The Best Athletes in the History of Sports

For sports lovers, it's never easy to choose the best athletes in the history of each sport. In this article, we'll present some of the names that usually appear in this type of debate.
The Best Athletes in the History of Sports

Last update: 21 November, 2019

Any child who starts practicing a sport often has a referent in mind that influenced the choice of a particular activity. Maybe a special athlete caught your attention and was a source of inspiration when you were a child? In this article, we’ll talk about some of the best athletes in the history of sports; athletes who have been the most influential in society.

Throughout the history of sports, there have been many professional athletes that have surprised and amazed everyone with their incomparable talent. As you can imagine, it’s not easy to make a list that includes the best athletes in all of history; sports are an area that allows for a lot of valid opinions.

The best athletes in the history of sports

In many cases, it’s quite a subjective criterion. Despite that, we’ll try to be as objective as possible and rely on data that confirms our choices for this list. In the following paragraphs, we’ll present our own selection of the best athletes in the history of sports.

1. Michael Jordan, a prime example of one of the best athletes in the history of sports

Six appearances in the NBA finals, six league titles, six MVP awards. This is a good introduction to present the best player in the history of basketball.

The most emblematic guard for the Chicago Bulls dominated the sport during the 80s and 90s. Jordan then took the time to try his luck being a professional baseball player. He didn’t achieve quite as much success in this discipline as expected, which is why he returned to playing basketball with the Bulls shortly after.

Michael Jordan was an exceptionally talented shooter and passer, on top of being a fierce defense. He gained the nickname ‘Air Jordan’ because of his extraordinary jumping ability and his acrobatic stunts. His popularity reached heights that very few athletes or celebrities have come to know.

Michael Jordan wearing the Bulls jersey

2. Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher won a total of seven Formula 1 World Championships with Ferrari. He doesn’t only get recognition for helping Ferrari become the team it is today, but also for being the only F1 driver that has a complete season of podiums, an achievement he reached in 2002.

The German driver is the only man in the history of F1 that has won seven world championship titles up until today. He won five of those titles in consecutive years (2000-2004). Unfortunately, he suffered a skiing accident in 2013, which left him severely disabled after being in a coma for many months.

Michael Schumacher is one of the best athletes in the history of sports

3. Muhammad Ali

One of the things about Muhammad Ali that captivated his audience the most is that he was a big fighter with the hand speed and feet agility of a light boxer. When he was 22 years old, Ali shocked the world when he beat the popular Sonny Liston to become one of the youngest athletes to beat the heavyweight crown.

He held the world title for three years, before being suspended for refusing to comply with his military service. However, he recovered the title in 1973 during the infamous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, which he kept for another five years.

Muhammad Ali was one of the most influential activists and defenders of black rights. He changed the history of modern boxing.

Muhammad Ali during one of his fights
Image: AS USA.

4. Michael Phelps

There’s no doubt that the now-retired Michael Phelps is the best swimmer of all time. The American won 18 Olympic gold medals throughout his career, which represents the highest number of medals won by an Olympic athlete.

Phelps’ great ability to swim is a combination of skill, physical dexterity, and hard work. He has a very long torso, toned and long arms, big feet and short legs in relation to his height. Some experts even believe that his body was designed to swim.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento began his career in professional soccer when he was 15 years old. He was chosen to represent the national team of Brazil when he was 16 years old. Better known as Pelé, the Brazilian athlete played for 19 seasons in the Brazilian club Santos. During that era of his career, he scored 619 goals in 638 appearances. He ended his career with the New York Cosmos.

However, where ‘O Rei‘ really became a big personality was in the World Cups. He won the World Cup with Brazil when he was only 17 years old in 1958. During that competition, he scored five goals between the semifinal and the final.

Pelé during his time playing for the team Cosmos

As if this wasn’t enough, he won a second World cup 12 years later, in 1970. He achieved this with what is considered to be one of the best national teams of all time. Pelé also won the award for the best player.

Many people consider the Brazilian to be the best soccer player of all time. On top of that, while many people argue about the veracity of that number, he claims to have scored over a thousand goals.

Before ending this article, we must mention that in many cases, the selection of the best athletes in the history of sports is a very subjective process. For this reason, we encourage you to doubt this list and think about whom you’d add. Who do you think are the best players?

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.