Thursday Aug 17

Working Double Time: The 25 Greatest Multi-Sport Athletes

  1. Jim Thorpe- His Indian name translates to Bright Path, and in every one of the countless paths Thorpe took over his legendary career, he shone with a brightness that few could match.  Gold medals in pentathlon and decathlon, Hall of Fame honors in both college and pro football, and stints playing professional baseball and basketball. Heck, Thorpe even won the 1912 inter-collegiate ballroom dancing championship.  We'll always be left to wonder how Thorpe would have fared among today's athletes, but with his unprecedented versatility and all-around dominance of his era, it's almost impossible to say he's anything but the number one multi-sport athlete of all time.

  2. Bo Jackson- Oh, what could have been.  A Heisman Trophy winner out of Auburn, Bo electrified NFL scouts right out of the gates by running an unheard of 4.12 40-yard dash at the combine.  Drafted by Tampa Bay as the first pick of the 1986 NFL Draft, Vincent Edward Jackson instead went to play for the Kansas City Royals and in doing so cost Tampa their rights to him.  Seeing his potential, Al Davis would subsequently re-draft Jackson despite the baseball career, signing him to a lucrative deal that allowed him to continue playing in the MLB while joining the Raiders in the offseason. Just 29 days into his NFL career, Bo exploded for an astonishing 221-yard rushing performance on Monday Night Football.  Tragically, barely four years later a hit by Kevin Walker in the 1990 playoffs ravaged his hip, effectively ending what was quickly proving to be one of the most promising careers in professional sports history.  Bo would struggle through another couple of years of baseball, but with his legendary speed gone, his days of dominance were clearly behind him.

  3. Babe Didrikson Zaharias- Though lacking the notoriety of her male namesake, BDZ is widely considered to be the greatest female athlete to ever walk the planet.  The female Bambino won gold medals in track and field, achieved All-American status as a basketball player, barnstormed with the local baseball team, and was even reported to bowl an average of 170.  Capping it all off was her legendary golf career, in which she positively dominated her peers to win every tournament in existence at the time including 10 LPGA majors and 82 tourneys overall.  Damn...

  4. Deion Sanders- Prime Time was a part time outfielder and an all-time cornerback, collecting rings for both the World Series and Superbowl.

  5. Jim Brown- In addition to being just about the greatest football player to ever step on the gridiron, Brown holds a place in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, scoring 43 goals in 10 games in his All-American senior season at Syracuse.

  6. Lionel Conacher- Though that name might not ring a bell to many Americans, Conacher was Mr. Canada in the early to mid 20th century.  Conacher won championships in hockey, baseball, boxing, wresting, and lacrosse.  (Sadly, his professional football efforts fell short of a title.)  He is a member of four different halls of fame and even won a seat on the House of Commons after he hung up the cleats, skates, and gloves.
  7. Bob Hayes- Before Hayes was a Hall of Fame receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, he was winning gold medals in Tokyo as a world record-holding sprinter.  As a result, he is the only person who can wear a Super Bowl ring on his finger and Olympic gold around his neck without going on Ebay.

  8. Charlie Ward- Ward entered the public consciousness in 1993, quarterbacking his Florida St Seminoles to a national championship and along the way capturing just about every honor a collegiate football player can win, including, of course, the Heisman.  Though not even playing baseball in college, he was drafted as a pitcher by the Milwaukee Brewers.  Upset that he wasn't taken in the first round of the 1994 NFL Draft, Ward instead opted to go play for the New York Knicks, who had selected him 26th in the NBA Draft of the same year. Ward played 11 years in the NBA before being forced to retire due to injuries in 2005.

  9. Otto Graham- Arguably the greatest quarterback to ever strap on a pair of cleats, Otto would go on to win 11 championships in 11 years, 10 with the Cleveland Browns and another with the Rochester Royals of the National Basketball League.

  10. Gene Conley- While Deion is the only person to have won both a World Series and a Super Bowl, Conley can boast being the only person to win a World Series and an NBA Championship.  Conley pitched 11 seasons in the MLB, compiling 91 wins and a 3.82 ERA for four different clubs.  He also concurrently played in the NBA for six seasons, racking up three championships with the Russell-led Celtics.

  11. Dave Winfield- Playing hoops for the Minnesota Golden Gophers (for which he would help lead to a conference title), his coach Bill Musselman later called Winfield the greatest rebounder he'd ever coached, quite a distinction considering Musselman would coach for over thirty years, nearly half of which time would be on the professional level. Drafted by all four major professional sports leagues, Winfield earned his stripes in baseball, appearing in 12 All-Star games and capturing 7 Gold Gloves.  He ended his career a member of both the prestigious 3000-hit club, and the even more prestigious Baseball Hall of Fame.

  12. Hobey Baker-A pioneering amateur athlete of the early 20th Century until his untimely death in a plane crash at just 26, Baker had since been honored by both the College Football and Hockey Hall of Fames, the only person to ever do so.

