The winner of a record-tying 12 Grand Slam singles titles, he
has dominated modern tennis with a classic style.
"Sampras is a driven, even obsessed young man who is brazenly
reaching for a piece of history and doing so with the kind of
physical grace and talent that comes along once in a generation,
found only in the [Rod] Lavers, Michael Jordans, Joe Montanas
and Wayne Gretzkys."
--SALLY JENKINS SI, Sept. 5, 1994
November 29, 1999
The Brown Bomber's reign as heavyweight champ (June 1937 through
March 1949) is the longest in history.
"He was a dependably devastating presence in the ring who seemed
capable of righting national and even international wrongs with
his thunderous punches. At a time when few sports were
integrated, Joe Louis made the color of his skin incidental to
his performances, and brought Americans together."
--RICHARD HOFFER SI, July 12, 1999
With a revolutionarily powerful game, the Golden Bear won a
record 18 major championships, including an unmatched six
"He has been the best golfer to ever live, by a par-5."
--RICK REILLY SI, Sept. 19, 1994
With a unique combination of skill, style and character, the
Greatest became a three-time heavyweight champion and the
world's most adored athlete.
"Ali fought professionally for more than 20 years, from 1960 to
1981, and his life was so brassy and daring, so filled with
wonders and adventure, and so enlarged by the magic of his
personality and the play of his mind that no one remotely like
him has ever been seen on the sporting scene."
--WILLIAM NACK SI, Sept. 19, 1994
The lefthanded Aussie is the only player to win two Grand Slams
(1962, '69); in all, the Rocket won 11 Grand Slam singles titles.
"Laver has now won five of the seven big-four tournaments held
since the creation of open tennis, and it looks as though the
sport will have to be opened considerably wider, to include
angels, highly trained kangaroos or something as yet
unenvisaged, before anyone else will be in Laver's league."
--ROY BLOUNT JR. SI, Sept. 15, 1969
Sugar Ray Robinson
A five-time middleweight champion and the best pound-for-pound
boxer ever, by unanimous decision, he won 91 consecutive fights
from 1943 to '51.
"He was a merry, mercurial king, who could laugh one minute and
bless out the faithful [trainer-manager George] Gainford the
next. But when the time came and Robinson fought, he was a thing
of beauty, jabbing, crossing, dancing, a dangerous cobra
striking, a mongoose skirting danger until time for the kill."
--LARRY L. KING SI, Sept. 6, 1965