Most Quotable Sports Figures of All Time
Sports would not be as popular without personalities.
Some fans may want their athletes to "shut up and play," but what good would that do?
We are far more engaged when players and coaches speak their minds. Not only can their quotes be entertaining, but they also can lead to greater knowledge and understanding about a subject or situation.
Which stars shined the brightest with a camera or microphone in front of them?
These are the most quotable sports figures of all time.
John McEnroe, Tennis
A self-described "punk kid," John McEnroe was highly quotable — and often censored — as a young tennis player in the late 1970s and throughout his career.
He also was pretty good, winning 77 titles and seven Grand Slam events on the men's tour. Besides being a champion on the court, McEnroe also was a well-known ranter and often unloaded on umpires and linespeople, making him one of the most controversial athletes of his time.
After retiring, Johnny Mac put his mouth to good use as one of the best tennis commentators in the business.
Famous John McEnroe Quotes
You cannot be serious.
The older I get, the better I used to be.
Everybody loves success, but they hate successful people.
Mike Tyson, Boxing
Mike Tyson could be a savage inside or outside the ring. The heavyweight boxer was perhaps most famous for this quote: "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." But that is not his only historic choice of words.
Tyson was a quote machine in an age before social media and when boxing still carried significant weight in the public sphere.
He publicly said he’d "eat [Lennox Lewis'] children," and the masses lined up to watch Tyson before fights, after fights, and anytime in between.
Famous Mike Tyson Quotes
I'm the best ever. I'm the most brutal and vicious, and most ruthless champion there's ever been. There's no one can stop me. Lennox [Lewis] is a conqueror? No, I'm Alexander. He's no Alexander. I'm the best ever. There's never been anybody as ruthless. I'm Sonny Liston. I'm Jack Dempsey. There's no one like me. I'm from their cloth. There's no one that can match me. My style is impetuous, my defense is impregnable, and I'm just ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat his children. Praise be to Allah.
When I fight someone, I want to break his will. I want to take his manhood. I want to rip out his heart and show it to him.
My biggest weakness is my sensitivity. I am too sensitive a person.
Muhammad Ali, Boxing
If Mike Tyson’s quotes are infamous, Muhammad Ali’s words are iconic, and they weren’t just confined to boxing.
Ali’s activism regularly put him in the public eye, and his famous "No Viet Cong ever called me n----er" quote lives on for civil rights champions.
But make no mistake about it, Ali was a quote machine around the ring, too. He famously said he "shook up the world" after beating Sonny Liston, then called himself "pretty," "a bad man" and "the greatest" who "couldn’t possibly be beat."
Famous Muhammad Ali Quotes
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.
Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
Babe Ruth, Baseball
Babe Ruth swung a big stick, but he did not speak softly.
The greatest baseball player of all time liked to live as big as he could and once claimed he earned $80,000 in a season, or five thousand more than President Herbert Hoover, because he "had a better year than he did."
Ruth gave up reading because it was "bad for [my] eyes." His only superstition was "to touch all the bases when I hit a home run." And he loved the game of baseball more than anything because, without it, he would have ended up "in either the penitentiary or the cemetery."
Famous Babe Ruth Quotes
Watch my dust.
You can't beat the person who never gives up.
The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime.
Reggie Jackson, Baseball
Mr. October was not short on confidence. He referred to himself as "the straw that stirs the drink" for the 1977 New York Yankees, and few could deny Reggie Jackson was the most important player on the roster.
He was the power behind two straight championship teams and struck fear into opponents' — and his own managers' — hearts.
But three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series — on three pitches, no less — speak for themselves.
Famous Reggie Jackson Quotes
Fans don’t boo nobodies.
The will to win is worthless if you don't get paid for it.
I couldn't quit, because of all the kids, and the blacks, and the little people pulling for me. I represent both the underdog and the overdog in our society.
Pedro Martinez, Baseball
Pedro Martinez had an arsenal of pitches, but his biggest advantage was his mouth.
The Dominican right-hander was bold and brash, once calling himself "the most influential player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium" and saying he wasn't "afraid of hitting anyone because I can put the ball where I want to."
Martinez also could be philosophical. His famous "just tip my cap and call the Yankees my daddy" quote from his tenure in Boston shed light into his relationship with New York, and any Yankees fans could respect this bit of honesty, "Why would I hit Karim Garcia?"
Famous Pedro Martinez Quotes
The game doesn't change.
Wake up the damn Bambino, and have him face me. Maybe I’ll drill him in the ass.
If you reverse time back 15 years ago, I was sitting under a mango tree without 50 cents to pay for a bus. And today, I was the center of attention of the whole city of New York. I thank God for that, and you know what? I don't regret one bit what they do out there. I respect them, and I actually kind of like it because I don't like to brag about myself, I don't like to talk about myself, but they did make me feel important. I've seen a lot of teams pass by and play against this team, the Yankees, and maybe because I'm with the Red Sox, but I feel so thankful that I got their attention and they got my attention.
