The Summer X Games is as much about the sports as it is the athletes who compete in them. Whether it’s skateboarding, BMX or some other sport, fans get wrapped up in the participants and their quest for supremacy. And the X Games has seen no shortage of talent over the years.
With 22 games in the books, a lot of athletes have come and gone, but only a select few have achieved true sustained greatness. That greatness comes from more than just a couple of big tricks and one or two gold medals. So, here’s our pick for the 10 best to ever participate in ESPN’s event.
Ed Miller is a contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller CraveOnline or “like” Sports on
Photo Credit: Getty
Greatest X Games Athletes
#10 – Ronnie Renner
One of the best all-around moto riders in X Games history, Renner has had plenty of big moments over the years, be it in step up or moto best trick. In 2009 he was awarded a gold medal, along with Ricky Carmichael who injured himself, in moto step up – it was the first time it ever happened. The 36-year-old has racked up four gold, five silver and one bronze over the last 12 years in the X Games, the most recent of which was step up gold last year in Los Angeles. Oh, and he holds the highest step up height ever at 47 feet. No big deal.
#9 – Shaun White
Though most of his dominance has come during the Winter X Games, White has done pretty well for himself during the warmer months. In 2005, he took home his first skateboard vert medal – a silver, in Los Angeles. He followed it up two years later with a gold in the event, breaking Gagnon’s three-year win streak. All-in-all, the 27-year-old has won five medals, though we can’t help but wonder what could have been had he focused solely on his skateboarding.
#8 – Pierre-Luc Gagnon
There aren’t many that have been more dominant at skateboard vert than Gagnon . The 34-year-old made his X Games debut in 2000 in San Francisco, taking home two silver medals in both vert and vert doubles. He followed it up the next year with two gold medals in Philadelphia. Since then, he’s walked away with 15 medals – six of which were gold – the most recent of which was a silver last year in Los Angeles. The highlight of his career might just be when he became the first athlete to win vert gold three times, taking down silver medalist Shaun White in the process. Skateboard vert hasn’t seen a more technical rider since.
#7 – Jamie Bestwick
A BMX vert mastermind, Bestwick is currently holding the longest streak in X Games history, with eight consecutive gold medals in vert . The highlight of his career was probably in 2005, when he became the first rider to land a double tailwhip flair during a best trick event. 11 gold, one silver, one bronze in 18 career events – we like those odds. He’s 42 years-old, but doesn’t look it.
#6 – Tanner Foust
You might know him best now as one of the co-stars on the History Channel’s entertaining knockoff of Top Gear, but Faust is an artist behind the wheel. His first X Games gold came in 2007 in Los Angeles, since then he’s gone on to earn eight medals – two bronze, three silver and three gold. However, he might best be known for a heartbreaking loss in 2008. The 40-year-old has proven to be the event’s best driver, though there is one other guy on this list that would say otherwise.
#5 – Dave Mirra
The greatest athlete on a BMX bike – there, we said it. He was with the X Games when it started in 1995 and wowed crowds on his bike up until 2009. In that time, he racked up 24 gold medals in BMX vert , BMX big air and rally x. In 2000, he landed the first-ever double backflip . From 1996 until 2000, he medaled eight times in either BMX vert or park, including a gold in each event in both 1997 and 1999. No one has dominated the event more than he – and who knows when we’ll see another like him.
#4 – Bucky Lasek
A man of many talents, Lasek started primarily at skateboard vert , but has since added rally x driver to his repertoire. While he has yet to take home a medal racing, Lasek has dominated the halfpipe for almost 15 years, racking up 19 medals – 10 gold – in vert , vert doubles and vert best trick. His 98.50 at the 2000 games remains the highest score ever given in the event. Now, at 41, Lasek still gets on his board from time to time, often blaring Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold in the process, though most of his time is spent behind the wheel anymore. He’ll be in Austin, though.
#3 – Tony Hawk
We really shouldn’t have to explain this one. Hawk is the father of skateboarding and has done more to put the sport on the map than any single person. As far as the X Games go, the 46-year-old was there for the first games in 1995, performed perhaps the biggest trick in the event’s history four years later and when he left, his 14 medals were the most in X Games history. It stood for nine years.
#2 – Bob Burnquist
How do you say “freakin’ awesome” in Portuguese? The Brazilian born skateboard vert and big air star has basically done it all – seven bronze, six silver and 12 gold, en route to 25 career X Games medals. He’s got the second highest score ever of 98.50, which came in Philadelphia in 2001 while Hawk lost his voice announcing, he’s won five straight big air competitions, dating back to last year, and he’s got more medals than anyone at history. Like him or not, the guy has talent – and is one of the nicest athletes you’ll meet. At 37, he shows no sign of slowing down.
#1 – Travis Pastrana
The greatest summer X Games athlete ever, Pastrana can win in both a bike and a car. It all began in 1999 when he won the first-ever moto x freestyle event in X Game history – and then followed it up with two more in the next two years. In 2006 he became the third athlete to walk away with three medals in a single year – best trick, freestyle and rally x. That same year, he became the first athlete to land the double backflip on a dirt bike, giving him a score of 98.60. With his 11 career X Games medals has come a lot of injuries, but at 30, he’s still in his prime. There’s more to come.