Top 20 Biggest Debates In Sports

The greatest debates in sports history live on forever because there is never a right answer either way. Sports networks thrive on these never ending debates as the topics that generate their content and they can recycle the storylines every year. For sports fans there is nothing better than arguing with some your friends about these topics, as everyone is an expert and everyone's side has a case to be made. One of the most fun, or frustrating depending on how you look at it, aspects of these debates is that they are often generational, comparing our parent's favorite team or player to our own generations. We would never really be able to compare them because they are from different eras, but it's fun nonetheless. Most of these debates resurface when a team has a huge winning streak, or a player sets a new record and we are urged to re-examine what we thought was the right answer.

Debates can range from comparing players, to discussing rules, should a coach be fired, etc... Some people argue about sports more than anything else, which could be seen as crazy considering all the bigger problems in the world. Still, for many of us, sports can be an escape and it consumes us. No matter how much we love it, we always try to find a way to make it better.

The debates in this list may never be settled, but they will always be talked about.

20 Who is the biggest draft bust ever?


As we are in NFL draft season and will soon be in the NBA and NHL draft period, it's inevitable that we will reassess who was the biggest draft bust ever. Each sport has their major contenders. For the NFL, there's the likes of first overall pick Jamarcus Russell who could throw 70 yards but never learned to accurately throw a 4-yard slant as he lasted only three seasons in the league.

Draft busts tend to be more common in the NFL where there seven rounds of picks and its difficult to assess some positions based on college production, including quarterback. In the NBA it's usually easier to gauge the best prospects but there's still cases such as the Pistons picking Darko ahead of future hall-of-famers Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. Most egregiously there are the Blazers bad decisions of picking Sam Bowie ahead of MJ and Oden ahead of Durant.

In the NHL the Islanders traded away future star Roberto Luongo to take Rick DiPietro first overall, who has struggled throughout his career and and is not in the NHL.

19 Should Women be Allowed to Compete Against Men?


18 Advanced Stats vs. Traditional Scouting


Perhaps the most topical but silly ongoing debate in sports is the one of advanced metrics and stats against traditional scouting and the "eye test". Charles Barkley's recent rant against Rockets GM Daryl Morey sums up most of the argument against advanced metrics, that no matter what, talent wins. In the NBA and all other sports those opposing advanced metrics are missing the point. The debate shouldn't exist, this isn't an either-or decision point.

17 Should we Measure Greatness by Championships?


When Steve Nash retired recently the discussions were about how great his career would have been if he had won a ring. Every sport has their greats that never got over the hump- Nash, Charles Barkely, Dan Marino, Ken Griffey Jr. The debate often asks would you rather have the career of Steve Nash, a two-time MVP or someone like Robert Horry who has six championships. The debate exists because it's so difficult to separate players from one another, especially the best players and championship success may be a valid measure when comparing stars like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady because the rest of their careers were so equally great.

16 Why Isn't Soccer Bigger in the U.S?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Every four years during the World Cup the U.S. becomes a soccer loving nation, packing streets and bars to cheer on their country, but the excitement dissipates quickly. The popularity of soccer in the United States is dependent on the continued growth of the MLS and the success of the national team. The national team has success largely through their goalkeeping and conditioning, while they lack the skill to become a real top level contender. The U.S. has increasingly invested in their youth training and coaching and time will tell if the investment worked.

15 Could the Best College Team Beat a Pro Team?

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky or Alabama debate, as every year when their college basketball or football teams dominate their seasons pundits come out and argue that they could beat the worst team in the NFL or NBA. Like many of this list, it's a silly debate. Alabama's starting quarterback during their last NCAA championship, Greg McElroy is out of the league after a couple of seasons as a third string QB and first round talent from Kentucky like Daniel Orton or Doron Lamb are no longer in the NBA so it shows that college success does not mean pro success.

