Sports are loved by millions of people all around the world; it is no wonder that great athletes have inspired and created some of the greatest athletic contenders of all time. The competition is tough, and the list of greatest athletes ever is likely to vary widely, depending on who is making the list. In spite of the differences in opinions, there are some athletes who have consistently made the list of greatest athletes ever. The criteria for consideration for such a list usually includes the importance of their achievements and the length and success of their careers. This article features some of the most celebrated and most accomplished athletes of all time.
Muhammad Ali :
Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer who is considered one of the most influential and greatest athletes of all time. He emerged on the boxing scene as a light heavyweight in the 1960s and is widely recognized as one of the most influential and iconic figures of the 20th century. He won 56 out of his 61 boxing fights and made a name for himself with his lightning speed and showmanship in the ring. He was crowned the Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T) by many sport historians. He was the leader of the civil rights movement, a prolific poet and an icon for black Americans.
Usain Bolt :
Usain Bolt is a Jamaican sprinter who is, perhaps, the most celebrated athlete of the 21st century. He burst onto the track and field scene and quickly became one of the greatest sprinters and all-round athletes of his time. His world record 9.58 seconds in the 100 m sprint has become the symbol of what an athlete can achieve with dedication and determination. He is a three-time Olympic gold medallist and has taken home the IAAF World Championship 11 medals, making him one of the most successful sprinters ever.
Michael Phelps :
Michael Phelps is an American professional swimmer and one of the greatest athletes of all time. He has won 28 Olympic medals, more than any other athlete in the history of the event, with 23 of them gold. He is a 15-time world champion and has broken nearly every swimming record in his time. He is renowned for his extraordinary ability to stay calm under pressure and to finish first in almost every race he takes part in. He has inspired millions to get into swimming, of all ages and ability levels, and is considered a global ambassador for the sport.
Serena Williams :
Serena Williams is an American professional tennis player who is ranked one of the greatest athletes of all time. She has won a record-tying 24 Grand Slam singles titles, which makes her the most celebrated champion in the history of women’s tennis. She has won a total of 38 Grand Slams when the doubles and mixed titles are taken into account. She has been ranked the world number one by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) seven times. She has also been at the forefront of the fight for equal pay and rights for female athletes.
Pele was a Brazilian professional footballer and is undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes of all time. He is widely considered to be the greatest footballer of all time and is known for his amazing technique and goal-scoring abilities. He won the World Cup three times in 1958, 1962 and 1970 and is the only player to have achieved the feat. He also won three Player of the Year awards and has scored a total of 1281 goals in his illustrious career. He has become a symbol of successful teamwork, and many athletes cite him as an inspiration for their successes.
Jesse Owens :
Jesse Owens was an American athlete who won a record four gold medals during the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin. He made history by becoming the first African American athlete to receive such an accolade at the Olympics. His career was a huge success and he was recognized for his athletic accomplishments later in life. He was a pioneer of the civil rights movement, and his achievements symbolized the breaking of the color barrier in sport. He served as an inspiration to all those who believe that they can achieve greatness, regardless of the hand they are dealt.
Lionel Messi :
Lionel Messi is one of the greatest footballers of all time and is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. He is a professional Argentinean footballer who plays for FC Barcelona and the Argentine national team. He has won the FIFA World Player of the Year six times and scored a total of over 700 goals in his career, making him the all-time leading goalscorer. He is renowned for his ability to dribble past defenders with ease and for his deadly accuracy when shooting for goal. He is an inspiration for people around the world to work hard and achieve greatness.
Martina Navratilova :
Martina Navratilova is a retired Czech-American professional tennis player and one of the greatest athletes of all time. She was ranked number one in the world for a total of 332 weeks, the most of any player, male or female. She also holds the record for most singles titles won in the Open Era with 167 and is the only player to have won at least one Grand Slam title in four different decades. She is also an advocate for LGBTQ rights and has been a strong voice for inclusivity and tolerance in both sport and society.
Babe Ruth :
Babe Ruth was an American professional baseball player who is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time. He is considered one of the most iconic figures in sports, and his accomplishments in the sport are unparalleled. He single-handedly changed the game of baseball, bringing popularity and excitement to the sport. He won a total of seven World Series titles, and held multiple league records, including most home runs in a single season and total career home runs, which still stands today.
