Early Years

Below is listed the top 100 sports people based on the importance of the sport via the world's biggest sports analysis combined with a meta-analysis of all time greatest lists published for each sport.  They are organised by decade in which they were at their peak.

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Donald Bradman (Cricket)

 

Widely reconised as the best ever cricket batsman, he retired with a test average (99.94) almost 40 higher than the next highest ever.  Famously scored 0 in last innings, when he only needed 4 runs to have a 100 liftetime average.  Played for Australia for 20 years, captaining the "invincibles" team.  In 1991 he was described by the Austalian Prime Minister as the "greatest living Australian".

 

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"Babe" Ruth (Baseball)

 

A larger than life figures, he set records for Home Runs, RBIs and slugging percentage, despite starting his career as a pitcher.  He was part of the famous muderer's row Yankess team of the 1927, whilst his huge hitting made his home-run champion 12 times and helped usher in the "live-ball" era in Baseball.  Off the field, he was known for his drinking and womanising.

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Jesse Owens (Athletics)

 

The greatest pre-war sprinter and long jumper, Jesse Owens is most famous for winning 4 gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, discrediting Hitler's Ayrian Master Race theories.  He  broke 3 world records in under an hour in 1935 in what has been referred to as the "greatest 45 minutes ever in sport".  The highest award in US track and field is still called the "Jesse Owens" award.  

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Paavo Nurmi (Athletics)

 

The middle and long distance runner nickname the "flying finn" set 22 world records at distances ranging from 1500m to 20km.  He won 9 Olympic gold medals between 1920 and 1928 and once went 121 races unbeaten, remaining unbeaten for his entire career at 10,000m.  He is credited with introducing the "even pace" strategy, which revolutionised the sport.

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Dhyan Chand (Field Hockey)

 

Nicknamed the "magician" for his incredible ball control, Dhyan Chand is widely considered the best field hockey player ever.  He scored more than 1,000 career goals and played for India for over 20 years, winning 3 olympic gold medals (1928, 1932 and 1936).  His birthday is still celebrated as a national sports day in India and the highest Indian sporting award is names the "Dhyan Chand Award"

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Ty Cobb (Baseball)

 

Nicknamed the "Georgia Peach", Cobb still holds the record for career high batting average and most career batting titles, as well as holding records for most stolen bases and most career hits and runs for more than half a century.  He was known for his aggressive style, descirbed as "daring to the point of dementia" and once described his own image as a "sadistic, lslashing, swashbuckling despot who waged war in the guise of sport".

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Joe Louis (Boxing)

 

Named as the greatest puncher of all-time by Ring Magazine, the "Brown Bomber" was world heavyweight champion for 12 years, making 25 successful title defences (still a heavyweight record) of which a staggering 23 were by knockout.  He is credited as having a huge social impact, being the first African American to be a national hero.  He immortalised the words "he can run, but he can't hide".

1950s

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Alfredo Di Stefano (Soccer)

 

The hero of the most successful club team in history, the great Real Madrid team of the late 50s.  He was the inspiration for 5 consecutive European Cup wins (1956-60), scoring in the final in each year, scoring 216 goals in 283 appearances for Real Madrid.  Despite playing for Argentina, Colombia and Brazil, circumstance meant he never played in a world cup.  

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Sugar Ray Robinson (Boxing)

 

Widely considered the best pound for pound boxer of all time, Robinson held world titles at Welterweight (for 6 years) and Middleweight, which he won 5 times.  He was undefeated as an amateur from over 80 contests and once won 91 professional fights in a row, winning  128 of his first 131 fights, with over 80 by knockout. He had a flamboyant persona and is credited with inventing the boxing "entourage".

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Ferenc Puskas (Soccer)

 

A prolific scorer, he scored 84 goals in 85 internationals and 514 in 529 club games. The Hungarian striker led the "mighty Magyars" on a 3 year unbeaten stretch and to the world cup final in 1954, a tournament where he won best player. He won 3 European cups with Real Madrid, scoring 7 goals in 2 finals, as well as 10 league titles in Hungary and Madrid.  The FIFA award for best goal is still called the "Ferenc Puskas award".

