How do you define dominance? How do you compare the achievements of athletes all around the world, in different leagues, in different sports?
There's no exact formula, but we're once again giving it a shot by ranking the most dominant athletes in the world.
Every aspect counts — athletes who crush opponents with power, speed, or technique, athletes who win individual accolades, athletes who reach the pinnacles of their sports, both individually or with a team.
Our list skews toward recent performance: while longevity and history counts, we favored athletes who have had successful years or stretches since our last edition in 2016.
The result is a wide variety of competitors in a wide variety of sports — football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, golf, tennis, swimming, gymnastics, track and field, ice skating, and more.
Take a look below.
The 50 most dominant athletes alive in 2017
The 50 most dominant athletes alive in 2017
50. Gwen Jorgensen
Jorgensen dominated at the 2016 Rio Olympics, winning the triathlon by 40 seconds to bring home the U.S. its first-ever gold in the event. Currently pregnant, Jorgensen hasn't competed in 2017, but prior to the Olympics, she won five of seven international events in 2016 and had won 15 of 17 events dating back to July 2014.
(Photo via REUTERS/Toby Melville)
49. Justin Tucker
Baltimore Ravens kicker
Justin Tucker went 24/24 on kicks from 40+ yards last year, including an absolutely astonishing 10/10 from 50+. That's as good as any kicker has ever been from that distance, and effectively extended the Ravens' scoring range ten yards further than any other team in the NFL. Kickers don't get enough love for their value — no play more commonly decides a game in its final seconds than a field goal attempt from less-than-ideal field position. In that situation there's no player you'd rather have than Justin Tucker.
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Orlando Pride forward
Time hasn't slowed down Marta. The 31-year-old forward was a finalist for Ballon D'Or in 2016, making her a top-three nominee for the prestigious award in 12 of the last 13 years, including a five-year stretch of winning it. Back in the NWSL this year, she leads the Orlando Pride in goals and assists.
(Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
47. Julio Jones
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver
Jones typifies athletic dominance at the receiver position — too tall (6-foot-4), too big (220 lb), and too fast for any defender to cover. He leads the league in total receiving yards over the last three years, hauling in over 1,800 yards in 2015 and over 1,400 in 2016 (on fewer targets). The top-graded receiver by Pro Football Focus, Jones was a key cog on a Falcons team that came up just short in the Super Bowl in 2016.
(Photo by Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)
46. So Yeon Ryu
South Korean golfer
Since May of 2014, So Yeon Ryu has finished outside the top 20 at a major only twice. She's one of the most consistent golfers on the tour, currently ranked in the number one spot after finishing in the top ten at nine of the 11 tournaments she's entered this year, including two wins.
(Photo by Eric Sucar-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)
45. Harry Kane
Tottenham Hotspur forward
Harry Kane is the leader of Tottenham Hotspur and recent captain of the England national team. In the 2016-17 Premier League season he won his second consecutive Golden Boot, netting 29 goals despite missing almost a quarter of the season to injury. He also led the league with four hat tricks, bringing him to a tie for fifth all-time in EPL history at just 23 years of age. Signed to Spurs until 2022, the future is bright for Kane and company.
(Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
44. Kyle Larson
Larson has been incredibly consistent in 2017 with just two wins but seven second-place finishes and four more top-10 finishes. Larson ranks second this year after being docked points by NASCAR for a violation on his car, but at this rate, he's at the front of the pack so often he has to be considered the favorite to win his first Cup.
(Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
43. Stephen Curry
Golden State Warriors point guard
Stephen Curry suffered a "down year" in 2016-17 while adjusting to the addition of Kevin Durant, but only because of the lofty expectations he had set for himself the year prior. Curry remains the deadliest shooter in the NBA and a vital member of a juggernaut that's now won two championships in three years.
(Photo by Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)
42. Dallas Cowboys offensive line
In recent years no unit in football has gotten more attention than the Cowboys offensive line. Last season the powerful crew worked to help rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott to lead the league in rushing by 300 yards and protect quarterback Dak Prescott as he took on NFL defenses for the first time. While they won't be the top-ranked offensive line going into the 2017 season, they've impressed enough to earn a spot on this list.
(Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportwire)
41. Brittney Griner
Phoenix Mercury center
In her fifth WNBA season, Griner has rounded out her game to complement her unmatched physical prowess. A two-time Defensive Player of the Year who's led the league in blocks four years in a row, Griner is now leading the league in scoring, averaging 22 points per game on 57% shooting while once again leading the league in blocks per game.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
40. Khalil Mack
Oakland Raiders defensive end
In football, some players have a nose for the ball, and no player made more impactful plays on ball carriers last season than Khalil Mack. He's bothersome and unshakable, the type of player that can force fumbles, pressure quarterbacks, and simply take up the attention of two or three lineman. Mack, who leads the NFL in total sacks over the last two seasons, took home his first Defensive Player of the Year honors last season and there's no doubt he can do it again.
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
39. Kawhi Leonard
San Antonio Spurs forward
Often considered the best two-way player in the NBA, Leonard astounds each season by adding a new element to his game. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year and MVP candidate is no longer just a stopper on the wing, but an offensive force capable of creating his own shot and dishing to others. The Spurs' 61-win campaign in 2016-17 wouldn't have been possible without Leonard and his 25 points per game and 13.6 win shares.
(Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
38. Beauden Barrett
New Zealand rugby player
The 2016 World Rugby Player of the Year, Barrett is the best player on the world's best rugby team, the All Blacks, and the Super-Rugby champions, the Hurricanes. Explosive and agile, The Telegraph once described Barrett's play, saying, "This game comes to him as easily as walking one foot in front of the other does to the rest of us, as if catching, passing, kicking and running with the ball were the first movements he’d learned."
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
37. Conor McGregor
Irish mixed martial artist, boxer
Dominance comes in many forms and Conor McGregor has it in spades — whether in the Octagon, on the microphone, or now, potentially, in the boxing ring. While he's the heavy underdog in his upcoming bout against Floyd Mayweather, the Irishman is still a lightning rod of attention, with the ability to make news with his mouth, his fists, and his wardrobe. There's not an athlete alive more skilled at keeping our collective attention.
(Photo via REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
36. Demetrius Johnson
American mixed martial artist
Demetrious Johnson is the first, current, and only Flyweight Champion in the history of the UFC, a title he has held since 2012. Johnson holds the longest title reign in all of UFC, having put the title on the line 10 times and successfully defended against every challenger. In a sport that has seen seemingly unbeatable heroes like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey fall, Johnson remains a constant force.
(Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
35. Lewis Hamilton
British Formula One driver
In a decade of Formula One racing, Lewis Hamilton has established himself as one of the best drivers to have ever lived. After back-to-back World Championship seasons, Hamilton came in second in 2016 to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, but did so while setting a record for most wins in a season without taking the title. This year he's in the hunt again, just a point behind Sebastian Vettel halfway through the season.
(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
34. Aaron Judge
New York Yankees outfielder
With his unmatched power hitting, solid defense, and infectious smile, Judge has taken MLB by storm. He won the Home Run Derby with ease, and makes hitting home runs in real games looks almost as easy. On pace to challenge Mark McGwire's rookie home run record, Judge is the heavy favorite to win the AL MVP. One of the largest hitters in MLB history, he's changed what baseball fans thought a baseball player could look like, and what they thought was possible from a rookie in the batter's box.
(Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
33. Steve Smith
Smith still ranks as the best batsman in test cricket, and moved into fifth all time in ratings points in March. The 2015 Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy winner (given to the best cricketer in the world) led his Pune team to the Indian Premier League Final in 2017, where they eventually lost, though not because of his performance, as he scored 51 runs from 50 balls.
(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
33. Chloe Kim
Kim was too young to compete at Sochi 2014, so during the wait for the 2018 Olympics, she racked up three X Games gold medals, became the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s, scored a perfect 100 at the X Games, and won golds at the Youth Olympics — all before she turned 17. She'll be a gold-medal favorite at Pyeongchang 2018.
(Photo via REUTERS/Vegard Wivestad Grott/NTB Scanpix)
31. Max Scherzer
Washington Nationals pitcher
Scherzer has the ability to make the best hitters in baseball look absolutely foolish. He's astoundingly and reliably brilliant on the mound — since joining the Nationals, Scherzer has carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning of roughly 13% of his starts.
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
30. James Harden
Houston Rockets guard
In an absolutely stacked race for the NBA MVP that in no way needs to be relitigated, James Harden stood out for his flare for the dramatic and unstoppable ability to get points, by way of jumpers, layups, or getting to the foul line, all while leading the league in assists. He might not have had the triple-doubles of Russell Westbrook or the defense of Kawhi Leonard, but anyone who watched basketball last year knew that if Harden was on the court it was in your best interest not to look away.
