The Best Athletes of All Time People In Sports
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97  reranks 108,499 votes 6,443 voters 138,744 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
  • 97 ReRanks
    • Women
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Score
  1. 1
    Up 1898
    Down 1118

    the people's #1 &most listed
    Michael Jordan

    1963 More
    100
  2. 2
    Up 1280
    Down 720
    1961 More
    100
  3. 3
    Up 1476
    Down 955
    1942 More
    95
  4. 4
    Up 959
    Down 734

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Pelé

    1940 More
    90
  5. 5
    Up 784
    Down 487
    1956 More
    87
  6. 6
    Up 885
    Down 499
    1956 More
    85
  7. 7
    Up 1014
    Down 730
    1986 More
    85
  8. 8
    Up 779
    Down 578
    1895 More
    83
  9. 9
    Up 953
    Down 830

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Michael Phelps

    1985 More
    83
  10. 10
    Up 1058
    Down 612
    1962 More
    80
  11. 11
    Up 1026
    Down 766

    often listed
    Roger Federer

    1981 More
    80
  12. 12
    Up 437
    Down 176

    ranked low on reranks
    Michael Schumacher

    79
  13. 13
    Up 476
    Down 238
    1969 More
    79
  14. 14
    Up 351
    Down 157
    1967 More
    78
  15. 15
    Up 1034
    Down 504
    1940 More
    77
  16. 16
    Up 426
    Down 178
    1956 More
    77
    added by: Skojare
  17. 17
    Up 529
    Down 225
    1975 More
    76
  18. 18
    Up 414
    Down 156
    1983 More
    76
    added by: JonathanWeider
  19. 19
    Up 437
    Down 473

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Carl Lewis

    1961 More
    76
  20. 20
    Up 425
    Down 165
    1973 More
    76
    added by: JonathanWeider
  21. 21
    Up 637
    Down 414
    1888 More
    75
  22. 22
    Up 611
    Down 476
    1966 More
    75
  23. 23
    Up 436
    Down 275

    often listed
    Peyton Manning

    1976 More
    75
  24. 24
    Up 620
    Down 523

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Magic Johnson

    1959 More
    74
  25. 25
    Up 331
    Down 152

    ranked low on reranks
    Lou Gehrig

    1903 More
    74
  26. 26
    Up 289
    Down 114

    ranked low on reranks
    Nastia Liukin

    1989 More
    73
  27. 27
    Up 331
    Down 126
    1954 More
    73
    added by: JonathanWeider
  28. 28
    Up 528
    Down 392
    1913 More
    73
  29. 29
    Up 495
    Down 303
    1977 More
    73
  30. 30
    Up 759
    Down 481

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Lionel Messi

    1987 More
    73
  31. 31
    Up 650
    Down 513

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Wilt Chamberlain

    1936 More
    73
  32. 32
    Up 307
    Down 120
    1984 More
    72
    added by: JonathanWeider
  33. 33
    Up 338
    Down 137

    ranked low on reranks
    Yelena Isinbayeva

    1982 More
    72
  34. 34
    Up 477
    Down 157

    ranked low on reranks
    Maria Sharapova

    1987 More
    72
    added by: averagej123
  35. 35
    Up 606
    Down 653

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Tiger Woods

    1975 More
    72
  36. 36
    Up 363
    Down 136
    1967 More
    71
  37. 37
    Up 358
    Down 129
    1981 More
    71
    added by: JonathanWeider
  38. 38
    Up 500
    Down 357
    1968 More
    71
  39. 39
    Up 551
    Down 425
    1962 More
    71
  40. 40
    Up 379
    Down 130

    ranked low on reranks
    Annie Thorisdottir

    70
    added by: JonathanWeider
  41. 41
    Up 495
    Down 374

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Walter Payton

    1954 More
    70
  42. 42
    Up 485
    Down 327

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Jackie Robinson

    1919 More
    70
  43. 43
    Up 297
    Down 118

    ranked low on reranks
    Oliver Kahn

    1969 More
    70
  44. 44
    Up 356
    Down 132
    1981 More
    70
    added by: JonathanWeider
  45. 45
    Up 319
    Down 151
    1886 More
    70
  46. 46
    Up 226
    Down 92

    often listed
    Katarina Witt

    70
  47. 47
    Up 232
    Down 66
    1968 More
    69
  48. 48
    Up 368
    Down 127
    1977 More
    69
    added by: JonathanWeider
  49. 49
    Up 285
    Down 148

    often listed
    Wayne Rooney

    1985 More
    69
  50. 50
    Up 349
    Down 84

    ranked low on reranks
    Kerri Walsh Jennings

    1978 More
    69
    added by: JonathanWeider
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