The 100 Greatest Athletes of the Complex Decade

3. Michael Phelps

Sport: Swimming
Bonafides From 2002-2012: 16x Olympic Medalist (14 Gold, 2 Bronze), 7x World Record Holder
Within about seven months from summer '08 to early '09, Michael Phelps went from being known as one of the greatest Olympians ever to the guy that had his mouth glued to a glass bong. It seems as if mentioning that picture of him smoking Mary is excruciatingly necessary anytime people talk about him. Honestly, we're sick of it, and we're not about to let that haze, er, cloud, er, affect our vision of what a truly phenomenal athlete he is. Just look at the people in front of him on this list. The public is attracted to complex, controversial people. Phelps has been dominating the lanes since 2002, setting almost every Olympic medal record in the process. He has won most golds in one competition, most golds all-time, most individual golds in one Games, and tied for most medals in one Games. His accomplishments have earned him World Swimmer of the Year honors on six different occasions. Olympic legend Mark Spitz once said, "He's not only the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he's maybe the greatest athlete of all time." Wait four more months and we might just agree with him on that one.

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