Top 10 Athletes That Changed the World
Written by Nick Straub
If you were to ask ten people from around the world, “Who is the greatest athlete to ever exist?”, it is almost guaranteed that some would say Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan was responsible for making the sport popular around the world with his flashy moves and remarkable athleticism. His reputation grew until he was globally known as the best to ever play the game. He also was the first athlete to have a shoe designed specifically for him, and eventually turned into an athleticwear and lifestyle brand known around the world as “Air Jordan”. His achievements include being a six-time NBA champion, five-time NBA MVP, and winning two Olympic gold medals.
Muhammad Ali is also an athlete known around the world, even if you know nothing about boxing. He is well known for his confidence and bragging, but that is something that he has proven with results. One of his most popular quotes, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” perfectly represents his unique fighting style that forever changed the sport of boxing. His emphasis on quickness and maneuverability made him the best boxer of his time. However, he quickly found himself at the center of controversy after converting to Islam. After his conversion, he was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. He refused to fight because of his religious beliefs and was eventually banned from boxing for three and a half years. Even though he was banned from boxing, he continued to use his platform to speak on civil rights and other issues.
Usain Bolt is widely known today as the fastest man alive. Born in Jamaica, he has won multiple gold medals in the 100m and 200m dash at the Olympics. Traditionally, it was believed that tall sprinters were at a disadvantage, but as a 6’5” athlete, he has proved that wrong. After winning countless awards, he retired in 2017 due to a hamstring injury. However, his name is known all around the world.
Nicknamed “Sweetness” and known as one of the greatest running backs to ever live, Walter Payton made a difference both on and off the field. He played for 13 seasons, and in 10 of those, he rushed for over 1000 yards. When he retired in 1987, he had been to the Pro Bowl nine times. He was known as a fast runner, but also a punisher, making the defense earn every tackle they made. After football, he ran multiple charities to help children in need and helped many to get a proper education.
Serena Williams is one of the most well-known tennis players in the world. Rising to fame with her sister Venus Williams, they are considered one of the greatest sibling-athlete duos of all time. Her career was long and full of victories. She had a total of 23 grand slam wins, which is a record. In the final match to get her 23rd grand slam, she had to defeat her sister, Venus, which cemented her name into tennis history. In 2017, she announced her pregnancy and missed the rest of her season. After giving birth, she continued to compete in many tournaments, inspiring women and mothers everywhere.
David Beckham is a famous soccer player who impacted many people's lives, not just as a player. His accolades and awards are almost too many to count, having played many seasons with various teams around the globe. However, as his career came to a close, he began giving generously to various charities. Towards the end of his career, he even donated his entire season salary to charities of his choosing.
Most people do not know much about swimming as a sport, but if asked to name a famous swimmer, most would say Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps has had a truly remarkable career as an Olympic swimmer, earning a total of 28 medals; 23 gold, 3 silver, and 3 bronze. That is more medals than any other Olympian to ever exist. After dealing with some mental health issues, he began to concentrate on helping younger athletes and being an advocate for mental health.
Often considered the best female athlete in the world, Jackie Joyner-Kersee was an Olympian made famous for competing in the heptathlon. She was the first woman to score over 7000 points in the heptathlon, and continuously broke her own records in the years that followed. Besides her records, she managed to earn a few Olympic gold medals and many other prestigious awards in the world of track and field. After her career, she concentrated on helping at-risk youths in the St. Louis area.
Mia Hamm was a world famous women's soccer player from the United States. She would serve as a main contributor to the United States’ effort to win 2 world cups in 1991 and 1999, as well as olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004. At the time of her retirement, she held the record for most goals on the international stage, 158, for both men and women. After her career, she chose to work with various soccer associations in the United States and write her own self-help book.
Bo Jackson is the definition of what you would call a “multi-purpose” athlete. While at Auburn University, he played three sports and even won the Heisman trophy for his outstanding running ability. He is most well known for playing in two professional sports leagues at the same time. As a running back in the NFL, and an outfielder in the MLB, he managed to play at a level that made him an All-Star in both sports. Up until that point in time, no athlete had been able to be so successful in two sports at once.