One of the most exciting debates that sports fans can engage in is who is the GOAT of their particular sport. Joe Montana or Tom Brady, LeBron James or Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux and on and on it goes.
But which athletes top the list for greatest of all time across all sports? There are some athletes that you may not typically think about on a regular occurrence such as Michael Phelps, Rickey Henderson and Jesse Owens. However, we have a list of the greatest athletes of all time as of March 2021.
Greatest Athletes of All Time
Before you see the graphic below, my thoughts on the greatest athlete of all time went to the likes of Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. That said, neither showed up in the list so my guesses were way off.
In the above graphic provided by Statista, it is a dead heat between boxing great Muhammad Ali and basketball legend Michael Jordan – I guess that settles the Jordan vs James debate.
“It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am,” Ali once said and it is hard to argue when you see him top the greatest athletes of all time list.
The Kentucky native transcended sport by taking a stance against the Vietnam War by not participating in the draft, while taking part in the historic civil rights movement in the 1960s. Because of his protest of the war, sanctions were placed against him that prevented him from getting a boxing license in every state and he didn’t fight for over three years.
In the boxing ring, he was involved in some of the most iconic bouts that people still reference to this day such as the Thrilla in Manila, which was the trilogy fight with Joe Frazier, and the Rumble in the Jungle with George Foreman. Throw in his “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” quote and it’s understandable why Ali is etched in stone when it comes to the sporting history books.
Michael Jordan: Greatest of All Time
MJ or Air Jordan is an inspiration and an example of how hard work and dedication can help you achieve almost anything. Of course, many sports fans know the story of Jordan failing to make his high school basketball team in his sophomore year, only to go on to become a McDonald’s All-American in his senior year and being offered basketball scholarships to play college ball – UNC is where he decided to go.
“My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.”
The stories of his competitiveness continued throughout his career. If anyone challenged him or showed him up, MJ would turn to another gear and become seemingly unstoppable. This drive and determination led to a lot of success – he was a six-time NBA champion and Finals MVP, a five-time NBA MVP and a 10-time scoring leader among many achievements.
While MJ didn’t have the off-court impact that Ali did in terms of the civil rights movement and other political stances, Air Jordan was without a doubt the greatest basketball player on Earth in the 1990s. His athleticism is undeniable, resulting in a strong and fair argument that he is the greatest athlete of all time.