Top 5 Ranked Mens Indoor Volleyball Players Of All Time

Top 5 Ranked Mens Indoor Volleyball Players Of All Time

Volleyball is an intense sport that requires a team to click on all cylinders in order to succeed. With an extensive history, indoor volleyball has featured a plethora of phenomenal athletes over the years. Read on to learn about the greatest players to ever grace the volleyball court.


Who are the top 5 men’s indoor volleyball players of all time?

  1. Karch Kiraly (USA)
  2. Giba (Brazil)
  3. Sergio Santos (Brazil)
  4. Sergey Tetyukhin (Russia)
  5. Steve Timmons (USA)

1. Karch Kiraly

  • Two-time Olympic gold medalist in indoor volleyball (1984 and 1988)
  • One-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball (1996)
  • One-time Volleyball World Championship title (1986)
  • Won three National Titles in four years with UCLA and only losing five games during that time (1979-1982)
  • Volleyball Hall of Fame Inductee (2001)

Karch Kiraly is probably the most talented and overall best volleyball player ever. Not only was he widely successful on the court, but also transitioned into beach volleyball and was dominant, earning himself some praise also as one of the best beach volleyball players ever. But here, let's focus on Kiraly's glories indoors. Kiraly was successful at every point in his volleyball career, from his teenage years playing high school volleyball all the way to his coaching career, after retirement. Kiraly was a fierce competitor, with a desire to win above all else. The combination of his mindset with the talent of a once-in-a-lifetime player are why he is considered to be the best volleyball player in history. Kiraly established himself as a winner early in his career, only losing five games in four years as a student-athlete at UCLA. While taking his team to three national titles, Kiraly also earned All-American honors all four years.

With such a successful college career, it was unquestionable that Kiraly would become a great volleyball player. Only one year after graduating college Kiraly was part of the team that would end up winning the Olympic Gold in the 1984 Games, held in Los Angeles. Four years later, he would repeat the result, and be back-to-back Olympic champion, being named the tournament's best player by the FIVB. 

After an immensely successful playing career at the international indoor and beach volleyball levels, Karch Kiraly became coach Kiraly, teaching new athletes about the ways of volleyball. As a coach of the United States Women's volleyball team, Kiraly won one World Championship and one bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics, extending his legacy even more. Kiraly's accomplishments, talent, style, and history in volleyball are what make him the best volleyball player ever.

2. Giba

  • Three-time Olympic medalist (one gold and two silver)
  • Eight total international competition MVP awards
  • 30 international gold medals, 44 total international medals
  • 2018 International Volleyball Hall of Fame inductee
  • Voted as Fox Sports 2015 best men’s volleyball player of all time

With Giba on the court, Brazil's national team has never finished a single competition without a medal. Playing for his country's national team, Giba became one of the most successful volleyball players ever, winning every single major international volleyball title throughout his 19-year-long national team career. 

Giba won the Olympic Gold medal with Brazil in 2004, and was elected the tournament's MVP. He would also win two silver medals in the next two editions, totaling four participations and three straight medals.

Throughout his career Giba has won a total of eight MVP awards in international competitions, which include: Olympic Games, FIVB World Cup, South American Championship, FIVB World League, FIVB Senior World Championships, Pan American Games, FIVB U19 World Championships, and FIVB U21 World Championships.

Although he was never the tallest player on the court, Giba made up for it with intelligence, leadership, energy, and physicality. There is no better word to describe Giba, if not “a winner.” Truly, Giba is one of the best to ever do it, and deservingly, he was inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2018.

3. Sergio Santos

  • Four-time Olympic medalist (two gold and two silver)
  • Two-time World Championship gold medalist (2002, 2006)
  • Two-time World Grand Champion Cup gold medalist (2005, 2009)
  • Seven-time World League gold medalist and three-time silver medalist
  • Three-time World Cup medalist (two gold and one bronze)

Sergio is one of only three other men's volleyball players to have four Olympic medals. He has won two gold and two silver medals, in four Olympic participations.

Serginho is one of the best defensive players ever and he has won a total of 39 individual awards throughout his career, including Olympics and World league MVP's. That is more awards than any other player at his position.

Sergio Santos has won two World Championships with Brazil, in 2002 and in 2006. Throughout his career, Santos has a total of 33 international medals, of which 24 are gold.