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Juan Manuel Fangio (F1)

 

Fangio dominated the first decade of Formula 1 motor racing, winning 5 world championships.  He is unique in having won with 4 different teams and still holds the record for highest winning percentage, in winning 46% of all Formula 1 races he took part in. In Argentina, he is simply known as "El Maestro"

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Ted Williams (Baseball)

 

Regarded as one of the greatest hitters ever, Ted Williams still holds the record for career on-base

percentage.  He was twice MVP, 6 times batting champion and a 19 time all-star.  He interrupted is career to serve in the US military and is a holder of America's highest civilian award the "presidential medal of freedom".  He is part of both the baseball and fishing hall of fames.

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Ben Hogan (Golf)

 

The Texan won 9 golf majors in the 1940s and 1950s, including 4 US Opens and 2 Masters. He is one of only 5 golfers to have won all 4 majors, despite only entering the British Open once.  He was also a 5 time PGA money list winner.  These records were achevied despite recovering from a serious car accident after which doctors thought he would never walk again.  Jack Nicklaus described him as the best ball striker ever.  

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Gordie Howe (Ice Hockey)

 

Nicknamed "Mr Hockey", Gordie Howe is the only player ever to appear in the NHL in five different decades (40s to 80s).  He was a 4 time Stanley Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings, winning 6 MVPs and finishing 6 times highest scorer.  He was a 23 time all-star.  He was the inaugural recipient of the NHL lifetime acheivement award.

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"Babe" Didrikson Zaharias

 

A multi-discipline athlete, Zaharias won the US amateur basketball championships in 1931, becoming an All-American player.  She set 4 world track and field records and won 2 olympic gold and 1 silver medal in 1932 (in events as different as high jump, javelin and hurdles).  She became then the leading women's golfer winning 10 majors and even making the cut in men's PGA tournaments.

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1960s

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Pele (Soccer)

 

Pele is widely considered the best soccer player of all time, and the only one to score more than 1,000 goals.  He became the youngest player ever to play in a world cup aged 17 in 1958, winning it with Brazil and scoring 5 goals in the semi-final and final.  He would win a second world cup 12 years later in 1970 as the inspiration of probably the greatest team ever and winner of the best player award.

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Willie Mays (Baseball)

 

Many consider Mays the best all-round baseball player of all time.  He scored 660 home runs (4th all-time), whilst winning a record 12 golden gloves, for his excellent fielding.  He was a record 26 times an all-star, whilst also winning 2 MVP awards.  He remains the only major league player to have hit a home run in every innings from the 1st to the 16th.  

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Wilt Chamberlain (Basketball)

 

At over 7 feet tall, Chamberlain was a dominant player for 2 decades.  He is the only player to score 100 points in a game and average more than 40 for a season. He won 4 NBA MVPs, 7 scoring and 11 rebounding titles and even one year had the most assists.  He is a member of both the basketball and volleyball hall of fames and was a notorious womanizer.

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Sir Garfield Sobers (Cricket)

 

Originally from Barbados, Sobers is considered the greatest all-round cricketer ever.  He made his test debut for the West Indies aged just 17 and by 22 had set the record for highest test score, which would stand for over 40 years.  He was also a fearsome bowler taking over 1,000 career wickets.  He was knighted by the Queen of England and was named a Barbados national hero by Act of Parliament.

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Jim Brown (American Football)

 

The Cleveland Browns running back was a 4 time NFL MVP and 8-time rushing champion.  He is the only running back to average more than 100 yards a game across his career, with a record 5.2 average carry, also the highest ever.  He is a member of the Pro and college football and lacrosse halls of fame. Since retiring he has appeared in over 30 films as an actor

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Bill Russell (basketball)

 

The Centrepiece of the great Boston Celtics team of the 60s, he won 11 NBA championships in 13 years.  He was a 5 time MVP And 12 time all-star.  He also captained the US olympic team to gold in 1956.  He later became the first African-American NBA coach and was recently awarded the presidential medal of freedom.  The NBA finals MVP award bears his name.

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Eusebio (Soccer)

 

Born in Mozambique, Eusebio gained legendary status at Benefica, where he drove them to a European cup and 4 finals.  He scored 749 goals in just 745 club games and was twice european golden boot winner.  He was also the top scorer in the 1966 World Cup for Portugal, although his African heritage meant he has often been described as the best African player ever.

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Rod Laver (Tennis)

 

Laver is the only tennis player to have won more than 200 singles titles and was world no.1 for 7 consecutive years in the late 60s.  He is the only player to win all 4 grands slams in the same year twice and won 11 overall, despite only competing in 16 during his prime.  The main court at the Australian Open is still called the Rod Laver Arena.  

