Best Volleyball Players of All Time
Volleyball is one of the most popular sports in the world. With high-quality leagues in many countries, there is a vibrant and diverse set of great players around the globe for both the indoor and beach games.
Indoor volleyball has been an Olympic sport since 1964 and was dominated in the early days by Japan and the Soviet Union. Beach volleyball was added in 1996 and has become one of the most exciting events of the Games. Brazil and the United States dominate on the beach these days.
Volleyball has had some great personalities and legendary figures over the years. These are the greatest volleyball players of all time.
30. Laura Ludwig
Born: Jan. 13, 1986
Key stats: Olympic gold medal (2016), 4 European championships (2008, 2010, 2015, 2016), FIVB world championship (2017)
Bottom Line: Laura Ludwig
Laura Ludwig and her partner Kira Walkenhorst broke Brazilian hearts in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
First, they beat the favored, No.1-seeded Brazilian team of Larissa França and Talita Antunes in the semifinals, and then they defeated the other Brazilian duo of Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas in the gold medal game.
Ludwig has had a long and successful career in beach volleyball, winning numerous titles in Europe and taking home the world championship in 2017.
In Their Own Words: Laura Ludwig
"Beach volleyball has been so much fun." —Laura Ludwig
29. Yekaterina Gamova
Born: Oct. 17, 1980
Key stats: Two Olympic silver medals (2000, 2004), two world championships (2006, 2010), two-time FIVB world championship MVP
Bottom Line: Yekaterina Gamova
Standing at an astonishing 6-foot-8, Yekaterina Gamova was a dominating force for Russia.
She led the team to silver medals in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. In the 2004 Games, she set the record for the most points scored in one Olympics. That record stood until 2016.
She also was named MVP of the FIVB world championships twice in her career.
In Their Own Words: Yekaterina Gamova
"Winning is my motivation. Regardless of the competition. If I am on the court, I want to win." —Yekaterina Gamova
28. Wallace de Souza
Born: June 26, 1987
Key stats: Olympic gold medal (2016), three South American championships (2011, 2013, 2017), highest scorer 2016 Olympics
Bottom Line: Wallace De Souza
A key member of the Brazilian team that took home the gold medal at the Rio Olympics, Wallace de Souza put in an impressive performance throughout the tournament.
He was named the best outside spiker and was the top scorer of the Games.
De Souza also has been named the MVP of the FIVB world club championships.
In Their Own Words: Wallace De Souza
"[There is] the see-you-later swing from Wallace." —A volleyball commentator after Wallace De Souza spike
27. Sergio Santos
Born: Oct. 15, 1975
Key stats: Two Olympic gold medals (2004, 2016), two Olympic silver medals (2008, 2012), seven World League titles (2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009), FIVB World League MVP
Bottom Line: Sergio Santos
An absolute living legend in Brazil, Segio Santos led the Brazilian national team to the gold medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. It was his second gold medal, but his first since the 2004 Athens Olympics.
He was the first libero (designated back-row player) to ever win the FIVB World League MVP, but he will be remembered forever by Brazilians for his MVP performance in Rio.
He also won 24 gold medals in tournaments over the course of his career.
In Their Own Words: Sergio Santos
"Now I think it's the right time and I can look back at my career and feel extremely happy about it. Every dig, every reception, every trip, every tournament, won or lost, they were all worth it." —Sergio Santos on retiring in 2020
26. Saeid Marouf
Born: Oct. 20, 1985
Key stats: Two Asian Championships (2013, 2019), two Asian Cups (2008, 2010), European Champions League winner
Bottom Line: Saeid Marouf
Saeid Marouf is an immensely popular player the world over, but especially in his native Iran, where he has won Sportsman of the Year in the past.
He is an excellent setter and starred for the European Champions League winners Zenit Kazan in 2014-15.
His contract for $1 million per year made him one of the highest-paid volleyball players in the world.
