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
36,206 17,981
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 Russian Authors

2
33,376 17,023
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Muhammad Ali age 75

3
17,491 18,647
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
19,209 16,246
Pelé is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pelé age 77

5
11,907 14,058
John McEnroe is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
John McEnroe age 58

6
11,757 13,947
Marco van Basten is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
JonathanWeider added Marco van Basten age 53

7
16,232 17,879
Paolo Maldini is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
JonathanWeider added Paolo Maldini age 49

8
15,820 14,705
Pete Sampras is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pete Sampras age 46

9
21,638 16,891
Wayne Gretzky is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Wayne Gretzky age 56

10
21,093 14,246
Usain Bolt is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Usain Bolt age 31

11
29,006 15,769
Michael Phelps is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

12
14,522 13,273
Ingemar Stenmark is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Skojare added Ingemar Stenmark age 61

13
27,994 14,219
Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Babe Ruth Died at 53 (1895-1948)

14
29,957 15,276
Lionel Messi is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Lionel Messi age 30

15
29,327 16,665
LeBron James is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
LeBron James age 33

The Best Hitters in Baseball History The Creepiest Sports Mascots

16
24,262 15,209
Roger Federer is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Roger Federer age 36

17
24,341 16,966
Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Joe Montana age 61

18
13,410 11,951
Rod Laver is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
RodneyBlair added Rod Laver age 79

19
14,031 12,863
Garrincha is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
JonathanWeider added Garrincha Died at 50 (1933-1983)

20
12,227 11,023
Sebastian Coe is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Coolza added Sebastian Coe age 61

21
12,409 11,010
Franz Klammer is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Franz Klammer age 64

22
15,981 11,443
Wilt Chamberlain is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Wilt Chamberlain Died at 63 (1936-1999)

23
12,499 11,456
Djalma Santos is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Djalma Santos Died at 84 (1929-2013)

24
13,937 12,701
Kaká is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Kaká age 33

25
16,319 14,737
Steffi Graf is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Steffi Graf age 48

26
14,781 13,842
Ruud Gullit is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Ruud Gullit age 55

27
14,446 13,983
Lorenzo Bernardi is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
wolfkkk added Lorenzo Bernardi age 47

28
9,371 11,052
Gianni Rivera is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
bohater added Gianni Rivera age 74

29
10,218 12,212
Franco Baresi is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Franco Baresi age 57

The Smartest Professional Athletes The Biggest Turn Ons in a Person

30
14,310 13,282
Eddy Merckx is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Eddy Merckx age 72

31
14,353 10,994
Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

32
15,274 11,087
Magic Johnson is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Magic Johnson age 58

33
13,973 12,261
Johan Cruijff is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Johan Cruijff age 70

34
14,280 13,002
Sergei Bubka is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
enros added Sergei Bubka age 54

35
15,002 10,905
Jesse Owens is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Jesse Owens Died at 67 (1913-1980)

36
14,588 10,509
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

37
15,094 11,716
Jack Nicklaus is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Jack Nicklaus age 77

38
13,065 11,992
George Weah is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
George Weah age 51

39
14,326 10,585
Bill Russell is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Bill Russell age 81

40
14,139 10,733
Joe DiMaggio is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Joe DiMaggio Died at 85 (1914-1999)

41
12,772 10,625
Walt Frazier is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Walt Frazier age 70

42
14,997 11,088
Serena Williams is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time

43
12,434 11,424
Zico is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Zico age 62

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

44
13,225 10,786
Pete Maravich is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pete Maravich Died at 41 (1947-1988)

45
13,152 10,245
Rocky Marciano is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Rocky Marciano Died at 46 (1923-1969)

46
12,955 11,689
Andriy Shevchenko is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
JonathanWeider added Andriy Shevchenko age 41

47
12,974 11,518
Stefan Edberg is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
JonathanWeider added Stefan Edberg age 51

48
12,746 10,116
Sugar Ray Robinson is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Sugar Ray Robinson Died at 68 (1921-1989)

49
11,600 11,249
Pietro Mennea is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time
Pietro Mennea Died at 61 (1952-2013)

50
13,219 11,633
Nadia Comăneci is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Athletes of All Time