SI Vault
Individual Sports/Men
November 29, 1999
Pete Sampras
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November 29, 1999

Individual Sports/men

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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

Rod Laver

The lefthanded Aussie is the only player to win two Grand Slams (1962, '69); in all, the Rocket won II 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

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