Greatest Sports Icons

The Top Ten Greatest Sports Icons

1 Pele Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as "Pelé", is a retired Brazilian professional footballer who played as a forward. He is one of the best players in football, hence why he's nicknamed the "king of football".

The meaning of the word iconic is diferrent than the word best.
Iconic person is a famous person that represents something of importance.
Football is the most popular sport in the world.
During his career Pelé travelled all around the globe with his club (Santos) playing many friendlies with other clubs, so millions of people shaw him playing and gained a popularity and fame as no one athlete before or after him.
"My name is Ronald Reagan, I'm the President of the United States of America. But you don't need to introduce yourself, because everyone knows who Pelé is."
-US President Ronald Reagan, greeting Pelé at the White House.
"Pelé was one of the few who contradicted my theory: instead of 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries."
-Andy Warhol.
Pelé was elected 'ATHLETE OF THE CENTURY' by International Olympic Committe (the highest sports authority) in 1999.
That's why Pelé is the most iconic athlete of all times.

2 Michael Jordan Michael Jeffrey Jordan, also known by his initials, MJ, is an American retired professional basketball player.

Michael Jordan can be considered as the most talented athlete of a single sport of all times.
His name can be equal with the word spectacle.
He inspired a lot of basketball greats after him.
All we have seen him playing, we are sure that we won't see anybody like him in future. We are lucky.

fantastic basketball player!

3 Usain Bolt Usain St. Leo Bolt is a Jamaican sprinter. Regarded as the fastest person ever timed, he is the first man to hold both the 100 metres and 200 metres world records since fully automatic time measurements became mandatory in 1977. Along with his teammates, he also set the world record in the 4×100 metres more.

The Olympic and World Champion Justin Gatlin graciously bowed to Usain Bolt after the final of 100m in 2017 World Championships.
This was one of the greatest moments I've seen in sports history and a sign of Bolt's greatness.

4 Muhammad Ali Muhammad Ali (January 17th 1942 - June 3rd 2016) was an American former professional boxer . He was generally considered among the greatest heavyweights in the history of the sport.

Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) is definitely among the greatest boxers of all times, but not the number 1.
His career was exciting due to his selfish and provocative character. He had a lot of fans but enemies too. His involvement in several historic boxing matches (the "Fight of the Century", due to the tremendous excitement surrounding a bout between two undefeated fighters, Ali and Joe Frazier, "The Rumble in the Jungle" against George Foreman held in Kinshasa, and the "Thrilla in Manila" again against Joe Frazier) were among the most monumental sports' events of the 20th century.
But all these made him one of the greatest sports' icons that will be difficult to be forgotten.

5 Diego Maradona Diego Armando Maradona is a retired Argentine professional footballer. He is known for "The Goal of the Century" and the "Hand of God" goal.

In his country "El Pibe de Oro" was always more than just a sports hero - he was a divine figure. It was the Houston Chronicle that described Maradona perfectly: he was the combination of Michael Jordan's athleticism, Babe Ruth's power and Mike Tyson's human fallibility. In a country that survived many social frustrations and several military dictatorships, El Diego became a symbol of hope and an idol to millions.

6 Michael Phelps Michael Fred Phelps II is an American competition swimmer and the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 22 medals in three Olympiads.

he is the greatest sports icon because all the medals he won in olympics are recorded for his country.

7 Ayrton Senna Ayrton Senna da Silva (21 March 1960 – 1 May 1994) was a Brazilian racing driver who won three Formula One world championships for McLaren in 1988, 1990 and 1991 and is regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time. He was killed in an accident while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand more.

Although I can't say that he was the best driver of F1 of all times, his racing career and his death made him the greatest icon of the most distinguished sport.

8 Carl Lewis Frederick Carlton "Carl" Lewis is an American former track and field athlete who won nine Olympic gold medals, one Olympic silver medal, and 10 World Championships medals, including eight gold. His career spanned from 1979 to 1996, when he last won an Olympic event.

After the 1984 Olympics, Carl Lewis was continuously compared with Jesse Owens. But Owens' track and field career lasted only two years (1935-1936).
Carl Lewis was voted "World Athlete of the Century" by the International Association of Athletics Federations and "Sportsman of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee.

