Sports

Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport  

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List Rules Only two-sport athletes who could have been superstars in both sports

Famous athletes who could have dominated a second sport tell the story of men and women with so much athletic ability that they shouldn't be limited to being the best at just one sport when they could easily find success in several sports. Many athletes have tried to become successful two-sport athletes and few have succeeded but dozens more have the potential.

This list isn't about the notable two-sport athletes like Deion Sanders, who won both the Super Bowl and a World Series, or Hershel Walker, who won the Heisman Trophy, appeared in the Winter Olympics in bobsled and competed in mixed martial arts, or Michael Jordan, who returned after retiring from the NBA to play in the MLB, or Bo Jackson, who enjoyed success playing professional football and baseball during his career. This list is about the athletes who despite having the talent to dominate two sports, stuck to one and became one of the best to ever play.

For many athletes, this choice between two sports was an early one. Tom Brady for instance was selected in the MLB Draft but declined to play football. His three Super Bowl rings and numerous NFL records show he made a wise choice. Kirk Gibson was one of the best wide receivers in NCAA Football but chose the MLB contract offer over the one from the NFL. He went on to win two World Series and is still active as a highly successful MLB manager. Wilt Chamberlain had the choice of track, basketball, volleyball, boxing and football in his early years. He picked basketball and for that is now a household name.