(Photo by Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)
29. Nneka Ogwumike
Los Angeles Sparks forward
Ogwumike has quietly assumed the torch from her Los Angeles Sparks teammate Candace Parker over the last year. Ogwumike took home the MVP last season and helped lead the Sparks to the championship (though Parker took home Finals MVP). This year, Ogwumike has raised her scoring averaging to 20 points per game (third), on 59.6% shooting (third), while grabbing seven rebounds per game (ninth), and leading the league in win shares.
(Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
28. Claressa Shields
Shields lived up to the hype around her at the Rio Olympics, becoming the only American to win back-to-back golds in boxing at the Olympics. Following a dominant amateur career in which she went 77-1, she's 3-0 with one knockout under her belt in her professional career. She'll compete for the world title in just her fourth professional bout in August.
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
27. Aaron Donald
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle
Donald didn't lead the league in sacks or tackles or make the 4-12 Rams the top defensive team, but he was Pro Football Focus's highest-graded player in the NFL in 2016 and their No. 1 player going into 2017. PFF credited Donald with 82 pressures last season, third-most in the league. The twist — Donald mostly lines up on the inside against blockers and outperforms the best edge rushers in the NFL. He makes an impact on the game unlike anyone else from his position.
(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
26. Martin Fourcade
Martin Fourcade has won the overall World Cup for the past six years, the longest reign in the history of the biathlon. The biathlon World Cup involves four competitive formats — Individual, Sprint, Pursuit, and Mass Start — and for the past two years Fourcade has come in first of all four. Untouchable for over half a decade, there is no other name in the biathlon.
Mikaela Shriffin is one of the best skiers on the planet, specializing in slalom and giant slalom. 2017 has been her best year yet, with 11 wins on the season across events. Get familiar with her now — she'll be a favorite to win a few medals this winter when Pyeongchang, South Korea hosts the Olympics.
(Photo by Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)
Barcelona, Brazilian forward
One of the defining images of the Rio Olympics was Neymar collapsing into an emotional heap after nailing the gold-medal-winning penalty kick in front of his home crowd. Neymar has had a big year, with 13 goals and 11 assists for second-place Barcelona, all while playing third-fiddle to Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The Ballon D'or finalist may have a shot at landing the award in the future if his €200 million transfer to PSG comes to fruition, as has been widely rumored.
(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
23. Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers center
Wunderkind Connor McDavid has taken the NHL by storm. The Oiler became the youngest captain in the history of the league at just 19 years of age, and in 2016 won the Art Ross Trophy for recording more points that any player in the NHL, netting 30 goals and 70 assists on the year, and won MVP. In July, he signed an eight-year, $100 million contract to become the highest-paid player in the league.
(Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
22. Kelly Barnhille (pictured), Delanie Gourley
Florida Gators softball pitchers
This dynamic pitching duo put up numbers for the Gators this season that are close to unbelievable, with a combined record of 48-8 and ERAs of 0.51 and 0.71, respectively. Barnhill herself had 14 wins and nine shutouts against Top 25 opponents in 2017, and recorded her second career no-hitter against Kentucky in April. Although the Gators fell in the College Softball World Series to Oklahoma, Barnhill still took home the award for 2017 USA Softball Player of the Year.
(Photo by Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
21. Chris Froome
The three-time Tour de France winner is currently on pace to win his fourth Tour and become only the fourth cyclist ever to win the event three times in a row. While Froome only finished fourth in the 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné (he won it 2016 and '15) and came away with bronze at Rio, he dominates the biggest race in cycling in a way we haven't seen since Lance Armstrong.
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
20. Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers quarterback
Aaron Rodgers is a miracle-worker on the field, pulling out more unlikely victories from the jaws of the defeat than any quarterback not named Brady. In 2016 he proved his prowess amidst a sea of doubters yet again, rattling off six straight wins to finish the season and win the NFC North after starting 4-6 on the year. The NFL world is almost in complete agreement: when it comes to individual talent, Rodgers rules the quarterback position.
(Photo by Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)
19. Rafael Nadal
Spanish tennis player
Widely known as the greatest clay court player in the history of tennis, Nadal's dominance is clear to anyone who has seen him play on the surface. His signature strength and fluid movements shine through his performances, especially at Rolland-Garros. There, Nadal has won 10 of the 13 French Open titles he's been in the running for and sports a career record of 79-2 (he had to withdraw in 2016 due to injury). If that's not dominance, we don't know what is.
