10 Most Famous American Athletes

Ranking the top 10 most famous American athletes is no easy task given the history of sports in the United States. It's important to note that these athletes not only transcended time in their respective sport, but transcended generations and are known around the world. Here are the 10 most famous American athletes of all time. 

  1. Michael Jordan. Before Kobe and LeBron there was Michael. Jordan may simply be the greatest basketball player of all time, let alone the most famous American athlete of all time. MJ thrilled fans with his ability to dunk, take over games and his competitiveness. From his trademark shoes to his tongue-wagging Jordan is no doubt the most famous American athlete of his time. 
  2. Muhammed Ali. Ali once claimed he was "the greatest of all time," and he was right. Ali floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee in the ring and he whenever he fought, whoever he fought, a crowd was right there watching him. Ali could easily be the No. 1 most famous American athlete of all time. 
  3. Tiger Woods. Before his dabblings with porn stars and other ladies of the night, Tiger Woods was simply known for his ability to conquer golf courses and tournament fields around the world. Even with the turmoil in his personal life, Tiger is still the center of attention and one of the most famous American athletes of all time. No one is better on the golf course … or maybe the bedroom. 
  4. Babe Ruth.  Babe Ruth, "The King of Swing," "The Great Bambino," still is the most widely known baseball player of all time and therefore, one of the most famous American athletes of all time. From his called shot in the 1932 World Series, to his legendary home runs in Yankee Stadium, Ruth proved again and again why he was the best at the game.
  5. Jesse Owens.  In the 1936 Olympics, around the time Hitler was claiming the Aryan race was supreme, Jesse Owens won four gold medals in Berlin on Hitler's home turf. The feat was not only amazing for the time period, it catapulted him to international fame. Owens rounds out the top five of the 10 most famous American athletes of all time. 
  6. Jim Brown.  Jim Brown did not run around people on the football field, he ran through them. Using his size, speed, toughness and mean streak, Brown dominated pro football for 8 seasons like no other player of his era, which makes him one of the most famous American athletes of all time. Though his career was not as long as it could have been, Brown went into acting and most notably made the movie "The Dirty Dozen." 
  7. Jackie Robinson.  Sweet swinging Jackie Robinson changed baseball forever when he broke the color barrier and played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Robinson is one of the most famous American athletes of all time for this reason and for the fact that he might be one of the best black athletes to ever play the game of baseball. 
  8. Joe Louis.  Known as the "Brown Bomber," Joe Louis is one of the most famous American athletes of all time for his accomplishments both in the ring and out of it. A black heavyweight champion during a time when there was still racial tension, Louis was a giant and hero among the public. Louis was so popular he was featured in Army recruiting ads during World War II. 
  9. Joe DiMaggio.  It's tough to say whether it was his 56-game hitting streak or the fact that he was nailing Marilyn Monroe that made Joltin' Joe so famous. Either way, DiMaggio was a man among boys both on and off the baseball diamond, which justifies his place among the most famous American athletes of all time. 
  10. Carl Lewis. Carl Lewis saw what Jesse Owens did in the Olympics and matched it. In Lewis's career, he tallied 9 gold medals, 10 world championships and was the most prolific Olympian of the 1980s, which is enough to sneak him into the top 10 of the most famous American athletes of all time. 
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