Before we get started with this week’s edition of #KickinWithKolby, I would like to apologize to our older readers for the recency bias you are about to encounter later in this piece. Although, I would love to hear your thoughts on what I’m about to share with you all.
As sports fans, I’m sure we’ve all heard at one point or another, “X player wouldn’t have been as good in Y era.”
I’ve probably subscribed to that line of thinking myself (not going to lie) but that probably couldn’t be further from the truth for the all-time greats. In most cases, we’ll just never know. How would Wilt Chamberlain fair in today’s 3-point crazed NBA? Would Babe Ruth slug more home runs today than during his early 20th century career? Could Jesse Owens or Carl Lewis beat Usain Bolt in the 100 meters?
Of those three questions, the only one I have a hard time imagining is the last because Bolt is a freak, but hey, anything is possible. That’s the thing about transcendent greatness, you could be plopped into any era of sporting history and dominate.
I mean, Wilt averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game in 1961-62, per basketball-reference.com.
The Great Bambino held the home run record for nearly 40 years before it was broken by Hank Aaron.
During the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, where Hitler was hoping to prove Aryan racial superiority, Jesse Owens broke five world records in the span of 45 minutes. Carl Lewis is one of four Olympic athletes to have nine gold medals.
I write all of this to say, I’m sure they could more than hold their own at any point in history. Although, I pose the question, are we living during a time where there are more G.O.A.Ts (Greatest of All-Time) than at any other point in sports history?
Just in my short 27 years of life, I’d be willing to argue I’ve seen some of the best to ever do it in a number of sports. Serena Williams, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Tiger Woods, the aforementioned Usain Bolt and LeBron James (even though I am a Kobe-stan); just to name a few.
I remember the tail-end of MJ’s career but can’t say I truly witnessed the peak of his dominance.
(Notably absent is Tom Brady, I despise Tom Brady but that’s an entirely different discussion.)
Many of those I just named are at or approaching the end of their respective careers. The jury is still out on where Mike Trout will end up among baseball’s pantheon of greats. Whether or not Patrick Mahomes continues to throw 50 touchdowns a year and winds up enshrined in Canton. For all we know, the greatest of the greats could be in diapers.
I look forward to the day when I’m an old curmudgeon, wagging my index finger at my grandkids, crowing with delight, “He wouldn’t have held a candle to Kobe or LeBron!” or “Yeah, but she’s not as dominant as Serena Williams.”
That’s the beauty of sports, we can argue who we think is best until we’re blue in the face and even backed with stats, it’s unlikely you’re going to change the other person’s mind.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, let’s just sit back, relax and appreciate the greatness we get to witness. We never know when it will happen again, there’s always time for debate later.
Kolby KickingWoman is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is Blackfeet/Gros Ventre from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org