The Greatest


This is a list of the all-time greats in different sports as chosen by either panels of experts or myself. Arranged in alphabetical order by sport I will say who chose these sportsmen and women, when and for what timeframe the choice is. As far as possible I will restrict my choices to all-time lists and 21st century lists. Click on the name of the sport in the heading to link to the original article. If you can click on the athlete’s name you will be able to find out more details about them.

American Football

Top 10 all-time players according to an NFL panel of experts in 2010.  For the full top 100 click HERE

10 – Dick Butkus – LB
9 – Don Hutson – WR
8 – Peyton Manning – QB
7 – Reggie White – DE
6 – Johnny Unitas – QB
5 – Walter Payton – RB
4 – Joe Montana – QB
3 – Lawrence Taylor – LB
2 – Jim Brown -RB
1 – Jerry Rice – WR  


Event Men Women
Carl Lewis (USA) Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica)
David Rudisha (Ken) Maria Mutola (Moz)
Emil Zatopek (Czechoslovakia) Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia)
Marathon Eliud Kipchoge (Ken) Rosa Mota (Por)
110m/100m hurdles
400m hurdles Edwin Moses (USA)  Sally Gunnell (GB)
High Jump
Iolanda Balas (Romania)
Pole Vault
Long Jump
Triple Jump  Viktor Saneyev (USSR) Caterine Ibargüen (Col)
Parry O’ Brien (USA) Valerie Adams (NZ)
Hammer Yuriy Sedykh (USSR) Anita Wlodarczyk (Pol)
Decathlon/Heptathlon Dan O’Brien (USA) Jackie Joyner-Kersee (USA)


Player of the 20th Century (chosen in 1996 by the AFL) – Leigh Matthews

Player of the 21st century (unofficial – based on MVP awards) – Gary Ablett Jnr

Greatest Team – Essendon in 2000 (lost only one game in the season)


The greatest players in baseball history was chosen in 1999 by the Society for American Baseball Research.  For the full list click HERE.

This is the top 10.

1 Babe Ruth
2 Lou Gehrig
3 Ted Williams
4 Hank Aaron
5 Stan Musial
6 Joe DiMaggio
7 Ty Cobb
8 Willie Mays
9 Rogers Hornsby
10 Honus Wagner

The greatest team in history is widely considered to be the 1929 New York Yankees (chosen by among others Baseball Almanac)


The 50 Greatest NBA players of all-time was chosen by a panel of experts in 1996.

Bobsleigh, Skeleton and Luge (my selection in 2015)

Bobsleigh: Men – Eugenio Monti (Italy), Women – Sandra (Prokoff) Kiriasis (Germany)

Skeleton: Men – Martins Dukurs (Latvia), Women – Marion Thees/Trott (Germany)

Luge: Men – Armin Zoggeler (Italy), Women – Sylke Otto (Germany), Doubles – Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch (Germany)


ESPNs greatest boxers of all time from 2007

1. Sugar Ray Robinson : Welterweight Ring career: 1940-65 Record: 175-19-6-2 (109 KOs)

2. Muhammad Ali : Heavyweight Ring career: 1960-81 Record: 56-5 (37 KOs)

3. Henry Armstrong : Featherweight Ring career: 1932-45 Record: 151-21-9 (101 KOs)

4. Joe Louis : Heavyweight Ring career: 1934-51 Record: 68-3 (54 KOs)

5. Willie Pep : Featherweight Ring career: 1940-66 Record: 230-11-1 (65 KOs)

6. Roberto Duran : Lightweight Ring career: 1968-2001 Record: 103-16 (70 KOs)

7. Benny Leonard : Lightweight Ring career: 1911-32 Record: 85-5-1 (69 KOs) and 121 no-decisions

8. Jack Johnson : Heavyweight Ring career: 1897-1928 Record: 77-13-14 (48 KOs) and 19 no-decisions

9. Jack Dempsey : Heavyweight Ring career: 1914-27 Record: 61-6-8 (50 KOs) and 6 no-decisions

10. Sam Langford : Lightweight Ring career: 1902-26 Record: 167-38-37-3 (117 KOs) and 48 no-decisions

Canoe Slalom

Men K1 – Richard Fox (Great Britain)

Men K2 – Pavol and Peter Hochschorner (Slovakia)

Men C1 – John Lugbill (USA)

Women K1 – Elena Kaliska (Slovakia)


World All-Time XI (chosen in 2010 by ESPNcricinfo)

Highest peak rating achieved in Tests according to ICC ratings

Batting: All Time – Donald Bradman (Australia) 961 in 1948, 21st Century – Ricky Ponting (Australia) 942 in 2006.

