The most dominant athletes of the decade

best athlete 2x1Ben Curtis/AP; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images; Michael Dwyer/AP; Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images; Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images; Ruobing Su/Business Insider

  • We ranked the most dominant athletes of the 2010s.
  • We didn't use a formula, just a subjective ranking based on individual success and accolades, team success, and intangibles.
  • Check out the 41 most dominant athletes of the decade below.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

With the end of the 2010s upon us, we've ranked the most dominant athletes of the decade.

What was most astonishing in making this list is the sheer number of athletes who have become fixtures at the top of their sports and just how consistent the world's best competitors have been - some of these stars on their second decade of dominance.

Whittling down this list to 41 athletes was no easy feat. We didn't use any formula. We followed a subjective method, judging domination on individual success and accolades, team success, and an intangible sense of influence and command over a sport.

Check out our list of the 41 most dominant athletes of the decade below:

Some honorable mentions (in no particular order): Max Scherzer, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Conor McGregor, Chloe Kim, Maya Moore, Alex Hannold, Gwen Jorgensen, Sebastian Vettel, Julio Jones, Manny Pacquiao, Allyson Felix, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe.

Alan Dawson and Barnaby Lane contributed to this report.

{{}}

View As: One Page Slides

41. Jimmie Johnson

41. Jimmie Johnson

NASCAR driver

Age: 44

How he dominated the decade: Johnson has been one of the most consistent drivers in NASCAR over the last two decades, even if he has slowed down in recent years, with Kyle Busch closing out the decade strong. Since 2010, Johnson has had 36 wins and 110 top-five finishes. His seven NASCAR Cup Series championships tie him for most all-time with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Johnson announced he would retire at the end of the 2020 season. — Scott Davis

40. Demetrious Johnson

40. Demetrious Johnson

MMA fighter

Age: 33

How he dominated the decade: Demetrious Johnson lacks the name value of athletes like Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor, but while those two trailblazers were excellent for a brief window, the 33-year-old American wrestler has been dominant the entire decade. "Mighty Mouse" won the inaugural UFC flyweight championship in 2012, defended it 11 times, and is regarded by the UFC commentator Joe Rogan as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. After losing the flyweight championship to Henry Cejudo in 2018, Johnson left UFC and moved to ONE Championship in Asia. In his third fight, he won the ONE Championship flyweight grand-prix. — Alan Dawson

39. Elena Delle Donne

39. Elena Delle Donne

WNBA forward

Age: 30

How she dominated the decade: Elena Delle Donne has been among the WNBA's brightest stars since she joined the league in 2013. Since then, she's been named to six All-Star teams and four All-WNBA First Teams, and she's only improved with time. 2019 was a banner year for the 6-foot-5 sharpshooter as she secured her first WNBA championship and second WNBA MVP award while becoming the first player in the league's 23-year history to join the esteemed 50-40-90 club. She'll start the next decade mining for gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after having dominated the field with Team USA four years ago in Rio de Janeiro. — Meredith Cash

38. Mikaela Shiffrin

38. Mikaela Shiffrin

Alpine skier

Age: 24

How she dominated the decade: Shiffrin is already one of the most decorated alpine skiers of all-time, and she's not yet 25. She is already second all-time in World Cup wins, with 62, trailing only Lindsey Vonn's 82 wins. She also owns six World Championship medals and three Olympic medals, her first coming at Sochi 2014 when she became the youngest Olympic slalom champion in history. Often winning her races by large margins, there's a sense that the best is yet to come for Shiffrin, who is on pace to shatter records. — Scott Davis

37. Drew Brees

37. Drew Brees

NFL quarterback

Age: 40

How he dominated the decade: From finishing high school with only two Division I scholarship offers to falling to the second round of the NFL draft, Drew Brees started as an underdog at every level of his playing career. His success in the pros didn't entirely kick in until he joined the New Orleans Saints as a free agent in 2006, but the rest is history. Since moving to the Big Easy, Brees has accrued more touchdowns, passing yards, and 300-yard games than any other quarterback in the NFL while leading the Saints to six playoff appearances in the decade. He also owns the league's career pass completions, career completion percentage, and career passing yards records, the latter of which he broke in 2018. To top it all off, Brees led the Saints to their first-ever Super Bowl victory in 2010 and earned MVP accolades for his efforts. — Meredith Cash

