Greatest Athletes of All Time

This is not a list of the greatest players of all time, although many of the athletes on the list may have been great players. This is a list of the greatest athletes which begs the question, what makes someone a great athlete. For the purpose of this list, athletic greatness is defined as possessing a variety of attributes that contribute to athletic prowess. These include speed, quickness, endurance, power and hand-eye coordination. That is why this list does not include specialized athletes such as marathon runners or bicyclists. While it is clear that Lance Armstrong is a master in his field, he has not proven that he could compete in other sports where more is required than pumping his thighs for hours on end.

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The Top Ten

1
Michael Jordan
There may be a very few human beings that could keep up athletically with MJ (Bo Jackson, Carl Lewis etc. )... There are a very few human beings that might keep up with MJ's skill, coordination, and grace (Kobe Bryant, Zinedine, Roger Federer)... There are even fewer who might be able to match his mental game and competitiveness (Tiger woods, Larry Bird)... But there is no one- NO ONE-who has ever possessed all of these qualities on the level that MJ did. The Greatest Athlete that ever lived... Without a shadow of a doubt... Its Michael Jordan.
MJ is the best! There will never be another Michael Jordan. He is without doubt the greatest athlete of all time!
Mj reinvented basketball. If it wasn't for MJ, many moves, dunks, and styles wouldn't exist
[Newest]Michael Jordan, pure and simple, the king of sports.
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2Muhammad Ali
He's got more endurance, speed, accuracy, determination, and most importantly heart then any other athlete ever to walk the planet. Defiantly the best all around athlete. PERIOD.
If we were to show another species the strength, courage, love and intelligence that Man has, Muhammad Ali would be Mankind's Representative.
His passion, dedication, confidence, attitude... No doubt The Greatest... He should have been number 1... The Man had it all.. His fellows respected him. What more do you want
[Newest]His fight with sonny liston shows his skills...
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3Bo Jackson
Bo knows... And he's the greatest athlete ever. Ever argue at the bar over this one? The only thing anyone will ever say to shoot down Bo Jackson is the fact that his career was too short. But length of service is only one thing. His two sport versatility easily compensates for this.

Bo hit 141 hr in 2300 games, which is close to on pace with the likes of Mike Schmidt. That was before the pre 1996 hr derby style baseball too. Imagine a healthy Bo Jackson slugging 50 homers a season and hitting 500 home runs in his career. Would there be any doubt then who was the greatest ever to step on the field? That's not even counting his ridiculous range in the OF.

Oh, and that's just baseball. Hey MJ fans, you want to see athletic dominance? Watch a Bo Jackson football highlight reel. Then tell me he wasn't the best athlete ever. Had he focused on football, and stayed healthy, he'd own Emmit Smith, and Barry Sanders. Every scout agreed that he was THE BEST ever. Speed, power, balance, vision, he was THE BEST. His yards per carry are a testament to that. How about that 6.8 yards per carry average in his rookie year? Again, ridiculous.

One day the sports world will look beyond the numbers in the record books and back on to the field of play to judge performance. That was Bo's playground, and no matter what the game, you know Bo not only could do it, but he'd do it better than anyone else.

