To be an athlete it means you have inherited the gifted genetics of athleticism for a certain sport, and most likely compete at an elite level while others look on just wishing they could even catch a ball, or line one up to kick. Then, every once in a while there are those who are lucky enough to change the game and excel at two sports, while others should have just stuck to what they know. It all started nearly two decades ago when Deion Sanders pulled a game changer and played in both a professional baseball and football game within 24 hours of one another. He pumped out a quick warm up with the Atlanta Braves, and then got on a flight to join the Atlanta Falcons for a Sunday afternoon game against the Miami Dolphins. This dual sport concept pretty much takes multitasking to all new levels that not everyone is quite able to keep up with. There are a select few who actually succeed and create legends of themselves, while most need to quit while they’re ahead.
With that, here is the top 8 Athletes Who Played In Another Sport and Succeeded and 8 Who Failed.
16 Succeeded: Antonio Gates - Football and Basketball
Antonio Gates is currently a tight end for the San Diego Chargers inthe NFL, and has quite a bit of cushion to his football resume. Over the course of his career he has been selected into the Pro Bowl a total of eight times and is a five-time All-Pro. Originally, he was supposed to go to Michigan State University where he planned on playing both football and basketball. The football coach at the time did not want him to participate on both teams, which led Gates to a transfer to Eastern Michigan University, and later Kent State University. His first junior season the forward won the Mid-American Conference championship. By his senior year he received All-American Honors and his jersey number, 44, was retired.
Unfortunately, NBA scouts told him that he was too much of a “tweener” to ever make the NBA, which landed him in front of NFL scouts. Despite never playing college ball, 19 teams were after him until he took direction with the Chargers in 2003.
15 Failed: Chad Johnson- Football and Soccer
Chad Johnson, better known as Ochocino, is a former wide receiver in the NFL. He spent the bulk of his career on the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted him from Oregon State University. He was traded after nine years with the Bengals to the New England Patriots and the next year picked up by Miami, who later released him after his arrest for domestic violence. Finally, he turned north to Canada to play on the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.
During his lengthy football career he was given numerous opportunities outside of sports such as Dancing with the Stars, a WWE guest host, and professional bull riding. In 2011 during the NFL lockout, Johnson announced he was going to have a four-day trial for the Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer. He prided himself on loving the sport in his youth, however it did not translate over as he was never offered a contract by the team, but was extended the invitation to train with them.
14 Succeeded: Danny Ainge - Basketball and Baseball
Danny Ainge is currently the general manager and President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics in the NBA, previously both a professional basketball and baseball player. He was the only person to be named a high school first team All-American in football, basketball, and baseball. He went back and forth between basketball and baseball, starting at Brigham Young University where he was national basketball college player of the year and won the award for the most outstanding male college basketball player. While in school, he also played up to three seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays in MLB as mostly a second baseman, and was the youngest player in Blue Jays history to hit a home run at 20 years old. He was then drafted into the NBA by the Celtics, who actually had to buy out his contract with the Jays after legal issues, and preceded to play 14 seasons in the NBA.
13 Failed: Tracy McGrady - Basketball and Baseball
Tracy McGrady is a special case and entered the NBA straight out of high school. He was selected in the first round to the Toronto Raptors in 1997, but played around the league hopping to different teams, even hopping across the water to the Chinese Basketball Association. He is a seven time NBA All-star, seven-time All- NBA selection, and a two time scoring champion. He retied from the league in 2013, and he announced a year later that he was finally going to pursue his dream of playing baseball. He worked alongside Roger Clemens to become a pitcher for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Independent Atlantic League. He made the Opening Day roster in 2014, not even pitching for two innings, and later started in the Atlantic League All-Star game where he got his very first strikeout. After that very game he announced his retirement from baseball altogether, but hey, he tried.
12 Succeeded: Charlie Ward - Basketball and Football
Charlie Ward is a bit of a triple threat as a retired NBA basketball player, a college football Heisman Trophy winner, AND, a MLB draftee. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006, despite the fact he is one of the few who was never actually drafted into the NFL. Ward attended Florida State University as a quarterback. During college, even though he never played baseball, he was drafted as a pitcher by the Milwaukee Brewers and played basketball for four years there.
