One of the biggest arguments in sports that has been raging on for decades (and will continue to rage on), has been the question of who is the greatest athlete of all time. In this conversation you will hear a list of names such as Bo Jackson, Babe Ruth, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and more, but in reality, there is one name that should appear at the top of this list, and you may not even know who he is. The man I am talking about is none other than Jim Thorpe. Thorpe (born in 1887 and died in 1953) was a pro athlete in a number of different sports and achieved moderate to amazing success in all of them, which is something that has rarely been seen in history . Here in this article I will break down his career by sport and take a look at what makes him the greatest athlete ever.
Jim Thorpe got his start in baseball in 1913 as a member of the New York Giants. He played with them for three years as an outfielder. After losing the 1913 World Series with them, he went on a world tour with the team as they traveled around the world barnstorming, and he was the major attraction. In fact, he even got to meet the Pope and played ball in front of 20,000 people in London, including King George V. He bounced around a few other teams throughout his pro baseball career that lasted until 1922 (with the last few years being in the minors). In his career, he played a total of 289 games, had a .252 batting average, 176 hits and 82 RBIs.
Like with baseball, Thorpe first got his start in pro football in 1913. He made headlines in 1915 when he signed with the Canton Bulldogs, who paid him $250 a game (which is the equivalent of about $5900 today), which was extremely high pay for the time. He helped lead the team to championships in 1916,1917 and 1919. Eventually, he began to coach the team while still playing with them too. Throughout his actual NFL career, Thorpe played in 52 NFL games for six teams from 1920 to 1928, and retired at 41.
And on top of being a pro football and baseball player, Jim Thorpe was also an Olympic athlete, which might actually be the most impressive feat of his career. He was a track and field athlete and at the 1912 Olympic games he competed in high jump, long jump, decathlon and pentathlon. Even more impressive than just being an Olympic athlete and getting there, he actually won two gold medals. He took home the gold medal in both the decathlon and pentathlon. He finished 4th and 7th in high jump and long jump respectively.
So, as you can see, it is very hard to argue against Thorpe being the best athlete ever. To play pro baseball and pro football concurrently, a year removed from winning two gold medals, is something that no other athlete has ever been able to say, nor will ever be able to say.