Bo is #1 all time.
OH MY GOSH! What is this dude not doing at least at number 5?! Not many can say that they're an outstanding football and baseball player, at professional l level, be amazing (at times) at both, be able to break a bat on your knee, oh and do almost the impossible by running almost completely vertical on the fence, and act like its completely normal! The thing is, I believe he would be #1 no competition if it weren't for that devastating knee injury, that basically just happened cause he was a combine of a unbelievably strong, big, and with a speed that makes you go "what the heck just happened? " Don't even get me started on his arm, getting a ball from the warning track and throwing it- accurate and fast- to home to get an amazing out, with no bounces from the ball! MJ, an outstanding athlete, yes, but did he excel at two sports, a big fat no. For me, an athlete myself, I try to be the best I can be in my sport, and yet struggle to do that in other sports, and sometimes even in my main sport. Bo could've been an amazing baseball player, if he focused hard enough and worked on that batting average, some would say for football the same. The thing is- what other athlete could've done that?
Not only did he play in two professional sports, but he was a superstar in both. On the baseball diamond, Bo had a career batting average of.250 and hit 141 home runs in just under 694 career games. In 1989 he was selected to the American League All-Star team and went on to win the game's MVP award. And that doesn't count Bo's "hobby" sport. Bo the football player won the Sugar Bowl MVP award, the Liberty Bowl MVP award and then the Heisman Trophy. Then, when he decided to play pro football, he averaged 5.4 yards per carry for his short career and was named to the Pro Bowl team. At one time, Bo was in commercials with Jordan and Gretzky and if it weren't for his career ending hip injury, he would still be regarded as deserving of that type of company.
[Newest]He could throw a ball at a scoreboard and he threw a baseball 340 feet off his back foot
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4Wayne Gretzky
The "Great One" changed the face of hockey as he brings a new era of speed, skill, and scoring touch into the game. Entered the NHL erasing almost all scoring records he quickly built the Oilers Dynasty with amazing haste. Along with his hockey sensation Gretzky is recognized for his charity work and a strong connection with the game of Hockey.
No player in the history of sports has ever come close to dominating their sport like The Great One
THE GREAT ONE. Enough said. He holds every important record in hockey. Arguably the toughest sport to play
[Newest]Gordie Howe is a way better hockey player and should be number one on this list
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5Usain Bolt
Another cool name. And fastest man EVER
I'd suggest that anyone not familiar with track records, especially the 100M, take a look a at what this man has accomplished ( the first to break the 9.7 barrier and a month later the 9.6 barrier) and you'll see why I already place him as the greatest athlete of the century and perhaps all-time. They say he's capable of breaking his current record of 9.58, and if he does look for it to be the eventual longest lasting track and field record ever. I'm headed for bed after reaching #16, but I know one athlete that's not going to be listed, and he may be, as many have argued, the greatest athlete ever; Mikhail Baryshnikov. The same hang-time as M.J. - 0.9. I would list my top three as Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods, and Jim Brown when you consider how great they were compared to the rest of their competition in their prime. In lesser followed sports, there's no doubt that "Lightning" Bolt is #1.
Usain Bolt is the best 200m runner ever hands down, so good he can even dominate the glamour 100m event as well. Loads more gold coming in London 2012.
[Newest]He can run faster than cheetah and absolutely legend the greatest ever pure runner to born in this earth I want him to participate in the 2020 Tokyo olympic and retire with 12 olympic gold medal
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6Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps is the greatest athlete of all time, as he didn't just win a gold medal in the hardest sport, he did it 8 times over. No other athlete can match his determination, mental preparedness, or physical ability.
Undoubtedly the most amazing swimmer the world has ever seen! He dominates every corner of the sport while clearly showing the world what truly makes an athlete!
39 World Records. 22 Olympic Medals, 18 of them Gold, with 11 of the Gold coming from individual events. He dominated a sport like nobody has ever dominated any sport. 16 years of being the uncontested greatest in the world. He could keep going, but he already has everything locked down.

There is no comparison, because nobody has ever won anything to the degree he has outside of Jordan, and he competed in a team sport.
[Newest]His record will stand forever 18 olympic gold medal the great man from America and absolutely legend

