Domination. It’s a trait in athletics that you hear when dynasties happen. When teams win championship after championship. So here are some of the most dominant athletes of all time!
And you know there’s a difference between just dominating then doing so gracefully and with sportsmanship. Rubbing it in can be uncalled for because any athlete knows how much sweet victory feels incredible just as much as how the agony of defeat stings.
Dominating doesn’t mean rubbing it in, it means that now when you have reached a point in your sport where you have obtained unparalleled success, you have become the standard in your sport. You become a role model in your sport, who athletes call their favorite athlete, who athletes look up to, who athletes get inspired by to continue working on their craft to be great in their sport, as well.
Domination. Few athletes have obtained it yet every athlete strives for it. To be the very best at your craft at the highest level in your sport (professionally). Here’s a list of a few of those few. There’s obviously a whole lot more of these few that aren’t on this list.
We know ’em, we could have a list of honestly thousands (now that I think about it, that’s a whole lot more than a few). Anyways, this is a list of 25, not thousands, so it’s really the best of the best of the best most dominating athletes ever.
This will be up for debate, of course, as any subjective list is. But, just as these domineering athletes did their thing (or are still doing their thing) in their sport, whenever the crowd speculated or teams wanted to bring them down, they just kept on moving, staying focused on their craft and how they could, well, dominate again.
Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, here’s a list of:
25 Of The Most Dominant Athletes Of All Time
Honorable Mentions: Derek Jeter, Novak Djokovic, Shaquille O’Neal, Sachin Tendulkar, Ben Wallace, Isiah Thomas, Ray Lewis, Drew Brees, Lin Dan (per a Google best badminton player search), Rafael Nadal, Barry Bonds, Cynthia Cooper, Michael Johnson
25 – Sir Donald Bradman
Maybe you’re saying, ‘who?’ (or maybe you know exactly who this is). Glad you asked. The world’s second-most popular sport (per World Atlas) needs a representative on this list. Kicking off this list is cricket’s all-time greatest cricketer (according to people voting on BBC). Bradman “is one of Australia’s most iconic sportsmen, and widely regarded as the greatest batsman of all time for his unparalleled batting average” per BBC. (Tendulkar came second on this list, which is how he made it to the honorable mentions).
24 – Simone Biles
Simone Biles “(o)wns the most world medals in U.S. history” per Team USA. With four golds, a silver, and two bronzes, Biles is arguably the best gymnast in history.
23 – Pelé
Now to the most popular sport in the world (per World Atlas). Known correctly as football everywhere in the world pretty much outside the US, Pelé was one of the best footballers (soccer players) to play the game. Six-time top scorer, three-time World Cup winner, six-time Brazilian champion, two-time Copa Libertadores winner, two-time Intercontinental Cup winner, NASL Soccer Bowl champion (per Transfer Markt), Pelé just knew how to help his team win, specifically by scoring. A lot.
22 – Mia Hamm (And the USWNT)
Mia Hamm is basically the representative of the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) on this list. The USWNT, which you probably already recognize that acronym because this team was put on the map, has dominated women’s football (soccer) on the international stage. US Soccer stated as the team “reached its 500th win in program history when it defeated Portugal, 1-0, on Nov. 8, 2018…(it was) an achievement that further cements the WNT as one of the most dominant squads in the history of sport, men or women.”
And you already know Hamm is an OG of the USWNT as she became one of the best footballers (men or women) to ever play the game.
21 – David Robinson And Tim Duncan
Dominating the paint and Spurs big men go hand-in-hand. So that’s why you’ve got Robinson and Duncan sharing the paint here in this list. Robinson, aka ‘The Admiral’, who honorably served a country knows what it’s like to go to battle because he was literally trained for it. So winning those battles, dominating the paint was what he did on the court, and off the court also knew what it took to win.
