greatest athletes of all time

Celebrating the legacy of 50 greatest athletes of all time

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If we were to make a list of the 50 greatest athletes of all time, who would you plan to add?

The world of sports is a dynamic and ever-evolving arena. The Super Bowl Championship has made us reminisce about some of the greatest athletes of all time. Moreover, it has made people go gaga over the scores and the players. While fans from all over the world fight over Ronaldo or Messi being the NFL GOAT, the atmosphere of the sports industry tends to get hotter with the inclusion of new athletes.

An athlete is considered successful by the number of awards they have received or the scores they have earned throughout their career. However, an athlete’s greatness is recognized by their ability to influence and inspire people to participate in their field.

Several sportsmen have been recognized as the greatest athletes of all time in the entire world due to their dynamic, influential skills and skillful sportsmanship. These athletes have boosted the reputation of sports among the general public. Additionally, they have also influenced society and people to think out of the box and be a part of the sports franchise. 

In this blog, we pay tribute to these extraordinary individuals. We present a curated list of the 50 best athletes of all time who have redefined the world of sports. These are the athletes who have become global icons, leaving a legacy that continues to inspire future generations.

Here is a list of 50 successful and greatest athletes of all time who have created a deep impact in the world of sports and have become some of the world’s major influencers. 

1. Michael Jordan

50 greatest athletes of all time

Voted as the greatest NBA, Michael Jeffrey Jordan always tops the list of the 50 greatest athletes of all time. Most importantly, Jordan is the first person to come to our mind when we speak of Basketball. He has participated in 15 seasons of the NBA, and has won six championships with the Chicago Bulls. He popularized the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s—becoming a global cultural icon meanwhile. 

He played 15 seasons in the NBA, winning six championships with the Chicago Bulls. He was integral in helping to popularize the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming a global cultural icon in the process.

2. Dhyan Chand

greatest athletes of all time

Popularly known as the ‘Magician’ for his incredible ball control, Dhyan Chand is hailed as the best sportsmen of all time. During his entire career, he has scored more than 1,000 career goals. He has represented India for over 20 years and has earned 3 Olympic Gold medals. His birthday is celebrated as National Sports Day in India. Recently, the Government of India has honored his contributions to Indian sports by renaming the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award—the highest sporting honor in India—as the “Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award.”

3. Muhammad Ali

greatest athletes of all time

If you go through every list of 50 greatest athletes of all times, Muhammad Ali would always be on top of every list. Popular as a ‘World Champion’, Muhammad Ali has was bestowed with the title of World Heavyweight for 3 consecutive years. He was not just an amateur Olympic gold medalist but an ardent black rights activist. 

4. Diego Maradona

greatest athletes of all time

Maradona is believed to be the soccer player who enhanced the essence of soccer across the globe. Recognized as one of the greatest athlete of all time in the soccer industry, Maradona has been awarded with a plethora of prestigious awards. He was also named as joint player of the century by FIFA and inspired Argentina to World Cup in 1986, winning the best player award. 

5. Magic Johnson

greatest athletes of all time

In the 1980s, Magic Johnson won 5 NBA titles with the LA Lakers and 3 NBA MVP awards. He is often regarded as the best point guard of all times and has been honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996. Johnson retired abruptly in 1991 after announcing that he had contracted HIV. However, he returned to play in the 1992 All-Star Game, and surprisingly won the All-Star MVP Award. 

6. Usain Bolt

greatest athletes of all time

Regarded as the greatest sprinter of all time, Usain Bolt stands tall among the top athletes of all time, boasting world records in various race categories. His global acclaim reached new heights with a stunning double sprint victory at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, setting world record times. Remarkably, he became the first person to simultaneously hold both records since fully automatic time became mandatory, solidifying his status as an unparalleled sportsman in the world of athletics.

7. Vivian Richards

greatest athletes of all time

Vivian Richards is one of the fearless and aggressive batsman. Moreover, he was voted as one of the 5 players of the century. Most importantly, Richards played remarkably during his entire life without wearing a helmet whatsoever. He was also popular for punishing bowlers who insulted him on the field. As a result, it led many opposing captains to enforce silence. 

8. Cristiano Ronaldo

greatest athletes of all time

Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro is popularly regarded as the greatest football player of all time. He is a world-famous football player, and has set tremendous records as a football player. He is also the second male to score 100 international goals, and the first European to achieve the feat. No-wonder why Ronaldo is entitles as one of the greatest athletes of all time. 