In Their Own Words: Saeid Marouf
"[Saeid Marouf] possesses amazing natural skills and can do whatever he wants with the ball." —Bogdan Mlachkov, Volleyball Country
25. Kim Yeon-Koung
Country: South Korea
Born: Feb. 26, 1988
Key stats: Olympic MVP (2012), three Asian Games medals (2010, 2014, 2018), European Champions League winner
Bottom Line: Kim Yeon-Koung
One of the best, most popular, and richest volleyball players in the world today, Kim Yeon-Koung was so good in the 2012 London Olympics that she was awarded the MVP despite South Korea finishing in fourth place. She set the record for the most points scored by an individual in a single Olympics with 207.
The 6-foot-4 outside hitter has played for clubs in South Korea, Japan, Turkey, and China and won dozens of individual awards.
In 2020, she signed a contract for 350 million won ($293,940) with the Pink Spiders and has a net worth of $1 million.
In Their Own Words: Kim Yeon-Koung
"Body of Russia, power of United States, the technique like Korea, and quickness of Brazil, all in one player. She is the best player in the world for sure." — International volleyball coach Giovanni Guidetti praising Kim Yeon-Koung
24. Sheilla Castro
Born: July 1, 1983
Key stats: Two Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012), seven South American championships (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2019), seven World Grand Prix gold medals (2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2016)
Bottom Line: Sheilla Castro
Sheilla Castro has been one of the leaders of the dominant Brazilian women’s indoor team over the last decade.
The opposite spiker led Brazil to two gold medals at the Olympics, seven South American championships, and dozens of other medals.
Her serve is a major weapon for Brazil, and she’s been awarded several best server and MVP awards in her career.
In Their Own Words: Sheilla Castro
"The volleyball court is really the place I feel happy, like I’m flying." —Sheilla Castro
23. Logan Tom
Country: United States
Born: May 25, 1981
Key stats: Two Olympic silver medals (2008, 2012), three World Grand Prix gold medals (2001, 2010, 2011), Pac-12 Player of the Century
Bottom Line: Logan Tom
Logan Tom has been leading the United States Olympic team for almost two decades since she became the youngest-ever American volleyball player at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The 19-year-old Tom was a sophomore at Stanford at the time.
Besides her Olympic and international successes, she’s played for 17 clubs around the world in her long career.
In Their Own Words: Logan Tom
"If it's worth it, then you do it." —Logan Tom
22. Tomasz Wojtowicz
Born: Sept. 29, 1953
Key stats: Olympic gold medal (1976), world championship (1974), four European Championship silver medals (1975, 1977, 1979, 1983)
Bottom Line: Tomasz Wojtowicz
During an era in which Japan and the Soviet Union dominated the volleyball world, Tomasz Wojtowicz led the underdog Polish team to the gold medal in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
An exceptional all-around player, Wojtowicz was one of the first to practice back-row hitting. Wojtowicz is the greatest Polish player ever and was chosen as one of the best eight players of the 20th century by the International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB).
He was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2002.
In Their Own Words: Tomasz Wojtowicz
"[Tomasz] Wojtowicz, the team lynchpin, was an exceptionally powerful leaper, hitter and spiker. Not only did he excel at defensive play as the middle blocker, he pioneered the concept of back-row hitting, sending spikes across the court and through the opposing team." —International Volleyball Hall of Fame
21. Inna Ryskal
Country: Soviet Union
Born: June 15, 1944
Key stats: Two Olympic gold medals (1968, 1972)
Bottom Line: Inna Ryskal
From 1964 to 1972, Inna Ryskal and the USSR women’s team won just about everything that could be won in the sport of volleyball, including two Olympic gold medals and a world championship.
They also dominated the European championships and won one FIVB World Cup.
She was chosen as the second-best women’s player of the 20th century by FIVB.