“God doesn’t want wimps,” Robinson ‘told the San Antonio Light’s Brad Townsend‘ according to a 1991 Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon story. “He wants men. . . . He wants warriors because this is not a joke. It’s a war out there. It’s a war between your soul and the devil.”
Duncan aka ‘Mr. Fundamental’ helped bring the Spurs title after title. The Spurs methodically dominated the league and Timmy was a big part in that Spurs dynasty title run.
20 – Michelle Kwan
The California Sports Hall of Fame pretty much sums up why Kwan was not only dominant but one of the best figure skaters ever: “For over a decade (1995-2005) Michelle dominated the sport like no other skater in history, winning an unprecedented 43 championships, including five World Championships, eight consecutive and nine overall U.S. National Championships and two Olympic medals.”
19 – Steffi Graf
A 22-time Grand Slam champion and consistently being the women’s tennis first-ranked player in the world year after year (per WTA Tennis), yeah that’s what you call dominating your sport.
18 – Usain Bolt
Cue the Usain Bolt pose (if you don’t know it, see above). You’d see this a lot, especially at the Olympics because Bolt won a lot. One of the fastest dudes on this earth, Bolt fittingly has a great last name for one of his strongest giftings, being really fast.
17 – Babe Ruth
You can’t have a domination list without a guy who was one of the best baseball players of all time, whose name is synonymous with baseball. An MVP and seven-time World Series champion (per Baseball Reference), Ruth was one of the most dominant athletes at their respective sport, suiting up for both of the teams who hold one of the best rivalries in sports, the Yankees and Red Sox.
16 – Barry Sanders
Detroit vs everybody. Detroit, stand up! You already know I gotta have a Detroit athlete on this list. And Barry Sanders jukes his way on this list, making a run at first. Arguably the best running back ever, the former Detroit Lions running back is a Hall of Famer, 10-time Pro Bowler, an MVP, and six-time All-Pro (per Pro Football Reference). Need proof of the domination? Just YouTube his highlights.
15 – Kobe Bryant
This is a given. Kobe Bryant is one of the best basketball players to ever play the game, with arguments for him being the best. Kobe Bryant won. The Black Mamba and his Lakers squad dominated. Then dominated again. If you were to play in the NBA when Kobe played, you’d have to get past him and LA if you wanted to get anywhere in the playoffs. Oh and he had two gold medals (per USA Basketball) and, no big deal, an Academy Award to add on to all of that because of an incredible film talking about none other than his basketball journey.
May God continue to comfort and bless Kobe Bryant’s family and loved ones.
14 – LeBron James
Space Jam 2’s movie title, “A New Legacy” is a great way to describe how LeBron basically took the mantle from MJ and Kobe for being the game’s dominant player, helping enter a new era where James is making his mark on the game and his basketball legacy, on and off the court.
13 – Reggie White
Super Bowl champion, 13-time Pro Bowler, eight-time All-Pro (per Pro Football Reference), and that dude you didn’t want to run against and were hoping your offensive lineman could just hold him off for a second for your quarterback to get a little time at least to get a throw off, Reggie White was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line but also one of the most humble and stand-up men to ever play the game.
According to a previous article shared by Yahoo Sports!, “He even had a habit, after mowing over some opposing offensive lineman, to go back, help him up and say, ‘Jesus loves you.'”
12 – Roger Federer
Tennis and Roger Federer. If you know the sport, you probably know the other follows usually when you talk about some of the best to play the game. And Federer has dominated, holding “records as oldest World No. 1 (36 in 2018) and for most consecutive weeks at No. 1 (237) in FedEx ATP Rankings history (since 1973)” per the ATP Tour.
Let me repeat that. 237 consecutive weeks being ranked first in the world. To put that in perspective, that’s “4 Years, 6 Months, 2 Weeks, 2 Days, 8 Hours and 40 Minutes” per a tool on the Internet called Unit Converter. Had to utilize that to do the math in this case.
