Well, this list is sure to cause some debate but that is what are blogs are there for! You could pick thousands and thousands of sportsmen and women from the past 40 years to be on our list but we have whittled it down to the best 10 sporting icons!
These 10 amazing athletes have transcended their respective sports like no other since 1980 and it is testament to their success, longevity, skill, bravery and sheer self-belief that they have made the cut.
It was so hard to compile to get it down to this 10 and even tougher to pick a number one, so in no particular order, here are our top 10 sporting icons over the past four decades.
1. Serena Williams
Arguably, the greatest female tennis player ever. Williams has dominated the sport for nearly 20 years and has won 23 career Grand Slam singles titles. What separates Williams from everyone else is her achievements have come in a backdrop of women’s tennis that she, along with sister Venus, not only revolutionised but she became the person to beat, raising the standards of female tennis to new heights. Her career has drawn parallels with the gentleman at number two…
2. Roger Federer
The Swiss maestro has dominated the men’s game, especially in the 2000s. Since the emergence of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, Federer has won slams with less frequency. However, it is the longevity of the Swiss that stands out. Whilst the others have had long-term injuries in their illustrious careers, Federer has remained as fit as a flea. His graceful, yet deadly, movement and groundstrokes have beaten off the competition and like Williams, still harbours hopes of winning slams touching 40 years of age! A true legend in any era who graces this list of sporting icons deservedly.
3. Usain Bolt
There have been plenty of athletes to have been hugely successful in the past 40 years. You think of Mo Farah, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Kelly Holmes, Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson. However, no-one has quite done it with the personality and style of Bolt, who deserves to be on this list of sporting icons. He has eight Olympic Gold medals and numerous world records. Sprinters couldn’t get close to him in his prime. And his middle name is St Leo. Incidentally St Leo was the first Pope to be given the name “The Great”. What a coincidence!
4. Michael Jordan
Jordan is, without question, one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Since joining the Chicago Bulls in 1986, he dominated the US basketball scene for over 10 years, setting records which we may never be broken. Coming from a less-than-privileged background, the charming New Yorker has been a mentor for many and his Bulls team of the late 80s and early 90s, alongside the likes of Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, rank alongside the greats.
5. Sachin Tendulkar
Like with a lot of the names on this, longevity goes a long way to securing their legendary status. With Tendulkar, it is possibly his greatest asset. He made his debut for India in 1989 and was still smashing bowling attacks everywhere over 20 years later. Lauded like royalty in his native homeland, Tendulkar’s record in Tests and One-Day Internationals, stack up against the greats of the game. He has the most runs ever in international cricket and it is unlikely anyone will get past that record.
6. Megan Rapinoe
Rapinoe might be a controversial figure but she is one of the finest players to grace women’s football. She has led the USA team to glory at World Cups and Olympic Games and won the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France and at the age of 34, she seems to be getting better with time. She is also a huge advocate of LGBT in sport and she is in this list for her amazing work on the pitch, as well as off it.
7. Lionel Messi
Messi, along with Cristiano Ronaldo, have been the standout players during this era, with Diego Maradona also in the reckoning. However, Messi shades those two due to his amazing consistency. Ronaldo may have the perfect physique for a footballer unlike Messi and the fact the little Argentine has had to have growth hormones in his younger years is testament to his temperament. Often targeted by opponents, he always comes out on top and is the best player Barcelona have ever had. That is saying something with the players that they have had at their disposal!
8. Jonah Lomu
The only rugby player on this list but a worthy addition to any sporting greats. He turned the world in its head at the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, smashing England to lead New Zealand to the final. Although, the All Blacks lost, Lomu was established as the best player on the planet and he was like a human juggernaut on the wing, also becoming the youngest ever player to turn out for the Kiwis. Tragically, Lomu died at the tender age of 40 in November 2015.
9. Michael Schumacher
There were so many Formula One drivers who could make this list such as Ayrton Senna, Lewis Hamilton and Alain Prost but Schumacher’s single mindedness saw him plunder an astonishing seven world titles as he was in a class of his own in the early part of this century. Sadly, Schumacher was involved in a serious skiing accident in December 2013 and little is known of his current condition following his retreat from the public eye.
10. Tiger Woods
And to finish this illustrious list of sporting giants, Woods fits into this list like a hand in a glove. He took golf by storm in the late 1990s before completely dominating the game in the 2000s, winning 14 Major titles, second behind Jack Nicklaus’ total of 18. He changed the way golf was played, going to the gym and hitting the ball further than anyone allied to a golden putting stroke. After a few years in the wilderness and without a Major victory since 2008, he bounced back by winning the 2019 Masters at Augusta. Can he catch Nicklaus? Time will tell but don’t put it past Woods.