Sports might not be as significant and effective in human life and activity as science, technology, education, business, and politics but they definitely have their own role to play in society not only today but also from the days of ancient Greece and Rome. Next to the music, film, and TV industries, sports entertain or, in rare cases, even offer national pride to fans around the world. There have been various polls and rankings in many different countries about the world’s greatest athletes of all time with most of them either focusing on a few major sports or, even worse, focusing exclusively on athletes from one country ignoring, in this way, many great athletes from different parts of the world. With this list we will attempt to rank the 25 greatest male athletes in history by sport.
20. Yiannis Kouros, Ultra Marathon
Yiannis Kouros is the definition of athlete that makes you truly wonder about the true capacities and limits of the human body and soul. He’s racing against nature, time, distance, and as he has stated when his body cannot carry him anymore he does it via his mind. However, he remains widely unknown outside running circles, even though he is the athlete from any sport that holds the most world records according to the Guinness Book of World Records, and the human who has run more miles than any other in recorded history. Kouros has set over 150 world records competing in races such as the one from Athens to Sparta, from Sydney to Melbourne, 1,000-mile races, and six-day events, and has won over seventy world ultra marathon titles in an incredible career that has lasted over thirty years.
15. Jim Brown, American Football
Just like in most other team sports there’s a great debate about who’s the greatest in NFL history and opinions vary widely. Some will say Jerry Rice, some Joe Montana, and more recently, Peyton Manning, who has gained supporters after breaking several records, including the one for most MVP awards in NFL history. However, most players and experts will tell you that Jim Brown is the greatest ever and for a good reason too. In 118 career games, Brown averaged 104.3 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry. None of the NFL’s career rushing leaders comes even close to these staggering numbers. When Brown retired from the sport he was the highest-paid and most-honored NFL player of his day and one of the very first superstars the sport had ever produced. In 2002, Sporting News named him the greatest professional football player of all time.
10. Michael Schumacher, Auto Racing
With all due respect to the great champions NASCAR, WRC, and Moto GP have produced during the past decades, Formula-1 is one of the three most popular and highest-paying individual sports in the world along with tennis and golf; for that reason the king of F-1, Michael Schumacher, gets the nod as the greatest driver of all time. During his illustrious career he broke many records in the world’s most popular auto racing sport including the most world championships with seven, the most race victories with ninety-one, the fastest laps with seventy-seven, and most pole positions with sixty-eight. He was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year twice and is the second-richest athlete of all time behind Michael Jordan with an estimated net worth of $850 million.
5. Muhammad Ali, Boxing
Some will tell you that Sugar Ray Robinson is the greatest pound for pound boxer who ever lived and for that matter Muhammad Ali would even agree with such a statement since he was a huge fan of “Sugar.” Muhammad Ali didn’t have more title defenses than Joe Louis, he didn’t retire undefeated like Rocky Marciano did, he didn’t hold the title as long as current champion Wladimir Klitschko, and he definitely didn’t make as much money as Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather made in the modern era of the sport, but when it comes to legacy nobody will ever be able to touch Muhammad Ali. Ali is the most famous boxer of all time and one of the most famous athletes who ever lived regardless of sport. His colorful personality and struggle against racism and injustice gave him a heroic status and inspired many of his fellow African-American citizens to stand up and fight for their rights during an era of change. There’s no doubt that there have been many great boxers from antiquity to today and due to the many weight divisions it’s really hard to compare their skills and reign but there’s only one boxer who managed to become bigger than the sport itself and we all agree that this man is Muhammad Ali.