The Ten Greatest Athletes of All Time

Since there are so many different sports to consider and so many years to compare, answering the question of “who is the greatest of all time in sports?” will forever remain an impossible feat. 

The question of who is the best athlete of all time is one that will never be settled once and for all in our minds. The number of trophies won or victories recorded over the course of an athlete’s career is a common measure of their success. 

Also check: Sports Fan Trivia

But what really sets apart an athlete is their ability to inspire others to get involved in their field of interest through their charisma and knowledge. 

Several athletes have earned the title of “best of all time” due to their unparalleled dominance in their respective fields and their unmatched dedication to the sport. 

The public’s respect for sports has been bolstered thanks to these athletes. Moreover, they have influenced people to think creatively and join the sports team. Let’s take a look at the 10 finest sportsmen and women of all time. 

The Ten Greatest Athletes of All Time 

  • Roger Federer 

Swiss tennis pro Roger Federer. He has spent the year as the ATP’s No. 1 player five times, and has been ranked No. 1 for a total of 310 weeks. This includes a record 237 consecutive weeks. 

He has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, a record eight men’s singles Wimbledon crowns, and a record six year-end championships, making him the second player in history to win more than 100 ATP singles titles after Jimmy Connors. 

Federer, a Swiss, is one of the most reliable tennis players of all time. His recent performances have been curtailed by injuries. 

Federer’s versatility as an all-court player, along with his air of effortlessness, have propelled him to the top of the tennis world’s popularity rankings. A record five occasions, he has been named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year. 

  • Leo Messi

Lionel Messi is an international football star who represents both the Spanish club Barcelona and his native Argentina. 

He is widely considered to be among the greatest players of all time and is frequently cited as the finest in the world. Messi holds the records for the most individual honors in the sport, with seven Ballon d’Ors and six European Golden Shoes. 

During his time with Barcelona, he won a record-breaking 35 trophies, including 10 La Liga wins, 7 Copa del Rey titles, and 4 UEFA Champions League victories.

Messi is a prolific goal scorer and one of the finest players in the sport; his playing style combines elements of both individual dribbling and passing from midfield to set himself up for shots on goal, which he takes either with his stronger right foot or his weaker left foot (focusing on curving shots or “chip” shots) from close range (using powerful strikes). 

Between 2009 and 2014, he won five of the six years as the highest paid footballer in the world, and in 2019 and 2022, Forbes named him the most paid athlete in the world. 

  • Bo Jackson 

Originally from the United States, Bo Jackson played baseball and American football at the highest levels. He is regarded as a legendary sports figure. 

Only he has been selected as a baseball and football All-Star. Through Nike’s “Bo Knows” commercial campaign in 1989 and 1990—which featured Jackson and artist Bo Diddley—a cross-training athletic shoe bearing Jackson’s name became well recognized beyond the realm of athletics. 

He was a formidable opponent in either arena. Bo has now set the record for most runs of 90+ yards from scrimmage with two. We ranked Bo Jackson as the eighth best athlete of all time. 

  • Jim Thorpe 

In the Olympics, American Jim Thorpe won a gold medal. In the history of the United States, Thorpe is the first native-born citizen to bring home an Olympic gold medal. 

He won gold in both the classic pentathlon and the decathlon in the 1912 Summer Olympics, cementing his place as one of the most multitalented athletes in sports history. 

He was also a professional baseball, basketball, and American football player. After his Olympic victory in 1912, Thorpe signed with the American football team Canton Bulldogs in 1915 and helped them win three consecutive championships. 

Subsequently, he was a member of six different NFL clubs (NFL). We rank Jim Thorpe as the seventh best athlete of all time. 

  • Babe Ruth 

Born in 1895, Babe Ruth played professional baseball in the United States from 1914 through 1935, a span that included 22 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB). 

Named “the Bambino” and “the Sultan of Swat,” he began his Major League Baseball career as a standout left-handed pitcher with the Boston Red Sox but became most well-known as a hitting outfielder for the New York Yankees. 

Many people consider Ruth to be the best baseball player of all time, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in American history. 

There is no debate that he is baseball’s all-time best. His versatility is what makes him so amazing, though; in addition to being one of the best hitters in baseball history, he was also a terrific pitcher and outfielder. 

