NBA / May 25, 2010 / 3:25 pm

Random Question of the Day

Usain Bolt

Which sport has the best athletes?

I’m probably in the minority, but this is one of my favorite stretches of the sports calendar. The most important NBA games are being played, football is close enough around the corner that there’s no shortage of preview shows and classic re-runs, baseball is in full swing, every weekend there’s free boxing on somewhere, and the international track and field outdoor season is underway.

Working in the basketball industry, I often hear the argument that the NBA employs the best athletes in the world. But as a big track fan for most of my life, I’ve always disagreed. When it comes to the overall mix of speed, strength, flexibility, leaping ability, coordination and endurance, I think there’s no better group of athletes than the sprinters, distance runners, throwers and jumpers you’ll find at a track meet. There’s a reason the reigning Olympic decathlon champion is given the unofficial title of “World’s Best Athlete.” More than any other sport, as a spectator I find myself in awe of what track athletes can do.

But I can also see why so many people consider basketball players the world’s best athletes. Having been around guys like Dwight Howard and LeBron James up-close, seeing how massive they are and then seeing the speed at which they play the game, it’s impressive to say the least. You could also make solid arguments for football, tennis, MMA … and with the World Cup coming up this summer, a lot of sports fans will gain a new appreciation for soccer and the athleticism it requires.

Which sport do you think has the world’s best athletes?

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  • http://www.myspace.com/carlifrancis quest???

    i dont like soccer that much, but I would say soccer. Anyone can play basketball/baseball/volleyball/football relatively average but you must be super in shape to play soccer and run for 90 minutes in a huge field. Also one has to have incredible foot/leg/eye coordination to do all does tricks with the ball running at full speed.

  • Steve A

    It really comes down to someone’s definition of athlete. I personally think it’s basketball due to what they are able to do at the size they are, but you can definitely make arguments for other sports.
    Although I never understood why Lance Armstrong was in the discussion just because he is good at an endurance sport. Edurance doesn’t equate to overall athleticism in my book. Although it was impressive he won as many times as he did…..MY OPINION

  • D A

    Obviously bowling…

  • BeEqual

    I’d have to go with football (american, since we’re coming up on the world cup) Combination of strenth, speed, agility is unmatched in other sports. Take running backs for example, gotta be able to take a beating, and outrun people. The fastest guy in the NBA prob couldn’t come close to catching the fastest guy in the NFL. My Opinion.

  • sweetv0mit

    come on! curlings the obvious winner here

  • dh

    curling or gymnastics

  • nawlage

    poker? lol
    actually is it even considered a sport? i seen it on espn all the time.

  • trey bing bay

    I don’t think soccer players are the fittest as the game is 90mins long but when the team is on offense their defense is having not involved and therefore hanging back drinking tea, thinking about their wags.

    I think basketball players are the most athletic but then i’m biased as i love the sport. It would be interesting to see what Bolts vertical would be and what his endurance would be like in an nba game. Basketball players seem to have a more all round athleticism than any other sports, except maybe the decathlon. I’d like to see Lebron do the decathlon, that would be something.

    American football players are probably next but it’s such a start stop game (more so than basketball) so endurance wise I don’t think it’s as tough as Bball.

  • isotope

    gymnastics. Watch their floor routines or balance beam. Crazy? How many basketball players can lift and balance their bodies with one hand.

    Soccer has to be in the discussion. American football isn’t really. Especially because of the time between plays and rarely do you have players playing every down. Now, ironman football? Yeah.

  • Dayinho

    Cristiano Ronaldo. Best athlet ever

  • dukesman

    I would say….Golf!

  • Kunta Kinte

    Try competing in a TRIATHLON.

  • Scott

    It’s interesting, I’ve played ball recently with a few friends, one who has been into cardio/weight training for a while and considers himself, rightfully so, in shape. And on another occasion with a friend who indoor rock climbs at an exceptional level 4-5 times a week.

    Both ironically had the same to say after a solid half hour of going one on one, they didn’t realize basketball was such a workout. Both had trouble keeping their legs, and expressed similar symptoms of running out of stamina.

    Bball players should be up there in the discussion. Especially when you consider the head to head competition factor, sure the track athletes can do all those things, but I think a contact sport like bball/football/hockey/soccer is a different level.

