The Most Iconic Athletes Of All-Time: Top 5

The most iconic athletes of all time remain one of the most debatable topics ever. This is due to individuals’ different opinions on whom they consider the best. Regardless of these personal suggestions, statistics and feats over time are the basis for making conclusions. Ultimately, the best athletes are selected and picked from the diverse fields in sports and then analyzed based on long-term achievements, contributions, and a track record of consistency. 

Every season, the list updates with new names and more improvements on the last. For footballers, there’s the addition of recent titles acquired, goals scored, and assists provided in a match. Although points and runs accumulated during NBA games are recorded for athletes on the basketball court, the number of MVP awards is more important for high rankings. In other sports, too, certain feats are required to become legends, and there are certainly a lot of legends, but still, only some get to feature on the all-time list. This article highlights the top 5 iconic athletes of all time based on critically acclaimed metrics.

Muhammad Ali

Like no other athlete before or after him, Muhammad Ali completely changed the sport of boxing. Ali was in the ranks of the most well-known athletes in the days of Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth. With a life that spanned over sixty years, his name was as famous as that of President John F. Kennedy.

As a fighter, Ali was the first to use quickness and footwork to keep his hands low and avoid punches. “Float like a butterfly and sting fast like a bee” was how he defined his combat style. Ali perfected the “Rope-a-Dope,” a strategy for wearing down his adversary. He had a unique, proud character which showed when he predicted which round of the game he would take out his opponent. Those were the most notable of his arrogance and drive to win, and then, he would frequently keep his promise.

To his name, Ali is the only boxer to have successfully won the heavyweight championship title three times. He defended that title nine times after flooring most heavyweight big names in the golden age boxing era. Other recognizable feats by this incredible athlete include lighting up the Olympic torch in 1996, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 97, the 1999 Sportsman of the year award, and the Presidential Medal Of Freedom in 2005. 

Michael Phelps

Former American competitive swimmer Michael Phelps with 28 official medals, is the most successful and decorated Olympian. Phelps also holds the records for 23 Olympic gold medals, 13 Olympic gold medals, and individual Olympic medals (16). Phelps shattered Mark Spitz’s 1972 record at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games when he won his eighth gold medal as opposed to the seven of the former.

A total of 82 medals, including 65 gold, 14 silver, and three bronze, were won by him in significant international competitions, including the Olympics, Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, and the World Championships. Phelps also won the World swimmer of the year award eight times and emerged as the American swimmer of the year 11 times. 

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, regarded as “the best athlete ever,” dominated basketball throughout his heyday. His impact spans generations, and he has become a cultural hero and legend thanks to some of his most thrilling basketball displays in the history of the NBA.

It’s not inaccurate to argue that Michael Jordan single-handedly elevated the NBA to global prominence with his remarkable skills. He was the league’s top scorer each year from 1986 to 1993, winning 10 of the league’s 12 scoring titles. Hence, he will always be included in the list of legendary athletes.

He has played in 15 NBA seasons, and while playing for the Chicago Bulls, he has won six titles. In the 1980s and 1990s, he made the NBA famous worldwide, turning himself into a global hero in the process. His stats include 14x All-Star features, 5x MVP awards, 10x scoring champs, and the number 23 jersey retired by the Bulls. 

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth played professionally in Major League Baseball (MLB) for 22 seasons, from 1914 to 1935. He was an American. Babe earned the nicknames “the Bambino” and “the Sultan of Swat” when he began his Major League Baseball career with the Boston Red Sox as a pitcher with his unique left hand. However, as a hitting outfielder with the New York Yankees, he achieved his most incredible popularity.

Many people consider Ruth the greatest baseball player of all time, making him a revered sports icon in American society. He boasts several MLB records, but his range and incredible hit power give him true significance. As parting respect, the number 3 jersey in the Yankees is retired in his name.

Tiger Woods

Woods may be the only reason many people bet on golf tournaments. It is safe to say no player has had the kind of influence he has on the sport. With 14 major golf titles, Tiger Woods is undoubtedly the most successful golf player in history.

As an active golfer, he had earned 4 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year accolades and nine PGA Player of the Year honors. At the age of 24, he even completed the career Grand Slam. Blessed with multiple race linkages, Woods is regarded as one of the most marketable athletes and is the face of many brands. He remains on the top list of the wealthiest individuals in sports and has even released his own set of video games.


Some athletes have delivered incredible performances and surpassed their competitors in their respective fields to earn the term “iconic.” These individuals, over time, showed outstanding commitment to their careers, broke world records, and set high standards in their active years. Hence, it is not just a matter of showoff, but dutiful to pay massive respects to the greatest sportspeople to walk the earth.