How do you decide on what makes the world's greatest athlete?
Not a simple task
In order to actually voice an opinion about who might qualify as the world's greatest athlete yet, it is probably a very good idea to set out a number of guidelines that the candidates must meet. First of all, we must agree on what an athlete is before we actually attempt to award the title of "Greatest Athlete Yet". So the dictionary definition says according to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/athlete
": a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina"
So that rules out Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Secretariat and Flipper since they are not people, even though one can argue that they are trained or skilled in one or more of the above physical categories.
With that aside, the person can be either male or female but it is quite likely that the winner would be male since men would likely have greater physical strength and stamina (on the average). It is quite conceivable that agility is a trait that both male and female athletes could possess on an equal basis.
The World's Greatest Athlete should probably be famous so that means that their accomplishments would be noteworthy followed by some sort of rewards structure both individual and team related, if the winner did play on teams. That would be seen as various trophies for major championships, medals such as those awarded in the Olympics and possibly some monetary measurement like salary or other cash awards for playing a sport if it were professional.
It would also make good sense if the athlete was highly proficient in more than one sport so being the very best at one sport would probably not count for the title of Worlds Greatest Athlete. So we would most likely rule out athletes like Muhammad Ali, Pele, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Jerry Rice and Jim Brown since they were mostly dominant in one major sport.
So that makes the argument for Jim Thorpe as the "World's Greatest Athlete Yet" more plausible since he won gold medals in the Olympics and played competitively in more than one sport. But, in my opinion, trying to decide on just one winner out of the millions and millions of athletes that have played to billions and billions of avid spectators is up there with trying to decide on what is the best meal or drink or travel destination, etc. etc.
It's all about a matter of personal taste and pleasure. It's an argument that is not easily settled but makes for good conversation at your favourite watering hole. Athletes are part of sport which is defined by our webster friends above as "c (1) : physical activity engaged in for pleasure (2) : a particular activity (as an athletic game) so engaged in". So it would seem to me that sport is something we do to have fun and we can have some fun in trying to crown one overall winner but the variety of sporting events and player types is what makes sport so interesting.
Don't try to hurt yourself trying to figure out who is best at anything. Just learn how to enjoy the game like you did when you were a child. Go watch some children playing a sport to find out how it really should be played. The score is really not that important. It seems they just play the game for the fun of it. Maybe that is how you might measure the "World's Greatest Athlete Yet"--the one who played multiple sports and had the most fun.