IN THE past few days, we saw two of the greatest athletes of all time add to their collection of trophies, Rafael Nadal in the French Open and LeBron James in the National Basketball Association (NBA) finals. For Nadal, his 13th Roland Garros trophy and his 20th overall. For James, his fourth NBA ring after the Lakers’ 4-2 conquest of the Miami Heat.
Lucky are we tennis fans to be a witness of the era of the Big 3 -- Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic -- arguably three of the greatest tennis players ever. Nadal has made his case for the label, two years after Federer claimed number 20 and interestingly enough both men love to deflect such talks.
After winning No. 20 against world no. 1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets Nadal said he feels he isn’t the Goat and merely added that such talk is better left when their careers are over. Which is right, of course, but that doesn’t stop all the armchair experts.
On the other hand, over in the basketball world, talks of who is the Goat have been going on for years that the subject has also become touchy at times. Of course, it also doesn’t help when sometimes the King refers to himself as the greatest.
The topic is subjective too and it doesn’t help that the man LeBron is being compared to played at his peak over two decades ago and being a team sport, much emphasis is given by some to the contributions of teammates to the Goat’s title haul.
No such thing as a teammate in tennis and the Goats in question all played in the same era, though not entering at the same time.
Federer started his run first before Nadal came along and etched his name in the red clay of Paris. Djokovic came into the picture as a jokester but shed that tag when he started his dominant run. And you can’t say that the tennis goats did it at a time when the field was diluted, an argument used against the 1996 Chicago Bulls when they were compared with the ‘71 Lakers for the Greatest Team of All Time.
So perhaps, it would be wise for the basketball nuts to take heed of what Nadal thinks of the goat.
“The numbers should be analyzed by people who have good knowledge of the history of tennis. Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me much. I’m happy with my career. We’ll see what happens in the next few years: what Djokovic does, what Federer does when he returns and what I keep doing. If all goes well, we’ll have time to analyze it when our careers are over,” Nadal said.
If all goes well indeed, the next few years will be an extension of tennis’ greatest era.