Bowling: All Time – Sydney Barnes (England) 932 in 1914, 21st Century-  Muttiah Muralidaran (Sri Lanka) 920 in 2007.

Greatest Test Team of All-Time (based on peak ICC ratings -see )  Australia 2007-8


Greatest women track cyclists (my choice in 2013)

Sprint – Galina Yermolayeva (USSR) (and greatest woman track cyclist)

500m Time Trial – Felicia Ballanger (France)

Pursuit – Tamara Garkouchina (USSR)

Equestrian  (my choice in 2014)

Show Jumping – Rodrigo Pessoa (Brazil),

Three-Day Event – Mark Todd (New Zealand)

Dressage – Anky van Grunsven (Netherlands)

Figure Skating

My choices in 2014

Men – Ulrich Salchow (Sweden)

Women – Sonja Henie (Norway)

Pairs – Irina Rodnina/Alexander Zaitsev (USSR)

Dance – Jayne Torvill/Christopher Dean (GB)


Click HERE for my full article on the all-time greats.


World Team of the 20th century (chosen in 1998 by experts)

Goalkeeper Lev Yashin Soviet Union
Defender (fullback) Carlos Alberto Torres Brazil
Defender (centre-back) Franz Beckenbauer West Germany
Defender (centre-back) Bobby Moore England
Defender (fullback) Nílton Santos Brazil
Midfielder Johan Cruyff Netherlands
Midfielder Alfredo Di Stéfano Argentina
Midfielder Michel Platini France
Forward Garrincha Brazil
Forward Diego Maradona Argentina
Forward Pelé Brazil


(Bleacher Report’s all-time top players in 2013)

1. Marta (Brazil)
2. Mia Hamm (USA)
3. Birgit Prinz (Germany)
4. Homare Sawa (Japan)
5. Abby Wambach (USA)

Greatest Team (my choice in 2015)

  1. Hope Solo (USA)
  2. Wang Liping (China)
  3. Carla Overbeck (USA)
  4. Joy Fawcett (USA)
  5. Kerstin Stegemann (Germany)
  6. Homora Sawa (Japan)
  7. Kristine Lilly (USA)
  8. Michelle Akers (USA)
  9. Mia Hamm (USA)
  10. Marta (Brazil)
  11. Birgit Prinz (Germany)

WOMEN (my choice in 2015)

Gaelic Football 

Team of the Milennium chosen in 1999 by GAA past presidents and journalists

Goalkeeper Dan O’Keeffe (Kerry)

Right Corner Back         Full Back              Left Corner Back
Enda Colleran                Joe Keohane        Seán Flanagan
(Galway)                           (Kerry)                   (Mayo)

Right Half Back              Centre Back         Left Half Back
Sean Murphy                 J. J. O’Reilly          Martin O’Connell
(Kerry)                               (Cavan)                  (Meath)

Midfield *
Mick O’Connell                                  Tommy Murphy
(Kerry)                                                 (Laois)

Right Half Forward           Centre Forward           Left Half Forward
Seán O’Neill                             Sean Purcell                Pat Spillane
(Down)                                        (Galway)                        (Kerry)

Right Corner Forward         Full Forward          Left Corner Forward
Mikey Sheehy                      Tommy Langan          Kevin Heffernan
(Kerry)                                         (Mayo)                         (Dublin)

*Jack O’Shea (Kerry) , a midfielder, was named the greatest ever player in a poll of 2009 yet didn’t make this team.

