Americans are passionate about sports. Whether it’s baseball or boxing, hockey or horse racing, we delight in celebrating the triumphs and record-breaking feats of each new generation of champions and measuring their achievements against the performances of earlier athletic stars. Regardless of our age or background, we share a common bond as sports fans when we experience the exhilaration of hard-fought victories or the disappointment of heartbreaking defeats. Through it all, we draw inspiration from the lives and achievements of our nation’s great sports figures, whose competitive spirit and dogged pursuit of excellence mirror our own struggles and aspirations.
With this selection of athletes, the National Portrait Gallery salutes a diverse mix of legendary individuals whose impact has extended beyond the ring, the court, the field, and the diamond to become a part of the larger story of the vibrant life and culture of our nation.