In my lifetime I have witnessed the following careers:
Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Tebow (for college – not pros), Tim Duncan, Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Mariano Rivera, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Sidney Crosby, Steve Yzerman, Lionel Messi and more.
And now we can add Michael Phelps to that list in an All-Time position. Sure we could have put him on the list after his 8 Gold Medal performance in Bejing, but now that he has captured the All-Time Medal lead, his spot is assured. For the following reason:
He owns the two most significant Olympic records –We all remember the name Mark Spitz. Now we know Michael Phelps who surpassed him four years ago with 8 golds – easily the most dominant performance any of us will ever see. Then, just to cap it off, Phelps (who also won golds in Athens as well) has now won 3 medals in London. He won a silver and never really had a shot at gold. He won a bronze and never really had a shot at gold. Then he earned the all-time record with a fantastic gold medal. Phelps taking the record with a gold feels right. Phelps would be in the pantheon with just his Bejing performance but he has now gone on to medal in three Olympics. His longevity in a sport that requires ridiculously tough training is also impressive. Think about it this way: Mark Spitz never set the All-Time record and Michael Phelps passed him. Then he still went on to take the All-Time Record.
Welcome to the club Michael. Congrats. You really earned it and have a place among the greatest of the Greatness Generation.