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SportsCentury is an ESPN biography program that reviews the people and athletic events that defined sports in North America throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

In 1999, ESPN counted down the Top 50 Athletes of the 20th Century, voted on by a panel of sports journalists and observers, premiering a new biography highlighting each top athlete every week throughout the year. The episodes for the top two athletes, Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth, appeared on a special combined edition broadcast on Christmas Day on ABC. The top two names were announced in no particular order, and the final positioning was announced at the conclusion of the two episodes. An additional list of numbers 51-100 were announced on the ESPN SportsCentury website. Themed specials such as Greatest Games, Greatest Coaches, Greatest Dynasties, and Most Influential Individuals were premiered throughout the year, as well as six SportsCenter of the Decade programs.

After the initial run was complete, the episodes were rerun at various times on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Classic. The original plan for the series was to expand to include #51-#100. Ultimately, the series featured nearly every athlete from #51-#100, and numerous other personalities, especially those who were recently deceased, or notable for more recent accomplishments.

ESPN Classic began to feature the program with host, Chris Fowler, as the highlight of its weeknight prime-time programing, airing five nights a week. After cycling through the entire series several times, and after debuting several new episodes, it was removed as a nightly program. As of 2007, reruns of the documentary series airs Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. Eastern time. The last original program was that of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., which aired in August 2006.

Research for SportsCentury include more than 1,000 interviews, 50,000 photos, and 100,000 newspaper artifacts.


SportsCentury: Top 50 Athletes of the 20th Century (Original series)

SportsCentury: 51-100

By Sport: Baseball (23) Football (20) Track/Field (12) Basketball (11) Tennis (8) Boxing (7) Hockey (6) Golf (6) Horse Racing (5) Auto Racing (3) Swimming/Diving (2) Speed Skating (2) Gymnastics(1)

SportsCentury: Greatest Coaches of the 20th Century

SportsCentury: Greatest Games of the 20th Century

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