Don’t Blink: These are the Fastest Athletes in Sports

  • Chris Johnson
    Chris Johnson

    Deion Sanders was one of the most electrifying athletes ever to play in the NFL. The Hall of Fame cornerback ran the 40-yard dash in 4.27 seconds at the 1989 NFL Combine, which at the time was considered the second fastest ever. Nearly two decades later, Chris Johnson topped that mark. His time of 4.24 seconds at the 2008 Combine is the fastest recorded electronically. Johnson has even been so bold as to challenge Usain Bolt to a race. Now with the Jets, Johnson is no longer the rusher he was when he racked up more than 2,000 yards in a season, but his speed has kept him relevant.

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  • Kemba Walker
    Kemba Walker

    Getting up and down the floor is critical, but a point guard also has to be quick left to right. When it comes to that, few can hang with Kemba Walker. The Charlotte point guard has a paralyzing crossover (just watch the move he pulls on Kenneth Faried). How does he do it? Check out this clip of Walker working on his game with trainer Jay Hernandez, who has worked as his personal ball-handling coach since before he was drafted into the NBA.

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  • John Wall

    Getting up and down the court is one thing. Doing it with a basketball in hand is another — unless, of course, you’re John Wall. According to Sports Science (remember that?), Wall is just .05 seconds slower on average with the ball. That means when Wall gets the rock in the open court, he’s almost impossible to slow down.

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  • Dee Gordon

    During his 21 seasons in Major League Baseball, reliever Tom Gordon came to earn the nickname “Flash.” Gordon’s son, Dee, has done a fine job carrying on the family name. A second baseman for the Dodgers, Dee earned an All-Star nod in 2014 after leading the league in both triples and steals over the first half of the season.

    How fast is Gordon? Well, in a game against the Rockies earlier this summer he lined a ball down the left field line and made it home in 13.89 seconds. And at the All-Star Game, Gordon scored from first in 10.9 seconds, reaching a speed of 20.9 miles per hour, which would put him over the limit in some school zones. Even so, that might not make Gordon the fastest guy in Major League Baseball…

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  • Ty Lawson

    When a team gives up a transition layup, it’s easy to blame it on the defense for not getting back. With Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, though, it’s not so simple. Even when three, maybe four, defenders do get back on d, Lawson has a way of making them irrelevant. It’s almost like watching a running back take a handoff, hit the gap, and go untouched to the end zone. The only difference is that, for Lawson, no one is blocking.

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  • DeSean Jackson

    His 40 time of 4.35 seconds might not be quite as eye-popping as Chris Johnson’s (though it’s certainly nothing to bat an eyelash at) but Jackson might have the edge when it comes to the eye test. Is there anyone else whose hands you’d rather have the ball in the open field with the game on the line? History says no.

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  • Billy Hamilton

    Where to begin with Billy Hamilton? How about the fact that in the minor leagues Hamilton set the all-time record for steals in a season with 155. (For comparison, Ricky Henderson’s modern-era MLB season record is 130) Or the fact that he once completed an inside-the-park home run in just 13.8 seconds. Or that he once reached first in 3.3 seconds, which beats the 3.33 posted by Deion Sanders during Prime Time’s baseball career.

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  • Chris Johnson
  • Kemba Walker
  • Ty Lawson
  • DeSean Jackson
  • Billy Hamilton

As exciting as it is to watch Usain Bolt sprint, you don’t need to wait for the 2016 Olympics in Rio to catch some of the world’s fastest athletes. Just tune into the MLB, NFL, or NBA and you’ll find guys who make the diamond, gridiron, or hardwood look like an oval track.

Speed is a game changer. In baseball, it’s the difference between giving up a double and snaring a careening fly ball. In football, it’s the difference between going down at the 20 and taking a kick to the house. In basketball, it’s the difference between an easy bucket and a contested layup.

Every team has speedy guys roaming center field or returning kicks or getting back on defense. But who’s the fastest of the fast? It seems an easy thing to figure out. After all, we’ve got plenty of data — from shuttle drills and 40-yard dashes at the combines — to analyze. But not so, err, fast.

Jean Cocteau puts it best. “The speed,” he said, “of a runaway horse counts for nothing.” Getting from Point A to Point B in a drill is one thing, but using that speed to help a team win is another. That means we also have to go to the tape to see who puts his speed to best use. After sifting through both the quantitative and qualitative data, here are seven athletes — three from the NBA, two from the NFL, and two from the MLB — who have wheels and know how to use them, so Don’t Blink: These are the Fastest Athletes in Sports.

Follow Martin on Twitter at @MartinKessler91