GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney swung through Westerville, Ohio on Wednesday, where he had golf legend Jack Nicklaus teed up to sing his praises.
After Nicklaus lauded Romney as a leader who could spur "real recovery" and bring the nation back to “the America we were,” Romney returned the praise, calling Nicklaus the "greatest athlete of the 20th century."
The competition for this title is tough, and some might question Romney's qualifications to bestow any honor regarding the world of "sport." While Romney's public dalliances in this arena have been painfully awkward at times, he actually has support on this statement from a more reputable source.
In 1999, Sports Illustrated magazine gave Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 major championships, the award for "best individual male athlete of the 20th Century," the key word there being "individual," meaning not part of a larger team. Romney, who apparently fancies himself a golf enthusiast of sorts even if he doesn't actually play, made no such distinction.
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One of the more polarizing picks on the list, Barry Bonds has come to represent both everything right and everything wrong with modern baseball. But even if we take out all of his stats from 1998 forward -- the year he allegedly started 'juicing'-- he'd still be one of the greatest baseball players of all time, and that merits his inclusion on this list.
Alice Coachman was the first African American Woman to win an Olympic Gold. She won her gold at the 1948 Olympics in the high jump.
One of the most elusive running backs in the history of the NFL, Barry Sanders retired just short of breaking the record for rushing yards.
Wilt Chamberlain was a 4 Time NBA MVP and a 2 time NBA champion. His rookie season he averaged 37 points per game. His fourth and fifth seasons in the league Wilt averaged an astonishing 50 points per game and 44 points per game respectively. His basketball exploits aside, Wilt is also a member of the Volleyball Hall of Fame.
Venus Williams seven grand slam titles - including five wins at Wimbledon make her one of the greatest tennis players of all-time.
Shani Davis' Gold Medal in 1000 meter speed skating made him the first black athlete to win a gold medal in an individual sport at the Winter Olympics. He also took silver medal in the 1500 meter race that year and repeated the feat four years later at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Florence Griffith-Joyner's 10.49 second 100 meter world record from the 1987 World Championships still stands. Only Carmelita Jeter has come close to touching the mark with a 10.64 in Shanghai, China in 2009.
Bob Beamon's world record long jump stood for nearly 22 years and was named one of Sports Illustrate
A precursor to men like Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis, Jack Johnson was the first black man to become Heavyweight Champion of the world.
The most famous multi-sport star the world has ever known, Bo Jackson is the only man to ever be an all-star in 2 major sports - baseball and football.
Bob Hayes stands alongside Jim Thorpe as the only other man to win Olympic gold and be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. the track star was the fastest man on Earth, winning the gold medal in the 100 meters and the 4x100 meter relay at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. He also won a superbowl with the Dallas Cowboys.
Wilma Rudolph achieved international fame in 1960 when she won 3 gold medals at the Rome Olympics. An even more amazing feet considering she'd battled Polio as a child and had worn a brace on her leg from the age of four till she was nine.
Jerry Rice rewrote the NFL record books during his 20 years in the league and ranks at the top of many peoples all time greatest football player lists - usually just before or just after Jim Brown.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a Six time NBA Champion, a 6 time regular season MVP and the NBA's all time leader in points scored. Off the court he's also had a huge impact and in 2012 accepted a role as a US Cultural Ambassador, appointed by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
To be world-class in seven different olympic events is the definition of being a great athlete. Jackie Joyner-Kersee was just that - winning the silver medal in Heptathlon in 1984 and the the gold in 1988 and 1992.
The South Carolina native, Althea Gibson was the first black woman to win a tennis grand slam event - winning the French Open in 1956. She went on to win Wimbledon twice, the US Open twice and the Australian once.
Arthur Ashe is the first and only black man to win Wimbledon. He also won the US Open and the Australian Open during his career. Off the court, Ashe was highly active during the civil rights movement and went on to be a champion of HIV/AIDS related activism.
Possibly the greatest 5 tool player in the history of Major League Baseball, Willie Mays could do it all. A twenty four time all-star Willie Mays hit 660 career home runs, won twelve Golden Glove Awards, two NL MVPs, and hit 50 home runs on two occasions. <em>The Sporting News</em> ranked him the number 2 baseball player of all time behind only Babe Ruth
Sugar Ray Robinson
Sugar Ray Robinson is the greatest boxer of all-time. To put his amazing career in perspective, think about this: As an amateur he was 69-0. As a professional he won his first 40 fights before losing his first. He then won his next 87 fights before losing again. You read that correctly. Sugar Ray Robinson started his career 128-2. That's why he's on this list.
Bill Russell played thirteen basketball seasons in the NBA with the Boston Celtics - he won a championship in eleven of them. He was also captained the gold medal winning 1956 Olympic team that beat all of it's competitors by an average of 53 points per game.
Ervin 'Magic' Johnson is one of the most recognizable men in the world. Despite being a five time NBA Champion and three time NBA MVP, he is as well known for his off-court business success, philanthropy, and HIV/AIDS related activism.
Carl Lewis' 10 Olympic medals - including 9 golds makes him one of the most decorated olympians of all time.
Serena Williams' 14 grand slam wins and this year's gold medal put her on the short list of greatest female tennis players of all time.
Tiger Woods fourteen major championships and 72 PGA tour wins ranks him near the top of the list of all time greatest Golfers. His recent slump aside, he's spent the better part of the last decade and a half as the best player in the world.
Jesse Owens performance at the 1936 Olympics - where he earned four Gold medals and set world records in the long jump and 100m sprint still stands as one of the greatest Olympic performances of all time.
For the last four seasons, every Major League Baseball player, umpire or coach who suits up for a game on April 15th has worn the number 42 to salute the man who broke baseball's color barrier - Jackie Robinson. After 80 years of segregation, on April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He went on to play 10 seasons making 6 all-star appearances, winning an MVP in 1949 and Brooklyn's only world championship in 1955.
Ranked the number one heavyweight of all-time by the International Boxing Research Organization and the number one puncher of all time by <em>The Ring Magazine</em> Joe Louis is one of the most important figures in the history of American sports.
In 2002, <em>The Sporting News</em> ranked the Long Island native as the number one football player of all time. In his remarkable nine year NFL career, Brown set numerous records and is still the only man to average more than 100 yards per game for his entire career. Besides being a great football player, Brown was also a great Lacrosse player having been inducted in to the NCAA's Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
One of the most transcendent athletes in history of professional sports, Michael Jordan is a six time NBA Champion a dive time NBA MVP, he has six NBA Finals MVPs, fourteen All-Star game selections, ten NBA scoring championships, one defensive player of the year award and the most popular apparel endorsement the world has ever known.
No athlete in the history of professional sports has ever done a better job marrying activism, celebrity and athletic excellence than Muhammad Ali. From boasting to all who could hear that he'd knock out Sonny Liston, taking a stand against the Vietnam War and losing his title, to regaining the title in Kinshasa, Zaire - Muhammad Ali is the greatest athlete of all time.