The Greatest Athletes Of All Time

Jeremy KaufmanSenior Analyst IMarch 25, 2008

As I’ve learned throughout my tenure with the Bleacher Report, deciding upon the top athlete in any sport is an arduous and often times futile cause. For every sports fan that feels that Jordan was the greatest basketball player ever, another will attempt to make the case that it was Kobe, the Big O, or Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain.


However, in this article, I am attempting to accomplish a feat that most sports writers would consider impossible: I plan to determine the greatest athlete of all time. While, on my own, I have found myself to be unable to identify the single greatest athlete to enter the realm of professional sports, I will ask for all of my readers to help render a decision.


Anyway, these are my nominees; I have chosen a single nominee to represent each respective sport. So check out the article, and make sure to leave your vote for the greatest athlete of all time.


1)     Babe Ruth: Baseball

Babe is without a doubt, the greatest baseball player of all time. His batting records were looked at as virtually unbreakable for decades, and even during his days as a pitcher he was dominant. For this reason, I have selected Babe Ruth as baseball’s representative for the Greatest Athlete Of All Time.


2)     Michael Jordan: Basketball

M.J dominated the court unlike any other player in basketball’s history. With a plethora of championships to go along with his mind- boggling statistics and impeccable defense, there was no doubt in selecting Jordan as basketball’s representative.


3)     Jerry Rice: Football

Deciding who I should nominate as the greatest football player ever was an extremely difficult one, considering the great difficulty in comparing the importance of positions to one another. While Joe Montana, Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, and Deon Sanders all received great consideration, I eventually concluded that Jerry Rice was the most accomplished athlete of the group.

While both Montana and Brown may someday be bettered by current athletes (Manning, Tomlinson, for example), I believe that Rice has set a bar for the wide receiver position that is almost impossible to exceed. For that reason, I have selected Jerry Rice as a nominee for the Greatest Athlete Of All Time.


4)     Wayne Gretzky: Hockey

The unquestioned greatest hockey player of all time, I had no problem at all selecting Gretzky as a nominee. With a plethora of records that may never be broken, he will undoubtedly be a major contender within this debate.


5)     Muhammad Ali: Boxing

As the greatest boxer of all time, Ali definitely deserves recognition as one of the greatest athletes of all time. Ali possessed a combination of speed, agility, endurance, and power that is rare within the realm of boxing. When considering his physical ability along with his great success within the ring, I had to list Muhammad Ali as a nominee.


6)     Tiger Woods: Golf

By time his career is over, Tiger Woods may very well be known as the greatest golfer and, possibly the greatest athlete of all time. While his overall dominance could make him a front- runner within this debate, the criticism that golfers aren’t true athletes may hinder his candidacy.


7)     Roger Federer: Tennis

Another currently active athlete, Roger Federer has been as dominant within his respective sport as any athlete of all time. Like Woods, playing an individual sport such as tennis may have an adverse effect on the consideration of his candidacy.


8)     Pele’: Soccer

Widely considered the greatest athlete ever in the most popular sport in the world, Pele’ will undoubtedly play a large part in this Great Debate.


9)     Gary Gait: Lacrosse

Arguably the greatest underdog in this discussion, I have decided to bring Gait into this debate despite the fact that he plays in a sport that isn’t particularly popular around the world (at least for now).

However, in spite of the great adversity that Gary Gait faces, the readers of this article must keep in mind that Gait dominated not only in college, but also in two different major leagues (MLL & NLL) throughout his entire lacrosse career! For this reason, I believe that Gary Gait deserves his nomination as one of the greatest athletes of all time.


10) Lance Armstrong: Cycling

Lance is an absolutely dominating as well as inspiring athlete, albeit in a sport that few people care about. However, I still believe that he deserved consideration on my list.


11) Michael Phelps: Swimming

Michael is yet another dominant athlete in a sport that doesn’t garner much attention. However, I felt that his Olympic dominance was enough to warrant a spot on this list.


12) Gareth Edwards: Rugby

Edwards is widely considered to be the greatest rugby player of all time. Given the sports’ international popularity, along with my own personal bias as a collegiate rugby player, I had to include the sport’s most legendary player.

Earning the title of captain of the Wales’ team ever since the age of 20, Edwards was among the most prolific as well as consistent athletes ever to play any sport. In addition, his lack of injury in the world’s most dangerous sport alone is reason to warrant consideration as one of the greatest athletes of all time.