The Greatest Athletes of All-Time
If you’re an athlete, or have any interest in sports whatsoever than you’ve probably been asked “Who do you thing is the greatest athlete of all-time?” Its a common question, one with many answers and many explanations. But how do you answer such a question? The trick is…you dont. ITS IMPOSSIBLE! It is absolutely impossible to list out the greatest athletes of all time. I mean…how could you? Its 100% an opinion based question. Who is the “Greatest Athlete of All Time”? Possibly one of the most debated questions ever, in the end, comes down to what everyone thinks, and no one thinks the same way. How could you rank one athlete who played basketball above another athlete that swam, both with equally dominant careers?…They’re 2 very different sports, its just not possible.
But… I accept the task. MY OPINION. For my list, I broke it down into many different aspects. The first of which being ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Titles won, championships, records, statistics, and longevity are all included in accomplishments. Within their accomplishments, you could also ask yourself…How dominant was this particular athlete in their respective sport? The second way of determining this list is ATHLETIC ABILITY. Athletic Ability can be defined by a human beings physical strength, speed, quickness, endurance, power and hand-eye coordination. Athletic Ability is a huge reason why you wont be seeing Lance Armstrong on this list. Though Lance Armstrong is considered a great in his field, he has not proven that he could compete in any other sport that doesn't require him moving his thighs in a consistent motion for hours on end.
The final 2 questions I asked myself when putting this list together are as follows: (1) How consistently great was this athlete? and (2) How much impact did the athlete have on their sport or the sports world in general?
Before we embark on this journey on controversy, I must remind you all once again, THIS IS MY OPINION! Go to google, search “Greatest Athletes of All Time,” read the first 5 articles you see and I can guarantee you none of them are even remotely the same. Why is that? Because this is an OPINION BASED QUESTION.
So lets begin…
10. Serena Williams
The greatest female tennis player of all time? Yes. Possibly the greatest tennis player of all time? Certainly top 5 all time. Having achieved the World #1 ranking for the first time on July 8, 2002, Serena Williams has tallied up titles after titles, records after records, and has been a consistent dominant force on the WTA for the past 15 years. Williams holds an unprecedented 94 WTA career titles, 22 of those being Grand Slam titles. She is the only player, male or female, to have ever won at least 6 titles at 3 of the 4 Grand Slams. In addition to her Steffi Graff tying 22nd Grand Slam title, Serena William now holds more victories in Grand Slam matches than anyone in tennis’ Open Era (308), even surpassing the G.O.A.T, Roger Federer.
Reporter: “There will be talk about you going down as one of the greatest female athletes of all time. What do you think when you hear someone talk like that?”
Serena: “I prefer the word ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time.”
She’s a powerhouse, she’s a dominant force, she’s the greatest female athlete of all time, and because of her endless stats, numerous titles, and longetvity of being on top of the tennis world, Serena Williams earned her spot as #10 on this list of G.O.A.T.S.
Give us sheer talent, a force to be reckoned with, and the man who attached the sport of soccer to the phrase “the beautiful game,” and you get one of the (if not the) greatest soccer player of all time as well as one of the greats athletes of all time. What separates Pele from the likes of Maradona and Messi? Simple…the man won the World Cup 3 times, a feat that no other player has been able to even rival. Scoring a career total of 1,281 goals in an unreal 1,363 games is an accomplishment that we will most likely never see again in the game of soccer.
Andy Warhol: “Pele was one of the few who contradicted my theory: instead if 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries”
In 1999 the International Olympic Committee named Pele the athlete of the 20th century, deservedly so. Precise skills, unreal footwork, speed that would rival the worlds greatest sprinters, Pele has racked up highlights, numbers, and titles that put him atop the soccer world and #9 on this list of G.O.A.T.S.
8. Bo Jackson
The only athlete ever to make the MLB All-Star game AND the NFL Pro-Bowl team…Do I really need to say more. Possibly the greatest combination of power and speed the world has ever seen. Not only can he swing a bat and score touchdowns, the man can also run, holding the NFL combine record for the fastest 40-yard dash ever at 4.12 seconds. A Auburn Alumni, Jackson won the Heisman Trophy and has claim as a 2 time All-American. Due to unfortunate injuries, Bo Jackson had to cut his NFL and MLB careers short, which raises the question, ‘Could Bo Jackson have ended his career as the undisputed G.O.A.T?” Though cut short but injuries, at the height of his physical and athletic capabilities, Bo Jackson, still, was one of the greatest athletes to ever live.
