As sports fans when we sit down with our friends we spend a lot of time asking each other and asking our own self, who is the greatest athlete or a sportsperson the world had ever witnessed? Now this is a tough question to answer and the answer may vary from a person to person so coming to a precise conclusion is a herculean task. It is a common fact but most of us will deny it that we tend to favor a person of our nation or someone who is our favorite but here without any bias I will try to list out the top 10 sporting legends of all time who had left their imprints on the sands of time :
10. Michael Schumacher
Michael Schumacher was born on 3rd January 1969 in Hurth, North Rhine-Westphalia to Elisabeth and Rolf Schumacher. He started kart racing at an early age and won his first club championship aged just six. He also won the German and European kart championship in 1885 and 1987 respectively and the German Formula 3 series in 1990 racing for Willi Weber’s WTS Formula 3 team. He made his Formula 1 or F1 race debut with Jordan team finishing the race seventh at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix. He won the Drivers championship in the seasons 1994 and 1995 with the team Benetton and then moved to Ferrari in 1996 with whom he won five consecutive drivers title from 2000-2004. He retired in 2006 but returned from retirement back to F1 in 2010 signing a 3-year contract with the new Mercedes team. Michael Schumacher is the most successful and the greatest F1 racer of all time with 7 driver’s titles, 91 wins and 68 pole positions to his name. He holds the most number of F1 racing records that are present and according to the Formula 1 website Michael Schumacher is “statistically the greatest driver the sport has ever seen” .
9. Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Jackie Joyner-Kersee, in full Jacqueline Joyner-Kersee is a retired American athlete. She was born on March 3, 1962 in St. Louis, Illinois, U.S.A. She went to University of California at Los Angeles to attend college where she starred in track and field events as well as basketball. She represented America in the Olympics games 5 times from 1984 Los Angeles to 2000 Sydney Olympics winning 3 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals in four of them and failing to clear in the trails in the last. She became the first athlete to score more 7000 points in the heptathlon and is listed among the all-time greatest women athletes in the long jump and heptathlon. Jackie Joyner-Kersee has also been voted as the Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th century by a magazine.
8. Muhammad Ali
Born as Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr on 17th January 1942, he is the most famous professional boxer of all time and the greatest heavyweight champion in the world. Even though he has a bad boy image his strong punches and quick reflexes coupled with tough training regime made him the first person to win the heavyweight championship three times. In 1960 Olympic Games held in Rome he won the gold medal defeating Zbigniew Pietrzyskowski from Poland in the light-heavyweight championship. In 1964 at an age of 22 he won the heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston in what can be called the biggest and most famous boxing matches in history, but after a short while he changed his name to Muhammad Ali and converted to Islam. Muhammad Ali is considered as the most controversial sportsperson of modern times and he was stripped of all his heavyweight titles and banned for life by the American government on draft evasion charges when Ali refused to fight in the Vietnam War. In all he won 56 professional boxing matches of which 37 were knockout and lost just only 5 matches which speak for Muhammad Ali’s inclusion in the list of top 10 sporting legends.
7. Michael Jordan
Although a small summary of his illustrious basketball career and his influence and impact on the game fails to do any justice, as an incredible athlete with a mix of sound technique, grace, force, ability and an insatiable desire Michael Jordan showed the world how a real NBA superstar plays. He first played NBA for Chicago Bulls and in the same year he averaged 28.2 and was selected for the NBA all star game and was named as “rookie of the year”. This was just a beginning of the awards and accolades that were to follow and he later went on to win five regular season MVP awards, six NBA finals MVP and a staggering six NBA championships. He retired in 1993 but two years later he made a comeback and the basketball superstar led the Chicago Bulls to three consecutive NBA titles and etched his name in the history as the “Greatest NBA player of all time”.
6. Jesse Owens
James Cleveland Jesse Owens was born on September 12, 1913 and was the son of a sharecropper and the grandson of a slave. He was an American athlete and achieved what none other Olympic before him had ever accomplished. He showed the entire world that blacks are in no way inferior to their white counterparts by winning the four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, one each in 100 m, 200m, 4 X 100m relay and the long jump and becoming the most successful athlete of the 1936 Olympics. He was so dominant of his time that even though he is a black, U.S.A in recognition of his achievements and in his honor started giving Jesse Owens Award, USA’s highest track and field award.
