Greatest Athletes of All Time « see full list

Jim Thorpe

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I don't know who the greatest athlete of all time is, but I think of those we know about, Jim Thorpe was the greatest athlete of them all. He won the gold medal in the 1912 Olympics in both the decathalon and pentathalon. An All-American football player in college, he was one of the greatest football players ever in college as well as the pros. There was no pro football right after college so he couldn't play until he was 27 years old and played until his early 40's. In the acclaimed Thorpe biography by Robert W. Wheeler, a camera man and photographer were on hand to watch Thorpe punt before a football game. They had heard that he could punt further than anyone, so they measured the field, which checked out ok. Out comes Thorpe. He just loved to punt. I'm going from memory, but I think they said he punted 5 times. He stood in the endzone and 2 times the ball landed in the other endzone, in the air! Two times the ball bounced for the first time at about 75-80 yards and once at about 90 yards!

lb5100

Don't get me wrong, Gretzky, Jordan, Ali, and Phelps are all great at their chosen sport, and each of them could claim the top spot on a list of greatest hockey players, basketball players, greatest boxers, and greatest swimmers of all time. However, if this is a list of all time greatest athletes then Jim Thorpe undeniably takes 1st place. This guy played football, baseball, basketball, competed and won in worldclass athletics competitions, and won two Olympic gold medals in what are arguably the toughest sports contested at the Olympics, the pentathlon and decathlon. To this day we still say the olympic gold medal winner of the men's decathalon is the greatest athlete of the time. The same way we say that the Olympic gold medal winner of the men's 100m race, Ussain Bolt, is the fastest man on earth of the time. No disrespect to the Gretzky's, Jordan's, and Bolt's of the world, but their records will be broken as they broke the records of their predecessors. Thorpe, on the other hand, was a true natural, he could be the definition of "one in a million. " Although he wasn't the greatest at any single sport, no other athlete on this list comes close to his athletic resume and that is why Jim Thorpe is the greatest athlete who ever lived. Finally, I noticed that the list lacks mention of any women?! Come on people, there are some exceptional female athletes out there. Clara Hughs is pretty amazing, competing and winning medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics!
The description starts off "The greatest athlete ever to come from Lawrence KS", this is selling Thorpe way short. Nobody is even close to Thorpe in athletic accomplishment for his time period. His like will never be seen again. All of the athletes on this list are specialists, Thorpe could do it all. He won the Olympic pentathlon and decathlon in 1912 and single handedly took small independent college "Carlisle Indian Industrial School", to beat top ranked Harvard scoring all of his teams points. No, Michael Jordan was a great basketball player and a lousy baseball player. Muhammed Ali was arguably the best boxer of all time (God love him) and a great role model for personal integrity and free will. But Jim Thorpe has no equal when it comes to sports.
Jim Thorpe was "head & shoulders" greater than all these "latest, greatest" one-sport celebrities. In a time when Indians (he was half) were 2nd class citizens, training methods & equipment was hap-hazard, nad the only performance-enhancing drug was booze, he dominated 2 sports: track & football and played professionally in a third, baseball. Take your current-day "blinders" off (and read Native American Son: The Life & Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe, K. Buford). Heck, at 50, Jim could still drop-kick a football 75 yards.

JKT

He won the Olympic gold medal in the Pentathlon, and the Decathlon, played in the pros for baseball, basketball, and football. Was awarded the All American honors. Once scored 198 points and 25 touch downs in a season. One story about him was when he out jumped the college high jumper star with all his clothes on. Future President Eisenhower who played against him said of Thorpe ~"That he was the greatest natural athlete to ever play the game. "
He played for the New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds, and The Boston Braves.
Played Football (at multiple positions, both offense AND defense I might add), baseball - also at multiple positions, and basically every track and field event known to man... AND EXCELLED AT THEM ALL! Oh yeah, he also did it at a time when he didn't have the advancements in technology and medical science that help with the conditioning of today's athletes as well as the improvements in today's equipment that make it easier to excel. Anything this guy wanted to try, he was "gold" at. It's just a shame he didn't get the chance to try things like basketball and hockey etc.
Whats amazing is the lack of specialty gear that modern day athletes have and which Jim Thorpe did not. Can you imagine what records he could have set if Jim had access to modern day equipment, nutrition and training regiments. You are right that the other athletes are not even in the same ballpark as Jim. He was also an extremely humble person and had to overcome in terms of economic and social inequities. During his era - people considered Native Americans to be lower than dogs (in terms of social class) and our society mistreated them.
Best all around athlete for his superb decathlon accomplishments. He could do it all in the track and field arena! Then there were his talents on the gridiron and baseball diamond.
Ridiculous.....should be Thorpe, Dave Winfield, then everyone else a distant 3rd through oblivion...do a little objective research on actual ability and preferred accomplishment if so chosen and then ATTEMPT to argue with yourself even. Take yourself out of the current time, and delete "popularity" from the debate and sleep better tonight knowing that your comfortable that this one thing is true and not just told to you by me but discovered by you yourself
Best athlete BY FAR. Michael Jordan lived in the era of physical training and medical genius. Jim Thorpe lived in the era of little knowledge and poor conditions, and excelled at everything. If he isn't the greatest "athlete" ever, I don't know who is. He could do anything if he really wanted to. Tell me ANYONE who is better than Thorpe at ANYTHING. Right now, that man doesn't exist, and won't in today's "one-sport specialty" society.
THE Greatest athlete of all time. Hands down.
This man excelled in seven sports, won multiple medals in the Olympics, was inducted into the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, played semi pro baseball. Oh yeah, all while fighting through poverty and racism directed towards him and his family.

