11 of the greatest multisport athletes of all time
For those with a multitude of athletic talents, it can be difficult to choose just one sport to play. Some of them delay the decision as long as possible, while others just try to do everything. Here are 11 of the most memorable multisport athletes in history.
When the New York Yankees drafted Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson as a high school graduate, he wasn’t quite ready to choose baseball over football and track and field. So he pursued all three sports at Auburn University, where he won the 1985 Heisman Trophy (college football’s equivalent of the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award) before simultaneously playing for the Los Raiders. Angeles of the NFL and the Kansas City Royals of MLB. A hip injury ended his professional sports career in the mid-1990s, but he is widely recognized as one of the most gifted athletes in recent history.
Jim Thorpe was a member of the Sac and Fox Nation who shone in just about every sport he tried. He won gold in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics; although his medals were later revoked due to his semi-professional baseball career – the Olympics were still strictly for amateurs – they were returned to his relatives in the 1980s. He spent 1913-1919 at playing professional baseball before focusing on professional football in later years, and even became the first president of the American Professional Football Association (a precursor to the NFL) in 1920. Thorpe’s widow, Patricia, led the charge to name a town in Pennsylvania – Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania – in his honor after his death in 1953.
The baseball skills of a young Mildred Ella Didrikson (later Zaharias) earned her the nickname “Babe”, after Babe Ruth. The nickname stuck throughout her iconic athletic career, starting in the early 1930s with basketball – she played for the All-America women’s team – and track and field (she won medals in hurdles, javelin and high jump at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. ). She also took up golf around this time, winning competitions in the 1940s and early 1950s and even co-founded the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1950.
In September 1989, Deion Sanders (aka Prime Time and Neon Deion) hit a home run for the Yankees. A few days later, he scored a touchdown for the Atlanta Falcons, making him the only athlete to accomplish both feats in the same week. Sanders is also the only athlete to have played in a World Series (with the Atlanta Braves in 1992) and a Super Bowl (with the San Francisco 49ers in 1995 and the Dallas Cowboys the following year).
Danny Ainge has been a mainstay for the Boston Celtics in more ways than one. He played for the team from 1981 to 1989 – winning championships in 1984 and 1986 – and later served as president of basketball operations from 2003 to 2021. (He later left Boston to become CEO of Utah Jazz .) But long before Ainge’s history with the Celts, he was also a promising high school football and baseball player. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB in 1977, where he played for three seasons while playing college basketball at Brigham Young University.
When Canadian Clara Hughes started cycling as a teenager in 1990, it was primarily a cross-training tactic to help her become an even better speed skater. But she was so natural that she eventually turned to cycling in strength, winning a number of competitions in the early 1990s and winning a few bronze medals at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Hughes returned to speed skating in 2000, although she did not give up cycling, and captured bronze in the 5,000 meters at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. This victory earned her the distinction of being the first Canadian athlete to win a medal at both the Summer and Winter Games. (She went on to win three more medals in speed skating at the following Winter Olympics.)
It didn’t come as a huge surprise when Dave Winfield was drafted by MLB’s San Diego Padres and NBA’s Atlanta Hawks (as well as the American Basketball Association’s Utah Stars) in 1973. He had just completed a successful college career at the University of Minnesota. , where he won a basketball conference title in 1972 and was named College World Series MVP the following year. The NFL’s Minnesota Vikings also drafted him, even though he hadn’t played football since he was a kid.
“I was surprised at that, but they were looking at me for my athletic ability,” Winfield later told Yahoo Sports. “The Vikings thought I could play tight end. I was 6-foot-6, 230-232 pounds, could run, and could catch. Winfield was not at all enamored with the offer, as he “didn’t want to get hurt”. He chose baseball, spending the 1970s with the Padres, the 80s with the Yankees, and a few shorter stints with other teams before retiring in 1996.
Although Kenny Lofton grew up playing basketball and baseball in Indiana, he knew that full basketball rides were easier to find. “So when I was offered the opportunity to go to the University of Arizona on a basketball scholarship, I jumped on it,” he wrote for The Players’ Tribune. in 2015. During 1988’s March Madness, the team – which also included future NBA greats Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott among them – made it all the way to the Final Four.
But Lofton did not end up in the NBA. Instead, after a short stint on the Arizona baseball team, he was drafted by the Houston Astros and became a valued center back for the Cleveland Indians (now the Guardians) throughout the years. 1990. By the time he retired in 2007, Lofton had been named an All-Star six times and had also won four Golden Glove Awards.
England’s Charlotte “Lottie” Dod holds the Guinness World Record as the youngest Wimbledon women’s singles champion. She won the competition in 1887 at just 15 years and 285 days old. Dod continued to beat her tennis rivals for several years and eventually turned to golf, taking first place in the 1904 British Women’s Amateur Championship. As well as being a skater, curler and hockey player a skilled turf, she also won a silver medal in archery at the 1908 Olympics in London.
In June 2018, the Oakland Athletics selected University of Oklahoma outfielder Kyler Murray in the first round of the draft. Things got a bit complicated later that year when Murray, also a superstar quarterback for the Sooners, won the Heisman Trophy and decided to focus on football. The Arizona Cardinals first drafted him in April 2019, making him the only athlete to be picked in the first round of the NFL and MLB drafts. Murray still focuses on football, but said as recently as June 2021 that he hasn’t closed the door on a potential professional baseball career. He is also very good at chess.
Australian Erin Phillips is a two-time WNBA champion, having won the final in 2012 with the Indiana Fever and again in 2014 with the Phoenix Mercury. She retired from the league in 2017, giving her more time to focus on a passion from her youth: Australian rules football, a rugby-style contact sport played on cricket ovals. That same year, Phillips joined the Adelaide Crows for the first season of the new Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW) and has remained with the team ever since.