14 What Sport has the Best 'Athletes'?


A very personal debate as people want the sport they played to be considered the most athletic. NFL players may be the sport where athleticism is most important, although that depends on the position. The NBA is full of astounding athletes but is still at its core a sport that centers on the skill of shooting a basketball as supreme athletes with limited skill routinely struggle in the NBA (see Tyrus Thomas). Baseball and hockey have very specific athletic skill-sets and it's often argued the hardest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball.

13 Should We Still Have a Draft Lottery?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Instead of hockey craved Toronto or the bad luck Buffalo, the Edmonton Oilers won the first overall pick this year, and the right to draft hockey phenom Connor McDavid. It seems unfair as the Oilers have squandered three first overall picks in recent years but that's the system in place with the draft lottery. The lottery intends to give all non-playoff teams a shot at winning the first overall pick but doesn't do enough to deter teams from tanking for a better pick. Teams increasingly would rather have a high pick in the draft than finish in 8th place and get knocked in the first round.

12 Should We Get Rid of Conferences?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This year in the first round of the NBA playoffs the Clippers and the Spurs are playing  in by far the best series. The question however is whether they should be. The Spurs and Clippers are likely two of the top four teams in the league and instead of meeting in a semi-final, they will be going home before the Wizards and that's because of conferences. The argument is favor of conferences usually focuses on two points, it promotes rivalries and it is necessary for scheduling and travel reasons.

11 Should Games be Decided on Penalty Shots?

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Penalty shots definitely add a level of excitement but there's always a question of whether a hockey or soccer game should be decided by something that doesn't resemble what the actual game looks like. Hockey and soccer both use extra time to decide a winner but the debate is whether extra time should continue until the winner is decided or should something like penalty shots be used to decide.

10 Should There be Fighting in Hockey?

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

9 Owners vs. Players


The rich versus the richer, it's a debate that all sports fan hate having to endure. Putting aside the fact that players are enormously well-paid let's acknowledge that players are no different than everyone else; they want to be paid what they feel entitled to. Owners however are the ones bearing the financial risk of owning a franchise. They invested ridiculous amounts of money with the intention of a seeing return on that investment.

Within the past five years, we've seen a lockout in the NHL, NBA and NFL.


8 PEDs and the Baseball Hall of Fame

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

7 Run to Set Up the Pass or Pass to Set Up the Run?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

6 Why Aren't College Athletes Paid?

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

During UCONNs March Madness run in 2014, Shabazz Napier talked about how there were nights he couldn't afford to feed himself and for someone who single-handedly made the NCAA a lot of money, that seems wrong. A recent class action suit against the NCAA found in favor of the athletes and it is unknown what the repercussions of this may be. While the logistics of how much gets paid to who and through what mechanisms is complex it shouldn't be considered too complicated to figure out.

The NCAA made close to $1 billion last year, 84% of which came from March Madness alone. Studies have found that the average NCAA basketball player in worth $212,000 per year and some stars like Andrew Wiggins or Julius Randel during their time in the NCAA were worth approximately $1 million to their schools. That's a lot more than their education would cost.

5 Pitching or Hitting

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

4 What is the Best Team Ever?


3 MJ or LeBron


2 Who is the Best QB of All Time?


1 Defense Wins Championships

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It's as as cliché as it gets, but every year leading up to the Super Bowl the pundits will argue, defense wins championships. In the past two seasons we have seen this argument play out with defense coming out on top when the Seahawks trounced the Broncos, only for offense to prove its worth this year when the Patriots beat the Seahawks. The debate is a draw, as studies of 10,000 NFL games found that the better defensive team won 66.5% of the time and the better offense won 67.4% of the time. This includes regular season, so what about champions, are they the best offense or defense? As you might imagine champions tend to excel on both sides. In 45 Super Bowls the better defensive team won 29 times and the better offense won 25 times, with 14 champions who were the better offensive and defensive team.

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Top 20 Biggest Debates In Sports