Many watched this past weekend as Muhammad Ali celebrated his 70th birthday with entertainers and celebrities singing and rapping his praises. Those from this generation who were raised on Ali's legend have no qualms about proclaiming him "The Greatest" as he famously labeled himself many years ago. Those who were alive in the 1960's often have mixed feelings about him. I can remember as a Junior High student, I gave a book report on Ali and was scolded by my teacher who did not hold Ali in the high regard that I did. She thought he was a braggart and less than a patriot for his stance on the Vietnam War. Yet no one can argue the impact that Muhammad Ali had on sports.
The question is: As we have witnessed the decline in boxing's popularity over the last quarter of a century and have seen MMA become more mainstream, why do we still love Ali? Is he the still "The Greatest" in the minds of those who love sports? Which athletes have made the greatest impact on the world as we know it? You might wonder why pure two-sport athletes such as Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson didn't make the list. What about great , multiple Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks such as Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, or Tom Brady? Who could forget the social impact of athletes such as Jackie Robinson or Jesse Owens? How about Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, or the freakish dominance of Lebron James? The great ones who showed their surly side such as Kareem Abdul Jabaar and Barry Bonds didn't make this list. And although there were great female athletes who could be considered, this list is ranked by the sport's overall impact and appeal. There are dozens of athletes who might be included. But for this list, let's focus on those who had championship success in their sport, showed uncommon charisma, character and personality, and who dominated their eras in the eyes of the sports world.
Here is my list of the top ten athletes of all time: