• Himansu Varghese

The Greatest of All Time

The word 'sports', invokes a myriad of feelings in the minds of sports-lovers across the planet. From being a tool of recreation, sports grew to be a full-time profession, and has now expanded into a multi-billion-dollar global industry. The sports industry has grown so much that it even provides employment to millions across the globe.

And like any business, there are masters of the game. Each sport has had its own greats during various time frames across its history. Take any sport, there will be someone who is regarded as a global icon, a representative of the sheer peak of success in that field. And history keeps rewriting itself as to who this “greatest”. Michael Jordan for Basketball, Pele for Football and so on. And like I mentioned earlier, history keeps rewriting itself, and greats of the sports are often shadowed by newcomers, their spiritual successors.

However, at the turn of the millennium, a new age has dawned upon us.

The age of the greats.

Nearly all the fields in question are seeing, or have seen since the turn of the century, at least one individual who is contesting for the title of the greatest of all time. Take any sport. The leaps made by players are so big, that they are arguably the best that has ever been. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in football, probably the greatest rivalry between two individuals ever in sporting history. These two gentlemen rewrite the limits of sporting capability. With sheer domination in the last decade, and no record that is too tall to bow down to them, we can argue that one, if not both, is the greatest of all time. LeBron James for Basketball. The man keeps answering his critics, and answering them in style too. Nearing the peak of his career, he has achieved everything there is to achieve, and more. 3-time NBA champion, 4-time NBA MVP, a staggering 13 years in the NBA All-Star team, and has played 7 continuous NBA finals till date. Numbers don’t lie. Records don’t break on their own. James is the epitome of Basket-balling success. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams in Tennis, Michael Schumacher who has a record 7 world championships under his belt in Formula 1 racing, Sachin Tendulkar in the ever popular Cricket, Floyd Mayweather Jr in boxing, Tiger Woods in Golf, Usain Bolt in sprinting, Michael Phelps in swimming, and even minor games like Chess, where Magnus Carlsen is well on his way to being the greatest ever at a tender age of 26. I could go on and on with the list as there are more men and women that I haven’t mentioned, in sports that I do not follow avidly. Since 2000, watching sports has been a true pleasure thanks to the performances of these brilliant sportsmen. Just when you think that they’ve done the impossible, they do more.

The insane heights to which records are rising are true testimony to this. 

So now we come to big question. How? What drives these men and women to be the greatest there has ever been? How are the people of this millennium so fortunate to witness the greatest batch of legends in all sports, at the same time? The answer, in my honest opinion, is multi-dimensional. There is a horde of factors that are responsible for this super human co-incidence. The most obvious of which is technology. The rate at which technology grows helps eradicate previously set limits of human capability. There have been vast improvements in every field of auxiliary sports development. Nutrition, training regimes, better feedback system, computer programmed game-plans and experienced executioners are but a few methods in which technology has aided the field of sports. A 11-year-old boy with a growth hormone deficiency would never dream of being the greatest footballer on the planet if he was born in 1950, but had it not been for the medical technology that saved Messi’s life, we would lose out on one of the legends today. Yet another factor could be the spread of communication systems; another boon of the rising technological progress. More and more people are aware of the sports, and their coverage helps increase its popularity among the masses. This helps bring out talent. But in my opinion the most important factor is the change in perception. Like I mentioned in the opening paragraph, sports have grown from a recreational activity to a global business model. So, people who have skills are considering it as a viable option to earn their daily bread. 50 years ago, a 15-year-old footballing prodigy from Italy or Brazil, will grow up to be a plumber, or a painter or a pizza chef. But today, that’s not the case. 15-year olds are being traded on the international sporting markets for hundreds of thousands of dollars. This change in mentality helped bring about the best talent from the bunch. And greatly increased the chances of a good player surfacing.

Technology, communication and increased exposure will only improve the condition of sports in the ages to come. So, judging by this trend, we should be seeing a whole lot of record breakers, and greats to come in the future. But this batch of ladies and gentlemen will always go down in the minds of this generation at least as the greatest pool of sporting talent to ever ply their trade together.

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