In Their Own Words: Inna Ryskal
"The Russian strategy was based on pure power, and [Inna] Ryskal was the power hitter of the team, earning her the nickname 'Kaspiiskaia Thunderstorm.'" —International Volleyball Hall of Fame
20. Andy Fishburn
Country: United States
College: Yale and Stanford
Key stats: Two world championships, 21 tournament wins, 101 top five finishes
Bottom Line: Andy Fishburn
Andy Fishburn was one of the most popular and unique personalities in the early days of beach volleyball.
His flair and style entertained crowds, and his partnership with Dane Selznick resulted in many tournament wins.
Fishburn held down a full-time job in finance while playing on the tour in the days before there was much money to be won.
In Their Own Words: Andy Fishburn
"The best part of beach volleyball is the 'setting,' i.e., the natural outdoors and the beauty of the beach and the ocean. In addition, I like the ability to dive and innovate shots and plays, especially the touch and finesse of the game, along with the element of deception." —Andy Fishburn
19. Steve Timmons
Country: United States
Born: Nov. 29, 1958
College: Orange Coast College and University of Southern California
Key stats: Two Olympic gold medals (1984, 1988), world championship (1986), European Champions League title
Bottom Line: Steve Timmons
Steve Timmons was a great indoor player who transitioned to beach volleyball later in his career.
A contemporary of the great Karch Kiraly, he teamed up with him to win two Olympic gold medals and a world championship in the 1980s.
His red flattop made him stand out on the court, but it was his power that made him a legend. Timmons was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1998.
In Their Own Words: Steve Timmons
"I was an example that if you pursue something and you’re willing to work at it hard enough and you want it bad enough that you can be successful." —Steve Timmons on his success
18. Katsutoshi Nekoda
Born: February 1, 1944
Died: Sept. 4, 1983 (age 39)
Key stats: Three Olympic medals (1964 — bronze, 1968 — silver, 1972 — gold), three Asian Games gold medals, two world championship bronze medals
Bottom Line: Katsutoshi Nekoda
The Japanese legend Katsutoshi Nekoda dedicated his entire life to the sport of volleyball, taking the Japanese Olympic team to greater and greater heights throughout his career.
In the 1964 Tokyo Games, they took home the bronze medal. Then, four years later in Mexico City, they won silver, and, finally in 1972, in Munich, they were able to win the gold Medal that they coveted.
Nekoda died at the age of 39 of stomach cancer, but he was posthumously chosen as one of the best players of the 20th century by FIVB.
In Their Own Words: Katsutoshi Nekoda
"[Katsutoshi Nekoda] is the man who invented the ceiling serve, a serve where the ball is hit up toward the ceiling with all the lights to make it difficult to judge the landing." —Wikipedia
17. Ron Von Hagen
Country: United States
Born: Nov. 26, 1938
Key stats: 62 open beach tournament wins, 33 second-place finishes, five Manhattan Beach Open wins
Bottom Line: Ron Von Hagen
The greatest player from the earliest era of beach volleyball, Ron Von Hagen set the standard that players like Karch Kiraly and Sinjin Smith would follow.
Von Hagen reached the podium 102 times in 122 tournaments and became an icon of the beach during his 16-year career.
In 2019, USA Volleyball named him the All-Time Greatest Male Beach Volleyball player.
In Their Own Words: Ron Von Hagen
"I fell in love with the sport and wanted to start practicing to get as good as I could so I could compete against the best players." —Ron Van Hagen on his inspiration to play volleyball
16. Phil Dalhausser
Country: United States
Born: Jan. 26, 1980
College: University of Central Florida
Key stats: Olympic gold medal (2008), four World Tour titles (2006, 2008x3), world championship (2007)
Bottom Line: Phil Dalhausser
The 6-foot-9 Phil Dalhausser has been an imposing player on the AVB tour for years, and his partnership with Todd Rogers resulted in great success both domestically and internationally.
He and Rogers took home the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, defeating Brazil 2-1. With Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh winning gold on the women’s side, the United States became the first nation to win gold in both events at the same Olympics.
