The Greatest Game-Changing Athlete?

Discussion of a poll of the Greatest Game-Changing Athlete of All Time conducted on the ESPN Sport Science website in 2012. Game Changing seems like an unusual category, but when you look at the nominees it is clear that these athletes who made such a big impact on their sport and beyond need to be recognized.

The voting was based on the best athlete who has a combination of strength, speed, endurance, quickness, durability and the other attributes that make an athlete elite. See more about the ESPN Sport Science poll to determine the Greatest Athlete of All Time.


Who is the greatest game-changing athlete of all time?

  1. Mia Hamm — appeared in the first four Women's World Cups (winning two of them). She also won gold in the 1996 and 2004 Summer Olympics. She has 158 career goals in international competition, more than any other man or woman. Was also named Women's FIFA World Player of the Year the first two times the award was issued
  2. Billie Jean King — Won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, with a career Grand Slam. Oldest woman to win a singles tournament at age 39. Famously won a "Battle of the Sexes" match, against Bobby Riggs in straight sets in 1973.
  3. Jesse Owens — Won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games.
  4. Jackie Robinson — First African-American player in modern era of Major League Baseball. All-Star in six straight seasons from 1949-54. He was instrumental in bringing an end to racial segregation in professional baseball. The was also an accomplished college basketball player and track and field athlete.
  5. Wilma Rudolph — In the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Games.

And the winner is ...

Baseball player Jackie Robinson

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