Tony Hawk: Is He The Greatest Pro Skater Of All Time?


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Tony Hawk is undoubtedly one of the most iconic athletes of all time. With a net worth of around $140 million, he’s also the most successful pro skater ever. He very obviously made a huge impact on the sport and did things no one has ever done before, such as him doing the first ever 900 in the 1999 X Games. 

With feats like this, it’s no surprise that many people consider him the greatest pro skater of all time, and while that may have been undeniably true at one point in his career, does it still hold up today? Skateboarding has changed drastically since Tony Hawk’s prime, with the sport now focusing more on creativity in street skating rather than vert skating going down ramps, and even with skateboarding being an olympic sport, we have a whole new set of pros that could easily surpass Tony Hawk and take the title of the greatest pro in skateboarding.

For his time, Tony was undeniably the best. He’s a household name for a reason. While he wasn’t the first in his time period, he was clearly a massive inspiration for many pros today. If you talk to any skaters that can skate at a pro level, they’ll likely tell you that Tony was one of their inspirations for picking up the sport. So in terms of influence, he may be #1 for a good while, but skating has evolved heavily since Tony’s last real competition. 

Specifically, street skating has taken over the mainstream in skateboarding as the most popular type. Street skating was made by skaters in the early 90s when all the skateparks shut down, it requires a lot of creativity to create spots. One of these pioneers of this form is Mark Gonzalez, someone who I would consider a competitor for Tony Hawk as the best pro skater of all time. The skate movie, “Video Days” by Blind was where he really rose to fame, his creativity got the idea of street skating out there and some could argue that he completely transcended the scene from a mildly obscure action sport with niche freestyle tricks to a classic piece of street culture that many think of today. 

Tony Hawk didn’t necessarily keep up with street skating like many other veteran pros of his time. It seemed that he would rather focus on the form of skating that he’s already familiar with. There are plenty of other street skaters that may have already surpassed Mark Gonzales in the modern age. Skaters like Nyjah Houston, Kader Sylla, and Yuto Horigome are just some of the names who have become respected talents and feats over the years. 

One can easily argue that Tony completely deserves his title of the greatest pro skater of all time, hence why this is such a split topic. Tony is easily the most influential skateboarder ever, there is absolutely no debate on that. He inspired legendary pros like Eric Koston, Nyjah Houston, Chris Cole, and many more. It’s undeniable that he initially brought the sport into a whole new level of popularity with his platform and skateboarding wouldn’t be the same without him. He won 73 titles and was named as the top vert skater every year from 1984 to 1996 and invented a bunch of new skate tricks in his prime, so obviously he deserves respect in the community. To get more substance on this complicated question, I interviewed a local Pittsburgh skater and rapper Kennedy Minder-Staley to get his opinion on the discussion. 

“No, Tony Hawk is really talented [but] I think that Jaws (Aaron Homoki) is easily more talented and impressive than Tony,” Minder-Staley said. “His vert and street skills are just insane, it’s hard to not acknowledge how great he is. Tony’s old street clips are just alright to me, and there are definitely pros that have better all around feats.” Minder-Staley also brought up his opinion on Tony Hawk and skate culture. “He also kind of cashes in on the culture a lot with the video games and stuff he made.”

I then proceeded to ask him one of the most crucial questions to this argument: would Tony Hawk still be in the same golden standard if he were as active today as he was in his peak. “He’d definitely have less traction in street skating and overall wouldn’t be as popular,” Minder-Staley answered. “However, if Tony started skating today, we’d have a significantly less developed culture than we do today. Overall I have mixed feelings about him.” 

While it was great to get opinions from someone openly active in the sport today, one opinion simply isn’t enough, so I interviewed some people within the Allderdice community for their thoughts as well.

“I do not consider him to be the best”, he said, “I consider Rodney Mullen actually. He’d for sure be my pick as the best skater of all time and the skater with the influence in the sport.” When asked if Tony’s legacy and influence would still live on if he were to pick up the sport today, Battaglia said “That really is a tough question, by this time the sport has been very developed already, it’s gone away, came back, has gone away, and come back again, etc.

“Though I’m gonna say no he wouldn’t because someone else would’ve been a Tony Hawk already.” Battaglia then went on to add more to the conversation: “I  find it interesting that he became the most important skater. Rodney just did so much more. Tony was just good at vert and went with it. Rodney Mullen did everything important kind of in the background and went unnoticed. I also liked Chris Cole and Torey Pudwell growing up, they did a lot for the sport too. Torey Pudwell had some good video parts.” 

It seems as though some in the community believe that there are better pros than Tony Hawk, but this is the kind of question that cannot have one right or wrong answer. But no matter if you think Tony Hawk is the best to ever do it, no one can deny his powerful influence in skateboarding.