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Hank Aaron (Baseball)

 

The "Hammer" held the record for most career home runs for 33 years, famously beating Babe Ruth's record and is the only player to hit 30 or more home runs in 15 different seasons, showing a remarkable consistency.  He is a 25 time all-star and 4 time home run and RBI champion.  In 1957, he won the world series with the Milwaukee Breweres, also winning the MVP that year

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George Best (Soccer)

 

Best is widely considered to be one of the most naturally gifted footballers ever.  From Northern Ireland, he won the English league twice and inspired Manchester United to the European Cup, being voted European player of the year.  However his lifestyle led to a downturn in his later career, as he once said ""I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars – the rest I just squandered"

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Oscar Robertson (Basketball)

 

A 12 time all-star and MVP in 1964, he led the NBA in assists for 6 seasons in the 1960s, winning the NBA title in 1971.  He is the only player to average a triple-double for a season, and was a great all-round player contributing a high number of assists and rebounds, as well as scoring strongly.  He was a key part of the "Oscar Robertson suit" which led to a widescale change in player pay and rights.

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Garrincha (Soccer)

 

One of the greatest dribblers ever, Garrincha won 2 consecutive world cups with Brazil in 1958 and 1962.  He was awarded best player in 1962 and scoring twice in the semi-final, before being sent off for retaliating to consistent fouling.  Known as the "little bird", he was a great entertainer and had a colourful private life, drinking heavily throughout his life and is reported to have fathered 14 children.

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Jim Clark (Formula 1)

 

Twice a formula 1 world champion with Lotus, he set records at the time for most grand-prix wins and most pole positions.  He was also a versatile driver, winning the Indy 500 and the British Touring Car Championship, as well as finishing 3rd at Le Mans 24-hour race.   He died tragically in a crash in a formula 2 race in Germany, aged just 32.

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Sir Bobby Charlton (Soccer)

 

Sir Bobby Charlton inspired England to the world cup in 1966, as well as his club Manchester United to the European Cup, scoring twice in the final.  He won European player of the year in 1966, and is still the record goalscorer for England and for Manchester United, despite playing most of his career in midfield.  As a younger man, he was one of the survivors of the Munich Air Crash.

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Margaret Court (Tennis)

 

Court has won more singles majors than any player in history, with 24 singles titles and a remarkable 40 doubles titles.  She has the highest win rate in the open era at over 90% and is the only play to have won the grand slam in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.  A devout christian, she later founded her own church and hosts a TV show on the Christian Channel

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Lev Yashin (Soccer)

 

The Russian is widely considered the best goalkeeper of all time.  Nicknamed the "black spider", he is the only goalkeeper to have won the European footballer of the year, making over 150 penalty saves in his career.  He played in 4 world cups and won the olympics and European Championships.  He revolutionished his position by directing defences and rushing out to meet attackers.  

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Larisa Latynina (Gymnastics)

 

The Soviet gymnast won 9 Olympic gold medals, including 2 all-round, and 18 total medals, a record for more than 40 years.  She won at least 2 gold medals in 3 different games (1956, 1960 and 1964).  She also won 9 World and 7 European titles, including 4 in 1958 when she was 4 months pregnant. She is credited with making the Soviet Union a dominant force in gymnastics.

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1970s

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Johan Cruyff (Soccer)

 

3 times European footballer of the year and voted European player of the century.  He inspired Holland to the final of the 1974 world cup, winning best player of the tournament in the process.  He won 9 dutch titles and 3 European Cups with Ajax and was crtical to the invention and spread of "total football", He is credited with laying the basis of Barcelona's recent success, whilst inventing the "Cruyff turn".

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Franz Beckenbauer (Soccer)

 

Twice European footballer of the year, he is the only person in history to win the world cup as a captain (1974) and coach (1990).  He also captained Germany to the European championships and Bayern Munich to 3 consecutive European Cups.  He is considered to have invented or at least mastered the Sweeper or "libero" role.  He is also  considered the greatest defender of all time.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Basket)

 

A record 6 times MVP and 19 time All Star, Abdul-Jabbar won the NBA Championship 6 times, 5 of which with the Lakers.  Famous for his "skyhook" shot, he remains the NBA record all-time points scorer and is 3rd on rebounds and blocks.  Since retiring, he has appeared in a number of films (including airplane!) and is currently a cultural ambassador for the US

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Jack Nicklaus (Golf)

 

Nicknamed the Golden Bear, Nicklaus still holds the record for most major victories at 18, across 3 decades (60s, 70s, 80s).  He had won the grand slam of all majors at just 26 years old (the youngest ever).  He was 8-times the PGA Tour money winner and 6 time PGA Player of the Year.  These acheivements make him widely considered as the best golfer of all time.  