With Ruth’s assistance, the team won four World Series titles and seven AL pennants. The rising home run totals he produced as a result of his outstanding swing did wonders for the sport’s profile. 

Babe Ruth is a legend in every sense of the word; he was a phenomenal baseball player who could pitch, hit, field, and manage. 

  • Michael Phelps 

A former competitive swimmer for the United States of America, Michael Phelps is a household name. He has won a total of 28 medals, making him the most successful Olympian in history. 

Phelps also holds the record for most Olympic medals won (23), most gold medals won (23), and most gold medals won in individual events. 

By winning eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps surpassed the previous record held by fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz, who had previously held the mark with seven victories.

In major international long course competitions such as the Olympics, the World Championships, and the Pan Pacific Championships, he has won a total of 82 medals, 65 of which are gold, 14 of which are silver, and three of which are bronze. 

Phelps has won the World Swimmer of the Year Award eight times and the American Swimmer of the Year Award eleven times due to his numerous international victories and world record-setting exploits. 

Aside from swimming, he is largely regarded as one of the best athletes of all time. 

  • Usain Bolt 

Usain Bolt, a former sprinter for Jamaica, is generally considered the best in the sport’s history. In the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4×100-meter relay, he holds the record. 

When fully automatic time was instituted, he became the first man to simultaneously hold the world records for the 100 and 200 meter distances. 

Bolt is the only sprinter in Olympic history to win both the 100-meter and 200-meter titles at three consecutive Olympics, giving him a total of eight gold medals (2008, 2012, and 2016). He also has a gold medal in the 4100 relay to his name. 

In 2009, Bolt improved upon his previous world record time of 9.69 for the 100 meter race by setting a new mark of 9.58 seconds, which was the largest improvement in that event since the introduction of electronic timing. 

In 2008 and 2009, he established new world records of 19.30 seconds and 19.19 seconds, respectively, in the 200-meter dash. As a result of his efforts, Jamaica has set three new world marks in the 4100 meter relay, the latest of which was accomplished in 2012 at a time of 36.84 seconds. In our ranking of the top 10 greatest athletes of all time, Usain Bolt comes in at number four. 

  • Wayne Gretzky 

In ice hockey, Wayne Gretzky is a household name. He played professionally for many years and coached at the highest level. He spent the next two decades (1979-1999) skating for four different NHL clubs. 

He was known as “the Great One” by his peers and was widely considered the best hockey player in history. 

Gretzky has more assists than any other player in NHL history and is the all-time leader in goals, assists, and points. 

He scored over 200 points in the NHL four times, making him the league’s all-time leader in that category. 

He retired from the NHL in 1999 with a total of 61 records, including 40 for the regular season, 15 for the playoffs, and 6 for the All-Star game. It didn’t take long for Gretzky to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame after he retired in 1999. 

  • Muhammad Ali 

Boxer and civil rights leader Muhammad Ali was an American icon. Given the moniker “The Greatest,” he is widely recognized as a legendary figure in 20th-century sports. 

Both Sports Illustrated and the BBC named him their Sports Personality of the Century in 1999. 

His bouts with Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier in the Thrilla in Manila and his Rumble in the Jungle against George Foreman are among the most famous in boxing history. 

He punches harder and longer than anyone else. That has never been in question and never will be. Even before he became recognized as an athlete, he had a reputation for strength, fearlessness, and outspoken beliefs, making him a well-known athlete in general. 

There were those who looked up to Ali (and still is). His memory will remain in our thoughts and hearts for many years to come. 

  • Jordan, Michael

Michael Jordan is a successful American entrepreneur and retired NBA star. He was a member of the Chicago Bulls for six NBA championships during his fifteen years in the league. 

Six NBA Finals MVP awards, ten NBA scoring titles (both records), five NBA MVP awards, ten All-NBA First Team honors, 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 are just some of Jordan’s personal accolades and accomplishments. 

When it comes to marketing, he is among the best of his generation of athletes. When 2016 rolled around, Jordan had become the first NBA player to reach the $1 billion mark. If you were to rank the top 10 greatest athletes of all time, Michael Jordan would undoubtedly be at the top.