11- Manny Pacquiao
Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao. In my humble opinion, the best boxer to ever step in the ring. I said it. And have simply one stat to back that up:
“No fighter in history has won world titles in more weight classes than Manny Pacquiao. The Filipino legend has done it in eight divisions, a remarkable feat for a fighter who turned pro at 106 pounds in 1995, won his first title at 112 pounds in 1998 and eventually won a 154-pound belt (even though he weighed only 144.6 for the fight) in 2010.”A 2016 story from ESPN’s Dan Rafael: ‘Ranking Manny Pacquiao’s eight division titles’
Want to be great at whatever you set your mind to? How about listening to the wise words of Pacquaio:
“The most important thing … is the name of the Lord. The name of the Lord will be glorified. I want to let the people know that there is a God who can raise people from nothing into something. And that’s me. I came from nothing into something…Being a Christian means accepting Christ as your savior, your God. Thats why you are called a Christian. If you remove Christ, theres only ian and that means I am nothing…Anyone will succeed in whatever field of endeavor in life by acquiring the same virtues and character that boxing world champions do – dedication, perseverance, courage, extreme self-discipline and prayers.”Manny Pacquiao, according to three quotes shared by
10 – Serena Williams
23 Grand Slams (per Statista). That’s the most out of any tennis player in the sport’s history (men or women). That’s what you call dominating your sport. She’s still dominating as a mom.
9 – Steph Curry
Seven-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion, three-time NBA champion, and two-time MVP (per Basketball Reference), Curry has not only dominated the game, he has been an instrumental part in transforming the game completely as basketball has moved to a ball-movement, spread the floor, three-ball game. And he’s not just a three-point sharpshooter, Curry’s game is so much more. Distributing, playmaking, defending, and providing the intangibles, the leadership and character on and off the court.
As Sports Spectrum’s Jon Ackerman mentioned Curry “scored a career-high 62 points” this past season. Ackerman shared Curry’s post about the game, where Curry said:
“Stay present, stay in the moment…Have fun,” Curry said in an Instagram post about the career night. “All glory to God.”
8 – Tiger Woods
Pretty much self-explanatory here. Tiger Woods, again a theme on this list, is arguably the best golfer ever. Tiger’s got “107 worldwide wins, and he remains tied with Sam Snead in PGA Tour victories (82) and has majors triumphs (15)” per his website.
7 – Gordie Howe
Gordie Howe played NHL hockey with the Detroit Red Wings for 25 years (per Hockey Reference). According to Hockey Reference, Howe also won four Stanley Cups, was a six-time Hart winner, six-time Ross winner, and was a 21-time All-Star. That’s what you call dominating hockey.
6 – Tom Brady
Seven Super Bowls, three MVPs, 14 Pro Bowls (per Pro Football Reference). Well-known that Brady owns the record for most Super Bowl wins by any NFL player in history, Brady has dominated the game as the quarterback with the Patriots and then after going to a new team in the Buccaneers, won it again in his first year with the team.
5 – Michael Jordan
You’ve probably seen ‘The Last Dance’. That, of course, went through that last championship in Jordan’s dominant run with the Bulls, two three-peats. Let me repeat that: two three-peats. You already know how MJ is one of the best basketball players to have laced ’em up and knew what it took to win. Again and again.
4 – Bill Russell
There’s a reason the best player in basketball’s best championship wins an award named after Bill Russell. The NBA Finals Bill Russell MVP trophy is named after Russell for good reason. Eleven NBA titles, five MVPs, 12 All-Stars (per Basketball Reference), all Russell did was win.
3 – Allyson Felix
Allyson Felix is arguably the best women’s track and field athlete ever. And the Olympic medals prove it. Having one the most recent gold medal on this list, she set a record in Tokyo this year (per the AP). According to the AP, “(a)fter the final race of the final Games of the…sprinter’s career, Felix leaves the stage having won the most medals of any track athlete in U.S. history. It’s some list. She passed Carl Lewis…”. Seven Olympic gold medals, three silvers, and a bronze (per Team USA), the woman of faith, the wife, the mother is straight-up dominant (still) in her sport.
