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Top 10 Most Entertaining Athletes of All Time

VO: Rebecca Brayton

Script written by Q.V. Hough.

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It’s funny how the most fun to watch athletes are also some of the best athletes of all time. Whether it’s Serena Williams and her fiery tennis style, UFC’s Conor McGregor and his unpredictability or legends like Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan, these talented competitors are also the most interesting to watch athletes. WatchMojo counts down ten athletes we love to watch.

Special thanks to our user derekallen for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Most%20Entertaining%20Athletes%20of%20All-Time

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Transcript
Script written by Q.V. Hough.

Top 10 Most Entertaining Athletes of All Time


In the sports world, these athletes are graceful under pressure and fueled by a commitment to excellence. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Entertaining Athletes of All-Time.

For this list, we’re focusing on athletes that command attention with their dynamic performances and talent. For a list of professional sportspeople with the best sense of humor, be sure to check out our video of the Top 10 Funniest Athletes.

#10: Ken Griffey Jr.

As the son of a three-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion, this Hall of Fame athlete was born into professional entertainment. When Ken Griffey Jr. began his career in 1989, “The Kid” immediately lived up to the hype, both with his glove and with his bat. From center field, Griffey earned 10 Gold Glove Awards over the course of his prolific career, often stunning competitors and fans alike by scaling the outfield wall. And at the plate, Griffey is known for his illustrious swing, perhaps the most organic and potent cut in Major League Baseball history. Above all, Griffey always had a smile on his face, even when the chips were down.

#9: Serena Williams

With a serve that once reached 128 miles per hour, Serena Williams is more intimidating than most tennis champions. Then again, her dominance extends to all aspects of her game. Not only did she change the racial dynamics of her sport with sister Venus in the late ‘90s, but Serena also proved to be a legend of the grand slams, one known for her momentous comebacks and fiery demeanor. And by continuously succeeding, Williams has shown that a mastery of one’s craft can only be achieved with experience, commitment and focus. All in all, Serena’s performances demonstrate an athlete at the top of her game.

#8: Barry Sanders

For a full 10 NFL seasons, this former Heisman winner systematically destroyed NFL defenses. While many successful running backs achieve success thanks to potent offensive lines and physical aggression, Barry Sanders dominated through agility and vision. Over 153 career games with the Detroit Lions, he remained an elite NFL back, primarily because of his elevated production. Yet he could also change the game at any moment, either by creating his own lane or by catching the ball out of the backfield. If there’s ever been a true “ankle-breaker” in the NFL, it was Barry Sanders, as his extraordinary speed and ability to shift left his opponents shaking their heads, year after year.

#7: Michael Phelps

During the Olympics, it’s the personal stories that often grab the public’s attention. But for Michael Phelps - the most decorated Olympian ever - his continued excellence made each and every event must watch-TV. For his sport, there’s a certain poetry to the act itself, but Phelps’ technique makes it even more enthralling to watch. His last-second victories have become legendary, as have his dominating performances. For an Olympic sport that features new faces every four years, Phelps not only keeps re-appearing but also manages to entertain through his steely demeanor and inexplicable talent.

#6: Conor McGregor

In the boxing ring, iconic champions may lose only once or twice in their career, if at all. However, in the octagon of the UFC, this man competes with opponents that are well-versed in pain and bloody losses. Over the course of five years, Conor McGregor rose within the UFC ranks, both by winning and by truly selling his performance. He’s a highly skilled striker, which is matched by his ability to assess the minds of his opponents. Though McGregor slips from time to time, his 2016 rematch with Nate Diaz reminded the sporting world that he was fully capable of backing up his talk. He’s a UFC wildcard, but provides plenty of substance in the ring.

#5: Michael Jordan

Famously known as “Air Jordan,” this iconic athlete could fly and he could talk. During the ‘80s, Michael Jordan entertained through talent alone, mostly by way of his extraordinary athleticism and ability to score. But during his first NBA championship in 1991, MJ continued to push himself and certainly his teammates, which led to an even more prolific run with the Chicago Bulls. Jordan may have sold tickets through endorsement deals and gravity-defying dunks, but the real magic came on the court, as MJ’s competitive nature and execution made the entire experience something truly special for everybody in the building.

#4: Wayne Gretzky

For the average sports fan, the name “Wayne Gretzky” may conjure up images of iconic goals. But “The Great One” elevated the entire NHL thanks to his vision on the ice. Due to Gretzky’s intelligence, his personal brand of play extended to his team, and later the whole league. Neither a heavy-hitter nor a physical specimen, Gretzky was a player that placed extreme value in technique. As such, it was thrilling to watch his goals and set-ups unfold. Because of this, Gretzky took the game to the next level, showcasing the beauty of highly efficient play.

#3: Usain Bolt

Much like fellow Olympian Michael Phelps, this athlete stayed relevant over the years, but also thoroughly destroyed the competition. Most people know Usain Bolt for his records in the 100-meter race, where it looks like the very act of running seems no big deal to him. While he’s full of personality and smiles, he’s one bad man in events like the 200 meters and even the 4 x 100 relay. Pure excellence on the track, he often leaves fans wondering how someone can be that good. Year after year, race after race, Usain Bolt’s long strides often lead to timeless and historic performances.

#2: Ronaldinho

Not to be confused with fellow footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, this Brazilian superstar also has a knack for blowing minds with his supreme athleticism. While plenty of football players have a few cards up their sleeve, Ronaldinho operates on an entirely differently level. Of course, it’s one thing to show off crazy skills when nobody’s around, but this man clowns opponents during competition with a combination of agility, speed and a stunning sense of physical space. Ronaldinho is in command of the ball at all times and thoroughly understands what opponents anticipate, as he consistently defies expectations.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- LeBron James
- Roger Federer
- Lionel Messi

#1: Muhammad Ali

In the sporting world, there’s a fine line between arrogance and confidence. And Muhammad Ali perfectly understood how public performance played into his public persona. From his early days as the Olympic champion Cassius Clay to his later years doing the “rope a dope,” Ali’s unprecedented techniques gave fans something truly original. But Ali realized that it wasn’t enough to just be entertaining; he had to be unforgettable, and he ultimately excelled across the board in boxing. In later years, Mike Tyson would entertain thanks to his knockout capabilities and volatility, but Ali’s unpredictability was part of his strategy as an athlete.
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