Firstly, I wanted to state this isn’t a traditional G.O.A.T debate this is a greatest athlete of all time based on a survey in which we asked 50 people to fill out a Cross Sport G.O.A.T Bracket and we based the order of these rankings on your consensus and thoughts. We told voters that they could use any bias premise they like, and greatest athlete can mean anything they want it to mean from greatest pure athlete, greatest social impact, greatest in sport dominance, or even simply if you got to pick someone’s career to have a replica of, out of everyone’s who’s would you want. The last part of that was important in many people’s decision on who the greatest athlete of all time is. We then recorded everyone’s answers and listened to their reasoning and complied these arguments.
(For the Full list of 24 greatest athletes, click the link at the bottom of the page)
10. Wayne Gretzky – 93 Points
Reasoning For: He literally is the greatest Hockey player of all-time and it isn’t disputed, he also has stats that will never be broken in hockey. At almost 900 career goals he is only in first place by around 80 goals, however while being the all-time leader in scores, he is also over 650 assists ahead of second place Ron Francis a record that will never be broken. He is also the all-time leader in point accounted for per game by a wide margin over his HOF peers. Gretzky won 4 Stanley Cups and lost a 5th in his career while having all the statistical achievements you could dream of in the sport.
Reasoning Against: He played hockey and many either didn’t think a hockey players career was as great as some of these other careers. Again, this is everyone’s own biased and had we asked more hockey fans he may be a few spots higher on this list. Regardless he cracked the top 10 despite drawing a horrible first round match-up against Tom Brady. Had a given him a better seed coming into this tournament he would have at least surpassed Jackie Robinson in points.
# Of Top 3 Votes: 2 2nd Place Votes, 5 3rd Place Votes
9. Jackie Robinson – 97 Points
Reasoning For: Jackie became the first African American to play baseball in a sport and country that at the time had a history of racism, and while it wasn’t easy, and Jackie was threatened by fans, locals, teammates, and pretty much everyone in-between during his time with the then Brooklyn Dodgers. Still to this day he’s top 10 all-time in Steals at home plate. He even won the MLB Rookie of the year despite the institutionalized racism because of how utterly dominant he was. He was also the first Black player to even win the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949.
Reasoning Against: He isn’t the greatest baseball of all-time and most voters who didn’t go with him were judging based on pure dominance in one’s sport. With everything considered Jackie was a near shoe in for this top 10 list although he didn’t finish too far ahead of Gretzky, Serena, and Sanders despite his clear dominance in the social impact category. That means voters most likely weighed social impact and dominance in one’s sport evenly.
# Of Top 3 Votes:
8. Tiger Woods – 114 Points
Reasoning For: Tiger Woods has 17 Major championship wins and 80 PGA tour wins in his career placing him second all-time in both categories. Woods also had the most dominant stretch of Golf the sport has Bobby Jones, when he held all 4 major championships within the same calendar year. This is a feat he’d accomplish again as he has 3 career Grand Slams (winning all 4 majors at least once in your career). Tiger is only 42 years old and is fresh off a season in which he showed he could contend again week in and week out. He also is the biggest draw golf has ever seen and carries their sport in a way Lebron and Jordan wouldn’t even understand. Prior to his messy divorce and injuries Tiger was well on his way to become a billionaire athlete as well, which he is still close to doing having a current net worth of approx. 800 million.
Reasoning Against: He doesn’t have the most major wins, or the most PGA tour wins but many still regard him as the greatest golfer of All-Time. He is also playing golf which is a technical sport, and many don’t consider to be the same sort of athlete as a Jordan or Lebron. So, the biggest knock against tiger is many preferred others careers and social impact over Tigers.
