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Sports has become a unifying tool which has brought people from different nations and races together.

Music has also played its part but can we say that there is no human activity that  has fostered unity the way Sports has done?. The contributions of sportsmen of colour to world sports cannot be quantified.

The documented history of sports goes back at least 3,000 years, when sports involved preparing for war or training as a hunter. This explains why the early games involved the throwing of spears, stakes, and rocks, and sparring one-on-one with opponents. .

With the first Olympic Games in 776 BC—which included events such as foot and chariot races, wrestling, jumping, and discus and javelin throwing—the ancient Greeks introduced formal sports to the world.

In the past, many black athletes achieved enviable feats. Even during the era of institutionalized racism, blacks stood out and won the hearts of many. Today, Sports has become one of the most popular medium used to advocate the dangers of racism and foster the spirit of brotherhood.

BLACKWASH Sports Editor, Oluwayemi Omolagba has compiled a list of 10 outstanding black athletes, based on dominance, ability to bounce back after adversity and impact on society.

10.Tiger Woods – In a predominantly white-elitist sport, his athleticism and aggression are destined to reward him with every one of golf’s hallowed records.

Following an outstanding junior, college, and amateur golf career, Woods turned professional in 1996 at the age of 20. By the end of April 1997, he won three PGA Tour events in addition to his first major, the 1997 Masters, which he won by 12 strokes in a record-breaking performance. He reached number one in the world rankings for the first time in June 1997, less than a year after turning pro.

Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, Woods was the dominant force in golf. He was the top-ranked golfer in the world from August 1999 to September 2004 (264 consecutive weeks) and again from June 2005 to October 2010 (281 consecutive weeks). During this time, he won 13 of golf’s major championships.

The next decade of Woods’ career was marked by comebacks from personal problems and injuries. He took a self-imposed hiatus from professional golf from December 2009 to early April 2010 in an attempt to resolve marital issues with his wife Elin at the time.

Woods admitted to multiple infidelities, and the couple eventually divorced. He fell to number 58 in the world rankings in November 2011 before ascending again to the number-one ranking between March 2013 and May 2014.

Woods has held numerous golf records. He has been the number one player in the world for the most consecutive weeks and for the greatest total number of weeks of any golfer in history. He has been awarded PGA Player of the Year a record 11 times and has won the Byron Nelson Award for lowest adjusted scoring average a record eight times. Woods has the record of leading the money list in ten different seasons.

He has won 15 professional major golf championships (trailing only Jack Nicklaus, who leads with 18) and 82 PGA Tour events (tied for first all time with Sam Snead).

Woods leads all active golfers in career major wins and career PGA Tour wins. Woods is the fifth (after Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus) player to achieve the career Grand Slam, and the youngest to do so. He is also the second golfer (after Nicklaus) to achieve a career Grand Slam three times.

Woods has won 18 World Golf Championships. He was also part of the American winning team for the 1999 Ryder Cup. In May 2019, Woods was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Donald Trump, the fourth golfer to receive the honor.

On February 23, 2021, Woods was hospitalized in serious but stable condition after a single-car collision and underwent emergency surgery to repair compound fractures sustained in each leg in addition to a shattered ankle.

  1. Jerry Rice – Only player in NFL history with more than 20,000 career receiving yards. Career receptions, career receiving yards, career receiving touchdowns.

Name a major NFL pass-catching record and it likely belongs to Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver of all time.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his journey to becoming the undeniable greatest of all time (GOAT) is the fact that it all began at a historically black university.

During his four-year career at Mississippi Valley State, Rice earned one of the dopest nicknames when teammates and coaches began calling him “World” because of his ability to catch anything and everything thrown in his vicinity.

After becoming a two-time first-team Division I-AA All-American and setting 18 I-AA records, Rice took his sure-handedness to the NFL, where he played an unfathomable 20 seasons for three teams, most notably the San Francisco 49ers.

Out of his aforementioned NFL marks, the one that separates itself the most is his 22,895 career receiving yards, which is considered the most unbreakable record in league history.

When it comes to receiving, every NFL wideout who’s succeeded him is stuck in Rice’s world, playing catch-up.

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Gymnastics – Artistic – Women’s Team – Final – Ariake Gymnastics Centre, Tokyo, Japan – July 27, 2021. Simone Biles of the United States in action on the vault. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
  1. Simone Biles – With a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals, Biles is tied as the most decorated gymnast of all time. Biles’ seven Olympic medals also ties Shannon Miller for the most Olympic medals won by an American female gymnast.

