The 50 Most Dominant Athletes Alive

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Athletic dominance isn’t just about winning and losing.

It’s about magnitude — how badly you beat someone, how many points you score, and how much better you are than the average opponent.

We, as fans, are drawn to dominance. That’s why LeBron James lives under such a tight microscope, and why everyone still roots for Tiger Woods when he’s in contention on Sunday.

Business Insider editors and reporters sat down to debate and rank the most dominant athletes on the field right now.

These athletes may not be the “best” player by the traditional definition, but they embody the type of sheer athletic talent and eye-popping statistics that make up dominance.

#50 Alex Morgan

Forward, US Women's National Team

Alex Morgan made a huge splash at the Olympics, scoring a game-winning goal in the semifinals against Canada.

She was named the 2012 Female Athlete of the Year by US Soccer, and was one of three finalists for FIFA's world player of the year award.

#49 Stephen Strasburg

Pitcher, Washington Nationals

A year after he had Tommy John surgery, Strasburg led the majors in strikeouts per 9 innings, won 15 games in 28 starts, and had an ERA of 3.15.

He's the definition of a power pitcher, and he's poised to put up huge numbers in his first season without an innings limit in 2013.

#48 Jonathan Quick

Goalie, Los Angeles Kings

Quick had one of the most spectacular Stanley Cup playoff runs in NHL history. After winning the Vezina Trophy for the league's top goalie in the regular season, he allowed just 28 goals in 20 playoffs games.

His playoff goals against average was the best in 50 years, and his save percentage was the best ever for a goalie with at least 10 starts, according to Puck Daddy.

#47 Blake Griffin

Forward, Los Angeles Clippers

Griffin is the most ferocious dunker the NBA has seen in years.

Averaging 20.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game in your first three seasons in the league is not too shabby, either.

#46 Tiger Woods


After a rough few years, Tiger is nearly back to being ranked No. 1 in the world. He has already won twice in 2013, and he now has five wins in the last 12 months.

He totally reworked his swing, and now he's back to where he was before the mistress scandal ruined his career in 2009.

#45 Garrett McNamara


Garrett McNamara is one of the most daring men in the world.

McNamara recently broke his own world record for surfing a 100-foot wave in Portugal.

#44 Ryan Lochte


Ryan Lochte owned the 2012 Summer Olympics, taking home two golds, two silvers, and one bronze.

Lochte recently set a world record in the 200-meter individual winning gold at the world short-course championships.

Expect Lochte to dominate again in Rio.

#43 Sally Pearson


She crushed everyone (including Lolo Jones) in the 100 meter hurdles at the Olympics. She's now both the world champion and Olympic champion in the event.

She has won 32 of her last 34 races, and wants to beat the 25-year-old world record in the women's 100m hurdle event this year.

#42 Sachin Tendulkar

Cricket batsman, Indian national team

We don't claim to be experts, but by all accounts Tendulkar is the Michael Jordan of cricket.

He's first in nearly every major statistical category, and he has been the best player in the world for over a decade.

#41 Russell Westbrook

Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder

In the 2012-13 season, Westbrook has averaged 23 points and five rebounds per game.

But on top of stats, Westbrook is one the best pure athletes in the league. He is as quick as Rondo, dunks as hard as Blake Griffin and is one of the best defenders in the league.

He is the type of athlete who could excel in any other sport.

#40 Radamel Falcao

Striker, Atletico Madrid

Falcao is La Liga's most lethal scorer outside of Messi and Ronaldo. He has 20 goals in 22 games this year after scoring 24 in 34 games last year.

He was named to the FIFA World XI as one of the best forwards on Earth.

#39 Jon Jones

MMA Fighter

Jones is undefeated since becoming the youngest UFC champion ever in 2011.

He won two fights in 2012, and at 6'4' 205 pounds, he's one of the best pure athletes in the sport.

#38 David Price

Pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays

Price won 20 games, struck out 200 hitters, and won the AL Cy Young last year.

He also had a 2.56 ERA (1st in the American League).

Beyond stats, his 6'6' frame makes him one of the more physically imposing pitchers in the majors.

#37 Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings

Beach Volleyball

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings are arguably the best beach volleyball pair to ever play.

In Athens, Beijing, and London, the duo won gold, tallying a 21-game winning streak.

This past summer in London the pair was able to take gold again even with Walsh Jennings pregnant.

#36 Carmelo Anthony

Forward, New York Knicks

Carmelo isn't as complete a player as LeBron or Durant, but he's widely considered as good a pure scorer as there is in the league.

He's quick enough to take bigger opponents off the dribble, and strong enough to out-power smaller opponents in the post.

He has led the NBA in scoring this 2012-13 season.

