20th Century Sportspersons

Find out more about the greatest 20th Century Sportspersons, including Ronda Rousey, Lionel Messi, Holly Holm, Cristiano Ronaldo and John Cena.

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 Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi.
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: June 24, 1987
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Rosario, Argentina

Considered one of the best football players in the world and a prolific goal scorer, Lionel Messi has shattered and created numerous records in his playing career. Regarded by another soccer legend, Diego Maradona, as his successor, the Argentinian superstar is also one of the world’s highest paid athletes.

 2 Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali.
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.

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 3 Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee.
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.

 4 André the Giant

André the Giant.
Famous As: Professional wrestler
Birthdate: May 19, 1946
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Coulommiers, France
Died: January 27, 1993

André the Giant was one of the most popular French wrestlers ever to appear in WWF. He stood over seven feet tall due to a condition aptly called gigantism, but used his condition to gain popularity. Also an actor, André the Giant continues to be one of the most recognizable faces in the world, several years after his death.

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 5 Ronaldinho

Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: March 21, 1980
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Porto Alegre

Regarded as one of the best football players of all time, Ronaldinho played a crucial role in Brazil’s victory in 2002 FIFA World Cup. Later, he helped FC Barcelona win two La Liga and a UEFA Champions League title. The two time FIFA world Player of the Year, who retired in 2018, was known for his technical skills and creativity.

 6 Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson.
Famous As: Professional 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.
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 7 Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain.
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.
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 8 Kane

Famous As: Professional wrestler
Birthdate: April 26, 1967
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Torrejón de Ardoz

Kane is an American wrestler, actor, businessman, politician, and author. Apart from being the Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee, Kane is also one of the most popular WWE wrestlers of all time. He played an important role in popularizing WWE's Attitude Era throughout the late-1990s and early-2000s. He is regarded by some as the best wrestler of his generation.

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 9 Brett Favre

Brett Favre.
Birthdate: October 10, 1969
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gulfport, Mississippi

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.

 10 Larry Bird

Larry Bird.
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.

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 11 Big Show

Big Show.
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.

 12 Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez.
Famous As: Uruguayan Footballer
Birthdate: January 24, 1987
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Salto, Uruguay

Controversy’s favorite child Uruguayan professional Luis Suarez has been in the news for an infamous handball and also for biting opponents. He now plays for Atlético Madrid and has previously represented Barcelona and Liverpool, winning 19 trophies in his career to date. He is Uruguay's leading goalscorer of all time.

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 13 Vince Carter

Vince Carter.
Famous As: Basketball Player
Birthdate: January 26, 1977
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Daytona Beach, Florida, United States

Widely regarded as the greatest dunker ever in basketball history, Vince Carter is an American former basketball player. His leaping ability during his playing career often entertained crowds, earning him nicknames like Half Man, Half Amazing and Vinsanity. Also a philanthropist, Carter set up the Embassy of Hope Foundation, which helps children in places like New Jersey, Florida, and Ontario.

 14 Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen.
Famous As: World Chess Champion
Birthdate: November 30, 1990
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Tønsberg

At 13, chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen became the youngest grandmaster. His rating of 2,872 was the highest ever in history. He also recorded the longest unbeaten run in chess. Named one of Cosmopolitan’s “sexiest men of 2013,”he  has also modeled for G-Star Raw, owns a chess-app company, and loves football.

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 15 Randy Savage

Randy Savage.
Famous As: Professional Wrestler
Birthdate: November 15, 1952
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Columbus
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. 

 16 Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna.
Famous As: Formula One Driver
Birthdate: March 21, 1960
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: São Paulo, Brazil
Died: May 1, 1994

Ayrton Senna was a Brazilian racing driver. Widely considered one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time, Ayrton had won the prestigious F1 World Drivers' Championship thrice. Following his fatal accident in 1994, several safety improvements were introduced to the sports' set-up; higher crash safety standards, redesigned tracks, and improved crash barriers became part of the sport.

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 17 Eddie Guerrero

Eddie Guerrero.
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.

 18 Alex Ferguson

Alex Ferguson.
Famous As: Former Manager of Manchester United
Birthdate: December 31, 1941
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Alex Ferguson is known for his 26-year tenure as the manager of the football club Manchester United, from 1986 to 2013. He won 38 trophies with the club, including 13 Premier League titles. The first English Football Hall of Fame inductee, Ferguson has also received the knighthood
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 19 Bill Russell

Bill Russell.
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.

 20 Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan.
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.

