Who are the GOATs of all sports? A list of the greatest to play each sport

Who are the GOATs of all sports? A list of the greatest to play each sport

Samuel Lisubila, Adrianna Simwa
updated at April 29, 2024 at 1:33 PM

The acronym 'GOAT’ means Greatest of All Time and is reserved for one who is deemed to be the best in a particular art, mainly sport. With more than 200+ sports worldwide, individuals in all categories have been the best and earned the most excellent spots. Here is a list of the GOATs of all sports.

Lionel Messi, Michael Jordan and Tom Brady
GOATs of all sports. Photo: Andrew Katsampes, Andy Lyons /Allsport, Mike Ehrmann
Source: UGC

Table of Сontents:

While some might disagree on who is their favourite payer, some undoubtedly go as the most excellent thanks to their accolades, talent and influence on the game. With all these in consideration, the list below has been analysed and sorted to give the best results from the most popular sports in the world.

Who are the GOATs of all sports?



Player's name



Lionel Messi



Michael Jordan



Jon Jones



Mal Meninga



Muhammad Ali


American Football

Tom Brady



Babe Ruth



Don Bradman



Tiger Woods



Roger Federer



Ronnie O’Sullivan



Lewis Hamilton



Usain Bolt

Top 13 famous GOATs of all sports

The title of Greatest of All Time (GOAT) is often a fiercely debated topic across all sports, with enthusiasts and analysts weighing in on various criteria such as statistics, championships won, longevity, impact on the game, and more. Here are some names that frequently come up when discussing the GOATs of various sports.

13. Sprinter - Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt looks on prior to the inaugural Formula 1
Usain Bolt, Jamaican runner, looks on prior to the inaugural Formula 1 Heineken Silver Las Vegas Gran Prix on the Las Vegas Street Circuit in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Jeff Speer
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Usain St. Leo Bolt
  • Date of birth: 21 August 1986
  • Age: 37 years old (as of 2024)
  • Place of birth: Sherwood Content, Jamaica

Usain Bolt is a retired Jamaican sprinter who is considered to be the greatest sprinter of all time. He is the world record holder in the 200 meters, 4 × 100 meters relay and 100 meters. Bolt's remarkable achievements include winning three gold medals in three consecutive Olympic Games (2008, 2012, and 2016) in both the 100-meter and 200-meter events, a feat no other sprinter has accomplished.

He also holds the world record for both distances: 9.58 seconds in the 100 meters and 19.19 seconds in the 200 meters, set during the 2009 World Championships in Athletics. Aside from his incredible speed, Usain Bolt was known for his charismatic personality and showmanship on the track, often celebrating victories with his signature "Lightning Bolt" pose.

After retiring from professional athletics, Bolt has been involved in various business ventures and philanthropic activities, continuing to inspire and influence others beyond his athletic career.

12. F1 - Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton looks on in the Paddock
Lewis Hamilton looks on in the Paddock during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit in Shanghai, China. Photo: Lars Baron
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton
  • Date of birth: 7 January 1985
  • Age: 39 years old (as of 2024)
  • Place of birth: Stevenage, United Kingdom

Lewis Hamilton is a driver competing in Formula One, driving for Mercedes. Hamilton debuted in the 2001 British Formula Renault Winter Series, finishing fifth in the standings. In Formula One, Hamilton made his debut in 2007 with the McLaren team and immediately showcased his talent by finishing on the podium in his first race and challenging for the championship in his rookie season, narrowly missing out on the title.

He claimed his first Formula One World Championship the following year, becoming the youngest champion at that time. Hamilton's career continued to soar as he amassed numerous race victories and championships, securing additional titles in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

In 2020, he was listed by Time as the 100 most influential people globally. Hamilton's achievements extend beyond Formula One, with honours including the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and numerous awards for his contributions to motorsport and society. Lewis Hamilton is considered to be one of the grid's most complete drivers because of his versatility.

11. Snooker - Ronnie O'Sullivan

Ronnie O'Sullivan of England celebrates victory against Jackson Page of Wales in their first round match at Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England
Ronnie O'Sullivan of England celebrates victory against Jackson Page of Wales in their first round match at Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England. Photo: George Wood
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Ronald Antonio O'Sullivan
  • Date of birth: 5 December 1975
  • Age: 48 years old (as of 2024)
  • Place of birth: Wordsley, United Kingdom

Ronnie O’Sullivan is a snooker player recognized as one of the most talented and accomplished players in snooker history. O'Sullivan's dominance in snooker is evident through his extensive list of accomplishments. He is a seven-time winner of the World Snooker Championship.

