By Miles Jaye
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a growing trend among boxers, basketball players and rappers. There seems to be a fascination with the notion of the G.O.A.T.—the Greatest of All Times. Who is the best, the greatest… of all time? The question is bothersome. It’s far too presumptive and far too subjective for a rational evidence-based debate. Too many elements change and too much evolves over the decades that constitute all times. Let’s take the best rapper for instance. How, for the sake of a rating, can you compare a genre featuring basketball courts, chain link fences, and hi-top clad, cardboard born, break dancers to a modern-day hip-hop culture of cash, cars, tattooed faces, diamonds, dead bodies and more beefs than beats? You can’t!
Top 10 Rappers of All Time: Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Rakim, Nas, Jay-Z, Kool Moe Dee, Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, LL Cool J and Doug E. Fresh.
Top 10 Basketball Players of All Time: Michael Jordan. Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Julius Erving, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, Oscar Robertson and Lebron James. Sports announcers seem determined to elevate Lebron James to the pinnacle of the game of basketball without fair and reasonable consideration paid to his many predecessors. Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan come to mind. They all transformed the game, but anyone offering a Top 3, Top 5 or Top 10 list that does not only include James but places him in the top position is provoking the ire of the experts.
Top 10 Running Backs of All Time: Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Earl Campbell, Tony Dorsett, O.J. Simpson and Marcus Allen.
The most vigorously debated G.O.A.T. personalities were boxers, quarterbacks and running backs. These debates were much easier to follow because each side was supported with statistics, whether it was yards or knockouts, there was a body of information to follow. Once again, however, the evolution of the game or contest became a determining factor. Perhaps more interesting, was the physiology of the contest. Particularly in the game of football for instance, the fact that players have become bigger and faster has changed the discussion. Bigger and faster? Yes, that is essentially counter-intuitive, but the combines reveal 300 pounders running 40s that were unheard of in the past—the big guys are fast.
Top 10 Quarterbacks of All Time: Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, Dan Marino, John Elway, Warren Moon and Terry Bradshaw.
Top 10 Boxers of All Time: Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Sugar Ray Robinson, Archie Moore, Sonny Liston, Muhammed Ali, Joe Frazier, Joe “Brown Bomber” Louis, Rocky Marciano and John L. Sullivan.
When it comes to singers, the discussion can never be entirely reasonable, rational or fair. It’s such a function of taste, style, a look, and a particular song. The artist cannot be separated from the song they made famous. Would we even know Dionne Warwick without Bacharach’s compositions and Hal David’s lyrical brilliance? Of course, we would, but it’s an interesting consideration. Every singer or group listed below can be associated with a popular melody or lyric, and visa-versa. So then, is the artist the greatest, or is it their body of music the distinguishes them as great?
The Top 10 Male Soul Singers of All Time: Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Al Green, Ray Charles, B.B. King, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and Nat “King” Cole.
Top 10 Female Vocalists of All Time: Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Diana Ross, Nina Simone, Dionne Warwick, Chaka Khan and Tina Turner.
Top 10 R&B Bands of All Time: Earth, Wind and Fire, The Isley Brothers, Parliament-Funkadelic, Kool & the Gang, Sly & the Family Stone, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, The Commodores, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, The Ohio Players and Cameo.
The same argument can be made for the musicians, the pianists, sax players or their counterparts on trumpet. Some contributors to the art-form are so monumentally significant in its development like Parker and Bebop or Miles and the Birth of the Cool, that their contribution alone sets them apart from the talent and skill sets of their peers. Generally speaking, the language of music evolves…audiences change through fashion, dance, and listening preferences. Big Bands become quartets and quintets. Hi and fast becomes mid-range and laid back. The language of art always changes, but the gifted ones will always have their say!
Top 10 Jazz Pianists of All Time: Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Fats Waller, Earl Hines, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Red Garland and Horace Silver
Top 10 Jazz Trumpeters of All Time: Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Chet Baker, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw and Arturo Sandoval.
Top 10 Jazz Saxophonists of All Time: Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Cannonball Adderley, Hank Crawford, Gerry Mulligan, Stanley Turrentine, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Ben Webster.
Every name on the lists above earned their recognition. Names not yet on a list, are perhaps today making an argument to be added, working diligently to develop their God given talent. For this, they can always be grateful and proud. I respect them all. Interestingly, there are also lists of the worst of all time in particular areas.
To be the worst of a thing can only mean an individual had no respect or regard for the requirements of the particular discipline in which they were engaged. In short, they didn’t care. To be the worst of American Presidents, the worst in United States history, is simply a declaration of disrespect, disregard and indifference to the powerful obligations of the office itself and the Oath pledged to honor the office.
This list is a list of one. Donald J. Trump will arguably, but most assuredly, go down in history as the very worst of American presidents.
That’s what’s on my mind!