There's been a lot of talk the past few days as to whether Michael Phelps is one of the best athletes of all time. No doubt Phelps deserves to be in that conversation, but how do you determine something like that?
It's nearly impossible to compare a guy like Phelps with others in the same conversation, like Lance Armstrong, Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. First of all, none of those guys play(ed) the same sports so you can't compare career statistics or accomplishments. There's no way to say for certain how one athlete would do in another sport.
All that said, I'm currently watching the USA Men's Basketball Team against Greece (thanks to NBC's live coverage online) and I think I'm seeing one of the best athletes I've ever seen.
LeBron James is listed at 6'8" and 250 pounds, a pretty good size for a small or power forward in the NBA. But when you watch him, he looks more like a guard. Often he leads the fast break for Team USA and often he finishes it as well. His combination of size, strength, speed and finesse are something I've never seen before.
I feel completely comfortable saying LeBron is the best athlete I've ever seen. He might not do so well in the pool against Phelps, on the baseball field against Babe, on the golf course against Tiger or on a bike against Lance, but I'd bet with the right coaching and lots of practice he would make a pretty decent tight end, wide receiver, defensive end, high jumper, long jumper or volleyball player.
I won't say he's the best athlete of all time because I still don't believe it's possible to make a definitive statement like that, but he's the first one I think of when that conversation starts.