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The 20 Most Untouchable Athletes Ever

Sam R. QuinnSenior Analyst IIIFebruary 22, 2012

The 20 Most Untouchable Athletes Ever

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    Now and again, athletes come around that completely blow away the competition and cannot be rivaled by their peers.

    These athletes are deemed as untouchable. Untouchability comes not only from the performance on the field, but also from the enduring legacy that is left following departure from the sport.

    The next 20 athletes have enjoyed long-lasting, unparalleled success, solidifying a spot as one of the most untouchable athletes of all time.

20. Usain Bolt

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    Usain Bolt, the fastest 200-meter runner on Earth, is a five-time world champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist.

    He holds individual records in the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter, and along with his teammates, holds the 4x100-meter relay record.

    He was named IAAF Athlete of the Year and Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

    When the Jamaican sprinter set the 100-meter record in 2009 (the highest record-breaking margin since digital time has been kept), he high-stepped the last leg of the race, embarrassing all who opposed him.

    He’s the most untouchable track-and-field athlete in the sport today.

19. Kelly Slater

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    There are a lot of people who don’t hold professional surfing in the highest regard, or any regard at all for that matter.

    But if you look at Kelly Slater’s full body of work, it’s not hard to tell that he has completely dominated the entire sport.

    He has been awarded the title of ASP World Champion an unprecedented 11 times.

    He was the youngest to win the title as well as the oldest. As of today, he has won 48 WCT surfing events.

18. Cael Sanderson

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    Not everyone who reads this will know who Cael Sanderson is. They should, though.

    In 2004, he won a gold medal in Athens, but that’s not even the most impressive part of his resume.

    Sanderson is the only wrestler in NCAA Division I history to go undefeated with more than 100 wins.

    Say that last sentence in your head a couple of times.

17. Derek Jeter

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    New York Yankees fans revered New York’s golden boy since his first full season with the team.

    In 1996, he won Rookie of the Year and hit that “Jeffrey Maier” home run in the ALCS, in case you forgot.

    Despite living his entire career in the spotlight, the only distractions he has brought to the team have been his many gorgeous girlfriends who attend his games.

    “Captain Clutch” has a career postseason average of .351, a regular-season average of .313 and more than 3,000 hits.

16. Jim Thorpe

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    Thorpe won Olympic gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics.

    His accomplishments didn't end there.

    He also played professional football, baseball and basketball.

    Former President Dwight Eisenhower said this about him after a Carlisle/Army football game in which Thorpe scored 22 out of his team's 27 points: "My memory goes back to Jim Thorpe. He never practiced in his life, and he could do anything better than any other football player I ever saw."

15. Secretariat

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    OK, so Secretariat isn’t a person, but in 1973 he became the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown.

    The only non-human on this list still holds the record for fastest time at the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.

    If you don’t believe that this thoroughbred should have a spot here, just ask SportsCentury.

14. Martina Navratilova

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    Navratilova won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam doubles titles and 10 Grand Slam mixed titles.

    Many believe that Billie Jean King was one of the best tennis players ever, but not King herself. She had this to say about Navratilova: "She's the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who's ever lived."

    When Billie Jean King is praising your career, putting your accomplishments over hers, you know you’ve made it.

13. Lance Armstrong

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    Now that Lance Armstrong is rid of possible federal charges in regards to that doping incident, it’s safe to say he’s pretty untouchable.

    This guy won the Tour de France seven times in a row (after surviving testicular cancer).

    Nobody wins anything seven times in a row.

    In a sport that is hardly covered in the United States, Americans will forever remember Armstrong as one of the most dominating cyclists in history, if not the most.

    The only reason he's not higher up is because of his alleged blood doping.

12. Shaun White

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    In the most recent Winter X Games, White became the first person in any event to score a perfect 100.

    He’s won 12 gold medals in Winter X since 2002, six in the Winter Dew Tour, two Olympic gold medals (2006, 2010), as well as five in skateboarding.

    Throughout his snowboarding and skateboarding career, “The Flying Tomato” has won 27 gold medals and 36 medals overall.

    It's pretty much a given that Shaun White is going to at least place in a competition every time, if not win.

11. Jackie Robinson

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    You don’t need to hear the story of Jackie Robinson—you already know it, so we'll keep it brief here.

    He broke the MLB race barrier and changed the face of baseball.

    All major league teams retired his number in 1997.

    Robinson was a man of unquestionable character who is absolutely untouchable.

    Nobody to play baseball will ever wear his number again (once Mariano Rivera retires).

10. Michael Phelps

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    Phelps holds the Olympic record for most gold medals won in a single Olympics, which he set in 2008 in Beijing.

    The modern Olympics have been held since 1896, and this guy set the record 112 years later.

