Roundtable: Who is the most dominant athlete of all time?
Jack Sabin (Michael Phelps)
Vendetta’s own Jarrod Prosser recently posed the question of who is the greatest athlete of all time. So now a group of us are sharing who we think the greatest athlete of all time is. While there are so many names you could make arguments for. In my opinion, the right answer is Michael Phelps.
When you are talking about any Olympic-level athlete, you are talking about some of the best athletes in the world. These are people who have dedicated their entire lives to a certain sport and are among the absolute best in the world.
This is what makes winning that Gold medal so magical. You are able to say that at that time you were the best in the entire world at that sport. While getting to represent your home country and all its people.
But in the case of Michael Phelps, he wasn’t interested in winning just one medal. No, he became hell-bent on becoming the greatest swimmer we have ever seen and dominating any Olympics he was a part of.
But don’t just take my word for it. See the greatness for yourself.
He currently holds the record for most Gold Medals in a single Olympics at eight back in 2008. He also finds himself third and ninth on that list showing just how long his reign of dominance has been. Hell, the guy has more medals than 161 countries.
But if you still need convincing, let me tell you all the different swimming records he held at one point: 200-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly, 200-meter individual medley and 400-meter individual medley.
He has 28 medals and is the most decorated Olympian of all time–a record he will seemingly hold for a while seeing as Larisa Latynina was the previous record holder for over 40 years. Phelps now owns 10 more than Latynina.
Swimming isn’t some joke of a sport either. Anyone who has done it at any level of competition knows how physically exhausting it can be. The competition is fierce and fractions of seconds can be the difference between having a career as a swimmer or not.
It encompasses some of the most physically athletic humans on the planet and Michael Phelps dominated them all. When it comes to the Olympics, every country is sending their best of the best in hopes of winning.
The competition is the highest level you can achieve for any sport. But Michael Phelps didn’t really care about any of that. In 2008 he quite literally dominated the entire planet when it came to swimming. In the years after, he settled with just kicking their ass.
Michael Phelps is the most decorated and greatest Olympic athlete the world has ever seen. For that, I can’t see myself choosing anyone else for the greatest athlete of all time. Who else has dominated the WORLD like he did?
Jarrod Prosser (Sir Donald Bradman)
There are two very clear possibilities, in my view, for the most dominant athlete of all time. Wayne Gretzky held (or co-held) an astonishing 62 different scoring records at one point in his career. He is called “The Great One” for a reason. Some of Gretzky’s records are slowly being wound in, though. Therefore my pick goes to a man whose statistical dominance over his sport will never, ever, be approached: Sir Donald Bradman.
Given he was a) a cricketer and b) played his final match in the late 1940s, I’m not expecting too many of our predominantly American audience to be across who The Don is or what it was that he did. So let me give you a little bit of a crash course.
In Test cricket (the highest form of the game) a batting average of 50 runs is considered elite; 60 is truly rarefied air (of all the men in the 145-year history of the game to play a minimum of 20 tests, only five top a 60 run average). Bradman’s average, 99.94, is a full 38 runs better than 2nd placed Adam Voges.
This would be like Wilt Chamberlain averaging 50 points per game, not just for a season, but for his career. It would be like Ty Cobb batting .500 lifetime; Serena Williams winning 40 Grand Slams; Miguel Indurain winning the Tour de France 10 consecutive times; Lewis Hamilton winning 12 Formula 1 championships. Imagine if Tom Brady had passed for his 335 touchdowns in half the amount of games. That’s the level of dominance that Bradman exhibited.
The fact that Bradman did it on uncovered pitches (making the ball liable to wildly inconsistent bounce), no helmets, minimal padding and, by comparison to modern standards, a matchstick for a bat, only makes his feats all the more extraordinary.
Famously, Bradman was dismissed for a 2nd ball duck (zero runs) in his final test innings, a dig where he only needed to score four runs to achieve a career test average in triple figures, yet that valiant failure only enhanced his reputation: he was human after all!
More than 75 years after he last donned his baggy green cap and over 20 years after his death, the Don is still regarded as an icon to cricketers all around the world.
By practically any measure, he’s the most dominant athlete of all time.
Scott Logush (Raphael Nadal)
Rafael Nadal playing at Roland Garros is a beast that nearly no one can handle.
In matches at the French Open, Nadal is 112-3, and only two people have managed to beat this man on the red clay. His 97.3 winning percentage at the French Open has catapulted the King of Clay to the third-best overall match-winning percentage at 88 percent, narrowly behind Djokovic’s 88.1 percent and Björn Borg’s 89.2 percent.