One of the most decorated athletes of all times.
The only disadvantage in his assessment is that he made only two individual world records in his career, both in 100m. He didn't manage to break Beamon's and Mennea's records although he was very close.

Super cool

9 Wilt Chamberlain Wilton Norman "Wilt" Chamberlain was an American basketball player . He was born on August 21, 1936 in Philadelphia and died on October 12, 1999 in Los Angeles due to heart failure . more.

Some of his records are alive for more than half a century and probably will remain unbroken for a long more time...

If Wilt played for Celtics instead of Russel, he could had won 7 (at least) MVP titles.
Bill Russel was only a great defender (15.4 ppg in his career).

10 Vasily Alekseyev

In 1993 was named the best athlete of all Soviet and Russian history.

In my opinion, greatest European athlete ever.

The Contenders

11 Magic Johnson Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. is a retired American professional basketball player who played point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association for 13 seasons.

Arguably the best Lakers player in team history and a PG that forever changed the position, Johnson has been praised for his accomplishments on the court since arriving in the league.
Yet off the court, Johnson has been less prevalent in the sports headlines since he announced that he was diagnosed with HIV on November 7th, 1991.

12 Lionel Messi Lionel Andrés "Leo" Messi is an Argentine professional footballer who plays as a forward for Spanish club Barcelona. He is also known as one of the greatest football players of all time. He was born in Rosario, Argentina on June 24th, 1987.

Football is the most popular sport in the world by far.
Lionel Messi is the greatest football icon of the 21st Century.

13 Nadia Comaneci

Comăneci is one of the world's most famous gymnasts and is credited with popularizing the sport around the globe.
She is the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10.0 at the Olympic Games (seven times) and her presentation remains unforgettable.
In 2000, she was named as one of the Athletes of the 20th Century by the Laureus World Sports Academy.

14 Jim Thorpe James Francis "Jim" Thorpe was an American athlete and Olympic gold medalist. A member of the Sac and Fox Nation, Thorpe became the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States.

Best multi-sport athlete of the modern era.
In 1950 Associated Press elected him as the best athlete of the first half of the 20th century.

15 Hank Aaron Henry Louis Aaron, nicknamed "Hammer" or "Hammerin' Hank", is a retired American Major League Baseball right fielder who serves as the senior vice president of the Atlanta Braves.
16 Martina Navratilova

The former Czechoslovak and later American professional tennis player is considered one of the best, if not the best, female tennis players of all time.
She won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 major women's doubles titles (an all-time record), and 10 major mixed doubles titles, combined marking the open-era record for the most number of Grand Slam titles won by one player, male or female.

17 Jesse Owens

Although his sport career was very short, it was enough to prove the Hitler's idiocy in a such a short time..

18 Babe Ruth George Herman Ruth Jr., better known as Babe Ruth, was an American professional baseball player whose career in Major League Baseball spanned 22 seasons, from 1914 through 1935.
19 LeBron James LeBron Raymone James is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association. LeBron has played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and the Lakers.
20 Johan Cruyff Hendrik Johannes Cruijff (1947-2016) was a Dutch professional football player and coach. As a player, he won the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1971, 1973, and 1974.
21 Alfredo di Stéfano

One of the greatest football icons of all times.

Pelé said in 2016: “If I am the king, then Messi has been the prince over the past 15 years. "I cannot call him the king, because there is only one king. I believe that Alfredo Di Stefano was the most complete of the Argentine stars, he was more complete than Maradona and Messi.”

22 Naim Süleymanoğlu

Naim was one of the brightest athletes ever.
Those who have seen him during his career, will never forget not only his achievements but also his personal style.
'The Pocket Hercules ' was an athlete of a non popular sport, but but he's an icon of one of the longest lived Olympic sports.

23 Larisa Latynina

Most decorated gymnast ever, the 2nd. greatest Olympian with 18 medals.

24 Babe Didrikson Zaharias

The first female icon, an American athlete who excelled in golf, basketball, baseball and track and field. She won two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Summer Olympics, before turning to professional golf and winning 10 LPGA major championships.

