The 50 Most Dominant Athletes On The Planet


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.

More than a dozen 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.

Compiled and written by Leah Goldman, Tony Manfred, Lorenzo Arguello, Cork Gaines, and Abby Rogers

#50 Caroline Wozniacki

Tennis Player

Age: 21

In an era when women's tennis is defined by parity, Wozniacki passes for the sport's most consistent player.

She has come up short in majors so far. But at age 21 she's already spent 18 weeks ranked No. 1 in the world, won 18 singles titles, and displayed all the talent she needs to eventually become the undisputed star of her generation.

#49 Floyd Mayweather


Age: 35

For all his flash outside the ring, Mayweather has made a living being one of the most careful, tactical fighters of all time. He doesn't blitz his opponents, he slowly dismantles them punch by punch.

He's never lost. More amazingly, he's only had one split decision in his 42-bout career -- meaning only one judge ever thought he lost a fight.

#48 Maya Moore

Forward, Minnesota Lynx

Age: 22

Moore is arguably the best women's college basketball player of all time, leading UCONN to back-to-back national championships while averaging nearly 20 points per game for her career.

Last season, in her first year in the WNBA, she won Rookie of the Year and led her team to a WNBA championship.

#47 Ryan Lochte

Olympic Swimmer

Age: 27

Lochte beat Michael Phelps in July in the 200-meter individual medley in world-record time. Before that, Lochte set two world records in December 2010.

Only four world records have been broken in men's swimming in the past two years, and Lochte has broken three of them.

Click here to see how Lochte became the best swimmer on the planet >

#46 Steve Nash

Guard, Phoenix Suns

Age: 38

Nash is one of the oldest players in the NBA and is still leading the league this season in assists.

Six years after winning two straight NBA MVPs, he's still shooting the best he's ever shot in his career. Nash is the only recognisable star on the Suns' roster, and is basically the only reason Phoenix is winning games.

#45 Alex Ovechkin

Left Wing, Washington Capitals

Age: 26

Ovechkin scored 301 goals in his first 6 seasons in the NHL, averaging to more than 50 goals per season. As a result, he's become one of the two marquee players in the sport.

So far this season, he has scored 26 goals.

#44 Jon Jones

MMA Fighter

Age: 24

Jones has never lost a UFC fight. He is also the youngest UFC champion ever, taking home the title in March 2011.

Jones is a light heavyweight, which is the most prestigious division in MMA, and he has the longest wingspan in UFC.

Jones is a long and toned athlete.

#43 Abby Wambach

Forward, U.S. Women's National Team

Age: 31

Wambach lead the U.S. women's soccer team to the World Cup finals with four goals, including an amazing header in the final minutes against Brazil.

Wambach is the second leading scorer in U.S. Women's National Team history.

#42 Mariano Rivera

Pitcher, New York Yankees

Age: 42

In the 2011 season, Rivera had 44 saves in 49 opportunities, the fourth most in his 16-year career. Rivera also gave up only 13 runs in 2011 during 64 appearances.

Last season, Rivera set the record for all-time saves with 603.

#41 Homare Sawa

Midfielder, Japanese National Team

Age: 33

Sawa helped lead the Japanese women's national team to victory at the World Cup, scoring five goals.

Sawa also won the Ballon d'Or, and the FIFA Best Player of the Year award in 2011.

#40 Rory McIlroy


Age: 22

McIlroy is the only dominant force in men's golf right now--everyone else is just mediocre.

In April, McIlroy went into the final round of the Masters up four strokes, but choked.

He made up for it at the U.S. Open, winning by eight shots. McIlroy finished 16 under par, setting a record of the lowest overall at any U.S. Open.

He's now ranked No. 1 in the world.

#39 Larry Fitzgerald

Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals

Age: 26

Fitzgerald is one of the only wide receivers in the NFL that will catch any ball a quarterback throws to him, no matter how well he is covered.

In 2011, Fitzgerald averaged more than 17 yards per catch, and he's currently fourth all-time in career receiving yards per game.

#38 Robin van Persie

Striker, Arsenal

Age: 28

This season van Persie leads the Premier League in goals, with 25. That accounts for almost half of the 55 goals the entire team has scored.

Van Persie is also fifth in assists.

This is the last year of his contract with Arsenal, and in order to get him to stay, Arsenal may have to make him a ridiculous offer worth millions of dollars.

#37 Candace Parker

Forward, Los Angeles Sparks

Age: 25

Candace Parker is the face of the WNBA. There's really nothing she can't do on the court.

She dunks, shoots threes, plays defence, and gets rebounds. Parker is by far the most athletic player in the league.

#36 Evgeni Malkin

centre, Pittsburgh Penguins

Age: 25

Malkin has carried the Penguins for the past two years in Sidney Crosby's absence.

He leads the league in points, and is second in goals.

Malkin is always in the highlight reels and is awesome when it comes to shoot outs.

