the future 14-time NBA All-Star and over 31,500 points scored was traded to Dallas for a combination of Robert Traylor and Pat Garrity. This is a trade that will live long as one of the greatest draft-day steals in the history of the game.

Dirk’s list of highlights and awards is as long as they come. The 2011 NBA Champion won the Finals MVP award that year and the regular season MVP crown in 2007. Nowitzki worked his way into being one of the most versatile bigs ever to play the game, and he is known for his scoring ability, and a fadeaway jump shot so picture perfect it should be trademarked.

His place among the many legends that make up the sporting scene in Dallas, the likes of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, is secure. A street running by the American Airlines Center has been named Nowitzki Way, a fitting tribute for this premier player who won so many games for the Mavericks inside that building during his storied career.

Story by Steve Wright
Independent Writer

The All-Time Top 25 Premier Players of MLB Baseball

Everyone has an opinion, and here is ours when it comes to listing the all-time Top 25 players of Major League Baseball:

25 – Mel Ott
Ott was a prodigy of the game, and he was a big leaguer before he had even celebrated his 18th birthday.  In 1926, as a 17-year-old, Ott hit .383 over the course of just 60 at-bats in 1926. This was a precursor of what was to come as Ott became a dual-threat hitter capable of hitting for contact or power. At the end of his 22-year career, Ott had a 304/.414./.533 line and had crushed 511 home runs and tallied 1,860 RBI.

24 – Alex Rodriguez
One of the biggest questions in modern baseball history is if Rodriguez could have gone down as the best shortstop in the history of the game had he not unselfishly shifted to third-base after joining the Yankees in 2004.
The PED drama was there, sure, but A-Rod was a 14-time all-star, a three-time AL MVP, and he is the only player in MLB history to hit for .295, over 600 home runs, over 2,000 RBIs, score over 2,000 runs, record over 3,000 hits, and steal more than 300 bases. He could do it all.

23 – Rickey Henderson
The best leadoff hitter in the history of the game, Henderson is also one of the premier players in baseball history at any spot in the order.  He is the all-time stolen base king with 1,406 steals, something he would never be afraid to let people know, using his unreal speed to advance around the bases with ease. He is also the all-time leader in runs scored with 2,295, and he could hit for power as shown by his 297 home runs and 1,115 RBI.

22 – Christy Mathewson
Mathewson was nicknamed, among other things, “The Gentleman’s Hurler,” which might be the best nickname ever given. The right-hander played for 17 seasons in MLB with the New York Giants from 1900 to 1916. Playing in an era when hits were frequent, Mathewson was one of the dominant pitchers of his time and one of the most dominant ever. He won 373 games with a 2.13 career ERA and struck out of 2,500 batters as he used his 6-foot-1 frame to overpower the smaller hitters of his era.

21 – Randy Johnson
The Big Unit was a terrifying presence on the mound when he was at the peak of his powers.  Johnson had almost a literal cannon for a left arm, and the 22-year starting pitcher dominated games when he was focused and in control of his fastball. His 303 career victories are the fifth-most by a lefty, and his 4,875 strikeouts are the second most all time. The five-time Cy Young winner was one of the tallest MLB players ever at 6-foot-10, and his pitching angle and velocity made him almost impossible to hit.

20 – Jimmie Foxx
“The Beast” played for 20 seasons in MLB with a variety of clubs from 1925 to 1945. He was the second player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs after Babe Ruth, a feat almost as impressive as Ruth’s because some thought that the Babe was the only player capable of ever getting to that mark.  Foxx picked up three MVP awards (1932, 1933, 1938) tied for second place all-time in that award category. A Triple Crown, and the fact that he mainly played just 14 full seasons worth of games, showcase Foxx as one of the best power hitters ever to play the game.

19 – Albert Pujols
The only active player on this list, Pujols continues to add value to his claim as one of the best to ever play the game by the season.  The 39-year-old Dominican Republic star may have slowed down, but the 10-time all-star has had an impressive run since debuting in 2001. Pujols is a three-time NL MVP, and at his pomp, he was considered one of the best hitters to play the game in the last 50 years due to his combination of power, contact hitting ability, and patience to find a pitch to hit. As of writing, he has 644 home runs and over 3,100 hits.