36. Chris Froome

36. Chris Froome

Cyclist

Age: 34

How he dominated the decade: Froome has dominated in a sport where individual dominance is not common. Froome won the Tour de France four times (2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017), but had success elsewhere, too, winning the Vuelta a España twice (2011 and 2017) and the Giro d'Italia once (in 2018), completing one of the strongest two-year runs ever. He also owns two Olympic bronze medals. A crash early in 2019 ended his year, but he'll look to rebound in 2020. — Scott Davis

35. Jordan Spieth

35. Jordan Spieth

Golfer

Age: 26

How he dominated the decade: Spieth's 2015 season remains one of the best in golf: five wins, two majors (U.S. Open and Masters), second in the PGA Championship, $10 million in PGA Tour winnings, and the PGA Tour Player of the Year. Spieth hasn't reached those Tiger-esque heights since, but it's not as if it's been all bad — he's had 15 top-three finishes and 30 top-10 finishes since 2016. A golfer renowned for his touch in an age of power, Spieth remains a threat in every tournament, even if he hasn't recaptured his 2015 magic. — Scott Davis

34. Marit Bjorgen

34. Marit Bjorgen

Cross-country skier

Age: 39

How she dominated the decade: In a sport as grueling as cross-country skiing, sustained greatness takes discipline, and through the past 10 years, Marit Bjørgen was unmatched in her field. Beginning in the 2010 season, Bjørgen never finished outside of the top five in the overall World Cup. Add in 15 Olympic medals, including eight golds, and it's clear that Bjørgen's decade was one for the history books. — Tyler Lauletta

33. Russell Wilson

33. Russell Wilson

NFL quarterback

Age: 31

How he dominated the decade: If not for Tom Brady's unprecedented run of success, we'd likely be discussing Russell Wilson as the most dominant player of his generation. Since entering the league in 2012, Wilson has started every game for the Seahawks, has never had a losing record with the team and led Seattle to its first Super Bowl win. With a consistent track record and a knack for saving his most miraculous plays for the most dramatic moments, there's no other quarterback quite like Wilson. — Tyler Lauletta

32. Patrick Kane

32. Patrick Kane

NHL wing

Age: 31

How he dominated the decade: The face of the Chicago Blackhawks' reign over the NHL, Patrick Kane has been a dominant force on the ice since he was drafted in 2007. He brought the Stanley Cup back to the Windy City in 2010, 2013, and 2015 but peaked during the 2016 season, when he won the Art Ross Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, and Hart Memorial Trophy. That year, he was also named to the NHL's First All-Star Team — one of three times he's achieved the feat this decade. Kane has appeared in seven All-Star games since 2010, and his star is still burning as bright as ever, as he's made the list in each of the past five years. — Meredith Cash

31. Inbee Park

31. Inbee Park

Golfer

Age: 31

How she dominated the decade: No woman has dominated the sport of golf quite like Inbee Park has over the past 10 years. The South Korean dynamo has held the top spot in the Women's World Golf Rankings on four separate occasions throughout the decade for a total of 106 weeks, or more than two years cumulatively. She's won seven major championships in her career, six of which came between 2013 and 2015. In 2013, she became the fourth player on the LPGA Tour to win three such tournaments in a calendar year. Park won the LPGA Championship in 2013, 2014, and 2015, becoming just the second women's golfer to win three consecutive championships. Add a Grand Slam and an Olympic gold medal to her resumé, and you'll understand why Park is often considered one of the best in the game. — Meredith Cash

30. Brooks Koepka

30. Brooks Koepka

Golfer

Age: 29

How he dominated the decade: Brooks Koepka is only a few years into his reign of dominance, but he's winning the biggest tournaments his sport has to offer at a rate that is impossible to ignore. Beginning at the 2017 U.S. Open, Koepka went on a streak that saw him win three of six majors played. Since the start of 2018, he's competed in seven majors, won three of them, and finished in the top five three more times. In an individual sport, such a run is rare, but Koepka makes it look easy. — Tyler Lauletta