When he graduated from school he was not sure which route he wanted to take with his athletics and made it clear to everyone he would not consider the NFL if he didn’t go in the first round of the draft. Despite his warning and talent, he did not go in the first round and was chosen in the first round of the NBA draft by the New York Knicks, ultimately making his decision.
11 Failed: Tie Domi - Hockey and Football
Tie Domi is a retired professional hockey player who had a 16-year NHL career. He played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, and Winnipeg Jets. While on the Leafs he had more penalty minutes than any other player in the history of the Maple Leafs, and the third overall position in penalty minutes in NHL history, so I guess you could say he had a bit of a heavy hand. Once in a game way back when he even sucker punched another player so hard he was knocked unconscious.
So since he likes to hit other people hard, you would have thought giving football a go would have been a good fit, right? Well, not exactly. He played a total of two pre-season exhibition games as a placekicker for the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL, which didn’t exactly work out. He even tried his hand at soccer playing for Kosovo during the summer of 1995.
10 Succeeded: Jim Brown - Football and Lacrosse
Jim Brown is best known as an American football player. He had a record setting nine-year long career as a fullback for the Cleveland Browns and has even been dubbed the greatest professional football player ever. He attended Syracuse University and was the second leading rusher on the team as a sophomore. Brown was a first team All-American, and set numerous records at the school. In addition to the football, he was excellent in basketball, track, but even more so in lacrosse. During his sophomore year he played basketball as well where he was the second leading scorer and had a letter on the track team.
Brown was later named in his junior year a second team All-American in lacrosse, and the year after a first team All-American. His all around skills led him to be taken in the first round of the 1957 NFL Draft by the Browns.
9 Failed: Johnny Manziel - Football and Baseball
Johnny Manziel has made quite a name for himself both on and off the field in the last few years. Also referred to as Johnny Football, he is a quarterback who is currently a free agent after being surrounded by quite a bit of controversy. He was the Cleveland Browns' 22nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He was once recruited out of high school by Texas A&M as a dual-threat QB. He broke numerous NCAA records with Texas A&M becoming the first freshman and fifth player in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in just one season. That same freshman year he was the first to win a Heisman Trophy and the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award.
In 2014 the San Diego Padres in the MLB drafted Johnny Football in the 28th round. He was listed as a shortstop at Texas A&M, even though he never played for the team. He is described to “certainly love baseball”, but that was the extent of it.
8 Succeeded: Jackie Robinson - Baseball and Track
Jackie Robinson, aka ‘42’, was the first African-American to play in the major leagues of baseball. He broke the typical color barrier when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him as their first baseman. During his ten-year career he received MLB Rookie of the Year, was an All-Star for six seasons in a row, and won the National League MVP as the first black player to ever be honored. His number was universally retired throughout the MLB in 1997 and was even given a “Jackie Robinson Day”, held April 15th where all players wear number 42.
Robinson attended Pasadena Junior College before transferring to UCLA where he became the schools very first athlete to win varsity letters in: baseball, track, basketball, and football. Robinson excelled at track and field, winning the 1940 NCAA Men’s Track and Field Championships in the long jump. He truly was a one in a kind type of athlete.
7 Failed: Drew Henson - Football and Baseball
Drew Henson is a former NFL quarterback, as well as a MLB third baseman, although he did not have great luck in either. He was drafted in 2003 to the Houston Texans from playing college football at Michigan. On top of this, he played for the New York Yankees during the 2002 season, right before he was drafted into football. His not so great season of one hit and three runs scored forced him to retire and pursue football, which was also a bit of a struggle. He was sent overseas by the Cowboys in 2005 to play in the NFL Europe league to ‘work on his skills’ in hopes of coming back to a position. In 2006 he was signed to the practice squad of the Vikings, but was released not even a month later, then re-signed a few months after that. In 2007 he was cut from the team during training camp and signed to the Lions as a free agent.
But of course with his luck he was waived during final cuts, then re-signed to the practice squad a day later.
6 Succeeded: Deion Sanders - Football and Baseball
Deion Sanders is a retired football and baseball player who is now an analyst for CBS Sports and the NFL Network. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame primarily for his work as a cornerback. He has two Super Bowls under his belt in 14 years with both the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers. He had quick closing speed and was a feared pass defender. Sanders was also a well-known outfielder in baseball and played for multiple teams including the New York Yankees. He is the only man to have played in both a Super Bowl and a World Series in baseball (with the Braves).
