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100 Most Influential People All-Time (70-61)

We’re close to halfway through our discussion on the most influential people of all-time. Well let’s get down to 61. Here 10 more of the 100 Most Influential People of all time.


Last time, we discussed an entertainer whose range transcends TV and film. A Hollywood Actress/Executive executive whose “insecurities” launched her to superstardom. And the only three-term president who pulled the United States out of the doldrums known as “The Great Depression.”

But what about an Olympic Gold Medalist who became one of “pro-wrestling’s” most excellent technicians? A tennis player who is widely considered to be the greatest of all time. And a physical education teacher who may be directly responsible for Michael Jordan’s greatness. Here are ten more of the 100 Most Influential People of All Time (70-61).

70. Kurt Angle – Olympic Gold Medal Wrestler

Credit: Shutterstock/Kurt Angle

A 13-time World Champion, Kurt Angle is regarded as one of the most brilliant wrestlers ever. And, you know, that’s scratching the surface. Angle won gold in freestyle wrestling at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, GA. This accomplishment is more significant because Angle won the competition with a broken neck. Oh, wait, excuse me, “a broken freakin neck.” He first made professional wrestling known on June 22, 1996, but not with WWE. His first sightings were at the Hardcore Heaven Pay-Per-View for Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). After a controversial angle involving Sandman and Raven (a double entendre), Kurt decided not to perform for the company, thus halting his debut for another three years.

Angle made his debut at the 1999 Survivor Series. What followed was a rookie year that hasn’t been emulated since. After a successful start, Angle would become “Eurocontinental Champion” at Wrestlemania 2000. The year would conclude the year having won the World Wrestling Federation Championship.

So why is Kurt Angle 29 spots higher than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Well, the answer is simple. As a wrestler (not a sports entertainer, there’s a difference), Kurt Angle OUTPERFORMS Dwayne Johnson. YES, I JUST SAID THAT! Kurt can suplex men the size of Paul Wight (the former “Big Show,” 7’2, 500 lbs) from dusk to dawn. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has given 9 of Angle’s matches a 5-star Rating. This ties him 8th most all-time with Kenta Kobashi and Kenny Omega.

Angle was inducted into the WWE in 2017. He’s a 13-time World Champion between WWE, TNA, and IWGP. His TNA run is his most successful. Angle won 6 of his 13 titles while in the Florida-based promotion.

69. David Letterman – Comedian/Late Night Host

David Letterman/Shutterstock

A pioneering figure in late-night television, he has left a true mark on the late-night genre and the entertainment industry. Letterman’s unique use of wit and sarcasm, it’s fair to say that Letterman helped revolutionize the late-night format. Through iconic segments like the Top Ten List and Stupid Pet Tricks, Letterman injected humor and originality into the format. His candid interviews and fearless humor challenged conventions, inspiring a new generation of hosts.

Throughout his brilliant career, his show set the setting for controversy or involved Letterman himself. An infamous segment took place in 1982. Memphis-based professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler and comedian Andy Kaufman were engaged in a physical incident. Losing his temper after exchanging words with Kaufman, Lawler struck the comedian. After falling from his chair, Kaufman scolds Lawler with words too bad for television.

Years later (July 28, 1987), actor Crispin Glover stopped by Letterman. However, something was a bit odd. Throughout the interview, Glover’s antics were becoming more erratic. The interview culminated with Glover nearly kicking Letterman. The latter of which caused Letterman to walk off the stage.

Nonetheless, his tenure in the industry highlights Letterman’s immense talent, creativity, and influence, cementing his status as a legend in the World of entertainment.

68. Leonardo DiCaprio – Actor


Leonardo DiCaprio would surely be if “transcending generations” were a living, breathing person. DiCaprio’s staying power in the industry is the stuff of legend, from “it boy” of the 90s to a grizzled vet who can lead a charge like a general at war. After making his film debut in 1991, he broke through in the 1993 hit “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” However, in 1997, DiCaprio was launched to superstardom while simultaneously causing a paradigm shift in film as we know it.

That year the release of “Titanic” in 1997 catapulted Leonardo DiCaprio to global stardom and solidified his status as one of Hollywood’s most bankable leading men. His portrayal of Jack Dawson in the epic romance captivated audiences worldwide, earning him widespread acclaim and numerous award nominations. One of those nods was the Oscar for Best Actor.

Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Academy Award on February 28, 2016, for his performance in “The Revenant.” In the film, he portrays frontiersman Hugh Glass, who embarks on a quest for survival and revenge after being left for dead in the wilderness. DiCaprio’s raw and intense portrayal earned him the Oscar for Best Actor, finally securing the coveted award after several previous nominations and near-misses in his illustrious career.

Additionally, DiCaprio is renowned for his environmental activism, using his platform to raise awareness about climate change and environmental conservation. In a career that sees our influential hero soar to space-like heights, DiCaprio is the proud owner of three Golden Globes, a Screen Actors Guild Award, an MTV Movie Award, and, of course, that Oscar.

