best athletes The Best Athletes of All Time  

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List Rules 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 ordered by

1
+ - 35,027 17,290
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

The Greatest Baseball Players of All Time The Best Non-Fiction eBooks

2
+ - 32,247 16,440
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Muhammad Ali age 75

3
+ - 20,973 16,208
Wayne Gretzky is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Wayne Gretzky age 56

4
+ - 28,136 15,280
Michael Phelps is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

5
+ - 17,008 17,669
Julius Erving is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

6
+ - 27,394 13,712
Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Babe Ruth Died at 53 (1895-1948)

7
+ - 18,222 15,778
Pelé is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pelé age 77

8
+ - 20,135 13,934
Usain Bolt is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Usain Bolt age 31

9
+ - 15,881 17,183
Paolo Maldini is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Paolo Maldini age 49

10
+ - 15,564 14,145
Pete Sampras is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pete Sampras age 46

11
+ - 28,932 14,842
Lionel Messi is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Lionel Messi age 30

12
+ - 28,528 16,237
LeBron James is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
LeBron James age 31

13
+ - 23,511 14,889
Roger Federer is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Roger Federer age 36

14
+ - 23,989 16,649
Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Joe Montana age 61

15
+ - 11,525 13,411
John McEnroe is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
John McEnroe age 58

The Best Hitters in Baseball History The Creepiest Sports Mascots

16
+ - 11,423 13,316
Marco van Basten is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

17
+ - 16,107 14,398
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Steffi Graf age 48

18
+ - 14,290 12,916
Ingemar Stenmark is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

19
+ - 15,544 11,257
Wilt Chamberlain is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Wilt Chamberlain Died at 63 (1936-1999)

20
+ - 14,414 13,702
Lorenzo Bernardi is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

21
+ - 14,704 13,587
Ruud Gullit is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Ruud Gullit age 55

22
+ - 14,888 11,481
Jack Nicklaus is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Jack Nicklaus age 77

23
+ - 14,163 10,777
Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

24
+ - 13,924 12,553
Garrincha is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Garrincha Died at 50 (1933-1983)

25
+ - 10,139 11,920
Franco Baresi is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Franco Baresi age 57

26
+ - 14,711 10,720
Jesse Owens is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Jesse Owens Died at 67 (1913-1980)

27
+ - 14,923 10,957
Magic Johnson is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Magic Johnson age 58

28
+ - 13,803 12,409
Kaká is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Kaká age 35

29
+ - 13,801 12,074
Johan Cruijff is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Johan Cruijff age 70

The Smartest Professional Athletes The Biggest Turn Ons in a Person

30
+ - 14,671 10,859
Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

31
+ - 14,241 13,092
Eddy Merckx is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Eddy Merckx age 72

32
+ - 14,215 12,820
Sergei Bubka is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Sergei Bubka age 54

33
+ - 13,952 10,584
Joe DiMaggio is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Joe DiMaggio Died at 85 (1914-1999)

34
+ - 14,538 13,203
Alexander Karelin is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

35
+ - 13,294 11,750
Rod Laver is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Rod Laver age 79

36
+ - 14,296 10,396
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

37
+ - 14,073 10,459
Bill Russell is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Bill Russell age 83

38
+ - 12,685 10,446
Walt Frazier is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Walt Frazier age 72

39
+ - 13,948 12,110
Michael Schumacher is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

40
+ - 13,105 10,640
Pete Maravich is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pete Maravich Died at 41 (1947-1988)

41
+ - 13,028 11,779
George Weah is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
George Weah age 51

42
+ - 12,460 11,221
Djalma Santos is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Djalma Santos Died at 84 (1929-2013)

43
+ - 12,956 10,131
Rocky Marciano is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Rocky Marciano Died at 46 (1923-1969)

The Best Hispanic Actresses of All Time The Best "Your Mom" Jokes in Internet History

44
+ - 13,123 11,500
Nadia Comăneci is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

45
+ - 14,276 10,876
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Mike Tyson age 51

46
+ - 13,709 12,334
Paavo Nurmi is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Paavo Nurmi Died at 76 (1897-1973)

47
+ - 12,391 11,253
Zico is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Zico age 62

48
+ - 12,891 11,380
Stefan Edberg is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Stefan Edberg age 49

49
+ - 13,528 12,059
Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

50
+ - 9,242 10,843
Gianni Rivera is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Gianni Rivera age 74