The 10 Best Multi-Sport Athletes


Who are the best athletes who have played multiple sports? Inspired by this tweet, I thought I would try to answer that question (and no, Tim Tebow does not make the list).

I am limiting this list to “modern” guys who played professional sports since 1960, when things like professionalism in the major sports and integration became more common. So you also won’t see trailblazers like Jackie Robinson or Jim Thorpe on this particular list.

My criteria was to find athletes who excelled at multiple sports and reached the pinnacle of at least one. You won’t find guys who just scraped by in multiple sports here. Let’s get to it.

#1 Bo Jackson

The “Bo Knows” campaign was one of the most memorable and best sports advertising campaigns ever. And it was all driven by Bo Jackson’s freakish athletic ability and feats, before he suffered a tragic hip injury after the 1990 season in a playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Bo Jackson won the Heisman Trophy. He was the first overall pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but stunned everyone when he opted to start his professional career in baseball with the Kansas City Royals. He then began playing for the Los Angeles Raiders a year later, and was an All-Star and Pro Bowler in both sports. In 1989, he led off the All-Star Game with a home run to dead center.

There’s also this play, which is one of the highlights of my youth in baseball, and this one where he ran through Brian Bosworth.

#10 Kenny Lofton

Kenny Lofton was a four-year basketball player at the University of Arizona, playing on the 1988 team that reached a Final Four, and the 1989 team that was #1 in the nation entering the NCAA Tournament.

He also started playing minor league baseball with the Houston Astros, and would make his MLB debut. He would go on to a 17-year career, where he made six all-star appearances, won four Gold Gloves, and led the AL in stolen bases five different times.

Others Considered:

Dave DeBusschere – Member of Pro Basketball Hall of Fame, also pitched in 36 MLB games in 1962-63.

Antonio Gates – star of a Kent State team that went to Elite Eight, will be in Pro Football HOF as a tight end.

Michael Carter – won silver medal in shot put in 1984, and three-time first team all-pro in NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.

Danny Ainge – played three seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays before a 14-year NBA career.

Ed “Too Tall” Jones – 6-0 as a heavyweight boxer in addition to being a pro bowl defensive end for Dallas Cowboys.

Herschel Walker – Heisman Trophy winner, USFL legend, Vikings traded their entire draft for him in 1989, also represented USA on Olympic bobsled team in 1992.

John Brodie – NFL MVP Iin 1971, won a PGA Senior golf event after retiring.

Michael Jordan – 2nd best player in NBA history, managed to reach AA, which I hear makes you one of the most successful ever.

Ray Edwards – 7 years in NFL. 12-1-1 as a heavyweight boxer.

Julius Peppers – played for North Carolina basketball team; future Hall of Famer in football.

#2 Deion Sanders

Primetime was drafted by the Kansas City Royals out of high school, but went to Florida State, where he played on the baseball team, ran track, and was a two-time All-American in football.

From 1989 to 1995, Deion Sanders played in both the MLB and the NFL each season. He appeared in the World Series and the Super Bowl. He never played in 100 MLB regular season games in a year because of his football commitments, but made All-Pro six times (only interrupted by his first year in Dallas, when he only played in nine games due to baseball), and is considered one of the best cornerbacks of all-time.

More Articles About Sports History:


#3 Jim Brown

Jim Brown was a ridiculous athlete and someone who was way ahead of his time. In college at Syracuse, he starred in football, basketball, lacrosse, and track. He was a first-team All-American in lacrosse as a senior, finishing with 41 goals. He was a consensus All-American in football, somehow finishing fifth the Heisman Trophy voting.

He then went on to dominate the NFL for a decade, leading the league in rushing yards eight different times before retiring at 29. He often sits atop lists as the greatest football player of all-time.

#4 Dave Winfield

Dave Winfield was a star at the University of Minnesota in both baseball and basketball. He starred on a basketball team that won the Big Ten title in 1972. He won Most Outstanding Player at the College World Series — for his performance as a pitcher, that included a complete game shutout. He was then drafted in three sports, fourth overall by the San Diego Padres, 79th by the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA, and even drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the 17th round.

Winfield was a 12-time All-Star in baseball playing with the Padres, Yankees, Angels, Blue Jays, Twins, and Indians. He is enshrined in Cooperstown and is a College Baseball Hall of Famer.

#5 Bob Hayes

We’ve seen plenty of track athletes try to transition to football. No one did as well as “Bullet” Bob Hayes. Bob Hayes dominated the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, winning gold in the 100 meters, and putting together a blistering final leg to complete a comeback for gold in the 4×100 relay.

Then, he ended his track career and joined the Dallas Cowboys, after playing at Florida A&M in college. He led the NFL in touchdown catches in each of his first two seasons, had 10+ touchdowns in five different seasons, and averaged 20.0 yards per catch for his career. Hayes was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame posthumously in 2009.

#6 Kirk Gibson

Kirk Gibson is most famous for his Game 1 home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series. But most may not realize that before he was a baseball star, he was a college football star at Michigan State. He still ranks in the top five in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns for the school, and was an All-American in 1978. He was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

Gibson played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball. Improbably, he never played in an All-Star Game, though he won the NL MVP in 1988, and was in the top 20 in voting four times.

#7 Charlie Ward

Charlie Ward won the 1993 Heisman Trophy and a national championship with Florida State. He also played basketball for four seasons at the school, and when he was not going to be drafted in the first round, decided to focus on basketball after college.

Ward was selected by the Knicks with the 26th pick of the 1994 draft and would go on to have an 11-year NBA career, averaging 6.3 points and 4.0 assists per game.

#8 Brian Jordan

Brian Jordan was a starting safety for the Atlanta Falcons when he walked away from the NFL after three seasons to focus exclusively on baseball. It worked, as Jordan would go on to have a 15-year MLB career as an outfielder, and finished top 20 in MVP voting in three different seasons.

#9 Tony Gonzalez

Tony Gonzalez played both basketball and football at the University of California. He averaged over 6 points a game during three seasons of basketball, and was an All-American in football.

He will go down as the top tight end of all-time, making 14 Pro Bowls and having more receiving yards than any other tight end in history.