7. Jim Thorpe
The most well-rounded athlete of all-time? Yea, no doubt. Jim Thorpe had careers in football, baseball, AND was a 2-time Olympic GOLD medalist in the decathlon and pentathlon. Thorpe spent 6 years playing Major League Baseball, 2 years traveling with a professional basketball team, and, most notably, 15 season playing professional football where he was honored as a 2 time All-American and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1951. On top of that, Jim Thorpe also pursued ballroom dancing, in which he won the 1912 intercollegiate Ballroom Dancing competition.
King Gustav V: “He was the greatest athlete who ever lived…. What he had was natural ability. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. All he had to see is someone doin’ something and he tried it … and he’d do it better.”
6. Wayne Gretzky
If this was a list of the most dominant athletes of all time, Wayne Gretzky would probably be top 3, if not #1. Here’s how you know Wayne Gretzky was good…when the day you’re traded is considered one of the saddest day in the history of your city, ya you were probably pretty good at whatever you did. The undisputed greatest scorer in hockey history, labeled “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky has about 100 more goals than anyone in hockey history and over 700 more assists. Points, accolades, Stanley Cup titles, records, pure athleticism, and absolute dominance, Wayne Gretzky is the greatest hockey player of all time. Being the all-time NHL leader in assists per game and points per game. Listen to this (or read this), IF WAYNE GRETZKY HAD NOT SCORED A SINGLE GOAL IN HIS ENTIRE CAREER HE WOULD STILL BE THE NHL ALL-TIME POINTS LEADER. Now if that doesn't scream, unbelievable than I don’t know what does. Here come more dominant facts…Wayne Gtrezky led the league in assists 13 straight times, and points 8 straight times. He is the only player IN THE HISTORY OF THE NHL to have a 200+ point season, and he did it 4 TIMES.
The Great One, the 6th greatest athlete of all time, and the unmatched greatest hockey player of all time.
5. Michael Jordan
Believe it or not, this was not the easiest decision. For some, Michael Jordan would be #1 without even question, for others this spot would belong to Bo Jackson or Wayne Gretzky or someone else. For me, Michael Jordan takes the #5 spot. Arranging these 5 in an order that I feel fit my criteria to the best standards was difficult, all top 5 athletes equally dominant in their respective sports. Admittedly, if this were a list of greatest Olympians of all-time, Michael Jordan probably wouldn’t have even made the top 10 list, and Michael Phelps would be #1. But in terms of sheer athletic ability, dominance, accomplishments, and overall ability, Michael Jordan, for me, is for sure top 5.
Michael Jordan has been lauded as the greatest entertainer of all-time and the most exciting basketball player to grace the game. Michael Jordan was incredibly consistent and might’ve been the only athlete in history without a real weakness. 5 MVP awards, 6 NBA titles, 6x NBA Finals MVP, 14x NBA All-Star, 10x All-NBA First Team, 9x NBA All-Defensive First Team, and a 10x NBA scoring champion, Michael Jordan surely has the accomplishments to back up this claim as the greatest athlete of all time. Still standing, Jordan hold the NBA record as the all-time leader in PPG with 30.12, as well as playoff averge at 33.4. But, of course, accomplishments aren’t the only criteria for this list. At 6'6" and 215 lbs, Michael Jordan, as big as he was, was extremely agile, fast, explosive, had unbelievable balance and a vertical leap of 48", and once dunked a basketball from the free throw line, 15 feet away from the basket. Jordan was also incredibly clutch.
4. Muhammad Ali
Cassius Clay…by the time he was 18 years old he had already broke into the scene as a rising star, having won 6 Kentucky Golden Glove titles, 2 national Golden Glove titles, an Amateur Athletic Union National Title, and the Light Heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Olympics. Posting up an unreal 100–5 win/loss record as an amateur, it wasnt until he became a heavyweight and changed his name to Muhammad Ali that he turned into the icon of American history we all know today. Widely considered one of the most strategic and savvy athlete of all time, Ali was a 3x heavyweight champion. His ability to trash-talk an opponent out of their game, his demonstration of the most impressive movements he implemented while fighting, and the way he floated like butterfly and stung like a bee has yet to be matched by any boxer since Ali himself.
Don King: “Muhammad Ali — he was a magnificent fighter and he was an icon… Every head must bow, every knee must bend, every tongue must confess, thou art the greatest, the greatest of all time, Muhammad, Muhammad Ali.”