At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Biles won individual gold medals in the all-around, vault, and floor; bronze on balance beam; and gold as part of the United States team, dubbed the “Final Five”.

At the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, she won bronze on balance beam, as well as silver with the United States team, after struggling with “the twisties”, a temporary loss of air balance awareness.

Biles is also a five-time World all-around champion (2013–2015, 2018–2019), five-time World floor exercise champion (2013–2015, 2018–2019), three-time World balance beam champion (2014–2015, 2019), two-time World vault champion (2018–2019), a seven-time United States national all-around champion (2013–2016, 2018–2019, 2021), and a member of the gold medal-winning American teams at the 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships.

Additionally, she is a three-time World silver medalist (2013 and 2014 on vault, 2018 on uneven bars) and a three-time World bronze medalist (2015 on vault, 2013 and 2018 on balance beam).

Biles is the gymnast with the most World medals (25) and most World gold medals (19), having surpassed Vitaly Scherbo’s record 23 World medals by winning her 24th and 25th, both gold, at the 2019 competition in Stuttgart.

She is the female gymnast with the most World all-around titles (5). Biles is the sixth woman to win an individual all-around title at both the World Championships and the Olympics, and the first gymnast since Lilia Podkopayeva in 1996 to hold both titles simultaneously.

She is the tenth female gymnast and first American female gymnast to win a World medal on every event, and the first female gymnast since Daniela Silivaș in 1988 to win a medal on every event at a single Olympic Games or World Championships, having accomplished this feat at the 2018 World Championships in Doha.

Biles is considered one of the greatest and most dominant gymnasts of all time.

  1. Wilt Chamberlain – Decades ahead of his time in size and strength, he averaged 50 points and 25 rebounds per game in the 1962 NBA season. 100 points in one game (March 2, 1962), single-game NBA record.

As arguably the most polarizing and dominating force in sports history with regard to accomplishments, the sky was the limit for the man known by names such as “The Big Dipper” and “Wilt the Stilt.”

Wilton Norman Chamberlain, (who died in 1999 of an apparent heart attack) at one point owned 72 NBA records, 68 of them by himself. And some of these records, such as averaging 37 points and 27 rebounds in his rookie season, averaging 50 points for an entire season, earning 11 rebounding titles or scoring 100 points in a single game, will likely never be broken.

Had blocks been tallied when he was playing, the Philly native would likely lead in that category as well. Though often on the receiving end of Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics’ 1960s dominance, there’s no doubt Chamberlain’s legacy continues to endear him to a league drastically different from the one he helped carry a half-century earlier.

Chamberlain retired in 1973 as the league’s all-time leading scorer, although the ridiculously physically fit enigma probably could have played a few more seasons. He was still receiving contract offers at the age of 50.

  1. Pele – Indomitable skill and irrepressible smile introduced America to the world’s most popular sport.

With 1,283 career goals scored, a world record, Pelé was named co-FIFA Player of the Century in 1999, along with Diego Maradona.

He is widely regarded as the greatest soccer player who ever lived. Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Três Corações, Brazil, Pelé turned professional at 15 with Santos in 1956.

He became an international star at the 1958 World Cup, winning the tournament for the first of three times. And by 1969 he notched his 1,000th goal, which led to fans storming the field in celebration. It caused a 30-minute delay.

After Pelé’s rise to stardom, European clubs attempted to pry him away but the then Brazilian President Jânio Quadros couldn’t allow Pelé to leave on his watch thereby pushing through a bill naming Pelé a literal “national treasure,” making it legally difficult for the legend to leave the country. But Pelé of course made the most of his travels and in official capacities.

J.B. Pinheiro, Brazil’s ambassador to the United Nations, said Pelé “did more to promote world friendship and fraternity than any other ambassador anywhere.”

  1. Serena Williams – Winner of 23 Grand Slam individual titles, most in Open era history.

When Serena Williams won the 2017 Australian Open, the 35-year-old superstar made history with her 23rd Grand Slam title in the 50-year history of the Open era.

In seven matches, she failed to drop a single set. Oh, yeah, and she played the entire tournament while two months pregnant. If that’s not greatness, show us what is.