Rickey Henderson, Baseball
Rickey Henderson wasn't the biggest player to ever play in the big leagues. But the Hall of Fame speedster was larger than life and one of the zaniest characters the game has ever known.
The greatest base stealer and leadoff man in Major League Baseball history once famously left a $1 million check uncashed and framed on his wall.
Henderson also was famous for his third-person quotes about himself, starting a trend that became mainstream during the 1990s and early 2000s.
Famous Ricky Henderson Quotes
Lou Brock was a great base stealer, but today I am the greatest.
If my uniform doesn’t get dirty, I haven’t done anything in the baseball game.
I feel Rickey Henderson is a great guy. I am a performer. I give entertainment. I give my best on the baseball field. Whether I’m 100 percent or 60 percent, I’m giving my best all the time.
Yogi Berra, Baseball
Some people have a way with words. Yogi Berra was one of those people.
The winningest player in Major League Baseball history had a brilliant post-playing career as a wordsmith, saying things like "it ain’t over 'til it’s over" and "it’s deja vu all over again."
Berra’s "Yogisms" endeared him to a generation unfamiliar with his baseball career, almost to the point of obscuring his incredible 10 World Series championships and three American League MVP awards in 19 major league seasons.
Famous Yogi Berra Quotes
Baseball is 90 percent physical. The other half is mental.
The future ain't what it used to be.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Aly Raisman, Gymnastics
Aly Raisman has become one of the strongest voices in women’s sports by becoming one of the most decorated U.S. gymnasts in history.
She also has been an important voice in equality, speaking out against a culture of sexual assault that reportedly was rampant in the USA Gymnastics program.
Famous Aly Raisman Quotes
I think imperfection is beauty. Instead of being insecure about my muscles, I’ve learned to love them. I don’t even think of it as a flaw anymore because it’s made me into the athlete I am.
The tables have turned, Larry [former USA Gymnastics coach Nassar]. We are here, we have our voices, and we are not going anywhere.
Good things happen to those that don’t give up. You have to keep believing and working.
Bob Knight, Basketball
Not all words are warm and cuddly. Some, like Bob Knight’s, can be a little more cold and blunt. Still, "The General" was no less quotable.
The longtime college basketball coach publicly implored his family to bury him upside down, so his "critics can kiss my ass."
He also loved to tweak members of the media, saying, "All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things."
Famous Bob Knight Quotes
I don’t believe in luck. I believe in preparation.
Mental toughness is to physical as four is to one.
Your biggest opponent isn't the other guy. It's human nature.
John Wooden, Basketball
John Wooden carried himself, let’s say differently from Bob Knight, but he was no less an exceptional quote.
The "Wizard of Westwood," as the longtime UCLA men’s basketball coach was called, was one of the greatest winners in the history of sports and dropped many nuggets of wisdom during his 99 years on the planet.
Famous John Wooden Quotes
Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man given. Be grateful. Conceit is self given. Be careful.
Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.
Woody Hayes, Football
Woody Hayes was the anti-John Wooden, using Bob Knight-style tactics to motivate his football players at Ohio State University.
Hayes was rough around the edges, but never had a hard time getting his point across.
Famous Woody Hayes Quotes
I’m not trying to win a popularity contest. I’m trying to win football games.
Without winners, there would be no civilization.
Anything easy ain't worth a damn.
Bill Parcells, Football
The former NFL coach was not afraid to make his thoughts public. Frustrated with how he was limited from weighing in on player-personnel matters, Bill Parcells once said, "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries."
But like Knight, Parcells ruled with an authoritarian fist, and sometimes had an adversarial relationship with the media, whom he called "like communists, subversive from within."
Still, Parcells captured a generation of New York fans simply by being honest. His "you are what your record" is a quote to live by, and six words even ended up on clothing with the New York Jets: "Blame nobody. Expect nothing. Do something."
Famous Bill Parcells Quotes
You don’t get any medal for trying. You get medals for results.
I can’t live my life worrying about something that might never happen.
I'll call somebody "dumb" or "stupid" if they make a dumb or stupid play. I don't know any other word for it, and if they don't like the word, that's too bad.
Charles Barkley, Basketball
Basketball tends to lend itself to great quotes, and few were better than Charles Barkley, who was a master provocateur with his words during his playing days.
The former NBA forward even took on the establishment, once saying, "I don’t care what people think. People are stupid."
Barley's speaking skills also have benefited him in his post-basketball career, as "The Round Mound of Rebound" or "Sir Charles" or "Chuck" (whatever you want to call him) has become one of the most popular analysts in pro sports, delivering gems like this: "The only difference between a good shot and a bad shot is if it goes in."
Famous Charles Barkley Quotes
I'm not a role model. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids.
These are my new shoes. They're good shoes. They won't make you rich like me. They won't make you rebound like me. They definitely won't make you handsome like me. They'll only make you have shoes like me. That's it.
