Athletes Who Died In 2023

Every new year brings a long list of athletes who passed away and 2023 is no exception. The first such death occurred on January 1 of the new year, when Hall of Fame NFL referee Art McNally passed away at age 97 of natural causes. McNally is the only referee to ever be inducted into the Hall, and he is known as the “Father of Instant Replay.” Other incredible athletes who died in 2023 include Scottish footballer Frank McGarvey and DC Shoes founder turned rallycross driver Ken Block.

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 2023 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: Boston Celtics / Instagram

  • Revolutionary professional wrestler, an iconic figure in the WWE and WWF, and Hall of Famer The Iron Sheik tragically passed away on June 7, 2023. He was 81.

    The Iron Sheik, whose real name was Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri was a phenomenal wrestler from Iran who gained global success in the WWF after perfecting the Sheik character and becoming one of the biggest heels the wrestling world had ever seen. With countless generational rivalries against Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter, and many other WWE Hall of Famers, Sheik managed to stand above the rest with his larger-than-life persona, charismatic abilities, and masterful in-ring skill. Throughout his career, Sheik was easily one of the most hated men in the business, purposely so, and he more than lived up to the hatred audiences had for him in the ring during his career, but once he retired, Sheik became a beloved legend who represented the company to the highest standards. Always speaking his mind, even on the most sensitive subjects, audiences loved his ability and willingness to unabashedly be himself, something he showcased his entire life. 

    Vaziri is survived by his wife, Carly, who he has been married to for the last 47 years, as well as his children Tany and Nikki. The wrestling world stood in silence as they learned of the passing of one of the greatest and most important men to ever enter the ring, and thousands paid their respects on social media, telling the world how important Vaziri was to them throughout their lives. 

  • Dick Groat
    Photo: user uploaded image

    Legendary MLB player, Hall of Famer, and M.V.P. Award winner Dick Groat passed away on April 27, 2023. He was 92.

    A multitalented athlete, Dick Groat managed to become a phenomenal player in two drastically different sports. Playing both basketball and baseball throughout his career, Groat managed to become a living legend, and although his basketball career may not have been quite as stellar as his baseball, his baseball career more than made up for that. At shortstop, Groat won a batting championship, an M.V.P., and was a five-time All-Star in fourteen seasons in the League. His most proud accomplishment in the league, however, was helping lead the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates to their first World Series Championship in 35 years. 

    Groat simply loved playing baseball, and just so happened to be a world-class talent. 

  • Dave Wilcox
    Photo: user uploaded image

    Hall of Fame linebacker and legend for the San Francisco 49ers Dave Wilcox passed away on April 20, 2023. He was 80.

    Wilcox was a legend on the field for the 49ers the second he was drafted by the team in 1964. A seven-time Pro Bowler in the eleven seasons he played with the squad, Wilxoc made a name for himself by being one of the most physical and dominant players to ever play linebacker in the NFL. Widely known around the league as “The Intimidator,” Wilcox loved to play the game, and his impact on it is nothing short of outstanding.

    Wilcox was recently having heart issues, having undergone surgery just a few weeks before his passing, but is remembered by his wife, Merle, and his son Justin. The football world and NFL took to social media to honor his tragic passing.

  • Frank LeMaster
    Photo: user uploaded image

    Philadelphia Eagles star and Pro Bowl linebacker Frank LeMaster passed away on March 23, 2023. He was 71. 

    A cornerstone of the Philadelphia Eagles through the 70s and 80s, Frank LeMaster quickly became a fan favorite on the team thanks to his Iron Man status, and willingness to give everything he could to his team consistently. LeMaster was a key piece in the Eagles' 1980 NFC Championship team, where he would man a defense that was ranked first in the NFL. LeMaster loved his time in Philadelphia, and Philadelphia loved having him on their squad as he fully represented what the fans and franchise believed in, hard work, all-out effort, and a commitment to winning at the highest level.

    The Philadelphia Eagles took to social media to announce the tragic passing of one of their own on March 23. The community and Eaglesnation mourned the loss of one of the most revered and beloved members of their franchise's history.

  • Willis Reed
    Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Fair use

    Legendary basketball player for the New York Knicks and NBA Hall of Famer Willis Reed tragically passed away on March 22, 2023. He was 80.

    A sports legend with one of the most iconic and incredible moments in sports history, Willis Reed was a star from other moment he entered the NBA in 1964 until he retired in 1974. Averaging an incredible 18.7 points per game and 12.9 rebounds per game throughout his illustrious career, Reed was a 7-time All-Star, 2-time NBA Champion, 2-time Finals MVP, 1-time regular season MVP, and member of both the NBA 75th Anniversary Team and the NBA Hall of Fame. Reed was a dominant force in the league, but his most remarkable feat was returning to game 7 of the NBA Finals in 1970 on a torn thigh muscle and still giving it everything he got. 

    Reed embodied grit, toughness, and heart, and this one shining moment helped not only define his career but defined him as a person who would simply never give up. The NBA and sports world were stunned by the loss of Reed, and many teams either posted on social media or held moments of silence in arenas to honor the late, great legend.

  • Dick Fosbury
    Photo: The Olympic Games / Twitter

    Legendary Olympic gold medalist who “changed the high jump forever,” Dick Fosbury tragically passed away on March 13, 2023. He was 76.

    Dick Fosbury is one of the most influential and important athletes to ever participate in the high jump, as his use of the trademark “Fosbury Flop” helped revolutionize and modernize the competition to what we know it today. Unleashing the move at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Fosburry stunned fans and opponents alike with the new style that helped him win gold easily. At the time, the scissor kick style was the dominant way of participating in the tournament, and with his Flop, Fosbury was able to clear 2.24 meters with ease to win the competition. 

    Numerous athletes and gold medalists took to social media to praise and honor the revolutionary, with nearly all of them calling him a legend.