18 – Ken Griffey Jr.
A 22-year player in the bigs, Griffey Jr. was one of the premier players of the 1990s when he excelled with the Seattle Mariners. Amazingly, the Mariners never won a World Series title with three of the top 25 players of all time on the club together.  One of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball history, Griffey finished his career with 630 dingers, the seventh-most ever. He was known for the sweetness of his swing, and the 13-time all-star was also an exception defender where he used his athletic ability to win 10 Gold Gloves as the best center fielder in the game.

17 – Grover Cleveland Alexander
A 19-year player who started with the Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Alexander was born in Nebraska during the first term of his namesake’s Presidency.  “Old Pete” was a player who played in an era where pitch counts weren’t a thing, and as a result, he rolled to complete games in 436 of his 600 starts. He missed the entire 1918 season serving in the military but came back to continue a stretch from 1915 to 1920 where he pitched under 2.00 for his ERA each season.

16 – Mickey Mantle
Mantle was the premier player of MLB during the 1950s as a modern, five-tool player who did everything required from a baseball player at an exceptional level.  His .298/.421/.557 line with 536 home runs and 1,509 RBI is impressive, but Mantle could easily have added to this numbers had he not been blighted by injuries that rendered him done as a superstar of the game by the age of 32.

15 – Joe DiMaggio
All you need to know about DiMaggio is 56. For 56 straight games, DiMaggio collected a hit on the scorecard, a number that has rarely been approached since he set the staggering target.  As good as DiMaggio’s numbers are, and they are great as he had 2,214 hits, 361 homers, and 1,537 RBI, it has to be noted that he could easily be ranked in the Top 5 on this list had he not lost his prime years from age 28-30 while serving in WWII. The three-time MVP was an all-star every season he played, racking up those numbers in just 13 MLB seasons.

14 – Rogers Hornsby
A player with an ‘S’ at the end of his first name for no obvious reason, Hornsby was one of the premier players of his era. Hornsby played for 22-years in the bigs after making his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1915, picking up a pair of NL MVP awards in 1925 and 1929.  Hornsby was a World Series winner in 1926, and he finished just 70 hits shy of 3,000 while hitting 301 home runs with a batting average of .358. That batting average is the second best in the history of the game (Ty Cobb), and his .424 average in 1924 hasn’t been bettered since.

13 – Roger Clemons
Clemons is one of those pitchers that you would strongly consider selecting if you were in a must-win situation.  Pitching from 1984-2007, facing plenty of hitters that are seen as tainted by PEDs in hindsight, Clemons tossed 354 wins and racked up a record seven Cy Young awards. The “Rocket” tallied the third most strikeouts all-time with 4.672, he was a two-time World Series champion, and he made the all-star team on 11 occasions.

12 – Honus Wagner
The greatest shortstop to ever play the game, the Flying Dutchman played for 20 years between 1897 and 1917.  A player so good he pushed the Pirates to World Series, Wagner won the batting title eight times and finished with a career hitting mark of .328. Wagner was also a machine as a fielder, using his speed and reflexes to lock down the shortstop position in a way that had never been seen at that point in the game’s history.

11 – Greg Maddux
The king of command was so good at placing the baseball in the mitt of his catcher that you would swear he walked over and put it exactly where he wanted.  In his final 14 seasons in the league, Maddux walked fewer, or as many batters and games, he started eight times.  He averaged 1.80 walks per nine innings for his career, a career in which he tosses over 5,000 innings. He retired with a career ERA of 3.16; a number inflated because he was hit hard during his final five years in the way that most precision tossers do when they lose a touch of velocity. Maddux completed 13 complete-game shutouts in under 100 pitches during his career.

10 – Stan Musial
The longtime Cardinal was one of the best offensive players ever to grace the diamond. This premier player was good at just about everything baseball-related, playing for 22 years and finishing with a .221/.417/.559 line to show his contact numbers.  Musial also crushed 475 home runs and had a stunningly balanced number of RBIs (1,951) and runs scored (1,949). Perhaps Musial’s most notable achievement is that his 6,134 total bases are second on the all-time list behind only Hank Aaron.

9 – Cy Young
The all-time leader in wins is the second best pitcher on this list, and he is a man so revered for his skills that the premier pitching award in the game is named after him.  Young amassed 511 wins during his career, and he is also the all-time leader in losses (316) and complete games (a ridiculous 749). He won more than 20 games during 15 different seasons and for someone with so many pitches thrown his 1,217 walks during his career might be Young’s most impressive stat.

