What Makes a Champion? An Inside Look at the Top 5 Athletes of All Time- Part 1

What Makes a Champion? An Inside Look at the Top 5 Athletes of All Time*   Part – 1


* This is a summarized version. If you need more details about this topic, please download the MP3 file, from the store section.


Is it their physical attributes? Or is it their training?

Or maybe it is their diet?

The answer is none of the above!

In every event, people of great talents and abilities, with proper preparation compete for the gold.  When these opponents collide, what is the thing that keep them standing till the end? 

What makes them rise above the others? 

What makes them a champion?

What makes a champion superior to other champions?


The Top Five Athletes of All Time:

We try here to study the lives of 5 top athletes. They are considered the top athletes of all time. Each athlete is considered by many critics to be the best in his respective sport. We will try here to conclude what is common among all of them, what is the one thing that they all share and that this very thing made them the best. They have two things in common: the first is that they are all the best of all time. The second common factor will appear in the end of this article after we explore their lives, inside and outside their sports. The top 5 athletes are:

Muhammad Ali    for Boxing.

Michael Jordan    for Basketball.

Roger Federer     for Men’s Tennis.

Michael Phelps    for Swimming.

Tiger Woods        for Golf.


Let us first explore the lives of these great athletes, one by one.


1-Who is Muhammad Ali?


He was the man crowned as the “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated, “Sport Personality of the Century” by BBC, “Athlete of the Century” by GQ Magazine, and “World Sportsman of the Century” by the World Sports Award.

He was the first man to claim 3 undisputed world heavyweight titles.  The king in the biggest and best era of heavyweight champions, as described by Tris Dixon, the editor of Boxing News.  He was considered a legend in sports.

He also conquered 11 fearsome Hall of Fame Boxers.  He has the record of 56 wins and 5 losses, and he ended most of his games with knock- outs.  He also acquired the Golden Gloves title, Olympic Gold medal, and other honors.

Just a Kid

Muhammad Ali was born as Cassius Marcellus Clay, his original name, on January 17, 1942 in Kentucky.  As a young child growing up, his parents taught him that he could be the best at anything, that he can be the greatest at something.  They planted in him the sense of confidence and the sense of pride. 

As a youngster, he was the champion of marble games in the neighborhood.  He would challenge his buddies in high jumps and foot races.

Child in Distress…

He was just an ordinary African-American kid who was bothered by the racial discrimination in their place.  He was hurt when people would label Blacks as “nigger.” 

He felt bad when he can’t go to places where whites are only allowed.  This treatment towards the “colored” made him feel like a second class  race. 

The Incident…

Never in his early life did Ali dream of becoming a boxer.  When he was 12 years old, he has taken an interest in it because he wanted to beat up the one who stole his bike.  A police officer named Joe Martin told him that he would better learn how to fight before he starts challenging people.  He later introduced him to a local boxing gym. 

Then, Ali started to learn boxing.  He has grown to love it, and he was serious towards it. He thought boxing was his destiny, the thing he was supposed to do.

His Training…

As part of his training, Ali would run around the neighborhood and tell people that he was going to win a gold medal in the Olympics.  He was very vocal of his upcoming success. 

In addition, Ali did another special training.  This training was not physical but rather mental/emotional. He was doing positive affirmation and visual imagination of his winning performance.

He would say out loudly, “I am the greatest, I cannot be beaten…,”  “I will float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”    He did this every time – during practice and even in weight -in and in matches. 

Before Every Match…

Ali had this opportunity to work with the renowned trainer Angelo Dundee.  They have this game plan they did before every fight.  Dundee would write on a piece of paper the number of rounds he believed Ali would knock out his opponent. 

Ali was even more determined in finishing the match with the number given. 

And he believed deeply in his self that he can make it.

The Baby and the Brute…

There was a time when Ali was matched to a bigger and stronger; a very formidable Sonny Liston.  People would describe this battle between the “baby and the brute.”  They would characterize Liston as the “killer” and the “destroyer.”  Clearly, Ali was at the disadvantage.

But Ali remained positive. 

Facing this thought of defeat, Ali did not back off.  Instead of being scared, Ali was even challenging Liston in public.  People called him crazy.  He should be scared!


