I've been coaching for a long time (but in a different sport.) I have a lot of experience in the national arena, and have seen a lot of great athletes.
Is Michael Phelps one of the best, or overhyped?
Granted, TV coverage in the US tends to promote then tear down, and that is (sadly) a part of our culture. But when you look at how many people have accomplished what Phelps has done (answer = one), there really IS only one conclusion.
You may or not like him.
You may or may not like the hype.
You may think he looks goofy, or is too nice.
His size 14 feet may turn you off.
But he is the most accomplished Olympian of all time ... so far. I think his legacy will rest on another Olympics, 2012. More great performances there will help him seal the deal.
Best ATHLETE ever? Not yet ...
Best Olympian ... maybe .... 2012 will tell. I think three Olympics is plenty of longevity to make that judgment.