8 – Walter Jonson
Johnson is one of the premier players in the history of baseball that few people ever talk about. Playing before the Cy Young award was even invented, Johnson pitched for a 1.65 ERA between 1907 and 1919, going on to play for a total of 20 seasons and winning 417 games.  Johnson remains the career leader in shutouts with 110, the active leader is Clayton Kershaw with 15, and he ranks second in wins and fourth in complete games. The Washington Senator also struck out over 3,500 batters, with many being so scared of his dominant fastball that they backed up off of the plate when Johnson was on the mound.

7 – Ty Cobb
Cobb was not a player who easily made friends on the bases. That, though, shouldn’t overshadow just how dominant he was as the best hitter of the dead-ball era.  Cobb finished his career with an astonishing 4,189 hits, batting for over .400 three times and compiling a .366 batting average when he retired. The 12-time batting champion also hit 724 doubles and stole 897 bases as he used his natural athleticism to carve out a niche as one of the best offensive players in the history of the game.

6 – Lou Gehrig
The Iron Horse was a dominant player throughout a career that was tragically cut short by the illness that now bears his name. Gehrig may be best known for his emotional retirement speech where he called himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” but his career was much more than that one moment.  Gehrig rocked a .340 batting average for his career, even taking into about his disease hampered last season, and crushed 493 home runs and 1,995 RBIs. He was a seven-time all-star and a six-time World Series Champion with the New York Yankees.

5 – Barry Bonds
If you remove a player like Bonds because of his PED scandal, then it feels like you would also have to remove any player from the segregation era because they had their form of political help. Bonds may have had some help getting to the point where he was an enormous slugger capable of crushing 73 home runs as he did in 2001, but he was an elite player even before putting on the bulk. He is the all-time home run leader, and he is the only player in history to have 500 home runs and 500 steals during his career.

4 – Hank Aaron
Aaron was a truly outstanding baseball player, but more than that he was a man who overcame hate mail and death threats to be crowned the home run king.  The player with the most RBIs in history set a new home run mark of 755, passing Babe Ruth and shaking off the ghost of the great Yankee slugger in the process. Aaron is one of the premier players of any era, a player who should be praised for his consistency and longevity as he never actually surpassed 47 home runs in a single season as he chased down the Babe.

3 – Ted Williams
The greatest pure hitter that ever lived, Williams achieved his high school goal of being the very best ever at swinging a bat and putting the ball in play.  Williams was an on-base machine, leading his league in OBP on 12 occasions along with having nine seasons where he was the top slugger. Winning six batting titles, Williams was a career .344 hitter who hit .316 as a 41-year-old when most players have already left the game. His career batting average is the highest of any player in the live-ball era, and he is the last player to have finished a season with a batting average of over .400.

2 – Willie Mays
Mays is a comfortable No. 2 on this list because he is simply the best all-around player the game has ever produced.  A wizard with the bat and the glove, Mays was a five-tool player who would have been off of the charts in terms of today’s scouting metrics. He could hit for power, he ranks fifth all-time with 660 home runs, and for contact where he was a .302 career hitter. Mays was an elite player from 1954-1967, and he finished his career just eight games shy of 3,000 appearances.

1 – Babe Ruth
There is a reason why Ruth is an almost mythical figure in the annals of baseball. Ruth was simply the premier player ever to play the game because he was so dominant at his peak. Ruth hit 29 home runs in 1919 to set a new record for the most dingers in a season. The next year, he belted 54 in a year where no one else passed the mark of 20.  In the time it took Ruth to hit 602 runs for his career, no other player crossed the 300 mark. His power numbers are mindblowing. It is the equivalent of one player hitting over 100 homers a season for 12 years in the current baseball world. Consider that and it is obvious why Ruth is ranked #1.

Article by Steve Wright
Independent writer

Federer Wins On & Off The Court With His Passion To Help Others

Swiss tennis player Roger Federer recently won his 100th career title when he won the 2019 Dubai Open. Federer becomes just the second male player in the history of the sport to reach triple-digit title wins, joining Jimmy Connors who retired with 109 crowns to his name.