9. Kapil Dev

greatest athletes of all time

Kapil Dev is worshipped as the GOAT of Indian cricket. He is counted as one of the greatest all-rounders of cricket. He is honored as one of the greatest captains of all time—who led India to win the first Cricket World Cup title in 1983. In 2002, he was named by Wisden as the Indian Cricketer of the Century.

10. Babe Ruth

greatest athletes of all time

Babe Ruth has set records for Home Runs, RBIs, and slugging percentage, despite having started his career as a pitcher. He was regarded as a ‘LARGER THAN LIFE’ figure. Ruth was part of the famous murderer’s row Yankees team of 1927. His huge hitting made his home-run champion 12 times and helped usher in the “live-ball” era of Baseball. 

11. Ted Williams

Ted Williams

One of the greatest hitters ever, Ted Williams still holds the record for career on-base percentage.  He was twice MVP, 6 times batting champion and a 19-time all-star.  He put a halt to his career to serve in the US military and holds one of America’s highest civilian awards, “presidential medal of freedom”.

12. Sir Garfield Sobers

Sir Garfield Sobers

Sir Garfield Sobers is regarded as the greatest all-around cricketer of all times. At the age of 22, he had set the record for the highest test score, which stood for over 40 years. He was also a fearsome bowler—with over 1,000 career wickets.  He was knighted by the Queen of England and was named a Barbados national hero by the Act of Parliament.

13. Jim Brown

Jim Brown

Jim Brown was a fullback for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL) from 1957 through 1965. He was considered one of the greatest running backs of all time, as well as one of the greatest players in NFL history. In 2002, he was named by The Sporting News as the greatest professional football player ever.

14. Bill Russell

Bill Russell

Bill Russell was the ‘Centerpiece’ of the great Boston Celtics team of the 60s. In a period of 13 years, Russell has won 11 NBA championships.  He was a 5 time MVP and a 12-time all-star. In 1966, Russell became the first African-American NBA coach. He was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

15. Jim Clark

Jim Clark

Jim Clark has set records at the time for most grand-Prix wins and most pole positions. He has been a Two times Formula 1 world champion with Lotus. Clark was also a versatile driver, winning the Indy 500 and the British Touring Car Championship. Till date, he is hailed as one of the 50 greatest athletes of all time and a champion racer.

16. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

A 6-times record holder and 19-times All-star, Kareem Abdul Jabbar has won the NBA championship 6 times. He is famous for his “Skyhook” shot and remains as the NBA record holder of all-time point’s scorer. Since retirement, he has appeared in several films, and is currently a cultural ambassador for the US.

17. Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus

Nicklaus is more popular by his pet name—Golden Bear. He still holds the record for most major victories just at the age of 18. He had won the grand slam of all majors at just 26 years old (the youngest ever). These achievements make him widely considered the best golfer of all time, and undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes of all time.

18. Bobby Orr

Bobby Orr

Orr was a 3 time NHL MVP. He was 8 time best defenseman—being the only defenseman to be a leading league scorer.  Orr was the highest-paid player in the league as a rookie and gained the first NHL million dollar contract. However, he retired due to injuries at the age of 30. 

19. Mark Spitz

Mark Spitz

Spitz won 9 Olympic gold medals, including 7 in 1972 alone—setting an unbeatable record for over 30 years. He set 35 world records during his career, excelling in butterfly, freestyle, and medley. Moreover, after mocking his iconic mustache made his quicker, the Russian Swimming team adopted them.

20. Walter Payton

Walter Payton

Popular as “sweetness”, Payton held the records for most yards, most touchdowns, and most carries.  He finally won the Superbowl with the Chicago Bears in 1985.  His motto was “never die easy”, and he refused to ever run out of bounds or to celebrate touchdowns.

Since helping the Bears to the title in 1986, his former team has only managed one Super Bowl appearance which ended in a defeat.

However, fans of the Bears are hopeful that their glory days which saw them win nine NFL championships and one Super Bowl will return sooner rather than later with the highly-rated Matt Ebberflus in charge.

Chicago Bears faithful are now backing the Bears to get into the Super Bowl in no time.

For those inclined to wager their money based on their convictions, there are loads of Super Bowl betting promotions as added incentives when they back the Bears on a sportsbook.

