Bo Jackson famously played both professional football and baseball in the 1980s and 1990s. Here are some other athletes who played more than one sport.
- Danny Ainge is an executive with the Boston Celtics for whom he played the first eight seasons (1981-1989) of a 15-year NBA career in which he won two championships and played on two All-Star teams. But all of that came after Ainge’s baseball career. Drafted in 1977 by the Toronto Blue Jays (in the team’s first year of existence), he played 211 games over three seasons, hitting a respectable .264. When he decided to pursue basketball, he was drafted by the Celtics in 1981, who had to buy out his contract from the Blue Jays, one of the few times a team from one sport had to pay off a team in another sport.
- In 2004 ESPN named Dave Winfield one of the best all-around athletes of all time, regardless of sport. He’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but might have been in another hall, had he made a different decision. He led the University of Minnesota to a conference championship in basketball in 1972, which led to his being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and the Utah Stars of the ABA. He was so dominant an athlete in Minnesota that the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL drafted him, too, even though he didn’t play college football. He ultimately went with baseball, and the team that drafted him—the San Diego Padres. Winfield went into the majors not as the power hitter he became…but as a pitcher.
- Wilt Chamblerlain is one of the best basketball players to ever take the court. After his NBA career ended in 1973, the 7’1” star switched sports to volleyball, playing five years for the Seattle Smashers of the International Volleyball Association.
- In 1950, Sweetwater Clifton helped break the NBA’s color barrier—he was the second African-American, after Earl Lloyd, to play in the league. Already a seasoned 27 by the time he signed with the New York Knicks, he had already put in time barnstorming with the Harlem Globetrotters in basketball, and barnstorming in baseball with the New York Rens, an all-black team.
- Walter Ray Williams is good at throwing heavy objects. He’s one of the most dominant professional bowlers of all time, earning 47 Professional Bowlers Association tournament wins, including eight majors, three World Championships, and nine PBA Senior Tour victories. He’s also a six-time winner of the Men’s World Horseshoe Pitching championship.
For more sports trivia read Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Sports Spectacular.
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