#35 Kevin Love

Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves

Age: 23

Last year, Love broke the consecutive double-double record, with 53 in a row.

This year, he is second in the league in rebounding and fourth in the league for points per game. In January, he scored 30 points for three consecutive games, a first for his career.

Love is also one of the 20 finalists for the 2012 U.S. Olympics team.

#34 Jose Bautista

Right Fielder, Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 31

In 2011, Bautista led the league in home runs and OPS.

Bautista also had the most walks in the league, proving that people think he's so good, they would rather walk him.

#33 Henrik Lundqvist

Goalie, New York Rangers

Age: 29

The New York Rangers are currently the best team in the NHL, with help from Lundqvist.

Goalies are the most important players in hockey, and Lunqvist has been the best goalie in the league. The Rangers are only 15th in goals scored, but are number one in goals against.

Lundqvist is first in save percentage and shut outs, and second in goals against average in the entire league.

#32 Lindsey Vonn

Olympic Skier

Age: 27

Vonn has won 18 Super G titles in her career, the most of any female skier. Vonn has also won 51 World Cup races, 10 of which were this season.

This year, Vonn is dominating. She ranks No. 1 with 1,600 points, leading the woman in second place by 600.

#31 Roy Halladay

Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies

Age: 34

In 2011, Halladay was first in the league in complete games, second in ERA, and third in strikeouts. He also had the fewest walks.

The Phillies had the best overall record in the regular season but they lost in the playoffs.

#30 Russell Westbrook

Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder

Age: 23

Westbrook is fifth in the NBA in scoring, fourth in steals, and the Thunder have the best record in the Western Conference.

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.

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

#29 Albert Pujols

First Baseman, Los Angeles Angels

Age: 32

Pujols has had more than 30 home runs every year he has played in MLB.

He dominated in the 2011 playoffs. Pujols batted .350, had 5 home runs and 16 RBI.

This year he signed a $254 million contract with the Angels.

#28 Roger Federer

Tennis Player

Age: 30

In 2011, Federer went 64-12, winning four titles and getting to six finals.

He was also the only player to beat Novak Djokovic at a Grand Slam tournament.

Federer made it to the semi-finals of the Australian Open, finals of the French Open, quarter finals of Wimbledon, and the semi-finals of the U.S. Open.

#27 Eli Manning

Quarterback, New York Giants

Age: 31

For starters, Manning led the New York Giants to a Super Bowl victory in the 2011-2012 season.

Manning had the sixth most passing yards in NFL history, seven fourth quarter comeback wins, and 29 touchdowns.

Click here to read about Manning's amazing career >

#26 DeMarcus Ware

Outside Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys

Age: 29

Ware is an absolute monster at outside linebacker.

He's led the league in sacks on twice and has already made it to six Pro Bowls in his first seven seasons in the league.

#25 Rob Gronkowski

Tight End, New England Patriots

Age: 22

Gronkowski is well on his way to taking over the role of top NFL tight end, previously held by Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates.

Gronk dominated 2011, scoring 17 touchdowns and amassing more than 1,300 yards receiving.

#24 Chris Paul

Guard, Los Angeles Clippers

Age: 26

Paul has revitalized a long dead Los Angeles Clippers franchise this year.

The Clips are on their way to the playoffs behind 20 points, 8 assists per game averages from CP3 as well as his many lobs to Blake Griffin.

#23 Serena Williams

Tennis Player

Age: 30

Williams is an absolute athlete. She has the fastest serve in women's tennis and at age 30 is still ranked as the 11th best female tennis player in the world.

Over her career, Williams has won 39 titles. She also plays doubles with her sister Venus. The two are one of the best doubles team in the world.

#22 Drew Brees

Quarterback, New Orleans Saints

Age: 33

Brees has led the NFL three times in passing yards, including this past season when he obliterated Dan Marino's single-season passing yards record by nearly 400 yards.

He also has a Super Bowl MVP trophy and accompanying championship ring to boot.

#21 Blake Griffin

Power Forward, Los Angeles Clippers

Age: 22

Griffin's ferocious dunks fill up highlight reels on a nightly basis.

Averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in your first two seasons in the league is not too shabby, either.

#20 Dwyane Wade

Guard, Miami Heat

Age: 30

Wade may be playing second-fiddle to LeBron now that they've teamed up in Miami, but he's still one of the NBA's five best players.

Outside of his rookie season, D-Wade has averaged at least 23 points per game throughout his nine-year career.

#19 Usain Bolt

Olympic Sprinter

Age: 26

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 also holds the record in the 200-meter at 19.19 seconds and is expected to dominate the Summer 2012 Olympics in London.

#18 Manny Pacquiao


Age: 33

Pacquiao has not lost a match since 2005, winning 15 in a row.

He has been ranked the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world since 2008.