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 21 Terry Bradshaw

Terry Bradshaw.
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.

 22 Roddy Piper

Roddy Piper.
Famous As: Wrestler
Birthdate: April 17, 1954
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Saskatoon
Died: July 31, 2015

Canadian professional wrestler, amateur boxer, and actor, Roddy Piper, is best remembered for his work with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).  He headlined multiple PPV events and hosted the popular WWF interview segment Piper's Pit. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. He also appeared in a few films and TV shows.

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 23 Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett.
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.

 24 Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens.
Birthdate: September 12, 1913
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oakville
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.

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 25 Joe Montana

Joe Montana.
Famous As: American Football Player
Birthdate: June 11, 1956
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New Eagle
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.

 26 Derek Jeter

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

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.

 27 Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King.
Famous As: Former Women's Tennis Champion
Birthdate: November 22, 1943
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
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.

 28 Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff.
Famous As: Former Dutch Footballer & Manager
Birthdate: April 25, 1947
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died: March 24, 2016
Dutch midfielder/forward Johan Cruyff pioneered the idea of Total Football, along with coach Rinus Michels. The first three-time Ballon d'Or-winner was known for his signature move, the Cruyff Turn. He made it to FIFA 100 and ranked second only to Pele in an official World Player of the Century poll.

 29 Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong.
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.

 30 Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon.
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.

 31 Mo Farah

Mo Farah.
Famous As: Athlete
Birthdate: March 23, 1983
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Mogadishu
Long-distance runner Mo Farah shot to fame with his 10,000-meter and 5,000-meter wins at the 2012 London Olympics. The first athlete to score a quadruple double, Farah has won 10 major international titles. He became the European Athlete of the Year thrice and has also received the CBE.

 32 Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice.
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.

 33 James Hunt

James Hunt.
Famous As: Racing driver
Birthdate: August 29, 1947
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Belmont, Surrey, England,
Died: June 15, 1993

James Hunt was a British racing driver who earned the nickname 'Hunt the Shunt' for his action-packed and often reckless exploits on the track. In 1976, he won the Formula One World Championship in his first year with McLaren, which inspired several teenagers to take up motor racing. James Hunt has inspired racers, such as Kimi Räikkönen.

 34 Sugar Ray Leonard

Sugar Ray Leonard.
Famous As: American professional boxer
Birthdate: May 17, 1956
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rocky Mount

Sugar Ray Leonard is a former boxer and motivational speaker. Having won world titles in five different weight divisions during his boxing career, Leonard is widely considered one of the greatest boxers ever. Leonard was part of a group of boxers dubbed The Fabulous Four, which is credited with popularizing the lower weight classes in the post-Muhammad Ali era.

 35 Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras.
Famous As: Tennis player
Birthdate: August 12, 1971
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Potomac

Former professional tennis player, Pete Sampras, became the winner of 14 Grand Slam singles titles during his career. He was ranked world No. 1 in 1993 and held the record for 286 weeks. Nicknamed “Pistol Pete,” the player was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2007.

 36 Isiah Thomas

Isiah Thomas
Famous As: Basketball player, Basketball coach, Consultant
Birthdate: April 30, 1961
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chicago

 37 Dale Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt.
Famous As: Race car driver
Birthdate: April 29, 1951
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kannapolis, North Carolina, United States
Died: February 18, 2001

Dale Earnhardt was an American stock car driver who raced in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series from 1975 to 2001. Considered one of the greatest drivers in the history of NASCAR, Earnhardt won 76 Winston Cup races and seven Winston Cup championships in an illustrious career spanning 40 years. In 2010, he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

 38 Francesco Totti

Francesco Totti.
Famous As: Italian Footballer
Birthdate: September 27, 1976
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rome, Italy

Italian footballer Francesco Totti is known for his 25-year stint with Roma. Nicknamed “The Golden Boy” and “The Gladiator,” he led Roma to win the Serie A and the Coppa Italia. He was also part of the 2006 FIFA World Cup-winning Italian team. He was named to Pele’s FIFA 100

 39 Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol.
Famous As: Basketball Player, Actor
Birthdate: July 6, 1980
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona
Four-time All-Star NBA power-forward/center Pau Gasol left medical school to join FC Barcelona. He won two NBA championships with the LA Lakers. The Spanish footballer and the 2002 NBA Rookie of the Year is an all-time EuroBasket top-scorer, reads historical novels, is a polyglot, and loves concerts and operas. 