GOLF   Greatest Male Golfers (My selection in July 2016)

  1. Jack Nicklaus (USA)
  2. Tiger Woods (USA)
  3. Ben Hogan (USA)


All Around Kohei Uchimura (Japan)
Floor Vitaliy Scherbo (Belarus)
Vault Marian Dragulescu (Romania)
Rings Yuri Chechi (Italy)
High Bar Takashi Ono (Japan)
Parallel Bars Li Xiaopeng (China)
Pommel Horse Zoltan Magyar (Hungary)
All-around Simone Biles (USA)
Vault Vera Caslavska (Czechoslovakia)
Floor Simone Biles (USA) and Larissa Latynina (Russia/USSR)
Beam Nadia Comeneci (Romania)
Uneven Bars Svetlana Khorkina (Russia)


The greatest players ever as voted by the public in 2010 were: Men – Ivano Balic ( Croatia), Women – Svetlana Dasic-Kitic (former Yugoslavia)


In 2014 The Daily Telegraph asked a panel to choose their 10 greatest players of all-time.

The top 3 were 1. Dhyan Chand (India), 2. Rik Charlesworth (Australia), 3. Luciana Aymar (Argentina – greatest female player)

The greatest hockey players of the 21st century based on the number of times they have won the World Player of the Year Award are:

Men – Jamie Dwyer (Australia)   – 5 times winner

Women – Luciana Aymar (Argentina) – 7 times winner


Highest rated horses by Timeform for a season since 1948

Flat Racing Sea Bird II

Hurdles – Night Nurse

Steeplechase – Arkle


The Hurling team of the milennium was announced in 2000

Goalkeeper: Tony Reddin Tipperary (1947–1957)
Right corner-back: John Doyle Tipperary (1949–1967)
Full-back: Nick O’Donnell Wexford (1951–1962)
Left corner-back: Bobby Rackard Wexford (1945–1957)
Right wing-back: Paddy Phelan Kilkenny (1931–1940)
Centre-back: John Keane Waterford (1935–1951)
Left wing-back: Brian Whelahan Offaly (1989–2006)
Midfield: Jack Lynch Cork (1936–1950)
Midfield: Lory Meagher Kilkenny (1924–1936)
Right wing-forward: Christy Ring Cork (1939–1962)
Centre-forward: Mick Mackey Limerick (1930–1946)
Left wing-forward: Jim Langton Kilkenny (1939–1950)
Left corner-forward: Eddie Keher Kilkenny (1959–1977)
Full-forward: Ray Cummins Cork (1969–1982)
Right corner-forward: Jimmy Doyle Tipperary (1957–1973)

Since then Henry Shefflin  (Kilkenny) has emerged and was voted the greatest ever hurler in 2009. Presumably he would come into the team at Centre-forward.


The greatest 100 NHL players of all-time as voted for by The Hockey News.

Here are the top 10.

1 Wayne Gretzky
2 Bobby Orr
3 Gordie Howe
4 Mario Lemieux
5 Maurice Richard
6 Doug Harvey
7 Jean Beliveau
8 Bobby Hull
9 Terry Sawchuk
10 Eddie Shore

Rugby Union

All -time greatest XV . Just one man’s opinion (James Mortimer of “The Roar” from 2009) but it seems like a pretty good list to me.

1 – Prop: Wilson Whineray – New Zealand 32 caps
2 – Hooker: Sean Fitzpatrick – New Zealand 92 caps
3 – Prop: Jason Leonard – England 114 caps
4 – Lock: John Eales – Australia 86 caps
5 – Lock: Colin Meads – New Zealand 55 caps
6 – Flanker: Francois Pienaar – South Africa 29 caps
7 – Flanker: Michael Jones – New Zealand 55 caps
8 – Number Eight: Mervyn Davies – Wales 38 caps
9 – Scrum Half: Gareth Edwards – Wales 53 caps
10 – Flyhalf FOUR WAY TIE: Barry John – Wales, Hugo Porta – Argentina, Mark Ella – Australia, Jonny Wilkinson – England
11 – Wing: Jonah Lomu – New Zealand 63 caps
12 – Centre: Tim Horan – Australia
13 – Centre: Philippe Sella – France 111 caps
14 – Wing: David Campese – Australia 101 caps
15 – Fullback: Serge Blanco – France 93 caps


