The Best Ever: The 50 Greatest Male Athletes of All-Time
For this special feature, I examined and made up my own list of the Top 50 Male Athletes of All-Time.
There's everything in this list from mean, ear-biting boxers to Olympic champion swimmers to electrifying, speedy NFL running backs to big, powerful MLB sluggers.
There might even be some surprise picks in these lists as well, depending on your view of who should be in it.
50. Sadaharu Oh
Considered to be the best power hitter ever in the Japanese league and arguably the best player to ever hit in the league during his era and of all-time. He amassed an unbelievable 868 home runs during his 22 year career and was also a nine time Central League MVP.
Oh was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.
One of the best soccer players to ever come from the country of Brazil and a real master of all areas of the game. Known for his speed and quickness, Ronaldo has scored 242 goals in his career and also scored 62 goals in international play for his country of Brazil.
48. Andre Agassi
One of the most talented and decorated tennis players that ever played. He wont 76 percent of his matches and had the grace, elegance, and style to compete against anyone and wear any opponent down. He won 66 career titles in his 21 years as a pro.
47. Ben Hogan
"The Hawk" as some called him was easily the first great golfer in the history of his sport. Over his long 42 year career, he captured nine Major Championships. He is also fourth all-time with 64 career PGA Tour wins.
46. Maurice Richard
Nicknamed "The Rocket", Richard was very similar to number 46, Ben Hogan, as they were both the first great stars of their respective sports of golf and hockey.
The Rocket played 19 years in the league and was known as a fantastic all-around player by racking up many assists and goals throughout his excellent career. He is also a member of the NHL Hall of Fame.
45. Rocky Marciano
An excellent and powerful boxer who was the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world from 1952 to 1956. He retired with an undefeated record of 49-0, while recording 43 knockouts.
44. Diego Maradona
By far the shortest athlete on this list, Maradona used his foot speed, technique, passing abilities, and his vision to propel him to the top of the soccer ranks when he played. He wouldn't over power you, but he would outwork you in the end.
Diego scored 311 goals in his pro career, spanning from 1976 to 1997.
43. Jerry West
West was a talented point guard who played for the LA Lakers for 15 years, and was an all-star for 14 of them. He scored over 25,000 points in his career and also dished out over 6,000 assists.
He, like many others on this list, is an NBA Hall of Famer.
42. Cristiano Ronaldo
One of the best soccer players to ever play for Manchester United and is only 25 years old. He already has scored 113 goals in his young pro career. He has already been compared to some soccer greats and is one of the most fluid and skilled athletes when he is on the field.
King James, or LBJ, has been dynamite ever since he stepped onto the NBA court in 2003. In his seven years in the league, he has been an all-star six times, an MVP twice, and a scoring champion once. He continues to break record after record and the sky is the limit for Mr. James.
40. Rickey Henderson
The king of stolen bases swiped 1,406 during his career and was a pitcher's nightmare every time he got on first base. He was selected to 10 all-star games and hit nearly 300 homers while scoring nearly 2,300 runs.
He was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in 2009.
39. Kobe Bryant
The talented shooting guard from Pennsylvania has had one of the sweetest pull-up jump shots in the league ever since he broke in with the Lakers in 1996.
In his 14 years, he has been an all-star 12 times, been an MVP once, and is also a four-time NBA champion.
38. Mario Lemieux
Lemieux was one of the best forwards to ever step foot on the ice. He was an all-star selection 10 different times and also scored 690 goals in his NHL career, all with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He also dished out 1,033 assists to make him one of the best to ever put on a Penguins uniform.
37. Pete Sampras
Along with Roger Federer, Sampras is considered as one of the best to ever play his game. He played fifteen years, picked up 64 titles, and won a dominating 77 percent of his matches.
Pistol Pete, as some liked to call him, was known for his extremely quick and powerful serve which lead him to many aces throughout his career.
36. John Elway
Hall of Fame QB who led the Denver Broncos to prominence in the 1990's. Elway frustrated defenses time after time by using his great down field vision and avoiding sack after sack with his great scrambling ability.
He led the Broncos to two straight Super Bowl victories in the late 1990's and was also a nine-time Pro Bowl selection along the way.
35. Albert Pujols
Pujols has only played nine plus seasons in the major leagues, but he has already become one of the greatest hitters in the history of the sport. He has hit 30 or more home runs every season, drove in 100 or more RBIs every season, and he has also been an all-star every season but one. He is also an excellent defender at 1st base.
34. Reggie White
He was nicknamed "The Minister of Defense" because of his ability to take over a game and also because he was an ordained minister. He was a 13-time Pro-Bowler and made a living sacking QBs in the offensive backfield year after year.
33. Bobby Orr
Orr was a great defenseman who played for the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL. He made seven all-star games in his 12 seasons in the league and was known to be a big pest to opposing offensive units around the league during the era when he played.
