From stadium fights to tears of joy and cries of pain, it’s no doubt sports ignites emotions in spectators and athletes alike like nothing else. We’ve all been on the edge of our seats, watching our favorite team or athlete win or lose. Athletes, no doubt, leave an impact on millions of lives around the globe.
Athletes not only affect us on an individual level; they represent their teams, counties, and often their entire countries. It’s definitely not easy to have the hopes of an entire nation resting on your shoulders!
These stars have done what few others have in boxing, tennis, soccer, or American football.
Note: The list is in no specific order.
1. Muhammad Ali
It is impossible not to think of Muhammad Ali when one thinks of boxing. Known as the ‘The Greatest,’ Muhammad Ali was more than just a boxer. Ali was an active participant in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, fighting for equal rights in the United States’ constitution for all black Americans.
In the ring, he was easily the best the world had seen. He competed in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics and won a gold medal. Ali is also the youngest boxer to defeat a reigning heavyweight champion at age 22, defeating Tunney Hunsaker in 1960. His accomplishments in boxing are endless, but he also accomplished in life what few others have.
He has written an autobiography and recorded music as well. He was an eloquent speaker and inspired many with his words. He remained a positive influence on many even after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
He was named Sports Personality of the Century by BBC and the greatest 20th-century athlete by Sports Illustrated. (1)
2. Michael Jordan
When one talks about basketball, Michael Jordan is the first name to pop in the minds of many. This American football player is considered the best basketball player of all time by most.
He has participated in 15 seasons of the NBA, 13 of them with the Chicago Bulls. In his years as an active player, he has led his team to win the championship a total of 6 times. He has also won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award 5 times and the NBA scoring champion awards 10 times.
On the court, he was like no other. While playing as a guard, the best defense the opponents could have against him was to avoid him no matter what.
His influence on the sport wasn’t just limited to the US. He managed to popularize the NBA globally. Besides being a basketball player, his influence has reached millions in other fields. Michael Jordan is a known philanthropist and an extremely successful businessman. (2)
3. LeBron James
Known as King James, LeBron James is definitely one of the most loved athletes of all time.
LeBron James joined the NBA at just 18, the youngest person to be selected. Playing for the Miami Heat and then the Los Angeles Lakers, he has participated in 8 NBA finals, scoring a win in 3 of them.
He won a gold medal in 2012 and has been awarded the MVP (Most Valuable Player) title twice. He has also had 18 All-Star Game selections, the 2nd highest of all time.
Other than his achievements in Basketball, he has worked as a social activist raising his voice for many social and political issues. He has his own charity organization and is also an active supporter of many non-profit organizations. LeBron has helped children gain school education as well as raised his voice against racism. He was chosen as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world by Times in 2017. (3)
4. Serena Williams
Serena Williams can arguably be considered the greatest tennis player of all time, male or female. She won 23 Grand Slam tournament singles titles during her career—the most of any tennis player. Also, she has been ranked singles world No. 1 by the Women’s Tennis Association for 319 weeks. She also made a record for staying number 1 for 186 consecutive weeks.
Williams also holds the highest number of titles for singles, doubles, and mixed than any other male or female present player in the game. She is also the oldest player to hold all Grand Slam titles simultaneously.
Serena Williams won the 2012 Olympics in singles and doubles in a single Olympic tournament, becoming the only tennis player to win gold medals in both categories. This was just one of the many other records she broke in that tournament. (4)
5. Usain Bolt
There are only a few people in the world who wouldn’t be able to tell you the name of the fastest person on Earth. Usain Bolt, a Jamaican sprinter, is considered the best sprinter in the world by many.
He has a record high running speed of 44.72 km/h, a speed no other known person has reached before. He also holds the record for the 100-meter race, completing it in just 9.58 seconds at the 2009 IAAF World Championships. Amazingly, the 2nd and 3rd place also belong to Usain Bolt with a 9.63 and 9.69-second record.
Usain Bolt also holds an impressive Olympic record. He’s won gold medals in 3 consecutive Olympics held in Beijing in 2008, London in 2012, and Rio de Janeiro in 2016. (5)
6. Cristiano Ronaldo
Perhaps the most famous name in the field of football, this Portuguese player has reached some impressive feats in his football career that few others have.
Ronaldo has won five Ballon d’Or awards, with a total of 17 nominations. He has also received four European Golden Shoe awards, more than any other European player. He has won many other awards, including the La Liga Award for Most Valuable Player, the FIFA World Player of the Year Award, etc. He was also selected Player of the Century 2001–2020.
His influence reaches far beyond sports. He was on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2014. Moreover, he was ranked the world’s highest-paid athlete by Forbes Magazine in 2016 and 2017. ESPN also ranked him the world’s most famous athlete from 2016 to 2019. (6)
7. Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi is regarded by many as the greatest footballer of all time. Born in Argentine, he took the world by storm with his football skills at an impressively young age. Messi led the Argentine team to the finals in the 2014 World Cup. He has the number 2 spot on the world’s highest-paid athletes.
He has won the Ballon d’Or record a total of 7 times- more than any other player in the world. He also has the highest number of goals in La Liga, with an all-time total of 474 goals, a lot more than any other player has ever managed. Messi also has the record of the most European Golden Shoe awards won, winning a total of 6 awards.
As a person, Messi has made many philanthropic contributions to society. He has contributed frequently to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) and served as their goodwill ambassador in 2010. He also donated $1.1 million to fight the spread of the current pandemic. (7)
8. Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic is regarded by most as the best tennis player of all time. He was born in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1987 and began playing tennis at the young age of 4. His career only got better and better as time progressed.
Novak Djokovic is currently ranked Number 1 by the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals). He has won a total of 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles, including 9 Australian Open titles. He has also won 86 ATP singles titles. He has won 37 Masters Events, the highest ever won by any player.
He also has achieved amazing feats off-court. His charity organization, the Novak Djokovic Foundation, has helped many children living in disadvantaged communities live healthier and safer lives. (8)
9. Simone Biles
Simone Biles is considered the greatest gymnast of all time. She was born in the US in 1997 and began her career in gymnastics at a very young age.
At just 19, she won 7 gold medals at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. 4 of the medals were gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze. She also won 25 World Championship medals, 19 of them being gold medals. She is the first-ever athlete to achieve this. She is also the first person to win 3 consecutive all-around titles from 2013 to 2015.
Biles is appreciated for performing immensely difficult skills in gymnastics, and she performs them flawlessly. All this has made her become the “Most Decorated Gymnast” of all time. (9)
10. Tom Brady
Tom Brady is a quarterback for the New England Patriots, a professional American football team. He is widely regarded as the best in his field by many. Brady was born in 1977 and had been playing American football since as far back as 1995. Now, at the age of 44, he’s going strong and still seems far from retiring.
He has successfully led his teams to a total of 7 Super Bowl victories in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021. He was also given the title of the game’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) five times in 2002, 2004, 2015, 2017, and 2021. He has also won 3 NFL Most Valuable Player awards, among his many other achievements in the field. (10)
All these athletes have accomplished what few others in the world have. They haven’t just contributed to the sports they play but managed to touch the lives of the people that support them. Their lives, on and off-court, continue to influence and motivate millions across the globe.