Jose M. Osorio / Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

Sacramento Kings Doug Christie tries to drive past Washington Wizards Michael Jordan in the second quarter of game played at Arco Arena in Sacramento, CA., Tuesday, February 14, 2002.

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Weekend poll: Who is the greatest pro athlete of all time?

Leading Off: Is Jordan the greatest pro athlete ever?

Published: Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Jun. 17, 2013 - 4:46 pm

Unless you were drifting on a dark and stinky cruise ship for days in the Gulf of Mexico, you've probably heard today is Michael Jordan's 50th birthday.

For the past week, sports TV and radio talk shows have celebrated Jordan's career: From his game-winning basket in the 1982 NCAA Championship Game as a freshman at North Carolina to his 63-point performance against the Celtics in the 1986 playoffs, to his role on the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream Team, to shooting a free throw with his eyes closed, to his countless highlight-reel dunks, to his six NBA championships, to his attempt to play baseball, to his second and final retirement.

Debates raged about whether Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. He was compared to Wilt Chamberlain (30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds per game); Bill Russell (11 championships) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (all-time points leader with 38,387).

Not only was Jordan better than those Naismith Memorial Hall of Famers, he was better than his contemporaries, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

And for those who think Kobe Bryant or LeBron James could surpass Jordan as the best NBA player of all time?


The question is not if Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time, it's if he is the greatest American professional athlete ever.

Was he a better basketball player than:

• Willie Mays was a baseball player?

• Muhammad Ali was a boxer?

• Wayne Gretzky was a hockey player?

• Jim Brown was at running with a football?

• Tiger Woods is at golf?

Happy birthday, MJ. There may never be anybody better.

What to watch

NBA All-Star Game, 5 p.m., TNT: Kobe and Durant take on LeBron and Carmelo in the annual defenseless dunkfest.

Weekend poll

Who is the greatest pro athlete of all time? • Michael Jordan

• Willie Mays

• Muhammad Ali

• Wayne Gretzky

• Jim Brown

• Tiger Woods

Vote above or leave your comments in the comment field; or, go to

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