 40 Nadia Comaneci

Nadia Comaneci.
Famous As: Olympic Champion Gymnast
Birthdate: November 12, 1961
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Onești

Nadia Comaneci is a Romanian former gymnast. One of the best-known gymnasts in the world, Comaneci has five Olympic gold medals under her belt. Credited with popularizing gymnastics around the world, Nadia Comaneci was honored by the Laureus World Sports Academy by including her in their Athletes of the 20th Century list in 2000.

 41 George Best

George Best.
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: May 22, 1946
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Belfast
Died: November 25, 2005
Manchester United winger/midfielder George Best was the 1968 European Footballer of the Year and was placed sixth on the FIFA Player of the Century list. A skilled dribbler, the Northern Irish player was also known for his stunning good looks and his affinity for women and alcohol. 

 42 Walter Payton

Walter Payton.
Famous As: American Football Player
Birthdate: July 25, 1954
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Columbia, Mississippi
Died: November 1, 1999
NFL running back Walter Payton, nicknamed "Sweetness,” played for the Chicago Bears for 13 seasons, winning titles such as the Super Bowl. He was named the NFL MVP in 1977 and was a nine-time Pro Bowl. Before dying of bile duct cancer, he became an advocate for organ donations. 

 43 Rocky Marciano

Rocky Marciano.
Famous As: Professional Boxer
Birthdate: September 1, 1923
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brockton
Died: August 31, 1969
Rocky Marciano, also known as the Brockton Blockbuster, was the world’s only heavyweight champion to remain undefeated till the end of his career and held the heavyweight title from 1952 to 1956. The International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee held the world’s highest heavyweight knockout-to-win ratio at 85.71%.

 44 Alan Shearer

Alan Shearer.
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: August 13, 1970
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Gosforth, England
Former Newcastle United striker Alan Shearer has also worked as a BBC football pundit and a football manager. The Euro 1996 Golden Boot-winner has also represented Southampton and Blackburn Rovers, winning the 1994-1995 Premier League with the latter. With 260 goals, he became the Premier League’s leading goal-scorer.

 45 Björn Borg

Björn Borg.
Famous As: Tennis Player
Birthdate: June 6, 1956
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden

Regarded as one of the best tennis players from Sweden, Björn Borg won 11 Grand Slam singles titles during his playing career. He started off as a teenage sensation and helped popularize tennis during the 1970s. The 2017 film Borg vs McEnroe was inspired by his rivalry against John McEnroe.

 46 Joe DiMaggio

Joe DiMaggio.
Famous As: American Baseball Star
Birthdate: November 25, 1914
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Martinez
Died: March 8, 1999
MLB center fielder Joe DiMaggio won nine World Series championships and bagged 13 All-Star games during his 13-year tenure with the New York Yankees. Nicknamed Joltin' Joe and The Yankee Clipper, the 3-time MVP is remembered for his unbeaten 56-game hitting streak record and his marriage to Marilyn Monroe.

 47 Gary Lineker

Gary Lineker.
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: November 30, 1960
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Leicester

Gary Lineker is a British former football player who currently works as a sports broadcaster. Considered one of the greatest British strikers of all time, Gary Lineker is the third-highest goal-scorer for England. During his 16-year playing career, Lineker never received a red or yellow card, due to which he was honored with the FIFA Fair Play Award in 1990.

 48 Joe Louis

Joe Louis.
Famous As: Professional Boxer
Birthdate: May 13, 1914
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chambers County, Alabama, United States
Died: April 12, 1981
Boxer Joe Louis, or the Brown Bomber, was the world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949 and was the longest-reigning (single) heavyweight champion. The International Boxing Research Organization declared him the best heavyweight boxer of all time. He was also a skilled golfer and appeared in a 1952 PGA event.

 49 Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig.
Famous As: Baseball Player
Birthdate: June 19, 1903
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Yorkville, New York City, New York
Died: June 2, 1941

Lou Gehrig was an American baseball player. Nicknamed The Iron Horse for his durability and prowess as a hitter, Lou Gehrig played for the New York Yankees of the Major League Baseball (MLB). His life and career inspired the 1942 film The Pride of the Yankees in which he was portrayed by actor Gary Cooper.

 50 Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona.
Famous As: Actor & Football Player
Birthdate: May 24, 1966
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Marseille

Eric Cantona is a French actor, filmmaker, and former football player. During his playing career, Cantona was a key player for the popular football club Manchester United and is often credited with reviving the club's reputation as a footballing force. Nicknamed King Eric by Manchester United fans, Eric Cantona continues to enjoy an iconic status within the club.