67. Serena Williams – Pro Tennis Player

Serena Williams/Shutterstock

Apart from Serena, two other iconic tennis players will be on this list. So, I want to pause and give well-deserved honorable mentions to Rodger Federer and Serena’s sister, Venus Williams. Federer’s elegant playing style and longevity have earned him a record 20 Grand Slam Titles. Not to be outdone, Venus herself has 7 Grand Slam Single titles and 14 Grand Slam Doubles Titles with Serena.

With 23 Grand Slam singles titles, Serena Williams is one of the most dominant players in tennis history. Her decisive game and fierce competitiveness have made her a true legend of the sport. Also, she has clinched four Olympic gold medals in singles and three in doubles alongside her sister Venus. Her dominance extends to the WTA Tour Championships, where she has claimed five titles. As one of the few players to achieve a Career Grand Slam, Serena’s impact on tennis is immense. Her weeks as the World’s No. 1 player and numerous additional awards underscore her status as a sporting icon.

Even more impressive is that Serena has become an entrepreneur and pop culture icon out of tennis. Fashion, gracing magazine covers, attending high-profile events, and launching her fashion line. Serena’s strong voice on social issues, including gender equality and racial justice, amplified her presence in mainstream culture. Without a doubt, Serena is an influential figure and trailblazer in sports and culture.

66. Cab Calloway (1907-1994) – Jazz Pioneer


Cab Calloway, a jazz icon of the Harlem Renaissance era, wielded immense influence over music. From a background in law to a career in entertainment, Calloway’s impact was profound. One of the pioneers of showmanship during performance, he is known for his charisma and energy. His scatting and wide over with his “Hi-de-ho” catchphrase are just two things that made Calloway a legend.

In 1931, Cab Calloway released “Minnie the Moocher”. The song follows the story of Minnie, a woman entangled in JJazz and nightlife. Calloway’s vibrant vocals and catchy melodies depict Minnie’s adventures, including her encounters with drugs and the law. Despite its upbeat tempo, the song carries a cautionary tale about the dangers of indulgence and the consequences of a reckless lifestyle, resonating with audiences of the time.

Calloway is the owner of a Hollywood Walk of Fame star. However, he’s not in the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. The reason behind his Hall of Fame omission is controversial. Apparently, Jazz isn’t a direct associate of the Rock-n-Roll genre. Therefore, it does not merit an induction. However, he is the bearer of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

65. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – Basketball Hall of Famer

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Shutterstock

While attending college at the University of California, Los Angeles, Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) brought in 3 NCAA Championships from 1967-1969. He was drafted first overall by the Milwaukee Bucks. Jabbar, alongside veteran point guard Oscar Robertson, brought in the NBA Title in 1971 with his oh so sweet and iconic skyhook with his oh so sweet and iconic skyhook. In Jabbar’s Rookie Year, no less. However, things would change on June 16, 1975.

Jabbar began to yearn for a higher salary and showed growing frustration with the organizational leadership of the Bucks. What happens next starts a domino effect that will lead to the formation of “The Showtime” Era of the NBA (much to my grievance). Four years after the Lakers trade, Owner Jerry Buss and General Manager Bill Sharman would draft a flashy Point Guard out of Michigan State. Earvin “Magic” Johnson was not your typical guard. He stood 6’9 and was incredibly agile for a man of that stature. The rest is history.

With the tandem of Jabbar and Magic, The Showtime Lakers would capture 5 NBA Championships: 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988. The Los Angeles Lakers renewed a bitter rivalry with the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics during this time. This intense sports feud dominated the 80s and modified the meaning of the term “rivalry.”

Beyond basketball, he has used his platform to advocate for civil rights, racial equality, and education reform. Abdul-Jabbar’s outspokenness on systemic racism and inequality has made him a powerful voice in American society. Kareem garnered six NBA championships, six MVP awards, 19 All-Star selections, two Olympic gold medals, and induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He remains one of basketball’s most decorated and influential figures.

64. Eminem – Rapper


From Detroit’s 8 Mile comes a rapper with a lyrical prowess that is hip-hop’s pantheon. Indeed, an influential figure in music, Eminem is one of the best, and it’s not up for debate. Marshall Bruce Mathers III’s story from Tortured Soul in Detroit to Game Changer is astounding. His raw lyrics and rapid-fire delivery revolutionized the genre, earning him acclaim and controversy.

Eminem’s accolades include numerous Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Album for “The Marshall Mathers LP” and “The Eminem Show.” These albums showcased his lyrical prowess and addressed personal struggles and societal issues. Eminem’s alter ego, Slim Shady, allowed him to delve into darker themes, pushing boundaries and challenging norms.

Beyond music, Eminem’s influence extends into film, with his Oscar-winning song “Lose Yourself” from the movie “8 Mile.” His autobiographical film “8 Mile” further solidified his status as a cultural icon. Eminem’s authenticity and unapologetic approach continue to resonate with audiences worldwide, cementing his legacy as one of his generation’s greatest and most influential artists.