He also holds the record for the most Masters titles, having won the prestigious tournament seven times (1995, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2016, and 2017). O'Sullivan also holds the record for the most competitive century breaks, including the fastest maximum break in history, achieved in just 5 minutes and 8 seconds during the first round of the 1997 World Championship.

At 17 years and 358 days, he won his first ranking event at the UK Championship in 1993. To this day, Ronnie O’Sullivan remains the youngest player to win a ranking title. Ronnie O’Sullivan is regarded as among the top 10 sporting GOATs.

10. Tennis - Roger Federer

Every sports GOAT
Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates after winning his match against Ilya Ivashka of Belarus during day 3 of the Noventa Open at OWL-Arena on 14 June 2021 in Halle, Germany. Photo: Thomas F. Starke
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Roger Federer
  • Date of birth: 8 August 1981
  • Age: 42 years old (as of 2024)
  • Place of birth: Basel, Switzerland

Setting standards in modern tennis is none other than Roger Federer. While some might argue that Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal have more Grand Slam titles than The Swiss Maestro, he is the King when every other aspect is considered. His combined skill, style, versatility and class make him the undisputed GOAT of the racket sport.

Among the awards he has earned throughout his career include 20 Grand Slam singles titles, 28 ATP Masters titles, and seven Swiss Sportsman of the Year between 2003 and 2017. Roger Federer is also one of eight to win a career Grand Slam, winning all four Grand Slams at least once and is one of four to achieve a career Grand Slam on three different surfaces, hard, grass and clay courts.

In 2020, Roger Federer was named the Best Sportsperson in the 70-year history of the Swiss Sports Awards and was later regarded as 'The Perfect sporting icon'. He retired in 2022 after he announced injuries and surgeries had taken a toll on his body.

9. Golf - Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods walks to the 18th green during the final round of the 2024 Masters Tournament
Tiger Woods walks to the 18th green during the final round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Photo: Andrew Redington
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Eldrick Tont Woods
  • Date of birth: 30 December 1975
  • Age: 48 years old (as of 2024)
  • Place of birth: Cypress, California, United States

Labelled the golf GOAT, Tiger Woods has achieved a successful career since his debut in 1996 at 20. He has been unstoppable throughout the years despite suffering a broken leg and several back surgeries and has continued to have significant wins. Tiger Woods has won every title on his golf course and has risen to excellence thanks to his dominance in the game.

Woods began playing golf early when his father introduced it and coached him carefully. He grew up loving the game and reached the sport's highest rank, earning awards and accolades that only some would dream of. Some of his significant awards include five Masters Tournaments, four PGA Championships, three U.S. Open Championships, and three British Open Championships.

On top of his achievements, his influence and impact on golf have been felt and seen by the millions inspired to join the sport. Several times' The Tiger Effect' has been experienced whenever he plays where TV ratings, attendance and interest in the sport skyrocket, but when he does not play, they all sag.

8. Cricket - Don Bradman

The most prolific run-maker ever, Sir Don Bradman (1908 - 2001), captain of the Australian test team, ready to bat
The most prolific run-maker ever, Sir Don Bradman (1908 - 2001), captain of the Australian test team, ready to bat. Photo: Keystone
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Donald George Bradman
  • Date of birth: 27 August 1908
  • Died: 25 February 2001 (aged 92 years)
  • Place of birth: Cootamundra, Australia

The Australian legend has had a fantastic career in cricket and is considered supreme in the pantheon of great batsmen. His impressive stats, blended with his influence on and off the pitch, make Bradman the greatest to play the game, with a record-setting Test batting average of 99.94, which has been cited as the most outstanding achievement by any sportsman in any major sport.

Some of the most outstanding achievements by 'The Don' include the highest personal score in a first-class match, 1931 Wisden Cricketer of the Year, 1999 Australian Sportsman of the Year and the first former Test player to be elected chairman of the Australian Board of Control in 1960. His most significant award came in 1949 when he was knighted, honouring him as Sir Donald Bradman.

Bradman's unique contribution to the game provided hope and pride to Australians during the Depression period. This move cemented his name as the greatest, as he was and still is a great ambassador for cricket.

