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Sports Articles: And Finally... Multi-Sport Athletes

And Finally... Multi-Sport Athletes
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And Finally.....Multi-Sports


There are a number of sports stars that have tried their hand at more than one sport. The most famous example would probably be Michael Jordan who took a spell out of basketball to try his hand at baseball. However he was not entirely successful and went back to being the greatest of all time on the basketball court instead. Gene Conley however did manage to find success in both sports, becoming an All-Star pitcher who won a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves in 1957. Two years later he won the first of 3 consecutive NBA Championships with the Boston Celtics, to become the only man to win both the World Series and NBA Championship.

Another great in one field who tried his hand at another sport but failed is Usain Bolt. The fastest man of all time, at least over 100m, spent a few years trying to make it as a footballer but his first touch was worse than Romelu Lukaku's and his refusal to accept anything less than huge money ruled out his chances of making it at any club that would be interested in him. His only real value was in curiousity to fans increasing gates, as he was nowhere near good enough to play. Unfortunately Bolt overvalued himself massively and rejected some very well paid offers to play.

Surprisingly there are two standout performers in US sports who played in 2 completely different arenas: NFL and MLB. There are very few sports that are as different as American Football and Baseball, but still these two who stood out in both. There was Deion Sanders, who was a two-time Super Bowl winner in the NFL though he never managed to win the World Series. Probably more famous though is Bo Jackson, who was the star of the Bo Knows adverts and is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. Jackson excelled in both sports and became an All-Star in both.

While it is arguable how good it makes him at football, Viv Richards, unarguably one of the best cricketers of all time, represented Antigua in a World Cup qualifier for the 1974 World Cup. What is not arguable is Fred Perry's quality in both tennis and table tennis. The last Englishman to win the men's title at Wimbledon, Perry was the first man ever to win a career Grand Slam in tennis. Before all that he was Table Tennis World Champion in 1929.

Another cricketer who was good enough to represent his country in more than one sport is Jonty Rhodes. The South African played regularly for his nation in both Test cricket and the one-day game but he was also a member of the South African hockey team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. But, probably the most prominent of all the cricketers to play other sports is AB de Villiers, who is considered to be probably the best batsmen of his generation. He has also competed professionally in golf, rugby, hockey, badminton, swimming and tennis, even getting national call ups in swimming and rugby!

Former Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi was not particularly successful in Formula 1 but moved to Indy Cart where he won 2 championships in the US motor sport. However he was involved in a monster crash that led to both his legs amputated in 2001. He did attempt to return to motor racing but ended up become a para-cycler, winning 2 gold medals in the 2012 Paralympic games.

It does seem that, if you want to have success in more than one sport, make cricket one of them, as Dennis Compton, one of England's greatest ever cricketers was also a winger for Arsenal at a time when they were actually good enough to win the league. What is more remarkable is that he competed at the highest level in both sports at the same time. His football career was only cut short due to knee issues.

Speaking of issues, 5-times NBA champion Tim Duncan only turned his hand to basketball after the only Olympic-sized swimming pool in his home area (the US Virgin Islands) was destroyed in Hurricane Hugo. Up until that moment, he was set to represent his country in swimming. Way back in 1912, Jim Thorpe became the first Native American to win an Olympic Gold Medal for the USA when he won the pentathlon and decathlon. He also played professionally in baseball, basketball and American football. Sadly he had his medals stripped when the IOC found out that he was paid for playing baseball, though they were restored after his death.

Tarzan, well the only Tarzan that matters, Johnny Weissmuller, was a swimmer and water polo players prior to becoming the wearer of the loincloth and swinging through the trees with Cheetah alongside him. One of the main reasons for his choice as Tarzan was his swimming ability, which saw him beat a number of other famous US sports stars of the time to get the role.

Compton was not the only great English cricketer to play at a high(ish) level in football, Ian Botham also played for his hometown club Scunthorpe United, though with limited success. Which kind of sums up Scunthorpe's history. Curtis Woodhouse was a professional footballer who retired fairly early and became a professional boxer with more success than did former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff when he turned to boxing following retirement.

Danny Ainge, before he became the general manager of the Boston Celtics, was a truly exceptional athlete. After becoming the only person in US history to be named a high school All-American in 3 different sports, American football, baseball and basketball, he played in the MLB for the Bluejays before quitting baseball and being drafted by the Celtics. He went on to win 2 NBA championships with the Boston team.

Jim Brown, who went on to have a successful career as an actor, is one of the best American football players of all time, sometimes it is claimed he is the best ever. His place in the NFL Hall of Fame is matched by one in the LaCrosse Hall of Fame, as he was highly accomplished in that sporting arena too. In the early days of the UFC, he was a colour-commentator, the role now occupied by Joe Rogan, for their first view pay-per-view events.

Written by Tris Burke May 04 2019 16:33:36


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