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’ll be in contention on Sunday.
We 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.
This list was compiled and ranked by Cork Gaines, Leah Goldman, Tony Manfred, and Tony Olivero. Copy editing by Jill Klausen.
In women's tennis there is Serena Williams -- and then there is everyone else. Of the rest, Azarenka may just be the best.
Azarenka is a former world No. 1 who won the 2013 Australian Open and finished second at the 2013 U.S. Open. Not too shabby for a 24-year-old.
Cornerback, Seattle Seahawks
There may not be another athlete on the planet who oozes more of a dominant aura, bravado, and cockiness than Sherman. All you need is 25 seconds to understand the kind of athletic psyche and confidence Sherman has.
But the brash defensive back backed it up by bringing the Seahawks a Super Bowl championship thanks to his individual man-hawking play.
Winger, Washington Capitals
When it comes to scoring goals in the National Hockey League, no one comes close to Ovechkin.
This season, the Russian star has scored an unreal 10 more goals than any other player in the NHL (46). Ovechkin also led the league in goals in 2013.
Alpine Ski Racer, Slovenia
Maze dominated the skiing portion of the Sochi Olympics, taking home two gold medals: one in the Downhill and one in the Giant Slalom.
The greatest skier in Slovenian history is tied with fellow Slovenian rower Iztok Corp as the most decorated Olympian in the country's history.
Yes, Tiger Woods has yet to catch Jack Nicklaus in terms of major victories. And with each passing year his chances dwindle, as he hasn't won a major in six years.
Still, the reality is he's dominating golf just like he has for almost 20 years.
The 38-year-old Woods has been ranked No. 1 in the world for just about an entire year, and in terms of weeks ranked No. 1 in the world, he is at 675. The next closest? Greg Norman at 331.
Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves
Behind the two faces of the NBA -- Kevin Durant and LeBron James -- Kevin Love just might be the third-best and most dominant player in the NBA.
According to a statistic called 'Win Shares,' which estimate the number of wins contributed by a player, Love is only behind Durant and James this season.
Speed Skater, Netherlands
Wust won two gold medals and three silver medals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the most combined of any individual athlete at the games.
Only six other Winter Olympians in history have matched Wust's feat.
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, and he might become even better with Phil Jackson as the Knicks' president.
Melo is a mismatch nightmare for any opponent, as he is second in the league in scoring this season.
Djokovic had a streak of 14 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals before losing in the quarterfinals in this year's Australian Open. Still, he has six Grand Slam titles, most recently winning the Australian Open in 2013.
In the last year, Djokovic made it to the finals of the Wimbeldon and US Open, and the semi-finals of the French Open.
Djokovic is currently ranked No. 2 in the world.
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. He leads the league in assist percentage with 50.4, and in assists, with 10.9 per game.
His dominance functions through his teammates as he orchestrates them around the court, evidenced by the Clippers' first-place hold in the NBA's Pacific Division.
Tight end, New Orleans Saints
In terms of being head and shoulders above your competition, there may be no other team sport athlete as dominant as Graham.
Whether it's fantasy numbers or game-in and game-out contributions on the field, Graham is a rare freak of an athlete at the tight end position. Consider this: Graham scored the second most touchdowns ever by a tight end in an NFL season ... and he only started 11 of 16 games due to injury.
Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers
If you judge pitchers by ERA, there was no one better than Kershaw in 2013.
Though he only won 16 games and registered nine losses, for the third straight season Kershaw put up an MLB-leading ERA. At 1.83 it was the first sub-2.00 ERA since Roger Clemens in 2005.
The 100-meter gold medalist from the 2012 Olympics followed up that performance with an arguably even more dominant 2013.
At the World Championships in Moscow, Fraser-Pryce took home the gold medal in the 100-meters and 200 meters, and helped Jamaica to gold in the 4X100-meter relay.
Pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays
Price won 20 games, struck out 200 hitters, and won the American League's Cy Young award in 2012. He followed it up with a solid 2013 where he recorded his best strikeout-to-walk ratio in his career, at 5.59.
Beyond stats, his 6'6' frame makes him one of the more physically imposing pitchers in the majors.
As far as winning medals goes, there may not be a more dominant athlete in the world than Carfrae.
Every year she has entered the Ironman Triathlon World Championships she has earned a medal, including her golds in 2010 and 2013.
For years, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has raced in the shadows of his seven-time-champion father. But Earnhardt Jr. might just be in the middle of breaking out into his prime.
Four starts into the season, Eanrhardt Jr. is in second place in the NASCAR standings including a first-place finish at the Daytona 500. Earnhardt Jr. finished fifth in the standings in 2013.
Forward/Center, Los Angeles Sparks
Like the best players in the NBA, Parker elevated her game in the playoffs. Though she didn't lead the Los Angeles Sparks past the conference semifinals, Parker put up some of the best all-time numbers in the 2013 playoffs.
Parker's scoring average in the 2013 postseason increased to 25.7 points per game from 17.9 during the 2013 regular season.
Figure skater, Japan
Hanyu is the only figure skater to score above 100 in the short program, breaking a world record with 101.45 points. With the strength of that score, Hanyu helped Japan to its first-ever men's figure skating gold medal.
Hanyu is the youngest Olympic gold medalist in the event in 64 years.
Goalkeeper, German Women's National Team
Angerer took home the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award in 2013 thanks to her leading Germany to the 2013 European Championship.
In the title game, Angerer became an instant legend with her two penalty kick saves to secure the win for Germany.
Center, Chicago Bulls
Noah is tied for second in the NBA in a statistic called 'Defensive Win Shares,' which effectively measures the number of wins contributed by a player due to his defence.
Noah prefers gritty, old-school basketball, and his defensive dominance reflects that.
Center, Phoenix Mercury
At 6'8', Griner is one of the only female basketball players who can dunk, and in just her first season in the WNBA she led the league in blocks as a rookie with an unreal three per game.
In her four years at Baylor, Griner dominated, averaging 21 points and 8.71 rebounds per game.
Forward, US Women's National Team
Next to Abby Wambach there may be no player as important to the U.S. team's success in the past 12 months as Leroux, as she led the team in 2013 with 10 goals in 15 games.
Leroux was also the second leading scorer in the National Women's Soccer League's inaugural season in 2013, with 11 goals in 22 games.
Pitcher, Texas Rangers
Major League Baseball's latest strikeout machine took the American League by storm in 2013, barely missing out on a Cy Young award.
Darvish registered 11.89 strikeouts per nine innings in 2013, good for ninth best all-time record and the best mark since Randy Johnson in 2001.
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 more than 20 years. In 2013 he registered almost as many tackles (65) and was named to the AP's All-NFL First Team.
Goalie, Los Angeles Kings
Quick had another tremendous postseason performance in 2013, finishing second in the NHL in playoff save percentage and third in goals against average.
Quick was the starting goalie for the United States at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, where he registered a .923 save percentage and 2.17 Goals Against Average.
Forward, Los Angeles Clippers
Griffin is the most savage dunker the NBA has seen in years. But in 2013 his game has expanded beyond just the 'Lob City' dunks he and the Clippers have become famous for.
Griffin is an all-around, top-five, first-team player in the NBA this season, as he ranks tied for fourth in the NBA in Win Shares (ahead of such players as Paul George and Carmelo Anthony) and has increased his scoring average to 24.3 points per game, sixth best in the NBA.
Outfielder, The Los Angeles Angels
Trout had one of the best years ever as a rookie in 2012, and he matched that with arguably the best campaign of any player in 2013.
Trout finished third in the league in both on-base percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage.
But it's the advanced metrics that tell Trout's real worth. Trout has an all-around game that no one else in the majors can match, evidenced by his MLB-best 9.2 Wins Above Replacement -- head and shoulders above anyone else in the Bigs.
