Named Best Rider in PBR History, McBride Appreciates Highs and Lows of his Career – And All Other Bull Riding Greats

By Darci Miller

Two-time World Champion Justin McBride stood atop the PBR Top 30, presented by Pendleton Whisky, countdown.

PUEBLO, Colo. – All summer, the PBR Top 30, presented by Pendleton Whisky, has counted down the Top 30 bull riders in PBR history, attempting to name the official greatest of all time.

That countdown concluded today, and the No. 1 bull rider has been named.


Justin McBride

A two-time PBR World Champion (2005, 2007), McBride has 32 wins on the premier series, tied for the all-time record with fellow two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney. McBride also holds the record for most event wins in a single season with eight, tied with another two-time World Champion, Jose Vitor Leme. The first bull rider to earn more than $5 million in his career, he was inducted into the PBR’s Ring of Honor in 2009.

“I think that’s definitely a huge compliment. Pretty humbling, really,” McBride said of being named the best rider in PBR history. “I probably don’t share that sentiment. I appreciate it – I don’t share it. I’ve known, just in my lifetime, some guys that I would put ahead of me that were before me, guys that won in my career that I would put before me. But yeah, it’s definitely a huge compliment. But I don’t know how you ever determine that. Every generation is different. Every era is different. I do appreciate it, but I would respectfully disagree.”

McBride’s humble attitude isn’t just lip service. As well-versed in bull riding history as he is on how to stay on for 8 seconds, he has a list of who belongs on his Mount Rushmore of bull riding.

“I think Tuff Hedeman will always be in any conversation when you’re talking about the greatest bull riders in history,” McBride said. “I think you have to put Tuff in there. Jim Sharp will always, to me, probably be the best one. Troy Dunn is a guy that I think gets overlooked a lot. He’s a beast. Those are kind of my guys that I always keep up on the pedestal. And then I think, out of the guys that were younger than me, J.B. will always be a guy that you have to throw in the conversation. Jess (Lockwood) and Jose could possibly be guys later on. It’s hard for me to judge guys when they’re still right in the thick of it. There’s no telling what all they’re going to do.”

Each of those riders made an appearance on the PBR Top 30 countdown. Hedeman and Sharp are No. 2 and 3, respectively. Leme is No. 5, Dunn is No. 7, Mauney is No. 9, and Lockwood is No. 10.

But Lockwood, in particular, is adamant that McBride stands head and shoulders above the rest, even going so far as to put him on his birthday cake when he turned 4.

“The greatest rider of all time, in my opinion,” Lockwood said. “I would introduce him as the GOAT myself.”

McBride retired in 2008, just one year after winning his second gold buckle, when he was still very much on top. In July of that year, he’d ridden Voodoo Child for 94.5 points. But he decided he was ultimately ready to move on, recording several albums as a country music artist and doing color commentary for CBS’s PBR broadcasts.

Now, he’s the head coach of the PBR Camping World Team Series’ Nashville Stampede, taking the squad from worst to first and winning the inaugural PBR Teams Championship in November.

“I’ve been fortunate my whole life, from the time I was 18, to be able to ride at this level and have some success,” McBride said. “And to still be around it and do it, and to the Global Cup teams and now this, which I do feel like is the future of bull riding – it’s a really, really cool thing to be able to try to pass on anything that you feel like you might know about the sport to try and help not only guys be a little bit better, but the sport be a little bit better.”

With his name all over the PBR history books, McBride has many an accolade to look back on. But these days, looking back on his career, he says no one thing stands above the rest.

“I think the older I’ve got, the further removed from my career, I appreciate all of it,” McBride said. “I look back at the early days of it and the success I had early, when I was 18, 19 years old, and then I look at all the ones that I let get away. But you say, well, I know what a kid I was back then, and how irresponsible and how unfocused. So to be able to look back at it and see that process and where it all ended up, I appreciate the whole ride.”



Coming off their Cinderella story at the PBR Teams Championship, the Stampede had big plans for the 2023 season. But things haven’t started as they’d hoped, as the team has gone winless through its first five games.

But the roster taking the dirt for Nashville is not the roster McBride had planned to field, as four of the starting five are out with injuries.

2018 World Champion and team captain Kaique Pacheco fractured his right tibia and fibula in late April and was forced to withdraw from the PBR World Finals. Lockwood, who the Stampede traded for in July, competed in just four UTB events this past season with a pelvic injury. Mason Taylor, also acquired by trade in March, is out due to an injury suffered in the practice pen, and Dener Barbosa has an MRI scheduled and hasn’t been riding at 100%.

“Everybody wants to be 5-0 at this point,” McBride said. “Every team’s going to deal with it, every season’s going to have it – injuries. It’s a little frustrating to take losses, but it’s also a really good time to work on the young guys, get them into this level, and to show them what it’s like at this level and what it takes to compete year. So while it’s frustrating to know that your dudes are over here sidelined right now, it’s also a really good time to work on these young guys because we’ve got some very, very talented young guys that I’m really excited about.”

By Freedom Fest in Oklahoma City on Sept. 8-10, McBride says they should have the full squad back and ready to make a strong second-half push.

But most of the team lives within two hours of each other and spent the offseason practicing together once or twice a week. They know expectations are high this season, but they’re focusing more on the bulls in front of them.

“We don’t spend a whole lot of time talking about championships,” McBride said. “Everybody understands that’s the goal, and we pretty much, every day, live in a space of trying to understand how to ride a bull every time. And that’s really what we focus on. We don’t get too big-picture. We know that poster’s on the wall of what we’re trying to get, and we leave it alone.”

Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media

© 2023 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.

Related Content