In Their Own Words: Phil Dalhausser
"My exact quote to him was, 'Volleyball is for girls.'" —Phil Dalhausser, on being a high school baseball and tennis player and being hesitant to try volleyball when his ninth-grade math teacher suggested he try out for the team
15. Konstantin Reva
Country: Soviet Union
Born: April 10, 1921
Died: Sept. 1, 1997 (age 76)
Key stats: Two European championships, two world championships, eight-time USSR champion
Bottom Line: Konstantin Reva
A legend of the pre-Olympic era of indoor volleyball, Konstantin Reva was the leader of the dominant Soviet Union teams of the 1940s and 1950s.
An excellent blocker and all-around player, Reva is considered one of the best players of the early years of the sport.
The Soviet Union was a dominating force in Europe during this time, winning two world championships and taking home the bronze medal in another.
In Their Own Words: Konstantin Reva
"When his playing career was over, he became a club coach and a lecturer in physical training at the Military Academy. He was decorated with the Order of the Red Banner of Labour and the Order of the Red Star." —International Hall of Fame
Born: Dec. 23, 1976
Key stats: Three Olympic medals (2004 gold, 2008 and 2012 silver), three world championships (2002, 2006, 2010), eight World League gold medals (2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010)
Bottom Line: Giba
With Giba on the team, the Brazilian national team never failed to make the podium at an international tournament.
He led the team to the gold medal at the 2004 Games in Athens and was awarded the MVP award for his performances in those Games.
In addition to his Olympic success, he spearheaded Brazil’s dominance of South America during his career, winning eight South American titles.
In Their Own Words: Giba
"Giba is the type of player that when it's a big game, a big event, he's always ready." — Brazilian coach Bernardo Rezende on Giba's mental approach
13. Fernanda Venturini
Born: Oct. 24, 1970
Key stats: 12-time Brazilian champion, three Grand Prix championships (1994, 1996, 2004), Olympic bronze medal (1996)
Bottom Line: Fernanda Venturini
The greatest female Brazilian indoor player ever, Fernanda Venturini was a master setter who led her Brazilian club teams to 12 national championships.
She was also a key figure in Brazil’s bronze-medal winning team in the 1996 Olympics.
At the age of 30, Venturini was named one of the four greatest players of the 20th century by the FIVB.
In Their Own Words: Fernanda Venturini
"She [Roberta Silva Ratzke] is more or less ready. Now you need to play. But I think she learned from some things I taught." —Fernanda Venturini, announcing her retirement in 2012
12. Josef Musil
Country: Czech Republic
Born: July 3, 1932
Died: Aug. 26, 2017 (age 85)
Key stats: Two Olympic medals (1964, 1968), two world championships (1956, 1966), two European championships (1955, 1958)
Bottom Line: Josef Musil
The greatest Czech player of all time and the first Czech player inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame, Josef Musil was an expert setter with a deft touch.
He was named one of the eight greatest players of the 20th century by the FIVB.
Musil died in 2017 at the age of 85.
In Their Own Words: Josef Musil
"While watching a volleyball match on television today, everyone is engrossed in all the action that takes place above the net. Josef Musil, on the other hand, was a player who made his living on the ground. His expertise and poise were embedded into his fingertips." —International Volleyball Hall of Fame
11. Hugo Conte
Born: April 14, 1963
Key stats: Olympic bronze medal (1988), world championship bronze medal (1982), European Champions League title
Bottom Line: Hugo Conte
Perhaps the greatest Argentinian player ever, Hugo Conte starred for a number of clubs in Argentina, France and Italy during his more than 20 years as a professional.
He also led Argentina to a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.