  • rangerjohn

    @ # 8

    baseball? come on any sport whos greatest player of all time was very over weight, a raging alcoholic WHILE PLAYING, and a ridiculous partier also while playing cant be the sport with the best athletes. i went to high school with lance berkman of the astros and i can tell you while he is one of the best players in the game, he has NEVER been a good athlete. hell i watched him play 1st base with his glove under his arm, and a bag of sun flower seeds in his catching hand while the other team was at bat.

    hands down it would have to be cycling. while i cant stand lance and his one nut, those guys are freak athletes.

  • JJ

    gymnastic…the have strength, balance, flexibility, coordination…i would bet that a gymness could play tennis one day, then be a decent qb, then PG, then …well you get the idea.

  • s.bucketz

    i always thought baseball players were fat lazy shits…and i heard some stat recently that on average a baseball player will spend a good 20 or 30 mins checkin out girls in the stand…but i actually hit up batting cages and shit recently for the first time and that 15 seconds of work they gotta do is hard.

    id say probbly soccer..i used to laugh my ass off at the soccer team back in highschool..while the basketball team was gettin outta practice at like 4 30 the soccer team was runnin laps around the school and shit….might b a reason why our basketball team was ass and our soccer team was pretty nasty.


    Darts……… you seen the muscles on them dudes drinkin arms?

  • LakeShow84

    I’ve played a lot of sports and the most tiring sport i EVER got involved with was boxing..

    That shit wears you out like no other..

    You play hoop after awhile and your body gets used to it.. I was never TOO sore in highschool..

    Football just leaves you sore in area you never you could be sore in lol..

    wrestling and boxing are no joke.. Football you get a lot of rest and bball you can pick your spots to rest but you cant really rest in wrestling or boxing otherwise you lose..


    for real tho, its all apples an oranges isn’t it. you cant really compare a football (the one were they use there feet) player who’s job is to run for 90 minutes with a hoops player whos job is higher energy over shorter times. A marathon runner is no more or less athletic than a sprinter, they are just different.

  • LakeShow84

    @ RangerJohn

    Cycling is a good one too.. Thats the best cardio Ive ever done..

    When i got out of shape i rode a bike 20 minutes in the morning and 20 in the afternoon and i lost close to 20lbs in a month and a half.. 20 balls to wall but still just each way..

    Gotta diet too but i credit the bike with the majority of it..

  • netstar

    Baseball? SERIOUSLY? have any of you seen prince fielder?

    basketball has the best athletes, by far…. with the exception of brian scalabrene

  • Celts Fan

    It’s CLEARLY football.

    Think about it. These guys (height wise) are all basically average size dudes so the separation in athleticism (defined IMO as speed, strength, and jumping ability) has to be larger. Compare vert and sprint #s in the NBA vs. NFL combines and it’s blatant. Football itself is a very start and stop game, but those guys are still in phenomenal shape. While you don’t need to be a superstar athlete to play with your boys, the pros (skill positions such as RB, WR, TE, LB and DB) are all insanely gifted athletes and have to be to get (or close) the tiniest bit of separation you need to make/stop a play. It’s all quick-burst speed, lateral movement, then, once you’ve actually gotten open and gotten the ball, being strong/elusive enough to not hget tackled immediately and being strong/tough enough not to die after each hit. Think about it. How many guys are out there that are 6’0″ – 6′ 4″ that you have to be a better athlete than to make an NFL roster compared to the comparatively much smaller amount of 6’10” guys yu need to be better/more athletic than to be an NBA big.

    AFter football players, I’d say basketball, then soccer.

  • JC

    I would go with football as sport with the best athletes. While many sports require athletes to move in all directions and use all available extremities, football possesses the rare requirement of moving THROUGH other players. It’s almost like full-contact gymnastics with extreme resistance training as a key component.

    While many football players could ably replicate the physical feats of gymnasts and basketball players (my #2 and #3 athletes, respectively), I cannot think of another sport that would produce football-ready (physically speaking) athletes.

  • daghost

    it’s clearly soccer. I was gonna put a long comment until i realized post #1 sait it all. well put quest???…as a soccer, basketball, and football player (and equally as good in each sport) i can testify that to be good soccer player,your conditioning has to be better than in those other sports. It is by far the sport that drains the most out of my energy. The things i see people do on the soccer field is insane. I litterally see some of the best athletes IN THE WORLD out there on some of those soccer fields. The things they do is amazing. DaGhost has spoken. Soccer hands down.

