The other day on Facebook my brother posted a status that asked which player was better: Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders? At first glance I was like, “Duh, Bo is the best athlete this universe has ever seen. Better than MJ. Better than Lebron. Better than Jim Thorpe. Better than Ghandi. Better than everyone.”
But then I got to thinking and sometimes, but only sometimes, I am wrong. So, I started fact checking. As I was fact checking, Deion started to look better than I first thought.
And I did it. Cause I’m a bawse.
But how do we break it down? How do we figure out which was a better athlete, especially with the problem of Bo getting hurt part way through his career? I’m going to be breaking down their capabilities in a couple different posts so we can get a good idea of who was better.
The Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders Debate
Which one of these two dudes is the fastest? It’s kind of a silly question, but we have to answer it. The Universe demands it. Usually we like to judge a players speed by his 40 yard dash time. I think that the 40 yd dash is kind of silly for judging an entire players career speed because:
1. That time usually comes from their combine 40 yard dash, which is ran right after their college career. I would like to believe that working out with a professional team over a couple of years would actually increase their speed. Some players would take advantage of that and some wouldn’t. Players also bulk up when they get into the NFL, too. That obviously is going to have some impact on their speed. Did Deion or Bo get faster or slower after their speed tests at the combine?
2. Before 1999, those times were done by using a stopwatch. They weren’t electronically timed. This could obviously leave room for error. I ran multiple 40 yard dashes when I was in high school. Each one was done using stopwatch and each of those times varied from 4.2 to 4.6. How is someone going to get an accurate time with a stop watch? (Here is a link to an article explaining that nearly all high school 40-yard dash times are bogus).
Here is a video of sports analyst Rich Eisen running the 40 yard dash against NFL prospects, including one Timothy Tebow.
Deion Sanders 40-yard dash time at the combine in the year of our Lord 1989 was 4.27 seconds. Vincent Bo Jackson’s time in 1986 was 4.12 seconds. Something interesting is that the two have 100m track times that they ran in college: Bo -- 10.39 and Deion -- 10.21. And the purportedly fastest man in the NFL, Darrel Green, ran the 100m in 10.08 seconds while he was in college. To put that all that into context, Usain Bolt holds the world record for the 100m dash with a time of 9.58 seconds and Chris Johnson has the fastest 40-yard dash since 1999 (when they started using lasers) with a time of 4.24 seconds.
(Sidenote: 100m sprint times are started when the gun fires and 40 yard dash times are started on the runners first movement.)
I would like to add that Deion weighed 200 lbs while Bo weighed 230. This is significant.
Of course a 40 yard dash time isn’t necessarily game speed. There aren’t a ton of videos on the internet showing Deion’s game speed, but there are a couple of highlight reels of him running around acting cool. Bo as well.
Here is Deion game speed:
Here is Bo Jackson game speed:
We will never know who was faster. Too many weird variables. Too little hard facts.
But there is one more important question we need to answer: Does it matter if you are fast if when you catch up to Bo Jackson, he just tosses you to the ground? The following is a video of Deion Sanders describing that very moment (with video) on the Dan Patrick Show: