What Does The GOAT Acronym Mean?

We explain what the GOAT acronym means and what it takes to be the greatest of all time.
Muhammad Ali 'I Am The Greatest' PosterGetty

What does GOAT Stand for?

Let’s take a look at this definition of GOAT from UrbanDictionary: “Greatest Of All Time. Not a title that should be easily given out.”

While the word usually refers to a furry farm animal, millennials are using it as an acronym that stands for Greatest Of All Time. And it’s not a term that’s taken lightlyyou’d be hard-pressed to find people that are universally accepted as GOATs. 

At first you might think it’s less of a prestigious title and more of a goofy bit of slang; but once you understand where the acronym comes from and its history in the sporting world, you’ll grow a deeper appreciation for the term.

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What Does GOAT Mean In Sports?

While you may see fans on Twitter call their favourite musicians or actors the GOATs, you’re more likely to find the term used in the sporting world. After all, the term was originally used as an initialism for legendary boxer Muhammad Ali when his wife Lonnie set up G.O.A.T. Inc. in 1992. Beyond that, sportswriters have been referring to the best players as the greatest of all time as far back as 1924.

Muhammad Ali 'I Am The Greatest' Poster
(Credit: Getty)

With that said, most people only started using the GOAT acronym quite recently. In fact, before fans called athletes a ‘GOAT’ (meaning a slang term for greatest of all time) – ‘goat’ in a sporting sense originally referred to players that lost the game for their team! 

Since then, the term’s made a complete turnaround. Rappers like LL Cool J and Lil’ Kim have called themselves the GOATs of the rap game, and athletes like Michael Jordan have bragged about being the GOAT of their respective sports. Fans and athletes alike have even used the emoji for the farm animal when referring to GOATs on social media!

But as storied as the history of the acronym is, there’s no real precise GOAT definition. And while records and titles can help justify an athlete or star as a GOAT, there is no objective criteria for what makes someone the greatest of all time. 

Then again, even without a precise definition, certain athletes and public figures are universally accepted as the GOAT of their fields and sports. So let’s take a look at some of these figures and see if we can get closer to figuring out what makes someone worthy of the title of GOAT.

Who Are Some Of The GOATs?

The GOAT of Boxing: Muhammad Ali

Though Ali may not have had the greatest win-loss record in the sport, most fans of boxing would still refer to him as the greatest of all time. You could chalk this up to the combination of his unique in-ring style, his indomitable will, and his cultural impact on the sporting world.

The GOAT of the NFL: Tom Brady

With six Super Bowl rings, four Super Bowl MVP awards, and three NFL MVP awards it’s not hard to see why so many people consider Tom Brady the greatest quarterback of all time. In fact, he’s even inspired two of the largest GOAT-related events on Twitter when his fans flooded the platform with goat emojis following two of his biggest games.

The GOAT of Tennis: Serena Williams

Serena Williams stands out as the GOAT among both male and female players due to her countless titles and her athleticism on the court. Fellow legendary player Roger Federer agrees as he stated in a 2018 interview:

It’s been fascinating to watch. She had a totally different upbringing—I came up through Switzerland with the federation, she did it with her dad and her sister. It’s an amazing story unto itself—and then she became one of the greatest, if not the greatest tennis player of all time.

The GOAT of Basketball: Michael Jordan

While great players have come and gone from the NBA, most fans would still consider Michael Jordan as the greatest of all time. As an active NBA player, he led the Chicago Bulls to six championship wins while setting his own record-breaking statistics. Jordan also became an icon that inspired kids around the world to play the game themselves. Even years after his retirement, incredible players like LeBron James still chase after Jordan’s shadow:

“My motivation is this ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago.”


GOAT isn’t just a cute acronym; it’s a title that carries significant weight. These four athletes aren’t just the best at their sport, they’re also icons and inspirations to their fans and peers. To be a GOAT, your name has to be almost inseparable from the sport itself, and if you go by this definition, it’s clear to see why so few people are universally regarded as the greatest of all time.

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