Nadal also has the third-best finals winning percentage at 73.3 percent. If Nadal gets to the French Open Final, bet the house on him as he’s 14-0 all-time. His three losses came in 2009 to Robin Söderling in the fourth round, 2015 to Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, and again in 2021 to Djokovic in the semi-finals. The only other time Nadal has not reached the final was in 2016 when he had to withdraw ahead of his third-round match against Marcel Granollers and in 2023 when he did not participate due to injuries.
To only lose a match three times at a tournament since 2005 is incredible, and a run of dominance unlike any other. The length of consistent dominance in a game where it’s a true one-on-one, a head-to-head matchup where your mistakes directly give your opponent points, where there’s no such thing as running the clock out, is simply remarkable and why Roland Garros Nadal is the most dominate athlete ever.
Jerry Walker (Mikaël Kingsbury)
When it comes to the most dominant athlete, I think of how one person has been at the peak of his or her sport for a long time. Two winter sports athletes came to mind, snowboard legend Shaun White and mogul king Mikaël Kingsbury.
While there is a great argument for both, I am going with Kingsbury. The Canadian has dominated the sport of mogul skiing since 2011. That was the first of nine consecutive World Cup titles for both moguls and overall freestyle skiing; the next closest male skier has five such titles. Kingsbury also owns the record for most wins in mogul competitions with 80 victories. Before Kingsbury, the record sat at a whole 28 wins. There are a handful of other FIS World Cup records that the 31-year-old Canadian owns.
Outside of the FIS World Cup circuit, Kingsbury has dominated the world of mogul skiing even more. The FIS World Championships are held every two years and to no one’s surprise, the last three events have seen Kingsbury walk away with gold. He not only has now won three straight moguls titles but three straight dual moguls titles as well. He is the only skier to have ever swept the moguls events at the World Championships.
In only one of his 14 World Championship appearances did he not win a medal. On the Olympic stage, he has just one gold medal from 2018 along with the silver in 2014 and 2022. But at only 31 there is still a chance for him to make one more run at Olympic gold in 2026.
Mikaël Kingsbury is the definition of dominance. Just look up any mogul record and you’ll likely see his name atop it.
Jackson Law (Leonidas of Rhodes)
I bet you could never have guessed who my GOAT athlete was in a hundred years. A thousand even. I’m sure others have come with some pretty obscure ones, but had anyone come up with one like who I will be fighting for?
If anything, he really doesn’t need my help fighting. My champion is a 12-time 1st place winner at the Olympics. It’s an incredible feat honestly, considering for how long his record stood. So who is my athlete? Well, none other than the great Leonidas of Rhodes.
Leonidas (no, not the one from Sparta) lived around 160 BC and was the most dominant sprinter of his time. The ancient Olympic Games didn’t have too many games, but in the races Leonidas was involved in, he won and won big. He was basically the Usain Bolt of his day. His 12 first-place finishes stood as an Olympic record until Michael Phelps swam by. Imagine holding a record that outlived you ten-fold. That’s GOAT stuff.
Jackson Fyda (Kingsley Koman)
When we talk about the most dominant athletes of all time, a few names usually enter the conversation. Some will argue Michael Jordan. Others, Wayne Gretzky. Olympic athletes like Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps are also thrown into the conversation. And of course, you cannot forget about female athletes such as Serena Williams and Mikaela Shiffrin.
All of them are incredible athletes, there is no denying it. However, we are looking at the most “dominant” athlete of all time, not the greatest nor the most impressive.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of dominant is “commanding, controlling, or prevailing over all others.” So, when we are talking about the most dominant athlete, we must look at the athlete who wins the most, and it is hard to find someone who wins more than Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman.
I know, I know. Some of you are going to want to burn me at the stake for merely suggesting Kingsley Coman’s name in this conversation. Before you freak out, however, just hear me out.
We are talking about the most dominant athlete. That means an athlete who wins the most. Kingsley Coman has played 12 seasons of professional soccer. In those 12 seasons, he has won 12 league titles. He has won a league title in every professional season that he has played.
It has not just been with one team or in one country either. He has played for PSG, Juventus and Bayern and won a title with each of these teams. That’s two Ligue Un titles, two Serie A titles and a whopping eight Bundesliga titles. Not bad considering he has won these trophies in three of the top five leagues in the world.
