Athletes have always amazed us. They can do things that seem unreal to the common eye. People like Usain Bolt running as fast as he has. Or the things Michael Jordan did with the basketball. We always love watching athletes because they make unreal things look normal. And that is their superpower. Today, we will talk about some of the greatest athletes of all time.
What is their legacy? How will we remember them?
Born in February 1963, Michael Jeffrey Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. Famous for his initials, MJ, Jordan won six titles in his six trips to the NBA Finals. And he won six Finals MVPs in the process.
Besides winning, Jordan achieved much more. He popularized the NBA as nobody else before him or after him. Jordan made basketball a popular sport, something you just have to watch.
Because of him, many young kids in the world picked up a ball. In the process, he became a global cultural icon. And not to mention, his sneakers changed the sport as well. MJ was the first real hero with a signature sneaker.
The Jordan brand lives on years after his eventual retirement. To this day, we know him as Air Jordan and His Airness.
Born Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali is the greatest boxer of all time. He was the one who actually acknowledged that, and believed in it. Ali himself declared that he was the best in the sport. Today, we know him as The Greatest, celebrated as one of the most influential sports figures of the 20th century.
At the early age of 18, Ali won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics. He turned professional later that year. After 1961, Ali became a Muslim.
But similar to other greatest athletes of all time, Ali’s achievements go far beyond boxing. He became a spoken word artist, voicing his opinion on social rights.
Born Michael Fred Phelps II in June 1985, he is the most decorated Olympian of all time. Michael Phelps has 28 medals in total. Nobody else came close. He also has the record for most Olympic gold medals with 23.
At the 2008 Beijing Games, he broke the record for most first-place finishes at any single Olympics Games. That year, Phelps won eight gold medals.
To this day, he holds records in different disciplines in swimming. Following the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, he started his Michael Phelps Foundation, trying to help grow the sport of swimming and promote a healthier lifestyle.
The former professional ice hockey player and head coach played for 20 seasons in the National Hockey League. He played for four teams from 1979 to 1999. Nicknamed The Great One, Gretzky is praised by many critics and fans as the greatest hockey player ever.
He is the leading goal scorer, assist producer, and point scorer in NHL history. He has more assists in his career than any other player who scored total points.
To this day, Wayne Gretzky remains the only NHL player to score more than 200 points in a season. He accomplished that feat four times.
Following his retirement in 1999, he was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Born in February 1936, James Nathaniel Brown is a former American football player, sports analyst, and actor. He played as a fullback for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League.
To this day, he remains one of the greatest running backs of all time. He was a Pro Bowl invitee every season he was in the league. In 1964, he won an NFL championship with the Browns.
In his professional career, Brown carried the ball 2,359 times for 12,312 rushing yards and 106 touchdowns, which were all records when he retired.
James Brown was honored at the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship as the greatest college football player of all time.
When you talk about the greatest athletes of all time, you rarely think of a golf player, right? Well, Tiger Woods changed that perception. The American professional golfer is tied for first in PGA Tour wins and holds numerous golf records.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all time, Woods is one of the most famous athletes in history.
His reputation fall a bit because of sexual affair rumors, but he is still at the top. In February 2021, he was hospitalized but was in stable condition after a single-car collision. In November of the same year, Woods indicated his full-time professional career was over. But, he will continue playing a few events per year.
Fans of the NBA continue to argue whether Michael Jordan or Lebron James is the GOAT. We will not get into that discussion.
What we can say is that Lebron James is arguably the greatest athlete of all time. The way he takes care of his body is just phenomenal. For the first 16 seasons of his career, James didn’t experience any major injury. But age has caught up with him recently.
James has won four NBA titles and holds numerous records. Just recently he broke the all-time record for most points scored combined, regular season, and playoffs.
James was selected to the NBA 75 Best Players of All time in 2021. Off the court, James continues to build his brand through endorsement contracts.
Here is another sport that rarely gets mentioned among the greatest athletes. Roger Federer is a professional tennis player. He has won 20 Grand Slam titles, the first one to get to that number.
He plays in an era where he dominated tennis alongside Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. They have been referred to as The Big Three. Many consider them the three greatest tennis players of all time.
Federer is a versatile all-court player. When he plays and dominates the court, it seems so easy and effortlessly. That is why many consider him the most skilled tennis player.
We cannot talk about tennis players without mentioning Rafa. While he might not be as skilled as Roger Federer, Nadal somehow managed to win a record 21 Grand Slam titles. How does he do it? With perseverance and defending and scratching for every point.
Rafa also has a record of 13 French open titles. His 81 consecutive wins on clay are the longest single-surface win streak in the Open Era.
