Top 10 Black Athletes of All Time


Photo by National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play in the Major League.

Thierry Henry 
Thierry Henry played striker for Arsenal and Barcelona from 1994 to 2010. Henry is widely known as one of the greatest strikers of all time and one of the best players in the history of the Premier League. Henry led Arsenal in all-time goals and succeeded against the odds in Europe with lots of racism against African Americans during his time of play.

Hank Aaron
Henry “Hank” Aaron is well known as one of the best baseball players of all time. His time with the Atlanta Braves included 25 All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves and one MVP. Aaron broke the standing home run record set previously by Babe Ruth. 

Jerry Rice
Jerry Rice became an NFL legend known for his time as a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers. Alongside quarterback Joe Montana, Jerry Rice stood as the No. 1 receiving option for the 49ers and racked up 22,895 career receiving yards and 1,549 career receptions. Among other accolades, Rice achieved 10 first-team all-pro selections, 13 Pro-Bowls, and led the NFL in receiving yards six times as well as winning a Super Bowl MVP.

Tiger Woods
Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods became one of the best golfers of all time. Woods features in the World Golf Hall of Fame and won 15 major championships with numerous PGA players of the years. Woods leaves a lasting legacy as an African American golfer as he is in the minority of players in the sport. Despite the obvious challenges, this didn’t stop Woods from covering PGA Tour video games and changing the narrative of the sport for young kids.

Jesse Owens
James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens is best known for his world-altering performance in the 1936 Olympic Games. During one of the worst years of racial discrimination the world has seen, Owens participated in the Olympics and earned four gold medals in Germany, one during their period of intense discrimination against African Americans. Owens earned the title of ‘the greatest 45 minutes in sports’ where he set three world records and tied another in less than an hour at the 1935 Big Ten Track meet. Owens attended Ohio State University and was respected as the best track and field athlete to come through their program.

Michael Jordan
Michael “MJ” Jordan, maintains the title as one of the most influential basketball players of all time. Jordan holds six career championships with all six Finals MVPs and “three-peated” (winning three championships in a row) twice. Outside of his basketball career, Jordan also played minor league baseball and participated in several golfing tours. The biggest off-court achievement for Jordan is his shoe line, which started with Nike and now branched out into its own brand worth around three billion dollars.

Serena Williams
Serena Williams, a world-renowned tennis player, began her professional career in 1999 and since then won 73 career solos titles, placing her fifth all-time and 23 doubles titles. Williams ranked first numerous times in doubles and singles and has a career winning percentage of 84%. Outside of tennis, Williams became an activist for women’s and African American rights and a leader to young women of color.

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., is known for being more than just one of the greatest boxers of all time, but also an example of what it truly means to be an activist and an athlete. Ali was 56-5 in his career with 37 wins by knockout. Nicknames such as “The People’s Champion” and “The Greatest” represent Ali’s boxing success. What many people don’t recognize him for is his involvement in activism. Ali stayed strong and true to his religion and refused to fight in the Vietnam War and he was thought to be guilty of draft evasion. This level of resiliency displayed more times throughout Ali’s life as he became an icon for racial pride for the African American community and led the civil rights movement as a major activist.

LeBron James
LeBron James, a current forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, is known as the best basketball player in his position of all time. With unmatched skill and athleticism, James became a matchup nightmare during his career on his way to four championships and four MVPs. The 18 times NBA All-Star proved to be “more than an athlete” which he branded and made a slogan for young athletes. James is a political activist and spoke out about many topics that trouble the African American community such as modern-day racism, police brutality, and even funded the building of schools in impoverished African American communities. James also sponsored youth basketball teams and leagues, as well as being a father to his children, leading him to be an overall role model to the young community.

Jackie Robinson
Jack “Jackie” Robinson excelled as one of the first African American players in the Major League. Robinson played second base for the Brooklyn Dodgers and acquired the honor as the first black player to ever win the National League MVP Award. Robinson’s number retired on all 30 teams and on Jackie Robinson Day, every player in the MLB wears the number. Robinson batted .313 on his career which exceeded the legendary goal of .300 and overcame some of the greatest racial barriers we have ever seen in sports. Fans called Robinson racial slurs during games and players made dirty plays against him when he entered the league. Despite all of this, Robison solidified himself as one of the best second basemen the game has ever seen.