15 Athletes Who Tried Other Sports... And Failed Miserably

Some athletes are so talented, physically gifted and insanely motivated that they're able to make transitions to different sports.

Top-tier professional athletes and also individuals capable of winning Olympic medals are able to achieve remarkable accomplishments that allow them to become recognized Superstars all around the world. Some are so talented, physically gifted and also insanely motivated and ambitious that they're able to make transitions to different sports. Bo Jackson may be the first such athlete who comes to mind. Jackson was a game-changing force in the backfield for the Los Angeles Raiders (and, of course, in video games), but he also had the goods to play in Major League Baseball. It’s possible Jackson could have maintained noteworthy careers in both sports if injury woes didn’t permanently sideline him after only four football seasons. We’ll honestly never know just how good Bo could’ve been.

For every Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders physically capable of playing multiple sports, there are a plethora of cases of people who tried other sports only to miserably and spectacularly fail in those endeavors. The greatest National Basketball Association player in history and also a pair of professional wrestlers are only a few examples. Of course, one cannot discuss this matter in the summer of 2017 without mentioning Ultimate Fighting Championship Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor. The outspoken McGregor who has talked the talk and walked the walk during his mixed martial arts career is looking to make history and defeat Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match. Most knowledgeable individuals aren’t giving McGregor much a chance to win that bout, and some expect to see his name featured on future lists of athletes who failed while trying to be two-sports stars.

15 Usain Bolt - Basketball/Soccer 


Usain Bolt, the fastest man alive, has not been shy about trying other sports throughout his adult life. Bolt has played in promotional cricket matches over the years, and he flashed some talent during those events. Things didn’t go so well for Bolt during the 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game, however, as he scored only two points and struggled handling the rock on the court.

Last but certainly not least, Bolt has also been open about wanting to play for Manchester United once he's done running races competitively, and he even sought the blessing of one Sir Alex Ferguson. In July 2017, however, Bolt heavily hinted that he sees the writing on the wall and realizes the only way he’ll ever wear a United shirt during a meaningful match will be via a video game. You can’t win them all, Mr. Bolt.

14 James Toney - MMA


James Toney should have a legacy as being one of the best pound-for-pound boxers of his generation, and he should be remembered for winning multiple championships. That isn’t necessarily the case these days, however, as some see him as the guy who dared to step foot into a UFC Octagon because he arrogantly believed he could hang with any professional MMA fighter, let alone with one as talented as Randy Couture.

Couture taught Toney a quick and embarrassing lesson at UFC 118, however, as he made light work out of the boxer and won the fight via submission in under 3:30 of round one. One has to wonder if McGregor has gone back and watched this fight to give himself a little extra motivation heading into his bout with Mayweather.

13 Justin Gatlin - NFL 

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Gatlin was viewed as the fastest human on the planet after he won the 100m at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, but much that he accomplished became tainted in the eyes of some critics after he allegedly tested positive for a banned substance in 2006. With his career on the track going nowhere, Gatlin decided to give life in the National Football League a try, and he was presented opportunities to train with both the Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

While there’s something to be said for the old adage “you can’t teach speed,” it also appears you couldn’t teach Gatlin how to become a pro wide receiver at that point of his life. Gatlin never really flirted with playing a down of pro football during his stints with clubs, which shouldn’t be surprising considering his limited experience.

12 Dwain Chambers - NFL 


We follow Justin Gatlin in this list with Dwain Chambers, if only because their stories are somewhat similar. Like Gatlin, Chambers was an accomplished track star who is largely remembered for alleged inabilities to remain clean and pass performance-enhancing drug tests during his physical prime. Also like Gatlin, Chambers attempted to find a second career in the NFL.

While Chambers was given an opportunity with the Hamburg Sea Devils of NFL Europe, that league closed before he was able to truly jump-start a tenure as a wide receiver. Years later, Chambers went on to say that making the switch from track to American football, especially for somebody from England who didn’t grow up playing and watching the sport, is like “learning the game of chess from scratch.”

