Top-20 Greatest Athletes Of All Time

Top-20 Greatest Athletes Of All Time

Who are the greatest athletes of all time? 

We take a look at some of the greatest athletes in their chosen sports. 

These athletes were so good at what they did, and it was like they were born to be athletes. 

Without further ado, in no particular order, let’s get right into the list.

The Greatest Athletes The World Has Ever Seen

Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson
Via wikimedia commons

Gibson was one of the greatest female tennis players ever to play the game.

After a beautiful career in tennis that saw her win every singles title up for grabs, she retired from tennis and took up golfing. 

She made her first LPGA tour at the age of 37, and though she was unable to win a title, she was almost always in the top 10 LPGA rankings.

Most people who saw her play had nothing but praises for her, often wondering what would have been if she had started at a young age.

Nadia Comaneci

Nadia Comaneci
Wikimedia Commons

For the fans of gymnastics, the balance beam needs no introduction. 

It is the most difficult part of gymnastics that even the male gymnasts dare not give it a go because of their anatomy.

Yet Nadia Comaneci, Arguably the greatest gymnast the world has ever seen, stunned the world with her almost flawless display on the balance beam in the 1976 summer Olympics. 

That performance alone was more than enough to earn her a spot on our list of the greatest athletes of all time.

Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens
Wikimedia commons

In a time when segregation was at its peak, and the Nazis were at the height of their powers.

Even the 1936 Olympics was held in Berlin and often called the Nazi Olympics.

Jesse Owens became the first track and field athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympic game.

He set three new records at the time while also equaling a fourth. 

Jackie Joyner Kersee

Jackie Joyner Kersee
Via wikimedia commons

Jackie Joyner Kersee is a retired track and field athlete who is often referred to as the greatest female athlete of all time, and for good reasons. 

Her achievements as a track and field athlete are phenomenal; she won six Olympic medals, three gold and a silver during her time as an athlete, along with several world championships during her time as an athlete.

Cheryl Miller

Cheryl Miller
Via Twitter

Cheryl Miller used to be a basketball player, and arguably the best female basketball athlete the world has ever had the chance to witness. 

She once scored a hundred points for her team in a high school game. 

And while in college, she led her team (USC) to the NCAA title. 

She even played a significant role in helping her team win gold at the 1984 Olympics.

 It’s a pity the WNBA had not started when she was in her prime. 

One can only wonder what could have been.

Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova
Via wikimedia commons

When it comes to who the greatest female tennis player is, it would be difficult picking between Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf. 

When you look at the stats, they are pretty close. 

But considering the fact that Navratilova was probably a role model to Graf, and also that Navratilova has reached way more finals than Graf, Navratilova takes our vote as the greatest female tennis player of all time.

Carl Lewis

Carl Lewis
Via wikimedia commons

While it’s hard to say what would have been if Jesse Owen’s career as a track and field athlete hadn’t been cut short. 

Carl Lewis has proven to be the greatest track and field athlete the world has ever seen, winning 10 Olympic medals; 9 gold and a silver. 

Lewis even replicated the achievements of Jesse Owens, winning four gold medals on the same events as Owens in the 1984 Olympics. 

He is one of only three athletes to have won a gold medal on the same event in four different Olympic games.

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps
Photo credit: Fernando Frazão / Wikimedia

This list just wouldn’t be complete without the greatest competitive swimmer and the most decorated Olympian since they began keeping records. 

Michael Phelps, nicknamed the flying fish, is currently the most successful athlete winning 23 gold medals in four consecutive Olympic games, which is the highest ever by any athlete, whether individual or in a team.

With all that he has achieved, setting 29 individual swimming records and 10 relay records, “the flying fish” is definitely the greatest swimmer ever.

Anderson Silva

Anderson Silva
@ spiderandersonsilva /Instagram

Silva may not have been the best boxer, losing his second professional boxing match. 

However, he did conquer the middleweight division of the UFC.

After becoming the middleweight champion in 2006, he held on for an astonishing 2,457 days. 

For almost seven consecutive years Silva successfully defended his title, winning 16 straight victories on the bounce.

Therefore cementing his status as arguably the greatest mixed martial artist in the UFC.


Credit: John Mathews via wikimedia commons

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, simply known as Pelè, was a professional soccer player who is often revered as the greatest soccer player of all time. 

Though he spent most of his career playing for Brazilian club Santos, Pelè won the World Cup with his country Brazil winning it a record three times. 