I am not saying Coman is the greatest athlete in history. In fact, he is very far from it. But in terms of pure domination, it is hard to argue with a guy who has won a league title in all 12 years of his professional career.
Isiah Wardlaw (Jerry Rice)
I’m really stuck between two players. Jerry Rice and Barry Bonds.
Rice was the owner of 38 career records when he retired. He holds records in every single receiving category: 1,549 receptions, 22,895 yards and 197 TDs. These numbers will most likely never be touched again. His 208 total touchdowns are 33 more than Emmitt Smith‘s 175.
The second closest person to Rice in terms of yards and receptions is Larry Fitzgerald with 1,432 receptions and 17,492 yards. Randy Moss is second in touchdowns with 156, just not even close to touching No. 80.
It’s almost unbelievable how dominant Rice was. He was a 13-time Pro Bowler, 10-time All-Pro, three-time Super Bowl champ, Super Bowl MVP and a two-time Offensive Player of the Year. In 1986 and 1995, Rice was 2nd in MVP voting, and was 3rd in 1993 and ’94.
He led the NFL in receiving yards six times including a former NFL record of 1,848 yards in 1995. The Mississippi Valley product also led the NFL in touchdown receptions six times. Rice is 2nd all-time in receiving touchdowns in a season with 22.
Rice set NFL marks with at least 50 receptions in 17 seasons, 1,000 receiving yards in 14 seasons, 76 games with at least 100 receiving yards, 13 consecutive games with at least one touchdown reception and 274 consecutive games with a reception.
At the age of 40, Jerry caught 92 passes for 1,211 yards and 7 touchdowns with the Oakland Raiders. He was 2nd team All-Pro and was top 15 in yards in the NFL.
Rice established career Super Bowl records in receptions (33), receiving yards (589), all-purpose yards (604) and touchdown receptions (8). He set single-game Super Bowl records in receptions (11), receiving yards (215) and touchdowns (3, twice); played in an NFL-record 29 playoff games with the 49ers, Raiders and Seahawks; set NFL postseason records in receptions (151), receiving touchdowns (22) and receiving yards (2,245); Had 8 games with at least 100 receiving yards and 28 consecutive playoff games with at least one reception.
You can attribute all of this success to Jerry Rice’s insane work ethic. He didn’t possess physical gifts like Randy Moss or Terrell Owens, and he only ran a 4.71 at the combine. What he did so well was create separation with his quick feet, and had the best hands of any receiver ever.
In team workouts he was famous for his hustle; while many receivers will trot back to the quarterback after catching a pass, Rice would spring to the end zone after each reception. He would typically continue practising long after the rest of the team had gone home.
Most remarkable were his six-days-a-week off-season workouts, which he conducted entirely on his own. Mornings were devoted to cardiovascular work, running a hilly five-mile trail; he would reportedly run ten forty-meter wind sprints up the steepest part. In the afternoons he did equally strenuous weight training. These workouts became legendary as the most demanding in the league, and other players would sometimes join Rice just to see what it was like. Some of them got sick before the day was over.
Of all the work Rice did to make himself a great player, practically none of it was playing football. His independent off-season workouts consisted of conditioning, and his team workouts were classroom study, reviewing of game films, conditioning and lots of work with other players on specific plays.
Griffin Crest (Wayne Gretzky)
Wayne Gretzky is the most Dominant Athlete of All Time.
I know I have made some people mad with my last two opinion takes. If you haven’t read them, you can click on the corresponding players’ names, Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen. Some may have thrown insults at me, but frankly, I don’t mind at all. Any media is good media, and throwing insults and views at me is putting fuel in the fire even more.
Now, I want to make it up to my Eagles and Bills fans with a take you can get behind. For all my hockey players and fans out there, you already know how great Wayne Gretzky is, but for the ones who don’t care, read along.
Gretzky, a Brantford, Canada, native, played on four teams in his NHL career. He is most known for being on the Edmonton Oilers, the team he reached peak stardom on. But, one team isn’t all that Gretzky is. He is the best and most dominant athlete of all time, and here is why.
Gretzky is a four-time Stanley Cup champion, five-time Lady Byng award winner, two-time Conn Smythe trophy winner, and a five-time Ted Lindsay award winner. But that’s not all. In his career, “The Great One,” as we call him, won nine MVP trophies in his career. Nine! Not to mention, he won eight of them in a row. That’s what shows how dominant he really is. Those are his accolades. We haven’t even gotten into statistics yet.
