40 Most Successful Athletes of the 21st Century

Source: Dennis Grombkowski / Getty Images

1. Abby Wambach
> Sport: Soccer
> Championships: 2x Olympic gold medal, 1x World Cup
> Team or country: United States Women’s National Team
> Career length: 2001-2015
> Other accomplishments: 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year

Abby Wambach helped turn the U.S. Women’s National Team to the powerhouse of the soccer world. Her goal scoring prowess helped the USWNT team win two Olympic gold medals and one FIFA World Cup. When she retired in 2015, no player — male or female — had ever scored more international goals, at 184. The record has since been broken by Canada’s Christine Sinclair.

Source: Andy Lyons / Getty Images

2. Adam Vinatieri
> Sport: Football
> Championships: 4x Super Bowl
> Team or country: New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts
> Career length: 1996-2021
> Other accomplishments: 3x Pro Bowl, 3x All-Pro

Kickers are often overlooked on the football field, but Adam Vinatieri has played a crucial role in four Super Bowl wins. He was the kicker for the first three New England Patriots Super Bowl championships, including in 2002, when he hit the game-winning, 48-yard field goal as time expired. He later helped Peyton Manning win his first Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts.

Source: Nick Laham / Getty Images

3. Annika Sorenstam
> Sport: Golf
> Championships: 10x Major champion
> Team or country: Sweden
> Career length: 1994-2008
> Other accomplishments: 72 tour wins

Annika Sorenstam dominated women’s golf for almost her entire career. She won 10 major championships and was named the LPGA Tour Player of the Year eight times. With over $22.5 million in career earnings, she is far and away the LPGA career leader. Sorenstam will make her first USGA championship appearance since retiring in 2008 when she tees off in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in August 2021.

Source: Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images

4. Bob Burnquist
> Sport: Skateboarding
> Championships: 14x X Games gold medal
> Team or country: Brazil
> Career length: 1995-2017
> Other accomplishments: 30 total X Games medals

Bob Burnquist is a Brazilian-born pioneer who helped make skateboarding an international sensation. Burnquist, who competed at the first ever X Games, won 30 medals, including 14 golds.

Source: Harry How / Getty Images

5. Buster Posey
> Sport: Baseball
> Championships: 3x World Series
> Team or country: San Francisco Giants
> Career length: 2009-2021
> Other accomplishments: 7x All-Star, 1x Gold Glove, 1x MVP

Buster Posey’s MLB career got off to a dream start. The San Francisco Giants catcher was named Rookie of the Year the same year he won his first World Series in 2010. Two years later, he won the National League MVP award and another championship. He added a third ring in 2014. Posey opted out of the 2020 season to care for his prematurely-born twin daughters, but came back strong in 2021, making his seventh All-Star team. Following the season, Posey announced his retirement.

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