7Roger Federer
To be consistent throughout his career is just astounding. And let's not forget the fact that he was the number one player for 237 weeks consecutively. The fact that he was dethroned after that did not stop him from getting back the top rank as he regained the position from Rafael Nadal and collected a total record of 285 weeks overall.
Roger Federer is Not only one of the best sportsman, but also the most respectful of all... Genuine, humble, passionate, dedicated, consistent and humane...
Federrer is Simply The Best. Both character & as a Tennis Player. He has the techniques to play tennis. He is my favourite. Djorkovic and Nadal are behind him
[Newest]The man, that's what he is, the man
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8Jim Thorpe
Please, enough of this MJ worship! Greatest Basketball player is an acceptable choice, but this guy has never shown to be proficient at any other sport! He was a minor league baseball flop, still has a laughable handicap in golf and has never been known for lightening speed. Unlike this one sport star, Jim Thorpe, with little expert training or equipment, was voted into the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with the Track & Field Hall of Fame! Thorpe also had no business playing Major League Baseball at first, but learned on the fly and finished with a respectable .252 batting average in 7 part-time seasons. Jim Thorpe was successful in three sports to Jordan's one, doing this as an impoverished ward of the government and enduring untold racial bigotry. No athlete came so far with so little! He's Jim Brown, Jesse Owens and Bo Jackson rolled into one. Hand's down the Greatest Athlete Of All Time!
The greatest athlete ever to come from Lawrence KS (Haskell Indian Jr. college) which is saying something since other mentionables include Wilt Chamberlain, Gayle Sayers, Jim Ryun, Danny Manning, Paul Pierce, John Riggins and others. Local legends of the man still recount tails of him drop kicking balls through the goalpost from the 20 yard line (opposing) into the wind. Winning every event he entered in a track meet after he forgot his shoes. Not to mention being good at anything he tried.
I think Michael Jordan was a very good athlete, especially in basketball, but he never excelled in three sports. He also had the advantage of the training, equipment, and especially the media that existed in his time over what Jim Thorpe had to deal with in his time. Also, Jim never had to do all the training to become great he just was what he was, and unnatural athletic talent. He could could do anything, including winning the college ballroom dance championship and he ran home one hundred miles in one day. How many athletes can do what he did in three sports, not just one! Most people in our time have no clue what this guy could do but his olympic gold medial in the decathlon lasted a decade before people with greater equipment, training and preparation could finally beat his record. He is by far the greatest athlete. Only Wilt Chamberlain could come close to match some of his physical abilities. Wilt could run under fifty seconds on the quarter mile and could take a quarter off of the top of the backboard, but he didn't excel in three sports and win gold medals!
[Newest]Well He is A terrific Athlete

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9Pele (Edson Arantes do Nascimento)
All-time soccer leading scorer in history with over 1,000 goals in his career, and champion in two world cups with his native country Brazil making him the best soccer player in history over Argentinian astro player Diego Armando Maradona.
Pele is and still the best soccer player in the world he made #10 what it is now, anybody that wears that # in the soccer field knows the weigh of that # 10 you have to be the best, that means pele.
Pele has scored 1152 goals in 1220 games that I legendary compared to anybody else on this list he should be number one he is a pure hero to the world and especially Brazilians

egillaxelsson

I was looking at some of the ones higher then pele and I almost dropped dead. Some I can believe like gretzky and jordan and ali and ruth but woods and federer
[Newest]A true story a brilliant talent should be1#

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10Tiger Woods
Best Athlete by far. Golf is the hardest sport to play because there is no room for error and Tiger dominated the game like no other Athlete has dominated their sport. Anyone who says golf isn't a sport is just arrogant because it takes strength, flexibility, balance, endurance, and TREMENDOUS mental strength. What Tiger Woods has done is just simply amazing.
I know golf isn't as physical as most other sports, but I play golf and know how easy it is to make a mistake. Tiger Woods is the best athlete because of all his accomplishments & is still young and will be achieving even more before he's done. Michael Jordan was great, but his name also gave him extra room with refs and getting away with stuff, not to mention the intimidation he struck into others that guarded him. Tiger has no refs, therefor no miss calls or extra slack from refs because of his star level.

