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Top 10 Most Dominant Male Athletes of All Time

VO: Rebecca Brayton
When it comes to organized physical activities like sports, there'll always be those who are better than others. Out of those that become professional athletes, whether it's on a team or as a individual player, there'll always be those who stand out and who prove themselves the best of the best. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 most dominant male athletes of all time.
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They’re the best of the best. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 most dominant male athletes of all time.

For this list, we’ve chosen different sports and have ranked the top male athletes in each based on a mix of personal statistics and team performance. As an added twist, we’ve outlined the two runners-up who gave the top guys in their respective sports a run for their money.

#10 – Auto Racing: Richard Petty, Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio


Petty’s been called The King thanks to his seven NASCAR Championship and Daytona 500 wins. And Schumacher’s stats are impressive too: he boasts the most Formula One championships, race victories and more. But it’s Juan Manuel Fangio who’s shown he’s the master by winning the F1 World Drivers’ Championship five times with style, grace and skill like no one else.

#9 – Golf: Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus


Palmer helped popularize golf with his charismatic TV persona and multiple PGA and Champions Tour wins. And when it comes to the 21st century, no golfer’s been number one more than Tiger. But it’s Jack Nicklaus’ accomplishments – including 18 major championships – that put him here. It’s his consistent hitting, driving skills, and smooth distance control with his irons that helped him stand out as the cream of the crop.

#8 – Tennis: Pete Sampras, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer


Sampras may’ve been World Number 1 before the other two came to play. And it’s true: Nadal’s an Olympic Gold medalist who’s building a rep as the King of Clay. But we wouldn’t have the golden era of men’s tennis without Federer. Not only did the Swiss player hold tennis’ top spot for four-years and 29-weeks-straight, but he’s also nabbed 17 Grand Slam singles titles.

#7 – Boxing: Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali


Pound-for-pound, there aren’t many welterweight and middleweight champs that come to mind other than Sugar Ray Robinson. Meanwhile, Joe Louis’ hard work and 11-year, 10-month stint as heavyweight champion made him one of America’s first black heroes. However, Ali’s boxing skills, power, and triumphs over every top heavyweight during the sport’s golden age are what make him “The Greatest.”

#6 – Baseball: Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth


When it comes to baseball, it’s hard to overlook Mickey’s seven World Series championships, three American League MVP wins and his 1956 Triple Crown victory, or Willie’s 1954 World Series win and two MLB MVP titles. But our pick is the seven-time World Series champ who broke Mays’ record with 714 homeruns: the Bambino. Known for his power hitting, Babe Ruth still holds one of baseball’s highest batting averages.

#5 – American Football: Tom Brady, Jim Brown, Jerry Rice


A quarterback, running back and wide receiver compete for our American football title. With three Super Bowl rings and domination over the Pats, Brady's personal and team accomplishments give the rest a run for their money. And while Jim Brown's achievements in the pre-Super Bowl era often earn him top honors, we're picking one of the NFL’s overall greats: with some of toughest records to break in American football history, Jerry Rice wins it all.

#4 – Wild Card: Usain Bolt (sprinting), Sachin Tendulkar (cricket), Michael Phelps (swimming)


For this entry, we’re mixing-and-matching different sports and picking one athleteamong the three based on his overall athleticism. Usain Bolt has emerged as one of the world’s leading sprinters, while Sachin Tendulkar's numerous One Day International awards and cricket batting records earn him a mention – but Michael Phelps’ supremacy in the water throughout multiple Olympic Games and his 18 Gold medals ultimately seal the deal for us.

#3 – Football: Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, Pelé


Messi's record-setting individual stats and club performance with FC Barcelona earn him high rankings, while Maradona's domination on the pitch and 1986 World Cup heroics get him oh-so-close to the top. But it’s The King Pelé who gets our vote, thanks to his multiple World Cup victories, goal-scoring techniques and overall unbeatable football skills.

#2 – Basketball: Kobe Bryant, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan


For our NBA picks, we’ve got Kobe, a four-time All-Star MVP Award-winner whose impressive career stats earn him a seat at the table. Then there’s Bill Russell, who was the best defensive player of his era and made history by winning 11 championships. But it should come as no surprise that Jordan, with his seemingly unending list of accolades, is the one’s who’s slam-dunked his way into our hearts.

#1 – Hockey: Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky


Orr used speed to transform the role of the defenseman, while Lemieux’s play-making skills earned him praise throughout his career. Deservingly, they’re both considered some of hockey’s greatest players; but it’s Wayne Gretzky whose personal stats will never be tied or broken. As the NHL’s leading point-scorer, The Great One and his dozens of regular-season, playoff and All-Star records make him our most dominant athlete ever in any sport.

Do you agree with our list? Who are your picks for greatest athletes of all time? Be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com for more entertaining top 10s.
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