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In this post, we will check out the top 10 greatest athletes of all time.
Athleticism has been a major part of human history, dating back to ancient Greece and the Olympic Games.
Over the years, many athletes have emerged as the greatest of their generation and have left an indelible mark in the annals of sports history.
From basketball to boxing, swimming to soccer, track, and field to tennis, there have been many athletes who have dominated their respective sports and set records that have stood the test of time.
This list highlights the top 10 greatest athletes of all time, who have been selected based on their exceptional skills, records, and impact on their respective sports.
These athletes have inspired millions of people around the world and have become legends in their own right.
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.
9 Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi is a professional footballer who currently plays for the Spanish club Barcelona and the Argentina national team.
He is often regarded as the best player in the world and widely viewed as one of the greatest players of all time. Messi has won a record seven Ballon d’Or awards and a record six European Golden Shoes.
With Barcelona, he won a club-record 35 trophies, including ten La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles, and four UEFA Champions Leagues.
A prolific goalscorer and one of the sport’s finest players, Messi is considered one of the best footballers ever by many sources and pundits; his playing style involves combining elements of both individual dribbling and passing from midfield with creating opportunities for him to score from close range using his weaker left foot (focusing on curving shots or “chip” shots) or from long range with his stronger right foot (using powerful strikes).
He was the world’s highest-paid footballer for five years out of six between 2009 and 2014 and was rated the world’s highest-paid athlete by Forbes in 2019 and 2022.
8 Bo Jackson
Bo Jackson is an American former professional baseball and American football player. He is one of the best athletes of all time.
He’s the only person to be named an All-Star in both baseball and football. In 1989 and 1990, Jackson’s name became comprehended beyond just sports through the “Bo Knows” advertising campaign, a series of advertisements by Nike, starring Jackson alongside musician Bo Diddley, facilitating a cross-training athletic shoe named for Jackson.
The guy was a force to be reckoned with on both fields. Bo still holds the record for most runs for 90+ yards from scrimmage with two. Bo Jackson is number 8 in our list of the greatest sports icons of all time.
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.
He is considered one of the most versatile athletes in modern sports, he won two Olympic gold medals in the 1912 Summer Olympics one in classic pentathlon and the other in the decathlon.
He also played American football, professional baseball, and basketball. After his Olympic success, Thorpe joined the Canton Bulldogs American football team in 1915, enabling them to win three professional championships.
He later played for six teams in the National Football League (NFL). Jim Thorpe is number 7 on our list of the greatest athletes in history.
6 Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth was an American professional baseball player whose career in Major League Baseball (MLB) spanned 22 seasons, from 1914 through 1935.
He was Nicknamed “the Bambino” and “the Sultan of Swat“, he started his MLB career as a star left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox but gained his greatest fame as a slugging outfielder for the New York Yankees.
Ruth is considered one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture and is believed by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time.
He is unquestionably the greatest baseball player of all time. He holds a number of Major League records, but what makes him truly great is his range—he was a dominant pitcher and outfielder before he became one of the best hitters ever to play the game.
Ruth helped the team win seven American League (AL) pennants and four World Series championships. His great swing led to escalating home run totals that not only attracted fans to the ballpark but also boosted the sport’s popularity.
He is a true legend in every sense of the word, Babe Ruth deserves recognition for being an incredibly versatile athlete who excelled at everything from pitching to hitting to fielding balls on defense—and even managing teams!
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 is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and former head coach. He played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for four teams from 1979 to 1999.
He was nicknamed “the Great One”, and he has been hailed the greatest hockey player ever by many sportswriters, and players, the NHL itself.
Gretzky is the top goal scorer, assist producer, and point scorer in NHL history, and has more assists in his career than any other player who scored total points.
He is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season, an accomplishment he achieved four times.
At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held 61 NHL records: 40 regular-season records, 15 playoff records, and 6 All-Star records. After his retirement in 1999, Gretzky was instantly inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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
In 1999, he was quoted as Sportsman of the Century by Sports Illustrated and the Sports Personality of the Century by the BBC.
He fought in several historic boxing matches, which includes highly publicized fights with Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier the Thrilla in Manila, and his fight with George ForemanThe Rumble in the Jungle.
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.
1 Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan is an American businessman and former professional basketball player. He played fifteen seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA), winning six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls.
Jordan’s personal accolades and accomplishments include six NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards, ten NBA scoring titles (both all-time records), five NBA MVP awards, ten All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, fourteen NBA All-Star Game selections, three NBA All-Star Game MVP awards, three NBA steals titles and the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.
He is one of the most effectively marketed athletes of his generation. In 2016, Jordan became the first billionaire player in NBA history. Michael Jordan tops the list of the top 10 greatest athletes of all time.
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