PDP

Does he have a 50 inch vertical leap, or even a 25 inch vertical leap? Does he run a 3.9-40, or even a 5.5-40? Sure he is a great player of the game, but If you read the description of the list, you'd see this is based off athleticism not skill. Tiger Woods is NO match against pretty much ANY player of football, soccer, hockey, basketball, rugby etc. Tiger Woods is an AMAZING golfer, but not an athlete. Clearly somebody forgot to check the dictionary before they put this up...
[Newest]Words can't describe what he has done for golf. Out of any athlete to ever live, none has ever had such a great impact on their sport as tiger has. He may not be known as the greatest athlete ever because golf is not the most athletic sport, but if you were looking at the best players of each respective sport and compared them to each other, Tiger would be on the top there.

The Contenders

11Babe Ruth
Let's be real, people. Until this guy is voted to the top spot then this list should be considered a joke! He was out-homering ENTIRE teams in an era when the ball was more dead than alive! And yes, he could pitch as well. His head to head record against Walter Johnson was 11-1! Are you serious?! And, wrap your brain around this if you can. He did all this while partying like it was 1999 EVERY NIGHT! RUN THAT UP YOUR FLAGPOLE AND SALUTE IT! Enough said.
Made baseball america's national pastime did more for his sport than any other athlete.. This is evident when he hit more homeruns, than entire teams, he and ali are the most recognized athletes in the world, yes he's better than them all he's the best
Not only that but he was one of the greatest pitchers ever. No one ever credits babe for that. He was the best because, he could do both at just a high level, the most highest!
No one broke Ruth's home run record, to break it would be with the same number of at bats, so Aaron and Bonds with the help of many more games,162 game seasons, surpassed the record. Seems Ruth's record is really in tack Ruth played many years under a rule the fair/foul ball rule, if a ball was fair past the foul pole but curved foul there after it wasn't a homer, Ruth lost at least 50 homers because of this rule, and perhaps as many as 75 in total. So what's 714 and 50 it's 764 and that's the low number. Why doesn't baseball correct this wrong, they put the great black ball players of the past who never played in the major leagues into the hall of fame, it was only right. how about baseball going back in time and picking the MVP and the best Pitcher of the year for all those years past, also under the same rules of today, in some of those years, once you won the MVP you couldn't win it again until years later it was finally changed. Babe Ruth and others lost out of other MVP awards because of this stupid rule. I'm sure Babe Ruth would of won many other MVP awards if this rule wasn't applied in his day.
[Newest]All he is is an obese guy swingin a bat

12LeBron James
He is 6'9, has the body of an NFL linebacker, runs like a track star, and jumps as high as anyone in the NBA. I wouldn't be surprised if he could compete in any sport at a professional level.

rmoore26

Jordan is the Greatest BB player... But Lebron is the best all round player to ever do it... Pass Magic, score like MJ, Rebound like a PF and defend like Gary Payton... did I mention he can shoot the trey and block a bball as well...?
As far as pure athletic ability, very few can match LeBron. Dude's not the best NBA player of all time, but he the greatest NBA pure athlete of all time.