Center, Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins Evgeni Malkin remains arguably the best offensive threat and set-up man in the NHL.
This season Malkin ranks second in the NHL in assists per game and points per game, only behind teammate Sidney Crosby.
Together, Crosby and Malkin make up one of the greatest NHL duos in hockey history.
Figure skater, South Korea
Kim may be the most dominant silver medalist in Olympic history. After winning gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics, the South Korean entered 2014 as the favourite before losing in a shocking upset to Russia's Adelina Sotnikova.
The result was so controversial and the support for Kim's performance so intense that a petition to investigate the judge's decision went viral and crashed the public petition site Change.org.
The most staggering accomplishment of Kim's career, though, may be that she's never finished worse than third place in more than 40 career appearances.
Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions
Megatron had the greatest year ever for a receiver in 2012, finishing with the sixth most receptions of all-time and the most receiving yards of all time for a single season.
His incredible speed and leaping ability led to a follow-up 2013 campaign where he finished second in the NFL in receiving yards per game with 106.6, achieving that mark even though defenses were focusing on him more and more.
Olympic ice skaters, United States
Davis and White have been skating together for almost two decades, since each was 10.
After winning a silver medal at the 2010 Olympics and another at the 2011 & 2013 World Championships, White and Davis reached the zenith of their sport in Sochi, taking home the gold.
As far as American ice dancing goes, the pair truly is dominant, as they have been U.S. champions every year since 2009.
Pitcher, Detroit Tigers
Verlander is the most overwhelming pitcher in baseball. He throws 100 mph, and has a superhuman endurance that lets him keep throwing hard late into games.
Verlander finished in the top five in the American League in strikeouts and innings pitched in 2013.
Jones continued his undefeated streak since becoming the youngest UFC champion ever in 2011, as he defeated both Chael Sonnen and Alexander Gustafsson in 2013.
At 6'4' and 205 pounds, he's one of the best pure athletes in the sport. It stems from his genes, as brothers Art and Chandler are both NFL stars for the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots respectively.
The trio is the most dominant set of siblings in sports today.
Short Track Speed Skater, Russia
The pint-sized, 5' 8' Ahn can make a case for our top five, as with six Olympic short track speed skating medals he ranks No. 1 all-time.
For context, he is tied with America's Apolo Anton Ohno for most total speed skating medals, with 8.
Ahn is the first short track speed skater to ever win all four events in Olympic short track speed skating.
Third Baseman, Detroit Tigers
In the 2012 season, Miguel Cabrera became the first baseball player in 45 years to win the triple crown.
He followed that up in 2013 with an equally amazing statistical campaign where he finished second in the MLB in home runs and RBIs while actually increasing his batting average by an astounding 18 points, to .348.
Forward, US Women's National Team
Move over, Mia Hamm, there may be a new greatest-ever American women's soccer player. Wambach overtook Hamm in 2013 for most goals ever scored by an American.
By comparison, Wambach has scored seven more goals than Hamm in 60 fewer games. According to her career marks, Wambach is on pace to score around 211 goals when she reaches Hamm's mark of 275 games played.
Running Back, Minnesota Vikings
Peterson recovered from an ACL tear in 2012 and had one of the best seasons ever for a running back.
He followed that up with another great 2013 season where he finished second in the NFL in rushing yards per game with almost no offensive help around him, playing for a Vikings team that finished 5-10-1.
Bolt is the fastest runner in the world, and before 2013 he had set a world record in running the 100-meter dash in 9.58 seconds, setting the record by the largest margin ever. He also dominated the Olympics in London, winning three gold medals in 2012.
The year of 2013 was no different, as Bolt won the 100-meters, 200-meters, and 4-X-100-meter relay at the 2013 World Championships. In doing so, the fastest man alive became the most successful athlete in the history of the World Championships.
In 45 career matches, Mayweather is undefeated, a mark that is becoming more and more impressive and unbelievable as the 37-year-old gets older and keeps winning.
