Monday, December 27
Jordan earns top SportsCentury honor
 
 Dec. 27, 1999

Basketball star Michael Jordan has been named the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century by an industry-wide panel of 48 knowledgeable journalists and observers. The countdown of the century's 50 greatest athletes, part of ESPN's extensive SportsCentury project presented by General Motors, began in January with weekly athlete profiles and culminated with yesterday's hour-long program unveiling the top two athletes.

The final four athletes were as follows: No. 1 - Jordan, No. 2 - Babe Ruth, No. 3 - Muhammad Ali and No. 4 - Jim Brown. The panel was asked to vote based on athletic ability alone.

In all, the top 50 featured 11 baseball players, nine football players, eight basketball players, seven track and field athletes, five golfers, four tennis players, three boxers, three hockey players, one swimming/diving athlete, one speed skater and one horse. Note: Certain athletes counted in multiple sports.

"Michael Jordan's individual ability to drive his team to greatness is legendary," said Mark Shapiro, SportsCentury coordinating producer. "He controlled his sport and reinvented his sport and in the process, he demonstrated incredible athletic ability and determination. He will forever be synonymous with winning and super-stardom."

All 50 Greatest Athlete shows on ESPN2, ESPN Classic
ESPN2 will close the century with a SportsCentury marathon: all 49 greatest athlete programs during the last two days of 1999, while ESPN Classic will kick off the new century with all 49 programs back-to-back.

SPORTSCENTURY GREATEST ATHLETES SHOWS
Network Date Time (ET) Athlete shows
ESPN2 Dec. 30 7:30-11:30 p.m. Nos. 50-43
ESPN2 Dec. 31 1 a.m.-6 p.m. Nos. 42-9
ESPN2 Dec. 31 8 p.m.-midnight Nos. 8-1
ESPN Classic Jan. 1 7 a.m.-8 a.m. Jan. 2 Nos. 50-1 (all programs)

SportsCentury athletes No. 1-50
1 Michael Jordan
2 Babe Ruth
3 Muhammad Ali
4 Jim Brown
5 Wayne Gretzky
6 Jesse Owens
7 Jim Thorpe
8 Willie Mays
9 Jack Nicklaus
10 Babe Didrikson
11 Joe Louis
12 Carl Lewis
13 Wilt Chamberlain
14 Hank Aaron
15 Jackie Robinson
16 Ted Williams
17 Magic Johnson
18 Bill Russell
19 Martina Navratilova
20 Ty Cobb
21 Gordie Howe
22 Joe DiMaggio
23 Jackie Joyner-Kersee
24 Sugar Ray Robinson
25 Joe Montana
26 Kareem Abdul-Jabaar
27 Jerry Rice
28 Red Grange
29 Arnold Palmer
30 Larry Bird
31 Bobby Orr
32 Johnny Unitas
33 Mark Spitz
34 Lou Gehrig
35 Secretariat
36 Oscar Robertson
37 Mickey Mantle
38 Ben Hogan
39 Walter Payton
40 Lawrence Taylor
41 Wilma Rudolph
42 Sandy Koufax
43 Julius Erving
44 Bobby Jones
45 Bill Tilden
46 Eric Heiden
47 Edwin Moses
48 Pete Sampras
49 O.J. Simpson
50 Chris Evert

SportsCentury athletes 51-100
51 Rocky Marciano
52 Jack Dempsey
53 Rafer Johnson
54 Greg Louganis
55 Mario Lemieux
56 Pete Rose
57 Willie Shoemaker
58 Elgin Baylor
59 Billie Jean King
60 Walter Johnson
61 Stan Musial
62 Jerry West
63 Satchel Paige
64 Sammy Baugh
65 Althea Gibson
66 Eddie Arcaro
67 Bob Gibson
68 Al Oerter
69 Bonnie Blair
70 Dick Butkus
71 Roberto Clemente
72 Bo Jackson
73 Josh Gibson
74 Deion Sanders
75 Dan Marino
76 Barry Sanders
77 Cy Young
78 Bob Mathias
79 Gale Sayers
80 A.J. Foyt
81 Jimmy Connors
82 Bobby Hull
83 Honus Wagner
84 Man O' War
85 Maurice Richard
86 Otto Graham
87 Henry Armstrong
88 Joe Namath
89 Rogers Hornsby
90 Richard Petty
91 Bob Beamon
92 Mario Andretti
93 Don Hutson
94 Bob Cousy
95 George Blanda
96 Michael Johnson
97 Citation
98 Don Budge
99 Sam Snead
100 Jack Johnson

ESPN.com Poll Results
Athlete
(% of yes votes)
ESPN.com ranking Actual SC
ranking
Disparity
Wayne Gretzky (97.1) 1 5 +4
Jesse Owens (96.7) 2 6 +4
Muhammad Ali (96.3) 3 1,2,3 or 4 TBD
Willie Mays (96.1) 4 8 +4
Jim Thorpe (95.9) 5 7 +2
Babe Ruth (95.2) 6 1,2,3 or 4 TBD
Michael Jordan (94.9) 7 1,2,3 or 4 TBD
Jerry Rice (94.6) 8 27 +19
Walter Payton (93.7) 9 39 +30
Joe Montana (93.3) 10 25 +15
Wilt Chamberlain (92.9) 11 13 +2
Joe DiMaggio (92.4) 12 22 +10
Carl Lewis (92.2) 13 12 -1
Ty Cobb (91.9) 14 20 +6
Julius Erving (91.8) 15 43 +28
Hank Aaron (91.5) 16 14 -2
Ted Williams (90.7) 17 16 -1
Jack Nicklaus (89.5) 18 9 -9
Joe Louis (87.7) 19 11 -8
Jackie Robinson (87.4) 20 15 -5
Bill Russell (87.2) 21 18 -3
Larry Bird (86.6) 22 30 +8
Lou Gehrig (86.5) 23 34 +11
Jim Brown (86.2) 24 1,2,3 or 4 TBD
Oscar Robertson (86.2) 25 36 +11
Magic Johnson (85.9) 26 17 -9
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (85.8) 27 26 -1
Bobby Orr (85.4) 28 31 +3
Mickey Mantle (83.3) 29 37 +8
Gordie Howe (81.5) 30 21 -9
Sugar Ray Robinson (80.7) 31 24 -7
Jackie Joyner-Kersee (80.5) 32 23 -9
Mark Spitz (79.7) 33 33 even
Edwin Moses (79.1) 34 47 +13
Pete Sampras (77.3) 35 48 +13
Johnny Unitas (77.2) 36 32 -4
Lawrence Taylor (75.9) 37 40 +3
Sandy Koufax (75.6) 38 42 +4
Martina Navratilova (73.5) 39 19 -20
Red Grange (73.5) 40 28 -12
Ben Hogan (71.3) 41 38 -3
Arnold Palmer (69.6) 42 29 -13
Secretariat (68.3) 43 35 -8
Chris Evert (68.1) 44 50 +6
Babe Didrikson (66.3) 45 10 -35
Wilma Rudolph (65.8) 46 41 -5
O.J. Simpson (59.8) 47 49 +2
Bobby Jones (59.8) 48 44 -4
Eric Heiden (58.5) 49 46 -3
Bill Tilden (46.2) 50 45 -5

 


ALSO SEE
SportsCentury front page

No. 1: Michael Jordan