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athletes The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)

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List Rules Open to all amateur or professional athletes in any sport

Sportsmanship I think is such an underrated trait in the world today, so this list reflects a lot of that bias.

1
Wayne Gretzky is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Wayne Gretzky age 54 - Best Hockey Player in every aspect- almost 1000 more points than anyone else, almost 200 more goals than anyone else, more than 700 more assists than anyone else, etcetera... His assists say it all though, this was an unselfish player ...

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2
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Michael Jordan age 52 - Inspirational, an athlete driven to perform to the highest level and keep going. Always a fair sport.

3
Usain Bolt is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Usain Bolt age 29 - The fastest man ever, who keeps breaking his own records... enough said. 

4
Pelé is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Pelé age 75 - The best player of the world's most popular sport.

5
Lionel Messi is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Lionel Messi age 28 - More goals than anyone in one year (2012) and the best all round player in the world of the world's most popular sport.

6
Miroslav Klose is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Miroslav Klose age 37 - Top scorer in World Cup history and only player to ever score 5 goals in back to back tournaments. His sportsmanship is exceptional; like Kahn, receiving the FIFA fair play award. He has taken back penalty kicks and goals in his ...

7
Michael Phelps is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Michael Phelps age 30 - Gold is this guy's middle name, unbeatable and determined are the best words to describe this man.

8
Steve Nash is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Steve Nash age 41 - Under 6 feet? You want to play basketball and be good?...... enter Mr. Nash. A role model to many, Nash is an incredibly skilled and unselfish player.

9
Trevor Linden is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Trevor Linden age 45 - Without a doubt one of the most unselfish leaders in the NHL, maybe tied with Iginla or Sakic. He was a very skilled hockey player but without any of the unnecessary traits that go with hockey players. Even as a player he gave much of ...

10
Oliver Kahn is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Oliver Kahn age 46 - Best keeper in the history of the game and a fair player at that- one of only 15 players to ever receive the FIFA fair play award for exceptional sportsmanship. In a game accused of being better suited to a pool and diving board, it ...

11
Wilt Chamberlain is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Wilt Chamberlain Died at 63 (1936-1999) - Wilt the Stilt, fantastic player to watch and with 100 points in one game, he is he king of basketball.

12
Joe Sakic is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Joe Sakic age 46 - Captain Clutch Joe Sakic was the perfect player, Gretzky without the "don't hit him" contract everyone else seemed to have. He was fast, great leader, great team player, incredibly accurate shot, and above all, fair.  ...

13
Novak Djokovic is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Novak Djokovic age 28 - Phenomenal tennis player to someone sick of hearing of Federer and Nedal, and who can show them both how to lose, repeatedly. Not only that, but he is a fair player and doesn't have the attitude of either of the afore mentioned ...

14
Mario Lemieux is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Mario Lemieux age 50 - Talent + Size + Speed is an unusual mixture but #66 had it and he is widely considered to be #99's equal.

15
Gerd Müller is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Gerd Müller age 70 - Fantastic soccer player for Germany and Bayern Munich. In 1972 he had 85 goals in one year, a feet never challenged until Messi broke it in 2012, and he is the second highest goalscorer in FIFA World Cup history with 14.

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16
Mia Hamm is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Mia Hamm age 43 - Most influential female athlete in the world in my opinion, and I would be being sexist to not put the heart of Women's soccer onto this list.

17
Cristiano Ronaldo is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Cristiano Ronaldo age 30 - Despite the controversy, this Portuguese star is arguably the most successful, talented player in the game today, always in a head to head clash with Messi, in a class reserved for the 2 of them.

18
Kobe Bryant is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Kobe Bryant age 37 - Do I have to explain why he's here? I really hope not.

19
Steven Gerrard is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Steven Gerrard age 35 - A great player with no cheapness or dirtiness about his playing style. He always gives his all and is the best player on a continuously overrated English national team.

20
Tiger Woods is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Tiger Woods age 40 - Winning was always in the equation; his name is based on a type of club and a ferocious predator. 

21
LeBron James is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
LeBron James age 31 - The most skilled player in the NBA right now, in my opinion at least.

22
Christine Sinclair is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Christine Sinclair age 32 - The heart of Canadian Women's soccer, Sinclair has had just as much of a positive influence on youth sports in Canada as almost any hockey player. 

23
Bobby Orr is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Bobby Orr age 67 - The best defence player ever, with his iconic leap across the net to win the 1970 Stanley Cup. 

24
Simon Whitfield is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Simon Whitfield age 40 - Canadian Olympic Triathlete with a fantastic career. His Olympic gold in 2000 is a text book case of will power trumping the statistical "stronger" athletes.

25
Henrik Sedin is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Henrik Sedin age 35 - Tremendously skilled player with a huge amount of modesty and unselfishness. His passing ability is second only to Gretzky and he never is dirty, something I really wish happened more in Hockey.

26
Larry Bird is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Larry Bird age 61

27
Bruce Lee is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Bruce Lee Died at 33 (1940-1973)

28
Jim Thorpe is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Jim Thorpe Died at 65 (1888-1953)

29
Jesse Owens is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Jesse Owens Died at 67 (1913-1980)

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30
Jackie Robinson is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Jackie Robinson Died at 53 (1919-1972)

31
David Beckham is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
David Beckham age 40

32
Mickey Mantle is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Mickey Mantle Died at 64 (1931-1995)

33
Björn Borg is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Björn Borg age 59

34
Michael Schuhmacher is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)

35
Lou Gehrig is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Lou Gehrig Died at 38 (1903-1941)

36
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)
Steffi Graf age 46

37
Maria Sharapova is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time (In my Opinion)