The World’s Most Popular Athletes of All Time


It is definitely a huge challenge to zero in on the top athletes of all time. This is because every sport is unique and requires comparing performance in a variety of different competitive arenas requiring different skill sets.

A player’s raw talent and born ability is one of the major aspects to consider in picking the best athletes. It’s hard to discount the importance of natural talent as some individuals are gifted in their sport of choice.

However, it’s also important to evaluate hard work, discipline and a commitment to the game. Some athletes may not have the natural, genetic ability but have mastered their craft over time.

Finally, comparing athletes who participate in a solo competition with a member of a well-known sports organization or club poses another challenge.

The below list will tell you about some of the top, highest-performing and most successful athletes ever to play.

1. Wayne Gretzky, Canada

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Arguably hockey’s greatest player, Wayne Gretzky played for the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and the New York Rangers during his long career. Nicknamed “The Great One”, he is the leading scorer in NHL history, with more goals and assists than any other player.

2. Michael Jordan, USA

Michael Jeffrey Jordan, is an American former professional basketball player. Jordan played 15 seasons in the National Basketball Association for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. His performances led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships and he won the Most Valuable Player Award five times. Jordan holds the NBA records for highest career regular season scoring average and highest career playoff scoring average.

3. Muhammad Ali, USA

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Arguably the most celebrated athlete, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali is an American former professional boxer. He won the Olympic gold medal in 1960 and the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1964. Ali reclaimed the heavyweight title two more times during the 1970s, winning famed bouts against Joe Frazier and George Foreman. He remains the only three-time lineal heavyweight champion, having won the title in 1964, 1974 and 1978.

4. Joe Montana, USA

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Professional football player Joe Montana led the San Francisco 49ers to victories in four Super Bowls, including consecutive wins in 1989 and 1990. He joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993 before retiring. Arguably the best quarterback in history, Montana was easily inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000, his first year of eligibility.

5. Usain Bolt, Jamaica

The fastest man on the planet, Usain Bolt is a sprinter from Jamaica. He is the first man to hold both the 100 and 200 meters world records since fully automatic time became mandatory. His most notable achievement is winning the 100 m, 200 m and 4 × 100 m relay at three consecutive Olympic Games.