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Top 10 Greatest Athletes in Sports History

Publish Date: 06/26/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

The Greatest athlete of all time is an interesting topic, and everybody seems to have a different opinion. So today, we will give you our list of the Top 10 Athletes of all time.

Criteria

We are looking for multiple sports athletes. Sure, Gretzky and Jordan were spectacular, and while Jordan did play some minor league baseball, they are not qualified for the title of the greatest athlete of all time.

10) Bob Gibson

Did you know Bob Gibson was once part of the Harlem Globetrotters? Well, he was.

At Creighton University, Gibson averaged 22 points per game and garnered the attention of the Trotters because he could score with reverse jams – helping them humiliate any and all adversaries. He even earned nine All-Star selections during his two World Series championship runs!

Gibson amassed an outstanding 1.12 ERA in 1968, won two Cy Young Awards, and won nine Gold Gloves, cementing his spot on our countdown list.

9) Charlie Ward

In 1993, Ward won three extremely prestigious awards: the Heisman Trophy, the Davey O’Brien Award and the Maxwell Award.

You see, Chuck led Florida State to a national championship when his Seminoles tiptoed past Nebraska 18-16 in the Orange Bowl. During the regular season, Ward threw for 3,032 yards and 27 touchdowns. He completed 69.5 percent of his passes and was only picked off four times.

But Ward was a bit undersized. Standing only 6’2″, Ward was projected to be taken in the third round of the NFL draft. To Charlie, that was unacceptable. He had other options. At Florida State, he was a standout basketball player too. A defensive specialist, Ward still holds FSU’s all-time steals record with 236.

Charlie elected to sign with the Knicks in 1994 after they used their first-round pick on him. He played more than a decade in the NBA but was never more than a role player. He never averaged more than eight points a game and finished with a career field-goal percentage of .408.

Ward was also drafted by the Brewers and Yankees despite the fact that he never once stepped on a college baseball field.

Video: Charlie Ward Florida State Highlights | ACC Icon

Charlie Ward Florida State Highlights | ACC Icon

8) Dave Winfield

Dave Winfield earned first-ballot Baseball Hall of Fame consideration. Over his 25-year career, he amassed more than 3,000 hits and hit 465 homeruns – an extraordinary accomplishment in any lifetime! As a middle of the order hitter for over 20 years he never stopped producing results, even after turning 40 years old!

Winfield excelled with the 1992 Jays, hitting at an impressive.290 average and hitting 26 home runs while driving in 108 runs for 108 RBIs – also winning his only World Series title ever before during an illustrious career.

Winfield was not limited to baseball; his athleticism extended beyond that realm as well. While at Minnesota, Winfield excelled on both the basketball court and in baseball; his skills earned him selections with both NBA (Atlanta Hawks) and ABA teams (Utah Stars).

Winfield was taken by the Minnesota Vikings in the 17th round of the NFL draft despite never playing college football; instead he was chosen purely due to his athleticism.

Video: Dave Winfield Career Highlights

Dave Winfield Career Highlights

7) Babe Didrikson Zaharias

The most outstanding female athlete of all time. Standout basketball player, Olympic gold medalist, track athlete, and champion golfer.

Be kind, men. Babe Didrikson Zaharias epitomized adaptability.

Let’s start with one of Babe’s lesser-known talents: basketball. She was an All-American. Do I really need to say more?

Babe won three Olympic medals at the 1932 Los Angeles Games: gold in the 80-meter hurdles event, silver in the high jump and one more gold in the javelin throw.

Babe was honored with induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame. She led LPGA earnings in 1950 and 1951, won U.S. Opens in 1948, 1950, and 1954β€”she may well have won moreβ€”and succumbed to colon cancer at 45.

Video: Babe Didrikson at Los Angeles 1932 | Epic Olympic Moments

Babe Didrikson at Los Angeles 1932 | Epic Olympic Moments

6) Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson was not only a visionary leader for civil rights but was an incredible athlete as well.