63. Wayne Gretzky – Hockey Hall of Famer

Wayne Gretzky/Shutterstock

Gretzky often hailed as “The Great One,” has left an indelible mark on hockey, transcending generations and continents with unparalleled skill and influence. From his early days as a prodigious talent in Canada to his record-breaking career in the NHL, Gretzky’s impact is undeniable. Transitioning effortlessly from player to coach and executive, he continues to shape the game’s future. Gretzky’s list of accolades is staggering, including four Stanley Cup championships and nine Hart Memorial Trophies as the NHL’s most valuable player.

Additionally, he holds numerous records, including most career goals, assists, and points in NHL history. Gretzky’s vision, creativity, and hockey IQ revolutionized how the game is played, inspiring generations of players worldwide. His influence extends beyond statistics, as he embodies the epitome of sportsmanship and leadership. Gretzky’s legacy as a hockey icon is secured by his achievements on the ice and his enduring impact on the sport’s culture and evolution.

Wayne Gretzky’s illustrious career boasts numerous accolades, including four Stanley Cup championships and nine Hart Memorial Trophies as the NHL’s most valuable player. He is a ten-time Art Ross Trophy winner and a five-time Lady Byng Memorial Trophy recipient for sportsmanship. Gretzky holds multiple NHL records, including most career goals, assists, and points. Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999, his legacy as one of hockey’s greatest players is cemented by his unparalleled achievements.

62. Howard Cossell (1918-1995) – Sports Journalist

Credit: YouTube, ABC NEWS

When it comes to broadcasting, there are a lot of names that you can imagine being the poster child of it. However, when it comes to laying the foundation for being bold and unapologetic, none can come close to the one and only Howard Cosell. With his distinctive voice and fearless demeanor, he challenged conventional norms and provided insightful analysis to audiences nationwide. From calling Monday Night Football to ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” his storied career has seen many subjects. But the guy with Cosell in the photo shared a rocky yet delightful chemistry with the broadcaster.

While we’ll talk in-depth about Muhammad Ali further down the road, it is worth mentioning that Ali and Cosell’s relationships should be the inspiration for a biopic. Their relationship, often marked by lively banter and heated debates, captivated audiences worldwide. Despite occasional disagreements, Cosell’s unwavering support for Ali during pivotal moments in his career solidified their bond and left an influential mark on sports history. Their dynamic interactions and interviews became iconic moments in sports broadcasting history, often during ABC’s coverage of boxing events and other sporting competitions.

An iconic force in sports broadcasting, Cosell has several accolades throughout his illustrious career. These include multiple Emmy Awards for his outstanding contributions to sports commentary, a prestigious Peabody Award honoring his excellence in broadcasting, and posthumous induction into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. These honors reflect Cosell’s enduring impact and legacy in the sports media.

Honorable Mention – Clarence Avant (1931-2023) – American Executive.

Clarence Avant, often dubbed the “Godfather of Black Music,” wielded unparalleled influence in the entertainment industry. Rising from humble beginnings, Avant’s keen business acumen and fearless approach propelled him to the forefront of the music business. With his strategic partnerships and shrewd negotiations, he navigated complex industry dynamics, paving the way for black artists and executives. Avant’s impact extended beyond music into politics and philanthropy, where he leveraged his connections for social change. Despite facing challenges and obstacles, Avant’s trailblazing efforts opened doors for future generations, leaving an enduring legacy in music and beyond.

61. James Naismith (1861-1931) – Inventor

Statue of James Naismith/Shutterstock

Well, I may have drawn some heat when I said that someone may be directly responsible for Michael Jordan’s greatness. While the comments I may receive for this are warranted, ask yourself, what if basketball didn’t exist? Would Jordan be as great? See? I meant no harm.

Born in 1861, Naismith’s innovative spirit and dedication to physical education laid the foundation for one of the World’s most popular sports. Transitioning from his humble beginnings in Ontario, Canada, Naismith’s creation of basketball in 1891 revolutionized the way people interacted with sports. His vision was simple yet revolutionary: to create a game that could be played indoors during winter. Well, everyone saw the vision, and basketball was born.

Despite initial skepticism, basketball flourished under Naismith’s guidance, evolving into a global phenomenon. His emphasis on teamwork, fair play, and sportsmanship became hallmarks of the sport. Moreover, Naismith’s influence extended beyond the basketball court. He dedicated his life to promoting physical education and instilling values of discipline and cooperation among young athletes.

Naismith’s impact on sports education was profound, as he authored numerous books and articles on athletics and health. His pioneering work laid the groundwork for modern sports education programs and coaching techniques. Today, Naismith’s name is synonymous with basketball, and his contributions inspire athletes and educators worldwide, leaving an enduring mark on the World of sports and physical fitness.

Written By

Shane Kidd-Walker is a Graduate Film Student at Florida State University. He is also an alumnus of Hinds Community College and THE Alcorn State University.

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