It can be great for a kid to have a famous athlete as a parent. The fame, the riches, the attention, it’s all terrific. But there are downsides as many an athlete is famous for being a pretty lousy guy at home. However, in some cases, a loving parent can inadvertedly have a bad effect, especially when their kid tries to follow in their footsteps. Many a would-be star has done their best to live up to their father’s legacy but it hasn’t worked out. They just don’t have the talent or the skill to rise up and thus lay in their parents’ shadow.
In some cases, a life can fall apart although thankfully, it’s more just kids not living up to expectations. A few times, you have them not only in the shadow of their father but also a sibling who’s far better. It’s a shame as some of these folks weren’t too bad and could have gone further but the expectations of their family name end up overshadowing anything they do. It’s too bad so many are judged and put against their parents rather than as themselves but it’s how it happens. Here are 15 athletes who were far too overshadowed by their parents to often poor results and how fame is a double-edged sword.
16 Anthony Dorsett
One of the greatest running backs of all time, Tony Dorsett won the Heisman Trophy and was the first man to win a national championship and then a Super Bowl the next year. Revered as one of the greatest Dallas Cowboys ever, Dorsett retired with several records and highly respected by friends and foes alike. Son Anthony followed his dad in college and then the NFL but nowhere near the same power. He spent four seasons with the Oilers and was with them when they became the Titans, reaching the Super Bowl but losing to the Rams. Dorsett then played for the Raiders for a few years before moving onto football in Canada. His entire NFL career was 290 tackles and two touchdowns, nowhere near the numbers of his father and sad how he had to be in his dad’s shadow so badly.
15 Alexandra Stevenson
In 1999, Alexandra Stevenson came out of nowhere for a successful run in Wimbledon, coming all the way to the semi-finals. This led to new interest in her and someone soon dug up her birth certificate to find out the stunning truth: Stevenson was the daughter of legendary NBA star Julius “Dr. J” Erving. Erving had an affair with Stevenson’s sportswriter mother and actually missed her birth as he was facing the Pacers that day. Indeed, Erving refused to acknowledge Stevenson for years and thus a huge deal when this was made public. While Stevenson’s career afterward was okay, it wasn’t as huge as it could have been and speculation is that the revelation of her parentage affected her. Eventually, father and daughter reconciled to give a happy ending but Stevenson seemed annoyed that too many saw her as Dr. J’s daughter instead of a top tennis pro.
14 Roberto Clemente Jr.
To this day, Pirates fans hold Clemente as one of the greatest legends ever. A fifteen time All-Star, he led the Pirates to two World championships and his amazing skill had him regarded as one of the best players of his time. He was also a champion to the minorities of Pittsburgh who hailed him as their hero. His death in a plane crash was a shocking loss that added to his legend. Thus when his son, Roberto Jr., began playing, some had hopes of him the second coming of his dad. Despite good promise, however, Junior was marred by injuries that kept him from breaking out in the majors.
Today, Robert Jr. is now doing charity work to keep his father’s name alive that way and thus seen as a man always in his dad’s shadow for better and worse.
13 Trevor Gretzky
In a way, he’s been smart. Trevor was just a kid when his dad was creating the Oilers dynasty and regarded as the greatest hockey player of all time. When Wayne was traded to Los Angeles, Trevor found the Southwest to his liking and took to roller blading more than skating. Wayne was up front on how someone who couldn’t skate couldn’t make it in the NHL and so Trevor decided baseball was his sport. Right now, he’s just in the minors and his skills are hardly what one would call great, so it's highly unlikely he ever cracks to the big leagues. Trevor does show he’s wise not to get into the same sport as his father but comparisons are still there and sadly, Trevor doesn’t come close to living up to his father’s fame.
12 Pete Rose Jr.
You have to feel for this kid. It’s easy to forget that before 1989, Pete Rose was considered an absolute lock for the Hall of Fame. A three-time World Series champion, seventeen time All-Star and the all-time hits leader, they pretty much had Charlie Hustle’s Cooperstown statue carved out. A batboy for his dad on the Reds and Phillies, Jr. wanted to follow in his footsteps but lacked the same power and fast feet. His time in the minors was forgettable and he was called up to the Phillies for one brief season hitting .143 and clearly just promoted because of his dad.
Of course, Rose would soon hit infamy by being banned from baseball for life for gambling and Junior would be convicted of selling drugs. So it looks like in one way, the younger Rose followed his dad after all.
11 Marcus Jordan
Michael Jordan is known of course as arguably the best basketball player of all time. His skill was key to the Bulls dominating the 1990s and Jordan himself a media sensation. He also had an ego and temper that rubbed a slew of guys the wrong way. Yet his legacy is still something massive, perhaps too much for son Marcus to overcome. He appeared to inherit little of his father’s talent and all of his bad behavior. Playing for the University of Central Florida, Marcus refused to honor the school contract with Adidas as Jordans were known for and thus Adidas terminated their contract, costing UCF millions. Marcus never completed college, amid issues of arrests and a famous case of blowing about 50 grand in Vegas. Today, he’s running a special clothing store at Disney World and a lot better there than his constant marring of his dad’s name.
10 Edson Cholbi Nascimento
Mention soccer and Pele springs to mind. To this day, he is revered for his astounding play, a skill and drive never seen before and few have matched him since. He led Brazil to three World Cup titles and his amazing style made soccer more popular than ever before as an international sport. Thus, his son, Edson, was expected to follow him well. He had a good style but was a goal-keeper unlike his father and clearly not as skillful. He bounced around various clubs, mainly going off his dad’s name rather than anything of note himself. Sadly, Edson has become more infamous for run-ins with the law, arrests for drug trafficking and currently serving a nearly 50-year sentence for drug dealing and money laundering. Harder to fall from your father’s grace than that.
