ESPN the Magazine’s top 20 athletes of the last twenty years. Calculated by determining a dominance factor: how much better the athlete was over the next-highest in their sport.
1. Tiger Woods: 13 major championships in the past 20 years, ten more than any other golfer.
2. LeBron James has been to eight NBA Finals in the past 16 years.
3. Peyton Manning: 5 MVPs, 7 times 1st team All-Pro, first QB to win Super Bowls for two different teams.
4. Jimmie Johnson has won seven NASCAR championships, equaling Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
5. Roger Federer: 20 grand slam championships
6. Annika Sorenstam was the greatest women’s golfer ever.
7. Michael Schumacher is the greatest Formula One driver alive, though he fell victim to a catastrophic snow skiing injury.
8. Floyd Mayweather won 50 straight professional fights.
9. Marta: five-time FIFA player of the year.
10. Usain Bolt won eight Olympic gold medals, holds the world record in the 100 and 200 yard dashes.
11. Lionel Messi: world’s greatest active soccer player, youngest 3-time Ballon d’Or winner (has since won 2 more).
12. Serena Williams won ten majors in five years after turning thirty.
13. Lauren Jackson: three-time WNBA MVP.
14. Christiano Ronaldo: four-time Champions League winner, all-time Champions League goal scorer.
15. Novak Djokovic has won 12 major championships and 68 tournaments in the past ten years.
16. Allyson Felix has won nine Olympic medals.
17. Barry Bonds: they didn’t say why.
18. Mike Trout: six-time All Star in 7 seasons, 2-time MVP with three 2nd place finishes.
19. Manny Pacquiao won titles in eight weight classes.
20. Tom Brady has played fewer years than Peyton, so he’s ranked lower.
Michael Phelps didn’t make the top 20 because there are so many swimming events.
Kelly Slater wasn’t included because surfing doesn’t generate enough revenue.
Kobe Bryant took too many shots, lowering his value.