athletes The Best Athletes of All Time  

Ranker Community
Originally by
34.4M votes 75.9k voters 708.7k views 2,185 items Embed

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.

For more sports news and athlete trade rumors, vote on this list of sports news sites.
list ordered by

1
35,882 17,797
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 Current Fantasy TV Series

2
33,066 16,890
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Muhammad Ali age 75

3
17,346 18,367
Julius Erving is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
LeeBob added Julius Erving "Dr J" age 67

4
21,453 16,746
Wayne Gretzky is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Wayne Gretzky age 56

5
18,934 16,116
Pelé is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pelé age 77

6
11,790 13,849
John McEnroe is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
John McEnroe age 58

7
11,642 13,741
Marco van Basten is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
JonathanWeider added Marco van Basten age 53

8
16,101 17,690
Paolo Maldini is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
JonathanWeider added Paolo Maldini age 47

9
15,757 14,554
Pete Sampras is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pete Sampras age 46

10
20,840 14,189
Usain Bolt is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Usain Bolt age 31

11
28,765 15,688
Michael Phelps is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

12
27,854 14,134
Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Babe Ruth Died at 53 (1895-1948)

13
29,644 15,187
Lionel Messi is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Lionel Messi age 30

14
14,478 13,159
Ingemar Stenmark is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Skojare added Ingemar Stenmark age 61

15
24,087 15,143
Roger Federer is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Roger Federer age 36

The Best Hitters in Baseball History The Creepiest Sports Mascots

16
29,097 16,575
LeBron James is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
LeBron James age 33

17
24,251 16,908
Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Joe Montana age 61

18
16,265 14,679
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Steffi Graf age 48

19
13,984 12,769
Garrincha is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
JonathanWeider added Garrincha Died at 50 (1933-1983)

20
15,876 11,399
Wilt Chamberlain is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Wilt Chamberlain Died at 63 (1936-1999)

21
12,218 10,934
Sebastian Coe is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Coolza added Sebastian Coe age 61

22
13,382 11,889
Rod Laver is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
RodneyBlair added Rod Laver age 79

23
10,208 12,143
Franco Baresi is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Franco Baresi age 57

24
12,491 11,384
Djalma Santos is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Djalma Santos Died at 84 (1929-2013)

25
14,437 13,920
Lorenzo Bernardi is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
wolfkkk added Lorenzo Bernardi age 47

26
14,311 10,941
Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

27
15,194 11,051
Magic Johnson is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Magic Johnson age 58

28
14,765 13,786
Ruud Gullit is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Ruud Gullit age 55

29
13,901 12,630
Kaká is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Kaká age 33

The Smartest Professional Athletes 39 Ways to Repel a Potential Girlfriend

30
14,946 10,870
Jesse Owens is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Jesse Owens Died at 67 (1913-1980)

31
13,933 12,215
Johan Cruijff is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Johan Cruijff age 70

32
14,290 13,240
Eddy Merckx is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Eddy Merckx age 72

33
12,396 10,959
Franz Klammer is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Franz Klammer age 64

34
15,051 11,680
Jack Nicklaus is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Jack Nicklaus age 77

35
14,521 10,481
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

36
14,098 10,698
Joe DiMaggio is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Joe DiMaggio Died at 85 (1914-1999)

37
14,266 12,963
Sergei Bubka is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
enros added Sergei Bubka age 54

38
14,935 11,052
Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

39
14,274 10,548
Bill Russell is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Bill Russell age 81

40
9,292 10,992
Gianni Rivera is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
bohater added Gianni Rivera age 74

41
12,753 10,578
Walt Frazier is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Walt Frazier age 70

42
13,055 11,941
George Weah is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
George Weah age 51

43
13,193 10,745
Pete Maravich is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pete Maravich Died at 41 (1947-1988)

The Best Hispanic Actresses of All Time The Best "Your Mom" Jokes in Internet History

44
13,110 10,210
Rocky Marciano is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Rocky Marciano Died at 46 (1923-1969)

45
12,945 11,647
Andriy Shevchenko is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
JonathanWeider added Andriy Shevchenko age 41

46
12,429 11,385
Zico is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Zico age 62

47
13,201 11,598
Nadia Comăneci is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

48
11,876 11,137
Paulo Roberto Falcão is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

49
12,952 11,488
Stefan Edberg is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
JonathanWeider added Stefan Edberg age 51

50
12,713 10,086
Sugar Ray Robinson is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Sugar Ray Robinson Died at 68 (1921-1989)