  13. Danny Ainge- Long before he ran operations for the Celtics, Danny dominated the high school sports world, and is still the only person to win first team All-American honors in basketball, baseball, and football. Ainge was drafted out of college by the Toronto Blue Jays, and kicked things off with a bang, where he would hit his first home run at 20 years, 77 days, a record that survives to this day as the youngest Jay to go yard. After a mediocre three years in Toronto, he was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1981, where he would contribute to two championships.  Over a fourteen year NBA career, Ainge finished with an impressive 11,964 points and 4,199 assists.
  14. Herschel Walker- A physical specimen even at the ripe old age of 50, Herschel recently made waves in the MMA community, putting his 5th-degree black belt in Taekwondo to use by clobbering his first two opponents in Strikeforce. More importantly, the former Heisman Trophy winner currently holds the NFL's eighth spot for total combined yards, though had he not spent the early part of his career in the ill-fated USFL, he may very well have finished #1.  Herschel was even a member of the 1992 Olympic bobsled team (seriously), with which he finished seventh.

  15. Dick Groat- Best known for his prolific career as an MVP shortstop, in which he accumulated two rings and over 2000 hits, Groat began his athletic career as a Collegiate Hall of Fame guard at Duke.  A two-time All-American, his #10 jersey would be the first ever retired by the school.  Groat was drafted 3rd overall by the Pistons, but he would play only one year in the NBA before being called away to military service.  When he returned home, he opted to pick up the bat instead and the rest is history.

  16. Brian Jordan- Jordan spent two years as an NFL safety for the Atlanta Falcons before jumping to baseball, where he would go on to become a solid contributor to the Cardinals, Braves, Dodgers and Rangers en route to 184 career home runs and a .282 AVG.

  17. Chuck Conners- Our third Celtic on this list is probably best known for playing the lead man on the 1960's hit western series The Rifleman.  However, Conners found time early on to play for both the Celtics and Dodgers, and was even drafted by the Chicago Bears.
  18. Clara Hughes- Clara won Olympic golds in both speed skating and cycling.

  19. Dave Debusschere- Debusschere pitched a year for the Chicago White Sox (finishing with a 2.90 ERA) before becoming an 8-time All-Star, 2-time champion, Hall of Fame power forward for the Pistons and Knicks.

  20. Stephen Neal- Though best known as a three-time champion guard for the New England Patriots, Neal compiled quite the resume as an amateur wrestler, including posting a 151-10 record at Cal St Bakersfield (in which he won his second title victory against now UFC villain Brock Lesner).  He would go on to win both a Pan American Championship and a World Championship en route to being named the best wrestler in the world in 1999.

  21. Dave Logan- Logan was drafted by the NBA, MLB, and NFL before embarking on a successful 9-year career at wideout for the Browns and Broncos.
  22. Wilt Chamberlain- Perhaps the world leader in ass-tappage, the Stilt is enshrined in both the basketball and volleyball halls of fame.

  23. Jackie Robinson- The Dodger revolutionary graduated UCLA as the first person in school history to letter in four sports (baseball, basketball, football, and track and field). Jackie would play professional football in the Pacific Coast League before his momentous entrance into Major League Baseball in 1947.

  24. DJ Dozier- Dozier played five seasons as running back in the NFL before jumping over to the Mets for a single season in 1992.

  25. Willie Gault- An 11-year receiver for the Bears and Raiders, Gault was also a member of the Olympic track and bobsled teams that boycotted the 1980 Moscow games.

 

------------------------------------------Honorable Mentions:-------------------------------------------
Joe Mauer- Named the national high school player of the year in both baseball and football before ultimately claiming a cool $184 million contract to catch for the Twins. Tim Duncan (record-setting competitive swimmer in his native Virgin Islands before becoming one of the most celebrated power forwards of all time)Antonio Gates- (one of the greatest tight ends of past last decade, Antonio first made headlines by taking his Kent State Golden Flashes to the Elite Eight in 2002), Allen Iverson (named top basketball and football player in Virginia as a high school junior), Michael Jordan (minor league baseball player for the Birmingham Barons and even found time to play a little basketball for some team called the Bulls), Hakeem Olajuwon (soccer and basketball), Mark Hendrickson (basketball and baseball), Nathaniel Clifton (played baseball in the Negro leagues before becoming the first black athlete to win an NBA contract), Scott Burrell (first athlete to ever be drafted in the first round in both the NBA and MLB), Ron Reed (baseball and basketball), Steve Hamilton (baseball and basketball), John Elway (originally played minor league ball for the Yankees and Royals), Dan Marino (drafted by Kansas City Royals), Cotton Nash (baseball and basketball), Ed "Too Tall" Jones (took a brief hiatus from the NFL to enter professional boxing, compiling a record of 6-0 including the knockout of future heavyweight champ of Mexico Fernando Montes), Frank Baumholtz (baseball and basketball), Dick Ricketts (baseball and basketball), Marion Jones (track, basketball, and professional doping), Howie Schultz (baseball and basketball) Shaun White (snowboarding and skateboarding).
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Comments  

 
0 # 2011-05-01 21:23
What about Eric Heiden (speed skating and cycling)?
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0 # bb 2013-11-10 20:15
How about Darin Erstad? 1994 National Champion with the Huskers,2002 World Series winner with the Angels.
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0 # Eddie 2015-05-24 04:32
1980's Dodger pitching ace Orel Hershisher also played minor league hockey in Canada briefly. Orel even became a professional poker player after baseball (does that count?)

And speaking of Canada, legendary point guard Steve Nash also was a star soccer and rugby player in high school.

Thanks for all this info.
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0 # Keli 2016-08-03 17:56
How about Bud Grant. Still the only man to play in the NBA and the Nfl. He was on the 1950 Minnesota Lakers NBA Championship team. The played receiver for the philladefia Eagles before going to the CFL. He stills holds the record of most interceptions in one game in the CFL- 5 we all know what he did as the Viking head coach.
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