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Best Athlete Virtual Competition - 2011

"The Greatest" is a label you often hear put on athletes, usually without any clear evidence to support the claims. Clay Parker is one person who wants to know who is the greatest. As a fun exercise, he created a mock athletic competition to determine the 'greatest athlete', conducted in 2011. There was a similar format competition to determine the World's Greatest Athlete run by ESPN Sport Science in 2012.

Clay Parker selected 32 athletes from a variety of sports - American football, basketball, baseball, soccer, track & field, rugby, cricket, boxing, mixed martial arts, swimming, tennis, and many more. The competition format was to focus on two athletes at a time in a fictional head-to-head athletic competition over 15 events. There was a range of events, some taken from other greatest athlete competitions, such as for the Superstars and Rexona competitions. To determine each winner, he had a small panel of experts (of which I was one!) analyze the athletes' careers and accomplishments and judge who would win in each event - the winner of the most events would be declared the better athlete. Each winner went on to challenge other winners in a round-robin type contest until only one remained - the world's greatest athlete!

The greatest athletes are not just the fittest (we have a spearate list for the fittest athletes). To excel in this competition the judges needed to think that the athlete could adapt their skills and excel in a range of sports and activities, and win in a competitive situation.


The 15 events were selected to cover all the primary forms of athletic requirements - upper/lower body strength, balance, agility, throwing ability, hand/eye and foot/eye coordination, balance, stamina, foot speed and skill. They were also selected to represent a variety of sports and not show bias towards one country/region.

  1. American football combine (Vertical jump), Three-cone drill and bench press for reps contest, the athlete who wins 2 of the 3 events is winner)
  2. One-on-one tennis game to 6 points.
  3. 100 meter swimming event (using the stroke of choice)
  4. Cricket hitting competition (like the Rexona version points awarded for hit distance)
  5. Weight lifting/power-lifting contest combining clean & jerk and dead lift
  6. 10km (6.2 miles) cycling race on an open road – fastest time wins
  7. One-on-one basketball game to 21 points (game is officiated with fouls, free throws and 3 point baskets)
  8. Strongman/Athletics event (farmer's walk and shot put events with combined point totals)
  9. Baseball catch and throw – point scored on balls caught and accuracy/speed of throws to different targets.
  10. Athletics running competition (100m & 1500m run with point scoring using the decathlon tables)
  11. One-on-one rugby try (like Rexona version, each athlete takes 3 turns running & defending)
  12. Gym test - 1 minute tests for pushups, pull-ups, parallel bar dips and squat thrusts.
  13. One 5 minute round of mixed martial arts (MMA) under UFC rules.
  14. Soccer/football goalie kick competition (kicking 5 and defending 5)
  15. Obstacle Course (similar to Superstars version) with wall, hurdles, high jump, water jump, sand pit, tires, blocking sled and final sprint.


There were 32 challengers, who matched up one-on-one with another athlete. The winners continued in the competition, until only one remained. The semi finals were between Bryan Clay and Randy Moss, Trey Hardee and Michael Vick. The final, between the two decathletes Clay and Hardee was won by ?? (really, I don't know). It was won by a decathlete, which is really not a surprise.

All 32 Athletes

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Lists Extra

Football/Soccer is clearly the world's most popular sport, and has the most popular athletes, but which sport has the fittest players (but not necessarily the greatest athlete). These players do not always earn the most. The best of the best have made it to our 7 Sporting Wonders Lists.

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