Who are the Top 5 Best Athletes of all time?

This should be a great debate. Everyone has their own favorites form their own generations. To make this a little more streamlined lets look at everyone as an athlete. This means who has the best combination of all the components of athleticism. I would argue that my childhood hero John Elway is the best football player of all time but he was clearly not the best athlete. 

So what we are looking for here is athletes that could do it all. I have become much more of a fan of athletes than specific teams. When I was growing up in Denver I was, like every other boy in the city, enamored with with Broncos. I did not even care about other teams or their players. If you were not a Bronco I did not care about you. When I moved to Oregon all we had was the Blazers. They were great but I learned to have to appreciate other football players. This was before the days of the NFL Network and the internet so I was at the Mercy of watching whatever the local television wanted me to see that week. 

This coupled with my career choice has made it enjoyable to watch athletes for their abilities as opposed to just following a team only. 

So here are 5 athletes that I watched during my life to this point. This is going to be hard but I think I can get a top 5. As always these will not be any a specific order, its hard enough just getting it narrowed to 5.

These photos are Courtesy of Google Images.

1214_large1. Bo Jackson – If you are too young to have watched this guy play, you missed out. He was quite possibly the best running back of all time. He just also happened to be an All-Star caliber Major League Baseball Player. I am not a huge stat nerd but I do know that he would show up for football with the Raiders when baseball ended meaning he only go to play in 8 games or so each year and he would still rush for over a thousand yards. His combination of speed and power is unlike any one I have seen before or since. Of the current generation, maybe Adrian Peterson, maybe. His injury that prevented him from playing football again was a tragedy. He was absolutely amazing. 


lewisrun2. Carl Lewis – My favorite track athlete of all time. As a Head track coach I talk to my kids about this guy all the time. He was so dominant for so many years in both the sprints and the Long Jump. He to this day has one of the best strides ever. he made sprinting look effortless. Todays sprinters are just not the same. They train for more power which in turn ruins their stride (in my opinion). Lewis was a smooth as you could be while still running 100 meters in under 10 seconds. I also loved the fact that he did it all without cheating. When he lost to Ben Johnson in the Olympic Finals I was shocked. Then when the news came out that Johnson had cheated and used steroids it just made Lewis seem that much greater. You know your good when others are cheating to try to catch you.

lebron-james-dunk-news-sportscom3. Lebron James – I know he is young but seriously this guy is a freak. He is 6’9″ and weighs close to 280 pounds. Then when you watch him move he looks like a guy who is 5 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter. Next time you turn on a game and see the Cleveland Cavaliers, spend a few minutes and watch this guy move. He is capable of doing things that nobody else that size is capable of. I am trying to think what this guy would be capable of doing on a football field. It would be scary to see him in pads. 



jackie-joyner-kersey-pictures-34. Jackie Joyner Kersee I just do not think there has ever been a more complete athlete than JJ. She was the total package and still holds the record in the Heptathlon (I think). She was such an amazing combination of speed, power, grace and fluidity. I loved watching her compete growing up. Like Carl Lewis she made competing at an incredibly high level easy. Her stride looked so effortless and then watching her jump was jaw dropping. Go you tube some footage of her, trust me you will be impressed. I was, everytime I watched her. She was capable of things that most men will never even come close to. 


michael-phelps15. Michael Phelps – Ok I know this is a bit contradictory to what I said above about the complete athlete but feel free to argue against what was the single most impressive display in any sport ever. If you somehow managed to not witness what this guy accomplished at the olympics last summer time to get out of your cave. His performance in winning 8 golds while breaking a world record in most of them is just crazy. To me this would be like a Quarterback setting every single passing record all in the same season. Or maybe a basketball player leading the league in almost every statistical category. He may not be the total athlete  few of the others I have on my list are but still try to argue his dominance.

Ok Lets here your top 5. And yes I know I am going to take heat for putting Lebron James on here and not Michael Jordan.


10 Comments on this post


  1. Joe the Trainer said:

    This is going to be a great debate!