These big names and so many more from professional football, basketball, baseball, hockey and other sports could have easily dominated a second sport. For one reason or another they made the tough decision to focus on one primary sport and in many cases went on to become legends in that sport. It would be tough to think that they regret the decision but one they certainly look back upon and wonder "what if?"
list ordered by
1
Bo Jackson is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
RussellHinsley added age 57
Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson (born November 30, 1962) is an American former baseball and football player. He is the only professional athlete in history to be named an All-Star in both ...more
2
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
madd added age 52
Deion Luwynn Sanders Sr. (; born August 9, 1967), nicknamed "Prime Time" and "Neon Deion", is a retired American football player, baseball player and sports analyst who ...more
3
Jim Thorpe is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
aman ikram added Dec. at 65 (1888-1953)
James Francis Thorpe (May 22 or 28, 1887 – March 28, 1953) was an American athlete and Olympic gold medalist. A member of the Sac and Fox Nation, Thorpe became the first Native American to win a ...more
4
LeBron James is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
Veggamattic added age 35
Played football in high school before his historic NBA career LeBron Raymone James Sr. (; born December 30, 1984) is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). His accomplishments ...more
5
Jim Brown is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
MarioKidd added age 83
College letterman in Football, Baseball, Lacrosse and Track James Nathaniel Brown (born February 17, 1936) is an American former professional football player and actor. He was a running back for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL) ...more
6
Wilt Chamberlain is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
Dec. at 63 (1936-1999)
Before becoming a legend in the NBA, he was sought after by nearly every sport from track, volleyball, boxing and football Wilton Norman Chamberlain (; August 21, 1936 – October 12, 1999) was an American basketball player who played as a center and is considered one of the greatest players in history. He played for ...more
7
Usain Bolt is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
Sportsman added age 33
Usain St Leo Bolt (; born 21 August 1986) is a retired Jamaican sprinter. He is a world record holder in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 4 × 100 metres relay. Owing to his achievements and ...more
8
Jesse Owens is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
rosemary-hallett added Dec. at 67 (1913-1980)
James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens (September 12, 1913 – March 31, 1980) was an American track and field athlete and four-time gold medalist in the 1936 Olympic Games. Owens specialized in ...more
9
Herschel Walker is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
aman ikram added age 57
Herschel Walker (born March 3, 1962) is an American former professional football player, bobsledder, sprinter, and mixed martial artist. He played college football for the University of Georgia, ...more
10
Jackie Robinson is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
Tangy Tiger added Dec. at 53 (1919-1972)
Jack Roosevelt Robinson (January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972) was an American professional baseball player who became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the ...more
11
Russell Wilson is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
AndrewGiessen added age 31
Russell Carrington Wilson (born November 29, 1988) is an American football quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the ...more
12
Steve Nash is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
bfmhf added age 45
Could be playing soccer in the MLS Stephen John Nash (born 7 February 1974) is a Canadian former professional basketball player who played 18 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was an eight-time NBA All-Star ...more
13
Allen Iverson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
age 44
Earned all-state honors in high school football playing quarterback before joining the National Basketball Association Allen Ezail Iverson (; born June 7, 1975), nicknamed "the Answer", is an American former professional basketball player. He played 14 seasons in the National Basketball Association ...more
14
Tony Gonzalez is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
age 43
Dominated college football and basketball, including playing in the 1997 Sweet Sixteen, before enjoying a successful professional football career Anthony David Gonzalez (born February 27, 1976) is a former American football tight end. He played college football and college basketball at University of California, Berkeley, and was ...more
15
John Elway is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
age 59
Spent time in the minors for the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals before going on to become one of the best football players ever John Albert Elway Jr. (born June 28, 1960) is a former American football quarterback who is currently general manager and President of Football Operations of the Denver Broncos of the National ...more
16
Antonio Gates is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
AdamKoalaSchoenberg added age 39
Played basketball at Kent State before joining the Chargers Antonio Ethan Gates Jr. (born June 18, 1980) is an American football tight end who is currently a free agent. He has been selected into the Pro Bowl eight times and is a five-time All-Pro.Gates ...more
17
Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
Gookin added age 47
Shaquille Rashaun "Shaq" O'Neal ( shə-KEEL; SHAK; born March 6, 1972) is a retired professional American basketball player who is a sports analyst on the television program Inside the ...more
18
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
AdamKoalaSchoenberg added age 39
Played college basketball at North Carolina Julius Frazier Peppers (born January 18, 1980) is a former American football defensive end. He played college football at North Carolina, where he was recognized as a unanimous All-American, and ...more
19
Brock Lesnar is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
age 42
In addition to spending time in professional wrestling, he once made the roster for the Minnesota Vikings Brock Edward Lesnar (; born July 12, 1977) is an American professional wrestler, and former mixed martial artist and professional football player currently signed to WWE, where he performs on ...more
20
Hakeem Olajuwon is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
age 56
Started a promising soccer career in his native Nigeria before coming to the United States to play basketball Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon (; Yoruba: [olaɟuwɔ̃]; born January 21, 1963), formerly spelled (& still pronounced as) Akeem Olajuwon, is a Nigerian-American former professional basketball player. ...more
21
Nate Robinson is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
AdamKoalaSchoenberg added age 34
Plays in the NBA, but was an All-American football player at the University of Washington Nathaniel Robinson (born January 18, 1985) is a former American football defensive tackle. He was signed by the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2008. Once a heralded high school ...more
22
Tim Duncan is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
age 43
Planned to compete in swimming in the Summer Olympics but after his pool was destroyed by a hurricane, focused his energy on basketball Timothy Theodore Duncan (born April 25, 1976) is an American professional basketball coach and former player who is an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball ...more
23
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
Tom Derr added age 56
Michael Jeffrey Jordan (born February 17, 1963), also known by his initials MJ, is an American former professional basketball player and the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets of the ...more
24
Eric Decker is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
age 32
Drafted twice into Major League Baseball but declined to play in the NFL Eric Thomas Decker (born March 15, 1987) is a former American football wide receiver who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 8 seasons. He played college football and college ...more
25
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
KirkSaw added age 44
Boxing Legend Bert Sugar claimed that the heavyweight division is lacking because athletes who historically would become boxing's stars in the premier division now go to other sports. He said that the best two heavyweight boxers in the world are NFL linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher. Raymond Anthony Lewis Jr. (born May 15, 1975) is a former American football linebacker who played all of his 17-year professional career for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League ...more