“Best athlete” discussions always make for an interesting debate in the sense that they’re always totally stupid and pointless and boundary-less, so you’re basically arguing about completely different things and no one ever gets anywhere. More than anything, if even anything, your idea of the best-ever athlete says something about you rather than anything about the history of sports.
So, the idea of Mitt Romney calling Jack Nicklaus the greatest athlete of the 20th century—which he only sort of did—would say a few things about the Republican presidential hopeful: he is sort of old, he is white, and he is rich. Which, check, check, check. But this didn’t actually happen, so it doesn’t really matter. Still, it got us wondering. If all American presidents had to pick their Best Athlete of the 20th Century, who would they choose?