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Bobby Orr (Ice Hockey)

 

Orr was a 3 time NHL MVP and 8 time best defenceman, being the only defenceman to be leading league scorer.  He scored the winning goal in 2 NHL finals for the Boston bruins, who had gone 25 years without winning before he joined.  Orr was the highest paid player in the league as a rookie and gained the first NHL million dollar contract, although he retired due to injuries at just 30 years old.  

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Mark Spitz (Swimming)

 

Spitz won 9 Olympic gold medals, including 7 in 1972 alone, a record which stood for more than 30 years.  He acheived this despite reitiring at 22 years old.  He set 35 world records during his career, excelling in butterly, freestyle and medley.   He became a pin-up shortly after the Olympics, whilst after joking his iconic moustache made his quicker, the Russian Swimming team adopted them.

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Eddy Merckx (Cycling)

 

The most successful cyclist ever, the belgian won 5 Tour De Frances and 5 Giro D'Italias, as well as the world championship 3 times.  He also won every single "Monument" race at least twice, and held the world hour record for 12 years  His tour wins came despite often riding in pain due to injuries from a crash in 1969.  He was named the Belgian Sports figure of the 20th Century.

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Gerd Muller (Soccer)

 

One of the great goalscorers, Muller scored 68 goals in just 62 appearances for Germany and 365 in 427 German League Games (including 85 goals in 1972 alone).  He was top scorer at the 1970 world cup, scoring 10 times, as well as scoring the winning goal in the 1974 world cup, breaking the record for all-time world cup scorer.  Nicknamed the Bomber, he also won 3 European Cups with Bayern Munich

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Richard Petty (NASCAR)

 

Nicknamed "The King", Petty won 7 NASCAR Drivers Championships, and a record 200 races.  He also won the Daytona 500 a record 7 times, as well as having the highest ever number of poles and top 10 finishes.  He is the son of another NASCAR champion, as well as the father of a NASCAR racer and later ran for office (but lost) as a Republican.  

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Chris Evert (Tennis)

 

Chris Evert won 18 grand slam titles, including 7 french and 6 US Open titles and reached 34 grand slam finals, an all-time record.  She finished no.1 in the world for 7 of the 8 years between 1974 and 1981.  She never lost in a grand slam first or second round and finished her career with a winning percentage of 89%, which was as high as 94% on clay.

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Muhammad Ali (Boxing)

 

An olympic gold medalist amateur, Ali  shocked World Champion Sonny Liston in 1964  He held the World Heavyweight title for 3 years, before being suspended for refusing a military call.  However he regained the title in 1973 in the infamous Rumble in the Jungle, which he held for a further 5 years.  A famous entertainer and black rights activist, he was known simply as "the greatest"

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Bjorn Borg (Tennis)

 

Borg won 5 consecutive Wimbledon Titles and 4 consecutive French Open titles in a dominant period in the last 70s and early 80s.  He won 11 Grand Slams in all, despite retiring aged just 26 as the peak of his career.  He was known for his cool personality and rivalry with Mcenroe. He tried to make a comeback in the early 90s using an old-style raquet, but failed to have an influence.

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Walter Payton (American Foot)

 

Nickname "sweetness", the running back held the records for most yards, most touchdowns and most carries.  He was twice MVP, 9 times pro-bowl and even made 8 touchdown passes, a record for a non-quarterback.  He finally won the Superbowl with the Chicago Bears in 1985.  His motto was "never die easy" and he refused to ever run out of bounds or to celebrate touchdowns.  

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Gareth Edwards (Rugby U)

 

Many believe Gareth Edwards to be the greatest Rugby player ever.  The Scrum Half won 3 grand slams with Wales and was critical to the winning British Lions tours of New Zealand (1971) and South Africa (1974).  He had fantastic all round skills, including passing, running and kicking and he scored what many consider to the best try ever in 1973 for the Barbarians.

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Nadia Comaneci (Gymnastics)

 

Comaneci was the first gymnast ever to be awarded a perfect 10 in the Olympics, which she did aged just 15 years old.  She won 3 Olympic gold medals in 1976, including the all-round and 2 more in 1980, as well as winning 2 world and 9 Europan Championships, the first one at just 13 years old.  When she get her 10, the scoreboard showed a 1, as nobody has even accounted for this possibility.

