Who is the Greatest Athlete of all Time?

“I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.” – Muhammad Ali

Ah yes, the age old question: Who is the greatest athlete to ever walk the planet? This is a topic that has been tackled time and time again with no definitive answer.  So here at SSC headquarters we decided to take it upon ourselves to come up with an answer. After a heated debate that took place in our boardroom over lunch we managed to break it down.

But what is a great athlete anyway? Before we even opened up the discussion, we had to define the parameters first. Here are some of the items we chose to focus on:

– Accomplishments within the sport
– Length of domination
– Did they excel at more than one sport?
– Measurable athletic abilities (i.e. body stats, world records, game stats etc.)
– What separates them from similar athletes?
– What did they do for their sport, their country, the world?

In the end, here were the front runners:


Roger Federer

  • Best male tennis player of all time
  • Turned pro at the age of 17
  • 17 Grand Slam Titles
  • 88 Career Titles
  • Over $90 900 000 in total prize money
  • 7 Wimbledon Titles (2003-2007, 2009, 2012)
  • 5 US Open Titles
  • Gold medal in 2008 Olympics
  • Silver Medal in 2012 Olympics

Lebron James “The Chosen One”

  • 6’8”, 260 lbs, standing reach: 8’10”
  • Drafted into the NBA at 18 years old
  • 6 NBA Finals in 12 seasons
  • 2x NBA Champion and 2x Finals MVP
  • 4x league MVP
  • 12x NBA All-Star
  • NBA Rookie of the Year (2004)
  • 2008 NBA Scoring Champion
  • Only player since Oscar Robinson to be in the top 20 for all time points and assists
  • Deemed the best player in the NBA by ESPN and Sports Illustrated since 2011
  • Played wide-receiver in football during high school; named first time all-state as a junior and led his team to the semi-finals
    • Speculation on whether he could have played in the NFL

Michael Phelps

  • Most decorated Olympian of all-time
  • 75 medals combined through Olympic games, pan pacific games, world games and world aquatics championships
  • 18 Olympic gold medals
  • Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the year in 2008
  • Associated Press Athlete of the Year (2008, 2012)

Bo Jackson

  • Only player to ever make the MLB all-star team and the NFL Pro-Bowl team
  • Holds the fastest 40 yard dash ever recorded in NFL combine (4.12 seconds)
  • Greatest combination of power and speed in recorded sports history
  • Qualified for NCAA Nationals in the 100m sprint
  • Won Heisman trophy and was 2 time All-American
  • Top 10 football players and top 20 baseball players of his time

Mohammed Ali “Rumble in the Jungle”

  • As an amateur fighter recorded 100 wins and only 5 losses
  • As a professional fighter recorded 56 wins and 5 losses
    • 37 knockouts
  • 3 time heavyweight champion
  • 1960 summer Olympics gold medal (threw his medal into the Ohio River after being disgusted by racist acts)
  • Cultural icon
  • Humanitarian and global citizen
  • Carries Olympic torch and lights cauldron at the summer Olympic games in Atlanta and given a replacement gold medal to the one he threw in the river

Clara Hughes

  • Competed in both the winter and summer Olympics in speed skating and cycling
  • The only person to ever win multiple medals in both winter and summer Olympics
  • 4 winter Olympic medals (3 bronze, 1 silver)
  • 2 summer Olympic bronze medals
  • Competed in the Women’s Tour de France 4 times
  • Canadian Olympic Team flag bearer for the 2010 Opening Ceremonies

Michael Jordan

  • 6 NBA championships
  • 4 MVP seasons
  • 2 Olympic Gold medals
  • 48” vertical
  • Played MLB for one season at 32
  • 48” vertical leap

Tiger Woods

  • 79 PGA Tour wins
  • 15 Majors wins
  • Holds the lowest career scoring average in PGA Tour history
  • Cumulated the most career earnings in PGA Tour history
  • Was the youngest player to achieve a Career Grand Slam (winning all four major championships) and did this in a row in 2000-2001 later to be known as the “Tiger Slam”
    • The only player to do this
  • PGA Tour Player of the year 11 times
  • PGA Tour Money Leader 10 times

Unfortunately we couldn’t narrow it down any further, however there were definitely some terrific athletes who didn’t make the cut! Anyone not on the list that you think should be? Let us know!

~ Written by Katherine Force

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