15 Legendary Best Two Sport Athlete Of All Time

Being the best in one sport need years of hard work and dedication. And to be the best in two sports is something that only elite, talented persons can do.

Deion Sanders playing for the Braves, 1993
Deion Sanders playing for the Braves, 1993 (Source: Wikimedia.org)

Today we are talking about some of the best two sports athletes of all time. These legendary athletes are superstars in at least one sport while excelling in other sports. They are some of the most talented athletes in sports history.

Most of the athletes on our list are related to either baseball, football, or basketball. These three sports are some of the most played sports in the world.

Let us look at some of the most skilled and talented athletes who are the best two sports athletes of all time.

15 Legendary Best Two-Sport Athlete Of All Time

Our source of reference for this article is Bleacherreport and History.com. Before diving into the details, let us look at the overall ranking of our list in the table below.

Player NameSports
15. Charlie WardFootball / Basketball
14. Kenny LoftonBaseball / Basketball
13. Tony GwynnBaseball / Basketball
12. Danny AingeBaseball / Basketball
11. John ElwayFootball / Baseball
10. Dave WinfieldBaseball / Basketball
9. Dave DeBusschereBaseball / Basketball
8. Brian JordanBaseball / Basketball
7. Bob HayesTrack & Field / Football
6. Bob GibsonBaseball / Basketball
5. Babe Didrikson ZahariasTrack & Field / Golf
4. Bo JacksonFootball / Basketball
3. Deion SandersFootball / Baseball
2. Jim BrownFootball / Lacrosse
1. Jim ThropeFootball / Basketball

 

15. Charlie Ward

We are starting our list with a former American basketball and football player, Charlie Ward. The 51 year-old was famously not drafted to the NFL and opted to play in the NBA.

Ward was a successful football player during his college year. He won the 1993 Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, and Davey O’Brien Award as a quarterback.

However, left undrafted in the 1994 NFL draft, New York Knicks drafted Ward in the 1st round of the 26th overall of the 1994 NBA draft. From 1994 to 2004, he played with the Knicks.

Charlie Ward
Charlie Ward (Source: Instagram)

Then he signed with San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets. During his professional career playing for the NBA, Ward was often called the “best quarterback in New York.” He retired from a professional career in 2005.

In 2006, Ward was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

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14. Kenny Lofton

Our number 14 of the best two-sport athlete, we have 55 year-old former MLB center fielder Kenny Lofton. He attended the University of Arizona on a basketball scholarship.

Lofton struggled in his early professional career in the Astro farm system. However, he quickly climbed the rank and made his MLB debut in 1991. Since then, he has been part of many different MLB franchises.

Kenny Lofton, 1996
Kenny Lofton, 1996 (Source: Wikimedia.org)

He holds the all-time postseason stolen base record of 34. Similarly, Lofton is six times All-star, four times Gold Glove Award, and five times AL stolen base leader.

He is one of the only two athletes to play in a college basketball Final Four 1998 and an MLB World Series.

13. Tony Gwynn

Nicknamed “Mr. Padre,” Tony Gwynn was an American professional baseball right fielder who played college basketball for the Aztecs. He was born on May 9, 1960, and played 20 seasons for San Diego Padres.

He received scholarship offers to play college basketball but none for college baseball. Gwynn was also left unselected in the 1977 MLB draft. Then in the 1981 MLB draft, the Padres drafted him as the 58th overall pick.

Tony Gwynn
Tony Gwynn (Source: Instagram)

Gwynn won eight batting titles during his professional career, tied for the most in NL history. He is considered one of the best and most consistent hitters in baseball history.

In 2007, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sadly, this legendary athlete passed away at age 54 on June 16, 2014.

12. Danny Ainge

63 year-old Danny Ainge is our number 12, best two-sport athlete. He is a former professional basketball player, coach, and former professional baseball player.

Ainge was a three-sport star in high school, where he played football, basketball, and baseball. He was the recipient of the national basketball college player of the year and the John R. Wooden Award for the most outstanding male college basketball player.

Danny Ainge
Danny Ainge (Source: Instagram)

Ainge has played for NBA franchises like the Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, and Phoenix Suns. After retiring from a professional career, he transitioned into a coach.

From 1996 to 1999, Ainge held the helm of the Phoenix Suns as their coach. Currently, he is an executive with Utah Jazz.

11. John Elway

Next, we have 62 year-old former quarterback John Elway. He attended Stanford University, where he played college football and baseball.

