The Best Athletes of All Time People In Sports
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96  reranks 107,934 votes 6,410 voters 137,522 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
  • 96 ReRanks
    • Women
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Score
  1. 1
    Up 1891
    Down 1118

    the people's #1 &most listed
    Michael Jordan

    1963 More
    100
  2. 2
    Up 1278
    Down 718
    1961 More
    99
  3. 3
    Up 1469
    Down 955
    1942 More
    95
  4. 4
    Up 958
    Down 731
    1940 More
    89
  5. 5
    Up 781
    Down 486
    1956 More
    86
  6. 6
    Up 883
    Down 497
    1956 More
    85
  7. 7
    Up 1009
    Down 729
    1986 More
    84
  8. 8
    Up 775
    Down 577
    1895 More
    83
  9. 9
    Up 948
    Down 829

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Michael Phelps

    1985 More
    83
  10. 10
    Up 1056
    Down 612
    1962 More
    80
  11. 11
    Up 1023
    Down 766

    often listed
    Roger Federer

    1981 More
    80
  12. 12
    Up 437
    Down 174

    ranked low on reranks
    Michael Schumacher

    79
  13. 13
    Up 476
    Down 237
    1969 More
    78
  14. 14
    Up 351
    Down 156
    1967 More
    77
  15. 15
    Up 1030
    Down 503
    1940 More
    77
  16. 16
    Up 426
    Down 177
    1956 More
    77
    added by: Skojare
  17. 17
    Up 424
    Down 165
    1973 More
    76
    added by: JonathanWeider
  18. 18
    Up 527
    Down 221
    1975 More
    76
  19. 19
    Up 435
    Down 473

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Carl Lewis

    1961 More
    75
  20. 20
    Up 413
    Down 155
    1983 More
    75
    added by: JonathanWeider
  21. 21
    Up 634
    Down 414
    1888 More
    75
  22. 22
    Up 608
    Down 476
    1966 More
    75
  23. 23
    Up 432
    Down 274
    1976 More
    74
  24. 24
    Up 615
    Down 523

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Magic Johnson

    1959 More
    73
  25. 25
    Up 288
    Down 113

    ranked low on reranks
    Nastia Liukin

    1989 More
    73
  26. 26
    Up 328
    Down 152

    ranked low on reranks
    Lou Gehrig

    1903 More
    73
  27. 27
    Up 493
    Down 302
    1977 More
    73
  28. 28
    Up 521
    Down 391
    1913 More
    73
  29. 29
    Up 757
    Down 480
    1987 More
    73
  30. 30
    Up 649
    Down 513

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Wilt Chamberlain

    1936 More
    73
  31. 31
    Up 330
    Down 125
    1954 More
    73
    added by: JonathanWeider
  32. 32
    Up 603
    Down 652

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Tiger Woods

    1975 More
    72
  33. 33
    Up 476
    Down 157

    ranked low on reranks
    Maria Sharapova

    1987 More
    71
    added by: averagej123
  34. 34
    Up 307
    Down 119
    1984 More
    71
    added by: JonathanWeider
  35. 35
    Up 337
    Down 137
    1982 More
    71
  36. 36
    Up 363
    Down 134
    1967 More
    71
  37. 37
    Up 499
    Down 357

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Barry Sanders

    1968 More
    71
  38. 38
    Up 358
    Down 129
    1981 More
    71
    added by: JonathanWeider
  39. 39
    Up 549
    Down 425

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Jerry Rice

    1962 More
    70
  40. 40
    Up 379
    Down 129

    Annie Thorisdottir

    70
    added by: JonathanWeider
  41. 41
    Up 296
    Down 117

    ranked low on reranks
    Oliver Kahn

    1969 More
    70
  42. 42
    Up 493
    Down 374

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Walter Payton

    1954 More
    70
  43. 43
    Up 482
    Down 327

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Jackie Robinson

    1919 More
    70
  44. 44
    Up 226
    Down 91

    Katarina Witt

    70
  45. 45
    Up 356
    Down 131

    ranked low on reranks
    Elena Dementieva

    1981 More
    70
    added by: JonathanWeider
  46. 46
    Up 317
    Down 151

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Ty Cobb

    1886 More
    69
  47. 47
    Up 368
    Down 126
    1977 More
    69
    added by: JonathanWeider
  48. 48
    Up 285
    Down 146

    often listed
    Wayne Rooney

    1985 More
    69
  49. 49
    Up 359
    Down 121
    1985 More
    69
    added by: JonathanWeider
  50. 50
    Up 346
    Down 84

    ranked low on reranks
    Kerri Walsh Jennings

    1978 More
    69
    added by: JonathanWeider
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