Volleyball is undeniably one of the most exciting sports in the world, and the emergence of international volleyball leagues and competitions such as those managed by the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) has made it easy for the world to get to know some of the most famous volleyball players in the world.
It also does not hurt that the sport is sometimes featured in other forms of international pop culture media like Japanese manga and animation such as the the widely popular Haikyuu! and the best volleyball-themed movie, the Thai comedy, Iron Ladies. The sport even recently hit Hollywood with the 2018 movie The Miracle Season, which featured Helen Hunt.
Well, here’s our take on the most popular volleyball players whom other volleyball athletes must emulate to in order to achieve legendary status in volleyball.
Famous volleyball players – women
Here are five of the most well-known women volleyball players in the world:
DOB: 30 July 1970
The now-retired Misty Elizabeth May-Treanor was one of the best beach volleyball players. She helped the USA team snag the gold medals in the 2012 London Summer Olympics, 2008 Beijing Olympics, and 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.
With 112 championship wins under her belt, she was named one of the highly successful female volleyball athletes and was consequently inducted to the Volleyball Hall of Fame four years after she officially retired. At present, she enjoys being a super volleyball mom while taking care of her three kids.
DOB: 15 August 1978
Of course, one cannot mention Misty May without giving equal respect to her teammate and partner, Kerri Walsh-Jennings, both of whom make up the greatest beach volleyball tandem of all time. Earning the nickname “Six-Feet of Sunshine”, this former middle-blocker and opposite hitter has collected multiple awards during her fruitful beach volleyball career.
Her partnership with May has consistently gained them the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) Team of the Year from 2003 to 2008, and again, when they resumed their partnership in 2014. In 2016, she managed to obtain the same award with another outstanding player by her side, April Ross. She had also consistently earned FIVB’s Best Blocker award from 2005 to 2008 and managed to nab the same award in the years 2011, 2012, and 2014.
DOB: 12 February 1975
Named the Best Player of the 20th Century, Torres is an excellent middle blocker whose love for the sport started when she was eight years old. Since then, Torres has been bringing home international prestige as she became the youngest Olympic gold-medal winner at the age of 17.
Though she retired at the young age of 30, Torres is still very much active as a sports analyst, commentator, and volleyball coach at various international competitions.
DOB: 01 July 1983
One of the highest paid volleyball players in the world, Sheilla Tavares de Castro is also one of the most highly recognizable in the sport as she consistently won numerous individual awards, including Most Valuable Player (2006 and 2009 FIVB World Grand Prix; 2011 Pan-American Cup; and 2012 FIVB Club World Championship); Best Scorer (2012 FVB World Championship); and Best Opposite Spiker (2016 FIVB World Grand Prix).
As of May 2018, Castro has taken a career break following the happy news that she’s pregnant with twins.
Nationality: South Korea
DOB: 01 July 1983
A South Korean national, Kim Yeon-Koung is well regarded throughout Asia as a leading light of the sport. The Korean volleyball superstar first played for in her country for Heungkuk Life before signing a contract with Japan’s JT Marvelous, then settling with Turkey’s Fenerbahçe for almost six years. She then signed up for a one-year contract with China before going back to play for Turkey in 2018.
Whilst major international honours with South Korea have escaped her she was given the personal honour of being awarded the MVP and Best Scorer titles at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Famous volleyball players – men
Now here are some of the male stars who could be considered to be the most famous volleyball players ever:
Charles ‘Karch’ Kiraly
DOB: 03 November 1960
A living legend in his own right, Kiraly is the only professional volleyball player to ever win an Olympic gold medal in both indoor (1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul) and beach volleyball (1996 Atlanta). He also holds the record of being the oldest player to compete and win in Pro-Beach volleyball tournaments. This has earned him the title of the ‘finest volleyball player in the world’ a moniker that was reinforced by FIVB’s award of ‘Player of the Century’ which Karch jointly won with Lorenzo Bernardi.
Nowadays, he’s better known as the current head coach of team USA Women’s National Volleyball team becoming only the fourth athlete to win Olympic medals as a player and coach when he led the team to a bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
DOB: 11 August 1968
As the fellow joint winner of FIVB’s Player of the Century Italian outside hitter Lorenzo Bernardi is widely regarded as one of the greatest all round volleyball players. The multi-talented hitter and outstanding passer is a double European & World Champion, Olympic silver medalist and five-times winner of the FIVB World League.
His club career took him from his native Italy, where he amassed nine Championship titles, to Qatar and Greece before he returned home to Italy. Having retired from his playing career he continued his involvement in the sport coaching clubs in Italy, Poland and Turkey plus a stint as the Italy B national team coach.
Gilberto Godoy Fiho, a.k.a. Giba
DOB: 23 December 1976
If you had been a volleyball fan since the early 2000’s, chances are you already know who Giba is. Widely regarded as the best volleyball player in the world during his time, he helped the Brazil national team win eight World League titles, three World Grand Championship cups, three World Championships, eight South American Championships, and three American Championship cups. He also led his team to the gold medal in the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics and silver medals in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics.
DOB: 23 September 1985
Unlike many of the other members of this list Iranian setter Saeid Marouf doesn’t have an Olympic medal to his name, though has collected gold medals at the Asian Games and Asian Championships plus a bronze at the World Grand Champions Cup.
However, this doesn’t make Marouf any less famous in the volleyball world, particularly in his home country of Iran where he was voted Iranian Sports Person of the year in 2016. With a social media presence that includes an Instagram following of over 1.7M (as of July 2018) he truly is one of the most famous volleyball players in the world.
Saeid has also had a profilic club career and is one of the few members of the current Iranian squad to play volleyball outside of Iran.
DOB: 14 February 1992
Another outside hitter, Lucarelli has been making waves in the international volleyball scene since 2013 when he helped Brazil take gold in the World Champions Grand Cup, gold at the South American Championships and a silver in the FIVB World League. At just 26 Lucarelli has gone on to amass a collection of medals from major championships and personal awards including an extra special Olympic gold medal which was won on home soil at the Rio 2016 Olympics, where he was a key players in his team’s achievements.
Given his ability and Brazil’s power in the men’s volleyball world you have to wonder how many more medals he will go onto win.
Who would you choose as the most famous volleyball players?
Do you agree with our list? How exactly do you define ‘the most famous volleyball players’? Should it be based on number of medals won or money earned; the number of social followers or the size of sponsorship deals? Should Gabrielle Reece be included for her iconic status or Lang Ping for her legendary achievements as both player and coach? Why not tell us what you think via @Volleyverse on Twitter.