That Federer has been able to win so many titles in such a competitive sport speaks to his ability as one of the premier players at any sport in the world over the last two decades.

Federer is an interesting case study because of his dedication to his craft. Tennis is simply an exhausting sport to play at the professional level, with mental and physical demands unlike anything else. The ATP tour lasts for the better part of a year, with just a six week offseason between the ATP Tour Finals and the start of the next season in Australia.

During the 10 month season, a player has to cope with brutal heat in many of the tournaments, the US Open is a great example of this, with matches that can last for hours in a grueling mental tete-a-tete. Doing this, and winning 100 titles, during a down time for the sport would be hard enough, but Federer has had to fight and compete during a “Big Four” era, where he, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray have all had their time at the top.

Federer though has, more often than not, come out on top.

He created his spot as the premier player in his sport because of his versatility and ability to play on all the different surfaces. Federer has been able to switch between hard, clay, and grass courts, winning on them all. He is an outstanding shot maker, his YouTube highlight shots are insane, and he has such good footwork that Federer gives the impression he would have excelled at whichever sport he chose.

Perhaps most importantly, Federer has shown to be a beacon of class and sportsmanship throughout his career that has seen him act as a vital mentor for young players around the world. He has received the ATP Tour Sportsmanship Award 13 times, was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year a record five times, and the British based BBC Overseas Sports personality of the Year Award of four occasions.

Federer has won north of 120 million in prize money over the course of his 20-year career. That doesn’t even take into account the money that this premier player has made through sponsorships. It is sad that men’s tennis in America has fallen to the point that there has been no real rival to the Swiss superstar from the US, because then his epic career would have had more play in this country.

The Rodger Federer Foundation, started and chaired by the star, supports education throughout southern Africa and Switzerland. Federer is a star that loves to give back and the foundation has helped over 1 million children at this point. He has donated over $50 million of his own money to charity during his career, leaving a legacy of success and greatness both on the court and on the world as a whole.

Article by Steve Wright
Independent Writer

 

All Eyes On Tagovailoa As The Premier College QB

Tua Tagovailoa has already etched his name in football history.  He will not turn 22-years-old until March of 2020, but Tagovailoa has already packed more into his young life, specifically on the sporting stage, than many will do in a lifetime.

He is one of the premier players of college football right now, and in April of 2020, he will be drafted into the NFL as one of the top picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.  He may be the very first pick off of the board if he decides to join the league after his redshirt sophomore season with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The Heisman frontrunner for most of the 2018 season, Tagovailoa was run down at the last minute in the voting for that particular trophy by the 2018 Premier Player of College Football, 2019 NFL Draft No. 1 overall pick, and new Arizona Cardinal QB, Kyler Murray.  It was not, however, a case of Tagovailoa imploding and losing the trophy. The Hawaii native threw for almost 4,000 yards on the season, completing 43 touchdown passes and rushing for another five on the ground.  Instead, it was a case of Murray picking it up down the stretch to win the award.

Tagovailoa has two Alabama seasons under his belt.  In the first of those years, he won a national championship by sparking an unlikely, and some would even argue seemingly impossible, comeback against Georgia.  In the second, he broke records after records at a school that has been doing this football thing at a very high level for a long, long time.

It all begs the question as to what is next for him on the college stage?

Alabama fans will only be happy if Tagovailoa, as one of the premier players in the game along with fellow quarterback Trevor Lawrence at Clemson, combines his two seasons to make Alabama in 2019 almost untouchable. There is no reason to think that Tagovailoa will not again get close to (or even surpass) the 4,000-yard mark and, given the talent around him, 50+ touchdown passes should not be out of the realm of possibility.

Tagovailoa’s biggest strength as a quarterback, and why he is a premier player, is not a trait that can be defined in any physical test.  While he has outstanding anticipation of a route and touch on a pass, not to mention enough athleticism to keep plays alive, it is his mental acuity for the game that sets him apart.

At the NFL level, it simply does not matter how strong your arm is if you cannot break down a defense mentally, making the correct reads before the snap and the perfect decisions, in a split-second, when the ball is in play.

Tagovailoa is a player everyone should try to watch and learn from both on and off the field.  From his outstanding work ethic, to his commitment to his faith and school, he is someone we can all get behind as one of the premier players in the game to continue his success to the next level.

Story by Steve Wright, Independent Sports Writer