29. Mo Farah

29. Mo Farah

Long-distance runner

Age: 36

How he dominated the decade: The greatest British distance runner and one of the best British athletes ever, Farah won back-to-back gold medals in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, becoming the second person ever to do so. He also took home six World Championship medals, four of them gold, from 2011-2017. In 2017, he switched to marathon running and set the British record at the 2018 London Marathon and then won the Chicago Marathon. He didn't perform as well in 2019, but he recently announced he wants to switch back to the track to compete at Tokyo 2020. — Scott Davis

28. Carli Lloyd

28. Carli Lloyd

Soccer forward

Age: 37

How she dominated the decade: During the most dominant period in the US women's national team's history, Carli Lloyd has been arguably the most dominant player on the pitch. In this decade, the Delran, New Jersey, native has twice been named FIFA Player of the Year, won two FIFA Women's World Cup championships, and twice headlined the United States' Olympic roster. Throughout her international career, Lloyd has made more than 280 appearances for the USWNT, placing her third in caps and has accrued the fourth-most goals and seventh-most assists in the team's history. — Meredith Cash

27. Martin Fourcade

27. Martin Fourcade

Biathlete

Age: 31

How he dominated the decade: While you might not know him by name, Martin Fourcade has dominated his sport like few others. The French biathlete won an astounding seven consecutive World Cups between 2012-2018, a stretch during which he never won less than seven races in a season. He won medals at three Olympics, including five golds, second only to Norway's Ole Einar Bjørndalen. — Tyler Lauletta

26. Canelo Alvarez

26. Canelo Alvarez

Boxer

Age: 29

How he dominated the decade: Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is a top-three consensus pound-for-pound athlete in boxing today, mostly thanks to his growing body of work. He has scored victories from junior middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight, and light heavyweight. At one point, Canelo held world titles in three different weight classes at the same time, in the late 2010s. The only blemish on his record is a 2013 defeat to Floyd Mayweather, but since then, he is unbeaten in 12 fights, winning 11 (six by knockout). Only 29, you can expect him to maintain that dominance for another five years yet, extending his current record of 53 wins even higher. — Alan Dawson

25. Marta

25. Marta

Soccer forward

Age: 33

How she dominated the decade: One of the best women's soccer stars to ever play the game, Marta became the first player of either gender to score in five different World Cups at the 2019 World Cup in France. Her 17 career World Cup goals are more than any man or woman in the sport's history. The Brazilian forward, dubbed "Pelé in skirts" by Pelé himself, played for various club teams in Sweden from 2012-2017 before joining the Orlando Pride and dominating the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL). — Meredith Cash

24. Rory McIlroy

24. Rory McIlroy

Golfer

Age: 30

How he dominated the decade: Over the past 10 years, no golfer has been a more consistent presence at the top of the leaderboard than Rory McIlroy. With four major wins and 14 more top-10 finishes, McIlroy is regularly one of the highest-earning players in the sport and is a threat to take down any tournament in which he plays. Dating back to 2009, he's finished in the top 10 of at least one major every season. — Tyler Lauletta

23. Aaron Rodgers

23. Aaron Rodgers

NFL quarterback

Age: 36

How he dominated the decade: Rodgers authored some of the most stunning moments on the football field in the 2010s, from Hail Marys, to game-winning drives, to the type of unbelievable throws recreated in backyard football. Since 2010, Rodgers owns the best touchdown percentage, interception percentage, and passer rating among quarterbacks who have made at least 50 starts. Injuries and a lack of team success in recent years have taken some shine off of his legacy, but for most of the decade, Rodgers was in rare air: the type of player who could win his team a game each week because nobody else could top him. — Scott Davis

22. Kohei Uchimura

22. Kohei Uchimura

Gymnast

Age: 30

How he dominated the decade: Regarded as the greatest male gymnast ever, Uchimura has taken home seven Olympic medals and 21 world championship medals. Thirteen of those medals are golds. Injuries in 2018 ended his ten-year reign as the world all-around champion, which included two full Olympic cycles. Uchimura has been so dominant that when his streak ended, he said, "This gives me a sample of something I haven't tasted up to this point." — Scott Davis