In Their Own Words: Hugo Conte
"It’s a joy that I share with all Argentines in the distance. It is not an individual award but is the product of the consolidation of national volleyball in recent decades." —Hugo Conte on being inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2011
10. Mireya Luis
Born: Feb. 25, 1967
Key stats: Three Olympic gold medals (1992, 1996, 2000), two world championships (1994, 1998), 3 FIVB World Cups (1989, 1991, 1995)
Bottom Line: Mireya Luis
Despite only being 5-foot-9, Mireya Luis was known as one of the best spikers in the world during her career.
She was an offensive force for the Cuban women’s teams that completely dominated the 1990s, winning three Olympic gold medals and two world championships.
Mireya retired in 2000 after winning a second Grand Prix and her last Olympic gold medal.
In Their Own Words: Mireya Luis
"I am very excited for this new opportunity and know that, with everyone’s support, we will achieve our goals and continue the development of volleyball in the region." —Mireya Luis, in October 2020, on being chosen to lead the newly created North, Central American and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA) Athletes’ Commission
9. Randy Stoklos
Country: United States
Born: Dec. 13, 1960
Key stats: First to earn over $1 million in prize money, 122 career victories, 366 career tournaments
Bottom Line: Randy Stoklos
Third all-time in beach volleyball victories, Randy Stoklos was part of the iconic partnership with Sinjin Smith.
Stoklos was the first beach volleyball player to eclipse $1 million in career earnings.
Stoklos and Smith helped bring beach volleyball into the mainstream.
In Their Own Words: Randy Stoklos
8. Sinjin Smith
Country: United States
Born: May 7, 1957
Key stats: 139 career victories, 416 career tournaments, $1.6 million career earnings
Bottom Line: Sinjin Smith
After spending the beginning of his career paired with Karch Kiraly, Sinjin Smith joined up with Randy Stoklos to form one of the most formidable pairings in beach volleyball history.
Reaching the 100-win mark in his career before anyone else, Smith is a legend in the sport. But beach volleyball wasn’t an Olympic sport until after his retirement.
Or else he'd be an even bigger legend.
In Their Own Words: Sinjin Smith
Don't fire your opponents up. If they're down, don't tick them off. Let them stay down." —Sinjin Smith
7. Renan Dal Zotto
Born: July 19, 1960
Key stats: Olympic silver medal (1984), Pan American Games gold medal (1983), World Championship silver medal (1982)
Bottom Line: Renan Dal Zotto
A member of the Volleyball Hall of Fame, Renan Dal Zotto is one of the best Brazilian players of all time.
He was a great defender with a powerful spike and was named the best spiker of the 20th century by FIVB.
He played in three Olympics and after his playing days became the head coach of the Brazil men's national volleyball team.
In Their Own Words: Renan Dal Zotto
"We were happy and proud to see our volleyball for as many years as the first in the world rankings. It is a source of pride, but it does not make us lose focus. ... We need to continue to work hard and focus on competitions. That has been our philosophy." — Brazil men's volleyball coach Renan Dal Zotto, in December 2020, on the Brazilian men’s volleyball team being the top team in the world in FIVB rankings
6. Lang Ping
Born: Dec. 10, 1960
Key stats: Olympic gold medal (1984), two FIVB World Cups (1991, 1995), world championship (1982)
Bottom Line: Lang Ping
A cultural icon in China, Lang Ping led the Chinese women’s team to the gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Games. She also won two World Cup golds and a world championship with China.
She’s had even more success as a coach, leading China to the silver medal in 1996 and the gold medal at the 2016 Games.
She also coached the U.S. women's national team from 2005 to 2008 and won the silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games.
In Their Own Words: Lang Ping
"Yes, [the journey in Tokyo] is even harder than Rio, but we have to face the reality. We need to play more confidently." —China head coach Lang Ping at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where China failed to medal
5. Lorenzo Bernardi
Born: Aug. 11, 1968
Key stats: Five World League titles (1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 2000), nine Italian Championships, two world championships (1990, 1994)
Bottom Line: Lorenzo Bernardi
The only man in Karch Kiraly’s league when it comes to indoor volleyball dominance, Lorenzo Bernardi was named the best male player of the 20th Ccentury alongside Kiraly.