    Controversy arose when a picture was taken of Phelps ripping a bong, but the fact that it blew over so quickly is evidence of how highly he is regarded.

9. Jerry Rice

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    Three Super Bowl rings, 197 receiving touchdowns, 208 total touchdowns.

    What more could a receiver do?

    His 197 touchdowns are 44 ahead of Randy Moss, who’s second on the all-time list.

    In 1995, Rice caught 122 passes for 1,848 yards and 15 touchdowns. 

    Here's what else Rice did: He has the most seasons with a touchdown; two or more touchdowns in 46 games; caught one touchdown per every 3.17 touches in 1987; caught a pass in 274 straight games; and on 17 occasions he caught 10 passes in a game.

    On top of all that, he holds the record for most career receiving yards and receptions at a modest 22,895 and 1,549, respectively.

8. Roger Federer

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    This guy held the ATP No. 1 spot for 237 consecutive weeks.

    That’s over four years of being the best at what you do.

    He’s won a record 16 Grand Slam singles titles.

    From 2005 to 2010, he reached an unheard-of 18 of 19 Grand Slam finals.

    Rafael Nadal has his number in recent years, but that doesn’t take away from Federer’s absolutely insane run of over four years at the top of his sport.

7. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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    Six-time NBA champion, six-time NBA regular-season MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP, 19-time NBA All-Star and 38,387 points.

    He was also one of only five players to lead the league in blocks and rebounds in the same season.

    He played more than 57,000 minutes, a record.

    Excellence follows Lew Alcindor wherever he goes, not just in the NBA. He led his high school team to 71 consecutive victories and played on three straight national championship teams at UCLA. 

6. Pele

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    We’ll start this slide off by making it known that Pele was named Football Player of the Century in 1999.

    In a sport that is so internationally beloved, the Brazilian forward is regarded as the single best player of the 20th century.

    He scored a goal in the 1958 World Cup before his 18th birthday and scored a hat trick five days later against France.

    In that World Cup, he didn’t play the first two games of group play but was still the tournament’s second-leading scorer with six goals (he was still 17, lest you forget).

    Pele brought soccer to the American public when he came to the New York Cosmos in 1975 and brought them a North American Soccer League championship in 1977.

5. Pre-Scandal Tiger Woods

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    Prior to the infamous sex scandal that marked the downfall of Eldrick Tont Woods, he was the most untouchable man in golf, and possibly all of sports.

    He has 71 PGA Tour wins and the second-most major championships (14).

    He became the youngest player to accomplish a career Grand Slam and is also the only player to have won all four major championships in a row. 

    Prior to his injury and personal issues, Tiger was pretty much unbeatable and was expected by many to shatter Jack Nicklaus' record of 17 major championships.

    Even the least-knowledgeable golf fans knew he had a better shot than anyone to win any event that he participated in.

4. Muhammad Ali

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    There’s no explanation needed for the G.O.A.T. being on this list.

    He’s an icon and the face of boxing, and he will be remembered for the next, I don’t know, 200 years or so (at least).

    He had a career record of 56-5, but three of those losses came in his last four fights, definitely because Father Time was catching up to The Louisville Lip.

    His “Fight of the Century” against Joe Frazier is one of the most famous boxing matches ever.

3. Babe Ruth

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    Babe Ruth no longer holds the career home run record, but he’s on this list specifically for the reason that he did things that no player of his time could dream of doing.

    He was the first player to hit 60 home runs in a season in 1927, a record that would not be broken for 34 years.

    In 1921 he hit 59 home runs, 35 more than the second-place finisher.

    If you ask even the most casual baseball fans to name a player, Babe Ruth is the name that’s going to come out of their mouth.

2. Wayne Gretzky

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    “The Great One” is all but unanimously the greatest hockey player of all time.

    He holds the record for most points in a career.

    Four times he totaled more than 200 points in a season and is still the only player to ever do so. He racked up at least 100 points in 14 consecutive seasons.

    If you need any more convincing, he got the Jackie Robinson treatment when all NHL teams retired his No. 99 following his retirement.

1. Michael Jordan

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    The man who has the single most recognizable face in all of basketball history, Michael Jordan built an empire in his playing days.

    “His Airness” single-handedly brought the NBA to prominence during his playing career with his fierce competitiveness and unbridled talent.

    He was the ultimate closer. You wouldn’t want anyone else on your team to have the ball in the final seconds, and he rarely disappointed. 

    Every young basketball player’s role model was instrumental in the Chicago Bulls' pair of three-peats in the 1990s.

    He scored 41 points per game in the 1993 NBA Finals. Yeah, 41 points a night in that six-game series. From 1986 to 1993, he led the league in scoring each year en route to winning 10 scoring titles in 12 years.

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