Elway was an excellent baseball player. In the 1981 MLB draft, the New York Yankees drafted him in the second round at 52nd overall.

John Elway Net Worth
John Elway

After his retirement, he serves as general manager and executive vice president of football operations of the Broncos.

In 2000, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and in 2004, he became the Pro Football Hall of Famer.

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10. Dave Winfield

On number 10 of the legendary best two-sport athlete of all time, we have 70 year-old former MLB right fielder. He played over 22 years in MLB for various franchises.

In 1969, Winfield earned a full scholarship to the University of Minnesota. He played baseball and basketball for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. In 1972, he played collegiate summer baseball for the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks for two seasons.

Winfield was named All-American and voted MVP of the College World Series as a pitcher in 1973. San Diego Padres drafted him as the fourth overall pick in the MLB, while Atlanta Hawks of NBA and Utah Stars of ABA also drafted him.

Dave Winfield
Dave Winfield (Source: Instagram)

Although Winfield never played college football, Minnesota Vikings drafted him in the 17th round of the NFL draft. The two-sport athlete chose baseball and signed with the Padres.

9. Dave DeBusschere

Dave DeBusschere was an Aerican professional NBA player and coach and MLB player. Born on October 16, 1940, he was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996.

Since his high school days, DeBusschere played basketball. He was named all-state as a junior and led his team to the Michigan Class A high school basketball championship in his senior year.

While in his college year, DeBusschere played both basketball and baseball. He helped his college team reach the National Invitation Tournament twice and the NCAA basketball tournament once.

Dave DeBusschere
Dave DeBusschere (Source: Instagram)

Detroit Pistons drafted DeBusschere in the 1963 NBA draft as a territorial draft selection. He is one of the only 13 athletes to have played in the NBA and MLB.

In 1983, DeBusschere was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. This legendary two-sport athlete passed away at the age of 62 on May 14, 2003.

8. Brian Jordan

Our eighth pick for the best two-sport athlete is 55 year-old former MLB outfielder and NFL safety Brian Jordan. He played baseball and football since his high school days.

St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in the first round of the 1988 MLB draft. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills drafted Jordan in the seventh round of the 1989 NFL draft. However, he was cut from the NFL training camp.

Brian Jordan
Brian Jordan (Source: Instagram)

Jordan had a brief career in NFL, where he also played for the Atlanta Falcons. In 1992, Jordan signed a new contract with St. Louis.

He retired from his MLB career after 2006. Jordan then became a TV pre-game analyst and TV commentator.

7. Bob Hayes

We have an Olympic gold medalist sprinter turned football wide receiver on our number 6. Nicknamed “Bullet Bob,” he was born on December 20, 1942. He played 11 seasons in the NFL.

Hayes is the only athlete in sports history to win both an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring. He attended Florida A&M University, where he was a star track & field athlete.

In the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, Hayes represented the United States in track & field. He won two gold medals in 100 m and a 4×100 meter relay. Then Dallas Cowboys drafted him in the seventh round of the 1964 NFL draft.

Bob-Hayes-Dallas-Cowboys
Bob Hayes with Dallas Cowboys (Source: Instagram)

Although Hayes had unrefined football skills, he soon excelled as a wide receiver. From 1965 to 1974, he was part of the Cowboys, and then he played one season for the San Francisco 49ers.

Sadly, this legendary two-star sports athlete passed away at 59 on September 20, 1942. In 2009, Hayes was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is the second Olympic gold medalist to achieve this feat.

6. Bob Gibson

On number 6, we have a former American professional baseball pitcher who also was a basketball player, Bob Gibson. He was born on November 9, 1935, and made his MLB debut in 1959.

During his high school year, Gibson was a three-sport star. He played track, basketball, and baseball. In his senior year, he was named to the All-State basketball team.

Bob Gibson
Bob Gibson

In 1961, Gibson became a full-time starting pitcher. Likewise, he also made himself known for his fierce competitive nature and intimidating opposing batters. 

Gibson retired from MLB in 1975 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981. Unfortunately, this star athlete died of pancreatic cancer on October 2, 2020.

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5. Babe Didrikson Zaharias

On number 5, we have the only female athlete on the list who excelled in three sports, golf, basketball, and track & field, Babe Didrikson Zaharias. She was born on June 26, 1911, and is regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

Zaharias is best known for her achievements in golf and track. She was athletically gifted and was also an excellent seamstress. However, she first gained world fame in track and field.

