The Best Athletes of All Time People In Sports
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102  reranks 113,575 votes 6,751 voters 151,173 views more info

The Best Athletes of All Time

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 is ranked by a combination of each item's votes & positioning in reranks
  • 102 ReRanks
    • Women
    • Men
    • Age
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Score
  1. 1
    Up 1332
    Down 782

    most listed
    Wayne Gretzky

    1961 More
    100
  2. 2
    Up 1997
    Down 1151

    the people's #1
    Michael Jordan

    1963 More
    98
  3. 3
    Up 1548
    Down 988
    1942 More
    94
  4. 4
    Up 1002
    Down 767
    1940 More
    89
  5. 5
    Up 811
    Down 522
    1956 More
    88
  6. 6
    Up 1066
    Down 754
    1986 More
    84
  7. 7
    Up 917
    Down 525
    1956 More
    84
  8. 8
    Up 994
    Down 849

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Michael Phelps

    1985 More
    82
  9. 9
    Up 809
    Down 601

    often listed
    Babe Ruth

    1895 More
    82
  10. 10
    Up 424
    Down 212
    1967 More
    81
  11. 11
    Up 498
    Down 266
    1969 More
    79
  12. 12
    Up 1088
    Down 632
    1962 More
    79
  13. 13
    Up 1063
    Down 790

    often listed
    Roger Federer

    1981 More
    78
  14. 14
    Up 446
    Down 199
    1956 More
    78
    added by: Skojare
  15. 15
    Up 1082
    Down 520
    1940 More
    77
  16. 16
    Up 557
    Down 276
    1975 More
    76
  17. 17
    Up 438
    Down 191
    1973 More
    76
    added by: JonathanWeider
  18. 18
    Up 456
    Down 494

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Carl Lewis

    1961 More
    75
  19. 19
    Up 456
    Down 299
    1976 More
    75
  20. 20
    Up 426
    Down 179

    ranked low on reranks
    Carolina Klüft

    1983 More
    75
    added by: JonathanWeider
  21. 21
    Up 635
    Down 495

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Mike Tyson

    1966 More
    74
  22. 22
    Up 658
    Down 432
    1888 More
    74
  23. 23
    Up 344
    Down 146

    ranked low on reranks
    Chris Evert

    1954 More
    73
    added by: JonathanWeider
  24. 24
    Up 648
    Down 538

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Magic Johnson

    1959 More
    73
  25. 25
    Up 353
    Down 167
    1903 More
    73
  26. 26
    Up 515
    Down 325
    1977 More
    73
  27. 27
    Up 559
    Down 405

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Jesse Owens

    1913 More
    73
  28. 28
    Up 301
    Down 132
    1989 More
    72
  29. 29
    Up 788
    Down 500
    1987 More
    72
  30. 30
    Up 320
    Down 140
    1984 More
    72
    added by: JonathanWeider
  31. 31
    Up 353
    Down 152

    ranked low on reranks
    Yelena Isinbayeva

    1982 More
    72
  32. 32
    Up 674
    Down 525

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Wilt Chamberlain

    1936 More
    72
  33. 33
    Up 502
    Down 170

    ranked low on reranks
    Maria Sharapova

    1987 More
    71
    added by: averagej123
  34. 34
    Up 373
    Down 152
    1967 More
    71
  35. 35
    Up 632
    Down 663

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Tiger Woods

    1975 More
    71
  36. 36
    Up 366
    Down 147

    ranked low on reranks
    Elena Dementieva

    1981 More
    71
    added by: JonathanWeider
  37. 37
    Up 573
    Down 434

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Jerry Rice

    1962 More
    70
  38. 38
    Up 520
    Down 367

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Barry Sanders

    1968 More
    70
  39. 39
    Up 369
    Down 141

    ranked low on reranks
    Lauren Jackson

    1981 More
    70
    added by: JonathanWeider
  40. 40
    Up 312
    Down 131

    ranked low on reranks
    Oliver Kahn

    1969 More
    70
  41. 41
    Up 155
    Down 115

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Michael Johnson

    1967 More
    70
  42. 42
    Up 248
    Down 88

    ranked low on reranks
    Miroslav Klose

    1978 More
    70
  43. 43
    Up 506
    Down 335

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Jackie Robinson

    1919 More
    70
  44. 44
    Up 513
    Down 383

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Walter Payton

    1954 More
    70
  45. 45
    Up 334
    Down 156

    ranked low on reranks
    Ty Cobb

    1886 More
    69
  46. 46
    Up 60
    Down 16

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Franz Beckenbauer

    1945 More
    69
  47. 47
    Up 386
    Down 142

    ranked low on reranks
    Annie Thorisdottir

    69
    added by: JonathanWeider
  48. 48
    Up 376
    Down 138

    ranked low on reranks
    Anni Friesinger-Postma

    1977 More
    69
    added by: JonathanWeider
  49. 49
    Up 102
    Down 63

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Florence Griffith Joyner

    1959 More
    69
  50. 50
    Up 300
    Down 164
    1985 More
    69
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