Since turning pro in 1995, Williams has put on endless displays of athleticism and toughness, while establishing herself as the greatest female athlete the world has ever seen. Yet, throughout her career, she has endured body-shaming, accusations of doping, racist and sexist comments, and challenges of her skill.

  1. Willie Mays – 7,095 career putouts, most of any outfielder in MLB history

Hit for average, hit for power, run, throw and field — those are the required skills of a coveted “five-tool” player, who are few and far between in Major League Baseball.

Yet, when this type of athlete comes around, there’s no question that he’s built in the image of Willie Mays, the greatest five-tool player to ever grace a diamond. Mays finished his 22-year MLB career with a .302 batting average, 660 home runs, four National League stolen base titles, 12 Gold Glove Awards and 24 All-Star appearances (from 1959 to 1962, there were two All-Star games).

“They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays,” longtime Red Sox great Ted Williams once said about the man nicknamed the “Say Hey Kid,” a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1979.

The seminal moment of Mays’ legendary career came in the 1954 World Series, when the New York Giants center fielder robbed Vic Wertz of a deep base hit with his trademark basket grab.

The play, known simply as “The Catch,” is one of the purest displays of defensive prowess in baseball history.

  1. Muhammad Ali – Floated like a butterfly. Stung like a bee. He changed the word because of his strong opinion about the Vietnam War, for which he was nearly sent to jail. He refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army.

Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1942, Muhammad Ali became a household name after a gold medal display at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

His outspoken nature endeared him to millions, but he made enemies out of nearly as many. His victories over Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman became singular moments of the past century.

Where Ali became a larger-than-life icon, though, was outside of the ring. He’d sacrificed the prime years of his career (1967–70) in a battle with the U.S. government over his refusal to be inducted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Ali also served as one of the most visible athletes during the civil rights movement of the ’60s and black liberation battles of the ’70s. Parkinson’s disease robbed Ali of his most powerful weapon: his voice. Yet, as his health waned, his legacy proved to be not just of sports, but of the world. He forever changed the role of athletes in activism.

And more than any name on this list, Ali changed the world by forcing it to realize ugly truths about itself and challenging it to change.

  1. Jackie Robinson – Not only broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but at UCLA he also led the nation in football kick returns and led the Pacific Coast Conference in basketball scoring.

In 1947, he won the inaugural MLB Rookie of the Year award with .297 batting average, 175 hits, 29 stolen bases and 12 home runs

Others were more talented. Robinson was chosen because he had the temperament to handle the hostility he’d face from opponents, fans and even some of his teammates. Not that Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey wanted a black player who was afraid to fight back.

Rickey told Robinson he desired a player with “guts enough not to fight back.” Robinson was more than a guy who could maintain calm through adversity.

The only UCLA athlete ever to letter in baseball, basketball, football and track, Robinson could ball.

The 1947 Rookie of the Year was, in 10 seasons, a six-time All-Star, a two-time stolen base leader and a batting champion.

As his baseball career ended, Robinson continued to break barriers: He became the first black vice president of a major American corporation when he assumed that position at Chock Full o’Nuts. Robinson died of a heart attack in 1972. He was 53. A short life for a man who left an everlasting legacy.

  1. Michael Jordan – Six NBA championships, five MVPs and the coolest nickname in the history of sports: Air.

He won 63 points during 1986 playoff game, the most in playoffs history. What does it take to be named the greatest of all time?

A perfect combination of dominance, impact and inspiration which Michael Jordan has surely possessed throughout his career, from the time he was cut from varsity as a sophomore in high school to building his own billion-dollar brand.

In 15 NBA seasons, Jordan was nothing short of dominant, claiming six NBA titles in six trips to the Finals, with six Finals MVPs. After his playing career ended, his impact on the court and in the sneaker industry gave Jordan the means to become the only African-American majority owner in major professional sports, yet another step on his journey to eminence.

There’s often debate as to whether Jordan is still the greatest of all time (GOAT) in NBA history, but even the league has made the distinction. Larry Bird once gave him even higher praise, saying, “I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

 

 

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Blackwash is home to news, events, entertainment, inspiration and the rich cultural assemblage of the man and woman of colour. Blackwash echoes the beauty, struggles and successes of black people in Nigeria and diaspora. Every day, Blackwash publishes contents that impact lives spiritually, intellectually and professionally. Blackwash is powered by PROJECT MANAGEMENT HUB BN 2522711.

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