40 Most Successful Athletes of the 21st Century

Source: Alex Caparros / Getty Images

16. Lionel Messi
> Sport: Soccer
> Championships: 4x UEFA Champions league, 10x domestic league
> Team or country: Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain
> Career length: 2003-present
> Other accomplishments: 6x Ballon d’Or

Lionel Messi has dominated world soccer in the past two decades, winning six Ballon d’Or awards as the world’s best player. He’s guided Barcelona to 10 Spanish La Liga championships and four UEFA Champions League titles. Messi finally lifted his first trophy for his national team in 2021, when Argentina won the Copa America over Brazil.

Source: Denis Poroy / Getty Images

17. Madison Bumgarner
> Sport: Baseball
> Championships: 3x World Series
> Team or country: San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks
> Career length: 2009-present
> Other accomplishments: 4x All-Star

Pitcher Madison Bumgarner takes his game to the next level in the World Series. Bumgarner has never lost a start in the World Series, going 4-0 in the three Fall Classics in which he pitched, posting an incredible 0.25 ERA. This pitching helped propel the San Francisco Giants to three MLB titles in five years from 2010 to 2014. Bumgarner was named the 2014 World Series MVP. He now pitches for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Source: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

18. Manu Ginobili
> Sport: Basketball
> Championships: 4x NBA Champion, 1x Olympic gold medal
> Team or country: San Antonio Spurs
> Career length: 2002-2018
> Other accomplishments: 2x All-Star

Manu Ginobili helped the San Antonio Spurs win four of the franchise’s five titles. After playing professional basketball in Italy for three years, he joined the Spurs at age 25 in 2002. He would go on to play 16 years in the NBA, all with San Antonio. He provided great scoring off the bench, making two All Star Games and one Sixth Man of the Year award. He also won an Olympic gold medal with Argentina in 2004.

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19. Marit Bjørgen
> Sport: Olympic skiing
> Championships: 8x Olympic gold medal
> Team or country: Norway
> Career length: 2002-2018
> Other accomplishments: 15 total medals in five Olympics

Marit Bjørgen has established herself as one of the greatest Olympic athletes ever. The Norwegian cross-country skier has won 15 medals, eight of which are gold, during five Olympics. This is the highest medal count for any winter Olympian and the third most of any Olympian, behind only U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps and Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina. Outside of the Olympics, Bjørgen has taken home 18 world championships and four World Cups.

Source: Elsa / Getty Images

20. Martin Brodeur
> Sport: Hockey
> Championships: 3x Stanley Cup, 2x Olympic gold medal
> Team or country: New Jersey Devils
> Career length: 1991-2015
> Other accomplishments: 7x All-Star, 4x Vezina Trophy

Martin Brodeur was the centerpiece of the New Jersey Devils dynasty of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Brodeur played goalie for three Stanley Cup championship teams, won four Vezina Trophies as the NHL’s best goalie, and took home two Olympic gold medals for team Canada.

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