    Da Ghost

  • Ian

    good thing u tried it cuz i play twice a week and i feel sore for days with basketball which i also play twice a week im good after a shower. baseball is harder i dont know if it has better athletes than basketball but u guys are talking about fielder and ruth but what about guys like arod and mauer?? it depends on who you choose a fat 1b or a 3b? how did the super jordan do playin baseball??? on and just in case i pick soccer i take some pts off basketball cuz is the easiest game to pick up and play of the major sports. like post 2 said just my opinion.

  • Ian

    hardest sport imo is hockey quest mentioned the coordination u need in soccer but damn i cant even see the black thingy and these fools are skating 1000mph hitting and controlling it like its nothing.

  • Dan

    athletes from the world eating competitions…. have you guys seen Takeru Kobayashi he is a beast…

  • kobeeeee

    I am currently playing/doing soccer, basketball, boxing, Ving Tsun and generall fitness/gym. I must say that boxing is the most insane/intense sport I can imagine. The preparation/athletism is crazy. I always want to strangle my trainer. but after the workout I am satified he pushed us that hard. If you want to be fit you gotta do boxing. Basketball is not too shabby either. If one plays it a a sophisticated level a lot of athletism is needed. Soccer ist not that athletism-sophisticated as b-ball. But at the end it is all about lot is of taining and repetition.
    I think an important aspect to bring in this discussion is the “high intensity factor” of a sport. Boxing is the most intense sport I guess. Basketball very close. Soccer is not that intense since a match is 90 min and its 11 players!

  • LakeShow84

    Lawrence Taylor smoked crack and wasnt anything close to a gym rat.. dudes a top 20 player ALL TIME..

    Just sayin lol

  • LakeShow84

    I was once reading an article about Shawn Merriman and he even said boxing was the most exhausting sport hes ever been involved in..

    if you’ve never done it go to a boxing gym and go 10 minutes at high intensity..

    Now go play 20 of football high intensity..

    Bet you will wanna play football before you want to throw on the gloves again..

  • JBaller

    It’s a pretty good question; one that I’ve heard before. The decathlon is a good bet, but it’s such a rarefied group that it almost doesn’t count. Almost. Besides the decathlon, I think that basketball requires the most athleticism of all other sports for a few reasons. The main reason being that all players must be able to do everything on the court. Regardless of whether you are the 12th man or a starter, when you are on the court you can expect to: run, jump, throw, catch, etc, not to mention the body control that is necessary. It’s like each player is involved in his own decathlon!

  • DownhillDemon

    Downhill Speedboarding


  • http://deleted dagwaller

    Sport? Basketball. Event? Track and field. Competition? Wrestling.

  • Keith

    Sorry to anybody saying Soccer (football, over here) doesn’t require the same level of athletesism as Basketball is wrong. To suggest that they run less than 90 minutes because sometimes they’re on defence? Please. The average basketball player may only get 35 minutes a night, but that is played out over the course of about 3 hours. Plenty of breaks and rest available. I think both sports require the same level of skill with regards decision making during moments of fatigue though

    I don’t even think Soccer has the best athletes, I would agree that gymnasts, track, and triathlon has some of the best athletes in the world

    Also, Formula 1. You may laugh, but they are ridiculously fit, and cope with 100 degree temperatures for 2 hours on the edge of death, and they have the mental sharpness to cope with that because they keep their bodies in shape. Just saying

  • nige

    Hands down, Tennis has the best athletes of any sport.
    Hand to eye co-ordination to return a 90pmh ball whilst getting your legs to respond and get you there in the first place is nonsense. now repeat the process for 2hrs!!!! your upper body strength to consistantly hit a ball atwell over 60mph for 2hrs is also ridiculous.
    Honourable mention goes out to Gymnasts. To me mid-distance runners and decathletes/tri-athletes is more endurance training.
    Basketball players are quite athletic but they are by no means the most athletic, just ask Big Baby!

  • stumpy

    soccers for fags

  • IceD

    Im gonna throw soccer goalie out there. Maybe not so much with running, but they have to be the best athletes on their team.

  • Heiddi187

    I think basketball, because of it’s not just one thing, there is so much you have to be able to do.