#35 Robert Griffin III

Quarterback, Washington Redskins

To put it bluntly, RGIII did things in his rookie season that people didn't think could be done in the NFL.

He ran a college-style offence, scrambled a lot, and still put up gaudy numbers and won the NFC East.

#34 Robin Van Persie

Striker, Manchester United

RvP is the best player in what is arguably the best soccer league in the world. He scored 30 EPL goals for Arsenal last year -- the most in the league and the most since Cristiano Ronaldo in 2008. It was only six less goals than the entire Stoke team scored combined.

This year he has 19 goals for a Man U team that's running away with the league.

#33 Ashton Eaton


The decathlon tests all-around athletic ability more than any other sport.

Eaton won gold at the Olympics in convincing fashion. After the win, former decathlon champion Trey Hardee told the New York Times, 'So Ashton doesn't have to sound selfish or self-centered, Ashton is the best athlete to ever walk the planet, hands down.'

#32 Abby Wambach

Forward, US Women's National Team

In the 2012 Summer Olympics, Wambach scored 6 goals leading her soccer team to win gold.

She is currently the second leading scorer in U.S. Women's National Team history, just behind Mia Hamm. She also won the FIFA Ballon D'or in 2013 for female player of the year.

#31 Chris Paul

Guard, Los Angeles Clippers

He isn't as physically freakish as LeBron or as flashy as Durant, but CP3 single-handedly controls a game better than anyone else in the NBA.

His dominance functions through his teammates as he orchestrates them around the court. He's second in the NBA in assists.

#30 Mike Trout

Outfielder, The Los Angeles Angels

Trout had one of the best years ever, and he did it as a rookie.

He didn't just put up historic hitting numbers, he played centerfield (the most important defensive position in the game), and stole 49 bases.

He has an all-around game that no one else in the majors can match.

#29 Evengi Malkin

centre, Pittsburgh Penguins

In the absence of Sidney Crosby, Malkin led the NHL in points and helped the Penguins to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.

He won the MVP award in 2012, and became the most dominant offensive player in the game.

#28 Anderson Silva

MMA Fighter

Silva holds the longest winning streak in MMA, winning 16 consecutive fights.

Silva's Muay Thai style is a true martial art, and much different from traditional wrestling or cage fighting.

He is also ranked the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the league.

#27 Victoria Azarenka


In an age when women's tennis is defined by parity (outside of Serena Williams), Azarenka has risen to the top and stayed there.

She won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, and reached the finals of the 2012 US Open.

#26 Rob Gronkowski

Tight end, New England Patriots

Gronkowski is a beast. He not only became the biggest weapon on the NFL's scariest offence, he did so by bowling over safeties and leaping over cornerbacks.

He plays with a raw athleticism and energy that's impossible to resist.

#25 Andy Murray


Murray had a massive breakout year, winning gold in the Olympics and winning his first Grand Slam at the US Open.

He has officially broken into the Big Four with Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic, reaching the finals in three-straight Slams.

#24 Roger Federer


In a year when everyone thought Federer was over the hill, Federer won six times in 2012, including Wimbledon.

He is probably the best player in the history of the game, and he's showing no signs of slowing down.

#23 Peyton Manning

Quarterback, Denver Broncos

Manning and the Broncos dismantled the rest of the NFL in the regular season.

After sitting out a year, Manning was among the league leaders in every statistical category. He would have won MVP if it wasn't for Adrian Peteron's ungodly season.

#22 R.A. Dickey

Pitcher, Toronto Blue Jays

Dickey's stats were ridiculous. He won 20 games, had an ERA of 2.73, and struck out 230 hitters.

His knuckleball might be the single most unhittable pitch in baseball.

#21 Calvin Johnson

Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions

Megatron is an absolute monster on the field.

His incredible speed and leaping ability led to a 1,964 yard, 5 touchdown season during the Lions 2012-2013 season. And he did that as his team's only weapon -- meaning defenses STILL couldn't stop him even though he was all they focused on.

#20 Ronda Rousey

MMA Fighter

Rousey became the first woman to win a UFC fight.

She has won every professional fight she's ever been in, and none of them have lasted more than a single round.

#19 Kobe Bryant

Guard, Los Angeles Lakers

A discussion about the best player in the NBA, and the all-time greats, always includes Bryant. Five championships and 14 consecutive All-Star games will do that.

At age 34, Bryant is still dominating for the Lakers this season averaging 27.5 points per game. Losing is not an option for him; when the Lakers lose he's known for going straight to the gym and staying up all night working out and practicing.

Bryant has a strong presence in the League that just won't quit.

#18 Jadeveon Clowney

Defensive end, University of South Carolina

Clowney is just a sophomore in college but he probably could already compete at a pro level.

In his freshman season, Clowney had 14 sacks and 37 tackles. At the Outback Bowl, Clowney delivered the hit of the year.

