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Black History Month: Top 5 Influential African American Athletes of All Time

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Top 5 influential African American athletes of all time

Brett Davis-US Presswire

It's the end of Black History Month and we at RantSports honor those who contributed the most to their sport on and off the field.

This list isn't necessarily about who the best of all time is. It commemorates African American athletes who have dedicated the most to their generation, change for the better and athletes who overcame troubling times. Without these athletes listed below sports just wouldn't be the same today.

The athletes listed overcame discrimination at home as well as abroad during times of war. Some athletes on this list were the very first African American's to ever play their sport in the pros. Others protested and stood against the government in times of war when times were at there worst, and became the media's dream. Another transcended his sport when ratings were falling.

Today about 70% of the NFL is African American and over 80% of the NBA is as well. More and more young black kids and teenagers are playing sports because of what these athletes did for their sport. Not just athletes but coaches as well. Bill Russell (above) started that trend in the NBA in 1966.

Unfortunately not every athlete can be listed. Sorry if your favorite missed the cut. Spoiler alert, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson didn't make it. They are probably the two greatest players in NBA history, however they did not spread basketball into the African American community or break any boundaries

Some others that didn't make the list deserve honorable mention. They should be celebrated for what they brought to the game. They include Grant Fuhr, Warren Moon, Joe Louis, Jim Brown, Sugar Ray Robinson and Arthur Ashe.

Let's check out the top 5 ahead.

Feel free to comment below and follow Damon @DamonSalvadore1

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5. Hank Aaron

John David Mercer-US Presswire

A 25-time all star.

Hank Aaron is arguably the best player in baseball history. He is easily the most consistent ever, having never hit 50 home runs in a season but still hitting 755 career home runs. In 1974 he broke the most sacred record in all of sports—most career home runs. Aaron is also the all-time leader in RBIs.

What made it so impressive is that Aaron did this all with discrimination and without steroids.

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4. Tiger Woods

Jake Roth-US Presswire

Tiger Woods didn't grow up poor or face huge challenges as a child.

But what Tiger Woods did for golf can't go unnoticed. Golf was fading away and there was no superstar golfer. More importantly there was no elite African American to ever play the game. 14 majors later and Woods is the second most accomplished golfer of all time.

His off the course decisions have not been the best lately, however his on the field performance and attraction to the game within the African American community can't be ignored.

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3. Muhammad Ali

John David Mercer-US Presswire

"Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee."

Ali talked a lot, but he always backed it up. He defeated all time greats such as George Foreman and Joe Frazier (twice). Ali probably gave us three of the top six most memorable fights of the 20th century, and he just may be the greatest boxer ever.

Ali heavily opposed the Vietnam War and even lost his title because of his refusal to fight. He was also very loud about religion as well.

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2. Jesse Owens

Paul Cunningham-US Presswire

Jesse Owens did it all.

Long jump, sprint, team relay, you name it. He won four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. No, not silver or bronze. Four gold medals. Perfection. He also broke three world records while he was there.

German Leader Adolf Hitler wanted to show that Germany had the best athletes in the world. Let's just say Owens had a different plan.

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1. Jackie Robinson

Tom Szczerbowski-US Presswire

Nobody in Major League Baseball can wear No. 42.

In no other major professional sport is a number retired league-wide. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1942 when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson faced extreme discrimination while in the major leagues, but he toughed it out and paved the way for future generations.

Robinson was also a great ball player. He batted .311, won a World Series, and had the most famous stolen base in World Series history.

Congratulations Jackie Robinson, you're the most inspirational African American athlete of all time.