32. Mike Tyson
Iron Mike was a mean, punishing boxer who would stop at nothing to strike fear into his opponents. Evander Holyfield found this out when Tyson bit his ear off in a match.
He was an animal in the ring, as he became the youngest boxer ever to win the WBC, WBA, and IBF world heavyweight titles. He also owned a career record of 50-6 with 44 knockouts.
31. Brett Favre
The long-time Green Bay Packer has a rifle arm and can throw the deep ball better than almost anyone that has ever played the game of Football. His long and winding career has seen him throw for an NFL record 497 touchdowns, garner three NFL MVP awards, and capture one Super Bowl trophy to date.
30. Bo Jackson
Jackson, like Deion Sanders, excelled at both baseball and football. He is one of the only athletes ever to be named to all-star teams in two different leagues, as he was an MLB All-Star in 1989 with the Kansas City Royals and an NFL Pro-Bowler in 1990 with the Oakland Raiders.
29. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Standing at seven feet and two inches tall, Abdul-Jabbar was considered one of the tallest players during his era of basketball. Kareem was known for his patented sky hook shot that he used to decimate his opponents. He played 20 years in the NBA and scored over 38,000 points and tallied over 17,000 rebounds as well.
28. Barry Sanders
Easily one of the smallest NFL players ever at just 5'8, Sanders defied all odds by making defenses look silly trying to tackle him each game due to his jukes, spins, and all out quickness.
He only played ten seasons, but was in a Pro-Bowl every year. In 1997, he rushed for over 2,000 yards and is third all time in career rushing yards with 15,269.
27. Michael Phelps
Statistically, Phelps is the best swimmer of all-time. He has won a ridiculous 14 Olympic gold medals and is only 25 years old and will more than likely get many more in the future.
His eight gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics broke the record held by former Olympian Mark Spitz, who won seven in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
26. Joe Montana
Montana had an excellent feel for the game. During his career, he was selected to eight different Pro Bowls and was known for having a great connection with Hall of Fame Wide Receiver Jerry Rice. He was known for his many clutch wins, especially in the playoffs and most notably, leading the 49ers to four different Super Bowl victories during his tenure there.
25. Walter Payton
He could very well be the second best running back ever in NFL history, behind the great Jim Brown. Payton was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, and a driving force behind the success of the Chicago Bears teams in the 1980's.
24. Pete Rose
Easily one of the best pure hitters and athletes that the game of pro baseball has ever seen. He was selected to 17 all-star games, was a seven-time NL hits leader, and was a three-time NL batting champion. He also had 4,256 career hits, which still ranks first all-time.
23. Deion Sanders
Another exceptional athlete who like another guy on this list, Bo Jackson, starred in football and baseball. Prime-time was much better in the NFL than he ever was in baseball, as he was selected to eight Pro Bowls and was considered by many as one of the best shutdown corners to ever play the game.
22. Roger Federer
Many tennis experts have already given Federer the title of the best to ever play his sport. He has won a remarkable 81 percent of his matches and has 62 career titles to his name. I also didn't mention that he is the current number one men's tennis player in the world.
21. Sugar Ray Robinson
Robinson was one of the best athletes in the early days of his sport. He won 173 matches over the course of his career, while losing just 19. He would outlast many of his opponents because of his stamina.
Muhammad Ali, who many consider the greatest boxer ever, reportedly said in the past that he considered Robinson as the best boxer that has ever lived.
20. Peyton Manning
Many people have him penciled in as the greatest quarterback ever, as do I on this list. One of the most durable, consistent, and smartest quarterbacks ever to play in the NFL.
Peyton had dad Archie, a former NFL QB, to show him the ropes of how to play the game. He has taken advantage of it to the tune of 10 Pro-Bowl selections, four MVP awards, and a Super Bowl ring for his efforts.
19. Ty Cobb
Cobb was one of the fastest ballplayers to ever play the game. In a baseball era where not much offense was produced, Cobb at times found himself doing all the work to get runs for his team. His two most famous records were probably his career .367 batting average and his 54 career steals of home plate.
18. Barry Bonds
One of the best power hitters in the history of the game. He remains the only member of the 500-500 club of 500 career home runs and 500 career stolen bases. His 762 home runs rank first all-time in Major League Baseball history and he also was a 14-time all-star, eight-time gold glove winner, and a seven-time NL MVP.
17. Nolan Ryan
A dominating pitcher whose career spanned for 27 years, where he piled up 5,714 strikeouts and threw seven no-hitters. He was selected to eight all-star games and many still consider him the best power pitcher ever.