    There is so many different ways people can take this…from just pure freakishness to accomplishments in their sport. Our lists will differ at some points because I never got to see some of the greats from back in the day in action. I am going to go off of just pure athleticism not necessarily most accomplished athletes. So here we go:

    1. LeBron James: I think I have to start here, watching him play ball is amazing and he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants.
    1. Michael Jordan: He is on a whole other planet(Space Jam reference) when it comes to basketball, and the way he makes defenders look is priceless with his athleticism.
    3. Randy Moss: Watching him make some plays reminded me how athletic he really is, speed and jumping ability is a deadly combo, if there is a jump ball I wonder who is going to come down with it.
    4. Michael Johnson: Watching him run was special it just looked so effortless winning the 4 and 2 in world record times.
    5. I’m going to give this to Michael Phelps/Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. I don’t think they stack up athletically with everyone else but for their sport they are simply unbeatable. They may not be the best athletes in the world but they are the best at what they do so I think that should count in my vote.

    April 8th, 2009 at 1:32 pm
  2. coach S said:

    1) Bryan Clay – defending gold medalist and world champion in decathlon. most likely will break world record. best all-round athlete. he can run, sprint, hurdle, jump, vault, throw, whatever. he has it all.

    100m – 10.36 sec
    400m – 47.78 sec
    110m hurdles – 13.74 sec
    1500m – 4:38.93
    high jump – 6 feet, 10.5 inches
    long jump – 26 feet, 1.5 inches
    javelin – 236 feet, 2 inches
    pole vault – 16 feet, 11 inches
    discus – 183 feet, 3.5 inches
    shot put – 53 feet, 4.5 inches

    2) Usain Bolt – holds world records 100m at 9.69 and 200m at 19.32, also a part of Jamaican world record holding 4×1 relay team

    3) Michael Jordan – 5 NBA MVP’s, 6 NBA Championships. The guy can play some basketball

    4) Jerry Rice – greatest NFL wide receiver of all time

    5) Lance Armstrong/Michael Phelps – both the best at their particular sport. Don’t know how they would fare as all-round athletes off the bike and out of the water…

    April 8th, 2009 at 2:43 pm
  3. Scott said:

    I like both of those lists. I am a little hurt to not see John Elway on the list but i will get over it. Bryan Clay is amazing. No women on the lists though?

    April 8th, 2009 at 7:49 pm
  4. Joe the Trainer said:

    Good Point. No offense but I don’t think there is a female out there who can cover Moss in the open field or guard LeBron going to the basket. However, there are some amazing female athletes out there that would put me to shame I’m sure. I think mainly in the individual sports many of us would get dominated (Trying to return a serve from Serena or going heads up against Michelle Wie)

    What would you think you would have a better chance of success at? Covering Moss on fly route or returning a serve from one of the Williams sisters?

    April 8th, 2009 at 9:43 pm
  5. Ben said:

    All professional freerunners!
    Not that pro-athletes are worse, but traceurs (people in parkour) have amazing strength in the upper body for hand maneuvers (ie.handstands) and great legs for those trippy jumps and whatever else they do, and they have great balance.

    April 8th, 2009 at 10:20 pm
  6. Scott said:

    I would much rather cover Moss in the open field than try to return a serve headed right for my face going 120mph.

    April 12th, 2009 at 10:55 am
  7. AndrewBoldman said:

    Hi, cool post. I have been wondering about this topic,so thanks for writing.

    June 4th, 2009 at 7:07 am
  8. Ryan said:

    Come on scott I figured you would put Terrell Davis somewhere in this! 6th round draft pick (196th to be exact) and 6th string running back at start then worked his way up to be the starter and the runner up for the rookie of the year award. Ended up going to two back to back super bowls (XXXII and XXXIII) and winning them both being named Super Bowl MVP of XXXII and the NFL MVP the next season. And this guy almost didn’t even make it to the NFL! I can count on one hand the people that have rushed over 2000 yds in a single season and T.D. is one of them! The other guys on that list were drafted in the 1st round picks 1, 2, 3, and 5! This kid was 196th! You may say that he had an injury to end his career but it was because he was going to tackle a guy on a interception and one of the offensive lineman slid right into his knee causing him the injury. If that didn’t happen he would have continued his amazing career of dominance! So argue all you want, but Terrell Davis is definitely amazing in my eye.

    July 23rd, 2009 at 3:36 pm
  9. Scott said:

    Yea Terrell Davis was amazing! He would not be too far down this list for me but not in the top 5. Hey if it were top 5 Broncos of all time you know he would be in there!

    July 23rd, 2009 at 6:41 pm
  10. Ryan said:

    O ya along with John Elway and the best white reciever of all time…ED MCCAFFREY!!! After that i would really have to think about who the last two would be cuz i know some who be there but best i dont know.

    July 23rd, 2009 at 9:54 pm


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