What makes an athlete great?

In the sports community, a phrase we so often hear is “Oh they are destined for greatness.” But how we define and measure the greatness of an athlete?

In the sports world, we have some greats: Serena Williams, Mia Hamm, Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, Cristiano Ronaldo. But, what is it that really makes them special? Is it measured as a pure numbers game or are there outside factors? If it is numbers, what do they consist of? Is it the number of championships or their averaging stats?

The amount of championships under their belt seems to be the general measuring stick when determining who’s great, but there’s so many players not mentioned.

Take basketball for instance, whenever great basketball players are mentioned, we hear Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James.

Before winning the first of his three NBA championships in 2012 James was regarded as one of the greatest to ever play the game for years, arguably even better than Jordan. Many of his critics, however, argued he couldn’t be better than Jordan with zero championships compared to Jordan’s six.

This argument and logic makes sense if we’re solely counting championships, but then there’s Robert Horry whose seven NBA championships eclipse that of Jordan, Bryant, and James.

There are many athletes that fans and analysts regard as an all-time great that have failed to win a single championship. NBA Hall of Fame members Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson, NFL Hall of Famers OJ Simpson and Barry Sanders, even the MLB’s home-run king Barry Bonds have all failed to win a championship.

Whether it was the fiery hot head personality of Iverson that almost single-handedly drove the Philadelphia 76ers to an NBA championship or the hard-nosed no nonsense play of Barkley, many athletes who didn’t win championships had traits that made them great.

Sports today have evolved. With that evolution the definition of greatness has changed as well.

At the end of the day there does not seem to be a true definition of what makes a player great. It could be the style of play, the personality that some of these players play with or simply the numbers.

Greatness is subjective, and instead of arguing about who is better, I think that we should just enjoy these athletes while we can..

Marc Wilson can be reached at [email protected] or @mwilsonsports on Twitter.