16. Lawrence Taylor
LT ruled the decade of the 1980's with his defensive prowess and his crazy pass rushing skills. These skills help led Taylor to the Pro Bowl 10 times in just 13 seasons and he also compiled 132.5 sacks during that time. He was inducted in to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1999 as one of the best defenders ever.
15. Ted Williams
Teddy Ballgame was once dubbed as the greatest hitter who ever lived. He may very well have been that when he played. Williams was selected to 19 all-star games and he is still the last player to hit .400 in a season, as he hit .406 in 1941.
14. Jerry Rice
He was without a question the best wide receiver that the NFL has ever seen. Rice was a defender's nightmare because of his great route running ability, combined with his speed and extremely smooth and soft hands.
During his lengthy NFL career, he was a 13-time pro bowler, had nearly 23,000 receiving yards, and scored 197 touchdowns.
13. Jackie Robinson
Mr. Robinson was of course famous for helping baseball, and all sports, break the color barrier when he busted onto the scene in 1947. During his career, he was selected to six all-star games in 10 seasons and he was also an MVP and the 1947 MLB Rookie of the Year.
He, like many others on this list, was also a multi-sport athlete as he participated in football and track in college.
12. Willie Mays
One of the greatest outfielders to ever play the game of baseball, Mays could do it all. He had the speed to run down over the shoulder catches, the defense to help him capture 12 gold gloves, and the power to help him hit 660 home runs throughout his marvelous career.
11. Tiger Woods
He is arguably the best golfer ever, and also one of the most consistent and talented golfers as well. In his career, he has won 14 major championships and has been named the PGA Player of the Year 10 different times.
He is only 34, so he still has a lot of time to increase his wins and continue to make his case as the best golfer that has ever lived.
10. Lance Armstrong
Armstrong is widely known as the best cyclist in American history, and one of the best ever in the world. He has won seven Tour De France titles during his cycling career, and has numerous other major wins to his credit as well.
During his time, he is one of the few who has had the ability to turn up his game to another level whenever he felt like it. Armstrong will more than likely retire soon as one of the best cyclists ever.
9. Jim Brown
Brown only played for nine seasons in the NFL but was probably the most efficient player ever to play in the league, considering his short stay.
He compiled over 1,000 yards in seven of his nine seasons and finished with 12,312 yards and 106 rushing touchdowns for his career. He was also an excellent receiver as he racked up nearly 2,500 career receiving yards and is a member of the NFL Hall of Fame.
8. Wilt Chamberlain
The dominating 7'1 center accomplished about everything that an NBA player could hope for in a career. He was a 13-time all-star, seven-time scoring champion, four-time MVP, two-time NBA Champion, and the 1960 NBA Rookie of the Year; just to name a few. He also scored 100 points in a game and is in the NBA Hall of Fame.
7. Jim Thorpe
Considered the most versatile athlete of his era, Thorpe won two gold medals in the 1912 Olympics and also excelled at the pro level in baseball, basketball, and football.
He was stripped of his gold medals after it was found out that he had played pro baseball prior to the Olympics, but he is still considered one of the most gifted and versatile athletes still today.
Regarded by many soccer historians as the greatest soccer player ever, Pele just made everyone else look like they were going in slow motion when he was out on the field. He scored an amazing 626 goals during his 22 year pro career and also netted 77 goals in international play for Brazil.
5. Muhammad Ali
To many, considered the best boxer during his era, and one of the best boxers ever. Ali was a three-time World Heavyweight Boxing champion and just punished opponent after opponent during his illustrious boxing career. He was feared by many because of his intimidating size and presence in the ring as well.
4. Babe Ruth
The Great Bambino and the Sultan of Swat was the first true power hitter in Major League Baseball. He was a seven-time world champion and hammered 714 home runs (third all-time) in his career.
As if this wasn't impressive enough, The Babe also doubled as a pitcher and won almost 100 games while compiling a microscopic 2.28 ERA in the process.
3. Wayne Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky was everything that a hockey player is inside and out. Other than being probably the most consistent NHL player ever, he was an excellent scorer and quite possibly an even better passer.
His 20 all-star selections, to go along with his 894 career goals and his 1,963 career assists, still rank as number one all-time, and might for a long time.
2. Hank Aaron
An amazing athlete who hit over 700 home runs in his MLB career. He also was named to 21 all-star games throughout his career and had a record 2,297 career RBIs as well. He was a very fundamentally sound ballplayer who made very little mistakes while on the field.
1. Michael Jordan
MJ is the clear favorite at number one on this list because of his ability to just take over games time and time again while he was in the NBA. The six-time NBA champ had everything from a killer crossover to an array of very smooth jump shots to highlight reel dunks that left everyone that witnessed him in awe.
He was so good that words can barely describe his impact on the game. Just ask Byron Russell and many other guys in the NBA that Jordan took to school in his time. He was simply the best and until someone dethrones him at number one, he will be here for awhile.