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20 Most Iconic Athletes In Sports History

It will always cause a debate whenever someone tries to figure out who are Most Iconic Athletes?. In decades of different sports, more than 1000 athletes over the course, and one better the other. One can’t figure it out outright. However, we all agree on the likes of Muhammad Ali, Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, etc. But the question remains the same.

With so many disciplines and eras to weigh up, the question of Most Iconic Athletes and sport’s overall GOAT will always prove an impossible one, but that doesn’t make it any less fun for fans to discuss.

Today we try to come up with the top 20 Most Iconic Athletes. This list may or may not include your favorite sports person. However, we tried to remain neutral in the selection. And As a matter of fact, The list was based according to their

  • Accomplishments and Physical Excellence.

Physical excellence

For the purpose of this list, athletic greatness is defined as possessing a variety of attributes that contribute to athletic prowess. These include:

  • Speed
  • Quickness
  • Endurance
  • Power
  • Hand-eye coordination

That is why this list does not include specialized athletes such as marathon runners or bicyclists. The name missing from the list is Lance Armstrong. well, Lance Armstrong is a master in his field, but he has not proven that he could compete in other sports where more is required.

Top 20 Most Iconic Athletes In the History of sports

Now, as much as we could try to nail our colors to the mast by naming our pick for the athlete to end all athletes, no doubt you’ll agree that this is a matter best decided upon by the supporters. However, in conducting the list, we try to pick athletes over Physical excellence and their career longevity.

20). Serena Williams – Tennis

Serena Williams outshines in every possible way and inspires generations of girls. She is a constant reminder to all women what can be achieved through sheer force of determination and tenacity. 

23 Grand slam titles, 14 Grand slam doubles with sister Venus, and Four gold Medals in Olympics, She truly believed in the proverb “Sky is the limit”

19). Tiger Woods – Golf

Golf may not be as physically challenging as other sports, but it requires a high degree of skill which Tiger Woods apparently has. Born Eldrick Tont Woods, Tiger is one of the most successful golfers of all time. He was also cited as the highest-paid athlete for several years according to Forbes magazine. His record-breaking performance came in the 1997 Masters, when he first reached the number one position in the world’s rankings, the youngest person ever to do so.

18). Tom Brady – American football

The true and true GOAT of American Football, Tom Brady has the most Superbowl wins than any franchise in the NFL history. Brady now won a Superbowl in each of the past three decades. He won 7 super bowls in his splendid 20 years career. He spent his first 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, where he was a central contributor to the franchise’s dynasty from 2001 to 2019. Brady is widely regarded as the greatest quarterback of all time

17). Nadia Comaneci –  Gymnastic

One of the greatest performances in the history of modern sports was by Nadia Elena Comaneci on the balance beam in the 1976 Summer Olympics. The Romanian gymnast was not only awarded 3 Olympic gold medals in the same competition but was also the first female gymnast ever to receive a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic event. The youngest Olympic gymnastic all-around champion ever, she also won two more gold medals at the 1980 Summer Olympics and became the world’s most famous gymnast. She was also later named “athlete of the century” by the Laureus World Sports Academy.

16). Bo Jackson – American football and baseball

Vincent Edward Jackson was the first athlete to be named an All-Star in two major American sports and he also won the Heisman Trophy in 1985. Known for his combination of power and speed, he became a college football star at Auburn University, though his professional football career was cut short by a hip injury. He also played as a left fielder and a designated hitter for the Kansas City Royals, the White Sox, and the California Angels in Major League Baseball.

15). Lewis Hamilton – Formula One

Lewis Hamilton is one of the best-known athletes. He’s considered the best racing driver of his generation, being a four-time Formula One World Champion for Mercedes AMG Petronas. In terms of career wins, World championship wins, career points, and Pole positions, he remained at the top in all of them. Lewis Hamilton is the best and most successful F1 driver, that graced the f1 circuit.

The Brit has taken wins in 30 different countries. He won a race in every season he’s competed in and is currently tied on world championships with Michael Schumacher. Although, he narrowly missed out on taking an eighth world title in 2021 to Max Verstappen. 

14). LeBron James – Basketball

king of the NBA, Lebron James is considered to be one of the biggest basketball stars post-Micheal Jordan era. James is the all-time playoff top scorer and all-time all-star top scorer, gaining 14 All-Star appearances. He has become known as the face of the MBA. Lebron James is one of the greatest basketball players. He was named as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world by Times in 2017. 

James has won four NBA championships, four NBA MVP awards, four NBA Finals MVP awards, three All-Star MVP awards, and two Olympic gold medals. James has scored the most points in the playoffs, the second-most career points, and has the seventh-most career assists.

13). Jim Thorpe – Athletics, American football, baseball, and basketball

Voted the ‘greatest athlete in the first half of the 20th century,’ he was also known as ‘The Greatest American Football Player’ of all time. Aside from football, he also dabbled in other sports and won gold medals in the 1912 Stockholm Summer Olympics in pentathlon and decathlon. His decathlon scores weren’t broken for nearly two decades.

12). Babe Ruth – Baseball

George Herman Ruth Jr. was also known for his moniker as “the Bambino” and “the Sultan of Swat.” Elevated to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, he is remembered for his impact and influence in one of the two most popular sports in the United States during the first half of the 20th century.

11). Sachin Tendulkar – Cricket

The greatness of Tendulkar can never be described. He is worshipped as the god of cricket in India. Sachin Tendulkar is the all-time highest run-scorer in both test and one-day international cricket. He is the only player to score 100 centuries in international cricket and was the first-ever player to hit a double-century in a one-day game. In Modi’s, he scored 18,426 runs with a batting average of 44.83. In Tests, he represents India in 200 matches and scored 15,921 runs with avg of 53.78.

