RONNIE O’SULLIVAN’S latest World Snooker Championship win has raised the debate over who is the greatest snooker star in history.
Though he is one behind Stephen Hendry in the modern-day Crucible stakes, many would suggest the Rocket has earned top billing.
SunSport’s Rob Maul provides his own top ten using performances in Sheffield as the yardstick.
For that reason, the likes of snooker's founding fathers Joe Davis, Fred Davis and John Pulman – winners of the worlds when it was a challenge not knockout format – have been discounted from the debate.
Check out the top ten, below…
1. RONNIE O'SULLIVAN
Smashing Kyren Wilson in last month's World Championship final – his sixth crown – has underlined O’Sullivan's position as the Greatest.
Yes, the 44-year-old is still one shy of the modern-day record of seven world crowns held by Stephen Hendry.
But the Rocket has won more ranking titles (37), more Triple Crowns (20), compiled more 147s (15) and more centuries (1054) than anyone in the pro era.
For the exhilarating way he plays the game, the talent he possesses, the longevity of his achievements, O’Sullivan deserves his spot at the top.
2. STEPHEN HENDRY
The Scot’s record of seven world titles, including five in a row, were achieved between 1990 and 1999. This remains the benchmark.
Thirty years ago, he lifted his first crown aged 21 years 106 days – his record as the youngest world champion still holds true.
The 51-year-old, the nemesis of Jimmy White in four Crucible finals, took the game to another level after the dominance of Steve Davis in the 1980s.
His ruthless standard of potting showed the next generation they had to improve.
3. STEVE DAVIS
In the 1980s, when snooker was at his peak, with millions watching on BBC TV, Davis was the man to beat.
Perhaps there were more talented stars, and certainly greater drinkers back then, but the Nugget applied and dedicated himself harder, raising the standards of professionalism.
In 2010, Davis made a record 30th Crucible appearance at the age of 52, defeating reigning world champion John Higgins to become the oldest world quarter-finalist since Eddie Charlton in 1983.
The 62-year-old is also the only snooker player to be crowned the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Ironic for a quiet man whose tongue-in-cheek nickname was "Interesting" during his playing days.
4. RAY REARDON
Often overlooked by some yet Reardon’s achievements stand the test of time.
The Welshman, now 87, won his six world titles at six different venues, the last one being at the Crucible in 1978.
That victory over South African Perrie Mans was achieved at the iconic Sheffield venue and at 45 he remains the oldest world champ in history.
O’Sullivan speaks highly of his former coach, saying Reardon taught him about the art of safety play.
5. JOHN HIGGINS
Winner of four world titles – with three of them coming in different decades – and 30 ranking tournaments.
If the name Higgins is ever mentioned among the Greatest Of All Time debate, some would naturally think of Alex not John.
But the Scot’s record, consistency and longevity deserve acknowledgement.
O’Sullivan constantly talks up the 45-year-old, saying he should receive more recognition than what he gets.
Between 2017 and 2019 he lost in three Crucible finals, narrowly losing in the first two.
And the 147 he achieved at the 2020 event behind-closed-doors will go down as one of the sport’s most memorable exploits.
6. MARK SELBY
Arguably no one in recent memory has had more mental strength than the Leicester Jester.
Undoubtedly he was the player of the last decade, winning three world titles, notably coming from behind to beat O’Sullivan in the 2014 final.
And since 2010 he was world No1 for longer than anybody else in total until a ranking fall last year.
The master of safety and grinding down an opponent, Selby is the one man feared among the elite pack in the latter stages of a competition.
7. MARK WILLIAMS
Nobody was more surprised than Williams when he won the third world title two years ago.
At the start of the tournament, he rated his chances so lowly than he vowed to strip naked if he lifted the trophy.
…A vow he duly honoured at the post-final press conference.
And he celebrated that title for the next 12 months with endless nights of kebabs, pints, rounds of golf and games of cards.
But it is to his testament to his character that the 45-year-old managed to reinvent his game to beat fellow Class of 92 graduate Higgins in the final.
8. JOHN SPENCER
In 1969, the Lancashire-born star won what is considered to be the first world professional title at his first attempt as the competition reverted to an open format.
His battles with Reardon in the 1970s were legendary.
He compiled a 147 break at the Holsten International in 1979 but it was not televised – the camera crew had unwittingly visited the local McDonald’s for a break.
Neither did it count on the official list because the pockets weren’t templated.
Ironically he was in the chair watching Steve Davis achieve the first official 147 three years later at the Lada Classic.
He was also the first winner at the Crucible in 1977 (his third world title). He died in 2006 aged 70.
9. ALEX HIGGINS
Some might argue Alex Higgins, the People’s Champion, deserves to be higher in the overall standings.
Simply for the exceptional artistry he brought to the table.
Look no further than that incredible 135 break to win the 1982 world final.
But Belfast’s finest, a difficult, unpredictable character, as well as a heavy smoker, gambler and drinker, perhaps should have won more than the two Crucible titles on his CV.
Hurricane Higgins played hard and partied even harder. He died in 2010 aged 61.
10. JIMMY WHITE
Yes, White never won the world title. And he will be forever remembered for those six final defeats, including four against Hendry.
Yet the whirlwind entertained the masses with his style and was reportedly a favourite player of the late Queen Mother.
At the age of 57, he finally won at the Crucible, lifting the 2019 World Seniors title.
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