What’s The Difference Between Nowadays Athletes versus Legends

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A never-ending debate. Who are better athletes? Our legends we all know and love or the nowadays athletes and rising stars. Find out!

There is always this one annoying guy who’s, without doubt, the loudest, most opinionated, who knows all the best old school athletes and never misses the opportunity to mention one or two of them in a conversation.

Maybe it’s your dad, best friend, or an old friend from school. But in the middle of a debate, he will rather drink some poison than admit that Cristiano Ronaldo would be a match to our beloved Ronaldinho.

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He is so certain that nowadays athletes have got that far only because of advanced science and equipment. So is it true, is our fresh blood just a glimpse of old school glory? Or are our new athletes even better, faster, and stronger? 

The legends we all know

All of us know and honor our former sports legends. If anyone would ask you to name a couple of the best-retired players, then among one of the first names that would pop into your head are either Michal Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Muhammad Ali, Pele, Maradona, or Ronaldinho.

retired gif

And if you are a true fan of the classics and not just good at googling, you know the names and stories behind athletes like Wilt Chamberlain, Wayne Gretzky, Florence Griffith Joyner. 

Either way, we all know and love them! But, do we actually remember how did they write their names into history?

Michael Jordan

This is a man who has the single most recognizable face in all of basketball history. You either have heard of him or at least heard his name. You could freely call him The Closer, scoring 41 points per game in the 1993 NBA Finals. Yep, 41 points a night in that six-game series. From 1986 to 1993, he led the league in scoring each year en route to winning 10 scoring titles in 12 years.

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali is an icon and the face of boxing. His “Fight of the Century” against Joe Frazier is one of the most famous boxing matches ever and it will be remembered for at least 100 years and more. 

Wayne Gretzky

Also known “The Great One”. The greatest hockey player of all time, and who holds the record for most points in a career! Four times he totaled more than 200 points in a season and is still the only player to ever do so.

Wilt Chamberlain

A legend who scored 100 points in a single NBA game, setting a record that remains unmatched. There are not so many players who have scored 60 or more points in a single NBA game, and Wilt Chamberlain is the one who beats them all. 

Looking at those unbelievable achievements by our eternal legends, it is hard to imagine anything better. Or is it?

Nowadays talents and rising-stars

In reality, there are so many new players who have also contributed to professional sports! Who doesn’t know how hard Cristiano Ronaldo trains to achieve his results and strength. Or if we think about the Olympics, there isn’t a single person who doesn’t know of Michael Phelps. There are so many talented new joiners who deserve the same respect as our old school legends are getting!


Christiano Ronaldo

For many young boys and men, Christiano Ronaldo is among one the greatest footballers all time. You either love him or hate him, but you still respect his hard work throughout his career.  Widely noted for his amazing speed, superior ball control, and spectacular goal-scoring rate, CR7 achieved his 5th Ballon d’Or in 2017. With four European Golden Shoes under his name, Ronaldo won a record 25 significant trophies in his profession till 2020.

Roger Federer

One of the greatest tennis legends of all time, Federer, won 20 Grand Slam singles titles and maintained his ranking among the top ten from October 2002 to November 2016.

He has achieved eight Wimbledon titles, six Australian Open titles, five US Open titles, and a French Open title in his career till now.

LeBron James

LeBron has won 3 NBA Championships and 2 Olympic Gold medals in his career till 2020. His MPV legacy is decorated with 4 NBA MVP awards, 3 NBA Finals MVP awards, and 3 NBA All-Star Game MVP awards.

The all-time scoring leader of Cleveland Cavaliers has been the NBA All-Star member 16 times and ALL-NBA first team member 12 times. Still counting.

There are also other names to look out for in 2020! 

  • Caeleb Dressel – the legend who broke two of Michal Phelps records in swimming and is now set for new amazing achievements! 

  • 22-year-old Noah Lyles checked in at 19.65 at the 2019 Diamond League meet in Paris for another meet record. The previous record of 19.73 belonged to sprinting legend Usain Bolt.

  • Kristof Milak who shattered Michael Phelps’ 200-meter butterfly record during the 2019 World Aquatics Championships to win the gold medal.

So many names and so many achievements! It is amazing and impossible to claim that one generation has or had better athletes than the other.

So, where are the key points?

But, what has actually changed then along these years? And is it possible that the athletes actually keep getting better over the years?

One fact is certain – athletes continue to set new records, year after year. This can be seen across sports, from sprinting to distance running and from swimming to mountain climbing. But, there are nuances we should keep in mind when we compare our legends to nowadays athletes. 

usain bolt setting new records

We like to believe that humans have got better, stronger, and faster. But the reality is, we’ve actually got better by figuring out the most effective ways of doing things.

All kinds of things play a crucial role in this: training, equipment, techniques, specializations.

A simple explanation – when Jim Ryun set a world record mile time of 3:51.1 in 1967, he was still running on an energy-absorbing track that is said to be generally 1-3% “slower” than the tracks used today.

A similar thing happens when you compare Jesse Owens’ 1936 world record in the 100-meter sprint to Usain Bolt’s record today.

Similar changes apply across sports

  • Introduction of poolside gutters that allow water to run off the sides of a pool creates a smoother surface that is much faster for swimmers

  • Since 1997 track cyclist must use a similar bike and helmet technology

  • Adoption of the flip turn (swimming) in 1956 that drastically improved race times

  • Training with special coaches who can analyze their biomechanics and techniques

  • The usage of nutrition experts to figure out the optimal diet


Regardless of the technical changes and improvements, one key aspect will never change. Our athletes will always dedicate their whole life, passion, time, and effort to sports.

They will give 100% to achieve their goals and train harder than ever before. The mental state, passion, and dedication is something all athletes have in common and in the end make them successful, regardless of the equipment and the trainers.

We should honor all athletes regardless of their journey to success!

Also, a fun fact to remember: Roger Bannister was the first man, who ran a mile under four minutes. Specifically in 3:59.4 on May 6, 1954, while being just a medical student training in his spare time.

Some humans are just born to achieve greatness!

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