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.

  • White Hall head football coach Ryan Mallett drowned in an accident in Destin, Florida on June 27. He was 35.

    Mallett and about nine to 12 other people were caught in a rip current, and while others were able to make it to a sandbar, he was not, and was swept under the water. By the time lifeguards got to Mallett, he was not breathing. He was pronounced deceased after being rushed to a local hospital. 

    His girlfriend, Madison Carter, who he had been swimming with, confirmed the sad news in a heartfelt post on Facebook with the devastating line, “I'm so sorry I couldn't save you, and I hope you know how hard I tried.”

    Mallett played college football - one at Michigan and three at Arkansas - and he holds the Razorbacks' all-time single-season passing yards and passing touchdown records, in addition to the single season records for total offense and total touchdowns. He was a two-time All-SEC Second-Team selection. He played in the NFL for seven years before retiring to coach, and played for the New England Patriots (2011-2013), the Houston Texans (2014-2015), the Baltimore Ravens (2015-2017), and the TSL Generals (2021). He was hired as the White Hall School head coach in 2022, after spending two years as an assistant.  

    Read more:

    The Spun, Deltaplex News

  • 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. 

  • Jim Brown
    Photo: Jason Meritt / Getty Images

    Legendary football player, activist, and actor Jim Brown passed away on May 18 due to natural causes. He was 87.

    His wife confirmed the sad news on Instagram, writing, “It is with profound sadness that I announce the passing of my husband, Jim Brown. He passed peacefully last night at our LA home. To the world he was an activist, actor, and football star. To our family, he was a loving and wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. Our hearts are broken.” 

    Brown was selected in the first round of the NFL draft in 1957. He played nine seasons for the Cleveland Browns - from 1957 to 1965 - and led the league in rushing for eight of those years. Brown was named a Pro Bowler every year that he played, leading the Browns to the league championship game three times, which they won in 1964. He was named MVP three times, and Sporting News called him the greatest football player ever in 2002. In 2020, Brown was selected to the NFL 100 all-time team, and was ranked as the No. 1 all-time player on the College Football 150 list.

    In addition to being a sports icon, Brown was also very involved in empowering the Black community during the Civil Rights Movement. He organized “The Cleveland Summit” in June 1967, bringing together the nation's top Black athletes to support Muhammad Ali's fight against serving in Vietnam. In 1988, he founded Amer-I-Can to help disadvantaged inner-city youth and ex-convicts. He also worked to curb gang violence in Los Angeles, and advocated for athletes to be more involved in the Black community. 

    Read more:

    ESPN, The New York Times

  • WWE Hall of Famer and in-ring legend Billy Graham passed away on May 17, 2023. He was 79.

    Throughout his illustrious career, Billy Graham wasn't just a phenomenal wrestling talent and stand-up human being, he was one of the most influential wrestlers of his generation. A professional who always went out of his way to take youngsters under his wing, Graham is one of the most respected wrestlers in the history of WWE, and his passing hit the wrestling world incredibly hard. With his larger-than-life personality, massive body, and masterful in-ring ability, Graham quickly became a fan favorite and one of the most important wrestlers in the history of the sport.

    After numerous weeks in the ICU due to health issues, Graham was taken off life support, surrounded by his wife and daughters. Many wrestlers both past and present, took to social media to pay their respects, including Rick Flair, one of the greatest wrestlers of all time who credits his career to Graham and his teachings. 

  • Youngest MVP in MLB history, Vida Blue, passed away on May 6, due to complications from cancer, per the Oakland Athletics' team officials. He was 73.

    “There are few players with a more decorated career than Vida Blue. He was a three-time champion, an MVP, a six-time All-Star, a Cy Young Award winner, and an Oakland A’s Hall of Famer. Vida will always be a franchise legend and a friend. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends during this arduous time," the team also said in a statement. 

    Blue remains the youngest player - at 21 years old - since 1920 to throw a no-hitter, which he did while playing the Minnesota Twins. He went on to win the Al Cy Young and MVP Awards in 1971, with a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts over 312 innings. He made six All-Star teams during his 17-year career, during which he also played for the Giants and Royals.

    Read more:

    Deadline, The New York Times

  • 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.