Chase Elliott doesn’t understand it.
Maybe he’s biased, because he’s teammates with Jimmie Johnson at Hendrick Motorsports. But as Johnson enters his final full-time NASCAR Cup Series season, Elliott still doesn’t know why the seven-time champion doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
“I think he’s the best to ever come along,” Elliott said. “What he’s done, the amount of time he did it and handled it the way he did, I just don’t see how that’s matched.”
Regardless of which seven-time champ you consider the best ever —Johnson, Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt Sr. —Johnson isn’t only one of the all-time greats in his sport. He’s one of the most dominant American athletes of his generation.
Here are the five who compare to Johnson:
6. LeBron James
Hard for an athlete in a team sport to compare, but James belongs because of his all-around game (12-time All-NBA first team, five-time All-Defensive team) and his team accolades (three NBA titles and eight consecutive Finals appearances).
5. Serena Williams
No tennis player (male or female) can match her 23 major singles titles, and she owned all four Grand Slam trophies twice, more than a decade apart.
4. Michael Phelps
His 28 Olympic medals and 23 golds are the most ever. Plus he earned the most medals of anyone in four consecutive Olympics.
3. Simone Biles
The world’s most dominant athlete right now has four Olympic gold medals plus 19 more in world championships. Not enough longevity yet to pass Johnson, but check back after this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.
2. Jimmie Johnson
Unmatched with straight titles (2006-10). As impressive: He won his seven overall championships in three different playoff formats, as NASCAR kept changing its rules. Averaging five wins from 2002-2017 given the level of competition is remarkable, too.
1. Tiger Woods
Second all-time with 15 majors, tied for first with 82 PGA Tour wins and has been named Player of the Year an absurd 11 times. Not even Johnson can match that.