What does it mean to be named one of the greatest Black athletes of all time? Throughout Black history, there have always been points to draw motivation. Over and over again, Black men and women have changed the course of history: Martin Luther King Jr., Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela, and others. The list is endless!
This article highlights the eight (8) greatest Black athletes of all time who form points of reference in Black sports history.
7 Greatest Black Athletes of All Time
- Michael Jordan
When you hear the name “Michael Jordan,” what’s the first thing that pops up in your mind? For me, it is the G.O.A.T!
In 15 seasons, Jordan proved himself the best after bagging six NBA titles in six trips to the Finals, with six NBA Finals MVPs. Today, Michael Jordan is a role model and source of impact and inspiration to almost all Black basketball players.
- John Taylor
Taylor was the first black athlete to compete in international competition for the United States, running the third leg in the 400-meter relay and the 1600-meter medley relay, where the runners ran legs of varying lengths. The Americans won the 1600-meter relay after the team committed a foul in the 400-meter relay. However, Taylor became the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal.
Throughout his track career, Taylor won 45 cups, 70 medals, and his Olympic gold medal before he died at 26 in 1908.
- Serena Williams
The two best players in the world in 2002 were the Compton, California-raised Williams sisters, Serena and Venus. In 2017, Serena Williams defeated her sister in the Australian Open and made history with her 23rd Grand Slam title in the 50-year history of the Open era, even at 35 years old. With this triumph, she became the first athlete to win both the male and female versions of the grand slam in the Open era.
- Jesse Owens
Another great black athlete who dared to shine despite the racism of his time is Jesse Owens. After an outstanding performance in the “greatest 45 minutes ever in sports,” Owens tied the world record for the 100-yard dash while setting world records in the long jump, 220-yard dash, and 220-yard low hurdles at the 1935 Big Ten Championships.
In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Jesse proved wrong the German dictator, Adolf Hitler, who asserted that no black athlete could match the white “Aryan master race.” Not only did he just win, but he also won more gold medals than any other individual athlete after competing in the 100 and 200 meters, the 4×100m relay, and the long jump.
- Muhammad Ali
Years after Muhammad Ali’s death, his legacy and achievements still live. That alone is cause for awe.
The Kentucky state champion is arguably the greatest Black boxer of all time. During his active years, he won Olympic Gold for the US boxing team and fought and defeated all top-ranking heavyweights. Aside from this feat, he has a long list of career accomplishments, including 200,000 hits on his head and body, 61 fights, 56 wins, and one knockout.
- Florence Griffith Joyner
After making her Olympic debut in 1984 in her hometown of Los Angeles, Flo Jo went on to compete in the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul. She won three gold medals and one silver in this game, making her the first woman to win four track medals in one Olympics game.
Nobody has broken Florence’s record of 100m in 10.49s and 200m in 21.34s in over 30 years. She is known as the fastest woman in the world due to her speed.
The Brazilian player, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, turned professional and played for Santos FC in 1956. When Brazil chose him for the 1958 World Cup, he was only 17 and became the youngest player ever to play in and be named to a World Cup squad.
In 1969, the FIFA player hit 1000 goals, and the fans went crazy! The celebration led to a 30-minute delay in the match. He scored 1283 goals in his career, a world record, and was named FIFA Player of the Century in 1999 alongside his colleague, Diego Maradona.
Right from time memorial, Black athletes have set and broken world records in their different sports. Many other athletes like Earl Lloyd, Althea Gibson, Wilma Rudolph, Venus Williams, Kobe Bryant, and Usain Bolt, who ran 100m in 9.63 secs, will remain sources of inspiration to upcoming black athletes and forces to reckon with throughout black athletic history.