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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1
+ - 33,743 16,637
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

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2
+ - 31,174 15,881
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Muhammad Ali age 75

3
+ - 20,289 15,529
Wayne Gretzky is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Wayne Gretzky age 56

4
+ - 27,220 14,755
Michael Phelps is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

5
+ - 26,667 13,128
Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Babe Ruth Died at 53 (1895-1948)

6
+ - 19,261 13,435
Usain Bolt is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Usain Bolt age 31

7
+ - 15,494 16,317
Paolo Maldini is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Paolo Maldini age 49

8
+ - 16,604 16,874
Julius Erving is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

9
+ - 17,547 15,300
Pelé is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pelé age 77

10
+ - 27,705 15,584
LeBron James is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
LeBron James age 31

11
+ - 23,532 16,118
Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Joe Montana age 61

12
+ - 28,244 14,395
Lionel Messi is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Lionel Messi age 30

13
+ - 22,768 14,545
Roger Federer is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Roger Federer age 36

14
+ - 15,302 13,630
Pete Sampras is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pete Sampras age 46

15
+ - 15,887 13,922
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Steffi Graf age 48

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16
+ - 11,301 12,926
John McEnroe is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
John McEnroe age 58

17
+ - 11,255 12,860
Marco van Basten is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

18
+ - 14,570 11,170
Jack Nicklaus is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Jack Nicklaus age 77

19
+ - 14,342 13,294
Lorenzo Bernardi is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

20
+ - 14,612 13,220
Ruud Gullit is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Ruud Gullit age 55

21
+ - 14,193 12,572
Ingemar Stenmark is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

22
+ - 15,047 11,033
Wilt Chamberlain is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Wilt Chamberlain Died at 63 (1936-1999)

23
+ - 14,158 12,790
Eddy Merckx is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Eddy Merckx age 72

24
+ - 14,429 12,871
Alexander Karelin is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

25
+ - 13,820 12,248
Garrincha is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Garrincha Died at 50 (1933-1983)

26
+ - 13,892 10,568
Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

27
+ - 13,677 12,087
Kaká is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Kaká age 35

28
+ - 14,134 12,557
Sergei Bubka is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Sergei Bubka age 54

29
+ - 14,291 10,568
Jesse Owens is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Jesse Owens Died at 67 (1913-1980)

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30
+ - 10,057 11,623
Franco Baresi is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Franco Baresi age 57

31
+ - 13,669 11,826
Johan Cruijff is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Johan Cruijff age 70

32
+ - 14,252 10,677
Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

33
+ - 13,805 11,845
Michael Schumacher is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

34
+ - 14,501 10,843
Magic Johnson is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Magic Johnson age 58

35
+ - 13,685 10,464
Joe DiMaggio is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Joe DiMaggio Died at 85 (1914-1999)

36
+ - 13,646 12,079
Paavo Nurmi is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Paavo Nurmi Died at 76 (1897-1973)

37
+ - 13,911 10,299
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

38
+ - 13,498 11,807
Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

39
+ - 12,983 11,561
George Weah is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
George Weah age 51

40
+ - 12,933 10,462
Pete Maravich is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pete Maravich Died at 41 (1947-1988)

41
+ - 13,711 10,347
Bill Russell is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Bill Russell age 83

42
+ - 13,208 11,554
Rod Laver is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Rod Laver age 79

43
+ - 13,959 10,697
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Mike Tyson age 51

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44
+ - 13,031 11,325
Nadia Comăneci is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

45
+ - 12,752 10,012
Rocky Marciano is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Rocky Marciano Died at 46 (1923-1969)

46
+ - 13,123 11,373
Franz Beckenbauer is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

47
+ - 12,564 10,285
Walt Frazier is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Walt Frazier age 72

48
+ - 12,342 11,059
Zico is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Zico age 62

49
+ - 12,427 11,021
Djalma Santos is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Djalma Santos Died at 84 (1929-2013)

50
+ - 12,867 11,341
Andriy Shevchenko is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time