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1980s

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Diego Maradona (Soccer)

 

Named as joint player of the century by FIFA, many believe Maradona to be the most talented soccer player ever.  He inspired Argentina to the World Cup in 1986, winning the best player award, whilst he won Napoli their only 2 Italian championships.  He is the only player to have broken the global transfer record twice.  His controversial antics outside of football include cocaine bans, shooting journalists and being a close friend of Fidel Castro.  

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"Magic" Johnson (Basketball)

 

Magic Johnson won 5 NBA titles with the LA Lakers in the 1980s, winning 3 NBA MVP awards.  He is the all-time leader in assists per game and led the league on this measure in 4 separate years.    He also won an Olympic gold medal with the infamous "dream team" in 1992.  His career ended early after announcing he had contracted HIV and has since been an ardent campaginer against the disease.

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Wayne Gretzky (Ice Hockey)

 

Widely considered the best Ice Hockey player of all time, he is the all-timeNHL record points, goals and assists scorer (having more assists than any other player has points!).  He won an incredible 9 MVPs, is the only player to have scored 200 points in a season, something he did 4 times.  He won a total of 4 stanley cups with the Oilers and holds more than 60 NHL records.

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Larry Bird (Basketball)

 

Like Magic Johnson who he had a long rivalry with, Larry Bird won 3 NBA MVP awards and was a member of the winning US "dream team" of the 1992 Olympics. He spent his entire career at the Boston Celtics, leading them to 3 NBA Championships and was a 12 time all-star.  He is the only person to have won player, Coach and Executive of the year in the NBA

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Viv Richards (Cricket)

 

A fearless and aggressive batsman, Richards was voted one of the 5 players of the century.  He was also rated by Widen the best One Day player of all time and the 3rd best test batsman.  Remarkably he played his entire 18 year career without once wearing a helmet.  He was also famous for punishing bowlers who insulted him on the field, leading many opposing captains to enforce silence.

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Michel Platini (Soccer)

 

The French midfielder won the European player of the year for 3 years running iand led France to 2 world cup semis and a European Championship (in 1984).  In that year, he was named best player and was top scorer, still holding the record number of goals in the competition, despite only playing in one and being a midfielder.  He also won the European Cup with Juvenus and is head of UEFA.

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"Karch" Kiraly (Volleyball)

 

Named as the best volleyball player ever by FIVB, he is the only player to win OIympic gold medals at both beach (1996) and indoor Volleyball (1984 and 1988).   He also won 3 national College Indoor Championships and has won more tournaments than any other player at Beach Volleyball, including wins in 24 separate seasons and with 16 partners.

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Martina Navaratilova (Tennis)

 

Navaratilova won 18 Grand Slam singles and a record 41 doubles titles, including 9 Wimbledon Singles titles.  She was number 1 in singles fori 7 years in total, whilst being number 1 in doubles for 5 years.  In 1983, she lost only 1 of her 87 games  Her last grand slam doubles title came just a couple of weeks before her 50th birthday and an incredible 34 years after her first.

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Joe Montana (American Football)

 

The San Francisco 49ers Quarterback won 4 Superbowls, winning a record 3 Superbowl MVP awards.  He also won the NFL MVP in both 1989 and 1990 and was selected for 8 probowls.   Famous for his coolness under pressure, he led his teams to over 30 4th quarter comebacks and famously throw last minute touchdown passes for the championship and superbowl in 1981

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Zico (Soccer)

 

The Brazilian playmaker is considered one of the most skilful passers and finishers ever, winning 3 South American footballer of the year awards (finishing 2nd twice more) and 4 Brazilian Championships.  He led Brazil into 3 world cups, but despite being the talisman of one of the best ever teams in 1982, he famously didn't win any.

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Carl Lewis (Athletics)

 

Carl Lewis won 9 Olympic gold medals and 8 World Championship golds, across 100m, 200m, relay and Long Jump.  He went more than 60 competitions unbeaten at Long Jump over a 10 year period and still holds the indoor world record.  He is a vegan who attributes some of his later success to his diet.  He was also drafted for the NBA and NFL, despite never playing these sports competitively.  

