Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

Hear me out...Who is the greatest American athlete off all-time?

Spoiler: It's Serena Williams


April 29, 2017


Serena Williams after her 2017 Austrailia Open win.

I know it's anticlimactic to spoil the answer in the subhead but I'm going Quentin Tarantino with it and telling you the ending now and work backwards from there

I've wanted to write something on Serena Williams for a while. Originally, I wanted to write a column on how underappreciated she is, after her dominant Australian Open victory, but I was on a role in the NFL playoffs and she got pushed to the backburner.

But she sent out an Instagram post of herself 20 weeks pregnant last week; then everyone did the math and realized she was pregnant during her Australian Open win.

I had my window.

As I thought of angles to write about Williams and did some research on her incredible career, it finally hit me. She is the greatest American athlete of all-time. I understand this is a highly subjective claim but my case for Williams is this.

(I'm borrowing this idea from Bill Simmons/the writers of Space Jam.)

If aliens came to Earth kicked down the door to the Oval Office and told 45 he had two choices. He could have the US military go toe-to-toe with a much more advanced alien army; no there isn't going to be a simple way of defeating them like the aliens didn't account for Earth's germs or that water was their kryptonite. They've mastered space-travel they've done their homework on Earth.

Or the other choice for 45 is to select one champion for the aliens to take on in whatever arena. If our champion wins we stay free, if he or she loses we bend the knee.

Obviously, we're going with choice number two. There would be a slight panic over who to go with, because it's not like we could bring Jesse Owens or Jim Thorpe from the dead or even get a time machine to grab Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson or Michael Phelps in their primes.

But we wouldn't need to worry about any of that because we have the greatest American athlete in her never-ending prime right now.

Williams has been a force on the tennis scene since 1999, a sport with a relatively short shelf life, and has dominated since 2002.

To put it in perspective, Steffi Graf who was the greatest tennis player of all-time until Williams, dominated the '90s with 14 majors. Williams has dominated two decades, the '00s and '10s, and what's even crazier is that she's been better during this decade winning 12 of her 23 majors in this decade and there's still time for more.

She's won the most majors in the modern era, won a gold medal in 2012 and is the only player to have double-digit major victories in two decades. Then there are also the 14 majors and three gold medals she has won with her sister Venus in doubles.

This year's Australia Open (AO) win was also incredible because she didn't drop a single set all the while growing a human being. I love Michael Jordan and basketball is my favorite sport but his "Flu Game" doesn't hold up to Williams' 2017 AO win.

Playing a match with your country's fate in the balance is going to bring a lot of pressure and could even break the strongest mentally. But Williams has been dealing with pressure and adversity her whole career and just keeps getting better.

She's had to deal with racism like what happened to her at the Indian Wells Open in 2001. Or people trying to delegitimize her career accusing her of match-fixing or saying she really doesn't have the passion for tennis. Then there's the people trying to write her off by saying she was on the downward slope of her career in 2007 or forcing rivalries with players like Maria Sharapova.

Williams/Sharapova is a lot like the New England Patriots/Pittsburgh Steelers rivalry in that it's not a rivalry. Ever since Sharapova upset Williams at Wimbledon in 2004, Sharapova has only picked up one win and has currently lost 18-straight.

What's even better about Williams' winning streak over Sharapova is that there is bad blood between the two and Williams crushes her at each and every opportunity.

Going back to Williams' dominance, ruling a sport as long as she has is unheard of. I know living in this era where sports medicine has been taking leaps and bounds makes a big difference but you still need the talent to capitalize.

Tiger Woods came close to replicating what Williams has done but not quite. He had a dominate stretch but not the duration. Williams is a living legend and looks like she has plenty more in the tank and as she keeps piling up the major victories, she'll keep putting distance between her and whoever the second greatest American athlete is.

So if those aliens do come a-knockin' and want to take on Serena Williams on the tennis court, we can all rest easy. She's going to rock them and make them contemplate their life choices.


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