21. Alex Ovechkin

21. Alex Ovechkin

NHL wing

Age: 34

How he dominated the decade: Alex Ovechkin has been the most dominant scorer on skates for years. Since 2010, he's led the NHL in goals seven times, and in 2018, led the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup. — Tyler Lauletta

20. Katie Ledecky

20. Katie Ledecky

Swimmer

Age: 22

How she dominated the decade: From 2012 to 2019, Ledecky has been almost untouchable in the pool, winning five Olympic golds, 14 world championship golds, and breaking her own world records over and over. The best freestyler in the world, it hasn't been an uncommon sight to see Ledecky win so handily that she was celebrating before the other swimmers even finished. The sports world eagerly awaits her performance at Tokyo 2020. — Scott Davis

19. Mike Trout

19. Mike Trout

MLB center fielder

Age: 28

How he dominated the decade: Baseball is a summer-long slog that can break even the most brilliant athletes the sport has to offer, but for Mike Trout, every game is just another day at the office. Not a season has gone by since 2012 that Trout didn't lead the league in at least one major statistical category, be it runs, RBIs, slugging, or OBP. In his eight full seasons in the majors, Trout has won three MVP awards and finished second in voting four more times. He's never been lower than fourth. — Tyler Lauletta

18. Stephen Curry

18. Stephen Curry

NBA guard

Age: 31

How he dominated the decade: Perhaps no other athlete affected their actual sport like Curry did in the 2010s. Curry has reshaped basketball as we know it, literally turning the game inside out. The threat of Curry pulling up from 30 feet and raining three-pointers revolutionized offenses and defenses in the NBA. In the process, Curry racked up quite a resume with the Golden State Warriors: three championships, two MVPs, the first-ever unanimous MVP, six All-Star selections, six All-NBA selections, and a then-record-breaking $201 million contract. It pays to change the game. — Scott Davis

17. Kevin Durant

17. Kevin Durant

NBA forward

Age: 31

How he dominated the decade: This decade saw Kevin Durant challenge for the title of the best player in the game. The 31-year-old became a two-time NBA champion and two-time Finals MVP with the Golden State Warriors, but he's dominated the league throughout the decade. Durant has been an NBA All-Star in every year since 2010 and has led the NBA in scoring during four seasons in that span. In 2013, Durant joined the illustrious 50-40-90 club, and in the following year, he was named the league's MVP. He's also won two Olympic gold medals with the United States national team. — Meredith Cash

16. Lewis Hamilton

16. Lewis Hamilton

Formula One driver

Age: 34

How he dominated the decade: One of the greatest drivers in the history of Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton is nearly impossible to catch on the track. Hamilton is a six-time world champion, having won five of the past six titles, and has never finished a season lower than fifth since joining F1 in 2007. — Tyler Lauletta

15. Novak Djokovic

15. Novak Djokovic

Tennis player

Age: 32

How he dominated the decade: Djokovic's decade was a series of peaks and valleys, with the peaks ranking among the highest ever in tennis. In 2015, Djokovic ruled over the "Big Three," winning three slams and an astounding 11 titles. After a slump in 2017, he rebounded in 2018 by winning two more slams and reclaiming the world No. 1. He continued in 2019, winning the Australian Open and beating Roger Federer in a legendary duel at Wimbledon. Perhaps the hardest man to score on in tennis, Djokovic has won eight of the last 20 grand slams, and his age will give him a chance to break Federer's slams record. — Scott Davis

14. Usain Bolt

14. Usain Bolt

Sprinter

Age: 33

How he dominated the decade: The title of "Fastest Man Alive" is one of the most sought-after in all of sport, elevating its holder to something closer to a superhero than merely an athlete. For three straight Summer Olympics, Usain Bolt proved to the world that no one could move through space faster, taking home golds in the 100 meters, 200, and 4x100 in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. No athlete has ever lived up to their name quite like him. — Tyler Lauletta