Many years ago, critics and sports experts thought he wouldn’t be able to continue playing at a dominant level because of his knee problems. Yes, he has had a knee injury and knee surgery. But Rafa beat all odds and continues to do so.
We have to talk about the fastest man in the world. Usain Bolt is the world record holder in the 100 meters, 200 meters sprint, and 4 x 100 meters relay.
Bolt is an eight-time Olympic gold medalist. He is the only sprinter to win Olympic 100m and 200m titles at three consecutive Olympics. The sprinter from Jamaica achieved that feat in 2008, 2012, and 2016.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Usain Bolt became the first person to hold both 100m and 200m records at the same time. He gained worldwide fame for breaking both records at the same Olympics.
Let’s talk soccer for a bit, ok? And with that in mind, let’s talk about Lionel Messi. The professional footballer from Argentina is widely regarded as the best player in the sport. He has won a record seven Ballon d’Or awards, six European Golden Shoes, and many more records.
Messi played almost his entire career for FC Barcelona. There, he won a club-record 35 trophies, including four UEFA Champions League awards.
He came to Spain to join Barcelona at age 13. He made his competitive debut for the Spanish team at 17 years of age.
In the same way, Nadal and Federer defined tennis, Ronaldo and Messi defined professional football. At one point, both of them played in Spain, one for Barcelona and the other for Real Madrid. Ronaldo has five UEFA Champions League trophies, and one UEFA European Championship, and holds the record for most goals and assists in Champions League.
Born and raised in Madeira, he began his professional career with Sporting CP. From there, he went on to play for Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus.
With the national Portugal team, he won the Euro 2016.
Thomas Patrick Brady
We know him as Tom Brady, the greatest NFL player of all time. He played for 22 seasons in the National Football league. He spent 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, and then two more with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fun fact: he has seven Super Bowl victories, more than any team in the league. He holds nearly every major quarterback record, including passing yards, completions, touchdown passes, and games started.
He has never had a losing season.
We have to give some props to female sports players as well. Serena Williams has 23 Grand Slam singles titles, more than any male player. She holds the record for most slams in the Open Era. She is second-most of all time behind Margaret Court with 24.
For many years, Serena dominated the sport, being almost impossible to beat. She has a record of 13 Grand Slam titles on hard court.
And with her sister, Venus Williams, she has won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles.
Jack Roosevelt Robinson
Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era. He broke the baseball color line when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
When he signed with the Dodgers, it heralded the end of racial segregation in professional baseball.
During his 10-year MLB career, he won the inaugural Rookie of the Year award in 1947, as well as the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949. He was the first black player to be honored with an MVP award.
In 1997, MLB retired his uniform number 42 across all major league teams. That made him the first professional athlete in any sport to be honored with such a feat.
He led the team to six World Series appearances, winning it in 1955.
Born as Wilton Norman Chamberlain, Wilt the Stilt holds many NBA regular season records to this day. He is the only NBA player to score more than 100 points in a single game.
Widely regarded as the most dominant player in the league, he had seasons where he averaged 40+ and 50+ points per game. He is the only player to average more than 30 points and 20 rebounds per game in a season. And he did it seven times.
Fun fact: following his retirement from NBA, he played volleyball at the short-lived International Volleyball Association.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Born Lewis Alcindor, the former American basketball player is the leader in regular season points scored to this day. He won six NBA championship awards and dominated the league with his skyhook.
To this day, his skyhook is considered the most unguardable shot in history.
What made him so special as a player was the way he took care of his body. Kareem practiced yoga, saying that prolonged his career. He retired at the age of 42, the oldest star player to play in the league.
We cannot talk about the greatest athletes of all time without mentioning Kobe Bryant. From the moment he stepped onto the floor he wanted to be the greatest. He wanted to be better than Michael Jordan.
No, he didn’t achieve that feat, but still managed to win five NBA titles. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Italy, Bryant spent his entire NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
He was also instrumental in bringing back glory to the American basketball national team.
He was the first guard in NBA history to play 20 seasons.
Michael Gerard Tyson
When you talk about dominant boxing players, you have to mention Mike Tyson. Famous for his quick knockouts, Tyson was the type of player that went all-in. He would either knock you in the first two rounds or lose. And in 99% of the cases, he won.
Nicknamed Iron Mike and Kid Dynamite, he was known as the Baddest Man on the Planet. Considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time, he reigned as the undisputed world champion from 1987 to 1990.
Yes, his prime was short. But he was so dominant during that period that nobody could beat him. He was the first to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC, and IBF titles.
Let’s talk about another woman on our list, the American artistic gymnast. She has 32 Olympic and World Championship medals, tied for the most decorated gymnast of all time.
Even though she is still young, she is already considered the most dominant gymnast of all time. There are techniques and moves that only she can make. And that is all you need to know about Simone Biles.