Disclosure: Sportshubnet is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More.
In this post, we will check out the top 10 greatest athletes of all time.
In the world of sports, greatness is a pursuit that transcends time and boundaries. From the hallowed arenas of ancient Greece to the cutting-edge stadiums of today, athletes have etched their names into the annals of history through their extraordinary feats.
In this exclusive countdown, we embark on a journey to unveil the top 10 greatest athletes of all time, celebrating their unparalleled skills, unyielding determination, and the indelible impact they’ve left on the world of sports.
From iconic figures like Michael Jordan to legendary Olympians like Usain Bolt, these athletes have achieved the pinnacle of human performance, inspiring generations and redefining what it means to be truly great in the world of athletics.
So, tighten your laces, brace for excitement, and join us in honoring these sporting icons whose legacies continue to shine as brightly as ever.
Table of contents
Top 10 Greatest Athletes Of All Time
10 Roger Federer
Roger Federer is a Swiss professional tennis player. He was rated world No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals for 310 weeks, including a record 237 consecutive weeks, and has spent as the year-end No. 1 five times.
He has won 103 ATP singles titles, the second-most of all time after Jimmy Connors, including 20 Grand Slam titles, a record eighth men’s singles Wimbledon titles, and a record six year-end championships.
Switzerland’s Federer is an all-time great and one of the most consistent players in tennis history. Injuries have limited his appearances in recent years.
He is a versatile all-court player, and Federer’s scented effortlessness has made him highly famous among tennis fans. He has also won the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award a record five times. Roger Federer is number 10 in our list of top 10 most influential athletes in the world.
9 Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi stands as a towering figure in the pantheon of sports legends for a multitude of compelling reasons. His soccer prowess is unparalleled, characterized by extraordinary ball control and lightning-quick pace that have left spectators awestruck. His trophy-laden cabinet boasts a staggering seven Ballon d’Or awards, underscoring his dominance as the world’s premier male player.
Beyond the accolades, Messi’s on-field exploits have been nothing short of extraordinary. He has played an instrumental role in FC Barcelona’s conquest of over two dozen league titles and tournaments, etching his name into the annals of the sport’s history. In 2022, he added a coveted FIFA World Cup to his list of achievements, solidifying his status as a true soccer luminary.
Yet, Messi’s impact extends far beyond the confines of the soccer pitch. He serves as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring young players worldwide, motivating them to chase their dreams with unwavering determination. Moreover, he has elevated soccer’s global profile, becoming a source of boundless joy for millions of devoted fans.
Nevertheless, Messi’s legacy is not without its share of spirited debate. Some ardently argue that he is the greatest male athlete of all time, while others maintain that alternative contenders exist.
Regardless of where one stands on this fervent discourse, Lionel Messi’s indomitable soccer skills, remarkable achievements, profound influence on the sport, and status as a subject of lively debate collectively affirm his rightful place among the greatest athletes to have ever graced the sporting arena.
8 Bo Jackson
Bo Jackson occupies a revered place in the annals of sports history as one of the greatest all-around athletes to ever grace the world of sports. His exceptional talents transcended the confines of a single discipline, with excellence radiating across baseball, football, and track and field. Jackson’s sporting journey was studded with accolades, including the coveted Heisman Trophy in 1985, a testament to his prodigious abilities on the gridiron.
Bo’s versatility didn’t end with football, as he donned the mantle of an All-Star in baseball, earning a Pro Bowl selection in football and an All-Star Game MVP award in baseball—a feat unmatched by any other athlete.
In the realm of athleticism, Bo Jackson’s name stands apart, earning him the unique distinction of being the only athlete to claim All-Star status in both baseball and football.
ESPN’s sports science team took it a step further, anointing Bo Jackson as the world’s greatest ‘athlete,’ backed by a meticulous process that blended viewer votes and scientific metrics.
In a showcase of his unparalleled athletic prowess, Jackson emerged as the ultimate athlete in a selection encompassing 16 sports and sporting categories.
The genesis of Bo’s extraordinary athleticism traces back to his formative years at McAdory High School in McCalla, Alabama. There, he was a force to be reckoned with in track and field, baseball, and football, clinching state decathlon titles, hurling no-hitters on the diamond, and dominating on the gridiron, where he handled both offensive and defensive duties while also managing kicking responsibilities.