Alpine Ski-ing (all-time greatest skiers at the end of the 2016/7 season according to the ski-database rankings)


Overall:  Ingemar Stenmark (Sweden)

Downhill: Franz Klammer (Austria)

Super-G: Hermann Maier (Austria)

Giant-Slalom: Ingemar Stenmark (Sweden)

Slalom: Ingemar Stenmark (Sweden)


Overall, Downhill and Super-G: Lindsey Vonn (USA)

Slalom and Giant Slalom: Vreni Schneider (SWI)

Snooker  My choice (May 2015)

Stephen Hendry (Scotland)

Speed Skating (my choices in 2014)

Events Women  Men
500 metres Karin Busch-Enke-Kania (GDR) Hiroyazu Shimozu (JAP)
1000 metres Bonnie Blair (USA) Shani Davis (USA)
1500 metres Karin Busch-Enke-Kania (GDR) Clas Thunberg (FIN)
3000 metres/5000m Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann (GDR) Sven Kramer (NED)
5000 metres/10000m Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann (GDR) Gianni Romme (NED)

Squash my choice (August 2014)

Men – Jahangir Khan (Pakistan), Women – Heather McKay (Australia)

Swimming  (greatest swimmers of all-time and the 21st century -my choice August 2013)


Event All-Time 21st Century
100 metre freestyle Pieter van den Hoogenband (Netherlands)
200 metre freestyle Ian Thorpe (Australia)
400 metre freestyle Ian Thorpe (Australia)
1500 metre freestyle Grant Hackett (Australia)
100 metre backstroke  Roland Matthes (GDR) Aaron Peirsol (USA)
200 metre backstroke  Aaron Peirsol (USA) Aaron Peirsol (USA)
100 metre breaststroke Kosuke Kitajima (Japan)
200 metre breaststroke Kosuke Kitajima (Japan)
100 metre butterfly Michael Phelps (USA)
200 metre butterfly Michael Phelps (USA)
200 metre individual medley Michael Phelps (USA)
400 metre individual medley Michael Phelps (USA)
Marathon 10 km Thomas Lurz (Ger)

Reserve: Ryan Lochte (USA)

WOMEN (All-time greatest sprint freestyle and 21st century greatest)

50 metre freestyle  ALL-TIME

Inge de Bruijn (Netherlands)


Inge de Bruijn (Netherlands)

100 metre freestyle Dawn Fraser (Aus) Britta Steffen (Germany)
200 metre freestyle Federica Pellegrini (Italy)
400 metre freestyle Laure Manadou (France)
800 metre freestyle Rebecca Adlington (Great Britain)
100 metre backstroke  Natalie Coughlin (USA) Natalie Coughlin (USA)
200 metre backstroke  Krisztina Egerszegi (Hungary) Kirsty Coventry (Zimbabwe)
100 metre breaststroke Leisel Jones (Australia)
200 metre breaststroke Rebecca Soni (USA)
100 metre butterfly Sarah Sjöström (Sweden)
200 metre butterfly Otylia Jedrzejczak (Poland)
200 metre individual medley Yana Klochkova (Ukraine)
400 metre individual medley Yana Klochkova (Ukraine)
Marathon 10 km Larisa Ilchenko (Rus)

Reserve: Libby Lenton/Trickett (Australia)


MEN (My choice made in July 2013)


1st Roger Federer (Switzerland)

2nd Rod Laver (Australia)

3rd Pete Sampras (USA)

21st Century

1st Roger Federer (Switzerland) best all-round and grass-court player

2nd Rafael Nadal (Spain) best clay-court player

3rd Novak Djokovic (Serbia)


21st Century

1st Serena Williams (USA) best all-round player

2nd Justine Henin (Belgium)  best clay-court player

3rd  Venus Williams (USA) best grass-court player


21st Century

Men:  Bob and Mike Bryan (USA)

Women:  Serena and Venus Williams (USA)

Mixed: Leander Paes (India) and Cara Black (Zimbabwe)

TRIATHLON (my choice in 2015)

Men – Javier Gomez, Women – Paula Newby-Fraser (Zimbabwe)

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