Right at the turn of the century, many sports took a back seat to rising stars that would dominate the landscape for decades to come. Athletes like Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Lebron James, and Tom Brady all started their careers from 2000-2003 and have become arguably the greatest players in their respective sports. When determining an ordered list of dominant performers, each athlete’s significance to their sports, durability, and degree of dominance are the most important factors. Championships are not everything in this list, but they are certainly a factor impossible to ignore. Let’s get started with a few honorable mentions before we hit the list.
He is maybe the most underrated player in the history of sports. Nothing but pure dominance throughout his career.
There hasn’t been a human created who could stop Shaq in the post.
Leo Messi/Christiano Ronaldo
Take one of these generational talents off the planet…the other one is in the top three on this list. Who even knows who’s better.
10. Katie Ledecky
Yes…21 year-old Katie Ledecky. Based on pure dominance, Katie could even be higher on this list; she is simply a faster swimmer than everyone else, and it’s not even close. In the 2016 800m Olympic Preliminaries Katie Ledecky lacked any enthusiasm or motivation and still managed the 8th best time in history and an olympic record. She placed herself in-between Katie and Katie as she has the 12 best 800m freestyle times ever, with her all-time race 11 seconds faster than anyone else’s. Ledecky is also the fastest 200m freestyler and holds the world records in the 400m and 1500m free. She is three seconds faster than anyone in history at the 400m and 24 seconds faster in the 1500m. Is it absurd to say Katie Ledecky is the most dominant at her specific craft than any athlete, maybe ever? Her credentials certainly warrant her a spot on this list.
9. Barry Bonds
Steroids aside, Barry Bonds is possibly the most dominant baseball player ever. Given Bonds’ astonishing home run prowess, many forget Bonds was a force in every aspect of the game until he gained an immense amount of weight towards the back end of his career (16th in stolen bases all-time). Intentionally walked 688 times, seven-time MLB MVP Barry Bonds did not face a pitcher more than eight times without being purposely let on base at least once. The one pitcher he did face eight times before being intentionally walked was Padres pitcher, Will Cunnane, who did not record an out and would’ve been better off throwing 32 straight balls. Bonds also became the first player in MLB history to be walked with the bases loaded in May, 1998. Managers and Pitchers did not just fear what Barry Bonds could do, they knew what he was going to do. It would take me pages to go in depth on the wreckage Bonds impaled the MLB with throughout his career, and yes I know his steroid use is a big deal, but Bonds belongs on this list because he thoroughly dominated the league for multiple decades, which is undeniable. I mean, everyone was doping at the time, right? No one else came close to hitting 762 HRs and 73 in a season.
8. Tom Brady
As a 19 year-old sports fan, I have no idea what the NFL is like without Tom Brady and Bill Belichick contending for a Super Bowl. The success and pure length of the Brady reign is truly remarkable whether you like him or not. Winning five rings and contending for many more Brady will most likely go down as the greatest quarterback ever; his statistics and career earning might not show it, but the consistent dominance does not lie.
7. Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal. Novak Djokovic. Those are the only two reasons Roger Federer doesn’t crack the top three. The 20-time Grand Slam winner won his first 16 majors in just 27 events, a period of dominance practically unmatched in any sport. Owning just about every Men’s Tennis record, 36 year-old Fed is the greatest player of all time. He has also won 10% of all the grand slams ever contested in its 50 year history…he isn’t even close to 50.
6. LeBron James
As LeBron James stretches further and further into his 30s, the dominance he continues to display keeps getting more and more impressive. Leading the Miami Heat and sometimes dysfunctional Cleveland Cavaliers to eight straight finals appearances, Lebron has dominated the Eastern Conference in ways only witnessed in the Bill Russell era. If the NBA did a “best player” award, instead of the popularity award referred to as “MVP” each season, Lebron James would surely win almost every single year of his 16-year NBA career. James lacks top five dominance on this list due to his 3-6 finals record and most notably the historic debacle he conducted in the 2011 finals.
5. Serena Williams
Serena Williams is a different kind of human when she steps onto the court. Dominating the sport throughout the 21st century, Serena owns the record for most Grand Slam titles by any Tennis player in history. The greatest aspect of this achievement, however, is the fact that she broke that record at the 2017 Australian Open…while pregnant. Need I say more? While Serena has been a clear dominant force since she entered the scene, the competition minus the likes of Maria Sharapova and her sister Venus has been somewhat subpar.
4. Tiger Woods
Without the health and personal issues, Tiger Woods would probably land as the most dominant athlete of all-time. After winning four of the first five majors of the 20th century (U.S Open by 15 shots), Tiger was expected to win every tournament he competed in for the entire first decade of this century. Woods even managed to win the 2008 U.S Open with broken bones in his knee. Golf has never and maybe will never see a force like Tiger in his prime; he truly made golf a spectacle to watch instead of a boring hobby it is sometimes referred to as. With a comeback in the works and a win at the Tour Championship on the board, Tiger has room to climb this list if he retains just a whiff of that dominance displayed during the “vintage Tiger” days.
3. Usain Bolt
Until losing his first professional race in August of 2017, Bolt had cruised to 45 straight victories as the fastest human being alive. He is not just the fastest in this century, Bolt is the fastest man ever to compete. His 9.58 100m time in 2009 would have been considered blasphemy just 20 years ago. Bolt also broke the record for the 200m in the same event with a 19.19 time. Even after earning the bronze for the first ever time, Bolt was serenaded by victor Justin Gatlin with a bow and hug. Just goes to show the respect someone has for the G.O.A.T of track and field
2. Floyd Mayweather
I do not like Floyd Mayweather nor do I condone his actions outside the ring. That being said, he simply has never even come close to losing. With personal bias aside, Money Mayweather’s 50-0 record must make him the most dominant boxer of this century(all-time?), without any real competition to the contrary. If Floyd continues to take himself out of retirement, he could very well lose and drop several spots on this list, but for now; he is undefeated.
1. Michael Phelps
BY FAR the most decorated olympian of all-time, Michael Phelps’ 23 gold medals give him 14 more golds than anyone else who ever lived, no matter the playing ground. Only two Olympians in history are within half of Phelps’ overall medal count. Of all the swimmers who’ve ever dove into an Olympic pool, only three could have their gold-medal count tripled and be out in front of Phelps. With 10 more medals than any participant, world records in seven different events, and more golds than most countries, Phelps is the greatest swimmer ever, greatest olympian ever, and possibly the greatest athlete to ever compete.