The Best Athletes of All Time People In Sports

The Best Athletes of All Time

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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 Photo: user uploaded image
  • 287 ReRanks
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  1. 1
    + 8,354
    - 5,615
    Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    the people's #1
    Michael Jordan New York City, New York, United States of America

  2. 2
    + 5,715
    - 5,821
    Wayne Gretzky is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    most listed
    Wayne Gretzky Brantford, Canada

  3. 3
    + 6,888
    - 5,006
    Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Muhammad Ali Louisville, Kentucky, United States of America

  4. 4
    + 3,944
    - 3,376


    Oakville, Alabama, United States of America

    ;
  5. 5
    + 4,777
    - 4,612
    Pelé is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Pelé Três Corações, Brazil

  6. 6
    + 4,194
    - 4,204


    New Eagle, Pennsylvania, United States of America

    ;
  7. 7
    + 4,731
    - 4,540
    Usain Bolt is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Usain Bolt Sherwood Content, Jamaica

  8. 8
    + 3,939
    - 3,453


    Basel, Switzerland

    ;
  9. 9
    + 4,198
    - 3,322
    Larry Bird is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    ranked low on reranks
    Larry Bird West Baden Springs, French Lick Township, Indiana

  10. 10
    + 3,170
    - 3,281
    Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Steffi Graf Mannheim, Germany

  11. 11
    + 3,629
    - 3,930
    Michael Phelps is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Michael Phelps Towson, Baltimore, Maryland

  12. 12
    + 1,156
    - 1,049
    Diego Maradona is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Diego Maradona Lanús, Argentina

  13. 13
    + 2,557
    - 3,105

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Novosibirsk, Russia

    ;
  14. 14
    + 1,958
    - 1,815

    added by JonathanWeider
    Elverum, Norway

    ;
  15. 15
    + 3,361
    - 3,368
    Peyton Manning is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Peyton Manning New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America

  16. 16
    + 2,158
    - 2,378
    Paavo Nurmi is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    often listed & added by JonathanWeider
    Paavo Nurmi Grand Duchy of Finland, Russian Empire

  17. 17
    + 831
    - 573

    ranked low on reranks
    Prague, Czech Republic

    ;
  18. 18
    + 458
    - 270

    ranked low on reranks & added by amsmaia
    São Paulo, Brazil

    ;
  19. 19
    + 2,389
    - 2,216


    Upper Arlington, Ohio, United States of America

    ;
  20. 20
    + 2,127
    - 1,853
    Bobby Orr is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Bobby Orr Parry Sound, Canada

  21. 21
    + 2,316
    - 2,052


    Munich, Germany

    ;
  22. 22
    + 1,931
    - 1,645
    Lou Gehrig is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Lou Gehrig Yorkville, New York City, New York

  23. 23
    + 3,244
    - 3,028
    Tom Brady is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Tom Brady San Mateo, California, United States of America

  24. 24
    + 2,141
    - 1,958


    Montreal, Canada

    ;
  25. 25
    + 3,026
    - 2,742
    Lionel Messi is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Lionel Messi Rosario, Argentina

  26. 26
    + 2,097
    - 2,050
    Rod Laver is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    added by RodneyBlair
    Rod Laver Rockhampton, Australia

  27. 27
    + 1,037
    - 895


    Hürth, Germany

    ;
  28. 28
    + 1,024
    - 966
    Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Serena Williams Saginaw, Michigan, United States of America

  29. 29
    + 1,829
    - 1,935
    Paula Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    added by JonathanWeider
    Paula Radcliffe Davenham, United Kingdom

  30. 30
    + 2,397
    - 2,545
    Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Babe Ruth Pigtown, Baltimore, Maryland

  31. 31
    + 3,363
    - 3,390


    Bessemer, Alabama, United States of America

    ;
  32. 32
    + 1,838
    - 1,859

    added by JonathanWeider
    Oslo, Norway

    ;
  33. 33
    + 1,708
    - 1,399
    Tony Hawk is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    ranked low on reranks
    Tony Hawk Carlsbad, California, United States of America

  34. 34
    + 1,966
    - 2,140

    often listed & added by Skojare
    Stockholm, Sweden

    ;
  35. 35
    + 1,294
    - 990
    Mickey Mantle is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    ranked low on reranks
    Mickey Mantle Spavinaw, Oklahoma, United States of America

  36. 36
    + 1,888
    - 1,668

    added by JonathanWeider
    Ashington, United Kingdom

    ;
  37. 37
    + 1,628
    - 1,572
    Annika Sörenstam is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    added by JonathanWeider
    Annika Sörenstam Bro, Sweden, Sweden

  38. 38
    + 1,544
    - 1,523
    Chris Evert is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    added by JonathanWeider
    Chris Evert Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States of America

  39. 39
    + 1,736
    - 1,761
    Magic Johnson is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Magic Johnson Lansing, Michigan, United States of America

  40. 40
    + 1,660
    - 1,657
    Lidija Skobilowa is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    added by JonathanWeider
    Lidija Skobilowa

  41. 41
    + 1,743
    - 1,688
    Wilt Chamberlain is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Wilt Chamberlain Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

  42. 42
    + 1,398
    - 1,345
    Lindsey Vonn is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    added by JonathanWeider
    Lindsey Vonn Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States of America

  43. 43
    + 1,549
    - 1,593

    added by JonathanWeider
    Drammen, Norway

    ;
  44. 44
    + 1,757
    - 1,826
    Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Mike Tyson Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York City, New York

  45. 45
    + 1,200
    - 1,609
    Carl Lewis is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Carl Lewis Birmingham, Alabama, United States of America

  46. 46
    + 2,816
    - 2,419
    Bruce Lee is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    Bruce Lee Chinatown, California, United States of America

  47. 47
    + 1,387
    - 1,412
    Carolina Klüft is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

    often listed & added by JonathanWeider
    Carolina Klüft Sandhult, Sweden

  48. 48
    + 604
    - 463

    ranked low on reranks & added by geyyy
    Moscow, Russia

    ;
  49. 49
    + 872
    - 725


    Amsterdam, Netherlands

    ;
  50. 50
    + 1,377
    - 1,371
    LeBron James is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time


    LeBron James Akron, Ohio, United States of America

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