IT WAS extravagantly claimed in the wake of the 16th world darts title of his 25-year career that Phil Taylor might be the greatest sports champion ever.
The BBC website and other forums suggested as much after a remarkable comeback won him the Professional Darts Corporation world crown.
We applaud this (given his age of 52) yet it provoked consideration of what actually constitutes greatness. Taylor's designation may well be true for his own sport – but greater than Muhammad Ali, Michael Schumacher, and Jack Nicklaus? Or a slew of multiple Olympic and Paralympic champions and world record-breakers? The like of Wiggins, Redgrave, Phelps and Hoy?
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"The Power" indeed showed champion qualities under pressure, but he is simply not up there in the realms of genuine sporting glory. It insults the pantheon of sporting greats even to consider Taylor a contender – and let's not complicate the debate by considering whether darts qualifies as a sport.
Greatness has to be the realm which Lionel Messi inhabits.
A fourth Ballon d'Or when rivals are defined by such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta says it all about the Argentine. He holds the promise of magical innovation, a feeling one may be about to witness something utterly outrageous. No other footballer provokes quite the same frisson of anticipation. It evokes memories of watching Pele and Maradona, Ali and Usain Bolt. Or perhaps Barry John and David Campese with a rugby ball in their hands.
Durability, perspective over time, and quality of opposition shape such evaluation. Is Messi actually all-time best? Define your terms.