7. Baseball - Babe Ruth

American baseball player George Herman Ruth (1895 - 1948) known as 'Babe' Ruth
American baseball player George Herman Ruth (1895 - 1948) known as 'Babe' Ruth. Photo: MPI
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: George Herman Ruth
  • Date of birth: 6 February 1895
  • Died: 16 August 1948 (53 years)
  • Place of birth: Pigtown, Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player ever to play the game. He is also one of the most successful sportsmen, going strong from 1914 to 1935, spending a more significant period with the New York Yankees. Popularly known as 'The Sultan of Swat', Babe Ruth emerged as the greatest hitter of all time.

Throughout his 22-year career, he has earned major awards, including the League award, the Slocum Award (Now: Jack Lang award), the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

6. American Football - Tom Brady

Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida
Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Photo: Mike Ehrmann
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.
  • Date of birth: 3 August 1977
  • Age: 46 years old (as of 2024)
  • Place of birth: San Mateo, California, United States

After winning his sixth Superbowl, Tom Brady cemented his position as the greatest of all time in NFL history. With 15 career Pro Bowl selections, he has also had the most career receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns for NFL tight ends and an incredible 3 MVP titles to complete the list.

Nicknamed 'Tom Terrific', he holds a .755 winning percentage, which is the most by any NFL quarterback who has started 100 games. Impressively, his 35 postseason victories are twice as many as any other quarterback, and he boasts the only NFL quarterback to win 200 regular season games.

5. Boxing - Muhammad Ali

Muhammad ALI in 1960
Muhammad ALI in 1960. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.
  • Date of birth: 17 January 1942
  • Place of birth: Scottsdale, Arizona, United States

Famously known as 'The Greatest', Muhammad Ali is arguably the best heavyweight boxer of all time and is regarded as one of the most significant figures of the 20th century. Taking advantage of his incredible hand speed, dazzling reflexes and constant movement, Ali held his hands low, making his opponents miss by the hair, before knocking them off with his sharp counters.

Ali has had 56 wins and five losses, with 37 knockouts throughout his career. While other fighters might match this, the quality of his opponents and how he dominated the boxing world during his time places him on top of the chart as the greatest boxer of all time.

4. Rugby - Mal Meninga

Sports GOATs of all time
Australia coach Mal Meninga conducts an interview before the 2017 Rugby League World Cup Quarter Final match against Samoa at Darwin Stadium on 17 November 2017 in Darwin, Australia. Photo: Matt King
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Malcolm Norman Meninga
  • Date of birth: 8 July 1960
  • Age: 63 years old (as of 2024)
  • Place of birth: Bundaberg Central, Australia

Over his 17-year career, Meninga captained the Australian team for 23 Test matches and the Queensland State of Origin team for three years. That makes him the only player to captain two Kangaroo Tours, in 1990 and 1994. His achievements and records are a testament to his strength, drive and passion for the sport, earning him the spot as the greatest rugby player of all time.

Playing mainly as a goal-kicking centre and also on the wing, Mal Meninga accumulated multiple awards during his time in the league. He won major awards, including in 1990 when he was named the best player in the world, Australian Rugby League Writers' Player of the Year in 1991, Centre of the Year and Captain of the Year in 1991 and the Sports Tourism Ambassador of the Year in 1993.

3. MMA - Jon Jones

Jon Jones meets with the media following his win
Jon Jones meets with the media following his win at T-Mobile Arena for UFC in Las Vegas, NV, United States.Photo: Louis Grasse
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Jonathan Dwight Jones
  • Date of birth: 19 July 1987
  • Age: 36 years old (as of 2024)
  • Place of birth: Rochester, New York, United States

Coming from a traumatic childhood, Jon Jones is one of the most successful UFC fighters of all time. With an incredible reach to his advantage, he uses a ground-and-pound technique which genuinely sets him apart. The point fighter went ahead to be the best in the game, clinching multiple titles.

He acquired notable titles, a two-time Light Heavyweight Championship from March 2011 to April 2015 and from December 2018 to August 2020. He also acquired the interim UFC Light Heavyweight Championship in 2016. He also holds the record for the longest unbeaten streak in UFC history of 18 straight fights.

2. Basketball - Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan attends a press conference before the NBA Paris Game.
Michael Jordan attends a press conference before the NBA Paris Game match between Charlotte Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks in Paris, France. Photo: Aurelien Meunier
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Michael Jeffrey Jordan
  • Date of birth: 17 February 1963
  • Age: 61 years old (as of 2024)
  • Place of birth: Brooklyn, New York City, United States

While names like Bill Russel, Wilt Chamberlain and, most notably, Lebron James might be mentioned in the GOAT debate, Michael Jordan remains at the top. Currently the principal chairman and owner of the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA, he spent 15 years in the league, winning six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls.