Bo Jackson’s legacy as an all-around sports luminary remains etched in history, serving as an enduring source of inspiration for aspiring athletes across disciplines.
7 Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe was an American athlete and Olympic gold medalist. Thorpe was the first-born American to win a gold medal for the United States in the Olympics.
His prowess knew no bounds, encompassing a remarkable blend of speed, power, kicking finesse, and all-around athleticism that left an indelible mark on the sporting world. Thorpe’s stature as a sports luminary is underpinned by several compelling reasons.
At the 1912 Stockholm Games, Jim Thorpe ascended to Olympic glory, clinching not one but two gold medals, one in the pentathlon and another in the decathlon. His decathlon performance was so exceptional that it etched a world record that would stand for nearly two decades, a testament to his unmatched skill and tenacity.
Beyond the Olympic arena, Thorpe’s star shone brightly on the football field, where he steered the Canton Bulldogs to three professional football championships. His remarkable achievements earned him a well-deserved induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, cementing his legacy as a gridiron legend.
Yet, Thorpe’s athletic prowess transcended the boundaries of a single sport. He was a true multi-sport virtuoso, excelling in football, baseball, basketball, and track and field. As a two-time All-American in football and a professional baseball player, his versatility knew no bounds.
While the debate over the title of the greatest athlete of all time rages on, Jim Thorpe’s remarkable accomplishments and all-encompassing athleticism position him as an indomitable contender for the hallowed honor.
His enduring legacy serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit of a man who overcame immense odds to etch his name into the annals of sporting immortality.
6 Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth is widely celebrated as one of the greatest athletes of all time and hailed by many as the ultimate baseball icon. His career batting average, a remarkable .342, ranks among the all-time top ten, with eight seasons boasting averages exceeding .350.
In 1924, Ruth clinched a batting championship with an astounding .378 average and secured the Most Valuable Player title twice over.
Within the confines of Yankee Stadium, Ruth emerged as the game’s preeminent hitter, etching his name indelibly in baseball lore. His monumental statistics include 714 home runs and a staggering 2,214 runs batted in.
Yet, what added to Ruth’s allure was his humble origins—an upbringing marked by adversity and modest means. Though the orphan myth is debunked, his parents hailed from working-class, Germanic backgrounds, with his father running a Baltimore saloon in a gritty neighborhood.
Despite his challenging beginnings, Ruth transformed into a symbol of American success and achievement. His impact on the world of baseball and sports at large is immeasurable.
5 Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps is an American former competitive swimmer. He is the most thriving and most decorated Olympian of all time with a total of 28 medals.
Phelps also holds the all-time records for Olympic gold medals (23) Olympic gold medals in individual events (13), and Olympic medals in individual events (16).
When Phelps won eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games, he broke fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven first-place finishes at any single Olympic Games.
He has won a total of 82 medals in major international long course competitions, of which 65 were gold, 14 silver, and three bronze, transiting the Olympics, the World Championships, and the Pan Pacific Championships.
Phelps’s international titles and record-breaking performances have made him the World Swimmer of the Year Award eight times and the American Swimmer of the Year Award eleven times.
He is widely regarded as the greatest swimmer of all time and is often considered to be one of the all-time greatest sports icons.
4 Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt is a retired Jamaican sprinter, widely regarded to be the greatest sprinter of all time. He is the world record holder in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4 × 100 meters relay.
He is the first man to hold both the 100-meter and 200 meters world records since fully automatic time became mandatory.
Bolt is an eight-time Olympic gold medallist, Bolt is the only sprinter to win Olympic 100 m and 200 m titles at three consecutive Olympics (2008, 2012, and 2016). He also won two 4 × 100 relay gold medals.
Bolt enhanced upon his second 100 m world record of 9.69 with 9.58 seconds in 2009 – the biggest advancement since the start of electronic timing.
He has twice broken the 200 meters world record, setting 19.30 in 2008 and 19.19 in 2009. He has enabled Jamaica to three 4 × 100 meters relay world records, with the current record being 36.84 seconds set in 2012. Usain Bolt is number 4 in our list of the top 10 greatest athletes of all time.
