Sports all over the world continue to defy the accusation of frivolity and absurdity. What their critics fail to recognize is their ability to bring people together, and encourage young people to push their limits—be they physical, gender-based, racially-based, or simply psychological. Lottoland recently published a list of their top 10 most inspirational athletes in history, showcasing the struggles and boundaries encountered by the likes of Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Jackie Robinson, and more of the like. While these athletes all notoriously pushed barriers and left legacies of success, in an ever-evolving world, who are we to look to in a more inclusive, albeit not completely unprejudiced, sports landscape today?
Quotes from Today’s Most Inspirational Athletes
- I don’t like to lose — at anything… Yet I’ve grown most not from victories, but setbacks. If winning is God’s reward, then losing is how he teaches us.
Want to hear about overcoming adversity, look to Serena Williams. Through every climb, no matter the outcome, Williams has played tennis professionally for nearly 25 years, and she’s still out there winning titles. Many of her efforts have occurred both alongside and against her sister, Venus Williams, whom she infamously defeated in the 2017 Australian Open to take the trophy while eight weeks pregnant. Now, she’s a new mom, and back in the top ten. She’s also an activist, using her campaign with Nike to women to “dream crazier,” and supporting movements and organizations such as Black Lives Matter, Goodwill, and UNICEF.
- Success isn’t owned – it’s leased. And rent is due every day. Every single day, someone’s coming for your job. Someone’s coming for your greatness. If you’re the greatest, someone wants to be the greatest, and so if you’re not constantly improving your game, somebody else is.
The Houston Texans defensive end is more than just the greatest player at his position, J.J. Watt is also a champion of philanthropy. Known for his efforts benefiting the victims of Hurricane Harvey which have raised over $37 million, he also is dedicated to using sports as a medium through which to educate and assist children and at-risk youth. In 2017, he was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
- “You have to look at the past in order to learn from it and move on.”
And that’s just what Tiger Woods did this spring, when he won his 15th major – his first in over ten years – at the 2019 Masters Tournament. Woods may have a troubled past, after scandal broke up his marriage in 2010 and he was arrested for a DUI in 2017. Still, Woods has proven himself a success, leading one of the most impressive comeback stories ever. One of the greatest lessons that can be learned from Woods is that the past can be learned from in multiple ways, and Woods has not only learned from his personal transgressions, but from the young boy he once was, back when all he wanted was to be the best. Now, once again, he is.
- “All your life you are told the things you cannot do. All your life they will say you’re not good enough or strong enough or talented enough. They will say you’re the wrong height or the wrong weight or the wrong type to play this or be this or achieve this. They will tell you no. A thousand times no. until all the no’s become meaningless. All your life they will tell you no. Quite firmly and very quickly. And you will tell them yes.”
While his success with the Los Angeles Lakers organization remains to be seen, LeBon James’ three championship wins prove that not only is he “enough,” but even more. His efforts on the court are only rivaled in importance by his work outside the stadium. Known for his support of non-profit organizations, James has acted on his passion for education, donating millions of dollars to museums and children’s funds, and opening a public elementary school through his foundation in Akron to help keep struggling students stay in the education system.
- You don’t have to be serious all the time to do a good job.
Simone Biles is the only woman ever to win three all-around world championships in a row in gymnastics. She followed those titles up with four gold medals, as well as one bronze, at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio, marking one of the best showings of all time. Biles has also faced significant challenges in her career; most notably as a victim of sexual abuser Larry Nassar, the American women’s gymnastics physician. Overcoming her abuse has not been easy for Biles, but in 2018, she and her fellow survivors were awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, and Biles still continues to compete as one of the leading gymnasts of the generation. And no matter how difficult a journey it has been, Biles doesn’t forget what brought her to sports in the first place—the fun.
- “I fear no one, but respect everyone.”
- “It’s sexy and beautiful to be strong.”
- “Dreams are free. Goals have a cost. While you can daydream for free, goals don’t come without a price. Time, Effort, Sacrifice, and Sweat. How will you pay for your goals?”
- “The most valuable player is the one that makes the most players valuable.”
- “You wanna know which ring is my favorite? The next one.”
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