10). Michael Phelps – Swimming

Michael Fred Phelps II is the most decorated American swimmer and Olympian of all time. He also holds the all-time records for 18 Olympic gold medals, 11 gold medals in individual events, 13 gold for individual events for males, and 8 medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. Considered the most successful athlete for the third Olympics in a row, his international titles and record-breaking performances have earned him the “World Swimmer of the Year Award” 7 times and the “American Swimmer of the Year Award” 9 times.

9). Pele – Football

PELÉ is a Global superstar of soccer who managed to make a certain Guinness World record at a very young age. He became the youngest athlete in the world who won FIFA World Cup. Despite his luck, he is a talented football player who has a successful career and the respect of every footballer. Pele is the only player ever to win three world cups. The king of football netted 757 goals in 831 games with an average goal ratio of 0.92.

8). Roger Federer – Tennis

Considered by tennis critics and former and current players to be the “greatest tennis player of all time”, Federer owns several world records. He won 20 Grand Slam titles, with 7 of the all-time records, and reached the Wimbledon finals 8 times. Roger Federer held the ATP No.1 spot for 237 consecutive weeks. From 2005-to 2010, he reached 18 grand slam finals out of 19.

He has won 103 ATP singles titles, the second-most of all time after Jimmy Connors, including 20 Grand Slam titles, a record eighth men’s singles Wimbledon titles, and a record six year-end championships.

7). Cristiano Ronaldo – Football

A Modern-day great and now all-time greatest goal scorer in football history, There’s nothing left for this man now. Ronaldo broke every goal-scoring record that was present. He has won everything in the game and is still going strong today, and has now added the biggest record yet to his historic career by overtaking Bican.

To his success, he’s the 3rd player who won the champion league 5 times in his career. With Portugal, he won Euro Cup in 2016 and the nations league in 2020.

At the age of 37, he broke the 805 goals record and now sitting on top of the list with 807. He is nowhere near hanging his boat so we can expect another 80-100 goals from him.

6). Rafael Nadal – Tennis

With the Australian Open victory, Rafael Nadal became the most decorated player in Grand Slam history with 21 Grand slam titles. He is The greatest clay-court player ever. As Nadal has won 13 French Open titles, amongst his 21 grand slams in total (most ever).  He reached the Career Grand Slam, winning each grand slam at just 24 years old. He also won his first Grand Slam as a teenager and is immensely famous for his aggressive baseline style. Rafael Nadal has been ranked world No. 1 for 209 weeks and finished as the year-end No. 1 five times.

5). Usain Bolt – Athletics

Regarded as the greatest sprinter of all time, Usain Bolt is a world record holder in different segments of races. He gained worldwide fame for his double sprint victory in world record times at the 2008 Beijing Olympics—being the first person to hold both records since fully automatic time became mandatory. An eight-time Olympic gold medalist, Bolt is the only sprinter to win  Olympic 100 m and 200 m titles at three consecutive Olympics (2008, 2012, and 2016). He also won two 4 × 100 relay gold medals. 

Usain Bolt won consecutive World Championship 100 m, 200 m, and 400m relay gold medals from 2009 to 2015. He is the most successful male athlete in the World Championships

4). Wayne Gretzky – Ice Hockey

Wayne Douglas Gretsky was a professional hockey player who played in the NHL from 1979 to 1999. “The Great One,” he was lauded as the greatest hockey player ever with mind-blowing career stats including winning four Stanley Cups and 8 consecutive Hart Awards. He also holds the record for most points in a career. In his career, four times he totaled more than 200 points in a season. However, after so many years since his retirement, he is the only player ever to do so. For 14 consecutive seasons, he scored 100 points. Wayne leads the list of iconic athletes in ice hokcek field.

3). Leo Messi – Football

7 Time Ballon d’Or winner, 5 times Golden Shoe winner, and all-time League goalscorer, He is a true goat in the game. Leo Messi is the complete definition of football. Leo messi is the only player ever to win 7 Ballon d’Ors and 5 Golden shoe awards. He is regarded as the greatest player in the history of football. He truly leads the list of Iconic athletes on the football side. Messi scored 759 goals with an average of 0.8 in 961 games for club and country.

He won Copa America in 2021 and won all the awards including MVP and Player of the Tournament award. before that, he took Argentina to 4 finals, including the world cup final in 2014.

2). Michael Jordan – Basketball

Michael Jordan Considered to be “the greatest athlete ever,” Jordan dominated the world of basketball during his prime. Having some of the most exciting gameplay in NBA history, his impact spans generations and he has become somewhat of a cultural icon and legend. It’s nothing wrong to say that, Jordan single-handedly brought the NBA to prominence during his playing career. From 1986-to 1993, he led the league in scoring each year and won 10 scoring titles out of 12. He always going to remain on the iconic athletes list.

During his career, he has participated in 15 seasons of the NBA and has won six championships with the Chicago Bulls. He popularized the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s—becoming a global cultural icon meanwhile. 

1). Muhammad Ali – Boxing

One thing About Muhammad Ali was, that you will never see another athlete again who was so far ahead of his time. He truly leads the list of most iconic athletes. Nicknamed The Greatest, he is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century and is frequently ranked as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. His display of athletic skills includes blinding speed, instincts, and brains.

A three-time heavyweight champ, his most notable fights were those against George Foreman and Joe Frazier. If you go through every list of iconic athletes of all time, Muhammad Ali would always be on top of every list. In 1999, he was named Sportsman of the Century by Sports Illustrated and the Sports Personality of the Century by the BBC.

Written By

High on sports since forever, aspiring sports journalist and a FC Barcelona fan. Enjoys writing articles on any sport. Can also be considered a F1 bandwagoner.

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