You can talk without saying a thing. I don't ever want to be that type of person.
Shaquille O'Neal, Basketball
Shaquille O'Neal didn’t speak loudly, but the Hall of Fame NBA center had a fun-loving nature and hilarious sense of humor that could light up a camera as well as anybody.
Shaq gave himself an almost limitless number of nicknames — including "Shaq Fu," "Shaq Diesel," "The Big Aristotle," "The Big Shakespeare and "Superman" — and once said that his inability to make free throws was "God’s way of showing nobody’s perfect."
Like Charles Barkley, O’Neal’s big personality helped him have a successful media career after retiring from basketball, as the duo make up a spectacular 1-2 punch on TNT's "Inside the NBA."
Famous Shaquille O'Neal Quotes
I’m tired of hearing about money, money, money. I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi and wear Reebok.
I’m George Bush. I’m the President. As a general, and as a leader of this team, whatever I’ve got to do get my guys going, I’ll do it every time. If I have to be the bad guy sometime, I’ll guess I’ll take that. That’s what a leader and a general and a chief of police does. Everybody is not going to like it, but I don’t care if they like or not. I’m Bush, so if they don’t like it, resign.
The biggest thing that will define my legacy is how I’ve done it, and what I’ve done, and who I am. I’m a weird big guy. Doing rapping, doing movies. Do a lot of stuff. But always do things the right way. Went to the police academy to become a police officer. Get his master’s in criminal justice, stayed out of trouble. Played for three different teams. Changed three different franchises around. This is a guy who they would have secret meetings about to change the rules. So, that’s going to be my legacy: the most dominant player ever.
Joe Namath, Football
It doesn’t take guts to guarantee a win. It does, however, take guts to guarantee a win in the Super Bowl when your team is an 18-point underdog and back it up.
Joe Namath was never bashful about speaking his mind and still isn’t. He’ll always tell you exactly what he feels about his beloved New York Jets if you ask him.
But the quarterback of the Jets' only world championship is best remembered for his prediction before Super Bowl III against the Baltimore Colts: "We're going to win Sunday. I guarantee it."
The Jets' play that day, a 16-7 victory, helped put football on the map and remains one of the greatest moments in sports history.
Famous Joe Namath Quotes
If you aren't going all the way, why go at all?
I've figured out that life in general is a team effort. It's a team game.
When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.
Terrell Owens, Football
The Hall of Fame NFL receiver became well known for his melodramatic rants, including when he tearfully defended Tony Romo as "my quarterback."
But Terrell Owens could command attention by saying nothing, an impressive feat.
In 2005, after Eagles coach Andy Reid sent him home for a training camp fight, Owens had the Philadelphia media eating out of his hands when they videotaped him doing shirtless sit-ups in his driveway, saying, "There’s two sides to every story."
Famous Terrell Owens Quotes
It’s not about Tony [Romo]. You guys can point the finger at him. … If you do, that’s really unfair. Really unfair. That’s my teammate. That’s my quarterback. We lost as a team. We lost as a team.
People have doubted me and criticized me my whole life, and that’s why I am the way I am.
Yes, I am a narcissist. The best, too.
Deion Sanders, Football
Deion Sanders, or "Prime Time" as he called himself, was among the most talkative athletes of any era.
The two-sport star was proud to toot his own horn, and often backed it up, especially on the football field, where he was an eight-time Pro Bowler.
Sanders also was one of the first modern athletes to crave attention and possess the financial trappings to match. He had style and could talk trash with the best of them, even if we can’t repeat most of what he used to say to his opponents.
Famous Deion Sanders Quotes
Water covers two-thirds of the Earth. I cover the rest.
Look good, play good. Play good, eat good. Eat good, die good.
I’m married to football. Baseball is my girlfriend.
Serena Williams, Tennis
Not only is Serena Williams the greatest female athlete of all time, she’s also become a champion for women’s equality in both sports and mainstream society.
Here honesty on social media and to the media has endeared Williams with sports fans everywhere.
Famous Serena Williams Quotes
Tennis is a game. Family is forever.
I’m not used to crying. It’s a little difficult. All my life I’ve had to fight. It’s just another fight I’m going to have to learn how to win, that’s all. I’m just going to have to keep smiling.
I love who I am, and I encourage other people to love and embrace who they are. But it definitely wasn’t easy. It took me a while.
John Daly, Golf
John Daly was a sort of everyman on the PGA tour, attracting fans to professional golf with his colorful fashion sense and booming drives.
But Daly battled demons, and was stunningly candid about them, making him one of the most quotable athletes of his day.
Famous John Daly Quotes
I don’t think I’ve ever stepped into a gym. They won’t let me smoke there.
Everyone has addictions, and my problem is that I have 5,000 of them. If it’s not drinking, it’s gambling. If it’s not gambling, it’s eating — anything from burgers, donuts to M&Ms. The only addiction I don’t suffer from is chasing women.
I hit the ball as hard as I can. If I can find it, I hit it again.