The Faceoff: Who is the most dominant athlete in sports?

Novak Djokovic

Ryan DeVito, Staff Writer

Though long considered to be the third wheel to a game dominated by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, a new king of the courts has emerged in tennis.

Novak Djokovic, the 23-year-old pride of his native Serbia, has ascended to the highest ranks of tennis history in the past year. Today, no one parallels his dominance.

Djokovic began his meteoric rise in the early tournaments of 2011, opening the season with a second title at the Australian Open en route to a 43-match winning streak. Though falling in the semifinals of the French Open in May, Djokovic easily won 10 tournaments by year’s end, three of them Grand Slams.

Djokovic was peerless in his dominance in 2011. His 70-match wins gave him a 93 percent winning record and included multiple defeats of both Nadal and Federer. In fact, Djokovic bested Nadal in all six matches they played last season, each being in the final of a tournament. Djokovic claimed the world No. 1 ranking in July, making him the first player besides Nadal or Federer to hold the title since Andy Roddick in 2003 and has held the ranking since.

Lauded Association of Tennis Professionals Player of the Year in 2011, Djokovic continued to steamroll his competition into 2012. He opened this season in a spectacular fashion, defending his Australian Open title in a match against Nadal in the longest final in Grand Slam history. Just this month, Djokovic defeated world No. 4 Andy Murray to defend his title at the Miami Masters.

And next month, Djokovic could make history in Paris, France. Should he win at Roland Garros, he would be the first player since 1969 to win four consecutive Grand Slam tournaments.

Though fierce on the court, perhaps Djokovic’s most endearing quality is his good-humored nature. He is known for his lighthearted impersonations of other players and his constant optimism.

But he’s no “Djoke,” as former world No. 1 Boris Becker noted: “He’s beaten everybody [that comes] around to challenge him.”

LeBron James

James Costanzo, Sports Editor

LeBron James averaged 31.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.4 steals per game in his senior year at St. Vincent - St. Mary High School in Akron, O.H. It’s safe to say he’s been dominating for quite some time.

Perhaps the most physically gifted athlete we’ve ever seen, the 6-foot-8-inch, 250 pound small forward plays like a power forward and thinks like a point guard.

Realistically, James has the ability to play and defend all five positions effectively, with the ball skills, court vision and ability to get to the rim unlike anyone we’ve seen since Magic Johnson. If you were going to dream up the perfect basketball player or try to create one in a lab, James would be it.

Unfortunately for James, his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the way he did so, in addition to his laid-back, fun-loving personality and his lack of championship hardware has allowed his domination to go unnoticed and underappreciated. For all those haters out there, let me drop some knowledge on you.

Player Efficiency Rating is a measurement that attempts to reduce a player’s contributions down to a single number. Using a detailed formula, PER sums up the player’s statistical performance per minute for that season. Take a guess at who leads the NBA in PER this season? That’s right, King James.

Not only does James’ current 30.86 PER lead the league, but runner-up Dwayne Wade is not even close. Wade has a 26.65 rating, while Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant rounds out the top three with a 26.48. Kobe Bryant you ask? Please, child. The “Black Mamba” doesn’t even crack the top 10 with a 22.31. James led the league in PER for four years running, ranks second all-time behind only Michael Jordan for his career and this season he has a shot at eclipsing the all-time PER mark of 31.89 set by Jordan in the 1987-88 season.

So hate on James because he doesn’t have that killer instinct or a championship ring, but keep in mind that Jordan didn’t win his first title until he was 28 years old. James turned 27 in December 2011.

Whether you like it or not, LeBron James is the most dominant athlete in sports and it’s been that way since he was a teenager.

Brittney Griner

David Schantz, Staff Writer

On Monday April 3, junior Brittney Griner and the Baylor University Bears put the finishing touches on a perfect season, beating Notre Dame 80-61 in the women’s NCAA tournament final.

The win not only cemented the team’s place in history, but it also made it clear that Griner will be remembered as one of the most dominant centers in NCAA history and the most dominant athlete in her sport today. This year she was, hands down, the best player on one of the best teams of all time.