11 Emmanuel Yarbrough - MMA


Unless you're an active follower of sumo wrestling who knows about the history of the sport, you probably aren't aware Emmanuel Yarbrough was a world amateur champion in 1995. Instead, you likely recognize the name from his failed MMA career that was more so about spectacle and creating buzz than it was any organization attempting to find a future champion.

Yarbrough lost his one and only UFC bout to Keith Hackney at UFC 3, where he proved to be an example of how a smaller man can dominate a larger opponent in such a fight. In total, Yarbrough went 1-2 in recognized bouts, the last of which occurred in 1998. In the modern era, an individual such as Yarbrough would never be licensed to compete for any respectable MMA promotion.

10 Manute Bol - Ice Hockey 


Former NBA player Manute Bol was a fascinating individual for reasons other than the fact he was roughly 7-foot-7 during his prime. Bol was also a kind soul and a charitable individual who wasn’t against risking embarrassment to raise funds for his Ring True Foundation. For starters, his Celebrity Boxing encounter versus William "Refrigerator" Perry was ugly to watch even if Bol managed to win that fight.

In 2002, the Indianapolis Ice of the Central Hockey League, a team willing to embrace any and all gimmicks, gave Bol a chance to play in a game even though he couldn’t skate. While Bol’s hockey career ended before it technically began since he never made it onto the ice during the game, he nevertheless signed autographs for fans at the arena. Bol was also a failed jockey who never rode his horse during a fundraising event, but that probably didn’t matter much to him on that day.

9 Jose Canseco - MMA 


Jose Canseco is different things to different people depending on age and other factors. Some remember Canseco for blasting monster home runs during his time in Major League Baseball, while others know him as the former star who spoke up about players using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. You may even mostly know him for tweets.

In 2009, Canseco was given an opportunity to fight in MMA at Dream 9 versus Choi Hong-man. Not surprisingly, it went poorly for the former slugger. Choi knocked Canseco off his feet roughly one minute into the bout, and Canseco responded by doing all he could to protect himself from punches while on the ground until the referee mercifully ended the fight and Canseco’s short-lived MMA career before he was seriously injured or worse.

8 Marion Jones - WNBA 


Former track star Marion Jones experienced plenty of ups and downs during both her careers and her personal life. Jones won titles, medals and awards, but her reputation was tarnished beyond repair following the BALCO investigation and her subsequent confession regarding her use of banned substances. She later spent time behind bars because of lying to a federal investigator.

Perhaps in an attempt to salvage her status as a public figure or maybe because she didn’t know what else to do, Jones signed with WNBA franchise the Tulsa Shock. Jones failed to cement herself as even a bench player with the Shock within two years, however, and she was cut in July 2011. She wasn’t even averaging a point per game during that campaign when the Shock parted ways with her.

7 Jerry Rice - Golf 


For whatever reasons, there are some all-time legendary athletes out there who believe they can play golf professionally just because they won titles in other sports. Jerry Rice is probably the greatest receiver in NFL history, and he’s also a three-time Super Bowl champion.

Years after he last caught a pass during a meaningful game, Rice decided to give golf a go, and he was handed a sponsor's exemption for the 2010 Fresh Express Classic. At 47 years old, Rice opened his attempt to go pro at golf by shooting an 83, and he followed that up with a 76 to go 17-over par. As bad as this was, Rice could, at least, take solace in the fact that he finished those two rounds ahead of one golfer on the scoreboard.

6 Tracy McGrady - Baseball 


Tracy McGrady may not have “won enough” during his impressive NBA career, but that didn’t keep voters from electing him into the Hall of Fame. If nothing else, his monster dunk over big man Shawn Bradley that will be replayed so long as the NBA exists should’ve been good enough to get him at least a special mention. After he had retired from basketball and was past his physical prime, McGrady decided to pursue his dream of playing professional baseball as a pitcher.