# Of Top 3 Votes:1 1st Place Vote, 2 2nd Place Votes, 4 3rd Place Votes
7. Lionel Messi – 123 Points
Reasoning For: Many people regard him as the greatest soccer player of all-time or even if you aren’t one of those many considered him without a doubt one of the three greatest soccer players ever. He’s the only player in history to score 40+ goals in consecutive seasons. He has the most European golden shoe awards at 5. Messi has won 9 La Liga titles, 4 UEFA Championships and 6 Copas del Rey’s plus many others for a total of 33 trophies. The amount of 1st place votes Messi received shocked me and those who argued him as the greatest of all-time say he’s playing the greatest sport in the world and is the greatest of all-time in their opinion. From numbers alone though it seems he has a long way to go.
Reasoning Against: He hasn’t led Argentina to a World Cup when many others have several including Pele, who is also 2nd All-Time in goals with 1,281 which is more than double Messi’s current total. So, for me not being a soccer fan this is surprising that fans voted in this way and my only conclusion can be that many voted with their knowledge of today. He may not even be the most famous soccer player right now or even the best in many people’s eyes as Ronaldo is beats him in several categories although Messi is 2 years younger.
# Of Top 3 Votes: 3 1st Place Votes, 1 2nd Place Vote, 3 3rd place votes
6. Floyd Mayweather – 128 Points
Reasoning For: 50-0, literally ever person who made an argument for Floyd as the greatest athlete of All-Time said that out of everyone’s career how could you not want a 50-0 boxing career in which you make a ridiculous amount of money for each fight. Floyd is the biggest draw in boxing today, and without him the sport loses a ton of its casual fans who just tune in to see if anyone can beat the now 41-year-old “retired” boxer. The argument Is almost full proof, he’s playing an individual sport that is just as much about physical dominance as it is technical skills and thinking. With a long history of great fighters, and he managed to go though 50 fights unbeaten.
Reasoning Against: The flip side to that many believe he picked his fights and fought his opponents far past their prime. Regardless of the circumstances, he is 50-0 and many voters showed him that respect among the greatest athletes. However, he still fell short of the 5 athletes ahead of him and I believe it was rightfully so as they have had more impressive careers. I am shocked at how many 1st place votes he received, 6/50 people voted for Floyd as the G.O.A.T
# OF Top 3 Votes: 6 1st Place Votes, 3 2nd Place Votes, 6 3rd Place Votes
5. Michael Phelps – 142 Points
Reasoning For: He is the greatest Olympian in history, a sport and event that nearly all countries participate in and have since the begging of time. He is in the history books unlike any other athlete on this, (Bolt has won the most Golds for a runner). With a total of 23 Gold Medals and 28 total medals; if he was his own individual country, he’d have more Gold Medals than Portugal and be ranked in the Top 60 countries in the world by himself. His dominance is stunning, and he has brought more eyes to the sport of swimming than anyone else in his sport could dream of.
Reasoning Against: He does have multiple silver and bronze medals, meaning he has been beaten and he has had some out of water issues that led to him serving a brief suspension, along with him having retired for a brief period, but that isn’t much of an argument as he came back to win multiple Gold Medals in the 2016 Rio Olympics. I will say that he may have just been the recipient of the easiest path to the final 6 going up against Jim Brown, and Usain Bolt.
# Of Top 3 Votes: 4 1st Place Votes, 2 2nd Place Votes, 2 3rd Place Votes
4. Tom Brady – 147 Points
Reasoning For: 5 Super Bowl wins and on his way to another playoff berth at 41, while having the Most TD’s in Regular Season + Playoffs combined. He’s the greatest Quarterback the game of football has seen, and he’s led the Patriots to dominance over the span of nearly 2 decades winning a Super Bowl in a little over 1/4th of his NFL seasons and going to the Super Bowl an astounding 42.9% of the time. In a league that is driven on parity and that any given Sunday anyone can win, that may be true; if you’re not playing Tom Brady. Voters loved his resume and honestly ask yourself how could you not want to Quarterback an NFL franchise to 5 Super Bowls?
Reasoning Against: He’s lost multiple super bowls, and many believe his coach has a lot to do with their constant success and winning so many Super Bowls. None the less 13/50 people still have Brady as a top 3 greatest athlete of all-time, if he wins a 6th Super Bowl though he may just close this gap and even launch himself ahead of the three men ahead of him on this list. Brady also lost points among some voters for being a QB and not exactly being the same level of athlete that these other individuals are. Brady has also long stayed out of politics and social issues resulting in him not receiving in votes for his contributions off the field as much as he has for his in the pocket.