9 Drew Barry
Rick Barry’s style on the court was unorthodox but it got results. The fantastic Barry was pulling off moves not seen before, able to take even legends like Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell to the limit and playing on through injuries. He led the Warriors to the 1975 title and named the Finals MVP, a fine achievement to cap off his career. His son Brent followed his father well, winning two titles with the Spurs. Sadly, Drew has failed to achieve the same level of success. “The Forgotten Barry” as some have nicknamed him, Drew had a so-so go in Georgia Tech and seemed to be picked by the Hawks just for his last name. He didn’t last long, going to Seattle but failing to have an impact and soon drifting around the league and then in Europe. His dad and brother were champs but Drew’s own career was forgettable at best.
8 Patrick Ewing Jr.
While he never got an NBA title, Patrick Ewing is recognized as one of the best players of his time. An 11-time All-Star, Ewing simply had the bad luck to be playing in the same era as Jordan, Johnson and Bird and so could never get that championship. But he still retired regarded as a fine athlete so expectations were natural his son and namesake could follow in his footsteps. Instead, Jr only had a handful of appearances for the New Orleans Pelicans which would turn out to be the extent of his NBA career. He had none of his dad’s skill or power and also a lack of temperament that made the elder Ewing a well-regarded leader. It’s a shame Patrick never got an NBA title but not helped by his son failing to even come close to following his legacy.
7 Kerry Earnhardt
“The Intimidator” is still spoken of with reverence by NASCAR drivers and fans. His famous number 3 car was always a great sight on the track as Dale racked up multiple championships and a major winner. He was still at the top of his game when he was killed in a horrific wreck at the 2001 Daytona 500. The spotlight fell on his son Kerry whose resemblance to his father was astounding. Sadly, that was just in looks as Kerry simply did not have the same success on the race track. He failed to win a single race and only finished in the top 10 six times. Kerry announced his retirement in 2007 and it was a quiet one as he’s let brother Dale Jr. take up their father’s legacy far better than Kerry ever could.
6 Jarrett Payton
Walter Payton was a complex guy. Troubled and intense, he was nicknamed “Sweetness” for his kind treatment of kids and being good-natured. His entire career with the Chicago Bears had him missing just one game and he was stunning on the field. Holding the record for most rushing yards, Payton could stop on a dime and do moves no one else imagined, reaching his high point with the Bears Super Bowl championship season. Walter sadly passed on from cancer in 1999, a huge loss for Chicago. His son Jarrett thus had high hopes pinned on him but despite a good start in Miami, couldn’t really show his stuff in the pros. He had one year with the Titans before being cut without an impact and drifted into arena football and the CFL.
Today, Jarrett keeps up holding onto his father’s businesses and a Chicago radio show but the son of “Sweetness” had a sour career for himself.
5 Matt Singletary
The 1985 Chicago Bears are recognized as one of the greatest teams ever thanks to their amazing defense. The leader of that was Mike Singletary, nicknamed “Samurai” for his fantastic drive and power. Mike has since gone on as a coach for the 49ers and others and still known for a hard outlook. That hasn’t rubbed off on son Matt. A promising player, Matt failed to make the cut in the 2012 draft and soon fell by the wayside. He tried over and over but even his dad couldn’t talk a team into giving him more than a basic tryout. Matt himself hasn’t helped with stories of a rough attitude and thinking he’s a bigger deal than he truly is. It's a shame as his father could strike fear in the hearts of opposing players but his son doesn’t wield the “Samurai” label as sharply.
4 Nate Montana
When your dad is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, it’s going to cause a shadow to be sure. Joe, of course, was the man who transformed the 49ers from a joke to a dynasty with four Super Bowl championships, three of them with him named MVP and still revered in San Francisco. Sadly, son Nate couldn’t match it. He started as his dad’s alma mater at Notre Dame as a walk-on but it led nowhere. So Nate went to West Virginia then back to ND and then around a bit more. He just couldn’t come close to his father’s skill, becoming more famous for being among several ND players arrested for a mass drinking incident. That pretty much soured any chances of him getting to the NFL even with that last name and showcases how a famous dad can be a hindrance more than a help.
3 Chris Simms
He may not have been among the most elite ever but Phil Simms is still recognized as a fantastic quarterback. He was one of the best in New York Giants history, playing his entire 14-season career there and leading them to two Super Bowl championships. That’s a hell of a legacy for any namesake but sons Matt and Chris have struggled to match it. Matt is okay, a backup for the Falcons but doesn't have much else going on. Chris, however, is worse. He had promise at Texas and the Bucs no doubt thought he’d turn into something big when they drafted him. But then injuries cut him own, one a brutal hit that had him hospitalized. He was never the same after that, drifting around the NFL until finally cut. Now working with his dad as a commentator for CBS, Chris showed that the injury bug his dad avoided hit him big time to cut his career down.
2 Jerry Rice Jr.
In 20 seasons in the NFL, Jerry Rice was known as one of the best players in the league. He was a key to the 49ers dynasty, winning three Super Bowls and later playing for the Cowboys and Seahawks. He’s generally recognized as the greatest wide receiver ever and one of the best players of all time. That’s a major legacy and perhaps not surprising his son Jerry Jr. can’t quite match up to it. Jr. spent time at UCLA and UNLV where naturally, expectations were high he’d inherited his dad’s speed and skill. He couldn't hack it as the guy just didn’t have the same running style or ability. He was signed by the Redskins in 2014 but was soon cut and hasn’t played in the NFL since. Sr. may be a fantastic player but his shadow was way too much for his namesake to overcome.