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Marco Van Basten (Soccer)

 

Van Basten won 2 European Cups with AC Milan and the European Championships in 1988 with Holland, a tournament in which he won best player.  He also won 3 European and 1 world player of the Year.  In total, he scored more than 250 goals, despite having to retire with injuries aged just 28 years old.  He was part of the great 1992 Milan side which went a whole season unbeaten.  

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Lawrence Taylor (Amer Football)

 

Considered by many the greatest defensive player in history, the NY Giants linebacker won 2 superbowls.  He won a record 3 consecutive defensive player of the years and one league MVP, with 7 consecutive years of double-digit sacks.  He was addicted to cocaine for much of his career and often hired prostitutes for opposing team players the night before games to try to tire them out.  

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Alain Prost (Formula 1)

 

Prost won 4 World Drivers Championships, with 2 separate teams, Mclaren and Williams.  He won a record 51 Grand Prix, a record that stood for 14 years.  He was famous for his fierce rivalry with Ayrton Senna, particularly when they were teammates with Mclaren.  Prost was nicknamed the "proffessor" for his intellectual approach to racing and later founded his own F1 "Prost" team

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Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Athletics)

 

Often considered the greatest all-round female athlete, Joyner-Kersee won 2 olympic gold medals and 2 world championships for heptathlon, for which she still holds the world record, as well as both Olympic and world golds for Long Jump.  She was also one of the world's best hurdlers and sprinters.   This was made all the more impressive, as she had suffered from severe asthma.

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Bernard Hinault (Cycling)

 

Hinault won the Tour De France five times in the 70s and 80s, winning 28 stages in total and is still the last frenchman to win. He is also the only cyclist ever to win each of the grand tours at least twice, including the tour of Italy 3 times.   Nicknamed the badger, he was a key leader in a rider strike in 1978 and was "patron" of the peloton He returned to being a famer in Brittany after retiring

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"Daley" Thompsen (Athletics)

 

A double olympic, world and 3 times European decathlete champion.   Thompsen excelled across the 10 disciplines breaking the world record on 4 different occasions.  His overall sporting talent is shown by the fact he played for professional soccer clubs after his athletics retirement.  A controversial figure, he famously whistled along to the national anthem when receiving an Olympic gold  

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1990s

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Michael Jordan (Basketball)

 

Widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time.  Jordan won 5 NBA MVPs, was 10 times scoring champrion (holding all time records for regular and post season averages).  He won a total of 6 NBA titles, whilst also good enough defensively to win a defensive MVP.   His marketablity was legendary, with his client firms gaining $1 billion in worth on the announcement of his first comeback.

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Pete Sampras (Tennis)

 

Pete Sampras set the record for 14 singles grand slam titles, including 7 Wimbledons and 5 US Opens.  He was also year-end world no.1 for a record 6 consecutive seasons.   Sampras had such a good all-round game that he was happy playing both serve/volley or from the back of the court.  His rivalry with fellow American Andre Agassi was legendary.

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Jerry Rice (American Football)

 

Rice is generally considered to be the best wide-receive in NFL history, leading the all-time lists in receptions, touchdown receptions and yards.   He is also the highest scoring non-kicker in NFL history.  He won a total of 3 superbowls with the 49ers, building partnerships with quaterback greats, Joe Montana and Steve Young.  

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Steffi Graf (Tennis)

 

Won 22 major singles titles, the most in the open era for either gender and the only person to win at least 4 titles in each major, showing her versatility by surface.  She is also the only player to win a calandar grand slam (all titles in same year) and was a record 377 weeks at world no.1.  Her husband Andre Aggasi also remains a tennis great.

 

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Aytron Senna (Formula 1)

 

Widely considered one of the fastest drivers of all time, Senna won 3 formula 1 World Championships.  He was particularly known for his skill in difficult driving conditions, particularly in the wet or difficult tracks (He won the Monaco Grand Prix a record 6 times).  He had a famous rivalry with Alain Prost. Infamously died on the track in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, aged just 34 years old

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Ronaldo (Soccer)

 

Ronaldo was a prolific goal scorer and dribbler, who won World Player of the Year a joint-record 3 times.  2he won in the late 90s,  being named as the best player in the 1998 World Cup, infrmaously having a fit, hours before the final, which Brazil would lose.  Remarkably after being injured for most of the next 4 years, he came back in 2002 to win the World Cup, being the tournaments highest scorer.