He also holds the record for the highest number of goals scored by a player, including friendlies with 1279 goals in 1363 games.

Willie Mays

Willie Mays
Via wikimedia commons

For Willie Mays, baseball was his third sport. He led his high school team to the states championship and was also a decent quarterback. 

But the MLB was where he excelled as an athlete, winning the world series and scoring a staggering 660 home runs, number 4 in the all-time list. 

Winning 12 consecutive Gold Glove Awards was impressive and helped cement his status as one of the greatest athletes of all time

Tony Hawk

Tony Hawk

Tony Hawk, nicknamed Birdman is the greatest professional vertical skateboarder the world has ever seen. 

His awesome skateboarding tricks were used to create a video game series that was published by video game company Activision. 

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan Net Worth – Richest NBA Player

Winning six NBA Championships and 5 MVP is undoubtedly an impressive feat, yet those records clearly don’t do justice to the legendary NBA phenomenon that was Michael Jordan.

From his pace to his artistic slam dunks, MJ played an integral role in transforming the NBA into the globally recognized league that it is today.

And to think that MJ was just as interested in baseball as he was in basketball, retiring after his third consecutive NBA Championship for Baseball in 1993. 

Wayne Gretzky

To think that the greatest player to ever grace the NHL almost signed for the MLB.

After batting a .492 for a semi-pro team, the Toronto Blue Jays came knocking with a contract. 

But he chose the game of ice hockey and became the first and only player in the NHL’s entire history to score 200 points in a season, a feat he repeated four times. 

Roger Federer

There are split decisions regarding who the greatest Tennis player is between Rodger Federer and Rafael Nadal. 

With both of them having a record 20 Grand Slam singles titles each, their tennis court rivalry has been spectacular. 

But being world number 1 for an impressive record 310 weeks, which includes a record 237 consecutive weeks, it becomes a lot clearer who the better player is.

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth
Via wikimedia commons

George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr had 22 illustrious seasons in the MLB that spanned from 1914 to 1935.

He was nicknamed the “Sultan of Swats” and was arguably the greatest baseball player the MLB ever had. 

He created several batting and fielding records that stood for a very long time, with two of those records still standing to this day.

Related: 36 Famous Babe Ruth Quotes Of All Time

Dale Earnhardt Sr

Dale Earnhardt Sr
Via wikimedia commons

Earnhardt won 76 Winston Cup races, including four Winston 500 and the 1998 Daytona 500. 

As impressive as his racing career was, what really set Earnhardt apart was his aggression on the race tracks. He once raced Watkins Glen just two weeks after fracturing his collarbone and sternum. 

With only one hand to shift and steer, Earnhardt won a pole and  led 51 out of the 54 laps before finishing an impressive sixth.

 Though he died way too early, Dale Earnhardt Sr was the greatest NASCAR Driver.

Related: Best NASCAR Drivers of All Time

Bo Jackson

Bo Vincent Edward Jackson was the only professional athlete to feature for both the NFL and MLB in the same period. 

He played football as a running back for the Los Angeles Raiders and an outfielder and designated hitter. 

He was so good, and he got selected into the All-Star teams of both the NFL and the MLB.

Bo Jackson’s multiple sportsmanship was truly incredible. It’s quite unfortunate his career was cut short by injuries.

Jim Brown

The NFL has sure seen some incredible talents in it’s long and incredible history. 

It was difficult picking one of their all-time greats. Looking at the illustrious career of Jim Brown, he just couldn’t be ignored. 

Yes, Jim Brown is the greatest running back the NFL has ever seen, and won the NFL Championship with Cleveland Browns. 

But he was just as good in other sports earning varsity letters in Lacrosse, Basketball, and Track sports.

It’s hard to say what could have been if he had chosen a different sport, but the NFL were lucky to have him

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali — Greatest Athlete/Boxer of All Time
Via wikimedia commons

Ali lost just one fight by knockout, coming out of retirement to fight against Joe Frazier when his health was in a bad state. 

Another athlete that needs no introduction, the name Muhammad Ali has been synonymous with heavyweight boxing for several decades.

Ali was not only one of the greatest heavyweight champions; he was also very active in the civil rights movement.

Final Words

There you have it, some of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen. 

These athletes were built for sports and had some of the best records in their chosen sports. 

To their beloved fans, they became idols and role models to the younger generation of athletes who strive to follow in their footsteps.

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