In April 2014, McGrady made the final roster of the Sugar Land Skeeters, largely because of his name. While he did manage to notch a strikeout in that year’s Atlantic League's All-Star Game, he retired that summer with a 6.75 ERA. We’ll see if Tim Tebow’s baseball career lasts longer than McGrady’s.

5 CM Punk - MMA 

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

We’re not hearing any criticisms or hot takes about whether or not a pro wrestler is, in fact, an athlete, and that is why CM Punk checks in on the list. Punk won multiple awards, honors and titles during his pro wrestling career, but he unexpectedly parted ways with World Wrestling Entertainment in January 2014 for a variety of reasons.

In December of that same year, the UFC announced the promotion had signed Punk, but he didn’t make his official debut for the organization until September 2016 at UFC 203. Mickey Gall thoroughly dominated and dismantled Punk during that one-sided affair that lasted roughly 2:14 before the former WWE Champion tapped out to a rear-naked choke. Punk hasn’t fought since that night, and we recommend he doesn’t do so anytime soon either. 

4 Chad Ochocinco - MLS  


One has to respect Chad Ochocinco, Chad Johnson or whatever else you’d like to call him for speaking his mind, and also for the noteworthy numbers he produced as a wide receiver throughout his career. In March 2011, during which there were real concerns about a potential NFL work stoppage, Johnson had a five-day tryout with Major League Soccer club Sporting Kansas City. While nobody could question he was an impressive athlete out on the pitch, it took little time to see he was far better with his hands than with his feet, as his on-the-ball skills left much to be desired.

In March 2016, Johnson publicly stated the he still believed he could feature for the MLS side. We mean no disrespect, Chad, but we aren’t convinced you would get into an NPSL team let alone one capable of competing for an MLS Cup.

3 Brock Lesnar - NFL 


Brock Lesnar is different than the others on the list in that he actually did make a successful transition in the sports world. In fact, Lesnar has jumped back and forth between the WWE and UFC on multiple occasions, and there are more than a few whispers in the summer of 2017 the former UFC Heavyweight Champion could return to the Octagon for another big-money fight.

One thing Lesnar couldn’t achieve after his original departure from the WWE was make it on an active NFL roster. In 2004, Lesnar received workouts with the Minnesota Vikings, and the Vikings even used him during preseason contests. While he was a beast on the field as he is in the ring, the NFL is filled with similar athletes, and Lesnar was unable to complete the transition. The Vikings parted ways with him before the start of the 2004 regular season.

2 Tony Romo - Golf (U.S. Open) 


Critics and those who simply hate the Dallas Cowboys may make jokes about Tony Romo and the fact the quarterback failed to win much of note during postseason encounters. Romo is, however, arguably the greatest regular-season quarterback in franchise history, and he also happens to be a pretty good golfer. Just as with Jerry Rice, however, the line that separates good golfers from those who are able to play the sport professionally is larger than some would like to believe.

In May 2017, Romo began his NFL retirement tour by attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open. Romo didn’t perform horribly, as he finished 40th out of 107 competitors. Still, we recommend Romo stick to the commentary booth now that his playing days are in the past.

1 Michael Jordan - MLB 


Odds are you're probably at least slightly familiar with the final example of an athlete who failed miserably while trying a different sport. Michael Jordan originally retired from the Chicago Bulls in 1993 a three-time NBA Champion, and he then, somewhat shockingly, signed a minor league baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox in 1994. Jordan largely struggled at the plate as a member of the Birmingham Barons, striking out a total of 114 times in 127 games.

While he boosted attendance figures for obvious reasons, it was probably best for all involved Jordan returned to the Bulls in the spring of 1995. Jordan, obviously, made the right decision, as he helped the Bulls win three more titles before he parted ways with the club for good.

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15 Athletes Who Tried Other Sports... And Failed Miserably