February is Black History Month and we’re celebrating the top 5 Black athletes who changed the world of sports forever.
Jackie Robinson is known as the man who transformed baseball. In a time of almost complete segregation, Robinson was the first acknowledged Black man to play in the MLB. Robinson broke many barriers in the sport and later became a relentless figure in the fight for civil rights. Robinson showed great bravery and perseverance that made a massive impact on society. “I’m ready to take the chance. Maybe I’m doing something for my race.” -Jackie Robinson
In the world of the WNBA, Lisa Lesle is an outstanding figure. A few of her accomplishments include WNBA’s first dunk, and first player to win the regular season MVP, All-Star Game MVP, and the playoff MVP in the same season. She is considered one of the greatest WNBA players of all-time. However, her greatest impact was on a generation of young women who watched her success. Leslie is a source of lasting inspiration for the WNBA and the sports world in general, because of how she not only pioneered through a white-dominated sport, but also how she continued to break barriers and excel.
Cullen Jones became a swimmer after nearly drowning at the age of 5, and now he’s the first Black man to hold a world record in swimming. Besides his swimming accomplishments, Jones has created an initiative to raise awareness on water education safety and the culture of competitive swimming. Jones’ goal is to end the misconceptions and stereotypes that swimmers of color face, and to make swimming a more inclusive sport.
Tennis champion and Olympian, Serena Williams, has ranked at the top of women’s tennis for nearly two decades. Serena has won more major titles than any other man or woman in the open era. During the same time she was being celebrated for her incredible career, she was also being targeted with disgraceful racist and sexist comments. Serena’s ability to face adversity head-on is what makes her a true champion. Over the course of her legendary career, she has paved the way for the next generation of tennis athletes.
Wilma Rudolph is one of the most inspiring track and field athletes of all time. Rudolph is the first American woman to win 3 gold medals in track and field at a single Olympics. She overcame extreme obstacles–born prematurely in the segregated South, suffered pneumonia, scarlet fever, and polio as a child. She was told she might never walk again. Yet this did not stop Wilma from dreaming big. At age 20, she became the fastest woman in the world in the 1960 Olympics, where she won her historic 3 medals. Rudolph’s legacy extends beyond the sport of track. “I would be very sad if I was remembered only as Wilma Rudolph, the great sprinter. To me, my legacy is to the youth of America, to let them know they can be anything they want to be.” -Wilma Rudolph
Among countless others, these 5 athletes have undoubtedly changed the world.