Famous 20th Century American Sportspersons

Find out more about the greatest 20th Century American Sportspersons, including Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, John Cena, Dwayne Johnson and Kobe Bryant.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson
49
Famous As: Actor, Professional wrestler
Birthdate: May 2, 1972
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Hayward, California, United States

A renowned former wrestler with numerous titles under his belt, Dwayne Johnson initially wanted to be a football player but an injury turned him towards wrestling. He soon entered the world of acting, experienced phenomenal success in television and films and became the highest earning male actor in the world.

 2 Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan
50
Famous As: Basketball player
Birthdate: February 17, 1963
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

A superstar, a legend and the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan is all this and much more. Very few athletes can match up with his level of popularity and impact. And if that is not enough, he is also the richest former professional athlete in the world.

 3 Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
34
Famous As: Basketball Player
Birthdate: August 23, 1978
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: January 26, 2020

The former professional basketball player, Kobe Bryant, was drafted into NBA immediately after his school and went on to become one of the most successful basketball players of his generation. During his career of two decades, the Los Angeles Lakers player created numerous new records. He authored a book and one of his poems even inspired an animated short film.

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 4 Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali
35
Famous As: Boxer
Birthdate: January 17, 1942
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Died: June 3, 2016

Widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, Muhammad Ali was a major figure of the 20th century. He was an inspirational figure for African-Americans during the civil rights movement. Because of his opposition to Vietnam War and his refusal to be drafted into military, Muhammad Ali became an icon for the larger counterculture generation.

 5 Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee
19
Famous As: Actor, Martial Artist
Birthdate: November 27, 1940
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: July 20, 1973

An iconic actor and martial artist, Bruce Lee, in his short life, gained international fame and developed his own form of martial arts, Jeet Kune Do. In films, he debuted as a child actor and became a huge Hollywood star after the release of his last film Enter the Dragon.

 6 Serena Williams

Serena Williams
32
Famous As: Tennis player
Birthdate: September 26, 1981
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Saginaw, Michigan, United States

With 39 Grand Slam titles and four Olympic gold medals, Serena Williams is clearly amongst the greatest female tennis players in the history. With 23 Grand Slam singles win, she is just a win away from equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles. She has bagged the top spot in WTA’s world ranking numerous times.

 7 The Undertaker

The Undertaker
61
Famous As: Professional Wrestler
Birthdate: March 24, 1965
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, United States

Widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, The Undertaker is currently signed to WWE. In a career spanning over three decades, he has clinched the world heavyweight championship seven times. He has appeared in a few films and TV shows as well. In 2004, he was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.

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 8 Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson
9
Famous As: Boxer
Birthdate: June 30, 1966
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Fort Greene, New York, United States

A former professional boxer who reigned as the undisputed world heavyweight champion for three years, Mike Tyson is considered a colossal figure in boxing. Claiming his first heavyweight title at the young age of 20, he went on to become one of the best heavyweights of all time. Also a controversial person, he was once imprisoned on rape charges.

 9 Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps
6
Famous As: Swimmer
Birthdate: June 30, 1985
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

The most decorated and successful Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps is a former competitive swimmer who has won a total of 28 Olympic medals. He is widely considered one of the greatest athletes ever and the greatest swimmer of all time. He has several world records and Olympic records under his belt.

 10 Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning
22
Famous As: American Football Quarterback
Birthdate: March 24, 1976
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

American football quarterback Peyton Manning played 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and four with the Denver Broncos, winning a Super Bowl with each, thus becoming the only person to achieve the feat. Also known as “The Sheriff,” the talented player has NFL records for passing yards and touchdowns.

 11 Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson
9
Famous As: Basketball player
Birthdate: August 14, 1959
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lansing, Michigan, United States

Magic Johnson, the now retired American basketball player was one of the most powerful players of the 1980s and led NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers to five championships during his thirteen years career. His real name is Earvin Johnson and he earned his nickname Magic during his high school days. He retired after testing positive for HIV and currently heads Magic Johnson Enterprises.

 12 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
8
Famous As: Basketball Player, Basketball Coach
Birthdate: April 16, 1947
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States

Retired basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a legendary NBA champion and its all-time leading scorer. Known for his trademark skyhook shot, he achieved remarkable feats during his career. Later, he pursued a successful writing and acting career and was even selected U.S. global cultural ambassador. The NBA star is also the proud recipient of the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 13 Hulk Hogan

Hulk Hogan
43
Famous As: Professional Wrestler
Birthdate: August 11, 1953
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Augusta, Georgia, United States

Former American professional wrestler, Hulk Hogan, is one of the best-known wrestlers in the world. He had a very successful career from the 1970s to the 2010s and won many championships. He has also acted in several movies. However, he has been accused of being a racist and a homophobic and a leaked sex tape involving him created quite a stir.

