Barcelona's Brazilian superstar Neymar, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James were among seven sports figures named Thursday in Time Magazine's annual list of the world's most influential people.
Polarizing NFL free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick also appeared on the list that included pioneers, artists and leaders.
Chicago Cubs general manager Theo Epstein, 2016 Olympic gold-medal gymnast Simone Biles and Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion Conor McGregor were also on the list of 100.
An appreciation written by England icon David Beckham calls Neymar "a once in a generation type of footballer".
Beckham also lauds the 25-year-old forward's humility and his ability to cope with the expectations heaped on him as the talisman of the national team in football-mad Brazil.
Brady collected his fifth Super Bowl ring in February after helping the Patriots overcome a 25-point deficit in the third quarter to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime of Super Bowl 51.
"But Tom's real achievement is that he willed himself to be (the best)," US talk show host Conan O'Brien wrote of Brady.
James was instrumental in helping his team rally from a 3-1 series deficit to stun the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
"By making good on his pledge to bring a championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers and by investing in the promise of future generations through his foundation, LeBron James has not only bolstered the self-esteem of his native Ohio but also become an inspiration for all Americans -- proof that talent combined with passion, tenacity and decency can reinvent the possible.
"Poetry in motion, indeed," wrote Rita Dove, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former US poet laureate.
Kaepernick's initial refusal to stand for the national anthem as part of his protest for racial injustice led others around the NFL to follow suit, but some have speculated it has made him less attractive to some NFL teams despite his talent.
"I thank Colin, for all he has contributed to the game of football as an outstanding player and trusted teammate," Kaepernick's former coach Jim Harbaugh wrote.
"I also applaud Colin for the courage he has demonstrated in exercising his guaranteed right of free speech. His willingness to take a position at personal cost is now part of our American story."