Roger Federer :
Roger Federer is a Swiss professional tennis player and is widely considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. He has won a record 20 Grand Slams, the most of any male tennis player and has held the world number one spot for a total of 310 weeks, the most of any singles player in the Open Era. He is the only male to have reached the finals of all four Grand Slams at least 10 times. His success and longevity in the sport are a testament to his incredible determination and talent.
Mia Hamm :
Mia Hamm is an American former professional footballer, who is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. She won two FIFA World Cup titles and two Olympic gold medals during her career, making her the most successful American footballer of all time. She was known for her remarkable ability to control the ball and her precocious passing ability. She paved the way for women in sport and has become an icon for female athletes. She is a strong advocate for increased funding and better opportunities for women in sport.
Michael Jordan :
Michael Jordan is an American former professional basketball player and one of the greatest athletes of all time. He holds the record for most points scored in a single game and most seasons of scoring over 3000 points in a season. He won six NBA championships, five MVP awards, and was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1988. His success in the game helped to make the NBA the international phenomenon that it is today. He is an inspiration to millions of basketball fans around the world.
Barry Bonds :
Barry Bonds is an American former professional baseball player, who is considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He holds MLB’s record for most home runs (762) and stolen bases (539) and earned 14 All-Star selections, eight gold glove awards and eight Silver Slugger awards during his illustrious career. His sheer skill and work ethic made him an idol for many and helped to revolutionize the game of baseball.
Wayne Gretzky :
Wayne Gretzky is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time. He holds the NHL record for most goals (894) and the most assists (1,963). He is a four-time Stanley Cup champion and the only player in history to reach the 200-point mark in a single season. He was known for his intelligence that made him an all-round player, rather than just a goal scorer. He is a living legend in Canada and has inspired many generations of ice hockey players.
Kobe Bryant :
Kobe Bryant was an American professional basketball player who was considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. He won five NBA championships, was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player twice, and was named an NBA All-Star 18 times. He is the only player in NBA history to have two jersey numbers retired by the same team. He was renowned for his work ethic, drive, and will to win and will forever be remembered as one of the best basketball players to ever grace the court.
Maradona was an Argentinian professional footballer and is widely considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time. He is renowned for leading Argentina to their 1986 World Cup victory and scoring possibly the most famous goal in football history against England. He was a masterful dribbler and Goalkeeper, renowned for his technique, vision, and creativity. He played for some of the top football clubs, including Barcelona and Argentinos Juniors, and is regarded as the greatest Argentine footballer ever. He was awarded the FIFA Player of the Century Award in 2000, making him one of the most acclaimed sporting figures of all time.
Yogi Berra :
Yogi Berra was an American professional baseball player who is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. He was a three-time MVP and holds the MLB record for most championships won, with ten. He was an outfielder who was known for his incredible skill with the bat and his ability to come through in the clutch. He was an inspiration to all who saw him play and a leader on the field. He was an icon of the game, even before his retirement, and holds the title of the greatest catcher of all time.
Cristiano Ronaldo :
Cristiano Ronaldo is a Portuguese professional footballer who is widely considered to be the greatest in the game and one of the greatest athletes of all time. He has won the Ballon d’Or a record five times and is the all-time leading goalscorer in the UEFA Champions League. He has won a total of 29 trophies in his career, including two leagues and four Champions League titles. His charisma, skill, and dedication make him a global footballing icon and an inspiration to millions of fans.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar :
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an American former professional basketball player, who is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. He was an integral part of the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks, and won a total of six championships in his career. He is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and a three-time NBA MVP and he holds the record for most All-Star appearances, with 19. He revolutionized the sport of basketball, with his patented “Skyhook” shot and has been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jack Nicklaus :
Jack Nicklaus is an American professional golfer and one of the greatest athletes of all time. He turned professional in 1962 and had an illustrious career on the PGA tour, winning 18 majors and 73 PGA tour events. He is the only player to have won all four major golf championships and holds the record for most appearances as a player at the Masters. He has become an iconic figure in the sport of golf, and has inspired generations of golfers around the world.
Diego Maradona :
Diego Maradona is an Argentinean former professional footballer and is widely considered the greatest footballer of all time. He was the captain of the famous 1986 World Cup-winning team and is one of the most iconic sports figures of all time. He was known for his mesmerizing dribbling and his incredible vision, which made him one of the most feared strikers in the history of the game. He is also an advocate for social causes, including the refugee crisis and global poverty.