25 Tiger Woods Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods is an American professional golfer who is among the most successful golfers of all time.
26 Joe Montana Joseph Clifford "Joe" Montana, Jr., nicknamed Joe Cool and The Comeback Kid, is a retired American football quarterback.
27 Ferenc Puskas Ferenc Puskás was a Hungarian footballer and manager, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.

One of the greatest icons of the most popular sport in the world.

28 Mark Spitz Mark Andrew Spitz is an American former competitive swimmer, nine-time Olympic champion, and former world record-holder in seven events.
29 Paavo Nurmi

One of the greatest Olympians (9 gold, total 12). Best long distance racer ever.

30 Aleksandr Karelin

The "Russian Bear" is one of the most accomplished athletes of all time, winning 887 games and losing only 2.

31 Jackie Joyner-Kersee

According to Sports Illustrated greatest female athlete of 20th century.

32 Bruce Lee Bruce Lee was a Hong Kong American martial artist, action film actor, martial arts instructor, philosopher, filmmaker, and the founder of Jeet Kune Do.
33 Roger Federer Roger Federer (born 8 August 1981) is a Swiss professional tennis player who is currently ranked world No. 3 in men's singles tennis by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). He has won 19 Grand Slam singles titles, the most in history for a male tennis player. He has held the world No. 1 spot more.

He is regarded as the greatest tennis player ever and he definitely is.
But his achievements and less compared to female legends Margaret Court and Martina Navratilova, in a sport similar competitive for men and women.

34 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an American retired professional basketball player who played 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers.

Of the numerous records he holds, two are the most important individually:
- All time leading scorer.
- 6 times MVP.

35 Ole Einar Bjørndalen

The Norwegian biathlete is a legend of Winter Olympics and (alongside Marit Bjørgen) the greatest gold medalist with 8.
His 45 medals in World Championships (24 gold) is a record.

36 Bo Jackson Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson is a former baseball and American football player. He is the only athlete in history to be named an All-Star in both baseball and football, and one of few to do so in two major sports.
37 Juan Manuel Fangio

The Godfather of Formula One.

38 Karch Kiraly

Volleyball is one of the 10 most popular sports worldwide.
The American player was voted as the best of the 20th century (joined election with L. Bernardi).

39 Rocky Marciano

Marciano finished his career undefeated making a record that stood for nearly six decades.

40 Larry Bird Larry Joe Bird is an American retired professional basketball player who played for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association. Bird is a 3x champ, 1x ROTY, 1x Finals MVP, 3x 3PT Contest winner, all with the Boston Celtics. (1979-1992)
41 Jerry Rice Jerry Lee Rice is a former American football wide receiver who played 20 seasons in the National Football League, primarily with the San Francisco 49ers.
42 Franz Beckenbauer Franz Anton Beckenbauer is a German former professional footballer and manager. Early in his playing career he was nicknamed Der Kaiser because of his elegant style, dominance and leadership on the field, and also as his first name "Franz" is reminiscent of the Austrian emperors.

Greatest German sports' icon.

43 Cristiano Ronaldo Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro is a Portuguese professional footballer who plays as a forward for Italian club Juventus and the Portugal national team.
44 Serena Williams Serena Jameka Williams is an American professional tennis player. The Women's Tennis Association ranked her world No. 1 in singles on eight separate occasions between 2002 and 2017. She reached the No. 1 ranking for the first time on July 8, 2002.
45 Ma Long

As a continue of my comment on Pelé, I want to clarify that icons should be athletes of sports spread worldwide and not only in one or a few countries. The most important is the Olympic credit (exception is F1- it can't be an Olympic sport).
Ma Long is the greatest table tennis player ever. And for those who don't know, table tennis is the 4th sport in the world according to the officially registered athletes.

46 Dezso Gyarmati

Greatest waterpolo player ever.

47 Florence Griffith Joyner

Fastest woman ever.
Some experts regard that her world records will never be broken.

48 Giacomo Agostini

The Italian motorcycle road racer is the greatest world champion and Grand Prix winner of his sport.

49 Wayne Gretzky Wayne Douglas Gretzky CC is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and former head coach. He played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League for four teams from 1979 to 1999.
50 Mark Gasnier
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