espnW’s ‘Top 40 Female Athletes of Past 40 Years’: Top 5 Revealed Week of June 18

via press release:

No. 1 Selection to be Unveiled Friday, June 22, on 11 p.m. SportsCenter


espnW’s Top 40 Female Athletes of the Past 40 Years concludes as the top five selections will be unveiled, one per day, the week of June 18, during the 11 p.m. ET weekday edition of SportsCenter – culminating with the No. 1 pick on Friday, June 22. The eight-week countdown has been part of ESPN’s companywide multiplatform initiative, The Power of IX, recognizing the 40th anniversary of Title IX, signed June 23, 1972.


Top 5 Athletes (in alphabetical order):

  • · Mia Hamm (soccer) – Second-most appearances by a female player in U.S. Soccer history (275), and scored more international goals in career than any other player – male or female; four-time NCAA National Champion and three-time National Player of the Year and All-American at North Carolina
  • · Jackie Joyner-Kersee (track & field) – Six-time medalist (three Gold, a Silver & two Bronze) competing in the heptathlon and long jump at four different Olympic Games
  • · Lisa Leslie (basketball) – Three-time WNBA MVP, two-time WNBA Champion, eight-time WNBA All-Star and recently named one of the Top 15 Players in WNBA History; four-time Olympic Gold Medalist and three-time All-American at USC
  • · Martina Navratilova (tennis) – Won 18 Grand Slam singles titles (including a record nine at Wimbledon), plus 31 in women’s doubles (also a record) and 10 in mixed doubles (has a career Grand Slam in all three events); her 167 career singles titles and 177 in doubles are both records for women or men.
  • · Annika Sorenstam (golf) – Top female golfer with most wins to her name – 90 International tournaments; won 72 official LPGA tournaments and the winner of eight Player of the Year awards; became first woman to compete in PGA event since 1945 at Bank of America Colonial Tournament in 2003


Quotes from select vignettes:

Swin Cash on Lisa Leslie: “She brought a presence that was needed when this league [WNBA] was getting started. She had not only a great game that could win championships and back up her play, but she cared. She cared enough to really get into community, get to sponsors, get to people and say, hey, you need to back this league. I think what she’s done over the years is something that will always be remembered by every woman that plays in this league.”


Kristine Lilly on Mia Hamm: “Mia was – and still – the face of women’s soccer. Not only did she have to compete on the field, but she marketed the game, she sold the game. Every time she talked about the game of soccer it wasn’t all “me, me, me.” She talked about the team, what she could do to help the game grow.”


Each vignette is introduced by ESPN’s Hannah Storm, and includes footage and/or still action photos, along with video from past or present coaches, teammates or a respected authority from within the women’s sports world. will provide an in-depth look at every athlete as chosen by an industry-wide blue-ribbon panel and based on athletic achievement. has been the digital destination for ESPN’s The Power of IX.


Previously announced athletes: No. 40 Fu Mingxia (diving), No. 39 Julie Krone (jockey), No. 38 Mary Lou Retton (gymnastic), No. 37 Cammi Granato (ice hockey), No. 36 Kristine Lilly (soccer), No. 35 Diana Taurasi (basketball), No. 34 Flo Hyman (volleyball), No. 33 Abby Wambach (soccer), No. 32 Mary T. Meagher (swimming), No. 31 Joan Benoit (track), No. 30 Gail Devers (track), No. 29 Nancy Lieberman (basketball), No. 28 Grete Waitz (runner), No. 27 Michelle Akers (soccer), No. 26 Chamique Holdsclaw (basketball), No. 25 Dara Tores (swimming), No. 24 Nancy Lopez (golf), No. 23 Tracy Caulkins (swimming), No. 22 Marta, No. 21 Venus Williams, No. 20 Michelle Kwan, No. 19 Lindsay Vonn, No. 18 Lisa Fernandez, No. 17 Ann Meyers Drysdale, No. 16 Sheryl Swoopes, No. 15 Janet Evans, No. 14, Katarina Witt, No. 13 Cheryl Miller, No. 12 Florence Griffin-Joyner, No. 11 Billie Jean King, No. 10 Serena Williams and No. 9 Steffi Graf.


The 24 voters: Val Ackerman, Christine Brennan, Doris Burke, Jim Caple, Linda Cohn, Luke Cyphers, Anita DeFrantz, Sue Enquist, Chris Fowler, Jemele Hill, Johnette Howard, Sally Jenkins, Richard Lapchick, Nicole LaVoi, Donna Lopiano, Jackie MacMullan, Juliet Macur, Chris McKendry, Kathryn Olson, Robin Roberts, Le Anne Schreiber, Hannah Storm, Judy Sweet and Lesley Visser.

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