Much like Giba, Sergio Santos, or Serginho, was an important part of maintaining Brazil as a volleyball powerhouse, and in creating an almost unbeatable squad during much of the 2000s. A well rounded volleyball team has a balance between offense and defense. While Giba was Brazil's offensive pillar, Sergio Santos was the main piece of the defensive system of a team that has won everything. Serginho's defense can be seen through his many, many individual awards in categories such as Best Libero, Best Digger, and Best Receiver. But Sergio is also not short of glories of his team, he played up to the age of 40 with the Brazilian national team, winning countless medals, and played beyond his 40's at the club stage, still as a crucial player to every team he was part of. What made Serginho a special player, besides his defensive talents, was his dynamism, being able to create good offensive situations when necessary.

One of the greatest volleyball players ever, Sergio Santos is the only male player to make it to four straight Olympic finals, and getting medals on all of them. The most remarkable of all of them was his last one, in 2016. Playing in Rio, in front of his country, Serginho was the most important player in Brazil's team throughout the tournament, leading them to the Gold medal. At 40 years old, Serginho, was elected the tournament's MVP, with his second Olympic gold and tears in his eyes, he retired from the national team.

4. Sergey Tetyukhin

  • Four-time Olympic medalist (one gold, one silver, two bronze)
  • Total of 23 national titles in Russia, between Cups and Championships
  • Two-time FIVB World Cup gold medalist (1999, 2011) and one-time FIVB World League gold medalist (2002)
  • Four-time CEV Champions League gold medalist, one-time silver medalist, and two-time bronze medalist
  • 21 major individual awards including multiple MVPs

Sergey Tetyukhin is one of only three male volleyball players to have won four Olympic medals. He has participated in a total of six editions of the Olympic Games, a volleyball record. Tetyukhin has one gold, one silver, and two bronze medals. He was crowned Olympic champion in 2012, after defeating Brazil in the final.  

Due to the glories achieved in his sport, Sergey Tetyukhin was selected as Russia's Flag-Bearer in the 2016 Olympic Games, one of the greatest honors an athlete can get. At the club level, Sergey has won the CEV Champions League, one of the best continental leagues in the world, four times. In addition to that, he has two bronze and one silver medals.

Tetyukhin played a big part of his career for clubs in Russia. From 1992 to 2018 he won a total of 23 national titles, between Russian Cups and Championships. Sergey's time with the Russian National team started early. He was part of the team that was crowned U21 World Champion in 1995, and just a year later he would join the senior team, going to his first Olympic Games, taking the biggest stage in sports at only 21. Before the 2012 Olympics in London, Sergey had still not achieved any Olympian’s ultimate goal of winning an Olympic gold medal. At 36, many saw this as his last opportunity to reach the highest place on the podium. Russia made it to the final against the favorites, the Brazilians. It seemed unlikely that Tetyukhin would win his Gold medal, especially after Brazil opened a two set advantage and had the chance to end the game. Somehow, the Russians came back, and Tetyukhin achieved his career's greatest success. Still, he was not done, and came back for his 6th and final Olympic Games in 2016.

In addition to his four Olympic medals, Tetyukhin has also won two FIVB World Cups and one FIVB World League. At the club level, Sergey Tetyukhin played in two of the strongest leagues on the planet, the Russian League and the Italian League. His teams were always widely successful, winning not only national titles but also continental trophies. Tetyukhin's career and longevity made him a Russian legend. For that reason, at the opening ceremony of his last Olympics, he was chosen to carry Russia's flag into the stadium, representing a whole nation, for which he left it all out on the court.

5. Steve Timmons

  • 1998 International Volleyball Hall of Fame inductee
  • Three-time Olympic medalist (two gold and one bronze)
  • 1984 Olympic Men’s Volleyball MVP
  • NCAA Men’s Volleyball Champion (1980)
  • 1986 World Championships gold medalist

Timmons has three Olympic medals, two golds and one bronze, in a total of four Olympic appearances. As a student-athlete for USC, Timmons took his team to the NCAA's Final Four all of his four years, winning one title. During that time he got All-American and All-Conference honors.

Playing in the Italian league, Steve led Il Messaggero to a record of 24-0 during the 1990 season, winning the league. The following year, his team won the Club World Championship.

The power of his spikes and what he accomplished with it is what makes Steve Timmons one of the best volleyball players of all time. One of the best and most talented offensive weapons in volleyball history, Timmons was part of the American generation that won two consecutive Olympic Gold medals. Alongside Karch Kiraly and others, Timmons is part of the reason why the United States has a tradition in volleyball, and is considered one of the sport's powerhouses.

