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25 Professional Athletes Who Died Young

Updated January 27, 2020 67.8k views25 items

Several famous baseball players, NFL athletes, and basketball stars have died much too young. Some of these sports stars that died young suffered from undiagnosed medical conditions, while others were killed in car accidents.

Who are some of the most famous professional athletes who died young? In January 2020, NBA legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash with his teenage daughter and seven other people when he was just 41. Bryant was one of the greatest basketball players of all time and had retired from the game less than four years prior to his death.

On February 18, 2001, Dale Earnhardt died in the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. He is widely considered one of the best racers of all time having won seven Winston Cup Championships and several other honors. Other pro athletes that died young who appear on this list include Reggie Lewis, Steve Prefontaine, and Roberto Clemente.

How do you think these tragic deaths could have been prevented? Check out this list of professional athletes who died young below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section. 

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  • Kobe Bryant
    Photo: Gabriel Olsen/Contributor / Getty Images Entertainment

    Kobe Bryant, 41, lost his life in a helicopter accident on January 26, 2020. The helicopter transporting the NBA legend and eight others crashed into a hillside near Calabasas, CA, before catching fire. There were no survivors.

    Widely considered one of the best players in the history of the NBA, Bryant won five NBA titles - all with the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom he spent his entire 20-year career - as well as the 2007-08 league MVP honors. He is the fourth-leading scorer in league history, having just been surpassed by LeBron James for No. 3 on the list.

    After his playing career ended in 2016, Bryant moved into business and entertainment, and even won an Academy Award in 2018 for Best Animated Short for Dear Basketball.

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  • Lou Gehrig died on June 2, 1941 at the age of 37 after suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The fatal disorder has become known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

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  • MLB legend Roberto Clemente's death in 1972 was all the more tragic due to the circumstances. He was on his way to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua when his plane crashed.

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  • On February 18, 2001, Dale Earnhardt died in the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. He is widely considered one of the best racers of all time, having won seven Winston Cup Championships and several other honors.

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