Michael Jordan is often considered the greatest athlete of all time. He's not the greatest male athlete, or the greatest NBA athlete. He's just the greatest, the GOAT—gender not included.
Another great athlete, Serena Williams, made that distinction in an open letter in late November: "People call me one of the 'world's greatest female athletes,'" she wrote. "Do they say LeBron is one of the world's best male athletes? Is Tiger? Federer? Why not? They are certainly not female."
Then, a couple weeks ago, Williams sat for an interview with Common for the Undefeated, bringing up that same distinction. "If I were a man, I would have 100 percent been considered the greatest ever a long time ago." She continued:
I think if I were a man, I would have been in that conversation a long time ago. I think being a woman is just a whole new set of problems from society that you have to deal with, as well as being black, so it's a lot to deal with—and especially lately. I've been able to speak up for women's rights because I think that gets lost in color, or gets lost in cultures.
At 35, Williams has been ranked number one in singles in the world six times, and she holds 22 Grand Slams titles. In 2015, she was justly recognized as Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson (not "Sportswoman") of the Year. Williams finished 2016 with only one Grand Slam title. Only one...still a deeply great accomplishment.