Ben Radford/Getty ImagesMia Hamm possessed astonishing acceleration and made fearless runs at defenders. She also had the smarts and skills to create.ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.
Mia Hamm was just 15 years old when she became the youngest woman ever to don the jersey of the U.S. senior squad.
She wore that jersey for 18 years and scored 158 international goals, more than any player ever, and tallied 144 career assists, the most ever by an American player.
The No. 1 player in ESPN's countdown, Hamm appeared in the first four Women's World Cups, winning two of them -- including the mythic 1999 tourney on home soil. She also won gold in the 1996 and 2004 Summer Olympics.
"My motivation is not about personal gains," she once said. "I want to do as much as I can to get the sport out there."
She retired a winner, a legend and a symbol of what women's sports can be.
Read the full story from espnW here.
Earlier in this series:
No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia
No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone
No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton
No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato
No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly
No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi
No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman
No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach
No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher
No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit
No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers
No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman
No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz
No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers
No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw
No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres
No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez
No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins
No. 22: Soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva
No. 21: Tennis player Venus Williams
No. 20: Figure skater Michelle Kwan
No. 19: Skier Lindsey Vonn
No. 18: Softball player Lisa Fernandez
No. 17: Basketball player Ann Meyers Drysdale
No. 16: Basketball player Sheryl Swoopes
No. 15: Swimmer Janet Evans
No. 14: Figure skater Katarina Witt
No. 13: Basketball player Cheryl Miller
No. 12: Sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner
No. 11: Tennis player Billie Jean King
No. 10: Tennis player Serena Williams
No. 9: Tennis player Steffi Graf
No. 8: Gymnast Nadia Comaneci
No. 7: Tennis player Chris Evert
No. 6: Speedskater Bonnie Blair
No. 5: Basketball player Lisa Leslie
No. 4: Golfer Annika Sorenstam
No. 3: Track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee
No. 2: Tennis player Martina Navratilova