Though Bernardi never won Olympic gold, he was part of the silver-medal winning Italian team in 1996 and won two world championships to go along with many other team honors.
He was incredibly versatile and could do it all on the court. Bernardi became a coach after his playing days.
In Their Own Words: Lorenzo Bernardi
"I am proud." —Lorenzo Bernardi after a coaching loss in 2014
4. Regla Torres
Born: Feb. 12, 1975
Key stats: Three Olympic gold medals (1992, 1996, 2000), two world championships (1994, 1998), three FIVB World Cup titles (1989, 1991, 1995)
Bottom Line: Regla Torres
Regla Torres was named the FIVB best female player of the 20th century in 2001 when she was only 26 years old.
When you win a gold medal at the age of 17, it makes sense that you’re a legend by 26. The Cuban women’s team of the 1990s was unstoppable, thanks in large part to Torres.
She is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and won two other world championship golds.
In Their Own Words: Regla Torres
"Our motivation for winning was our country. Cubans love sports, and our victories brought joy to our people." —Regla Torres, on being a member of "The Caribbean Girls" Cuban women's volleyball team that won three straight Olympic gold medals from 1992 to 2000
3. Misty May-Treanor
Country: United States
Born: July 30, 1977
College: Long Beach State
Key stats: Three Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012), 112 straight matches won, 19 straight tournament victories
Bottom Line: Misty May-Treanor
It’s almost impossible to separate Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings.
The two of them combined to become the most iconic duo in the history of beach volleyball, winning three Olympic gold medals, three world championship gold medals, and, at one point, winning 112 consecutive matches.
But May-Treanor is a legend in her own right.
In Their Own Words: Misty May-Treanor
"It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, just like any pro sport. Especially for beach volleyball, you don’t have to be tall or as fast as other sports. You just have to have the skills." —Misty May-Treanor
2. Kerri Walsh Jennings
Country: United States
Born: Aug. 15, 1978
Key stats: 3 Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012), Olympic bronze (2016), 112 straight matches won, $2.6 million+ in prize money
Bottom Line: Kerri Walsh Jennings
Kerri Walsh Jennings is the most decorated beach volleyball player of all time with 133 career wins (as of 2016) and more than $2.6 million in winnings.
Though she was expected to win yet her fourth gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Walsh took home the bronze with her new partner April Ross.
The 6-foot-3 Walsh was unable to qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, her sixth and fifth on the beach. But very few players had her drive and dedication to succeed.
"You have to want it bad enough to suffer the losses, to suffer the obstacles, to suffer the inevitable heartache when you put yourself out there and fall short," Walsh said.
In Their Own Words: Kerri Walsh Jennings
"Breathe, believe, and battle. My former coach, Troy Tanner, told us that before each match. Breathe – be in the moment. Believe – have faith that you can rise above it. Battle – you gotta be prepared to go for as long as it takes." —Kerri Walsh Jennings
1. Karch Kiraly
Country: United States
Born: Nov. 3, 1960
Key stats: Three Olympic gold medals (1984, 1988, 19986), 148 beach volleyball titles, $3 million+ in prize money
Bottom Line: Karch Kiraly
Charles "Karch" Kiraly is Michael Jordan/Wayne Gretzky/Babe Ruth of volleyball. There really is no other option for the GOAT.
Kiraly not only dominated indoor volleyball to the tune of three Olympic gold medals, including two in the 1980s, but he also claimed the beach volleyball gold medal in 1996. He’s the only person to win gold in both versions of the sport.
Kiraly also is the winningest beach volleyball player of all time.
In Their Own Words: Karch Kiraly
"No volleyball play can begin without a serve, and the serve is the only technique that is totally under your control. In other endeavors, you cannot succeed without believing in yourself, and that belief is completely under your control." —Karch Kiraly