Mayweather's next fight is on May 3 versus Argentina's Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, where Mayweather has won his last nine straight fights in the past seven years. As if the best fighter of our time needed a home-court advantage.
The World's No. 1 ranked singles player has already won two titles and almost $US2 million in prize money in 2014, as he's won 90% of his matches.
He's been ranked No. 1 for almost a half year, after winning the French Open and U.S. Open in 2013 in epic fashion.
Nadal did lose in the Australian Open final at the start of the year, but with a win in the semifinal he increased his winning streak in majors versus his arch-rival Roger Federer to six matches.
Despite losing in the round of 16 at the Australian Open, Williams still is the No. 1-ranked player in the world by a ridiculous margin. With 12,660 points in the WTA rankings, Williams has a ranking 76% better than the No. 2 player, Li Na.
Williams also has the fastest serve in women's tennis. And at 32, Williams has been ranked No. 1 in the world six times.
Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder
Durant is scoring more points per game than any NBA player since 2006, and doing it all while shooting above 50%.
His scoring efficiency combined with the sheer amount of points he puts up is Michael Jordan-esque.
Durant is the first player in 22 years who is averaging more than 30 points per game while also shooting at a better than 50% clip. He's the first to do so since, you guessed it, Michael Jordan.
Formula One driver
Vettel has won four consecutive world championships. At only 26, the German driver compares favourably to Michael Schumacher, whom many regard as the greatest Formula One driver of all-time.
By the same age, Schumacher had registered only one world championship before finishing his career with a record of seven. Vettel is already more than halfway there.
Rousey is the most dominant fighter with fewer than 10 bouts under her belt in the history of boxing or MMA. The 9-0 Rousey has easily won all nine of her fights by either technical knockout or submission.
Rousey began her career with a dreaded armbar manoeuvre that forced all eight of her opponents to submit. She branched out in her ninth bout, with a first-round technical knockout victory versus Sara McCann with a knee to the body.
Forward, FC Barcelona
In the battle for maestro of La Liga, Messi might fall short of Cristiano Ronaldo in total goals scored this season, but he is still scoring a lot, and scoring at a better rate.
Messi is third in La Liga with 18 goals scored on just 107 shots, good for 16.8%. Ronaldo has 25 goals on 182 shots, for a 13.7% average.
And the battle continues.
For almost an entire year Park has been ranked No. 1 in the Women's World Golf Rankings. In that time she won a very Tiger Woods-esque three consecutive LPGA majors, making her just the fourth player ever to do so.
In winning 2013's first three majors, Park joined arguably the greatest female athlete of all-time, Babe Didrikson Zaharis.
Quarterback, Denver Broncos
Manning rewrote the NFL record books in 2013. With the Broncos offence, he put up the best numbers of a quarterback in the history of the NFL.
Manning's 2013 marks for passing yards and passing touchdowns were the most ever for a quarterback. The lack of a Super Bowl win may be the only thing that kept him from the top of this list.
Forward, Real Madrid
Another Spanish La Liga season, another year of dominance for Ronaldo. His goal-scoring pace has increased this year with an otherwordly 25 goals in 24 games to lead the league.
But as much as other athletes like LeBron James and Ronda Rousey impose their dominance with sheer force, Ronaldo does it with tactical wizardry. It's all leading up to the World Cup for Ronaldo and Portugal. Now is the time for the 29-year-old.
Forward, Miami Heat
Whether he is as good as Michael Jordan or not, one thing is for certain: There has never been a player quite like LeBron James, and there probably never will be. James' versatility is a once-in-a-generation talent which allows him to play against and guard literally every player in the league.
And James is at his best when it matters most -- in the playoffs. James led the league in a statistic called 'Win Shares' in each of the past two playoffs. Win shares estimate the number of wins contributed by a player to their team and are regarded as perhaps the best statistic to judge the overall quality of a player.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.