13. Floyd Mayweather

13. Floyd Mayweather

Boxer

Age: 42

How he dominated the decade: Canelo Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao may feature prominently in lists ranking the best boxers of the 2010s, but Floyd Mayweather has something they don't — higher-profile victories. Mayweather was not as active as his rivals, but still outclassed and dominated Canelo and Pacquiao, amongst others. He was rarely troubled, maintains one of the most impressive plus/minus Compubox records (punches landed against punches taken), and perfected the art of hit while not getting hit. Mayweather fought 10 times in the 2010s, eight of which were world title fights, and made a billion dollars in total career prize money. He bowed out of the sport in 2017, after carrying Conor McGregor 10 rounds. — Alan Dawson

12. Diana Taurasi

12. Diana Taurasi

WNBA guard

Age: 37

How she dominated the decade: Diana Taurasi, dubbed "White Mamba" by Kobe Bryant, is widely considered the greatest basketball player in the women's game. In her 15 years with the Phoenix Mercury, Taurasi has won three WNBA championships, a league MVP award, two Finals MVP awards, and five scoring titles. She dominated the last 10 years at both the WNBA and international levels, earning two Olympic gold medals and three FIBA World Cups in addition to the 2014 WNBA championship and dual scoring titles in 2010 and 2011. Taurasi has been a WNBA All-Star and an All-WNBA First-Teamer five times this decade. And, in June of 2017, the shooting guard inked another line in the WNBA history books by becoming the league's all-time leading scorer. — Meredith Cash

11. Sidney Crosby

11. Sidney Crosby

NHL center

Age:

How he dominated the decade: From 2009 to today, Crosby leads all NHL players in total points. It's a clean way of looking at perhaps the most well-rounded player in the game over the last decade. Crosby has numerous other individual accolades in that time — two Conn Smythe trophies, two Ted Lindsay trophies, and a Hart Memorial trophy. However, his team success has been just as great with two Stanley Cups and a playoff appearance each season. There hasn't been a more consistent force in hockey. — Scott Davis

10. Rafael Nadal

10. Rafael Nadal

Tennis player

Age: 33

How he dominated the decade: In what will be remembered as the greatest stretch of men's tennis in the history of the sport, Rafael Nadal was an absolute force. Known as the "King of Clay," Nadal dominated at Roland-Garros, winning eight of the 10 French Open titles this decade. At 33, Nadal's reign is still going strong, having reached the final four of his past four Grand Slam appearances and entering the 2020 season as the reigning French Open and U.S, Open Champion. — Tyler Lauletta

9. Clayton Kershaw

9. Clayton Kershaw

MLB pitcher

Age: 31

How he dominated the decade: No player in baseball was more consistently infuriating to his opposition than Clayton Kershaw. At a position that almost demands a few momentary lapses due to sheer volume, Kershaw proved consistently unhittable, pitch after pitch, inning after inning, game after game. This decade, Kershaw won the NL MVP (2011), Cy Young three times (2011, 2013, 2014), finished in the top three in Cy Young voting three other times, and led the league in ERA five times. While he's yet to shake his postseason blues, Kershaw's decade-long reign as the best pitcher in baseball is unmatched. — Tyler Lauletta

8. Simone Biles

8. Simone Biles

Gymnast

Age: 22

How she dominated the decade: Simone Biles has won 25 world medals in her career, more than any other gymnast in the history of the sport. With five Olympic medals to boot and more to come at Tokyo 2020, Biles has become the face of gymnastics. No athlete has commanded the throne of any sport in nearly as dominant a fashion as Biles, who regularly takes down her opponents by unprecedented margins. The Tokyo Olympics will undoubtedly serve as her victory lap as the greatest gymnast of all-time. — Meredith Cash

7. Cristiano Ronaldo

7. Cristiano Ronaldo

Soccer forward

Age: 34

How he dominated the decade: Cristiano Ronaldo plays soccer like he was built in a laboratory. Impossibly fast, imposingly strong, and with a right foot like a traction engine, the Portuguese international has been one of the sport's top two players alongside Lionel Messi over the past two decades. He's won everything there is to win in spells with Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, and Portugal, including five Ballon d'Or awards, and a record four European Golden Shoes. At 34, he's still going strong, with no signs of slowing down any time soon. — Barnaby Lane