#17 Kobe Bryant

Guard, Los Angeles Lakers

Age: 33

A discussion about the best player in the NBA, and the all-time greats, always includes Bryant. Five championships and 13 consecutive All-Star games will do that.

Despite being past his 'prime,' Bryant leads the league in scoring in 2012.

#16 Anderson Silva

MMA Fighter

Age: 36

Silva hasn't lost a fight since 2006, winning 15 in a row.

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 by Sherdog Magazine.

#15 Rafael Nadal

Tennis Player

Age: 25

Nadal made it to 10 finals last year and won three, including the French Open. His record last year stood at 70-15 in major tournaments. Six of his losses were to Novak Djokovic.

Most recently Nadal narrowly lost to Djokovic in an epic five-hour final match at the Australian Open.

#14 Matt Kemp

centre Fielder, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 27

Kemp pounded National League pitchers in 2011 with 76 extra base hits and a .986 OPS. He also hit .324, stole 40 bases, and won a Gold Glove.

The 27-year-old superstar has vowed to shoot for 50 home runs and 50 stolen bases in 2012 and we have little doubt he can get there.

#13 Tom Brady

Quarterback, New England Patriots

Age: 34

Brady's career includes 5 Super Bowl appearances, 3 Super Bowl wins, and 2 Super Bowl MVPs.

Despite his advanced age, Brady threw for more than 5,000 yards in 2011.

#12 Derrick Rose

Guard, Chicago Bulls

Age: 23

Rose won the NBA MVP award in 2011 and has his Chicago Bulls primed for a deep playoff run in 2012.

At worst, Rose is the second best point guard in the league behind Chris Paul. Rose's athleticism, scoring ability, and killer instinct continue to redefine the point guard position.

#11 Shaun White

Professional snowboarder and skateboarder

Age: 25

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

White has won the super pipe at the Winter X-Games five years in a a row, and this year achieved a perfect score.

#10 Marta

Forward, Brazil National Team

Age: 26

Marta is the best female soccer player in the world.

She was the FIFA World Player of the Year five years in a row, has 80 goals in 72 international games, and she scored four goals and had two assists in the World Cup even though her team was knocked out in the quarterfinals.

#9 Calvin Johnson

Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions

Age: 26

Affectionately known as 'Megatron,' Johnson is an absolute monster on the football field.

His incredible speed and leaping ability led to a 1,600 yard, 16 touchdown season during the Lions 2011-12 playoff campaign.

#8 Kevin Durant

Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder

Age: 23

Don't let Durant's quiet demeanor fool you, he is arguably the best pure scorer in the NBA right now.

Durantula is a two-time defending scoring champ whose long arms clean up the boards and disrupt passings lanes left and right.

Click here to read more about Kevin Durant's career >

#7 Aaron Rodgers

Quarterback, Green Bay Packers

Age: 28

2011 was a typical year for Rodgers: 4,643 passing yards, 45 touchdowns, and only six interceptions during a Packers playoff run.

#6 Justin Verlander

Pitcher, Detroit Tigers

Age: 29

Verlander's 2011 was one of the best years for a pitcher, ever.

He led the American League in wins (24), ERA (2.40), strikeouts (250), and innings pitched (251). Verlander also tossed his second career no-hitter and took home both the Cy Young and MVP awards.

#5 Dwight Howard

centre, Orlando Magic

Age: 26

Howard is easily the best big man in the NBA.

A double-double machine, Howard puts up 20 point, 20 rebound performances like it's no big deal. He's also won defensive player of the year award three straight times.

#4 Cristiano Ronaldo

Forward, Real Madrid

Age: 27

Ronaldo has 30 goals in 25 La Liga games so far this year. In all competitions, he has 49 goals in 46 games, and 10 assists.

Ronaldo's team, Real Madrid, has been crushing Barcelona in team standings this year.

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

#3 Lionel Messi

Forward, FC Barcelona

Age: 24

Messi has more than 200 goals for Barcelona, scoring 40 goals for four straight seasons.

This year alone, he has 28 goals in 23 league games, and eight assists.

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

And he's not even 25.

Click here to see how Messi made it big >

#2 Novak Djokovic

Tennis Player

Age: 24

Djokovic owns the tennis world right now. He has five Grand Slam titles, winning the last three slams he has played in.

Last year Djokovic had a ridiculous record of 70-6, won three grand slam titles, and 10 tournaments.

Most recently, he beat Rafael Nadal in the finals of the Australian Open in a five-hour long match.

#1 LeBron James

Forward, Miami Heat

Age: 27

LeBron is the ultimate athlete.

He combines the passing ability of Magic Johnson, sheer strength and brute force of a Karl Malone or Dwight Howard, and Deion Sanders-like speed to dominate the NBA. His skills would easily translate to the NFL.

Oh and LeBron has also averaged no less than 26 points, five rebounds, and six assists per game for the last eight years.

This year, LeBron is having the best statistical season of any NBA player, ever.

Now for more athletic goodness

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.