Read his bio. MJ eat your heart out, you wouldn't even make number 2, as there is a man named James Cleveland (JC) Jesse Owens.
Jim Thorpe is by far the BEST athlete ever! Thorpe played Pro baseball, track and field, and football. Jim Thorpe played 3 sports which no one else can say they did. Not just playing some basketball in college and then switch to football like julis peppers. But, Jim Thorpe was great at all, and did not switch sports he played them all at once. Michael Jordan wasn't good at baseball, and Muhammad Ali only played one sport. Thorpe should be with out a doubt number 1!
This guy is overlooked because he's not from the modern era of hype and film. If you look at his records of his day among his peers around the world, the fact that he won at amateur levels, professional level and the olympics in so many different sports and throw in ballroom dancing, all with little to no formal training, this guy is the greatest natural the planet has ever seen.
Hall of Fame football player, great baseball player, great olympian, one of the fastest guys ever to live. Greatest athlete of all time in the world. MJ is great too 996/1000 but Thorpe is 999/1000 = Greatest ever! By Q. Tickler EC, Wisconsin. (how is Babe Ruth not at least #5)
No one will ever equal the accomplishments of Jim Thorpe. Yes there are a lot of Super athletes today in various sports. But not in all sports. Just let some of today's super stars try to equal what Jim Thorpe did in track. He won both the Decathlon and the Pentathlon. No one can even come close. Not to mention Football and Baseball.
Thorpe has no competition. Winning both the pentathalon and decathlon at the same Olympics has never been done before or after. Add to his resume All American college football player and track star. Beef it up further with the rare skill sets which permitted him to compete as a professional in both major league baseball and professional football.

No one else in sports history has achieved at levels such as these.
This guy dominated in every sport he played. He was the original multi-sport player. Michael Jordan is not even the best BASKETBALL player of all time, much less the greatest athlete of all time. I'd like to remind some people of Jordan's baseball career, and we all know how THAT turned out.

Michael45jg

Jim Thorpe Professinal Baseball, Basketball, Football, Wrestling, 2 time National ball room dancing champion. Only American who never had to try out for the Olympics, First President of the NFL, his coach was Pop Warner, Two Olympic Golds and set the World Record. His Carlisle Indian school team went undefeated and beat Navy with future President Eisenhower on the team. Hands down the best.

Huntsinwinter

Thank you. Many times, people can not get this right. When you say greatest athlete, he/she must excel at multiple sports. NOT JUST ONE SPORT. Now for pro basketball, Michael Jordan can be the greatest, but he did not excel at other sports like Thorpe.
For those who do not study History, please take so time to find out who Jim Thorpe was and then you will know why he is the Greatest Athlete of all time without question!
The news media made MJ. Give the same exposure to Thorpe in that era, & Thorpe would pass Jordan. The basis for the above is "Athlete" not a game performer. Since when does basketball show a persons athletic ability? Should we name Dale Earnhardt as an athlete, cause his accomplishments? See what I mean... One sport doesn't compare to several. List the sport accomplishments; list the types of sport events... And on. Next, didn't MJ do it for the money?
Jim Thorpe used to replace the horses and pull the wagon loaded with groceries from town to his home while growing up in Yale, Oklahoma. The locals still talk about him to this day. Try some of that action on, MJ!
There's some really good biographies out there about him. Check one out whenever you can. The stuff he achieved is amazing. By far the best ever. Jim Thorpe was just incredible.
Jim Thorpe, he ran track, played baseball, and football, all from the time that each and every year he played a different team. He continue in the age most players stop, except Brett FAVRE. THEN AGAIN NO ONE IS LIKE BRETT.. HE IS THE MAN
I think Jim Thorpe is the greatest athlete ever.
He is not only a hall of fame running back, but
He also played college basketball, pro baseball,
And he won two Olympic gold medals!
So I can't see how he even can compare to anyone else.

Cherry15

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