Darts, perhaps now more than ever, has always been a sport friendly towards the entertainers. Men – and women – who go out of their way to excite the crowds.
Being an entertainer does not always match up with being a great champion, however. And, we know that those with a sense of flair can often be erratic. The same applies to mavericks in snooker, football, and every other sport under the sun. But what about darts great entertainers? It’s accepted wisdom that Michael van Gerwen is the best darts player on the planet right now, but the Dutchman does not make our list. Perhaps he will once he ends his brilliant career. But, for the moment, we have settled on these five players as darts greatest entertainers:
Yes, it might seem like an obvious one to pick the man who is the most successful player in history, but Taylor really knew how to push the buttons of the crowd. From throwing one of the best nine-dart finishes in history to fighting back from the brink to claim victory in dramatic fashion, Taylor kept us on the edge of our seats. He sometimes let his emotions get the best of him – see the 2013 World Championship Semi Final vs Van Barneveld – but the drama normally took place on the darts board.
“Hawaii 501” has made a living out of his outgoing personality since retiring from the professional game. Mardle has an official website, where he literally touts himself as an entertainer for hire. At the oche, he also knew how to delight the crowd with his antics. Yes, some fans grew a little tired of the dancing and loud dress sense, but most loved to see Mardle enter the arena. Big results never matched his big personality, but he is a four-time PDC World Championship semi-finalist, and that’s more than most players achieve in a career.
George feels like an echo of a bygone age; not just in the world of darts, but of traditional showmanship and entertainment. If he didn’t become a darts player, you could picture him appearing in a variety show. Anyway, a darts player he became, and he was a very useful one – reaching the BDO World Championship Final in 1980 and 1994. His personality made him more popular than his skillset would usually merit, and he enjoys a decent television career today. At the age of 74, Bobby Dazzler is still shining brightly.
Wilson was an enigma, both in throwing darts and when he almost became a recluse in the later years of his life. He was partial to a drink when playing, and many cite his retirement in 1995 as being down to the fact he could no longer have a few tipples at the oche (he was diagnosed with diabetes). As for entertaining the fans, Wilson, alongside John Lowe and Eric Bristow, defined darts in the 80s, delighting fans across the county. They don’t make them like that any more.
Some might take exception to Barney being on this list ahead of some of the legendary players like Lowe and Bristow, but the Dutchman always guaranteed entertainment. Like Phil Taylor above, one of the best things about Barney is that he never knew when he was beaten. That confidence feeds into the crowd, and made for some of the best moments in darts over the last couple of decades. For evidence, see the 2007 World Championship Final against Taylor – arguably the best darts match in history.Tags: Bobby George, Jocky Wilson, Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld, Wayne Mardle
Author: Pieter Verbeek