5. Michael Phelps
Michael Fred Phelps is a retired American swimmer and he hold the world record for the most number of Olympic medals and is considered the most decorated Olympian of all time. Born on June 30th, 1985 he is the youngest son of Deborah Sue and Michael Fred Phelps. He began swimming at the age of 7, and qualified for the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics at the age of 15 making him the youngest male swimmer to represent the U.S team in 68 years. Although he did not win any medal he made it to the finals and finished 5th in the 200-m butterfly. In the 2004 Athens Olympics he won 6 gold and 2 Bronze medals and had the second best performance in a single edition of games behind the seven gold medals of Mark Spitz. He won 8 gold medals in 2008 Beijing Olympic games and made a record for the most gold medals in a single edition of games. Later in the 2012 London Olympics he won 4 gold and 3 silver medals, taking his overall tally to 22 medals of which 18 are gold which is a world record. His rare achievements as an Olympic swimmer is something that is awe inspiring and make him one of the greatest sporting legends of the world.
4. Major Dhyan Chand
Born on 29th August 1905, in Allahabad U.P, India, as Dhyan Chand he is acknowledged by many as the greatest player of Field Hockey all over the world. He worshiped Hockey as a religion and he was the first sportsperson who put India on the global sporting map so that the whole of the world can stand up and take notice. His clever stick work, judicious passes and penetrating runs combined with a magical ability to score goals inspired and attracted many to his matches during the 1936 Berlin Olympics and he was also appreciated by the mighty Hitler. He won three Olympic gold medals with the Indian team in 1928 Amsterdam, 1932 Los Angeles and in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. His mastery with the hockey stick and the control over the ball earned him the title of “The Wizard of Hockey”. In his honor 29th August his birthday is celebrated as National Sports Day in India. Dhyan Chand the Wizard is to hockey what Don Bradman is to cricket and Pele is to football.
3. Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar is an Indian cricketer and a right handed batsman born on 24th April 1973. He started playing cricket at an early age of 11 and made his international debut for India against Pakistan in a test match at an age of 16. He holds many records known to the cricketing world and with his mastery and class he caught the world’s imagination. Sachin Tendulkar is known as the “God of cricket” and there have not been any other player matching his caliber. The batting records that he holds will surely stand for a century as it is near impossible for any other player to amass 30,000 runs in international cricket. His love for the game, sheer hard work and practice he put in the game made him the greatest cricketer of the world. He has been honored with the Arjuna Award, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Padma Shri, Padma Vibhushan, and also the Bharat Ratna the highest civilian award of India by the Indian government.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento also known as Pele is a Brazilian retired Football player. Hailed as a National Hero in Brazil, Pele’s contribution and accomplishments to the game of Football earned him the title of “Athlete of the Century” by IOC and Reuters in 1999. In the same year International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) voted him as “World’s Player of the Century”. He made his debut in professional Football at the age of 15 playing for Santos, then represented his national team at 16 and won his first Football world cup at 17. He is also the only player to have ever won 3 world cup titles and according to IFFHS he is the most successful Footballer ever to have played the game scoring 541 league goals. He is features in the Guinness World Records for scoring the most number of goals i.e. 1281 goals in 1363 games. He is regarded as the best player of all time and is said to be a sporting legend without any ounce of doubt.
1. Donald Bradman
Sir Donald George Bradman was an Australian cricket player whose greatness as a batsman is unquestionable and even his critics agree that there was no one who matched his class and there would never be. Born on 27th August 1908 at Cootamundra, New South Wales he was the youngest son of George and Emily. He made his first class debut for New South Wales team as a replacement for the injured Archie Jackson and scored a hundred on debut with an innings of 118 and cemented his place in the team. He made his test debut with England scoring only 18 and 1 that resulted in Bradman losing his place for the 2nd test but he was recalled for the 3rd test where he scored 79 and 112 to register himself as the youngest player to score a test century. Even to this date the sheer magnitude of Sir Don Bradman’s record catches every ones eye with 29 centuries and an average of 99.94 none can even dream to come close to his batting average. His records are nonetheless remarkable in an era that witnessed the lethal bowling attack of the West Indies greats.