Griner led the team with 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks in the NCAA title game, statistics that reflected her body of work throughout the season. During her junior campaign she averaged 23.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and over five blocks per game, while shooting 60 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line.

Such statistics are the reason why she won virtually every major award this year, including the Naismith and James R. Wooden Awards, and she was named Associated Press Player of the Year. With her size and skills, Griner electrified stadiums this year with dunks and blocks comparable to her male counterparts. She has the potential to revolutionize her sport, something that few others in the realm of sports can relate to.

In every other major sport there are at least two athletes, and often several others, that can legitimately claim to be the best – with Griner it is not even close. Many casual fans cannot even name another women’s basketball player as dominant as Griner.

We are currently in an era with very few dominant athletes. Those that were once far and away the best in the field, such as Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant and Roger Federer, have fallen back. This has allowed a class of younger athletes to rise up and to lay claim to the throne.

But, because of Griner, this parity is nonexistent in women’s NCAA basketball, which is why she is the most dominant athlete in sports today.

Lionel Messi

Matt Smith, Assistant Sports Editor

At the young age of 24, Fútbol Club Barcelona center forward Lionel Messi is clearly the most dominant player in his sport.

Manchester United star striker Wayne Rooney recently tweeted, “Messi is a joke. For me the best ever.” This incredible praise came after Messi displayed his dominance by scoring a record five goals against German league winner Bayer Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League bout.

Although Messi had never scored five in Champions League play before, he has consistently proven his dominance on the biggest of stages.

Messi recently became the youngest player in almost 40 years to score 60 goals in one season. The all-time record of 67, set by Gerd Müller of Germany’s FC Bayern Munich in 1973, is well within Messi’s reach.

While some claim Messi’s astronomical success is mainly due in part to the other world class players that surround him on the FC Barcelona roster, his dominance is in fact his own. Not just a striker who finishes off great passes, he is a player who scores on his own and creates for others.

The Argentine star conducts the orchestra while playing first violin. What sets him apart from others like Real Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo is his ability to be successful by any means.

As FIFA’s World Player of the Year in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Messi consistently proves to be more dominant in soccer than any other athlete is in their respective sport.

With video game-like moves that embarrass even the staunchest of defensemen, Messi’s dominance will only increase in the years to come.

Tom Brady

Erik Talbot, Assistant Sports Editor

To be a dominant athlete in any sport, one must combine play on the field with being both a winner and a leader. For that reason, Tom Brady is the most dominant athlete in professional sports.

The quarterback is the most influential position in the sports world and for more than a decade Brady has been and continues to be the best quarterback in football. It’s worth noting that I don’t like Brady, the New England Patriots or Boston teams in general.

Throughout his career, Brady’s team has consistently won. He holds a remarkable record of 124-35 during the regular season and 16-6 mark in the playoffs, he won three Super Bowls and he competed in two others in 10 seasons as a starter. He holds the record with 18 wins during the 2007 season in what was possibly the greatest single season performance of all time.

Brady is amazing on the field and has improved throughout his career. In 2011, he threw for 5,235 yards and took the second worst defense in football to the Super Bowl. The past three years Brady has averaged over 4,500 yards, 34 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.

Novak Djokovic may be the No. 1 tennis player in the world, but his dominance has been skewed. He may have won seven in a row against Rafael Nadal, but he still lost to Roger Federer. Djokovic only appears to be the best because Nadal continued to dominate Federer throughout their careers. It’s a circle of dominance with Djokovic beating Nadal, Nadal beating Federer and Federer beating Djokovic.

Andrés Iniesta contributes more to Barcelona’s success than Lionel Messi does. He may not appear on the stat sheet, but his passing and space-creating abilities as a midfielder are irreplaceable. Not to mention it was Iniesta who scored the game-winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final while Messi failed to score in the entire tournament.

There is no way that Tom Brady is not the most dominant athlete in professional sports. His combination of performance and winning success is second to none.