Zaharias set four world records in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, winning two gold medals and one silver for track and field.

Babe Didrikson Zaharia
Babe Didrikson Zaharia (Source: Instagram)

She is the only athlete, male or female, to win individual Olympic medals in separate running, throwing, and jumping events in track and field. Then by 1935, Zaharias began to play golf.

Although a latecomer, she soon became known for being an excellent golfer. She won 10 Ladies Professional Gold Association major championships as a professional golfer.

Zaharias was the first woman to attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open, which was however rejected. This all-rounder star athlete passed away at age 45 on September 27, 1956.

4. Bo Jackson

Bo Jackson is a former professional baseball and football player. The 59 year-old is the only professional athlete in sports history to be named an All-Star in baseball and football.

During his college year, Jackson played college football and baseball. Before enrolling at Auburn University, New York Yankees selected him in the second round of the 1982 MLB draft.

However, Jackson chose to attend college. While in his college, he won the Heisman Trophy in 1985. MLB franchise Kansas City selected him as the first overall pick in the 1986 NFL draft.

Bo_Jackson,_2011_NCAA_Honors_Celebration,_San_Antonio
Bo Jackson in 2011 NCAA Honors Celebration, San Antonio (Source: Wikimedia.org)

Similarly, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also selected him for the 1986 NFL draft. Jackson chose to sign with Kansas City and play baseball. In 1987, he signed with Los Angeles Raiders and made his NFL debut.

In 1991, Jackson suffered a hip injury that ended his football career, and his baseball career ended in 1994. His extraordinary achievements have made him one of the greatest athletes of all time.

3. Deion Sanders

On number 3 of the best two-sport athlete, we have the football coach and former football player, Deion Sanders. Nicknamed “Prime Time” and “Neon Deion,” the 54 year-old played 14 seasons in NFL and nine seasons in MLB.

Sanders attended Florida State University, where he played football, baseball, and track. Initially, the Kansas City Royals drafted him in the sixth round of 1985, but Sanders did not sign with them.

The New York Yankees selected him in the 30th round of the 1988 MLB draft, and he signed with the team.

Deion Sanders
Deion Sanders (Source: Instagram)

Similarly, Atlanta Braves selected him as the fifth pick overall in the 1989 NFL draft. After retiring from his professional playing career, Sanders transitioned into a football coach.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011. Sanders also became an analyst for CBS Sports, NFL Network, and BarstoolSports.

2. Jim Brown

Jim Brown is a 86 former football player also known for his basketball talent. He is considered one of the greatest running backs of all time and one of the greatest players in NFL history.

Brown was a multisport athlete in his college year. Aside from playing football, he excelled in basketball, track, and especially lacrosse. He is inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

From 1957 to 1965, he played in the NFL. By the time he retired, he had broken most major rushing records.

Jim Brown
Jim Brown (Source: Instagram)

In 2002, The Sporting News named Brown the greatest professional football player ever. He had recorded for ball carried 2,359 times for 12,312 rushing yards and 106 touchdowns.

After retiring from a professional playing career, Brown became an actor. You can see this legendary two-sport athlete in leading roles in several 1970s movies.

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1. Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe, also known as Wa-Tho-Huk (translated as Bright Path), was an American athlete and Olympic gold medalist. Considered one of the most versatile athletes, Thrope is our number 1 best two-sport athlete of all time.

Thorpe was born on May 22, 19887. He was the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States in the Olympics. He represented his country in Track and field.

Thorpe competed in football, baseball, lacrosse, and even ballroom dancing during his college year. 

Jim thorpe
Jim Thorpe (Source: Instagram)

Meanwhile, he started his professional football career in 1915 with Canton Bulldogs.

The Associated Press ranked Thorpe as the greatest athlete from the first 50 years of the 20th century. He was also inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

Furthermore, to honor this legendary athlete, the town of Jim Thrope, Pennsylvania, was named in his honor. Sadly, he passed away at the age of 65 on March 28, 1953.

Conclusion

Being a professional athlete is a long process that needs sheer hard work and dedication. Moreover, playing more than one sport and being the best at both is an extraordinary achievement.

These athletes dominated the sports they played and thus deserved their spot as the best athletes in the sport’s history.

Which athletes do you think are the best two-sport athletes of all time? Do let us know!

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