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Athletes Who Died In 2021

Every new year brings a long list of athletes who passed away and 2021 is no exception. The first such death occurred on January 1 of the new year, when famed Denver Broncos running back Floyd Little died of cancer. Little was a 5x Pro Bowler, whose number 44 is retired by the Broncos. Home run legend Hank Aaron, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, died of natural causes in Atlanta toward the end of January, followed by champion boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler in February and NBA great Elgin Baylor in March.

As the year goes on, recent athlete deaths will be added to this list, ranging from legends of their sports who lived long, eventful lives to youthful, up-and-comers who were taken far too soon. So if you see someone pop up in your Twitter feed or in the news and you're wondering what famous athlete died today, check out the names below.

This list of athletes who died in 2021 is meant to help commemorate all the great players so that we remember the success they had on the field, on the court, or just in life. Check back throughout the year to help celebrate the lives of those we lost.

  • Photo: Wikimedia Commons

    England World Cup winner  Jimmy Greaves passed away on September 19, 2021. He was 81. 

    One of the most prolific goalscorers in English football history, Greaves began his career at Chelsea in 1957. After a impressive four years at Stamford Bridge, Greaves was signed by Italian Serie A powerhouse A.C. Milan. His stay in Italy was not a happy one and he returned to England with Tottenham Hotspur. A Tottenham legend and the club's all-time record goalscorer, Greaves scored a remarkable 266 goals in 379 appearances between 1961 and 1970, helping Spurs win the FA Cup twice and the European Cup Winners Cup.  Greaves never won a league title but did help Spurs to a second-place finish in 1963. He later moved to West Ham United in 1970 and retired the following year. Greaves remains the record goalscorer in English football's top flight with 357 goals. 

    For England, Greaves was a member of the national team's 1966 World Cup-winning squad and still boasts the best conversion rate of any England player, scoring 44 goals (4th all time) in just 57 appearances. He was also part of the squad that finished third in UEFA Euro 1968. 

    Following his retirement, Greaves enjoyed a successful broadcast career, going on to co-host the popular football show "Saint and Greavsie" alongside former Liverpool striker Ian St. John between 1985 and 1992.

    • Birthplace: Manor Park, London, England
    • Team: Chelsea, A.C. Milan, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United

    #259 of 1,185 The Best Soccer Players of All Time#91 of 103 Coolest Soccer Players#5 of 212 The Best Soccer Players from England

  • Chris Anker Sørensen

    Photo: DancingOnThePedals.net / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0

    Former pro road racing cyclist Chris Anker Sørensen was killed in a crash while cycling at world championships on September 18, 2021. He was 37. 

    The Danish road bicycle racer Sørensen rode professionally between 2005 and 2018 for the Team Designa Køkken, Tinkoff–Saxo, Fortuneo–Vital Concept, and Riwal Platform teams. He enjoyed a long 16-year pro career, scoring victories at the Giro d’Italia and Critérium du Dauphiné before becoming national champion in 2015. In the 2012 Tour de France, Sørensen finished 14th overall and was awarded the super-combativity award after an attacking performance in several mountain stages. 

    Sørensen turned to media work soon after hanging up his wheels and became a commentator at the popular TV2 Sport channel, where he worked through to his assignment at this year’s worlds.

    • Birthplace: Hammel, Denmark
    • Team: Road Race Cycling
  • Photo: Wikimedia Commons

    Detroit Lions legend Roger Brown passed away on September 17, 2021. He was 84.

    Brown played college football at Maryland State College before getting drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1960. A strong defensive tackle Brown formed the original fearsome foursome, with Alex Karras, Sam Williams and Darris McCord. He was named the 1962 Outstanding Defensive Lineman in the league, having sacked both Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas for safeties and tying an individual NFL record for safeties scored in a single season. Brown played for the Lions through the 1966 season, when he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams. He was known for his performance in the "Thanksgiving Day Massacre" game against the Green Bay Packers in 1962 where he sacked Bart Starr seven times. In Los Angeles, Brown led the new fearsome foursome next to Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy, and Merlin Olsen, the most feared defensive line at the time.

    Brown retired after three seasons with the Rams, ending a career in which he was an NFL Pro Bowl player for 6 straight seasons (1962–1967) and a 2-time first-team All-Pro (1962 and 1963). Brown was one of the first NFL players to have a playing weight over 300 lb but his size and speed made him one of the most dynamic players of the time.

    • Birthplace: Surry County, Virginia
    • Team: Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Rams
  • Tony Scott

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

    West Ham United footballer Tony Scott passed away on September 17, 2021. He was 80.

    The left winger Scott got his start in the Huntingdon Boys youth academy, before moving to West Ham United. After three years, Scott made his senior team debut in 1960. Partnering with Phil Woosnam on the left wing, Scott played 97 games over six years for West Ham, scoring 19 goals, before moving to Aston Villa.Scott joined Villa for £25,000 and rekindled his partnership with Woosnam. He went on to make 57 appearances and score five goals for the Midlanders until his departure in September 1967. He then joined Torquay United, where he played under former Hammer Frank O'Farrell and linked up with his old teammate John Bond. Scott followed Bond, who went on to become manager of Bournemouth, in 1970. Bournemouth, who also had ex-Hammer Ken Brown as coach, finished runners-up in Scott's first season. He made a total of 61 League appearances, scoring six goals.

    Scott moved to Exeter City in  1972 and managed two goals in 51 League appearances before being forced to retire by injuries. Scott later became a coach working with John Bond again at Manchester City and in Kuwait.

    • Birthplace: Huntingdon, England
    • Team: West Ham United, Aston Villa, Torquay United, Bournemouth, Exeter City