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Stephen Hendry (Snooker)

 

The most successful snooker player ever, spending 8 consecutive years as World no.1 and winning 7 World Championships, the first of which he won at just 21 years old.   He also holds records for most ever ranking event wins as well as century breaks, of which he made a remarkable 775, including 11 maximums.

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Shane Warne (Cricket)

 

Widely considered the best spin bowler of all time, Shane Warne held the record at the time for the highest number of test wickets.  He famously bowled the "ball of the century" against Gatting, which span an incredible distance.  He had frequent controversies.

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Brian Lara (Cricket)

 

From Trinidad, Lara was a prolific run scorer and is the only cricket player ever to score more than 500 runs in an innings.  He also holds the record for highest innings score in international test cricket, being the only player to score 400 and shares the record for most runs in a single test over (28).  He was twice made Wisden Cricketer of the Year.  

Jonah Lomu (Rugby Union)

 

With an incredible physical power, Jonah Lomu amazed the Rugby Wold, scoring 4 tries in the World Cup Semi-final. He is the all-time World Cup record try scorer, despite suffering a rare kidney disease, which meant he could not play for many of his peak years.  Standing at 1.96m tall, 120kg at fighting weight and able to run the 100m in under 11 seconds, he often appeared unstoppable in full flow.

 

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Lorenzo Benardi (Volleyball)

 

Playing more than 300 times for Italy, Benardi won 2 European and 2 World Championships, being voted MVP in 1994 and 1995 competitions.  He also won 9 Italian Championships and 5 World Leagues, as well as an Olympic Silver Medal.  His success led to him being voted by the FIVB as the joint player of the Century.  

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Mia Hamm (Soccer)

 

Mia Hamm won the first 2 ever female World Player of the Year awards, also winning the World Cup in 1991.  She played 275 matches for the US, making her international debut aged just 15, scoring a remarkable 158 goals and 144 assists.   Until recenlty, she was the record international goalscorer and was selected as one of only 2 women on FIFA's best living players.

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Michael Johnson (Athletics)

 

Michael Johnson won 4 Olympic gold medals and 8 World Championships, including 6 400m major titles.  He set World Record times at both the 200m and 400m, with the 400 record still standing.   He is the only runner to do the 200m and 400m Olympic double.  His upright running style and short steps were a unique style, breaking the conventional wisdom on Sprinting

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Bjorn Daehlie (CC Skiing)

 

The greatest cross-country skier ever, Daehlie shares the record for the most Winter Olympic gold medals ever at 8 over 3 Olympics, with 4 further silver medals, making him 2nd on all time medals.  He won a further 17 World Championship gold medals as well as 6 world cups in 8 years in the 1990s.  He is also a Kicksled World Champion and a millionaire businessman

 

 

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Steven Redgrave (Rowing)

 

The rower won Olympic Gold Medals in 5 consecutive Olympics, being the only endurance athlete ever to acheive this feat.  He also won gold medals at a total of 9 World Championships.  He acheived all this, despite battling severe illness.  Famously after the 4th gold medal, he told the world they could shoot him if they ever saw him again in a boat, returning later to win a 5th.

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Jan-Ove Waldner (Table Ten)

 

Considered by many as the greatest table tennis player of all time, he is one of only 4 players to have completed a career grand slam.  He competed in 5 OIympics, winning a gold and silver singles medal and has 15 World Championship medals, including 6 golds spread over 17 years.  In China, where he was consiered more famous than Bill Clinton in the 90s, he is known as the "evergreen tree".

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2000s

Roger Federer (Tennis)

 

Roger Federer has won more single Grand Slams than any other male tennis player at 17, including at least one of each Grand Slam.  He has 7 Wimbledon titles and also holds the record for most weeks at world no.1 including around 5 years consecutively (and 10 years consecutively in top 3).  Federer is remarkably popular, winning fans award

for favourite player for 12 years straight.

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Michael Schumacher (F1)

 

Michael Schumacher won a record 7 Formula 1 World Championships, winning in both Ferrari and Benetton cars.  He holds a number of all-time records, including most races won, most pole positions and is the only driver to finish in the top 3 in ever race in a season.  Sadly, he suffered a skiing accident in 2013, which has left him severely disabled after being in a coma for many months.

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Sachin Tendulkar (Cricket)

 

Sachin Tendulkar is the all-time highest run scorer in both test and one day international cricket, since his debut aged just 16.  He is the only player to score 100 centuries in international cricket and was the first player ever to hit a double-century in a one day game.  Simply known as "God" in India, Obama once said he reduced the US economy's efficiency every time he came out to bat.