  21. Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards was believed to be the greatest Rugby player ever.  He had fantastic all-round skills, including passing, running, and kicking. He scored what many consider to the best try ever in 1973 for the Barbarians.

22. Nadia Comaneci

greatest athletes of all time

Comaneci was the first gymnast ever to be awarded a perfect 10 in the Olympics—a grand achievement just at the age of 15.  She won 3 Olympic gold medals in 1976, including the all-round and 2 more in 1980. She won 2 world championship titles when she was just 13. Nadia is popularly recognized as one of the greatest athletes of all time in the entire globe. 

23. Martina Navaratilova

greatest athletes of all time

Martina is regarded as the greatest tennis players of all time. She won 18 Grand Slam singles and a record 41 doubles titles, including 9 Wimbledon Singles titles. She was number 1 in singles for 7 years in total, whilst being number 1 in doubles for 5 years.

24. Joe Montana

greatest athletes of all time

Famous for his calmness under pressure, Joe is one of the greatest football players of all time. He has led his teams to over 304th quarter comebacks and famously throw last-minute touchdown passes for the championship and Superbowl in 1981

25. Zico

greatest athletes of all time

The Brazilian playmaker is considered one of the most skillful passers and finishers ever. Zico upholds 3 ‘South American footballers of the year’ awards (finishing 2nd twice more) and 4 Brazilian Championships.

26. Carl Lewis

greatest athletes of all time

Carl Lewis went more than 60 competitions unbeaten at Long Jump over 10 years and still holds the indoor world record. He has won 9 Olympic gold medals and 8 World Championship golds, across 100m, 200m, relay, and Long Jump.

27. Marco Van Basten

greatest athletes of all time

In total, Macro Van Basten has scored more than 250 goals, despite having to retire with injuries aged just 28 years old.  He was part of the great 1992 Milan side which went a whole season unbeaten.  Another player acing the list of 50 greatest players of all time, Basten is still looked upon as one of the legendary football player. 

28. Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor the greatest athletes of all time

Taylor is considered the greatest defensive player in history, He won a record 3 consecutive defensive player of the years and one league MVP, with 7 consecutive years of double-digit sacks.  

29. Alain Prost

Alain Prost the greatest athletes of all time

Prost has won 4 World Drivers Championships, with 2 separate teams. He won a record 51 Grand Prix, a record which stood for 14 years.  Prost was nicknamed the “professor” for his intellectual approach to racing. Subsequently, he founded his own F1 “Prost” team. 

30. Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice the greatest athletes of all time

Rice is generally considered to be the best wide receiver in NFL history, leading the all-time lists in receptions, touchdown receptions, and yards.  He is also the highest-scoring non-kicker in NFL history. 

31. Steffi Graf

Steffi Graf

Steffi Graf has won 22 major singles titles—the most in the open era for either gender. She is the only person to win at least 4 titles in each major, showing her versatility by surface.  She is also the only player to win a calendar grand slam (all titles in the same year) and was a record 377 weeks at world no.1.

32. Aytron Senna

Aytron Senna

Widely considered one of the fastest drivers of all time, Senna won 3 Formula 1 World Championships.  He was particularly known for his skill in difficult driving conditions, particularly in the wet or difficult tracks (He won the Monaco Grand Prix a record 6 times).  

33. Stephen Hendry

Stephen Hendry

The most successful snooker player ever, Stephen Hendry upheld the World Number 1 for 8 consecutive years. He has won 7 World Championships, the first of which he won at just 21 years old. He also holds records for most ever ranking event wins as well as century breaks.

34. Shane Warne

Shane Warne

One of the greatest and best spin bowler of all time, Warne holds the record of the highest number of Test wickets. He famously bowled the “ball of the century” against Gatting, which span an incredible distance. He is undoubtedly a strong and one of the greatest athletes of all time. 

35. Brian Lara

greatest athletes of all time

Lara was a prolific run-scorer. He is the only cricket player ever to score more than 500 runs in an innings.  He also holds the record for highest innings score in international test cricket. Moreover, he was bestowed as the ‘Wisden Cricketer of the Year’ twice.  

36. Roger Federer

Roger Federer

The GOAT of tennis, Federer has won more singles Grand Slams than any other male tennis player at 20.  He has 7 Wimbledon titles and also holds the record for most weeks at world no.1. Federer is remarkably popular and has won fans award for the favorite player for 12 years straight.

37. Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher holds several all-time records, including most races won, most pole positions. He is the only driver to finish in the top 3 in every race in a season. Schumacher is one of the greatest athletes of all time, with an inspirational career as a racer. 

38. Sachin Tendulkar

greatest athletes of all time

The 50 greatest athletes of all time across the world of sports, Tendulkar is worshipped as the god of cricket. He is the all-time highest run-scorer in both test and one-day international cricket.  He is the only player to score 100 centuries in international cricket, and was the first ever player to hit a double-century in a one-day game. 

39. Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane is a 3-time winner of World Footballer of the Year, who inspired France to the World Cup on home soil in 1998. He was regarded as an expensive player ever during his time. He scored an incredible volley with his weaker foot to win the 2001 Champions League Final for Madrid.

40. Lin Dan

greatest athletes of all time

Lin Dan is a 5-time World Champion, as well as a 5-time All-England Champion. He is the only person to win consecutive singles gold medals at two different Olympics.  He is also the only player to win a “Super Grand Slam” winning all 9 major badminton titles in his career.

41. Tiger Woods

greatest athletes of all time

Tiger Woods has won 14 major titles, including each major at least 3 times. Woods is widely regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all time. Most importantly, he is also one of the most famous and greatest athletes of all time in the history.

42. Lionel Messi

greatest athletes of all time

Popular for his dribbling skills, Messi is regarded as the greatest footballer of all time. He has won the Balon D’Or greatest player, a joint record 5 times, and won Best Player at the 2014 World Cup. He has scored over 600 league goals and is the 2nd top scorer ever in the European Champions League.  

43. Rafael Nadal

greatest athletes of all time

The greatest clay-court player ever, Nadal has won 10 French Open titles, amongst 16 grand slams in total (2nd most ever).  He reached the Career Grand Slam (winning each) by just 24 years old. He also won his first Grand Slam as a teenager, and is immensely famous for his aggressive baseline style.

44. Lebron James

50 greatest athletes of all time

James is the all-time playoff top scorer and all-time all-stars top scorer, gaining 14 All-Star appearances. He has become known as the face of the MBA. He is one of the greatest basketball players. He was named as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world by Times in 2017. 

45. Billie Jean King

50 greatest athletes of all time

Former World No. 1 professional tennis player, Billie Jean King is regarded as one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time. King is an advocate for gender equality and social justice. She campaigned for equal pay when the Open Era began in 1968. In 1971, she became the first female athlete to earn over $100,000 in prize money. 

46. Lindsay Vonn

50 greatest athletes of all time

In 2012, Morgan recorded 28 goals and 21 assists to become the second American woman to score 20 goals. She was also the sixth and the youngest US player to score 20 goals in a single year. Alex continues to inspire a vast population of football fans as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

47. Alex Morgan

50 greatest athletes of all time

In 2012, Morgan recorded 28 goals and 21 assists to become the second American woman to score 20 goals. She was also the sixth and the youngest US player to score 20 goals in a single year. Alex continues to inspire a vast population of football fans as one of the 50 greatest athletes of all time.

48. Serena Williams

50 greatest athletes of all time

Williams is widely acknowledged as one of the best female tennis players of the Open Era, securing her place among the all time greatest athletes. Her victories have solidified her status as a tennis icon and positioned her as an inspirational figure, particularly for young enthusiasts of the sport. Boasting an impressive record, her 23 Grand Slam singles titles stand as a testament to her unparalleled success, setting a record for the most tournament wins during the Open Era. Notably, in 2019, she stood as the sole woman on the list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, underscoring her impact both on and off the tennis court.

49. Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick is the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing. Patrick is the first and only woman to win an IndyCar Series race at the 2008 Indy Japan 300. In a predominantly male industry, Patrick is often credited for breaking the gender barrier and inspiring more women to take part in auto racing and motorsports.

50. Neeraj Chopra

Neeraj Chopra

An Indian track and field athlete who competes in the Javelin throw, Neeraj Chopra has been the talk of the town–courtesy of his heroics at the Tokyo Olympics 2021. Clinching the gold medal, Neeraj became the first track and field athlete to win a gold medal for India at the Olympics. Recognizing his achievement, the Government of India has announced to celebrate 7th August—the day he won the gold medal—as the ‘National Javelin Day’.  that’s why we added him in a list of the 50 greatest athletes of all time.

Also Read: The 50 Most Popular Women on the Internet throughout the Decade

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