In his lengthy career, Gretzky played 1,487 games. A long career, right? You would be right. For some non-hockey fans to clarify Gretzky’s greatness, a point per game is a very high achievement in a season for a player, you would be considered a star player in the NHL today. But across a career, that is remarkable to have a point per game. Now for Wayne. Across his 1,487 games, Gretzky has scored 894 goals and has assisted his teammates almost 2,000 times. For a total of 2,857 points in his career. Oh, my gosh.
No player will ever break that record in anyone’s lifetime. Ever. Almost 3,000 points in just under 1,500 games. The next closest player to Gretzky in terms of all-time points is Jaromír Jágr with 1,921 points in over 200 more games played than Gretzky.
They say Gretzky could have never taken a single shot in his lifetime and he would have the most points of all-time. He has more assists than any other player has points in NHL history. Mic drop. Do I have to say anything else? I really don’t think so. I’ll let the statistics do the talking.
Matt Hanifan (Wayne Gretzky)
What does greatness in professional sports mean to you? Is it who wins the most titles? Or is it perseverance? Is it humility? Is it sacrifice, both individually and physically? Is it performing in the biggest moments and surpassing even the utmost expectations? Is it dedication?
It can be any of those things. It can also be none of those things. But here, today, I’m here to explain to you who I think is the greatest professional athlete of all-time is: Wayne Gretzky.
I’ll be the first to admit: I’m not much of a hockey buff myself. But Gretzky was the most dominant athlete in one of the most physically demanding sports known to man.
He is the only player in NHL History to record a 200-point season, doing so four times in a five-year span. Wayne Gretzky led the NHL in scoring 10 times (most all-time), won the Stanley Cup four times, won the Hart Memorial Trophy nine times, won the Lady Byng Award five times and Ted Lindsay Award five times.
Gretzky retired by holding or sharing 61 records, including records for the most goals (894), most assists (1,963) and, by virtue of math, the most career points (2,857).
The most damning stat of all that I can’t escape: If you erase every single one of his 894 goals–72 more than Alex Ovechkin, who has the second-most–Gretzky would still be the all-time leader in points by 42. For perspective, Wayne Gretzky has 1,963 assists, 714 more than the next-most by any player–a wider gap from No. 2 to No. 154 (516) on the all-time assist list.
There are great nominees for most dominant athletes all across sports, however.
In the NBA, six-time champion Michael Jordan pretty unanimously took to the “GOAT” banner after three-peating twice in eight years–doing so in six full seasons, technically. Though you could also make legitimate cases for LeBron James or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; you could also lump all-time greats Bill Russell (I’d consider him for what he accomplished as a player AND person, given the era he played in) and Wilt Chamberlain.
In the NFL, you could make legitimate cases for Jerry Rice and Tom Brady, among others. In MLB, I’d argue Barry Bonds is the greatest player–and perhaps had one of the most dominant four-year stretches (2001-04) we’ll ever see; you could possibly argue Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Pedro Martinez, among others.
In the NHL, does Gretzky take the undisputed crown? Others to consider are Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr, among others; I wouldn’t be surprised if Connor McDavid enters the conversation by the end of his career as well.
I’ll even shout out Lionel Messi, who’s won 10 La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey’s, seven Ballon d’Or awards, a World Cup and holds myriad records across Europe.
But I think “The Great One” takes the crown here for most dominant athlete, even though there are countless amounts of great, dominant athletes. This is no disrespect to any of them, or none intended anyway.
Individually, if you believe Hot Dog eating is considered a sport: Joey Chesnut. No man has dominated a “sport” quite like him. There’s no competition between him and the other contestants, genuinely.
Others I’d like to mention are Jim Thorpe, Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps and Serena Williams.
Thorpe, one of the world’s most versatile athletes, was a track star in the early 20th century, becoming the first Native American to win the Gold Medal–winning the Gold in both the Decathlon and Pentathlon in 1912. He also played football both collegiately and professionally, as well as minor league baseball and professional basketball.
While his career took a big down-swing due to back problems, Woods won 14 majors from 1997-2008–15 in total. Phelps is the most dominant male swimmer of our lifetime, holding records in Olympic gold medals (23) and earning a record eight gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He dominated the best swimmers globally for years. Williams is arguably the greatest female athlete of all time with 23 grand slam titles.
All deserve their flowers, among plenty of others–even those my colleagues mentioned above. Am I missing any other names? I’m sure I am, but let us know in the comments!
Who do you think is the most dominant athlete of all-time? Let us know in the comments below.
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