    But a sport you should consider is MOTOCROSS. Lance Armstrong was ones asked who he thougth was the best athlete in the world and he answered: Ricky Carmichael

    look him up, the dude was a beast and never stopped working to get better.. One of my all time heroes

  • big mo

    Its tough but its between chess players and figure skaters…nah, but seriously, ive played both soccer and basket ball. Basketball is more demanding, but the soccer conditioning was insane. With basketball, its a lot of constant movements in different directions;diagonal, lateral, you name it. You are also constantly running thru screens that knock the wind out of you and having grown men box u out in the paint.
    With soccer,if the ball is in the back, and ur a striker, you have time to catch your breath.

    So yeah, bball has better athletes, actually scratch that, Triathlon has the best athletes. I feel sore just watching them.

  • http://www.myspace.com/40sand9s Loc

    I think Basketball,
    second is soccer.

    Running is maybe the simplest form of athleticicism “run from there to there, go”

    but Soccer and basketball take so many facets into the games.

  • WinDelRoj

    anyone giving the football answer may have given rugby the actual nod. all the aspects of american football, no forward pass. just a draw plays and laterals.. tougher

  • Simon

    Professional Wrestlers!
    While it is entertainment and not a sport, its participants are still athletes. Obviously not all of them are the best athletes, but I do think many are among the best. Their endurance, strength and coordination for their size and weight are amazing. At least back in the 80’s and 90’s these wrestlers were expected to perform over 300 times per year! I think their ability to coordinate such athletic maneuvers while having the strength, endurance and skill to not harm the other wrestlers is truly an athletic feat, especially considering their endurance isn’t 90 minutes or 82 games, but is a neverending season that often lasts over 20 years (i.e Shawn Michaels).

  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla

    Just read the article and first thought

    “did this Muthaf^ka just include MMA as possibly the best athletes without and ignoring boxing?”

    Boxers are in the best condition of any athlete. They run long distance and have the hand eye quickness of a basketball player. But as i’m sure someone posted already, it all depends on how you define Athlete.

  • fLaVa

    MMA… the combination of boxing, wrestling and grapping will definately wear someone down.

  • J

    Australian Rules Football players without a doubt!!!
    Players have endurance, quick recovery for repetitive sprints, speed, can take a hit, can give a hit, can tackle, kick, handpass, jump to mark the ball (sometimes jump on and over other people to mark a ball). Watch a game if you havent already and you will see what im talking about.

  • NM30

    @ J mane you took the words outta my mouth. Aussie Rules players are freaks as well. It’s definately gotta be up there. Incredible endurance is required plus the strength and agility to fend off tackles. The use of fast twitch fibres goes into overdrive in an AFL game. In sayin that it’s hard to compare athletes of different sports. Each requires certain skills and levels of fitness to accomplish. All athletes should be commended.

  • mrparker

    You guys are confusing facets of sports with the core question. Which sport has the best athletes? IMO, this is a pretty simple question. The best athletes in the world are in the U.S. So we should look at sports played in the U.S.
    Basketball is exclusionary. It has only the best tall athletes. Noone plays soccer. Baseball can only be played by guys with 20/20 vision at the least. Football can be played by everyone but the tallest/skinniest people. Therefore if someone wants to go against and beat the highest level of competition they have to set foot on the gridiron.
    Now, if we want to compare sports that one is also easy. Football is the only sports where you have to run past, around, through, over, and under opponents. No other sport requires most of the team to be able to do all those things.

  • Sweet English

    Anyone who would put MMA fighter as better ATHLETES than boxers, has never watched a true boxing match. Watching an MMA match after anything more than three rounds is usually like watching two drunk 15 year old girls fight. I agree, you are risking taking much more of a punishing in MMA, thanks to the disgusting laxidasical rulings (punch a man in the face while he is semi conscious on the floor? Theres entertainment and theres brutality, and there is a reason that after hundreds of years of boxing that the rules are how they are).

    NO MMA fighter, at whatever level could get anywhere near a true professional boxer at the highest level when it comes to fitness, quickness, mental toughness and skill.

    Comparing boxing to MMA is like comparing painting a beautiful masterpiece to throwing a tin of paint at some paper.

  • Ace-One

    In about 15 years (if it continues to grow and develop as it has) the answer will be MMA. However, the question asked which sport has the best athletes, not which sport demands the highest level of athleticism, and MMA isn’t big enough to attract the very best athletes.