3. Usain Bolt
Usain St Leo Bolt, arguably the most naturally gifted athlete the world has ever been blessed to watch. At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Bolt created history when he completed the ‘Triple-triple’, 3 gold medals at 3 consecutive Olympic Games. Usain Bolt opened his acclaimed career at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games where he won the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m races, all in world record times. He followed up this unreal performance by doing it once again in 2012 in London, writing his name in the history books as the world fastest man. Then in 2016, he completed the same feat, officially labeling himself as a legend in world sport. Yes, 9 gold medals is very impressive, especially when you go 9/9, but that’s not the only thing that cements his as possibly the greatest athlete of all-time. Usain Bolt won 11 World T&F Championships titles. Just like his Olympic sweep of the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m, Bolt also accomplished the sweep in the same 3 events at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, 2013 World Championships in Moscow and 2015 World Championships in Beijing. He also won the 200m and 4x100m at the World Championships in Daegu in 2011. When it comes to records, you can expect Usain Bolt to hold them all. Currently he holds the world records in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m races with times of 9.58s, 19.19s and 36.84s, respectively. Usain Bolt has been awarded the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year on three occasions (2009, 2010 & 2013), the IAAF Male Athlete of the Year five times (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013), as well as many awards in many countries in all corners of the world.
Somebody needed to make Michael Phelps and Serena Williams look normal. Winning less, equally dominant, Usain Bolt captured the world with his speed, brought a nation to their feet, and gave the world something to be excited about.
Usain Bolt, the fastest man of all time...a legend.
2. Michael Phelps
The most decorated olympian of all-time, the greatest swimmer of all-time, and one of the greatest athletes of all-time. There is no question Michael Phelps deserves his spot in the top 2. Phelps made his Olympic debut at age 15 at the Sydney Games. Though he did not medal, the world knew a future great would rise, and that he did. 4 years later Michael Phelps added his name to the history books as one of the greats when he notched 6 gold medals and 2 bronze medals at the 2004 games. But it wasn't until the 2008 Beijing Games where Phelps cemented his name as the greatest swimmer of all-time and possibly the greatest Olympian of all-time when he won 8 gold medals in 8 events, breaking the record held by Mark Spitz of 7 gold medals in 1972. Michael Phelps has 28 Olympic medals, 23 of those being gold. He holds the record for most Olympic gold medals, most Olympic gold medals in individual events, and most Olympic gold medals in individual events for a male athlete. If Michael Phelps were his own country, he would have more Gold medals than 90 other countries, including Argentina and Ethiopia. Medals for Phelps, though, don’t stop at the Olympics. In all Michael Phelps has won 83 medals in major international competition, totaling 66 gold, 14 silver, and 3 bronze, all spanning the Olympics, the World, and the Pan Pacific Championships. Michael Phelps is the long course world record holder in many events, including the 100m butterfly, 200m butterfly, and 400m IM, as well as former world record holder in the 200m freestyle and 200m IM. All of these accolades have earned Phelps the World Swimmer of the Year Award 7 times and the American Swimmer of the Year Award 9 times, and his unprecedented 2008 Olympic run earned his the Sports Illustrated magazine’s Sportsman of the Year award.
Unbelievably fast, mesmerizing to watch, a true beauty in the water, an unprecidented 5 Olympic Games appearances, Michael Phelps has stunned the world with his accomlisments, longevity, and sheer dominance. He is the greatest swimmer of all time, possibly the greatest athlete of all time, but for now, is #2 on this list of the G.O.A.T.S.
1. Roger Federer
Pure dominance. Thats the reason Roger Federer makes his way onto this list. Theres no question who is the greatest tennis player of all time(for now), and thats Roger Federer. A career spanning 18 years, Federer first clinched the #1 spot in the world in 2004, and since then has been an unstoppable force. Having notched an record 19 Grand Slam titles, Roger Federer has ruled over the mens tennis world in a way no other man has. Power, finesse, and endurance. Beauty on the eye, brilliant shot making ability, the greatest footwork that has ever blessed a tennis court. Roger Federer’s style of play is beautiful, some of the shots he hits can’t be expressed with words, his forehand is the greatest ever, is net game is the greatest ever, is baseline game is the greatest ever. Roger Federer is the undisputed greatest tennis player of all time (for now, Djokovic still trying to catch up). His numbers prove it, his records prove it, his Grand Slam success proves it, and some of the things that this man has done on a tennis court have been out of this world.
John McEnroe: “He’s the most gifted player that I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve seen a lot of people play. I’ve seen the (Rod) Lavers, I played against some of the great players — the Samprases, Beckers, Connors’, Borgs, you name it. This guy could be the greatest of all time. That, to me, says it all.”
He’s the greatest tennis player of all time.
He is #1, the greatest athlete of all-time.