Who's The Greatest?

There have been many great athletes to don an Arizona jersey. From Randy to Curt, Sir Charles to The Matrix, but who's the greatest? In this week's <b>Jibber Jabber With Chad Jones</b> he makes his case for the greatest athlete to play for a Pro team in Arizona. Will it be Randy's K's? Barkley's boards? As Emmitt Smith retires, Chad Jones anoints him the king.

We don't need no stinking baseball… At least not during Super Bowl Week

I know as well as anybody that Futurebacks.com is a web site dedicated to the Arizona Diamondbacks and their prospects, but who can think about baseball right now?  It's Super Bowl week baby.  For Julia from Peoria's information, the word "baby" is being used in a genderless, Dick Vitalesqe manner like "I'M NOT A CHAUVANIST BABY!" Not in the typical "Aw come on and give me some sugar baby," which is the meaning most man haters give to the word.

With that out of the way, we can get down to the business of me telling you why Emmitt Smith is the greatest athlete ever to play for a professional team in Arizona. Before anybody starts reaching for the blood pressure pills, or kicks the cat, let me clarify one thing. I don't think Emmitt's performance as a Cardinal was the greatest by an Arizona athlete. Double Deuce's stat line during his two years with the Slacking Bidwell's was barely better than Garrison Hearst's in 1995 (Emmitt 2003/2004 – 1,193 yds, 11 TD: Garrison Hearst 1995 – 1,070 yds, 1 TD). In case you didn't know, Hearst's 1,070 yards ranks as the eighth best single season performance in the Cardinal's 106 year history. On the contrary, a 1,070 yard season would be Emmitt's 11th best single season total during his 15-year career. According to azcardinals.com, Emmitt's has as many 1,000 yard seasons (11) as the entire Cardinal organization which "holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously run professional football franchise in the nation."

This is one of the many sad but true stats that supports my claim that Arizona, be it the Cardinals, Suns and yes the D-backs, haven't had that many great athletes put on their jerseys.

If you're feeling flush, or the urge to open up a can because you don't like what I'm slinging, I plead for you to sit back, take a Ritalin and listen to my argument before you do something you'll regret en la manana.

I know Charles Barkley, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson have all called Arizona home, and that they are all great athletes. But riddle me this Batman or Batwoman (don't want to get Julia in a tizzy), name another great athlete who has played in Arizona? Kevin Johnson? Nope, too ugly and no rings. Dan Marjle? Sorry, a few good years doesn't make you great. Gonzo? See Dan Marjle.

As mentioned before, Chuck, Schilling and the Unit are all great, and Arizona sports fan should be proud to call them their own, but none of their Hall of Fame careers hold a candle to Emmitt's, a.k.a. the greatest running back in NFL history, who halted any Super Bowl momentum building in my gut when he retired Thursday.

A professional athlete's greatness can usually be broken down into two primary categories: stats (which include records and individual performances) and championships.

And though all stats can't be transferred from one sport to another, it's fair to say that each sport has a couple of primary stats that historians use to judge their greatness. For pitchers like Schilling and Johnson it's wins and strikeouts. Power forwards like Barkley are judged by points and rebounds and for running backs it's yards and touchdowns.

The record books show that neither Schilling (18th in Ks, unranked in wins) nor Johnson (46th in wins) in baseball, or Barkley (15th in scoring and rebounds) in basketball can claim to be their league's all-time record holder in any of their primer stats. As a matter of fact, Johnson is the only one who ranks in the top 14 in any category. He is third all time with 4,161 Ks. This is not the case for Emmitt, who is the NFL's all-time leader in yards (18,355) and rushing touchdowns (164).

His accomplishments become more spectacular when you realize that he didn't just break these records, he crushed them into a nearly untouchable stratosphere reserved for record breakers like Gretsky in Hockey and Kobyashi in competitive eating. Hall of Famer Marcus Allen is second on the all-time rushing touchdown list with 123. That means he'd have score 1/3 or his career total, or 41 more touchdowns, just to tie Emmitt's record. For perspective, Barry Bonds would have to hit 1,006 career home runs to get the same percentage cushion over Hank Aaron.

The other criterion used to define greatness is championships. In a nutshell, Emmitt's three rings with Dallas equal Chuck, Schil and The Unit's combined total.

These stats might not mean much to the Emmitt haters who scream about Barry Sanders being the greatest back ever, but they should mean something to every Arizona sports fan because his greatness, in some small way, can now be tied to yours.

And trust me… you need it.

You can reach Chad Jones at futurebacks@cox.net

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