Real_1985

[Newest]15 15 No he should top 5 up that by 10 right now folks because the best

13Sachin Tendulkar
He is a person who has played under extreme levels of expectations of a billion people of a cricket crazy nation and yet managed to maintain his excellent performances over a period of 22 years and is still going strong. His careers defines modern day cricket. He holds almost every record in the book.
This guy is nothing less than GOD... He has shown me how to live life... And wt is the meaning of passion, hardwork and consistency... I bet... No athlete can ever match his hunger to excel and performing at the same level... Fulfilling his responsibilities in the same manner he had started 22 years back when he began his international career at just age 16.. For all those guys who don't vote for him because you don't know much about him,... At whatever level you adore other athletes in this list... Do learn more about him and I bet, slowly you are gonna fall in love with a true gentleman or even the first look itself...
It is not how best athlete he is, the thing that is awesome about him is how long he remained the best athlete and obviously the best batsman. He is the best batsmen in the history of cricket. He has most number centuries in ODI and test cricket. He has most no of runs in both format of the game. It is his bad luck that cricket is not as famous as football or tennis otherwise he would have been rated as the greatest sportsman.
[Newest]Nice hart and grate player
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14Bruce Lee
WHEN YOU SAY WHO IS THE GREATEST ATHLETE OF ALL TIME IT IS BRUCE LEE. WHO ELSE DO KNOW THAT CAN DO 50 ONE ARM PULL UPS IN A ROW WITHOUT STOPING. CAN SOMEONE TELL ME WHY MICHAEL JORDAN IS NUMBER 1 WHEN ALL HE IS MOST POPULAR FOR IS DUNKS. KNOW THINK ABOUT IT HE DOESN'T HAVE THE MOST RINGS, THE MOST POINTS AND OTHER MOST EITHER I'M NOT SAYING WHETHER HE IS THE BEST OR NOT I'M JUST SAYING HE MIGHT BE THE BEST ATHLETE IN BASKETBALL BUT NOT EVER. BRUCE LEE NOT ONLY IS BEST ATHLETE BUT THE SMARTEST TO, HIS IQ WHICH IS 200 IS THE HIGHEST OUT OF ALL OF THESE GUYS ON THIS LIST. I JUST CAN'T BELIEVE BRUCE LEE IS NUMBER 16 ON THIS LIST, THIS LIST IS A JOKE. WHO ELSE CAN SEND SOMEONE FAR BACK FROM A ONE INCH PUNCH. Their IS A LOT MORE TO BE SAID BUT MJ REALLY IS AT THE TOP BECAUSE THE NBA IS THE MOST POPULAR SPORT OF THEM ALL, JUST LOOK AT THE VIDEO GAME SELLING FOR NBA. MJ COULD BARELY DUNK FROM THE ENTIRE FREE THROW LINE AND IS YOU GO YOUTUBE AND SEE SERGE IBAKA HE IS THE ON NBA PLAYER WHO REALLY DUNKED FROM BEHIND THE FREE LINE AND IF YOUR TALKING ABOUT THE GREATEST ATHLETE MJ COULD NOT EVEN DUNK FROM BEHIND THE FREE THROW LINE (SOME ATHLETE). BRUCE LEE DID AMAZING THINGS AND HAD CRAZY SPEED AND STRENGTH FOR A MAN WHO WAS ONLY 5-7 AND 128 POUNDS. HE IS THE REASON SLOW MOTION WAS INVENTED AND WHO ELSE DO YOU KNOW THAT CAN DO 2 FINGER PUSH UPS. SO I REST MY CAST BRUCE LEE IS THE G.O.A. T ATHLETE. (AND THE SMARTEST).
Bruce lee is superhumanly fast, he's also extremely strong and powerful. He was one of the most committed and determined athletes to ever live. He is easily the most influential martial art master of all time.
He is the greatest athlete that has ever lived fast and furious, strong both mentally and physically. Now you better add him in the list or I will kill you all.
[Newest]He is the man who experiences life after death in the peoples mind
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15Wilt Chamberlain
The NBA was a different game at the time, but Wilt's numbers are still staggering. You know most of them but you may not be aware of his endurance as evidenced by his record career average of 45.8 minutes per game (and you thought I was going to use the number 20,000). Also, don't forget that Chamberlain ran track and recorded a sub 11 second 100-yard dash in high school.
Take the 5 best years of all these folks careers and then tell me Chamberlain wasn't the greatest ever. No one, no one ever dominated their sport like he did, with the possible exception of Ruth.
The ability to average over a complete game in minutes, to score 100 points, to average over 50 per game are enough to prove his basketball athleticism, but the man in general was a super strong goliath who could do just about anything.
[Newest]Number ONE hands down.