During the weighing session for their match, Ali kept shouting he would beat up the big guy.  He proceeded with his beautiful description of his success like “float like a butterfly and a sting like a bee”.

He was really so confident about himself.

On Their Big Fight…

On the fateful day of their fight, all people were thinking that Ali was marching towards his death and that he got zero percent chance of winning.

The game proceeded with Ali avoiding the punches of his opponent. 

Ali was doing pretty well in this fight; however, his opponent had some harmful material inside his gloves. He released punches targeting Ali’s eyes. And unfortunately, his punches connected at round four.  Ali was injured. 

Ali kept on blinking…. He couldn’t see!  He wanted to give up but his trainer Dundee came to his aid and encouraged him.  He reminded Ali of his goal.  And Ali stood up again and motivated himself to finish the game once and for all. Ali did very well in round six, after he recovered from his eyes injury. Ali’s determination planted a seed of terror in his opponent.  His opponent was discouraged that he couldn’t even react to Ali’s punches. Then the bell rang and they were back to their post. 

The Victorious One…

The next thing that happened was that Ali was doing all these victorious gestures in the ring even when the referee has not given the signal yet.  He was confident he won already.

Then, the referee went to his opponent but he refused to go back to the ring.  He was afraid of Ali.  And finally Ali was declared the victor.

The masses couldn’t believe how the game turned out.  They even requested for a rematch.

Spectators couldn’t believe in Ali’s victory.  They thought his win was just luck, and so, they arranged a rematch. In the rematch, victory was on Ali’s side. But this time, Liston couldn’t survive even one round against this legend.

You see, physical attributes do not guarantee success. 

Almost the same scenario repeated itself 11 years later, when Ali faced mighty George Forman. Everybody thought that Ali would lose easily, and worse he might be seriously injured. Ali knocked out Forman in round 8 and reclaimed world title for the second time.

Against Forman, again Ali was the weaker among the two, but the victorious in the end.

He was truly the greatest!


2-Who is Michael Jordan?

He was the man crowned as the “Century’s Best College Basketball Player by CNN.  He was also one of the recipients of “20th Century’s Greatest Athletes” by ESPN Sports Century.

People knew him as the NBA Superstar.  Well he successfully led six national championships of his team Chicago Bulls, and even earned five times the award of being NBA’s Most Valuable Player.  Many critics consider him the best basketball player of all time.

How did he manage to become so successful?

It Started with a Dream…

Michael Jordan has been always a fan of NBA Basketball.  He was awed by these great players he saw on TV.

His Defeats

But his brother Larry was seen by the family as the true athlete, not Michael.  And Larry was good in Basketball.  So every time Michael and Larry had their “intense” match, Michael was always left defeated. Michael viewed him as his rival.  He wanted to win.  He pushed himself to be the best.  He worked hard.  He struggled… He kept on challenging and challenging his brother until he won.

His Disappointments…

One time Michael tried to qualify for the university basketball team. Jordan was promising but the coach was not convinced to let him join the team because of his height So he did not include Michael’s name in the team’ list.

He fell into depression.  He was so down.  He even cried when he got home. 


Thankfully, his mom was there to rescue.  She advised him to prove that the coach had made a mistake.

Ultimately, Michael became the strongest player in the junior team as well as the crowd’s favorite.

The next thing that happened was that Jordan grew taller by 10 centimeters.  And he was so skillful in catching balls and doing dunks that the coach finally admitted him into the university team.

Michael said this quote “You can achieve incomparable level of skill through incomparable spirit and commitment.”  

His Confidence…

There was a time when Michael Jordan saw his team loose 9 times in a row. Most people would find this situation to be hopeless.  They would probably think “this is the end,” and “we are not going to catch up anymore.” 


But Michael is different.  He still believed in turning things around.  He kept telling his team mates to pass the ball to him even though he kept missing his shots.  He did not allow negative thoughts to cloud his mind.  He never doubted himself.  He had this confidence that the next shot will go in. 

He just concentrated his thoughts on the positive things.  He radiated this light of hope to his team.  In effect his team began to believe in the possibility of winning the game. 

They believed they can and they finally did.  

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