It's getting pretty HOT in here. List is looking great Ironslave.
Babe (Didriksen) Zaharias was in all likelihood, the best female athlete of all time. She'd eventually become one of the most dominant athletes in an individual sport (golf), but also excelled at pretty much everything she did. She was an All-American in Basketball and track and field, and would win two gold medals in the 1932 Olympics in the 800m hurdles and javelin. The same Olympics, she would also tie for the gold medal in the high jump (but was awarded the silver medal on a judges decision).
All of these feats are indeed impressive, however she would eventually be known as arguably the greatest woman golfer of all time. Despite first picking up golf at the age of 24, she would soon dominate as both an amateur and professional. As an amateur, she won the United States Women's Amateur Golf Championships in 1946 and 1946, as well as the 1947 British Ladies Amateur Golf Championship (becoming the first American to win this). She would complete her impressive amateur career by winning three LPGA major championships by winning the Western Open in 1940, 1945-46 (all as an amateur), and a whopping 17 straight amateur victories!
Formally turning pro in 1947, she would eventually win four straight world championships from 48-51. Yet, her arguably most impressive feat was winning all three LPGA majors in the same calender year in 1950. By the end of her career, she had 41 amateur wins, 41 LPGA wins, and a total of 10 LPGA majors.
Like many others on this list, her achievements made a huge impact in society. One sports writer said "It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring", reflecting a common view of the idealistic woman at the time. Yet, she would become the first real dominant woman athlete and would pave the way for eventual social acceptance of womens sports.
She would eventually become the Associated Press' female athlete of both the half century and century, as well as Sports Illustrated and ESPN's greatest womans athlete of all time.
If you want to define the greatest athlete of all time as someone who was able to dominate multiple sports, Jim Thorpe would be inarguably #1 on your list. In college, Thorpe dominated pretty much every sport he could, earning letters in 11 (!!) sports at the university of Carlisle, even winning the 1912 inter-collegiate ballroom dancing championship. He would eventually become most known for track and field, but his favorite sport was football. He was a third team all-american in football before "casually" leaving to play minor league professional baseball for two years.
After two years of baseball, he returned to college for 2 more years to play football, and was named all American both years. If you're wondering why I haven't mentioned which position he played, it's because he pretty much played them all, as he was his team's running back, defensive back, place kicker, and punter. His most famous feat in college football while pretty much leading Carlisle to an 18-15 victory over Harvard, where he scored ALL his team's points (4 field goals and a touchdown). The next year, Carlisle won the National Championship.
It seems that everything he had done to this point would be close enough to put him on this list, but it gets better. In 1912, Thorpe went to the Olympics where he dominated and won a gold medal in the pentathalon (long jump, javelin, 200M dash, 1500M run, and discus), winning each individual event, except a third place in the javelin (not to make an excuse for him not winning the javelin, but he did only try it for the first time the year of the Olympics).
He wasn't finished the 1912 Olympics yet, he won another gold medal in the decathalon, where the winner still can make claim to being the best all around athlete in the world. The events were 100 m run, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 m run, discus, 110 M hurdles, pole vault, javelin, and 1500 m run; he placed in the top 4 of each event and dominated the competition.
Next up, Thorpe decided to go fully professional in baseball, basketball and football. He played sparingly in the MLB with the New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds and Boston Braves, where he didn't make much of an impact until his last season in 1919 where he batted .327.
As a professional football player, Thorpe was still one of the best. He signed with the Canton Bulldogs in 1915, and led them to a championship in 1916, 1917, and 1919 in the American Professional Football Association (which would become part of the NFL in 1920). As if he wasn't already legendary enough, he was the first ever Commissioner of the NFL in 1920, while he was still a player.
It's almost unthinkable that someone could not only play, but dominate almost every sport imaginable the way Thorpe did. He didn't dominate just because the talent pool was much weaker back then, his numbers in all his sports are still mind boggling.
-He could run the 100-yard dash in 10 seconds flat
-run the 220 yard dash in 21.8 seconds
-the 440 yard dash in 51.8 seconds,
-the 880 yard run in 1:57
- the mile in 4:35
-the 120-yard high hurdles in 15 seconds
- the 220-yard low hurdles in 24 seconds
-long jump 23 ft 6 in
-high-jump 6 ft 5 in.
-pole vault 11 feet
-shotput 47 ft 9 in
-throw the javelin 163 feet
-throw the discus 136 feet.
Absolutely unreal. If Thorpe were still alive today (without considering how much better he could have been with modern training) and produced these numbers, he would still be the best all around athlete in the world.