RANKED: Most Inspirational Athletes in 2022

RANKED: Most Inspirational Athletes in 2022

The most inspirational athletes are known for making the most of their spotlight, both on and off the court, rink, field, or wherever else they showcase their talent. They aren’t afraid to use their voice to inspire change and they’re always in-tune with what’s going on in the world today.

It’s not something we see from every athlete, but that’s what separates the most inspirational athletes from everyone else. They understand the power and influence they have over the society we live in and are dedicated to finding a solution to some of the world’s biggest issues.

The most inspirational athletes in the world today are not only featured on ESPN, but also CNN, The New York Times, MSNBC, Fox News, and other national news sources. Their efforts and achievements aren’t just talked about in the sports community, but in other communities as well. 

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Who Are the Most Inspirational Athletes in 2022?

RANKED: Most Inspirational Athletes in 2022
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When you look at the most inspirational athletes in 2022, they all share one thing in common. Despite being from different backgrounds and having different talents, they all know how to use their voice to inspire change. Furthermore, they all take that responsibility extremely seriously. 

They know when to speak up, they know when to take action, and most importantly they know when to be quiet. They understand that the smallest sentence can inspire the best out of someone, but they’re also aware that the same sentence can belittle or disparage others. 

Either way, the most inspirational athletes today are the ones we turn to when issues arise. Whether those issues are social justice issues, personal issues, or worldwide issues, we’re always quick to give them center stage because we know they’ll find the right words to say.

20. Gabby Williams

Gabby Williams is a forward for the Chicago Sky of the WNBA. She has been heavily involved in raising awareness for social justice issues and was a key player in the launch of the ‘Sky Takes Action’ initiative in 2020 that resulted in various donations being made to nonprofits. 

Williams was drafted by Chicago with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft. She has averaged 6.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.2 blocks in 20.8 minutes per game through her first three years, but missed the 2021 campaign due to scheduling conflicts. 

19. Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo is a first baseman in the MLB that has spent time with the Yankees, Padres, and Cubs. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2008 and created the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation in 2012 to raise money for cancer research and help families battling cancer. 

Rizzo is one of the most respected baseball players in the league. He’s a three-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, one-time Silver Slugger, one-time Platinum Glove winner, and one-time World Series Champion. He has hit 251 home runs since his MLB debut in 2011.

18. Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton is a British formula one driver for Mercedes and is widely considered one of the most influential black people in the UK. He uses his voice to advocate for a post-prejudice tomorrow and has been a long-time supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Hamilton has 288 Grands Prix entries since 2007 and has a record 182 podium finishes, a record 103 wins, a record 103 pole positions, and a joint-record seven world championships – 2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 – which he holds with Michael Schumacher. 

17. Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani is a two-way baseball player that currently plays for the Los Angeles Angels of the MLB. He has quickly risen to global phenom with his ability to pitch and hit with the best of them, but has also gained a lot of attention for his overall likeness and love for the game. 

Ohtani made his MLB debut in 2018 and won Rookie of the Year honors with 22 home runs, 61 runs batted in, and a 4-2 record in 10 starts as a pitcher. He showed massive improvement in 2021 with 46 home runs, 100 runs batted in, a 9-2 record in 23 starts, and MVP honors. 

16. Becky Hammon

Becky Hammon is a former point guard in the WNBA, but has since turned to coaching. She originally made headlines in 2014 when she became the first full-time female assistant coach in NBA history – something that hasn’t been achieved in any of the other three major pro sports. 

She further made history in 2020 when she became the first female acting head coach in NBA history when Greg Popovich was ejected. In 2021, Hammon was announced as the new head coach of the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA and signed a record-setting contract in doing so.

15. Trinity Rodman

Trinity Rodman is a forward for the Washington Spirit of the NWSL and the United States Women’s National Team. She’s an inspiration to all young female soccer players after signing the biggest contract in NWSL history at 19 years old, one year after being drafted No. 2 overall.

Rodman, the daughter of NBA legend Dennis Rodman, started 22 of 25 games in her first NWSL season. She finished her rookie year with seven goals and seven assists en route to winning the 2021 NWSL Rookie of the Year. She recently made her debut with the USWNT. 

14. Adonis Lattimore

Adonis Lattimore is a high school senior wrestler that made headlines just a few days ago after winning the Virginia High School League Class 6 state championship (106-pound weight division). Lattimore was born without legs and only has one finger on one of his hands. 

He always dreamed of winning a state championship. After making it to regionals as a freshman, he missed out his sophomore year and had his junior season canceled due to COVID-19. That dream came true as a senior and now he plans to take his talents to college. 

13. Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli is an Indian right-handed batsmen that currently plays for Delhi in domestic cricket and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League. He is one of the most famous athletes in the world and has quickly become one of the greatest batsmen in cricket history. 

Kohli has 7,962 runs in Test formats, 12,311 runs in ODI formats, 3,296 runs in T20I formats, 10,211 runs in FC formats, 13,753 runs in List A formats, and 10,273 in T20 formats. He has 156 hundreds and 306 fifties across all formats between his debut in 2006 and now in 2022. 

12. Megan Rapinoe

Megan Rapinoe is a winger for the OL Reign of the NWSL (a team she captains) and the United States Women’s National Team. She’s regarded as one of the greatest female soccer players of all-time, but also uses her voice to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and equal rights. 

Rapinoe has made 187 international appearances for the USWNT since 2006, scoring 62 goals and dishing 71 assists in that time. She’s a two-time World Cup winner and one-time Olympic gold medalist. She’s also married to one of the greatest WNBA players of all-time, Sue Bird. 

11. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo is a forward that currently plays for Manchester United of the Premier League. He also played for Real Madrid and Juventus over his illustrious 20-year career in professional football. Of course, you can’t forget he’s the captain of Portugal’s national team.

Ronaldo is one of the greatest soccer players of all-time and one of the most recognizable names in the sport’s history. He has made 924 club appearances since 2003, scoring 689 goals and dishing 231 assists in the process. He also has 115 goals in 184 international appearances.

10. Shaun White

Shaun White is an American snowboarder and skateboarder that has captured the hearts of many over his 20+ years in extreme sports. He represented Team USA at five consecutive Winter Olympics, winning three gold medals – the most gold medals in snowboarding history.

White made headlines just a few weeks ago when he finished his final Olympic run before retirement. Though he failed to win a medal (he finished fourth), he stayed optimistic and remained his true self throughout. He also has a record 13 gold medals at the X Games. 

9. Nathan Chen

Speaking of Americans that made headlines at the 2022 Winter Olympics, we’d be wrong not to include Nathan Chen on this list. The 22-year-old figure skater had an impressive comeback story after a disappointing finish at the 2018 Winter Olympics, where he fell multiple times. 

He set a new world record in the men’s short program with a score of 113.97 before scoring a 218.63 in the free skate, securing his first gold medal. He also helped Team USA win a silver medal (possibly a gold, depending on Kamila Valieva’s situation) in the mixed team event. 

8. Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin is a winger that currently plays for the Washington Capitals of the NHL. He’s currently in his 17th season in the league, but looks like the youngest player on the ice every time he plays. At 36 years old, he has scored 31 goals this season – fourth in the NHL. 

With 761 goals in his career, Ovechkin has the fourth-most goals all-time. He’s five away from Jaromir Jagr, 40 away from Gordie Howe, and 128 away from Wayne Gretzky. He has nearly 200 more goals than the next closest active player – Patrick Marleau has 566 career goals. 

7. Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry is easily one of the most-liked NBA players in the league today. He never gets caught up in drama, he knows when to use his voice to spark change, and he’s fully-dedicated to his role as a father – he married his longtime girlfriend, Ayesha, and they have three kids.

On the court, Curry is one of the most lethal shooters of all-time – which he put on full display at the 2022 All-Star Game. He put up 50 points and made a record 16 three point field goals in the game, further cementing his legacy as one of the greatest shooters and point guards of all-time. 

6. Tom Brady

Tom Brady is a former quarterback that played for the New England Patriots for 20 years and Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons. In that time, he made 10 Super Bowl appearances and won seven rings in the process. For reference, that’s more than any franchise in the NFL. 

Brady’s commitment to the game will be remembered forever, but it’s likely we will never see him take another snap in the NFL after he announced his retirement this offseason. He will go down as the most dominant, talented, committed, and decorated player in football history. 

5. Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick did what many athletes aren’t willing to do – put his career at risk by speaking out against the racial biases, discrimination, and police brutality that happens around the world. He made a statement when he kneeled during the singing of the National Anthem in 2016. 

Kaepernick was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. While he hasn’t played since 2016, he doesn’t regret the route he took and continues to work towards change. He recently announced he’s offering free autopsies for police-related deaths.

4. Serena Williams

Serena Williams is one of the most recognizable and inspirational female tennis players of all-time. She turned professional in 1995 and continues to play to this day, though she may be nearing retirement soon. She has earned over $94 million in prize money, the most all-time. 

With an 855-152 career record in singles matches, it’s clear Serena isn’t too fond of losing. She has the second-most career Grand Slam titles with 23 – one behind Margaret Court. Outside of her incredible play, she has always been an advocate for equal rights and Black Lives Matter. 

3. LeBron James

LeBron James is one of the most popular and widely-recognized athletes in the entire world. He has made a living as one of the greatest basketball players of all-time, but also takes his role as an icon and role model very seriously. He isn’t afraid to speak up for those that don’t feel heard. 

James is currently in his 19th season in the NBA and has never averaged less than 20.9 points per game in any one season. He’s a 18-time All-Star, 17-time All-NBA, four-time champion, four-time MVP, four-time Finals MVP, three-time All-Star MVP, and 2003 Rookie of the Year. 

2. Simone Biles

Simone Biles is an American gymnast that has captured the hearts of many since making her senior international debut in 2013. Since then, she has won seven Olympic medals – including four gold medals – and 25 medals at the World Championships – including 19 gold medals. 

Biles was heavily criticized for backing out of most of her events during the 2020 (2021) Summer Olympics due to mental health concerns. She used that criticism to spread awareness about mental health, something that many athletes have echoed in support of her decision. 

1. Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka is one of the brightest names in women’s tennis today. She is a huge supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and has taken the role of activist seriously in recent years. Her voice is heard by millions of people around the world and they’re always ready to listen. 

Osaka, like Biles, took a small hiatus from her sport, citing mental health issues. While she too received criticism for her decision, she used it to spread awareness about mental health and helped many people see that famous athletes are normal people just like everyone else. 

Who Are the Most Inspirational Athletes of All-Time?

Athletes have always played an enormous role in the society we live in. And while some athletes leave their legacy on the field, others have extended their influence beyond the playing field. Those ‘others’ are the ones we consider the most inspirational athletes we’ve ever seen. 

That list contains the likes of Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Joan Joyce, Michael Phelps, Magic Johnson, Jesse Owens, Lance Armstrong, Lou Gehrig, Manny Pacquiao, Jim Abbott, Babe Didrikson, Pat Tillman, Diego Maradona, Usain Bolt, and Bill Russell.

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Athletes will always hold a special place in the hearts of their fans, but it’s what those athletes do with that influence that separates them from others. Needless to say, the most inspirational athletes that we listed above will see their legacy celebrated for many years to come.

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