It is always difficult to choose the greatest athletes of all time. If you narrow your criteria the task will be simpler. We made a list here based on the athlete’s performance in their particular field, the number of years of their supremacy and their impact on that and play and on the world in general. So, here is the list of 20 iconic athletes in the history of sports.
1. Babe Ruth
George Herman Ruth Jr. was also familiar for his nickname as “the Bambino” and “the Sultan of Swat”. He is in peoples mind for his outstanding performance in Baseball during the earlier half of the 20th century. He was elevated to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
2. Bo Jackson
3. Bobby Orr
A former Canadian ice hockey player Robert Gordon Orr was recognized as one of greatest hockey players of all time. At the age of 31, he became the youngest member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
4. Bruce Lee
5. Carl Lewis
Frederick Carlton Lewis is considered “the greatest male track and field athlete ever”. He was also selected the “Olympian of the Century”.
6. Cheryl Miller
She is thought to be the most under-appreciated female athlete of all time. In the 1984 women’s Summer Olympics basketball games, Cheryl performed far better than the rest of the players on the court. She got her place in the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1995 and later in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.
7. Dan Gable
Dan Gable is the greatest freestyle wrestler of all time. He won the 1972 Olympic gold medal. In consecutive six matches, his opponents were not able to score a single point against him. Eventually, he became the head coach of Iowa University and his team won 16 NCAA team titles from 1976 to 1997.
8. Jackie Robinson
Jack Roosevelt Robinson was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He broke the color obstacle in the modern time Major League Baseball. Except for his performance on the baseball field he was also skilled in football, tennis, track, and basketball.
9. Jim Brown
He was named the “greatest professional football player ever” in 2002. A great combination of power and speed, James Nathaniel Brown was an American football player. He created world records as a running back for the NFL Cleveland Browns.
10. Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe is the “Greatest American Football Player” of all time. Apart from football he also proved his skill in other sports and in 1912 Stockholm Summer Olympics he won gold medals in pentathlon and decathlon. His record in decathlon wasn’t broken for about two decades. No wonder he was voted the “greatest athlete in the first half of the 20th century”.
She won 18 Grand Slam singles titles and the all-time record of 31 major women’s titles. She reached Wimbledon finals 12 times from 1982 to 1990. It’s not surprising that she is considered the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player of all time.
12. Michael Phelps
He is the most equipped American swimmer and Olympian of all time. He holds all time records for 18 Olympic gold medals, 11 in individual events, 13 for individual events for male and 8 medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. For his international titles and magnificent record-breaking performances, he became the “World Swimmer of the Year Award” 7 times and “American Swimmer of the Year Award ” 9 times.
13. Muhammad Ali
14. Nadia Comaneci
She is the first female gymnast who scored a perfect 10 in an Olympic event. The Romanian gymnast won 3 Olympic gold medals in 1976 summer Olympics as the youngest gymnast. In 1980 Summer Olympics she won 2 more gold medals. She became the world’s most famous gymnast and later named “athlete of the century” by the Laureus World Sports Academy.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento is the best soccer (football) player of all time (Maradona fans can oppose). He scored 1281 goals in 1,363 matches and he won three World Cups.
16. Sugar Ray Robinson
He won world championship five times and spent a prolonged career in boxing. He became the first fighter in history to win a Divisional World Championship 5 times when he knocked Carmen Basilio out in 1958. He got his place in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
17. Wayne Gretzky
18. Willie Mays
Willie Howard Mays Jr. is the 2nd best player in major league history. He spent most time of his career playing for the New York and San Francisco Giants. He won 2 MVP award and finished his career with 660 home runs. He got his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979.
19. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. is an all-time NBA leading scorer. He won 6 MVPs and 6 NBA titles. After retiring he became an actor and a basketball coach. He also became an author and US cultural ambassador in 2012.
20. Babe Didrikson Zaharias
She broke the conventional model of female athleticism. She showed her outstanding skill not only in golf but also in basketball and track and field. She was selected the “10th Greatest North American Athlete of the 20th Century” by ESPN but Associated Press selected him 9th.