Besides having three Olympic medals, Timmons is also a World Champion, winning the title with the United States in 1986. During his time playing volleyball, Timmons was also recognized for his talents with individual awards. Probably the most important award in his career, Steve was chosen as the MVP of the 1984 Olympics, when he took home his first gold. In addition to that, he was selected as the FIVB's Best Blocker, and chosen as America's best men's volleyball player by the USOC. Part of a generation that will never be forgotten by the volleyball world, Steve Timmons stapled his name as one of the sport's greatest.

Honorable Mentions

Lorenzo Bernardi

  • 2011 Volleyball Hall of Fame Inductee
  • Olympic Silver Medalist (1996)
  • Five-time FIVB World League Champion (1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 2000)
  • Two-time FIVB World Championship Winner (1990, 1994)
  • Named Co-Volleyball Player of the Century in 2001, by the FIVB

Lorenzo Bernardi is a legendary Italian volleyball player, with plenty of accolades to back his dominance on the court up. Bernardi was a key cog in a dominant Italian squad, collecting five FIVB World League titles and two FIVB World Champion titles with the Italian National Team. He also played a large role in the Italian’s 1996 silver medal finish, however he never quite made it to the top of the Olympic podium. Bernardi’s legendary career on the volleyball court earned him immortality within the sport, as a 2011 inductee into the Volleyball Hall of Fame. However, his greatest distinction as a player was surely being named Co-Volleyball Player of the Century in 2001, alongside the greatest volleyball player of all time, Karch Kiraly.

After his retirement, Bernardi went on to coach the same Italian National Team he’d headlined during his playing career. To date, his most noteworthy accomplishment as the Italian coach is their gold medal finish in the 2009 Mediterranean Games. With such a legendary playing career, the Italian National Team is certainly better off for having him on their sideline.

Ivan Miljković

  • One-time Olympic gold medalist (2000)
  • Four-time World League Most Valuable Player (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005)
  • Six-time World League Best Scorer (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009)
  • Two-time European Championship gold medalist (2001 and 2011)
  • Two-time European Championship MVP (2001 and 2011)

Ivan Miljković is a former Serbian opposite hitter who wreaked havoc on opposing international volleyball teams for over a decade. At 6’ 9” Miljković is a mountain of a man, and his massive build was certainly on display during his playing career. He was known for his relentless scoring ability, dominant spikes, and surprising mobility for a man of his size.

Over the course of his legendary career, Miljković secured various accolades. While his gold medal in the 2000 Olympics representing Yugoslavia is the crowning achievement of any professional volleyball career, Miljković’s astounding six seasons being named the World League’s best scorer truly reflects just how overpowering of a player he was on the court. To go along with these scoring distinctions, Miljković also earned four MVP distinctions in the World League. Miljković was a factor in the sport of volleyball for over twenty years, beginning his professional career in 1996 and retiring in 2017.

FAQ

What men’s indoor volleyball player earned the most Olympic MVP distinctions?

The record for most Olympic gold medals earned by a men’s volleyball player belongs to Bas van de Goor. Bas represented the Netherlands in the Olympics in the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, earning the honor of being named MVP of the tournament each time. One of those MVP performances, in 1996, also headlined a strong Netherlands performance and a gold medal finish. To this day, 1996 is the only Olympic games in which the Netherlands won gold in the men’s volleyball tournament, making van de Goor’s performance all the more memorable. No other men’s volleyball player has ever earned MVP honors more than once in the Olympics, much less in back to back Olympic Games.

What men’s volleyball player holds the record for most World League MVPs?

In regard to World League indoor volleyball dominance, Ivan Miljković holds the record for most MVP awards with a total of four. These distinctions were earned in remarkably rapid succession, with Miljković winning the title of MVP four times in five years (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005). During these campaigns, Miljković led his squad to two silver medals and two bronze medals. He also dominated in the scoring category, being named the best scorer in each of these MVP performances. These accolades are what makes Ivan Miljković one of the top players in the history of men’s indoor volleyball.

What country has the most Olympic gold medals in men’s volleyball?

Three countries share the record for Olympic gold medals earned in men’s volleyball: Brazil, the United States, and the Soviet Union. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as four of our five top players played for either the US or Brazil. Karch Kiraly and Steve Timmons earned two gold medals as teammates while representing the United States, Giba secured a gold medal for Brazil alongside Sergio Santos in 2004, and Sergio Santos earned Brazil another gold medal finish in 2016.