Special Report

37 Most Successful Athletes of the 21st Century

Source: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson
> Sport: NASCAR
> Championships: 7x NASCAR Cup Series
> Team or country: Hendrick Motorsports
> Career length: 2001-present
> Other accomplishments: 83 races won

Jimmie Johnson had a streak of dominance unprecedented in NASCAR history. Johnson won seven championships in 11 years, including five straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series from 2006-2010.

Source: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Kevin Durant
> Sport: Basketball
> Championships: 2x NBA Champion, 2x gold medal
> Team or country: Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors
> Career length: 2009-present
> Other accomplishments: 1x MVP, 10x All-star

Kevin Durant’s rare blend of size and skill have made him one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. He has led the league in scoring four times. Durant left Oklahoma City to team up with Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, winning two titles and consecutive Finals MVP awards.

Source: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Kobe Bryant
> Sport: Basketball
> Championships: 5x NBA Champion, 2x gold medal
> Team or country: Los Angeles Lakers
> Career length: 1996-2016
> Other accomplishments: 18x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, 1x MVP

Kobe Bryant helped continue the Los Angeles Lakers’ victorious ways, winning three straight titles in the early 2000s and two more in 2009 and 2010. Since retiring, he won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball”.

Source: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

LeBron James
> Sport: Basketball
> Championships: 3x NBA Champion, 2x gold medal
> Team or country: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers
> Career length: 2003-present
> Other accomplishments: 15x All-Star, 12x All-NBA, 4x MVP

LeBron James won two NBA Championships in Miami with the Heat before returning to his original team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and winning a championship there in 2016. He also holds two Olympic gold medals and four NBA MVP awards. He now plays in L.A. for the Lakers.

Source: Alex Caparros / Getty Images

Lionel Messi
> Sport: Soccer
> Championships: 4x UEFA Champions league, 10x domestic league
> Team or country: Barcelona
> Career length: 2003-present
> Other accomplishments: 5 Ballons d’Or

Lionel Messi has dominated world soccer in the past decade, winning five Ballon d’Or awards as the world’s best player. He’s guided Barcelona to 10 Spanish championships and four UEFA Champions League titles.