Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Kelly Slater vs Michael Jordan

For my first full post at my new blogging home I thought I would do something a bit different. For this "episode" I'm going to compare the achievements of pro-surfer extraordinaire, Kelly Slater, to those of world renowned NBA star, Michael Jordan. Both have been called "dominant" in their respective sports, and some have even referred to Slater as "the Michael Jordan of surfing.


Slater won his first championship in 1992 at the age of 20. Making him the youngest world champ ever. From that point on he proceeded to win six more titles, including consecutive championships from 1994 to 1998. The '97 title broke Mark Richards' record of four championships. From 1999 to 2001 Slater retired from competitive surfing, but in 2005 he again won the world title, his seventh, making him the oldest champion ever. Currently, he has 33 WCT(World Championship Tour) victories which ties him with Tom Curren for the record. Also, he's presently atop the WCT standings, beating current second place holder Bobby Martinez by 93 points despite missing the Globe WCT Fiji event due to injury. Kelly Slater has dominated his sport like no other surfer ever, and appears poised to win an unprecedented eighth championship.

Michael Jordan entered the NBA in 1984, and promptly won the Rookie of the Year award. Three years later, following the 1997-1998 season, he won the league MVP. He would go on to win that award four more times, including back-to-back in 1991 and 1992. Jordan also won the "MVP triple crown" in 1996 and 1998 by being awarded not only the regular season MVP, but also the NBA Finals and All-Star Game MVP awards as well. He is only one of three players to accomplish that feat. Jordan guided the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, which included consecutive titles from 1991-1993 and 1996-1998. Jordan also retired, twice. The first instance was from 1993-1995, and the second was from 1999-2001. In 2003, Jordan retired for the third time, but not before he became the first 40-year old to score 40 points in a game. He also led the NBA in points scored in 1985, 1987-1993, and 1996-1998. Currently, he holds third place on the NBA all-time points list, is first in regular season scoring average and is second in career steals. He also holds the record for total points scored in All-Star games. Jordan solidified himself as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, NBA players of all-time during his 15 year career.

Obviously both Kelly Slater and Michael Jordan achieved the pinnacle of success in their respective sports. However, there are a few things that set them apart. First, basketball is a team sport. Without a supporting cast that included, over the years, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Toni Kukoc and Dennis Rodman, it's doubtful that Jordan would have been able to win those six titles. Where Slater might jump ahead due to the team aspect, Jordan pulls even when it comes to duration. The NBA regular season alone is 82 games which makes his record setting scoring average so impressive. In contrast, most surfing contests consist of four rounds, and then the quarters, semi's and finals.

In the end, it seems that both Slater and Jordan would be deserving of the title "most dominant athlete". One last thing to consider is where their feats took place. While Jordan was driving the lane and dunking over the likes of Dikembe Mutombo. Slater was pulling into bonecrunching barrels at breaks like Teahupoo and Pipeline. Slater's "court" does pose a bit more danger, and could nudge him into the lead by a slim margin. However, at the end of the day both athletes have achieved, and sustained, a level of greatness that few have ever reached.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here is a debate I've been in multiple times. And despite being a surfer myself, I side with Jordan. It just is more physically draining to run around for a few hours than it is to surf. Don't forget that Jordan was under a lot more pressure, being that the NBA has far more fans than pro surfing. For the most part, Slater escapes the spotlight. It's been about six years since this article was typed, and Kelly has now won eleven world titles, an amazing accomplishment. In the aspect of championships, he truly is better than Jordan. But, there is one huge difference that sets Jordan ahead. Surfers enter contests at will. Jordan had to play what eighty games? Slater could rest up for however long he wanted. So there you go, MJ is better.