The Olympic speedskater has won two gold medals in the 1,000 meters (2010, 2006), becoming the first male skater to win the event a second time at the Winter Games. His 2006 victory in Turin, Italy, made him the first African-American athlete to win an individual gold at the Winter Games.
2 of 23Neil Leifer/SI
Few athletes are remembered for their athletic accomplishments as much as they are for their societal contributions. Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., was one of those as a three-time heavyweight champion in the ring and a political activist outside it.
3 of 23Mark Kauffman/SI
As the first African-American pro baseball player, Robinson put an end to nearly 80 years of segregation in the sport when he debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948. He went on to earn the National League MVP in '49 and a six-time all-star.
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Louis (right) was the world heavyweight champion from 1937-49, defending his title 25 times successfully. He was also the first African-American heavyweight champ since Jack Johnson won the title in 1908.
5 of 23John G. Zimmerman/SI
As the first African-American woman to join the world tennis tour and to win a Grand Slam title (1956), Gibson continued to break through the sport's color and gender barriers to win 56 amateur singles and doubles titles before dominating the professional scene with 11 titles.
6 of 23AFP/Getty Images
With Adolf Hitler watching closely at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Owens stood out with his four gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters, 4x100-meter relay, and the long-jump.
7 of 23John G. Zimmerman/SI
After overcoming polio at a young age, Rudolph initially built her name around her basketball talents but soon became the first American woman to win three gold medals at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, taking the 100- and 200-meters, as well as the 400-meter relay.
8 of 23Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Brown is one of NFL's greatest running backs, leading the league in rushing for eight of the nine years he played. His name is in the halls of fame for pro football, college football and lacrosse.
9 of 23Neil Leifer/SI
Henry "Hank" Aaron
Aaron became not only professional baseball's homerun king with 755, but also it's record-holder in runs (2,297), total bases (6,856), and extra-base hits (1,477). After retirement, he became one of the first blacks to work at the league's executive-level as vice president of Atlanta's player development.
10 of 23George Strock/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
With pitches as unique looking as the names given to them (like the ''Bat Dodger'' and ''Hesitation Pitch'') Paige was known as one of the fastest hurlers in the Negro Leagues. He was also the first player from the leagues to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
11 of 23Tony Triolo/SI
Ashe was the only black male to win a major singles title (he won three, actually), and also both the U.S Amateur and Open Championships. As a U.S. Army lieutenant, he was required to maintain his amateur status, but nevertheless dominated the professional scene to earn a No. 1 ranking in 1968 and '75.
12 of 23Herb Scharfman/SI; Diamond Images/Getty Images
As the only player to win league MVPs in both of baseball's American and National Leagues, Robinson also became the first African-American manager in 1975 with the Cleveland Indians.
13 of 23Bill Frakes/SI
Lewis won 10 Olympic medals (nine golds) in track and field and 10 World Championship medals (eight golds). In 1984, he matched Jesse Owens' mark with four gold medals in a single Olympics.
14 of 23AFP/Getty Images
Tommie Smith and John Carlos
As Smith and Carlos received their 1968 Olympic gold and bronze medals, respectively, in the 200-meter sprints, the two are often remembered more for the way they received the medals: heads bowed, fists clenched and raised in the air, and wearing only black socks on their feet as the national anthem played -- a silent demonstration for human rights and black power.
15 of 23John G. Zimmerman/SI; Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
With five National Basketball Association MVP awards and 11 league titles, Russell holds the record for most championships won by an American in any sports league. He also became the first black coach in the NBA, as he assumed the role of player-coach for the `66 Celtics.
16 of 23Manny Millan/SI
The leader of the dynastic Chicago Bulls has a basketball resume too long to list and the fame to follow. Jordan was the key ingredient to popularizing the game during the 1980s and `90s, and is remembered as "the greatest player of all time."
17 of 23Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
The six-time Olympic medalist (three gold, one silver, two bronze) owns the record in the heptathlon and long jump, and was voted by SI as the greatest female athlete of the 20th century.
18 of 23Bob Martin/SI
Venus & Serena Williams
The dominant sisters have combined for a staggering 19 Grand Slam singles and 11 Grand Slam doubles titles since 1998. The eldest, Venus, became the first black woman to win at Wimbledon since Althea Gibson and has since fought for equalized pay between men and women on the court.
19 of 23Robert Beck/SI
Without a doubt, one of the (if not the) most dominant golfers, Woods has won 71 PGA tour titles and 14 Majors championships. His second Masters title in '01 made him the first owner of all four major championships at the same time. He's also the highest-paid athlete of all time.
20 of 23John Biever/SI
Williams became the first African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl (XXII) and the game's MVP award when he led the Washington Redskins in a 42-10 rout over the Denver Broncos. He capped the game with 340 passing yards, four touchdowns, and an NFL record with the team's five-touchdown performance in the second quarter.
21 of 23Ronald C. Modra/SI
Robinson spent 56 years as Grambling State University's football coach, amassing a 408-165-15 career record, making him the winningest coach in college football history.
22 of 23Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images
O'Ree became the first black player in the National Hockey League, making his debut for the Boston Bruins in 1958. O'Ree scored four goals and 10 assists during his NHL career (all in 1961), and won two scoring titles for the Western Hockey League.
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Lovie Smith & Tony Dungy
As leaders of the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts, respectively, the pair were the first black head coaches to make it to a Super Bowl. <br><br>Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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