 14 Triple H

Triple H
33
Famous As: Professional Wrestler
Birthdate: July 27, 1969
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Nashua, New Hampshire, United States

Often considered the best wrestler in North America, Triple H played an important role in the World Wrestling Federation's Attitude Era as part of the influential D-Generation X stable. From being a professional wrestler, he went on to become a part of WWE's management team after marrying CEO Vince McMahon's daughter Stephanie. Triple H is a WWE Hall of Famer

 15 Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson
4
Famous As: Baseball player
Birthdate: January 31, 1919
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Cairo, Georgia, United States
Died: October 24, 1972
The first African-American to play in MLB in the modern era, Jackie Robinson helped herald the end of racial segregation in baseball. He broke the baseball color line and encouraged black players not to be confined to the Negro leagues alone. In 1962, he became a Baseball Hall of Fame inductee.

 16 Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods
7
Famous As: Golfer
Birthdate: December 30, 1975
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Cypress, California, United States

Tiger Woods is considered as one of the greatest golfers of all time. He had a great run throughout the first decade of the 21st century. Later he had to deal with infidelity issues, marital problems and divorce and injuries, but was able to make a comeback. He holds numerous golf records and has won many World Golf Championship.

 17 Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris
13
Famous As: Martial artist
Birthdate: March 10, 1940
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ryan, Oklahoma, United States

A black belt in Tang Soo Do, Brazilian jiu jitsu and Judo, Chuck Norris is an American martial artist, screenwriter and a popular action film star. He has won many martial arts championships. He later founded his own discipline, Chun Kuk Do. He has also written books on martial arts, philosophy, politics, Christianity, plus Western novels and biography.

 18 Venus Williams

Venus Williams
16
Famous As: Tennis player
Birthdate: June 17, 1980
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lynwood, California, United States

Regarded as one of the greatest women's tennis players of all time, Venus Williams is credited with introducing never seen before power and athleticism to women's tennis along with her sister Serena. She is also credited with changing the long-standing practice of paying male tennis players more than their female counterparts as she won the fight for equal prize money.

 19 Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain
10
Famous As: Basketball Player
Birthdate: August 21, 1936
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: October 12, 1999
One of the greatest basketball players of all time, Wilt Chamberlain created numerous records and won two championships during his fourteen years career. The legendary player, first drafted by Philadelphia Warriors, later played for the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers. After retirement, he ventured into business, played volleyball, appeared in commercials and movie and even published his autobiography.

 20 Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson
10
Famous As: Basketball Player
Birthdate: June 7, 1975
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Hampton, Virginia, United States

Former professional basketball player, Allen Iverson, is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential basketball players of all time. He retired after playing 14 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for various teams. At the time of his retirement, he was an 11-time NBA All-Star. A popular star, he has made a few cameo appearances in films.

 21 Randy Orton

Randy Orton
23
Famous As: Professional Wrestler, Actor
Birthdate: April 1, 1980
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Randy Orton is an American professional wrestler. Widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers ever, Orton has 14 world championship victories under his belt, only behind Ric Flair and John Cena. His bad boy image and distinctive wrestling style have inspired several young wrestlers all over the world.

 22 Brett Favre

Brett Favre
21
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: October 10, 1969
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gulfport, Mississippi, United States

Brett Favre is a former American football player who spent the majority of his National Football League career with the Green Bay Packers. Apart from being a retired player with several achievements and records under his belt, Favre is also a philanthropist; in 1996, he set up the Brett Favre Fourward Foundation, which has donated over $2 million to charities.

 23 Larry Bird

Larry Bird
5
Famous As: Former Basketball Star
Birthdate: December 7, 1956
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: West Baden Springs, Indiana, United States

Considered one of the greatest basketball players ever, Larry Bird was part of the Dream Team that won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics. A Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, Bird helped his team Boston Celtics win three NBA championships. In 2018, MSN Sports named him the greatest Boston Celtics player ever.

 24 Scottie Pippen

Scottie Pippen
8
Famous As: Basketball Player
Birthdate: September 25, 1965
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hamburg, Arkansas, United States

Former professional basketball player, Scottie Pippen, is best known for his stint with the Chicago Bulls with who he won six NBA championships. Considered one of the greatest small forwards of all time, he played a key role in transforming the Bulls into one of the most formidable forces in NBA in the 1990s.

 25 Big Show

Big Show
24
Famous As: WWE Wrestler, Actor
Birthdate: February 8, 1972
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Aiken, South Carolina

Big Show is a professional wrestler. Known for his large frame and athleticism, Show is one of the most popular WWE wrestlers of all time. He has won several world championships in WWE. Big Show's large frame is attributed to a condition called acromegaly, which he used to his advantage and established himself in the wrestling world.