3 Wayne Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky’s name stands as a symbol of athletic excellence, and his status as one of the greatest athletes of all time is undeniable. His prowess on the ice showcased a unique blend of versatility and athleticism, where speed, agility, strength, and endurance converged.
Gretzky’s keen intellect allowed him to anticipate the puck’s trajectory and the unfolding play, setting him apart as a true hockey savant.
Records are etched into Gretzky’s legacy like frozen imprints on a rink’s surface. His name adorns the annals of NHL history, holding records for the most goals and assists, along with the astonishing feat of tallying the most points in a single season. These records not only attest to his unparalleled skill but also underscore his dominance in the sport.
Beyond the numbers, Gretzky’s impact transcends the arena. He played an instrumental role in popularizing hockey in the United States and worldwide, shaping the game for generations to come. As a charismatic ambassador for the sport, his influence continues to resonate.
Gretzky’s consistency was nothing short of remarkable. Season after season, he delivered, with over a dozen 40-goal campaigns and 15 seasons boasting at least 100 points. This remarkable feat speaks volumes about his unwavering dedication and work ethic.
His impact, both on the sport of hockey and the broader world of sports, remains immeasurable. In the grand tapestry of athletic greatness, Wayne Gretzky’s name shines brightly, a testament to his extraordinary skill, enduring records, profound influence, consistency, and the enduring legacy that cements his status among the greatest athletes of all time.
2 Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer and activist. Nicknamed “The Greatest”, he is widely considered one of the most important and renowned sports figures of the 20th century.
He was a three-time heavyweight boxing champion who dominated the sport, boasting an impressive record of 56 wins, 37 of which were by knockout. But Ali was more than just a boxer; he was an activist, a poet, a philosopher, and a visionary.
Ali’s boxing career was marked by a number of iconic moments, including his victory over Sonny Liston in the “Fight of the Century” in 1964, his refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War, and his subsequent boxing exile.
Ali’s activism and his refusal to conform to social norms made him a controversial figure, but he also became a global icon for his courage and his commitment to his beliefs.
In addition to his boxing achievements, Ali was also a gifted poet and a charismatic speaker. He was known for his wit and his flamboyant personality, and he often used his platform to speak out against injustice and inequality.
In 1999, he was quoted as Sportsman of the Century by Sports Illustrated and the Sports Personality of the Century by the BBC.
He is the greatest boxer of all time. There is no doubt about that, and there never will be. He was also a well-known athlete in general – he was known for his strength, courage, and outspoken beliefs even before he became famous as an athlete.
Ali was a hero to many people (and still is). His legacy lives on in our hearts and minds today and will continue to live on for years to come. Muhammad Ali is number 2 in our list of the top 10 greatest athletes of all time.
1 Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan’s name resonates as an indomitable force in the realm of sports, particularly in the arena of basketball. His stature as one of the top 10 greatest athletes of all time rests firmly on pillars of dominance and achievement.
Jordan’s presence on the All-NBA first teams for a staggering 10 seasons and his nine All-Defensive first-team selections underscore his mastery of the game. His five NBA Most Valuable Player awards only affirm his unparalleled status as one of basketball’s finest.
In the annals of NBA history, Jordan’s accomplishments gleam as a testament to his greatness. From his Rookie of the Year honors to his six NBA championships and ten All-NBA nods, his legacy is studded with achievements that few can rival.
Not to mention his foray into baseball and his two Olympic gold medals, which further cement his standing among the sporting elite.
Yet, it was more than just statistics that defined Jordan. His mindset, characterized by unmatched athleticism and an insatiable competitive spirit, catalyzed a revolution in basketball. He wasn’t just a scoring machine; he was a formidable defender, shooter, and passer—a complete player.
Beyond the hardwood, Jordan’s legacy reverberates across generations. He redefined the concept of an NBA superstar, inspiring countless players to follow in his iconic footsteps.
Even contemporaries like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird acknowledged his singular position in the basketball pantheon. Magic quipped, “There’s Michael Jordan and then there is the rest of us,” while Larry Bird famously labeled him “God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
In sum, Michael Jordan’s dominance, accomplishments, mindset, and lasting legacy indisputably establish him as one of the top 10 greatest athletes of all time, an icon whose impact will forever shape the future of sports.
Inbox looking a bit bland?
Better sign up to our blog to cram it full of trending Sports, Gaming & Tech updates.