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Jackie Robinson and 15 Athletes Who Changed the Sports Conversation

Jackie Robinson and 15 Athletes Who Changed Sports Forever

San Diego Padres v. Los Angeles Dodgers
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Jackie Robinson broke down huge barriers during his playing days. There's no question he faced the toughest cultural challenges of any athlete in American sports history. He's also no doubt the greatest conversation-changer of all time.

Here are 15 more athletes, who like Robinson, changed the way we thought about sports:

1. Muhammad Ali

greatest trash talking athletes ever muhammad ali
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1. Muhammad Ali

greatest trash talking athletes ever muhammad ali

Ali not only changed the sport of boxing forever, he also broke down walls in regards to athletes standing up for their beliefs. Because of his strong beliefs about not going to war, Ali lost his world heavyweight title.

2. Pele

2014 FIFA World Cup - One Year To Go Event
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2. Pele

2014 FIFA World Cup - One Year To Go Event

Pele is the greatest soccer player of all time, and a man who's influenced countless people along the way, both on and off the field.

3. Billie Jean King

billie jean king
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3. Billie Jean King

billie jean king

King won 39 total Grand Slam titles in her illustrious tennis career and is also a huge advocate for sexual equality. Her intergender match in 1973 definitely changed the conversation.

4. Tony Hawk

Tony Hawk looks on
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4. Tony Hawk

Tony Hawk looks on

The sport of skateboarding can thank Tony Hawk for where it's at today. He was the first skater to ever land a 900 and he was the face of the sport for many years in the media.

5. Babe Ruth

babe ruth
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5. Babe Ruth

babe ruth

Ruth was the standard for power hitting for decades. His ability to hit the long ball definitely helped make baseball into America's national pastime in the 1900s.

6. Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky
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6. Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky

The Great One is, and likely will always be, the standard in hockey. There was no one greater before and there hasn't been anyone as great since.

7. Dan Gable

Dan Gable
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7. Dan Gable

Dan Gable

Gable is a God-like figure in the world of amateur wrestling. His Olympic run in 1972 is still one of the best to this very day, and he turned the Iowa Hawkeyes into one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time as a coach.

8. Martina Navratilova

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA USA WIMBLEDON
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8. Martina Navratilova

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA USA WIMBLEDON

Navratilova is widely considered the best women's tennis player of all time. She was the number one singles player in the world for 332 total weeks and the number one doubles player in the world for 237 total weeks. She's the only player to ever hold the top spot for over 200 weeks in both.

9. Jim Thorpe

Jime Thorpe-Twitter
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9. Jim Thorpe

Jime Thorpe-Twitter

Thorpe is widely considered the greatest overall athlete of all time. He was an Olympic gold medalist in the pentathlon and decathlon, and also played professional football, baseball and basketball.

10. Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson
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10. Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson

Magic changed the way we look at point guards and wrote the book on fast break basketball. He also changed the conversation in regards to HIV awareness.

11. Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning
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11. Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning

Of all the great QBs in NFL history, no one has changed the conversation like Manning. He sets the standard when it comes to ridiculous passing numbers and being a coach on the field.

12. Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera
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12. Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera

All relief pitchers in the foreseeable future will stack themselves up against Rivera. He's the greatest closer in history and a true legend in the sport of baseball.

13. Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps
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13. Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps

Phelps is no doubt the greatest Olympian of all time. He is the benchmark when it comes to winning medals and dominating a sport.

14. Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods
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14. Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

Jack Nicklaus was huge for golf, but he didn't change the sport the way Tiger has. Tiger has been the face of modern golf for nearly two decades and he's drawn in droves of viewers at nearly every tournament he's been in.

15. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan
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15. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

When it comes to athletes being cultural icons, there is no one bigger than MJ. He got the world interested in basketball and set the standard for athletes as endorsers.