    So, that said, here are my picks, in no order:
    A) Boxing. Great cardio, exceptional strength, lots of quickness in upper-body movement (less lower body, though footwork is still important), requires exceptional coordination and timing (though within a fairly limited range of movements), requires thinking and strategizing on the move and under duress, huge pain tolerance (and yes, this is an athletic skill).

    B)Gymnastics. Strength (relative to body weight) is off the charts. Flexibility off the charts, body coordination and variety of difficult movements is off the charts. Cardio is pretty high (more like doing a bunch of all-out 400/800 meter sprints over the course of a few hours). However, as with most sports that don’t involve direct interaction with opponents, it doesn’t require much thinking on your feet or creativity in the moment. Pain tolerance extremely high.

    C)Wrestling. Pretty similar to boxing in what it demands of its athletes. More variety of movements and body parts used, but less cardio and less brutality. World’s oldest sport, and it has a deep tradition in almost every country, so even though it’s not very high profile, it still draws a bunch of world class athletes.

    I’ll leave the team sports to other folks.

  • Rohan

    I agree with all those sayin hoops. No other sport requires such a diverse combination of athleticism, skill and toughness. Soccer players are hugely underratted as overall athletes but they don’t possess the physical stature of basketballers. As for those that said american football, you must be kidding right, sure they are big fast etc but they all possess one skill and play live for about 10seconds of every minute. Rugby league (not union, that sport is boring) is faster, tougher and more demanding than gridiron and the players are required to run for 80mins and play both side of the ball.

  • kobeeeee

    hey guys I found this questions answered by espn. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/sportSkills
    as I thought: boxing is the toughest sport in the world and therefore the pro athletes are the best. teir method for reaching this result also seeems legit.

  • Chainfire

    I like how only one or two people even mentioned hockey. But then again, Dime’s majority demographic are African-Americans so i guess i can’t be too surprised. You’re ignorant if you don’t think MMA ( Many high profile NFL and NBA players recently have begun training MMA during their respective off-season to get in better shape, that should tell you something about how grueling the sport is) and hockey deserves to be mentioned.

  • Amos Leak


  • JAY

    Women’s mud-wrestling, hands down. Jello wrestliing a close second.

  • http://www.designbydesmond.com My Favorite Superhero

    Professional Madden Players then boxers then basketball then soccer…

  • Simon

    Thanks Kobeeeee for posting that. It lists the criteria at the bottom which is always a better way to set up a debate instead of these open-ended questions. I still think professional wrestling is a sport that constantly requires all of the listed criteria from the espn article.

  • LakeShow84

    LMAO @ Professional Madden players

    For really tho lol

  • shiptar

    i think bolt and lebron are the ultimate athletes today. Their combination of size, strength and speed is unique.

  • http://brutal... what???

    I would agree with boxing…hands down..

    also…its amazing how no one mentioned hockey…anyone can run on a field and catch a ball…or run on a court and do a layup…how many people can naturally skate??? nevermind a wrist shot…or a 100mph slap shot…hockey is extremely physical…but then again this is mainly a USA website etc…so I can understand…ESPN said it very well

    football..not a chance..you get constant rest periods…sure some of the players are in great shape…but thats maybe 20% of the team…

    basketball..a bit better..sure you can argue that Lebron is an amazing speciman…but does the same go for Anderson Varejao??? not even close…or big baby??? come on…

    gymnysts…they all are…

    soccer..great cardio..incredible leg strength…same goes with rugby…

    again..its not fair to compare team sports against individual sports…

  • dlee9

    nascar…just ask Ricky Bobby.

  • Marcus

    I’ve been involved with football, rugby,soccer, basketball and boxing

    Gotta go with


  • yoda

    people make mistake when they compare different sports, like soccer guy playeda against me in bball and he got tired or vice versa… there is something called muscle memory. you can get guy who can run 10 miles without a problem, but who would got exhausted after 15 minutes of good basketball. i used to do lots of things, kick boxing, jujitsu, baskeball, volleyball, soccer. and at some point, all sports were extra hard, compared to others, until my body didn’t get used to certain movements and abilities. but i could play basketball for 3-4 hours without being exhausted (when i was in shape) and at fast pace, but i could barely walk after kick boxing of jujitsu. i think martial arts are harder on your body than bball or soccer. all that punching and kicking you give away while at same time you recive them. when you can’t breath, you get exhausted fast.