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Zinedine Zidane (Soccer)

 

Zinedine Zidane is a 3 time winner of World Footballer of the Year.   He inspired France to the World Cup on home soil in 1998, with 2 goals in the final, whilst also winning Player of the Tournament in 2006, despite being sent off in the final for head-butting.  He was expensive player ever at the time, scoring an incredible volley with his weaker foot to win the 2001 Champions League Final for Madrid.

Lin Dan (Badmington)

 

Lin Dan is a 5 time world Champion, as well as a 5 time All-England Champion and is the only person to win consecutive singles gold medals at two different olympics.  He is also the only player to win a "Super Grand Slam" winning all 9 major badmington titles in his career.  Dan has been playing for the Chinese Badmington team since he was just 18 years old

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Tiger Woods (Golf)

 

Tiger Woods has won 14 major titles, including each major at least 3 times.  Woods spent more than 9 of the 10 years in the decade as world no.1, holding the all-time record for this and most money list wins, being highest PGA earner in 10 different seasons.  He was the world's highest earning athlete for much of the decade, although this was harmed after details of his extra-marital affairs became public.  

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Kobe Bryant (Basketball)

 

Kobe Bryant has won 5 NBA Championships with the LA Lakers, winning the NBA MVP in 2008.  He is a 16-time all-star and has twice led the league in scoring and is 3rd on all-time regular season and postseason scoring lists.  He has won 2 Olympic gold medals with the US national team.  Bryant was considered a complete player, also making the defensive all-star team on a number of occasions

Anderson Silva (MMA)

 

Anderson Silva holds the record for the longest title streak in UFC history, retaining his middleweight title 10 times, with a 16 fight winning streak in total, over 6 years.  He also holds all-time records for knockdowns and strike accuracy.  Whilst known for his Muay Thai skills, he is also a black belt in Ju-jitsu, the martial art which he started with.   Silva states Spiderman as a personal hero of his.  

Shaquille O'Neal (Basketball)

 

Kobe Bryant has won 5 NBA Championships with the LA Lakers, winning the NBA MVP in 2008.  He is a 16-time all-star and has twice led the league in scoring and is 3rd on all-time regular season and postseason scoring lists.  He has won 2 Olympic gold medals with the US national team.  Bryant was considered a complete player, also making the defensive all-star team on a number of occasions

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Taufik Hidayat (Badminton)

 

Hidayat was the Olympic singles gold medal in 2004, as well as being a world and 3 times Asian Championship winner.  He was a famous rival to Lin Dan and helped drive the popularity of the sport in Indonesia.   Whilst known for his strong backhand smash, his forehand smash remains the fastsest ever recorded.

Muttiah Muralitharan (Cricket)

 

The Sri Lankan hero holds the all-time world record for most number of wickets in both test and one-day variants of the game, being rated the top test bowler in the world for approximately 5 consecutive years.   He helped Sri Lanka to 3 world cup finals, winning the tournament in 1996.  He was famous for his "doosra" delivery, which caused conterversy due to just being in elbow extension limit rules.

Tim Duncan (Basketball)

 

Widely considered the best power forward of all time, Tim Duncan was a 5 times NBA champion and 2 time NBA MVP.   He also won finals MVP 3 times and was a 15 time all-star He did this spending his entire career at the San Antonio Spurs.  He only came to basketball late after being a stand-out junior swimmer, who lost enthusiasm due to a fear of sharks.

Michael Phelps (Swimming)

 

Phelps won an extraordinary 18 Olympic gold medals across 3 Olympic games, making him the most decorated Olympian ever.  He won gold medals across Freestyle, Butterfly and medley individual events and was a 26 time world gold medalist.  He still holds 3 World Records, setting his first World Record aged just 15 years old.

Annika Sorestam (Golf)

 

Widely considered the best female golfer ever, the Swede won 10 majors and 72 LPGA events.   She was a record 8 times female golfer of the year and remains the only woman to hit a score under 60 in an LPGA event.  In 2003, she became the first female golfer in over 50 years to play in a male PGA event

Jacques Kallis (Cricket)

 

The South African is one of the great all-rounders, being the only cricketer to get 10k runs and 250 wickets in both one day and test cricket.  He is the third highest run-scorer ever, whilst also being in top 50 ever wicket takers. Considered to have a classical style, he scored his 45th test century in his final innings

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2010s