His dominance in the top basketball league during the 90s grew his popularity, making him one of the most influential athletes of the century. His number 23 jersey became the most popular jersey even after his retirement, and it is the most popular number in all sports.

1. Football - Lionel Messi

Sports GOATs of all time
Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates his goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 match against Mexico played at Lusail Stadium on 26 Nov 2022 in Lusail, Qatar. Photo: Bagu Blanco
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Lionel Andrés Messi
  • Date of birth: 24 June 1987
  • Age: 36 years old (as of 2024)
  • Place of birth: Rosario, Argentina

After winning the 2022 World Cup, Lionel Messi cemented himself as the greatest footballer of all time. This was the only trophy standing in his way as he had clinched any other award a footballer could earn, making him one of the complete sportsmen of the modern era. Cristiano Ronaldo is the closest to Lionel Messi in this debate as he goes head-to-head against Messi in every comparable statistic that will lead to the GOAT title.

What does the GOAT stand for?

GOAT is an abbreviation that stands for Greatest of All Time. It dates back to the 20th century when it praises exceptional athletes, musicians, artists and other public figures since its inception.

Which is the greatest of all time sports?

Football, also known as soccer, is the greatest sport of all time. It has been voted for, with over 250 million athletes playing it in more than 200 countries.

What is the least known sport?

Some of the least-known sports in the world include unicycle hockey, chess, boxing and indoor kabaddi. The sports are, however, exciting and have even been featured in the Olympics. The three sports are also growing in popularity and may soon be recognised in major tournaments and competitions.

Who is the GOAT athlete of all time?

Usain Bolt is undoubtedly the most outstanding athlete of all time. Since he became a professional in the sprinting department, Bolt went strong in his career, becoming one of the most complete athletes in the world.

Who is known as the GOAT of football?

Argentina's star Lionel Messi is the undoubted GOAT of football in the 21st century. This comes after he won the World Cup, which was the only trophy missing from his cabinet. He has been compared primarily to Cristiano Ronaldo as the King of the 21st century.

Who is the GOAT of all GOATs in different sports?

New England Patriots hero Tom Brady is the 'GOAT of all GOATs'. He took this spot from Michael Jordan after his seventh Super Bowl in 2022 triumph, which has made him clear of the pack among sports legends. He is the sports' GOAT of all time.

Who is the greatest player in every sport?

Some widely recognized greats include Michael Jordan in basketball, Messi in soccer, and Serena Williams. What sets these players apart is their exceptional talent, unmatched dedication, and ability to consistently perform at the highest level.

Who is the GOAT of all sports according to Reddit?

The title of "GOAT" is heavily debated across different sports. Here are various views on Reddit on who is the GOAT of all time:

In terms of how much more GOAT he is than even other Hall of Fame players: Wayne Gretzky. He has more career assists than any other player has total points. He was the fastest player to 1,000 points. The next fastest player to 1,000 points was also Wayne Gretzky, when he got his next 1,000 points. - mahoujosei100
Christiano Ronaldo. Tom Brady gets all these plaudits for winning more super bowls than 16 other teams, but Ronaldo was won more trophies than 98% of every team in Europe. - Takhar7
Statistically? Wayne Gretzky. No single athelete has dominated a professional sport the way he did. Just look at points alone as a starter. Points in hockey are either scoring a goal, or getting an assist on a goal. Gretzky is the all time goal scorer in the NHL but if he never scored even one goal, he'd still be the all time points leader on assists alone. - d3k3d

The GOATs of all sports above are a true meaning of sportsmanship, with all the hard work and determination that has led them to be the greatest in their crafts. While some are still alive, others who have died have remained to be respected for their positive influence on their respective sports and the world.

Sportsbrief.com recently published an article on the most popular jersey numbers in sports history. Athletes who have been influential on a personal level to fans have popular jersey numbers.

While they may seem like numbers to others, fans use them as inspiration. Read on for more here.

Samuel Lisubila photo
Samuel Lisubila
Adrianna Simwa photo
Adrianna Simwa
Adrianna Simwa is a content writer at Sports Brief, where she has worked since mid-2022. She has written for many periodicals on a variety of subjects, including news, celebrities, and lifestyle, for more than three years.