The Best Athletes of All Time People In Sports
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102  reranks 114,021 votes 6,758 voters 151,766 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
    • Region
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Score
  1. 1
    Up 1334
    Down 787

    most listed
    Wayne Gretzky

    1961 More
    100
  2. 2
    Up 2000
    Down 1152

    the people's #1
    Michael Jordan

    1963 More
    99
  3. 3
    Up 1551
    Down 989
    1942 More
    94
  4. 4
    Up 1003
    Down 770
    1940 More
    89
  5. 5
    Up 813
    Down 523
    1956 More
    88
  6. 6
    Up 1069
    Down 756
    1986 More
    84
  7. 7
    Up 918
    Down 528
    1956 More
    84
  8. 8
    Up 997
    Down 850

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Michael Phelps

    1985 More
    82
  9. 9
    Up 811
    Down 603

    often listed
    Babe Ruth

    1895 More
    82
  10. 10
    Up 425
    Down 215
    1967 More
    81
  11. 11
    Up 500
    Down 268
    1969 More
    79
  12. 12
    Up 1091
    Down 633
    1962 More
    79
  13. 13
    Up 1064
    Down 792

    often listed
    Roger Federer

    1981 More
    78
  14. 14
    Up 448
    Down 201
    1956 More
    78
    added by: Skojare
  15. 15
    Up 1084
    Down 522
    1940 More
    77
  16. 16
    Up 559
    Down 278
    1975 More
    76
  17. 17
    Up 441
    Down 192
    1973 More
    76
    added by: JonathanWeider
  18. 18
    Up 458
    Down 495

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Carl Lewis

    1961 More
    75
  19. 19
    Up 457
    Down 302
    1976 More
    75
  20. 20
    Up 428
    Down 181

    ranked low on reranks
    Carolina Klüft

    1983 More
    75
    added by: JonathanWeider
  21. 21
    Up 661
    Down 432
    1888 More
    74
  22. 22
    Up 636
    Down 497
    1966 More
    74
  23. 23
    Up 347
    Down 147

    ranked low on reranks
    Chris Evert

    1954 More
    73
    added by: JonathanWeider
  24. 24
    Up 650
    Down 539

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Magic Johnson

    1959 More
    73
  25. 25
    Up 354
    Down 169
    1903 More
    73
  26. 26
    Up 516
    Down 327
    1977 More
    73
  27. 27
    Up 562
    Down 405
    1913 More
    73
  28. 28
    Up 789
    Down 503
    1987 More
    72
  29. 29
    Up 355
    Down 154

    ranked low on reranks
    Yelena Isinbayeva

    1982 More
    72
  30. 30
    Up 302
    Down 135

    ranked low on reranks
    Nastia Liukin

    1989 More
    72
  31. 31
    Up 676
    Down 527

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Wilt Chamberlain

    1936 More
    72
  32. 32
    Up 321
    Down 143
    1984 More
    72
    added by: JonathanWeider
  33. 33
    Up 503
    Down 173

    ranked low on reranks
    Maria Sharapova

    1987 More
    71
    added by: averagej123
  34. 34
    Up 375
    Down 154
    1967 More
    71
  35. 35
    Up 632
    Down 666

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Tiger Woods

    1975 More
    71
  36. 36
    Up 367
    Down 150
    1981 More
    70
    added by: JonathanWeider
  37. 37
    Up 522
    Down 368
    1968 More
    70
  38. 38
    Up 575
    Down 436
    1962 More
    70
  39. 39
    Up 371
    Down 143

    ranked low on reranks
    Lauren Jackson

    1981 More
    70
    added by: JonathanWeider
  40. 40
    Up 158
    Down 117

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Michael Johnson

    1967 More
    70
  41. 41
    Up 506
    Down 337

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Jackie Robinson

    1919 More
    70
  42. 42
    Up 313
    Down 134

    ranked low on reranks
    Oliver Kahn

    1969 More
    70
  43. 43
    Up 249
    Down 90
    1978 More
    70
  44. 44
    Up 335
    Down 157

    ranked low on reranks
    Ty Cobb

    1886 More
    70
  45. 45
    Up 514
    Down 384

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Walter Payton

    1954 More
    70
  46. 46
    Up 61
    Down 17
    1945 More
    70
  47. 47
    Up 387
    Down 143

    Annie Thorisdottir

    69
    added by: JonathanWeider
  48. 48
    Up 377
    Down 140

    ranked low on reranks
    Anni Friesinger-Postma

    1977 More
    69
    added by: JonathanWeider
  49. 49
    Up 103
    Down 65

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Florence Griffith Joyner

    1959 More
    69
  50. 50
    Up 69
    Down 31

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Rod Laver

    1938 More
    69
    added by: RodneyBlair
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