(Photo by Cynthia Lum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
18. Andre Ward
Andre Ward is one of the most decorated champions in all of boxing and is currently considered by many the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. He's also a fighting champion, putting his undefeated record on the line four times in the past two years, most notably in two absolutely brutal victories over Sergey Kovalev to become the unified light heavyweight champion of the world.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
17. Dustin Johnson
Johnson is the top-ranked player currently on the tour, having won three of the 13 tournaments he's entered this year and come in second or third in three others. He's the top earner on the PGA money list while competing in fewer events than any other player in the top ten. Had it not been for Tiger's absurd run for the better part of a decade between 2000-2010, more people would be talking about Dustin Johnson's run of top-tier performances over the past year.
(Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
16. Usain Bolt
As Bolt prepares for his final World Championships in August, he remains the best sprinter alive. The nine-time gold-medalist went 3-for-3 in Rio to conclude his spotless Olympic career. Most recently, he ran his slowest 100-meter at the IAAF World Challenge meeting and still won. The iconic Bolt moment was captured in Rio: slowing down and smiling for the camera as he won a trial by several strides. We will never see another sprinter like Bolt.
(Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
15. Russell Westbrook
Oklahoma City Thunder point guard
In his first season flying solo in Oklahoma City, Westbrook achieved the seemingly impossible: averaging a triple-double for the season. The explosive guard put up 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists per game in 2016-17 while putting on a one-man show to win the MVP. Westbrook's teammates may have been complicit in the pursuit of triple-doubles, and the Thunder had an early playoff exit, but Westbrook proved that he can do whatever he likes whenever he likes on the court.
(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)
14. Evgenia Medvedeva
Russian figure skater
A three-time national champion and two-time European champion, the 17-year-old Medvedeva defended her world title in 2017 to become the first back-to-back world champion in women's figure skating in 16 years. Medvedeva hasn't lost a competition since 2015 and has routinely beaten her own world records during this dominant run. Up next: the Pyeongchang Olympics, where she's poised to become a star.
(Photo via REUTERS/Issei Kato)
13. Mike Trout
Los Angeles Angels center fielder
Mike Trout is possibly the most talented "five-tool player" baseball has ever seen. He's been an All Star every year since he became a full-time big leaguer and has finished either first or second in AL MVP voting every year he's been eligible for the award. Even with a brief stint on the DL this year, he is still a force to be reckoned with capable of changing the course of a ballgame in unimaginable ways.
(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
12. Sidney Crosby
Pittsburgh Penguins center
In his 12th season, Crosby led the NHL in goals for the second time in his career, then led the Penguins to their second straight Stanley Cup and his second straight Conn Smythe trophy. We've grown used to Crosby's dominance, but it shouldn't be overlooked how a player who spends most of his time on the bench dictates the game every time he's on the ice.
(Photo by Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)
11. Carli Lloyd
USWNT and Houston Dash forward
Lloyd, the 2016 and 2015 FIFA World Player of the Year, won the FA Cup with Manchester City in May, adding to a resumé that includes two Olympics golds and World Cup title. Back in the NWSL with the Dash, Lloyd has said she has another goal she wants to accomplish — a Champions League final. In the meantime, she'll have to settle for being the best women's soccer player in the world.
(Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
10. Kevin Durant
Golden State Warriors forward
This year Kevin Durant proved he was the missing piece the Warriors needed to turn into a force even LeBron couldn't stop. His play throughout the season was fantastic, but it was his performance in the Finals that set Durant apart as a singularly dominant force of basketball. Averaging 35 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, plus a steal and a block every game, KD appeared to have found basketball nirvana, and took home the Finals MVP for his breathtaking play.
(Photo by Monica Davey/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)
9. Lionel Messi
FC Barcelona forward
Messi has an ability unlike any other man on Earth to leave a stadium of 100,000 fans breathless with wonder. The ways he moves with the ball and the control he commands over its movements is awe-inducing, even to casual fans of the sport. Barcelona fell just one win short of winning La Liga, but Messi's performance was undeniable, scoring almost a goal a game and netting eight more than the next closest player in the league.
(Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)
8. Clayton Kershaw
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher
Watching Clayton Kershaw pitch can leave you in disbelief. Now working on his ninth straight season with a sub-three ERA, Kershaw's arm is the most reliable and unstoppable force in baseball. He currently finds himself in the top three in the majors in ERA, WHIP, Ks, BAA, and wins, and is leading the Dodgers as they run away with the NL West. His consistency, accuracy, and ability are unmatched, and unless he's facing off against Scherzer or Chris Sale, chances are you don't have to watch the game to know the result.
