It’s one of those great, traditional, late-night questions, equal parts entertaining and pointless, tossed around after a bottle of red or two:
Who are the greatest alliterative sportspeople by letter?
And the answer goes something like this:
Andre Agassi – easily.
Bonnie Blair – Firstly, the drugs controversy surrounding Barry Bonds means that he is removed from the discussion before it even begins. And one feels for Boris Becker who isn’t even the best BB from his own sport as Bjorn Borg’s 11 Slams (from 27 attempts, with a record 89.8% winning record in Slam matches) beats Boris hands down. Arguably though, Borg sits only second or third on the list of BB’s. He joins Bob Beamon – whose long jump World Record lasted 23 years – as perhaps the unluckiest in the whole alphabet not to score a win. But Blair won 5 gold medals in Speed Skating, including 3 in the same event, across 4 Olympics. She didn’t just break World Records, she smashed them…and won Olympic events with record margins.
Clive Churchill – So Cassius Clay makes – how does one put it? – a rather good case for his inclusion here. However, changing his name from CC to MA after his first title fight means that most of his career happened in a non-alliterative sense. Meanwhile, Australia’s “Little Master” of rugby league is the only CC to have been credited with changing his sport. One of seven rugby league “immortals”, the Fullback of the Century, and the man whose name adorns the NRL Grand Final’s man-of-the-match award, Churchill was the first to play his traditionally defensive position with attacking flair and charisma.
Didier Drogba – Beating former top ranked golfer David Duval, Drogba’s continued success with Chelsea during their club’s greatest era gives him the nod. Coming from the Ivory Coast gives him extra points here too.
Ernie Els – Fights off stiff competition from alliteratively nicknamed legends Eddie the Eagle and Eric the Eel. The South African becomes the second leg in an African trifecta, as…
Frankie Fredericks – the World Champion sprinter and four-time Olympic silver medallist wasn’t just a brilliant athlete, he is also Namibia’s only Olympic medallist.
George Gervin – One of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time, Gervin should feel lucky here to have ousted a man who holds the record for having played the most rugby union test matches in Aussie half-back George Gregan and the man who shares in the highest-scoring-partnership over the course of a test cricket career in West Indian opening bastman Gordon Greenidge.
Harry Hopman – So do captain/coaches count? 16 Davis Cup wins say they absolutely should here. And besides, it’s about time we had a second Aussie on the list.
Ivan Ivanov – Bulgarian weightlifter who scored Gold in Barcelona. That being said, one struggles for II athletes about as much as Mr Ivanov’s parents did for an original first name for their son.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee – Sports Illustrated rated her the best female athlete of the 20th Century.
Karch Kiraly – The only person to have won Olympic gold medals in both indoor and beach volleyball.
Lisa Leslie – A shame, as we Aussies dislike her so, but she is a 4 time Olympic Gold Medalist and a 3-time WNBA MVP. If only Libby Lenton hadn’t married into the Trickett family, she might have had a chance.
Mickey Mantle – Right up there with the BB’s as the most competitive letter. Matthew Mitcham needs at least another couple of gold medals if he’s to be in the same league as Mal Meninga, Malcolm Marshall and squash superstar (if such a sport can have ‘super’stars…) Michelle Martin. But however much one may prefer to award this to a female Aussie squash player or a West Indian fast bowler (average 20.94, thanks very much), Mantle just takes this one.
Nate Newton – 6-time Pro-Bowl selection on the offensive line for Dallas. Although we’re all hoping that Nic Naitanui takes the lead sometime in the next 10 years.
Oleg Ogorodov – Uzbek tennis player, once ranked 101st in the World. If only Jesse’s parents had named him Owen Owens…
Paul Pierce – Whether or not he wins another Championship with the Celtics this season.
Quincy Quek – The youngest on the list at 23, the Singaporean golfer appropriately went to Q-school to qualify for this year’s Asian tour.
Richie Richardson – So Marshall and Greenidge missed out, but this West Indian great scores a spot.
Sam Snead – How does one compare a golfer at his peak in the 40s and 50s to Stephen Silvagni, the AFL fullback of the century? Or with record-breaking NFL tight-end Shannon Sharpe? Such is the ridiculousness of this and so many similar lists – naming the greatest players by number for example. The only sure thing is that Summer Sanders is the best looking allitarative sports person in history.
Thurman Thomas – The man who started a Superbowl a little late because he couldn’t find his helmet. Fair running back, mind.
Ugueth Urbina – The only player in Major League history with the initials UU may now be sitting in a Venezualan jail for attempted murder, but in his former life he won a World Series with the Markins and was a two-time All-Star.
Vladimir Vasin – Diving gold medallist from Russia. Defeats former Wimbledon quarter-finalist Vladimir Voltchkov.
Wes Welker – Joins Drogba, Els, Pierce and Quek as one of five members of the list who are still active. New England’s wide receiver has led the NFL in receptions in two of the past three seasons, becoming the first player in history to receive 110 passes in three consecutive years.
Xie Xingfang – Recently retired, the two-time badminton World Champion won Silver at her home Olympics in Beijing.
Yang Yang (A) – China comes to the party again, with a second consecutive obscure letter – Yang Yang (A) was a more successful short track speed skater than her colleague Yang Yang (S). She was a two-time gold medallist.
Zinedine Zidane – as easily as Andre.