The Athlete of the Future

Peter Nicolino II, Staff Writer

It’s 1927: the great Babe Ruth just sent a fastball 400 feet into the left field bleachers for a homerun. As he trots around the bases, he loses his breath. The man who is labeled as the greatest athlete of the 20s is winded by a light jog of 90 feet.

To the 21st-century sports fan, this is laughable: the story of a professional athlete being tired by an easy jog would quickly spread throughout social media and become a trending topic on sports shows for weeks. Now to us, this it’s funny- seeing a person who’s worked their whole life in the world of athletics look like he’s never run a day in his life. We laugh at this because today’s modern athlete cannot exist this way. Today’s professional athletes can run, jump and perform better than the thousands of others they had to beat to get to where they are. The level of talent modern professional athletes have would make a player from the 1950s look like a high-school benchwarmer.

A great example of this is displayed by a man named Brian Scalabrine. Scalabrine is widely recognized as the worst player in NBA history: he barely had any playing time, and in the time he did play, he constantly made a fool of himself and exhibited how every other player in the league could beat him. Now, after reading this, you’d likely think: “wow this guy was a terrible athlete,” – and that’s where you’d be wrong. After he retired, Scalabrine was sick of constantly defending himself to amateur players, teenage athletes, and everyone else who thought they could beat him. So he decided to host a tournament to find the best players who thought they could beat him in a one-on-one match. After the contestants each played each other, the four best players would face Scalabrine to see if they could beat the worst player in NBA history. The games would be first to 11 points, and anyone who beat Scalabrine would win the bragging rights that they defeated an NBA veteran. The combined final score of all four games was 44-3: Scalabrine would go on to win all four games. Two of the four competitors did not score once. At the end of the last match, Scalabrine said, “I’m closer to Micheal Jordan than you are to me.” The modern-day professional athlete is in such a higher tier than the amateur athlete that the worst players of the highest tier still embarrass the best player of a respectable tier.

The athlete of the future can be held to an even higher standard. Victor Wembanyama, an 18-year-old NBA prospect stands at a towering seven feet and two inches tall. He can dunk, dribble, shoot, block, pass, rebound, and do anything else you want a player to be able to do. The average seven-footer in the NBA can really only use his body to jump up for rebounds or block shots, with only the very athletic ones being able to make alley-oops.

Wembanyama is a unicorn. The idea of a player taller than Shaquille O’Neal who can run faster than Russel Westbrook and jump higher than Micheal Jordan in his prime are features you create in a video game. Wembanyama is the easy favorite for the first pick in this year’s NBA draft and the basketball world expects him to be the next leap to talent in professional sports.

The world is evolving every day, and with that, every day the next great athlete is born. The athlete who will come to outplay Wembanyama is being born right about now. The modern-day athlete and the athletes of the future prove as a reminder of how far we have come and how far we will go.