# Of Top 3 Votes: 6 First Place Votes, 5 2nd Place Votes, 2 3rd Place Votes
3. Muhammad Ali – 177 Points
Reasoning For: A 3 Time Heavy-weight champion, Ali moved like no one could believe for someone of his size and power, and Ali made opponents pay throughout the years. And while his dominance in the ring as well his footwork being legendary to say the least most of his votes and recognition among the greatest athletes has a lot to do with his activism both political, racial, and in his community serving as one of the most important athlete activists in history. Ali compiled 56 wins over his career while knocking out 37 opponents and only losing 5 bouts, while never picking and choosing opponents. He was up for the fight (even though he preached peace) no matter if the opponent was Joe Frazier or the U.S. Government.
Reasoning Against: The argument against Ali in many cases was voters were looking at the career accomplishments and simply stating what career looks the most impressive or you’d want a replica of., and while Ali was great many boxers have better records. But I mean c’mon he’s Muhammad Ali this isn’t really a discussion, right? He’s still rightfully at the top of the list in most 1st place votes as the majority of people thing he’s the greatest athlete of all-time. However, more people had the two people above him ranked in their top 3 a whole lot more frequently throughout the survey.
# Of Top 3 Votes: 12 1st Place Votes, 6 2nd Place Votes, 3 3rd Place Votes
2. Michael Jordan – 184 Points
Reasoning For: He’s a perfect 6-0 with 6 FMVP’s, a record 10 scoring Titles, and 5 MVP awards while dominating in a fashion that has been utterly unmatched in the NBA. Jordan has a legacy on the court that is unblemished and nearly untouchable in many ways, and to many people he will never be surpassed by anyone no matter what they accomplish. Jordan is even a star and polarizing figure to LeBron as he not only wears 23 because of Jordan but was quoted saying “meeting Michael Jordan was like meeting God”. Jordan has the career, shoes, recognition, and all the money you could want from a career.
Reasoning Against: Jordan doesn’t really have off the court impact to lean on and just looking at numbers and accomplishments many argued in his second-round match-up with Jordan that Kareem has as many rings, more MVP’s, and is the All-Time leading scorer in NBA history. Which untimely cost Jordan the win over Lebron by the slimmest of Margins despite Lebron having less 1st place and 2nd place finishes and more last place finishes.
# Of Top 3 Votes:8 1st Place Votes, 10 2nd Place Votes, 8 3rd Place Votes
- Lebron James – 185 Points
Reasoning For: The argument for Lebron James is his combination of skill, longevity, pure athletic ability, IQ, and some social stances mixed in LeBron is the most polarizing athlete of our time and the most talked about daily. Many believed he was the greatest athlete and made the argument his career is long from mover, meaning we don’t even know what he’s still to accomplish on and off the court and for how much longer he can do so at an elite level. Now if he plays another 7 years, he will be the All-Time Leader in Points and Top 5 All-Time in Assists, while possibly having went to a record number of NBA Finals appearances depending on how Free Agency and such works out over the next couple months. He even had many argue the fact he’s just simply the best pure athlete on this list.
Reasoning Against: Many still don’t think he is better than Jordan now or ever can become better than Jordan, there were also several we surveyed who didn’t have Lebron making it out of the first round simply because they didn’t like him and wanted to take Armstrong. This isn’t an argument against I’m just stating the fact 3 people out of 50 took Lance Armstrong over LeBron James. Lebron has many stigmas and losses on his record that voters who had people like Brady, Jordan, Floyd and others towards the end of their bracket was putting a premium on winning.
# Of Top 3 Votes: 7 1st Place Votes, 9 2nd Place Votes, 9 3rd Place Votes
Honorable Mention: Bo Jackson is actually the greatest athlete of All-Time but we didn’t include him in our Survey, but if we did he’d likely have wound up number one on this list.