Dennis James wonders why so many people don’t place Phil Heath in the list for greatest bodybuilder of all time.
Dennis James isn’t a man who shies away from sharing his opinions on bodybuilding. In some ways, he’s like an unofficial analyst for the sport. He often gives us his immediate opinions on athlete physiques right after big shows. He also shares predictions on placings and his overall take on the goings on in bodybuilding. So when we asked him to list his top 5 bodybuilders of all time – we found it interesting that he placed Phil Heath on the list. Not because he doesn’t deserve it, but because so many people often dismiss him when comparing to legends in the past like Lee Haney, Ronnie Coleman and others. In our latest GI Exclusive interview, Dennis James explains why Phil Heath deserves top five of all time status… and wonders why many people don’t agree.
Phil Heath is a 7x Mr. Olympia champion. That puts him in the top pantheon of bodybuilders. It ties him with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It places him one behind on Ronnie Coleman and Lee Haney (who hold the world record for most Olympia wins). It even puts him above the six Olympia wins of Dorian Yates – a true mass monster legend in the sport. But when discussing the best athletes of all time in bodybuilding, you might find it hard for Phil Heath to be first on the list. Why is this?
Perhaps it’s simply because his victories are too recent. It’s easier to mythologize legends of the past and make them seem larger than life. Or perhaps it’s because Phil Heath was often criticized for his personality and demeanor as a champion. But those things shouldn’t really matter. What matters is his physique and his record.
Phil Heath displaying his physique on the Olympia stage (above).
That’s why when we talked with bodybuilder and guru Dennis James, we were happy to see him quickly place Phil Heath in his list of top five bodybuilders of all time. For James, it’s no question. Not only because of his Olympia wins, but also because of the look of his physique. To James, it’s undeniable that Heath holds a physique hardly any other competitor could match.
And yet, perhaps more than any other athlete, Phil Heath’s Olympia wins are often contested by fans. People often vocalized the many times that they believed Kai Greene should have won. And in Phil Heath’s later years, his stomach was criticized so much that people thought he should have lost way sooner than his seven Olympia wins allowed.
In Dennis James’ opinion, the top five bodybuilders of all time are Ronnie Coleman, Flex Wheeler, Phil Heath, Lee Haney, and Kevin Levrone. He also throws Arnold Schwarzenegger a bone and ties him in the fifth spot with Kevin Levrone. This is mostly for what he’s accomplished for bodybuilding – but if comparing pure physiques, James thinks he doesn’t stand up to the rest of the list.
While all “greatest of all time” lists are subjective. Dennis James tries his best to believe that objectively, you can’t take Phil Heath out of the top 5. He’s accomplished too much and has too obvious of a talented physique.
You can check out Dennis James’ full comments in our latest GI Exclusive interview segment above!