Nadia Comaneci :
Nadia Comaneci is a Romanian former artistic gymnast and is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time. She is the first gymnast to ever achieve a perfect 10 score at the Olympics, which was a major milestone for the sport. She won a total of five gold medals in the Olympic Games and was the first woman to be awarded the Olympic Order in 1984. She is now a coach, advocate and public speaker, promoting the sport of gymnastics and inspiring generations of gymnasts around the world.
Greg Chappell :
Greg Chappell is an Australian former cricketer who is widely considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time. He played international cricket for over two decades and was the captain of both Australia and South Australia. He was known for his tactical brilliance and his propensity to lead from the front. He was named the Australian Cricketer of the Year in 1977, and is widely regarded as one of the most influential players in the history of the game.
Julius Erving :
Julius Erving is an American retired professional basketball player who is regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time. He played in both the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). He is known for his electric style of play and for being one of the first sportsmen to make the slam dunk a signature move. He won three championships and was an All-Star in 16 of his 17 seasons. He was an inspiration for future generations and his contribution to the game of basketball will never be forgotten.
Martina Hingis :
Martina Hingis is a Swiss former professional tennis player who is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. She retired in 2017 and was the youngest Grand Slam champion in history, after winning the Australian Open in 1997 at the age of 16. She won five Grand Slam singles, nine Grand Slam women’s doubles, and seven Grand Slam mixed doubles, making her the most successful female player in the history of the sport. Her skill on the court made her an icon and an inspiration for future generations of female athletes.
Arthur Ashe :
Arthur Ashe was an American professional tennis player and one of the greatest athletes of all time. He won Wimbledon in 1975 and was the first black man to do so. He was a three-time Grand Slam champion, and was ranked world number one on four occasions. He was also an advocate for civil rights and AIDS awareness, and a respected educator and lecturer. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously, in 1993, and is remembered as a champion both on and off the tennis court.
Michael Schumacher :
Michael Schumacher is a German former professional racing driver and is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. He is a 7-time Formula 1 World Champion and a record-holder in many other F1 categories. He is a living legend in motor racing and has inspired generations of racers. He is renowned for his intelligence and ruthless driving ability, which made him an icon in the sport.
Jonah Lomu :
Jonah Lomu was a New Zealand rugby union player who is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. He was the youngest All Black ever, making his debut at the age of 19, and is known for revolutionizing the game of rugby union. He won Player of the Year honors twice, was named the I.R.B Player of the Century, and held the record for most tries at the Rugby World Cup, with 15. He was an inspiration to many in the world of rugby and helped to make the sport popular all around the world.
Usain Bolt :
Usain Bolt is a Jamaican sprinter who is, perhaps, the most celebrated athlete of the 21st century. He burst onto the track and field scene and quickly became one of the greatest sprinters and all-round athletes of his time. His world record 9.58 seconds in the 100 m sprint has become the symbol of what an athlete can achieve with dedication and determination. He is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and has taken home the IAAF World Championship 11 medals, making him one of the most successful sprinters ever.
Bjorn Borg :
Bjorn Borg was a Swedish former professional tennis player, who is widely considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. He won 11 Grand Slam titles, five of which were consecutive and was the first male player to win three consecutive Wimbledon titles. He was known for his intense and charismatic playing style, as well as his legendary rivalries with fellow tennis Champion John McEnroe. He is an inspiration to many aspiring tennis players and a testament to what can be achieved with hard work and commitment.
Sergei Bubka :
Sergei Bubka is a Ukrainian former track and field athlete and one of the greatest pole vaulters of all time. He was the first man to clear the six-meter barrier and is the only athlete to have set more than 30 world records in pole vaulting. He won six World Championship titles and won gold in the 1988 Olympics, which made him an icon of the sport. He has since gone on to serve as an IAAF vice president, and has become a symbol of success and inspiration for athletes around the world.
Fanny Blankers-Koen :
Fanny Blankers-Koen was a Dutch athlete who is regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time. She made history in the 1948 Olympics, when she became the first woman to win four gold medals at a single games. She had a successful career in track and field, winning a total of 12 individual world records and nine gold medals in European Championships and Olympics. She has become a symbol for female athletes, and of hope and perseverance.