 26 Deion Sanders

Deion Sanders
14
Famous As: American Football player, Baseball Player
Birthdate: August 9, 1967
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Fort Myers, Florida, United States

American football player Deion Sanders is considered one of the strongest pass defenders of the game. He was an electrifying athlete and played in the National Football League for 14 seasons. He played for teams like Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens. He is now a coach and a sports analyst. He’s also a rapper.

 

 27 Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer
5
Famous As: Chess Grandmaster
Birthdate: March 9, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: January 17, 2008

Bobby Fischer began as a chess prodigy in his teens and went on to become the youngest "grandmaster," at 15. His participation in a politically controversial match in Yugoslavia led to the revocation of his U.S. passport and his arrest. He spent the final years of his life in Iceland.

 28 Randy Savage

Randy Savage
30
Famous As: Professional Wrestler
Birthdate: November 15, 1952
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio, United States
Died: May 20, 2011
Macho Man Randy Savage, the WWF and WCW legend, had won 29 championships with 11 titles. Fans loved him for his over-the-top wrestling outfits, his catch phrase, "Oooh yeah!,” and his entrance music, Pomp and Circumstance. He was also a talented rapper and had appeared in many films and series. 

 29 Chris Paul

Chris Paul
10
Famous As: Basketball Player
Birthdate: May 6, 1985
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States

Chris Paul is a professional basketball player and one of the highest-paid sportspersons in the world. Apart from earning from his career as a basketball player, he also earns by signing endorsement deals with companies like State Farm and Air Jordan. A religious person, Chris Paul attends church whenever possible.

 30 Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman
10
Famous As: Basketball Player
Birthdate: May 13, 1961
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Trenton, New Jersey, United States

Former professional basketball player, Dennis Rodman came to prominence in the 1980s as a power forward known for his defensive and rebounding abilities. Hailed as "arguably the best rebounding forward in NBA history," he earned NBA All-Defensive First Team honors seven times. He has a media presence as well and has appeared in many TV shows.

 31 Randy Moss

Randy Moss
13
Birthdate: February 13, 1977
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Rand, West Virginia
NFL wide receiver Randy Moss set a record for the highest number of receiving touchdowns in a season. The Minnesota Vikings player became the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1998 and retired after playing with the San Francisco 49ers. He gave rise to the term “getting mossed.”

 32 Eddie Guerrero

Eddie Guerrero
22
Famous As: Professional Wrestler
Birthdate: October 9, 1967
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: El Paso, Texas
Died: November 13, 2005

Eddie Guerrero was an American professional wrestler. At the time of his death at age 38, Guerrero left a legacy and impact as one of the most beloved wrestlers and an inspiration to several future wrestlers. Considered one of the greatest in-ring performers ever, Guerrero was renowned for his technical skills and ability to entertain the audience with his gimmicks.

 33 Terry Bradshaw

Terry Bradshaw
13
Famous As: Former NFL Star & TV Analyst
Birthdate: September 2, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Shreveport
Drafted by Pittsburgh Steelers in 1970, Terry Bradshaw went on to become a dominant NFL quarterback and led the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships. His career halted after an injury, but Bradshaw soon established himself as a prominent television football analyst for Fox NFL Sunday. Later, he ventured into acting, writing and music.

 34 Bill Russell

Bill Russell
6
Famous As: American basketball player
Birthdate: February 12, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Monroe, Louisiana

Bill Russell is a former professional basketball player. Widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players ever, Russell led the US national basketball team to victory and helped his team win Olympic gold at the 1956 Summer Olympics. Also known for his accomplishments in the civil rights movement, Russell was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

 35 Shawn Michaels

Shawn Michaels
14
Famous As: Professional wrestler
Birthdate: July 22, 1965
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Arizona, United States

Retired professional wrestler, actor, and television presenter, Shawn Michaels, is regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers in history. He is a four-time world champion and two-time Royal Rumble winner. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame twice. Besides wrestling, he has appeared in a few films and TV shows.

 36 Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan
6
Birthdate: April 25, 1976
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Christiansted, Saint Croix

Tim Duncan is widely considered one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the NBA and the best power forward of all time. A five-time NBA champion, Duncan also helped his national team win Olympic bronze medal in 2004. Also a humanitarian, Duncan established the Tim Duncan Foundation to fund youth sports programs and education.

 37 Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett
11
Famous As: NBA Star
Birthdate: May 19, 1976
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Mauldin
Former NBA power forward/center Kevin Garnett was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves out of high school. After a 12-year term with the Timberwolves, he joined the Boston Celtics. His accolades include the MVP, the Defensive Player of the Year award, and 15 All-Star games. He also starred in Uncut Gems.

 38 Joe Montana

Joe Montana
6
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: June 11, 1956
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New Eagle, Pennsylvania, United States
Former NFL quarterback Joe Montana, nicknamed Joe Cool, mostly played for the San Francisco 49ers, winning four Super Bowls with them. ESPN’s 25th Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century, Montana was the first player to be Super Bowl MVP thrice and was part of the Pro Bowl eight times.