6. Michael Phelps

6. Michael Phelps

Swimmer

Age: 34

How he dominated the decade: For the average sports fan, Michael Phelps resurfaced every four years, but no other athlete shined in those spare moments as Phelps did. With a body practically designed for the sport, Phelps dominated the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, racking up an astounding 12 medals, nine of which were golds. Phelps briefly retired mid-decade, then took a break following a DUI arrest, but returned to the pool for Rio 2016 and set an Olympic medal record. A fitting swan song — unless he has something left in the tank for Tokyo 2020. — Scott Davis

5. Lionel Messi

5. Lionel Messi

Soccer striker

Age: 32

How he dominated the decade: Lionel Messi is the most celebrated soccer player of the modern generation, if not all time. The Argentine magician has dazzled fans across the world for the past 15 years while playing for FC Barcelona and his country — a period in which he's scored an astonishing 575 goals and won 23 major honors. Accolades and eye for goal aside, to quote former England star Ray Hudson: "They say all men are equal in god's eyes. This player makes you seriously think about those words." — Barnaby Lane

4. Roger Federer

4. Roger Federer

Tennis player

Age: 38

How he dominated the decade: Many athletes dominate with force; Roger Federer dominates with grace. Every serve, return, and movement seems so effortless with Federer, even as he's aged well past the point when many tennis players can compete for titles. But the ease with which Federer plays on the court belies a fiery competitiveness that has allowed him to stake his claim as the greatest men's tennis player ever: five slams this decade, 42 titles since 2010, and a record 20 slams overall. If Federer has lost a step as he enters his third decade as a pro, it hardly shows. — Scott Davis

3. Tom Brady

3. Tom Brady

NFL quarterback

Age: 42

How he dominated the decade: Since 2010, only three teams in the NFL have not played in the Wild Card round of the playoffs — the Browns, Buccaneers, and New England Patriots. Tom Brady's dominance has broken the sport — NFL dynasties are supposed to be fleeting, but somehow the Patriots have now reached two decades as the de facto best team in football. At 42 years old, it's doubtful Brady has another decade of production left in him, but he'll go down in history as the best to ever play the game. — Tyler Lauletta

2. Serena Williams

2. Serena Williams

Tennis player

Age: 38

How she dominated the decade: The greatest tennis player in the history of the game, Serena Williams has won 23 Grand Slam titles in her career — more than any man or woman to step on the court. Additionally, Williams has won 14 women's doubles and two mixed doubles Grand Slams in her career. She's been ranked No. 1 by the World Tennis Association on eight separate occasions and tied Steffi Graf's record-setting 186-week run in the top spot from February 2013 to September 2016. Her final major win — the 2017 Australian Open — came while she was pregnant with her daughter, Olympia. Since making her return the following year, Williams has appeared in both the Wimbledon and US Open finals on two occasions, but lost in all four showings. She has twice been the reigning champion of all the major tournaments at the same time, otherwise known as the "Serena Slam." — Meredith Cash

1. LeBron James

1. LeBron James

NBA forward

Age: 34

How he dominated the decade: LeBron James' decade-defining achievement was a run of eight straight Finals appearances, with three championships, highlighted by a 3-1 comeback over the Golden State Warriors to bring Cleveland one of the most meaningful titles in sports history. Along the way, James became the most consistent force in basketball, a 6-foot-8 blend of power and grace, able to bend each game to his will. Basketball historians will one day marvel at the fact that James, from 2009-10 to 2019-20, averaged remarkable 26.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game, a stat line that is unmatched by any other player in that span, yet still undersells James' impact.

He rang in the 2010s with his shocking "Decision" to join the Miami Heat, creating an era of player empowerment that still resonates today. He has changed teams twice since, played on unprecedented year-to-year contracts to maximize his earnings, and become a force unto himself in sports, both on and off the court. Perhaps most remarkably, James, turning 35 in late December, enters the 2020s in near-peak form, with the ability to add more to his legacy. — Scott Davis

Add Comment()
Comments ()
X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.