Leading athletes may be remembered for their physical prowess and technical skill in whichever sport they pursue. However, the greatest names do more than break records and post impressive stats.
The drive of top athletes makes them unforgettable, as they seamlessly unite passion with dogged determination. Today, names like Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth continue to inspire generations of baseball players. Each year, NFL teams compete for the Lombardi Trophy, which immortalizes Vince Lombardi—who didn’t even play but coached the game so well he’ll never be forgotten.
Given the US’s love of organized sports competitions, there’s an ever-revolving door of talent. However, not everyone will be remembered by generations to come. Here are the greatest living legends from each sport.
LeBron James (or Steph Curry)
Needless to say, LeBron James of the Lakers has just as many concrete accolades as Brady. LeBron is the solid choice as the King of Hoops—not to mention, there aren’t any deflation scandals hanging by his name (see: Tom Brady). However, there is competition in Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
With six fewer seasons under his belt, Curry can’t contend with LeBron’s NBA playoff runs or his All-Star games. However, despite the gap in seasons and playoffs, Curry has three championships under his belt compared to LeBron’s four. And, while LeBron tends to feature in expert NBA betting tips and make a stronger impression in the regular season, Curry has helped usher in a new era of basketball: one that values shooting accuracy over speed.
Known simply as ‘The Great One’, Wayne Gretzky’s chops on the rink haven’t been contested since he retired in 1999 with sixty-one NHL records under his belt. After two decades of absence, there hasn’t been a hockey player who can read the rink like him.
Despite lacking in size and strength, Gretzky’s ability to anticipate where players and the puck would end up earned him an entirely separate Wikipedia page dedicated to counting his career achievements not only in the NHL but also on Canada’s Olympic team. Three international hockey awards are named in his honor.
When it comes to American football, few names conjure the fear and admiration that Tom Brady has been able to instill in competitors since he joined with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in 2000.
Brady holds records for all-time touchdown passes and career pass attempts. He’s second when it comes to career passing yards and in the top ten of career passer rating. The list of accolades goes on and on, which makes it impossible not to mention Brady here.
However, a 2015 football deflation scandal means the quarterback’s reputation may not have Lombardi strength in the coming decades. It will likely be challenged by up-and-comer Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Though tennis was once known as The King’s Sport, it may need a change to ‘The Queen’s Sport’ to honor the living legend, Serena Williams. Though a competition against male tennis star, Roger Federer, saw Williams and the US team lose, the faceoff serves as a powerful example of her dominance on the court.
With a clean hold on the WTA, Williams sought out a match against the world’s leading male competitor without batting an eye. Though she lost, the faceoff opened doors for the future.
Much like Gretzky, Williams has not only set records when it comes to Grand Slam singles and Doubles. She’s also competed for the US Olympic Team, with which she holds records for the most gold medals in tennis (with four).
The competition between Tiger Woods and legend Jack Nicklaus is one of the PGA’s most heated discussions from both fans and pundits. In a battle of stats, Woods eases past Nicklaus with more PGA Tour wins (82 versus 73).
However, it isn’t just stats that put Woods ahead of Nicklaus. Much like other golf stars, like Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlory, have mentioned, Woods earns admiration from golfers and fans alike because of his style and consistency.
For years in the early 2000s, Woods dominated the game with yearly performances that topped the last. Not only did he push himself to perform, but his passion for the game helped him earn glory outside the sport. In fact, in 2019, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.