The Greatest Left-Handed Athletes of All Time

Over 8.8K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Greatest Left-Handed Athletes of All Time
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List includes all professional and college athletes, all competitive sports, men and women

The greatest left-handed athletes of all time are some of the greatest men and women to ever play baseball, basketball, football, hockey, tennis, and many other sports. These talented athletes dominated their respective sports all while being in a minority, as a left-handed person. These athletes are not by any means all of the left-handed athletes but simply the best of the left-handed sports players ever. But which athlete is best? Tell us which left-handed athlete you think was the best ever by voting, re-ranking, and adding your favorites below!

While all sports will see their share of left-handed athletes, the hand orientation will affect some athletes more than others. Being left handed is something you might not notice for hockey players, such as Terry Sawchuk and Phil Esposito, basketball players, like Larry Bird and Bill Russell, or soccer players, like the great Pele, who often use both hands – or feet – regularly while playing the sport.

For other sports, it's clearer when athletes use their dominant hands. Baseball has, what might, be the highest percentage of left-handed athletes of all major sports, and they are easy to spot when one takes the mound or lines up to hit. Babe Ruth is perhaps the best left-handed athlete ever but is joined by many other legendary baseball lefties, such as Ty Cobb, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Barry Bonds.

Tennis, boxing, and golf are other sports that allow southpaws shine. It's easy to spot left-handed tennis players like Monica Seles and John McEnroe, boxers like Oscar de la Hoya, and golfers like the great Phil Mickelson.

Left-handed people may make up only around 10% of the population but they're some of the top athletes of all time. We'll never know if Deion Sanders would have seen the success he did had he been right handed or if Rafael Nadal would have ever become the King of Clay as a righty, but these talented athletes all persevered through their disadvantages to become legends, and we have nothing but respect for them for that. 

Who are some of the greatest left handed athletes? Take a look here and you'll see for yourself.

Most divisive: Diego Maradona
Ranked by
  • Pelé
    2,212 votes
    Dec. at 82 (1940-2022)

    Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, is widely regarded as the greatest soccer player of all time and one of the most iconic left-footed athletes. With a flair for creativity and acrobatic finishing, Pelé's incredible skill set was showcased at the highest level as he led Brazil to three FIFA World Cup titles in 1958, 1962, and 1970. His unrelenting drive to win and unparalleled impact on the sport not only earned him the title of Athlete of the Century but also inspired generations of future soccer stars.

  • Babe Ruth
    1,435 votes
    Dec. at 53 (1895-1948)

    Few athletes have had the same impact on their sport as Babe Ruth, the legendary left-handed slugger for the New York Yankees. With an astonishing blend of power and precision, Ruth revolutionized baseball by consistently hitting towering home runs that would captivate fans and intimidate pitchers. Despite his larger-than-life persona off the field, it's Ruth's enduring legacy as the original "Sultan of Swat" and his pivotal role in the Yankees' early dynasty that cements his status among the greatest left-handed athletes of all time.

  • Bill Russell
    1,239 votes

    In a sport dominated by flashy scorers and high-flying dunkers, Bill Russell took a different approach to greatness by anchoring himself firmly as the ultimate defensive force in basketball history. Russell's shot-blocking prowess and keen understanding of defensive positioning made him the backbone of the Boston Celtics, propelling them to a staggering 11 NBA championships during his tenure. As a testament to his indomitable will to win, Russell's name is synonymous with team success and the art of elite defense, earning him a place among the pantheon of the greatest left-handed athletes.

  • Wayne Gretzky
    1,192 votes

    On the ice, few could match the skating grace, puck-handling magic, and sheer offensive genius of Wayne Gretzky, who indisputably earned his nickname "The Great One." With a sixth sense for predicting plays and an unrivaled ability to set up his teammates, Gretzky solidified his place as hockey's most dominant force, leading the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cup titles. As the highest-scoring player in NHL history, it's no wonder that Gretzky is considered the greatest left-handed athlete in his sport and possibly the best ever to lace up skates.

  • Larry Bird
    1,036 votes
    Age: 66

    Larry Bird's unassuming appearance and Indiana upbringing belied an intensely competitive nature and unparalleled basketball IQ that made him one of the NBA's most feared opponents. Whether drilling clutch shots, delivering pinpoint passes, or making game-winning steals, Bird's all-around skillset and unwavering confidence energized the Boston Celtics throughout the 1980s. His transcendent talent and fierce rivalry with Magic Johnson played a crucial role in revitalizing the NBA and solidified Bird's place among the greatest left-handed athletes to ever grace the hardwood.

  • Rafael Nadal
    752 votes

    With his relentless energy, devastating topspin, and indomitable fighting spirit, Rafael Nadal has carved out a storied tennis career that places him firmly among the sport's all-time greats and left-handed legends. Nadal's punishing groundstrokes and unparalleled prowess on clay courts have earned him the title "King of Clay," with an astonishing 13 French Open titles to his name. In an era dominated by fellow legends Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, Nadal's sheer force of will and desire to win sets him apart as one of the greatest left-handed athletes in tennis history.