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
7. Roger Federer
Swiss tennis player
One year after calling it a season with a bad knee, Roger Federer is on a comeback tour for the ages. Federer kicked off the year by winning the Australian Open, then won his eighth Wimbledon without dropping a single set. In 2017, he's already won five tournaments, including the aforementioned majors, for a stunning 31-2 record. While Federer fights to become the oldest world No. 1 this year, he continues to put space between him and No. 2 in tennis all-time.
(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
6. Serena Williams
American tennis player
In 2016, Williams became the most-decorated woman in the modern history of tennis after winning Wimbledon for the seventh time in her career, bringing her to 22 Grand Slam titles for her career, passing Steffi Graf. This year, she continued her tear, winning her seventh Australian Open (while pregnant!) to extend her record to 23 Grand Slams. When she later announced she would be taking time off to have a baby, Serena was still ranked number one in the world. When she picks her racket back up post-pregnancy, she'll likely only need a few weeks to shoot back to the top spot.
(Photo credit PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)
5. LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers forward
LeBron James didn't lead the NBA in scoring in 2016-17, didn't win MVP, didn't lead the Cavs to another miraculous title. It doesn't matter. In his 14th year in the NBA, James posted one of his best statistical and most efficient seasons yet, carrying his heaviest workload in years, before averaging a triple-double in the Finals for the first time in NBA history. He's the consensus best player in the NBA, an ageless, physical specimen who controls ever facet of the game in ways nobody else can.
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
4. Tom Brady
New England Patriots quarterback
He was ranked 40th on our list last year, but after another Super Bowl victory that included the greatest comeback in NFL history, Tom Brady is well deserving a spot in the top five. Against the Falcons, Brady threw for a Super Bowl record 466 yards as he led the Patriots to victory after being down by 25 points well into the third quarter. He finished the season as PFF's most valuable player, with the highest single-season PFF grade the site have ever given a quarterback over the past decade of grading. Even though he’ll be 40 by the time the 2017 season starts, Brady is still the most terrifying matchup in the league, capable of leading his offense to insurmountable leads in the first quarter and coming back against any odds with ruthless precision and an uncanny ability to compel his receivers into miracle catches.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
3. Simone Biles
With 10 golds in the World Championships already under her belt heading into the Rio Olympics, Simone Biles lived up to the considerable hype following her. Biles won gold in four of five events and routinely smashed her competition by several points. While winning her 15th consecutive all-around final, NBC analyst Jonathan Horton anointed her "the greatest ever."She hasn't competed since the Olympics and won't in 2017, but she won't need to to hold onto her status as the best gymnast in the world and perhaps all-time.
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid forward
In a sport where style is revered, Ronaldo plays with an unmatched grace, attacking the ball with creativity and control at speeds that make those around him look helpless. Already one of the two best players on the planet, it's possible Ronaldo just put together his best year of football to date. In May he became the all-time top-scorer in the top five European leagues, and his 42 goals in competition helped to lead Real Madrid to their first La Liga title since 2012 and become the first team to win back-to-back titles in Champions League history. Ronaldo also added a Euro 2016 title playing for Portugal to his resumé, while taking home his fourth Ballon D'or last December. He's expected to pick up his fifth this coming winter, tying him with Messi for the most in history. With so many competitions and leagues in soccer it's sometimes difficult for one player to take dominance over the world's most watched sport, yet over the past 12 months, Ronaldo has made his status undeniable.
(Photo via REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)
1. Katie Ledecky
Like Simone Biles, Ledecky also lived up to the massive hype around her going into the Rio Olympics. She had won a surprising gold in London 2012; she was expected to dominate Rio 2016.
But her dominance isn't limited to Rio. In her freshman year at Stanford, Ledecky kept up her winning ways, setting or re-setting 12 NCAA records and nine American records. At the U.S. Championships in June, Ledecky qualified for six events, swimming the fastest time of the year in the 200-meter freestyle and the third-fastest time ever in the 400. And she did it all without tapering beforehand — in other words, she can swim faster at Worlds in July.
With more Olympics ahead of her, Ledecky may one day be in the conversation with Michael Phelps for greatest swimmer of all-time, if she isn't there already.