"You, sir, are the World's Greatest Athlete"
Who is the greatest athlete of all time? There have been numerous lists of the world's greatest athlete, and not surprisingly they do not agree. We believe the greatest athlete is not just the fittest, or the most skilled, but some combination of these and other factors which makes them stand out in their sport. Some of the greatest athlete lists are limited to a certain sport, region, or time period. Comparing athletes across sports and over time to find the greatest athlete ever is very difficult, and possibly impossible. Still, many have tried, including us!
Below are some of the lists and winners of such lists, from various sources, plus information about our own quest to find the world's greatest athlete of all time. See also our discussion and lists of the world's fittest athletes.
We are into the first stage in creating the Topend Sports list of the greatest athletes of all time by voting for the greatest athlete from all the major sports, then from this list deciding on the greatest of the greatest.
Greatest Athletes Lists
- Associated Press The Sports 100: The 100 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century, published in 1999, listed Babe Ruth as the greatest.
- Sports Illustrated Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century - this book, published in 1999, listed 25 athletes, with Muhammad Ali the first on the list.
- ESPN SportsCentury list of the 100 greatest athletes of the 20th century — Michael Jordan topped this list that was limited to athletes from North America.
- NY Daily News in 2012 listed the top 12 athletes of the 21st century (so far), with Michael Phelps the winner.
- Men's Journal in 2003 created a list of who they thought were the Best Athletes in the World. Their winner was American quarterback Michael Vick.
- Wall Street Journal - a panel of sport science experts in 2008 rated the world's greatest male athlete as decathlete Roman Sebrle from Czechia.
- Clay Parker in 2011 ran a virtual competition comparing current great athletes from around the world, with decathletes coming out on top.
- Cricket Fans - Greatest Sportsperson Match-Up Competition, the 98 nominees were whittled down until Ali was declared the winner.
- 7 Wonders — our list of the top-7 greatest athletes of all time.
Where do they come from?
Who else is worthy of the title of greatest athlete? Below are some suggestions. The greatest athletes of the world may come from the following:
- Winners of the Superstars and Australia's greatest athlete TV Shows - see some superstar winners.
- Sports people who have excelled in multiple sports - some great multi-sport athletes.
- The world's fittest athletes - see some of the fittest athletes.
- Olympic decathlon champion - traditionally, the title of World's Greatest Athlete has been given to the man who wins the decathlon. e.g. Daley Thompson who won the Olympic decathlon in 1980 and in 1984, Bob Mathias, Dan O'Brien, Bryan Clay. - Are decathletes the best athletes in the world?
- Heavyweight UFC champion.
- The Ironman triathlon champion.
- All-around Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics.
Who are they?
Here are just a few athletes who may fit the bill.
- Babe Ruth — baseball.
- Jim Thorpe — track and field / American football player.
- Don Bradman — legendary Australian cricket player.
- Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Lottie Dod - were once named by the Guinness Book of Records as the most versatile female competitors. See more of the World's Greatest Female Athletes.
- Michael Vick - the Best Athlete in the World according to Men's Journal in 2003.
- Some more nominees: Lance Armstrong, Kobe Bryant, Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, Lebron James, Roman Sebrle, Michael Phelps, Roger Federer, Bryan Clay, Usain Bolt, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky.
- Who really is the greatest athlete of all time?
- Greatest female athletes of all time
- Other sport specific lists
- More about the World of Sport