I was too young to see Stephen Hendry at his absolute best. My first World Championship was in 1999, and although he impressed me, I was far too young to take serious notice. However, I would make no hesitation proclaiming him as the greatest ever.
The factors I would use to decide the greatest in every sport are as follows
*ability to perform under pressure
*the ability to raise the bar in their profession to new levels
Using these factors, I would rate the following as the best at their respective sports:
Snooker: Stephen Hendry
Athletics: Usain Bolt
Boxing: Muhammad Ali
Cricket: Don Bradman or Muralitharin
Cycling: Lance Armstrong
Darts: Phil Taylor
Formula One: Michael Schumacher
Gaelic Football: Mick O'Connell
Golf: Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods
Horseracing: Tony McCoy
Hurling: Henry Shefflin or Christy Ring
Rugby: David Campese
Tennis: Roger Federer
The thing that struck me as I read this article though was that a huge ammount of people proclaimed Stephen Hendry, and not Ronnie O'Sullivan, as the greatest genius the game has ever had. Hendry may be the greatest ever, but I would not describe him as a genius, let alone the greatest genius. I would go as far to claim as Ronnie O'Sullivan is the greatest genius any sport has ever had. Let's just get this clear: genius has nothing to do with success. I'd rate Jimmy White as being perhaps a borderline genius, far more so than Hendry. Who in their right mind would claim that White is a better player than the Scot?
My factors for genius:
*The ability to do the right things on instinct, speed does perhaps have quite a bit to do with this. It's doing the right things without needing to think about it, rather than doing it because you have to. Natural ability.
*To have reached a higher level of performance than anyone before. Hendry, Davis and Higgins may have put in great performances, but would it ever blow you away in the way O'Sullivan would? I'm definitely in the no camp, having watched the best displays from these respective men.
*The ability to appear at one with your profession. O'Sullivan on form, switching between left and right so seamlessly is poetry in motion.
Very rarely you find someone who can tick both the greatest and greatest genius boxes. Usain Bolt is perhaps an exception, as are Federer and Warne although I wouldn't quite rate them top in both respects. Snooker I feel has had two genuine geniuses: O'Sullivan and Alex Higgins, with Jimmy White in the same mould.
Snooker: Ronnie O'Sullivan
Athletics: Usain Bolt
Boxing: Roy Jones
Cricket: Gary Sobers or Shane Warne
Cycling: Eddie Merckx (I'm not a big cycling fan, so this is probably a long shot)
Darts: Nobody leaps out at me
Formula One: Ayrton Senna
Gaelic Football: Maurice Fitzgerald
Golf: Seve Ballesteros
Horseracing: Ruby Walsh
Hurling: DJ Carey
Rugby: Lomu or Blanco
Tennis: John McEnroe
The main point of this article is to distinguish the boundaries between being the greatest and being a genius. Two completely different things. No doubt this debate will descend into mayhem, but I wanted to give my opinions on this.
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