top of page


The smallest category out of the ten reflects the very recent development of organized sports on a wide scale. Though sports have been played throughout history, individual influence has been very limited until the 1800s. Taking the widest possible view of sports in general revealed three individuals. Pierre de Coubertin, who clearly stands out above everyone else because (1) he almost single handedly revived the ancient Olympic Games and (2) the Olympic Games was the catalyst for worldwide participation and competition in a wide range of sports that continues to today. Second, is Albert Goodwill Spalding, who did much to make baseball American’s pastime and created the largest sporting goods empire in the world. Third, is Roone Arledge, for his seminal work in sports television. Television’s role in making sport figures influential cannot be overestimated and is a primary reason why twelve people in sports history were even included in a website that spans over 5,000 years of history.  


The second lens, or underlying factor in choosing the selections was how prevalent is participation in a sport throughout the world coupled with the media coverage and revenue the sport generates. With this in mind, soccer came out on top as the most widely played with worldwide television coverage. This led to Pelé being the most influential in soccer’s history. For basketball, Naismith invented it; for football, Walter Camp came up with most of the essential rules; and for baseball, Babe Ruth single handedly reshaped the game while Jackie Robinson first integrated the sport in 1947. Babe Didrikson was an amazing female pioneer and led the way for other women including Billie Jean King.  Boxing's Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali were widely influential and both captured a global audience. Finally, Abebe Bikela from Africa inspired a continent with his performances in the Olympic marathon.


Ranking by Influence and Chronologically

American Boxer, Heavyweight Division; 6' 3", 220 pounds

Sports Ranking 2nd of 12

American Television Pioneer

Sports Ranking 8th of 12

Ethiopian Runner; 5’ 10’’, 126 pounds

Sports Ranking 12th of 12

American Football Pioneer

Sports Ranking 5th of 12

French Educator and Sportsman

Sports Ranking 1st of 12

Overall Ranking 48th out of 500

American Athlete; 5’ 5”, 110 pounds

Sports Ranking 11th of 12

American Boxer, Heavyweight Division; 6' 2", 200 pounds

Sports Ranking 9th of 12

American (Canadian-born) Physical Educator

Sports Ranking 4th of 12

Brazilian Soccer Player, 5’ 8’’, 159 pounds

Sports Ranking 3rd of 12

American Baseball Player; 5’ 11’, 204 pounds

Sports Ranking 10th of 12

1 / 1

Please reload

bottom of page