The Best Athletes of All Time People In Sports

The Best Athletes of All Time

461k votes 25k voters 419k views 1,580 items tags f p @

List Criteria: Open to all amateur or professional athletes in any sport

The greatest athletes of all time: a list of the most dominant, iconic athletes to ever play sports. This list gathers sports stars from across every professional league, as well as amateur athletes who may have never competed professionally, in one overall list. Though it may be challenging to compare performance in a variety of different competitive arenas requiring different skill sets, this list nevertheless attempts to distinguish the top, highest-performing and most successful athletes ever to play. The sports stars that rise to the top can be considered to be the best athletes of all time.

Aspects to consider in picking a best athlete of all time would include, obviously, that player's raw talent and born ability. Some individuals seem to prodigally gifted in their sport of choice, and it's hard to discount the importance of this kind of natural talent. However, it's also important to evaluate hard work, discipline and a commitment to the game. Some athletes may not have the natural, genetic ability to dunk a basketball or hit a home run, but nonetheless have trained to the point of reaching these goals all the same. (They may not be the greatest athlete of all time at all sports, but they have mastered their activity.)

Finally, it can be a challenge to compare an athlete who competed in a solo competition with a member of a well known sports organization or club. How do you look at the achievements of, say, a boxer like Muhammad Ali alongside an athlete like Michael Jordan, who had to not only perform to his own best abilities but work as a cohesive unit along with other members of his team? These are the questions that must be answered when compiling a list of the world's greatest all-time athletes.

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List Photo: user uploaded image
  • 287 ReRanks
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  1. 1
    + 8,349
    - 5,604
    Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    the people's #1
    Michael Jordan New York City, New York, United States of America

  2. 2
    + 5,712
    - 5,813
    Wayne Gretzky is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    most listed
    Wayne Gretzky Brantford, Canada

  3. 3
    + 6,882
    - 4,999
    Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Muhammad Ali Louisville, Kentucky, United States of America

  4. 4
    + 3,942
    - 3,367


    Oakville, Alabama, United States of America

    ;
  5. 5
    + 4,773
    - 4,604
    Pelé is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Pelé Três Corações, Brazil

  6. 6
    + 4,193
    - 4,194


    New Eagle, Pennsylvania, United States of America

    ;
  7. 7
    + 4,727
    - 4,534
    Usain Bolt is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Usain Bolt Sherwood Content, Jamaica

  8. 8
    + 3,938
    - 3,445


    Basel, Switzerland

    ;
  9. 9
    + 4,197
    - 3,317
    Larry Bird is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    ranked low on reranks
    Larry Bird West Baden Springs, French Lick Township, Indiana

  10. 10
    + 3,168
    - 3,273
    Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Steffi Graf Mannheim, Germany

  11. 11
    + 3,625
    - 3,922
    Michael Phelps is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Michael Phelps Towson, Baltimore, Maryland

  12. 12
    + 1,149
    - 1,045
    Diego Maradona is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Diego Maradona Lanús, Argentina

  13. 13
    + 2,556
    - 3,097

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Novosibirsk, Russia

    ;
  14. 14
    + 1,956
    - 1,813

    added by JonathanWeider
    Elverum, Norway

    ;
  15. 15
    + 3,360
    - 3,360
    Peyton Manning is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Peyton Manning New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America

  16. 16
    + 2,157
    - 2,371
    Paavo Nurmi is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    often listed & added by JonathanWeider
    Paavo Nurmi Grand Duchy of Finland, Russian Empire

  17. 17
    + 454
    - 269

    ranked low on reranks & added by amsmaia
    São Paulo, Brazil

    ;
  18. 18
    + 825
    - 572

    ranked low on reranks
    Prague, Czech Republic

    ;
  19. 19
    + 2,388
    - 2,214


    Upper Arlington, Ohio, United States of America

    ;
  20. 20
    + 2,126
    - 1,852
    Bobby Orr is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Bobby Orr Parry Sound, Canada

  21. 21
    + 2,316
    - 2,051


    Munich, Germany

    ;
  22. 22
    + 1,929
    - 1,644
    Lou Gehrig is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Lou Gehrig Yorkville, New York City, New York

  23. 23
    + 3,243
    - 3,020
    Tom Brady is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Tom Brady San Mateo, California, United States of America

  24. 24
    + 2,140
    - 1,948


    Montreal, Canada

    ;
  25. 25
    + 3,022
    - 2,736
    Lionel Messi is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Lionel Messi Rosario, Argentina

  26. 26
    + 2,096
    - 2,050
    Rod Laver is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    added by RodneyBlair
    Rod Laver Rockhampton, Australia

  27. 27
    + 1,036
    - 894


    Hürth, Germany

    ;
  28. 28
    + 1,022
    - 965
    Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Serena Williams Saginaw, Michigan, United States of America

  29. 29
    + 1,829
    - 1,934
    Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    added by JonathanWeider
    Paula Radcliffe Davenham, United Kingdom

  30. 30
    + 2,395
    - 2,544
    Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Babe Ruth Pigtown, Baltimore, Maryland

  31. 31
    + 3,363
    - 3,389
    Bo Jackson is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Bo Jackson Bessemer, Alabama, United States of America

  32. 32
    + 1,838
    - 1,858

    added by JonathanWeider
    Oslo, Norway

    ;
  33. 33
    + 1,708
    - 1,398
    Tony Hawk is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    ranked low on reranks
    Tony Hawk Carlsbad, California, United States of America

  34. 34
    + 1,966
    - 2,139

    often listed & added by Skojare
    Stockholm, Sweden

    ;
  35. 35
    + 1,294
    - 989
    Mickey Mantle is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    ranked low on reranks
    Mickey Mantle Spavinaw, Oklahoma, United States of America

  36. 36
    + 1,888
    - 1,667

    added by JonathanWeider
    Ashington, United Kingdom

    ;
  37. 37
    + 1,628
    - 1,571
    Annika Sörenstam is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    added by JonathanWeider
    Annika Sörenstam Bro, Sweden, Sweden

  38. 38
    + 1,544
    - 1,522
    Chris Evert is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    added by JonathanWeider
    Chris Evert Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States of America

  39. 39
    + 1,735
    - 1,760
    Magic Johnson is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Magic Johnson Lansing, Michigan, United States of America

  40. 40
    + 1,660
    - 1,656
    Lidija Skobilowa is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    added by JonathanWeider
    Lidija Skobilowa

  41. 41
    + 1,741
    - 1,687
    Wilt Chamberlain is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Wilt Chamberlain Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

  42. 42
    + 1,398
    - 1,344
    Lindsey Vonn is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    added by JonathanWeider
    Lindsey Vonn Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States of America

  43. 43
    + 1,549
    - 1,592

    added by JonathanWeider
    Drammen, Norway

    ;
  44. 44
    + 1,756
    - 1,826


    Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York City, New York

    ;
  45. 45
    + 1,199
    - 1,608
    Carl Lewis is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Carl Lewis Birmingham, Alabama, United States of America

  46. 46
    + 2,814
    - 2,419
    Bruce Lee is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Bruce Lee Chinatown, California, United States of America

  47. 47
    + 1,387
    - 1,411
    Carolina Klüft is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    often listed & added by JonathanWeider
    Carolina Klüft Sandhult, Sweden

  48. 48
    + 604
    - 462

    ranked low on reranks & added by geyyy
    Moscow, Russia

    ;
  49. 49
    + 871
    - 724


    Amsterdam, Netherlands

    ;
  50. 50
    + 1,376
    - 1,371
    LeBron James is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    LeBron James Akron, Ohio, United States of America

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