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Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport

Updated January 27, 2020 13.6k votes 2.7k voters 39.5k views60 items

List RulesOnly 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?"
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  • 1
    Bo Jackson is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
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    Bo Jackson

    Age: 58

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceBessemer, Alabama, United States of America

    TeamsOakland Raiders, Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Chicago White Sox

    Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson (born November 30, 1962) is an American former baseball and... more on Wikipedia
  • 2
    Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    612
    155

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceFort Myers, Florida, USA

    TeamsSan Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons

    Deion Luwynn Sanders Sr. (; born August 9, 1967), nicknamed "Prime Time" and "Neon Deion", is... more on Wikipedia
  • 3
    LeBron James is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    1,083
    328

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceAkron, Ohio, United States of America

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers

    Played football in high school before his historic NBA career
  • 4
    Wilt Chamberlain is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    584
    199

    Wilt Chamberlain

    Dec. at 63 (1936-1999)

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplacePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia 76ers

    Before becoming a legend in the NBA, he was sought after by nearly every sport from track, volleyball, boxing and football
  • 5
    Jim Brown is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    444
    150

    Jim Brown

    Age: 84

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceSt. Simons, Georgia, United States of America

    TeamsCleveland Browns, Syracuse Orange football

    College letterman in Football, Baseball, Lacrosse and Track
  • 6
    Jim Thorpe is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    223
    48

    Jim Thorpe

    Dec. at 65 (1888-1953)

    NationalityFrance, United States of America

    BirthplaceOklahoma, United States of America

    TeamsArizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, New York Giants, Boston Braves, Oorang Indians

    James Francis Thorpe (May 22 or 28, 1887 – March 28, 1953) was an American athlete and Olympic... more on Wikipedia
  • 7
    Usain Bolt is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    434
    170

    Usain Bolt

    Age: 34

    NationalityJamaica

    BirthplaceSherwood Content, Jamaica

    Usain St Leo Bolt (; born 21 August 1986) is a retired Jamaican sprinter. He is a world... more on Wikipedia
  • 8
    Allen Iverson is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    382
    180

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceHampton, Virginia, United States of America

    Earned all-state honors in high school football playing quarterback before joining the National Basketball Association
  • 9
    Russell Wilson is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    243
    97

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceCincinnati, Ohio

    TeamsSeattle Seahawks, Wisconsin Badgers football, NC State Wolfpack football

    Russell Carrington Wilson (born November 29, 1988) is an American football quarterback for the... more on Wikipedia
  • 10
    Steve Nash is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    330
    150

    Steve Nash

    Age: 46

    NationalityCanada, England

    BirthplaceJohannesburg, South Africa

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Suns

    Could be playing soccer in the MLS
  • 11
    Jesse Owens is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    127
    31

    Jesse Owens

    Dec. at 67 (1913-1980)

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceOakville, Alabama, United States of America

    James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens (September 12, 1913 – March 31, 1980) was an American track and... more on Wikipedia
  • 12
    Tony Gonzalez is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    289
    135

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceUSA, California, Torrance

    TeamsKansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, California Golden Bears football

    Dominated college football and basketball, including playing in the 1997 Sweet Sixteen, before enjoying a successful professional football career
  • 13
    Herschel Walker is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    134
    41

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceGeorgia, USA, Wrightsville

    TeamsDallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Georgia Bulldogs football team

    Herschel Walker (born March 3, 1962) is an American former professional football player,... more on Wikipedia
  • 14
    Jackie Robinson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    96
    18

    Jackie Robinson

    Dec. at 53 (1919-1972)

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceCairo, Georgia, United States of America

    TeamsUCLA Bruins football, Brooklyn Dodgers, Brooklyn Dodgers, Kansas City Monarchs, Los Angeles Bulldogs

    Jack Roosevelt Robinson (January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972) was an American professional... more on Wikipedia
  • 15
    John Elway is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    248
    124

    John Elway

    Age: 60

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplacePort Angeles, Washington, United States of America

    TeamsDenver Broncos, Stanford Cardinal football

    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
  • 16
    Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    195
    114

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceNewark, New Jersey, United States of America

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics

    Shaquille Rashaun "Shaq" O'Neal ( shə-KEEL; SHAK; born March 6, 1972) is a retired... more on Wikipedia
  • 17
    Brock Lesnar is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    222
    135

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceWebster, South Dakota, United States of America

    In addition to spending time in professional wrestling, he once made the roster for the Minnesota Vikings
  • 18
    Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    124
    62

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceWilson, North Carolina

    TeamsGreen Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers, North Carolina Tar Heels football

    Played college basketball at North Carolina
  • 19
    Antonio Gates is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    176
    107

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceDetroit, Michigan, United States of America

    TeamsSan Diego Chargers

    Played basketball at Kent State before joining the Chargers
  • 20
    Hakeem Olajuwon is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    158
    96

    NationalityNigeria, United States of America

    BirthplaceLagos, Nigeria

    TeamsHouston Rockets, Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors

    Started a promising soccer career in his native Nigeria before coming to the United States to play basketball
  • 21
    Tim Duncan is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    143
    86

    Tim Duncan

    Age: 44

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceChristiansted, United States Virgin Islands

    TeamsSan Antonio Spurs, San Antonio Spurs, Wake Forest Demon Deacons men's basketball

    Planned to compete in swimming in the Summer Olympics but after his pool was destroyed by a hurricane, focused his energy on basketball
  • 22
    Nate Robinson is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    112
    62

    BirthplaceIrvington, New Jersey

    Plays in the NBA, but was an All-American football player at the University of Washington
  • 23
    Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    89
    51

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    TeamsChicago Bulls, Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, Washington Wizards, North Carolina Tar Heels men's basketball

    Michael Jeffrey Jordan (born February 17, 1963), also known by his initials MJ, is an American... more on Wikipedia
  • 24
    Pat Riley is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    83
    48

    Pat Riley

    Age: 75

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceRome, New York, United States of America

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns

    Selected in the 1967 NFL Draft and the 1967 NBA Draft and played several seasons in the NBA before becoming one of the best basketball coaches of all time
  • 25
    Eric Decker is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport
    107
    72

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceCold Spring, Minnesota, United States of America

    TeamsDenver Broncos, New York Jets, Minnesota Golden Gophers football

    Drafted twice into Major League Baseball but declined to play in the NFL
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