16Donald Bradman
Bradman owns! Statistically he stands so far above everyone else that it is impossible for him not to be the number 1. List is biased against sports not popular in America... Also took a year off cricket once and won the South Australian open squash tournament.
It is crazy how biased these results are to American sports. Don Bradman is the only athlete ever to be statisically twice as good as as the rest of his time! And even decades later the next best averages are around 40% lower. And for your info Americans, India alone makes cricket a higher played sport than your American basketball, baseball and nfl. Not too mention the other 100's of millions in the other commonwealth countries. Bottom line is if you did your research you would find it hard to argue against bradman, whose hand-eye coordination is so far ahead of ANYONE else ever to have lived, including federer. And if you were going to argue against bradman, it could only be with bruce lee, as as a purely physical specimen no one can match him. He would have kicked ali's arse in a boxing match blindfolded, and you know it
Sir Donald Bradman the greatest cricketer of all time in the toughest sport of all time in one of the toughest periods on earth of all time. Batting Average of 99.94.06 from being perfect that's why he is the greatest to be that close to being perfect is an amazing feat.
[Newest]Easily #1 of all time. Sachin! Really! Bradman nearly doubles his average! Doubles it! For Usain Bolt to be comparable he'd have to win the 100 in 5.5 seconds
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17Manny Pacquiao
Manny should be the greatest athlete of all time because he is the most well-rounded champion and person. He's a 10 time champion in 8 different weight divisions in his profession. He's always humble with his achievements. He's charismatic on both a professional and personal level. He's always entertaining and exciting. He always think of those whom are less fortunate in life and always uses his successes to directly help better those people and everyone around him. Other athletes maybe leaders, champions or icon of their respective team or sports, but Manny is a leader and icon for a nation and the less fortunate of the world. Manny is the "true" champion of the people. This is what differentiates Manny from the rest of all those other champions.
He deserve to be one of the greatest.. In fact boxing is not an easy sport compare with others... You must have passion for it and a desire to win not only for the money and fame but for the pride of your country... Imagine this... His heart and mind is so strong... That's what you call passion
Widely recognized as one of boxing greats and not only in sports but also in various achievements like politics, as a humanitarian and as a singer etc.
[Newest]Manny is very humble and kind I hope that every athlete is just like him
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18Leo Messi
I think Messi should be the world's best athlete for the moment. He has a blend of all footballers rated above him and his best is yet to come. His speed, ball control, and ability to trick and score are 1 of the best seen so far. Plus, his modest and non-arrogant attitude puts him at his best.
He's fast, skilled, and at the top of his sport.
Messi doesn't desreve to be out of the top 10
He has shown his superhuman capabilities time and time again.
Never failing to perform
[Newest]Messi is out of this world he is a magician

19Jim Brown
obivously a top ten all time caliber running back (may have been best ever except he stopped playing at age 30), but was also offered to pitch for the yankees, one of the greatest lacrosse players ever (in hall of fame), good track athlete (5th in national decathalon), and could have won a national championship for syracuse if there had been no rule for not allowing 3 african american players to start for a team (Brown didn't go out his senior year because he may not have started over 2 other players)

danajs24

Not only was he one of the greatest football players of all-time, but he was perhaps the greatest lacrosse player of all-time too. And he could play basketball and baseball well enough to attract the pro scouts.
Not only the greatest runningback of all-time in the NFL, but the man was the greatest lacrosse player to. And he was excellent in basketball and baseball and could have made the pros in those sports.
[Newest]Amazing in every way look up his highlight reel

20Joe Montana
THERE ARE ONLY TWO NFL QUARTERBACKS WHO HAVE WON 4 SUPER BOWLS JOE MONTANA IS ONE OF THEM
Montana was known as a limited athlete. Didn't have a riffle arm, no Tarkenton or Vick when running. If this about athleticism no. If this about winning, being the best at your craft, yes.
He is really good at football
[Newest]No noon no this mans like 70

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This list was created 9 years, 64 days ago and has been voted on over 23,000 times. This top ten list contains 431 items, has been remixed 92 times and has been blogged about 22 times.

Updated Friday, May 22, 2015


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