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
+ - 35,048 17,299
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
+ - 32,261 16,447
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Muhammad Ali age 75

3
+ - 20,981 16,217
Wayne Gretzky is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Wayne Gretzky age 56

4
+ - 28,147 15,285
Michael Phelps is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

5
+ - 17,014 17,680
Julius Erving is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

6
+ - 27,401 13,717
Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Babe Ruth Died at 53 (1895-1948)

7
+ - 18,228 15,786
Pelé is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pelé age 77

8
+ - 20,145 13,940
Usain Bolt is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Usain Bolt age 31

9
+ - 15,882 17,192
Paolo Maldini is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Paolo Maldini age 49

10
+ - 15,567 14,151
Pete Sampras is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pete Sampras age 46

11
+ - 28,937 14,846
Lionel Messi is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Lionel Messi age 30

12
+ - 28,536 16,243
LeBron James is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
LeBron James age 31

13
+ - 23,524 14,891
Roger Federer is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Roger Federer age 36

14
+ - 23,993 16,651
Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Joe Montana age 61

15
+ - 11,526 13,415
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 13,320
Marco van Basten is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

17
+ - 16,108 14,403
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Steffi Graf age 48

18
+ - 14,292 12,920
Ingemar Stenmark is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

19
+ - 15,551 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 13,705
Lorenzo Bernardi is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

21
+ - 14,889 11,483
Jack Nicklaus is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Jack Nicklaus age 77

22
+ - 14,704 13,589
Ruud Gullit is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Ruud Gullit age 55

23
+ - 14,164 10,778
Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

24
+ - 13,924 12,555
Garrincha is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Garrincha Died at 50 (1933-1983)

25
+ - 10,139 11,922
Franco Baresi is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Franco Baresi age 57

26
+ - 14,713 10,722
Jesse Owens is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Jesse Owens Died at 67 (1913-1980)

27
+ - 14,927 10,957
Magic Johnson is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Magic Johnson age 58

28
+ - 13,804 12,413
Kaká is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Kaká age 35

29
+ - 13,802 12,076
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
+ - 14,674 10,861
Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

31
+ - 14,241 13,094
Eddy Merckx is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Eddy Merckx age 72

32
+ - 14,216 12,822
Sergei Bubka is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Sergei Bubka age 54

33
+ - 13,955 10,586
Joe DiMaggio is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Joe DiMaggio Died at 85 (1914-1999)

34
+ - 14,541 13,204
Alexander Karelin is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

35
+ - 13,296 11,752
Rod Laver is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Rod Laver age 79

36
+ - 14,299 10,398
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

37
+ - 14,078 10,460
Bill Russell is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Bill Russell age 83

38
+ - 12,686 10,449
Walt Frazier is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Walt Frazier age 72

39
+ - 13,950 12,111
Michael Schumacher is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

40
+ - 13,107 10,642
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 11,781
George Weah is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
George Weah age 51

42
+ - 12,460 11,224
Djalma Santos is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Djalma Santos Died at 84 (1929-2013)

43
+ - 12,958 10,133
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
+ - 13,124 11,502
Nadia Comăneci is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

45
+ - 14,277 10,878
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Mike Tyson age 51

46
+ - 13,710 12,336
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 11,255
Zico is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Zico age 62

48
+ - 12,892 11,382
Stefan Edberg is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Stefan Edberg age 49

49
+ - 13,529 12,061
Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

50
+ - 9,242 10,845
Gianni Rivera is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Gianni Rivera age 74