Athletes have been around since the inception of human civilization. However, some athletes have risen above the rest by influencing the world through much more than just their athletic prowess. These are the top 10 most influential athletes of all time who have made a significant impact not just in their respective sports, but also in the world.
1. Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is considered by many to be the greatest athlete of all time not just for his prowess in the boxing ring, but also for his activism outside of it. He served as an inspiration for African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, famously declaring “I am the greatest,” and was also known for peacefully resisting the Vietnam War.
2. Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, becoming the first African American player in Major League Baseball in 1947. His incredible talent on the field and persistence through racist opposition opened the door for generations of athletes who followed in his footsteps.
3. Jesse Owens
Jesse Owens made history at the 1936 Nazi Olympics in Berlin, winning four gold medals and shattering the notion of Aryan supremacy. His victory stood as a statement against the racial intolerance of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.
4. Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King is one of the most influential female athletes in history, fighting for gender equality in sports at a time when female athletes were not given equal treatment or pay. Her victory over male tennis player Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” match in 1973 was a pivotal moment in the women’s liberation movement.
5. Arthur Ashe
Arthur Ashe was an outstanding tennis player, but his influence goes far beyond his athletic achievements. He used his platform to fight for social justice, becoming an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and racial equality.
6. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan is one of the most iconic basketball players of all time and is credited with elevating NBA to the global phenomenon it is today. His brand, Jordan, is one of the most successful in sporting history and has shaped the sneaker industry as we know it.
7. Serena Williams
Serena Williams is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. She has used her platform to advocate for gender and racial equality, and has been an inspiration to people around the world for overcoming adversity and pursuing their goals.
8. Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt is undoubtedly the greatest sprinter of all time, holding the world record in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash. He has become a global superstar and a symbol of hope for athletes from developing countries.
Pele is widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time and helped popularize the sport around the world. He has been an ambassador for the sport and has used his influence to advocate for social change.
10. Bill Russell
Bill Russell is one of the most decorated players in NBA history, winning 11 championships with the Boston Celtics. However, his impact goes beyond his incredible athletic achievements. He was a prominent leader in the civil rights movement, advocating for racial equality both on and off the court.
In conclusion, these athletes have made a significant impact not just in their respective sports, but also in the broader world. Their influence has gone beyond the realm of athletics, showing us that sports have the power to unite, inspire, and create positive change in society.