2 – Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps Olympics bio says it all:
“Phelps has 28 medals in total: his 23 gold medals are more than double the count of his nearest rivals, and its not as if other swimmers have accrued silly numbers of medals, either. Apart from (Mark) Spitz, Matt Biondi (USA, eight golds) and Jenny Thompson (USA, eight golds), no other swimmer worldwide has managed more than six gold medals in total. 23 is astonishing…
A prodigy at his sport, he went to Sydney 2000 aged just 15 –the youngest man in the USA team for an Olympic Games in 68 years). He came close to the podium only in the 200m butterfly, where he finished fifth. From then on, he would dominate the next four Games, finishing the most decorated athlete at every one. In Athens he won six gold medals and two bronzes, falling just short of Mark Spitz’s world record (seven golds at Munich 1972).”Olympics.com
1 – John Wooden
Last but certainly not least is…drumroll please, John Wooden. Although he’s most known for being a coach, every successful athlete can probably attest to having a great coach leading the way (and Wooden also was a basketball player who just so happened to be “the first person to be elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach” per Brittanica).
I just couldn’t not place Wooden here. Because when you think of sports, Wooden’s UCLA teams were the epitome of sports success and domination. According to Brittancia, “(a)mong Wooden’s most notable accomplishments at UCLA are two record-winning streaks: 88 consecutive games (over the course of four seasons) and 38 consecutive NCAA tournament games.” Let me repeat that: 88 wins in a row and 38 March Madness wins in a row That’s unheard of today. Well, Wooden did it.
According to coachwooden.com, Wooden led UCLA to “(t)en NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships: 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975.” That includes seven-consecutive championships (1967-1973).
There’s a “Pyramid of Success” well-known embodied by Wooden’s coaching. You can find that on the website in his name.
“Competitive Greatness is having a real love for the hard battle knowing it offers the opportunity to be at your best when your best is required,” Wooden said in ‘Wooden on Leadership’ according to coachwooden.com.
Competitive greatness helps get you to dominate. Ten-championship-type domination. Go have yourself that type of day today!
Charlie Lapastora is a sports/news multimedia journalist who’s reported, written, produced, anchored, shot video/edited on different NBC, ABC, and FOX shows in multiple TV markets, along with digital & new media companies. Charlie has traveled the country telling national sports, news, feature, and original stories on a cable news network, airing on top 10 TV markets, satellite radio, and digital platforms. He is passionate about his faith, family—being a husband to whom he calls the G.O.A.T. of women—about reppin’ his home state of Michigan and Detroit teams (yes, including the Lions), good coffee, and loves how sports brings people together. He’s traveled the world leading and coaching sports camps and has also worked at the Detroit Pistons and LA Clippers’ NBA teams.
- 1 25 Of The Most Dominant Athletes Of All Time
- 2 25 – Sir Donald Bradman
- 3 24 – Simone Biles
- 4 23 – Pelé
- 5 22 – Mia Hamm (And the USWNT)
- 6 21 – David Robinson And Tim Duncan
- 7 20 – Michelle Kwan
- 8 19 – Steffi Graf
- 9 18 – Usain Bolt
- 10 17 – Babe Ruth
- 11 16 – Barry Sanders
- 12 15 – Kobe Bryant
- 13 14 – LeBron James
- 14 13 – Reggie White
- 15 12 – Roger Federer
- 16 11- Manny Pacquiao
- 17 10 – Serena Williams
- 18 9 – Steph Curry
- 19 8 – Tiger Woods
- 20 7 – Gordie Howe
- 21 6 – Tom Brady
- 22 5 – Michael Jordan
- 23 4 – Bill Russell
- 24 3 – Allyson Felix
- 25 2 – Michael Phelps
- 26 1 – John Wooden
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