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
+ - 35,063 17,308
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
+ - 32,276 16,455
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Muhammad Ali age 75

3
+ - 20,993 16,226
Wayne Gretzky is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Wayne Gretzky age 56

4
+ - 28,162 15,296
Michael Phelps is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

5
+ - 17,016 17,697
Julius Erving is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

6
+ - 27,416 13,725
Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Babe Ruth Died at 53 (1895-1948)

7
+ - 18,233 15,797
Pelé is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pelé age 77

8
+ - 20,159 13,944
Usain Bolt is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Usain Bolt age 31

9
+ - 15,883 17,202
Paolo Maldini is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Paolo Maldini age 49

10
+ - 15,570 14,161
Pete Sampras is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pete Sampras age 46

11
+ - 28,945 14,851
Lionel Messi is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Lionel Messi age 30

12
+ - 28,543 16,255
LeBron James is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
LeBron James age 31

13
+ - 23,531 14,896
Roger Federer is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Roger Federer age 36

14
+ - 23,999 16,656
Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Joe Montana age 61

15
+ - 11,527 13,421
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
+ - 11,424 13,327
Marco van Basten is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

17
+ - 16,111 14,407
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Steffi Graf age 48

18
+ - 14,294 12,926
Ingemar Stenmark is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

19
+ - 15,558 11,259
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 13,712
Lorenzo Bernardi is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

21
+ - 14,896 11,487
Jack Nicklaus is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Jack Nicklaus age 77

22
+ - 14,705 13,596
Ruud Gullit is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Ruud Gullit age 55

23
+ - 14,167 10,784
Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

24
+ - 13,924 12,561
Garrincha is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Garrincha Died at 50 (1933-1983)

25
+ - 14,719 10,726
Jesse Owens is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Jesse Owens Died at 67 (1913-1980)

26
+ - 10,139 11,928
Franco Baresi is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Franco Baresi age 57

27
+ - 14,933 10,959
Magic Johnson is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Magic Johnson age 58

28
+ - 13,804 12,422
Kaká is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Kaká age 35

29
+ - 13,805 12,081
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
+ - 14,681 10,865
Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

31
+ - 14,241 13,098
Eddy Merckx is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Eddy Merckx age 72

32
+ - 14,217 12,825
Sergei Bubka is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Sergei Bubka age 54

33
+ - 13,958 10,589
Joe DiMaggio is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Joe DiMaggio Died at 85 (1914-1999)

34
+ - 14,545 13,205
Alexander Karelin is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

35
+ - 13,297 11,755
Rod Laver is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Rod Laver age 79

36
+ - 14,302 10,400
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

37
+ - 14,081 10,462
Bill Russell is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Bill Russell age 83

38
+ - 13,955 12,112
Michael Schumacher is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

39
+ - 12,687 10,453
Walt Frazier is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Walt Frazier age 72

40
+ - 13,108 10,645
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 11,786
George Weah is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
George Weah age 51

42
+ - 12,460 11,229
Djalma Santos is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Djalma Santos Died at 84 (1929-2013)

43
+ - 12,961 10,135
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
+ - 13,125 11,504
Nadia Comăneci is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

45
+ - 14,281 10,879
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Mike Tyson age 51

46
+ - 13,711 12,339
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 11,259
Zico is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Zico age 62

48
+ - 12,894 11,383
Stefan Edberg is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Stefan Edberg age 49

49
+ - 13,530 12,063
Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

50
+ - 9,242 10,848
Gianni Rivera is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Gianni Rivera age 74