The Best Two-Sport Athletes In History
Which player excelled in multiple sports over an extended period of time?
Since the arrival of Tim Tebow and Russell Wilson at Spring Training, the great debate of the “greatest two-sport athlete” has come up on a variety of sports radio talk shows. There is no right answer, but it is right to not include either one of these guys in the top five. Some athletes have tried to play both and failed (Michael Jordan, Drew Henson), while others have had to choose a sport to go pro in (Tom Glavine, John Elway).
These members are the elite of the elite athletes. These players have not only played more than one sport professionally, they have excelled. Just missing the list are Brian Jordan (Atlanta Braves, not the singer) and Bullet Bob Hayes.
Let’s take a look at the top five two-sport athletes of all time.
5) Deion Sanders
Deon Deion comes out hot in the number five spot of the greatest two-sport athletes in history. Sanders was a much better football player than baseball player, but as seen in the highlights above, he could hit with the stick. He actually led the MLB in triples in 1992, and was the first person to ever hit a home run and score a touchdown in the same week.
Sanders has the distinction of also being the only man to play in both a World Series and a Super Bowl. He hit .533 in the 1992 World Series, is an eight-time Pro Bowler, eight-time All-Pro and NFL Hall of Famer. He was one of the most dynamic athletes in the world and while he was always the center of controversy, there was never a dull moment in Sanders’ professional career.
4) Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe was one of the greatest athletes and Americans of all time. While his time was way before any of ours, taking a quick look at Jim Thorpe’s accolades as an athlete would make anyone’s head spin. Most people wouldn’t even have enough time in the day to train for one sport, let alone five.
Thorpe was an Olympic gold medalist in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Summer Olympics. After his time as an Olympian, he decided to become a major leaguer and play for the New York Giants. While he was doing that, he also decided to dabble in football, playing for the Canton Bulldogs and becoming a pioneer of the National Football League.
While he wasn’t playing one of his two professional sports or competing in the Olympics, Thorpe also formed an all American Indian basketball team. He traveled the U.S. as a barnstormer and became a professional is five sports. Thorpe was named the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century by the Associated Press, an accolade well deserved.
3) Babe Didrikson Zaharias
Another oldie, but goodie, Babe Didrickson Zaharias was not only an Olympic hero, she was a role model for all women past, present and future. Didrickson was proof that if you put your mind to it regardless of gender, creed, etc. you can do anything. Being that March is Women in Sports & History month, Babe holds a very special place on this list.
Didrickson won two gold medals in the 1932 Summer Olympics in track & field, becoming one of the first women to do so in modern history. She was an ultra-celebrity and even played professional baseball and basketball at a time where women had just gained rights to vote. She is surely an influence for the movie A League of Their Own.
Didrickson is most known as the pioneer to bring women’s golf to the forefront of sports. She was the most known women’s golfer at the time, if not of all time. At the end of her career she wound up with a then record 10 LPGA major championships.
2) Jim Brown
Jim Brown is arguably the greatest running back in NFL history. He is also arguably the greatest college lacrosse player in history. While we all know his story as a football player, his accolades on the lacrosse field are even more impressive.
Between the two sports, Jim Brown was a four time All-American and scored 43 goals in his senior year of lacrosse. In addition to that, Brown was a runner up for the Heisman trophy. The former Orangeman also ran for almost 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was also a letterman many times over in basketball and track.
If there was a professional lacrosse league in the sixties, Jim Brown would have been the star of it. He was already the star of the NFL, compiling many awards throughout his career. Brown was a nine-time Pro Bowler, eight-time All-Pro, a member of the 75th Anniversary All-Time team and a member of both the NFL and College Football Hall of Fame. A man who was much more than an athlete, Jim Brown was one of the greatest of all time.
1) Bo Jackson
I think the commercial above tells you everything you need to know about Bo Jackson. He was the ultimate athlete whose time was cut too short. Bo could literally do anything he wanted. He was the Secretariat of human sports; literally a freak athlete in a field of great athletes.
Bo Jackson doesn’t have the accolades of the other people on this list, but that’s purely from a devastating hip injury that ended his sports career. He was literally so powerful that he tore his hip almost completely out of it’s socket. If he hadn’t had done that, who knows what he could have done.
The magic of Bo Jackson is that he did things that seemed almost impossible. While with the Royals, he bare-handed a ball from the warning track and threw out Harold Reynolds at home plate. He also caught a fly ball on the run then proceeded to run up the wall to almost the top of the fence.
Bo was the man that ruined the image of “The Boz” Brian Bosworth. He was a Pro-Bowler in 1990 and his career trajectory was part Earl Campbell, part Tony Dorsett. The man made it a habit of suspending people’s imaginations by leaving a trail of dust on all defenders who tried to tackle him, and a trail of sawdust after breaking his bat over his thigh. Bo Jackson is the greatest two-sport athlete of all time, and it’s not really even close.
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