He was lucky enough that there was a loophole in his NFL contract, which allowed him to play both baseball and football as he had a well-known passion for both. He was never able to concentrate on just one sport as he often said, “football is my wife and baseball is my mistress."
5 Failed: Jose Canseco - Baseball and MMA
Jose Canseco is a well-known former MLB outfielder and designated hitter. You may recognize him as he has been in admittance to using performance enhancing drugs and even wrote a tell all book about his journey, even calling out the other players who were using as well. He started his MLB career with the Oakland Athletics and ended his career with the Chicago White Sox. He achieved many accomplishments during his career such as being the first player to hit 30 home runs for four different clubs, he was distinguished four times with the Silver Slugger award, and is one of eleven players in the MLB history with 400 home runs and 200 stolen bases.
Upon retirement he took up boxing, even to the extent of competing in MMA. He does not have any wins, in fact in his first fight he lasted 76 seconds before tapping out.
4 Succeeded: Bo Jackson - Baseball and Football
Bo Jackson is a former baseball and football player, and considered widely as one of the greatest athletes of all time. He is among the very few to be named an all-star in two major sports, yet the only one to accomplish it in both baseball and football. His fans poured out the walls of just sports and he became a household name though the “Bo Knows” advertising. He was drafted first overall in 1986 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but spent his time with the Los Angeles Raiders due to some controversy with Tampa. His football career ended with a dislocated hip from a tackle, which helped him to focus on baseball.
He was best known for his time on the Kansas City Royals, the defending World Series champions at the time. He later completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Child Development at Auburn, and dabbled in acting appearing on shows such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
3 Failed: Chad Hutchinson - Football and Baseball
Chad Hutchinson is a former NFL quarterback and MLB pitcher. He was a member of the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears, and then the St. Louis Cardinals. He played on the Cowboys who won a bidding war for his services. At 25 years old he was starting as the quarter back, but when the new head coach Bill Parcells came into play he was apart of a highly publicized controversy between him and Quincy Carter for the roster spot, who eventually beat him out. Before he pursued his career of football, he had a rather not so great stint in baseball starting with a list of demands to the Atlanta Braves who drafted him, and agreed to meet his demands, before he turned around and decided to go to school instead. He then signed a four-year contract in 1998 with the Cardinals and began playing on the farm team. He pitched in three games of the big leagues, not faring well giving up 16 base runner and 11 runs in four innings.
2 Succeeded: Jim Thorpe - Baseball and Football
The oldest player on the list, yet one that had to be included, Jim Thorpe has been considered before to be the world’s greatest athlete of the 20th century. He was an American Olympic gold medalist athlete where he won medals in the pentathlon and decathlon. He played collegiate and professional football, as well as professional baseball, basketball, and may or may not have the 1912 Ballroom Dancing Championship. He lost his Olympic titles after it was discovered that he had been paid for playing two seasons of semi-professional baseball just before competing in the Olympic games.
Thorpe was the first president of the American Professional Football Association (APFA), or better now known as the NFL. He endured a long career playing sports professionally until he was 41 years old, the end of his career coinciding with the Great Depression. He was definitely a pioneer in the world of sports, having branched out so much.
1 Failed: Michael Jordan - Basketball and Baseball
Michael Jordan is a retied professional basketball player and one of the greatest NBA players of all time. He really needs no introduction, as he is one of the most effectively marketed athletes ever and from his shoe line to everything in-between, he helped popularize the basketball league. Jordan played for 15 seasons in the league for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, and was given the nickname “Air Jordan” for his extraordinary leaping abilities and slam-dunks.
After winning three straight NBA titles in the 90s, MJ shockingly chose to hang up his shoes to pursue a different career. Jordan announced prior to the 1993-94 season that he was going to pursue a baseball career, as per the wishes of his late father. He played just one season of MLB ball with the White Sox, and released a statement saying he was quitting because he couldn’t develop at the rate he wanted to, due to the baseball strike going on at the time. He returned back to the Bulls and took them to three more championships.