Few things get people fired-up faster than a top-100 list. Emotions range from palpable pride when a hometown hero holds a lofty spot to full-on, conspiracy-fueled paranoia when the opposite is true. It almost doesn’t even matter what’s on the list, it will generate a response, and we can be sure some combination of stupid, dumb, and idiot will show up along the way. Lists are lightning rods because they can’t be “right” or “wrong.” There are more than enough statistics at our disposal to keep even the weakest opinions afloat, and—when all else fails—there’s always the straw man. The number of possible disputes is limitless. Grab some popcorn and head to the comments section of a random top-100 list on Google to see that personified. People love/hate lists because there is something for everyone to love/hate. The only drawback—and it’s a big one—is that a list becomes dated as soon as it is published. The sports world moves so fast that it doesn’t take long for the next big thing to burst onto the scene or an injury to suddenly derail a Hall-of-Fame career.
To complicate matters, the first human to ever paint a list on the side of a cave set the unfortunate precedent that once we publish it, we walk away, never to return as if time freezes at that very moment. Maybe time did freeze. Perhaps Linkovich “Link” Chomovsky never got a chance to update his painting of “the greatest spear-throwers of all-time” before freezing-over and ending up an Estonian exchange student at Encino High School 40,000 years later. Regardless of Link’s role in all of this, list-after-list continues to get published, and list-after-list continues to sit idly, growing old and outdated. Imagine how self-conscious a list with LeBron ranked outside the top 10 must feel. Even the lists themselves know they’re dated, and if they had opposable thumbs they’d have enough pride to update themselves. There has to be a better way than continuing to create sad relics destined for the farthest corners of the internet.
It is that realization that stands as the impetus for this real-time top-100 concept. Instead of viewing a list as something complete, we can endeavor to treat it as a living, breathing, evolving entity that is not to be finished but nourished and amended—in real-time—as players arrive, perform, and depart. Like a pot that refuses to boil, a top-100 list might not change much under constant scrutiny but allow enough time to pass, and drastic change materializes in short order. Whether it’s a series of dynamite UFC cards, an NBA Finals, or the Super Bowl, legacies are always changing, and those changes typically occur before most of us even realize it. Mike Trout and Aaron Donald were already among the 20 greatest players of all-time by the time they hit 29, even if conventional wisdom says we can’t say it out loud. Tending to these lists in real-time will help us reverse the bad habit of being kinder to older generations and harsher to the current. We can do this by reflecting elite resumes as they are formed, rather than after they are formed, with the added benefit of recognizing and appreciating greatness while it is still being displayed instead of long after it has departed. I’m looking forward to sharing this journey with you. Happy scrolling!