 39 Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens
11
Famous As: Athlete
Birthdate: September 12, 1913
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oakville, Alabama, United States
Died: March 31, 1980

Widely regarded as one of the greatest track and field athletes of all time, Jesse Owens' three world records in less than an hour in 1935 came to be known as the greatest 45 minutes ever in sports. He was credited with destroying Adolf Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy when he won four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics.

 40 Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King
10
Famous As: Tennis player
Birthdate: November 22, 1943
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Long Beach, California, United States
Tennis legend Billie Jean King has won 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 singles titles and 16 doubles titles. The former world no. 1 beat Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" match in 1973. She also founded the Women's Tennis Association and the Women's Sports Foundation.

 41 Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter
6
Famous As: Baseball Player
Birthdate: June 26, 1974
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pequannock Township, New Jersey, United States

Derek Jeter is an American former baseball player whose popularity had made him one of the most marketed sportsmen of his generation during his playing career. Since 2017, he has been playing a key role as part owner and the chief executive officer of the Miami Marlins. Also a well-known philanthropist, Jeter created a charitable organization called Turn 2 Foundation.

 42 Bret Hart

Bret Hart
20
Famous As: WWE Wrestlers
Birthdate: July 2, 1957
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Bret Hart is a Canadian-American former professional wrestler. Regarded as one of the all-time greats, Bret Hart was one of the most popular and important WWF wrestlers during the promotion's New Generation Era. In 1996, he was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame. He is amongst the seven people who have entered the WWE Hall of Fame twice

 43 Chris Jericho

Chris Jericho
5
Famous As: Professional wrestler
Birthdate: November 9, 1970
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Manhasset, New York, United States

Chris Jericho is a professional wrestler, entrepreneur, actor, and musician. Widely regarded as one of the greatest pro wrestlers ever, Jericho is also one of the most recognized WWE superstars in the history of the wrestling promotion. Apart from wrestling, Jericho is a also famous singer, currently serving as the lead singer for Fozzy, a heavy metal band.

 44 Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon
4
Famous As: Basketball Player
Birthdate: January 21, 1963
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lagos

Hakeem Olajuwon is a former basketball player. Nicknamed The Dream, because of his dream-like ability to dunk effortlessly, Olajuwon is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketballers of all time. Apart from leading the Houston Rockets to two back-to-back NBA championships, Hakeem Olajuwon also helped the US national team win the Olympic gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics.

 45 Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong
14
Famous As: Road racing cyclist
Birthdate: September 18, 1971
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Plano

Lance Armstrong became one of the most inspirational stories after he survived cancer and went on to win seven consecutive Tour de France races from 1999 to 2005. He was considered one of the greatest road racing cyclists ever before he was stripped of all of his achievements starting from August 1998 due to his involvement in a doping scandal.

 46 George Foreman

George Foreman
13
Famous As: Professional Boxer
Birthdate: January 10, 1949
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Marshall, Texas, United States

Known to his fans as "Big George,” boxer George Foreman won the world heavyweight champion twice and also gas an Olympic gold medal to his credit. Multidimensional in his pursuits, the international boxing hall-of-famer has also been a Christian minister, invented a fat-reducing grill, and written several books, including cookbooks.

 47 Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez
9
Famous As: Baseball player
Birthdate: July 27, 1975
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Washington Heights, New York, United States

Former professional baseball player Alex Rodriguez is considered one of the best baseball players in American baseball history. In his 22 years career, he created numerous records and won both awards and appreciation; however he also attracted a lot of controversies. Primary amongst them were his use of performance enhancing drugs. 

 48 Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice
7
Famous As: Former NFL Star
Birthdate: October 13, 1962
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Starkville

Jerry Rice is a former American footballer. He played primarily for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League. Thanks to his several records and accomplishments, Rice is considered one of the greatest players and the greatest wide receiver in the history of NFL. In 1999, The Sporting News ranked him second on its Football's 100 Greatest Players list.

 49 Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi
12
Famous As: Tennis Player
Birthdate: April 29, 1970
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Las Vegas
Nicknamed “The Punisher,” former world number 1 tennis player Andre Agassi is an eight-time Grand Slam-winner and an Olympic gold medalist. He is the only male with a "Career Super Slam.” He is married to Steffi Graf. He now donates generously for children’s causes, through the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation.

 50 Roy Jones Jr.

Roy Jones Jr.
12
Famous As: Boxer
Birthdate: January 16, 1969
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Pensacola, Florida, United States

Former American boxer Roy Jones Jr. was born to a boxer father. Despite his defeat in the gold medal match at the 1988 Seoul Olympics due to a faulty decision by the judges, he won the Val Barker Award. He was the second light heavyweight champion to earn a heavyweight title.