Ronaldo, Tyson, Bolt, Pelé, Messi, Mayweather: The 50 Greatest Athletes of All Time

Muhammad Ali, Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo and Tiger Woods are just a few of the names in the conversation about the greatest athlete of all time.

With so many disciplines and eras to weigh in, the question of the sport’s overall GOAT will always prove impossible, but that doesn’t make the discussion any less fun for fans.

And with Tom Brady supposed to hang up his cleats not only as one of the greatest American football players in history, but also as one of the greatest athletes, period, the debate came to mind once Moreover.

The greatest athletes in history

Now, as much as we might try to nail our colors to the flagpole by naming our pick for the athlete to end all athletes, no doubt you would agree that this is a matter that should be decided by the supporters.

After all, bringing together fan opinions is perhaps the fairest way to cut through and dilute the complications of different sports and time periods into one great expression of people’s opinions.

And that’s where comes in, as their interactive list of the “greatest athletes of all time” is arguably the perfect way for fans to settle the GOAT debate once and for all.

When did Cristiano Ronaldo make his Manchester United debut?





physical excellence

Establishing the premise, the voting description clarifies: “For the purposes of this list, athletic greatness is defined as possessing a variety of attributes that contribute to athletic prowess.

“These include speed, quickness, endurance, power and hand-eye coordination. This is why this list does not include specialist athletes such as marathon runners or cyclists.

“While it’s clear that Lance Armstrong is a master in his field, he hasn’t proven he can compete in other sports where it takes more than pumping his thighs for hours.”

With sports fans able to vote for and against candidates based on their opinions, the resulting list that extends well beyond the website’s titular top 10 makes for fascinating reading.


Top 50 greatest athletes of all time

As such, don’t let us hold you back any longer because the list is truly something to behold, so be sure to check out the top 50 athletes in history below according to the fans themselves:

50. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (wrestling)

49. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (soccer)

48. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (basketball)

47. Mike Tyson (boxing)

46. ​​Sir Chris Hoy (cycling)

45. Sergei Boubka (athletics)

44. Drew Brees (American football)

43. Simone Biles (gymnastics)

42. Tony Hawk (skateboarding)

41. Floyd Mayweather (boxing)

50-41 summary

A fascinating mix of sports rocks the top 50 with everyone from “The Rock” – insert your cliched WWE jokes here – to Bubka and Hawk flying the flag for sports you might not expect.

Meanwhile, Mayweather won’t be too thrilled that he’s only been voted the 41st greatest athlete in history, which doesn’t quite sound the same ringtone as the ‘TBE’ motto that adorns his merchandise.

And does Ibrahimovic really deserve a place in the top 50? When you consider the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Sachin Tendulkar and Steffi Graf nowhere to be found, that’s a definite ‘no’ from us.


40. Zinedine Zidane (soccer)

39. Barry Sanders (American football)

38. John Cena (wrestling)

37. Michael Vick (American football)

36. Haile Gebrselassie (athletics)

35. Brett Favre (American football)

34. Jackie Robinson (Baseball)

33. Larry Bird (basketball)

32. Michael Johnson (athletics)

31. Derek Jeter (Baseball)

40-31 summary

Are there any American sports fans among you? Forgive me, American citizens, because your humble writer is not the most knowledgeable about basketball and American football despite so many highly skilled athletes.

But you don’t need to be an expert to tip your hat to the quality of Bird, Robinson and beyond as they rub shoulders with athletics legends Gebrselassie and Johnson as well as ‘Zizou’ himself.


30. Daley Thompson (athletics)

29. Sir Don Bradman (cricket)

28. Peyton Manning (American football)

27. Carl Lewis (athletics)

26. Serena Williams (tennis)

25. Kobe Bryant (basketball)

24. Magic Johnson (basketball)

23. Jerry Rice (American football)

22. Gordie Howe (ice hockey)

21. Tiger Woods (golf)

30-21 summary

We’re getting pretty deep into legendary territory now with Lewis and Thompson enduring as Olympic legends, just as Bryant and Johnson will forever be icons for the LA Lakers.

As for Woods in 21st place, we’re inclined to think he got a rough ride because arguably no athlete dominated his sport more than “Tiger” at the turn of the century.

And it’s certainly sad to see that Williams, 26th, is the highest-ranked female athlete on the list despite so many talented sportswomen deserving to mingle with the men at the top of the vote.


20. Jim Brown (American Football)

19. Wilt Chamberlain (basketball)

18. Bobby Orr (ice hockey)

17. Bruce Lee (martial arts)

16. Lionel Messi (soccer)

15. Tom Brady (American football)

14. Cristiano Ronaldo (soccer)

13. Jesse Owens (Athletics)

12. LeBron James (basketball)

11. Joe Montana (American football)

Summary 20-11

There you go folks, sports fans have settled the Messi vs Ronaldo debate and it’s a different outcome than you would usually expect when it’s just football fans voting.

And the two Ballon d’Or winners find themselves sandwiched with Brady who, despite not being crowned American football’s GOAT, can still hold his head high with a 15th place finish overall.

Also, yes, we spotted Lee being included in the Greatest Athletes of All Time and as controversial as that sounds, we have to pass it up when you consider the specs of the poll.


10. Roger Federer (tennis)

9. Pele (soccer)

8. Bo Jackson (American football and baseball)

7. Jim Thorpe (athletics, football, baseball and basketball)

6. Babe Ruth (baseball)

5. Michael Phelps (swimming)

4. Usain Bolt (athletics)

3. Wayne Gretzky (ice hockey)

2. Muhammad Ali (boxing)

1. Michael Jordan (basketball)

Summary of the top 10

So, there you have it, Jordan has been named the greatest athlete in sports history and we’ll let you decide just how much the documentary “The Last Dance” might have contributed to his victory.

All joking aside, Jordan is arguably one of the most physically and mentally elite sportsmen in history with his unrelenting desire to win, collecting no less than two NBA “triples” with the Bulls.

And it’s clear that Jackson and Thorpe’s high finishes live up to the roster’s specifications of physical excellence across the board, with both athletes excelling remarkably in multiple sports.


Lack of female athletes

How about that? The 50 best athletes in sports history according to fans.

Now, whether you think Woods should be higher or Messi should be higher than Ronaldo, perhaps the saddest aspect of the list is that only two female athletes have made the cut.

It is simply outrageous that Nadia Comăneci, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Allyson Felix, Marta and many more are nowhere in the top 50 even though they are lower in the rankings.

I guess this goes to show that even attempting to settle the GOAT sports debate through what appears to be the fairest and most collaborative method possible is still prone to oversights and mistakes…

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