Top 15 Athletes Who Actually Went Back to School

The relationship between academics and sports has long been a rocky one. Take the NBA, for example. Up until 2005, basketball players were free to declare for the draft after they finished high school, prompting much consternation over players who were neglecting a college education in favor of immediate NBA paychecks. As soon as the league changed the rules to limit NBA eligibility to those who have been out of high school for one year or more, the public hand-wringing focused on the unfortunate trend of 'one-and-done' college athletes, who were simply biding their time before the pros came calling.

Indeed, for young, 20-something athletes with professional ambitions, it is tough to have it all. The pursuit of a four-year college degree is a noble one, but it also leaves the possibility of leaving pro money on the table while exposing the athlete to the risk of a career-threatening injury. Turning pro without a college education leaves athletes without a fallback option, but the chance to cash in immediately offers significant financial security.

Given how easy it is to take the professional route and to leave academic life in the rear view mirror, it makes the dedication to education of these 15 athletes all the more remarkable. Each of these athletes has made enough money in their careers to remain comfortable without the need for any further career training. However, with motivations that range from familial pressure to mother's wishes to interests that lie beyond their sport, these 15 talented people made it big... and then went back to class.

15 Jeff Green

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

14 Marcus Stroman

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

When the Toronto Blue Jays recently added ace hurler David Price, injured Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman took to Twitter to express his elation. There are, however, better times to be tweeting than in the middle of a lecture as you work towards completing a Sociology degree at Duke University (he's taking classed during his rehab). To be fair, Stroman was quick to apologize, tweeting:

13 Troy Polamalu

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

12 Eric Karros

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

11 Vince Carter

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

10 Ben Roethlisberger

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

9 Venus Williams

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

8 Mike Komisarek

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

7 Chris Paul

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

6 Bo Jackson

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

5 Kevin Durant

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

4 J.J. Putz

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

3 Michael Jordan

2 Leon Lett

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

1 Shaquille O'Neal

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After a dominant college career, a hugely successful NBA tenure, less than stellar rap and acting pursuits and a strong start to his broadcast career, it's easy to forget that the colorful big man known as Shaq was originally a pretty good student. O'Neal played two years at Louisiana State University before leaving for the NBA, but returned during his playing career to earn a bachelor's degree in general studies, as well as an MBA and a PhD in education. He would later enroll in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Reserve Academy and become a reserve police officer.

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Top 15 Athletes Who Actually Went Back to School