#17 Justin Verlander

Pitcher, Detroit Tigers

Verlander is the most overwhelming pitcher in baseball. He throws 100 mph, and has a superhuman endurance that lets him keeping throwing hard late into games.

He has a 2.64 ERA and led the league in innings pitched.

#16 Brittney Griner

centre, Baylor University

Brittney Griner is by far the best female college basketball player right now. At 6'8', Griner is one of the only female basketball players who can dunk.

But even more impressive than that are her stats. In her four years at Baylor, Griner averaged 21 points and 8.71 rebounds per game.

#15 JJ Watt

Defensive End, Houston Texans

At 6'5', 295 pounds, Watt is a force.

In the 2012-2013 season, Watt had 69 tackles, and 20.5 sacks. It was the best statistical season for a defensive player in over 20 years.

#14 Gabby Doulgas


Douglas made history this summer when she became the first American to ever win both the team gold and the all-around gold at the Olympics.

Douglas, who is just 17-years-old now, plans to compete again at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

#13 Michael Phelps


Michael Phelps retired this summer as the most decorated athlete in Olympic history with 22 medals. Phelps also holds the record for most gold medals with 18 medals.

Phelps is the world record holder for the 100- and 200-meter butterfly and the 400-meter individual medley.

Phelps will definitely go down in history as the most dominant swimmer thus far.

#12 Ye Shiwen


The Chinese 17-year-old swimmer obliterated everyone at the Olympics last summer. She swam so fast that opposing coaches suggesting that she must be doping.

Her final 50 meters in the 400m IM was faster that Ryan Lochte's.

The astonishing margins she won by made her one of the breakout stars in London.

#11 Novak Djokovic


Djokovic owns the tennis world right now. He has six Grand Slam titles, most recently winning the Australian Open.

In the last year Djokovic made it to the finals of the French and US Open, and the semi-finals of Wimbledon.

Djokovic is currently ranked number one in the world.

#10 Missy Franklin


At age 17, Franklin won five gold medals at her Olympic debut. Four of those medals were gold.

Franklin broke the world record in the 100-meter backstroke and holds the American record in the 100 and 200-meter backstroke.

All of this, and she's still in high school. Expect a lot from Franklin in Rio. She could be our next Michael Phelps.

#9 Shaun White

Professional snowboarder and skateboarder

White is the best in the world at not one, but two sports. He leads in both snowboarding and skateboarding.

White has won the gold in the super pipe at the Winter X-Games six years in a row.

#8 Kevin Durant

Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder

Durant has the skills of a point guard but the body of an NBA centre. That strange combination of ability and body structure make him the most unstoppable offensive weapon in the league.

He would be the best player in the world if LeBron didn't exist. He's only 24 years old, he's getting better. He already has three scoring titles.

#7 Miguel Cabrera

Third Baseman, Detroit Tigers

In the 2012 season, Miguel Cabrera became the first baseball player in four years to win the triple crown.

Cabrera was first in home runs, averages, and RBIs.

#6 Usain Bolt


Bolt is the fastest runner in the world. He set a world record, running the 100-meter dash in 9.58 seconds, setting the record by the largest ever margin.

Bolt dominated the Olympics in London, winning three gold medals.

#5 Serena Williams


Williams is an absolute athlete. She has the fastest serve in women's tennis and at age 31 is ranked number one in the world.

Williams took home two gold medals this summer, one in the singles tournament and one alongside her sister Venus in doubles.

Over her career, Williams has won 47 titles.

#4 Cristiano Ronaldo

Forward, Real Madrid

Ronaldo has 27 goals in 27 La Liga games so far this season.

He is faster, quicker, and more skilled than his opponents and makes spectacular plays in every game in which he plays.

#3 Adrian Peterson

Running Back, Minnesota Vikings

Peterson recovered from an ACL tear in just nine months and had one of the best seasons from a running back ever.

With almost no offence help around him, he was just nine yards short of the all-time single season rushing record. He single-handedly willed the Vikings to the playoffs.

#2 Lionel Messi

Forward, FC Barcelona

Messi has more than 300 goals for Barcelona, scoring 40 goals for five straight seasons.

Messi won FIFA Player of the Year for four straight years, and has been named one of the best players ever.

And he's barely 25.

#1 LeBron James

Forward, Miami Heat

If you could physically make an NBA player in a lab, he would look like LeBron. He is the most versatile player in the league -- a 6'8' athletic freak who can guard every player on the opposing team and do anything he wants on the offensive end.

LeBron is having one of the best statistical seasons in the history of the NBA. He's already one of the best players ever, and he embodies dominance more than any athlete on Earth.

Learn more about Lebron James and the other most dominant athletes alive

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