Jackie won the 1949 National League MVP Award and stole nearly 200 bases in 1955, helping propel his Bums to their first-ever World Series Championship win. As an honor for his contribution, his number has been retired across baseball in his name.

Jackie was also a star at UCLA, earning four varsity letters across four sports: baseball, football, track and basketball. On the track alone he claimed victory as NCAA long jump champion in 1940.

Video: Jackie Robinson Career Highlights

Jackie Robinson Career Highlights

5) Bob Hayes

Who holds both an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring? Here is some trivia:

Answer: Bob Hayes was a “Bullet.”

Hayes held world records in four sprint events: 60 yards, 100 yards, 220-yard and 100 meters. At Tokyo 1964 Olympics he earned two gold medals: in 100 meters and 4×100 relay races.

Not yet convinced?Hayes also scored 71 touchdowns during his NFL career and was honored as a three-time Pro Bowler, spending most of it with Dallas Cowboys where he served as an elite receiver and helped lead them to Super Bowl VI victory over Miami Dolphins by three touchdowns.

Video: Bob Hayes Highlights

Bob Hayes Highlights

4) Deion Sanders

One of the greatest shutdown corners in NFL history with blinding speed. Also one of the best return men in history. Just think what he could have done if allowed to play offense more? Also, a quality MLB player who helped the Braves and Reds get to the postseason.

Video: Best of

Best of “Prime Time” Deion Sanders! BEST 2 Sport HIGHLIGHTS EVER!!

3) Jim Brown

In high school, he earned 13 letters playing five sports: football, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, and track. At Syracuse University, he earned All-American honors in both football and lacrosse. By some accounts, he was the best player in the country in both sports.Β  In lacrosse, he led the nation in scoring while leading Syracuse to the National Collegiate Lacrosse Championship.

Brown is a member of both the college and professional football Halls of Fame and the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. So imagine this man who may have been the greatest that ever lived in two completely separate sports!

Video: Jim Brown (Syracuse -Lacrosse).mov

Jim Brown (Syracuse -Lacrosse).mov

2) Bo Jackson

A tremendous college football player at Auburn University (Heisman Trophy winner, rushed for 4,303 yards with 6.6 yards-per-carry avg.), an outstanding professional baseball player (All-Star, batted .250 with 141 home runs, 415 RBI, .474 slugging percentage, and a great arm), and had a great professional football career that was way too short (rushed for 2,782 yards, averaged 5.4 yards a carryβ€”better than Brown’s 5.22). To think what he might have accomplished in both sports without the injuries… could have been mind-boggling.

Video: Bo Jackson: Unbelievable Career Highlights from Every Sport and Team

Bo Jackson: Unbelievable Career Highlights from Every Sport and Team

Β 

1) Jim Thorpe

A 6’1″, a 180-pound brick of a man. He was a two-time football All-American at Carlisle and was considered the best football (his favorite sport) player in the country (although there were no awards at the time). In 1911, he led Carlisle to an 11-1 record and then to the National Collegiate Championship in 1912, scoring 25 touchdowns and 198 points.Β  He played four positions: running back, defensive back, placekicker, and punter.

Also, in 1912, in the Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, he easily won the gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon, winning an impressive 8 out of the 15 individual events that were part of the two competitions.Β  Thorpe’s Olympic record of 8,413 points in the decathlon stood for nearly two decades.

He also starred in track and field, was a good baseball and lacrosse player, and even won a ballroom dancing contest while at Carlisle. He also dabbled in wrestling and basketball exhibitions at various times in his life. He became a star in professional football (although there was no official league until 1920), retiring at the age of 41 in 1928. On top of that, he was a decent professional baseball player, batting .252 lifetime with a .327 average in his final season in 1919.

Video: Jim Thorpe: All American Athlete, Olympian, Hero

Jim Thorpe: All American Athlete, Olympian, Hero

Β 

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