ESPN fan vote: Who's been the most dominant in the 21st century?


During a recent editorial meeting at ESPN India, one of our senior staffers raised an unexpected head-scratcher: Which is the safest bet in world sport? If you had to risk all your money on one particular team or individual winning their respective event, who would you pick?

Unsurprisingly, a wide range of answers met the floor. After all, what is a more guaranteed sight in sport than Rafael Nadal falling over in celebration at Roland Garros? Or, over three Olympics, Usain Bolt blitzing past the competition?

What is more set in stone than Virat Kohli captaining India to a Test victory on home soil? Or the artistry of Pep Guardiola's Barcelona taking Europe by storm - and winning almost every possible trophy - with their revolutionary style of football?

Go back a bit in time and there's Michael Schumacher, at the peak of his powers, uncorking the champagne at the top of the podium.

They all have varying degrees of claims to being the GOAT in their sport, but who, at their very best, dominated the field like no other in the 21st century?

It took numerous discussions over zoom calls and mails before we drew up a list of 16 of the most dominant sporting entities, individuals and teams, since 2000.

To reiterate, this list isn't about determining the greatest athlete or team but finding the most dominant sporting displays. The only two conditions were that the sporting accomplishment must have occurred within the last 20 years, and the team or individual in question must have dominated this said field for a period of time - more than a single season or calendar year or Olympics - as the undisputed best.

We then seeded these 16 names for a knockout-style tournament, based on several factors like the strength of the field, the length of their domination, and of course, pure numbers. And we know it might look silly comparing teams and individuals, or combat and racket and ball sports, but we hope you'll see the fun side of it.

Like any subjective list, this, too, meant that several big names had to unfortunately miss out.

For instance, while Bayern Munich were the unarguable kings of Europe in 2013, they were unable to sustain that level beyond a season. Similarly, Novak Djokovic, for all his incredible achievements, hasn't quite racked up a streak like the way Nadal did on clay, or Federer on grass.

Over the next two weeks, we'll be pitting these great names against each other, leaving the final vote with you, loyal reader and fellow sports fan.