10 of the Most Inspirational Sports Figures

These extraordinary men and women have represented athletic excellence as few others ever have

No guts, no glory — these athletes have proved this in spades.

Whether they joined the force, led a movement, or defied the odds in one way or another, they have inspired people all over the world through their accomplishments, their sheer force of will, and their example.

Uplifting Today pored through scores of lists and write-ups about standout athletes and their backgrounds in order to pick these 1o select individuals for a distinguished list. Naturally, we had to leave out a few — but what you’ll read here will leave you impressed nonetheless.

Scroll down to see which athletes set the bar higher than so many others.


Kurt Warner — Football

Kurt Warner went from a fourth-string quarterback for the Green Bay Packers to a bag boy at a grocery store and finally to a Super Bowl winning quarterback in the NFL. Warner’s persistence lead him to hold numerous records as one of the greatest playoff players in NFL history.

Magic Johnson — Basketball

In 1991, one of the greatest point guards of all time Magic Johnson tested positive for HIV. By going public with his HIV-positive status the L.A. Lakers point guard helped suppress the HIV stereotypes that it was a “gay disease.” Since his third and final retirement, Johnson has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and safe sex.

Pat Tillman — Football

Eight months after the 9/11 attacks Pat Tillman quit his dedicated NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the United States Army.

While deployed in Afghanistan in 2004 — Tillman was killed by friendly fire. He inspired many on and off the field with the sacrifice he made for his country.

Michael Jordan — Basketball

“By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.” People draw inspiration from his journey — despite getting cut from his high school team, losing his father and failing to play professional baseball he still finished with six NBA titles and one of the best careers in NBA history.

Jesse Owens — Track and Field

Jesse Owens is best known as the four-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1936 games and “the greatest 45 minutes ever in sports.” But he did something great and terrifying that few people would ever have the guts to do — he stood up to Hitler and was credited with “single-handedly crushing Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy.”

Mia Hamm — Soccer

Mia Hamm is an inspiration to female soccer players around the country. She made 158 international goals making her the first to do so in U.S. soccer history. It’s quite possible she’s the best woman’s soccer player to ever play for the United States.

Muhammad Ali — Boxing

Muhammad Ali was “The Greatest” boxer of the 20th century and an icon who will be forever remembered in the sports history. Ali was not only a boxer but a champion, philanthropist, social activist, and cultural force.

Jackie Robinson — Baseball

Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 when he made his major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He contributed significantly to the Civil Rights Movement and if it wasn’t for him who knows how many African-American athletes would be professional athletes today.

Wayne Gretzky — Hockey

Wayne Gretzky was the greatest hockey player of all time. He scored 894 goals and had 1,963 assists in his 22 year career. At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held 61 NHL records: 40 regular-season records, 15 playoff records, and six All-Star records. Gretzky has been an inspiration to hockey fans on and off the ice.

Babe Ruth — Baseball

“The Great Bambino” or “The Sultan of Swat” was a legendary player and is considered to be a folk hero to most Americans. Babe Ruth played Major League Baseball for 22 seasons. He began his MLB career as an incredible left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, but achieved his greatest fame as a slugging outfielder for the Yankees. Even today, his legend still inspires hopeful baseball players.


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