Many of the skills required to play most sports, such as coordination and physical fitness, are transferable across a number of sports. After all, most of us probably knew one kid at school who was the best at every sport. Elite athletes are often not the most modest of characters - confidence in one's own ability is often integral to success in sport - and as such, many of them think they can turn their hand to a new sport with no trouble.
In some cases, such as Bo Jackson, this goes very well. In most cases though, the athlete finds that their peers, who have had years of training and experience in the sport, are rather more well-equipped to play the sport at the highest level. Those who make the switch to a different sport and succeed deserve a great deal of credit, because as you're about to see, it is no easy job, with some world class athletes having tried and failed.
The list is ranked mostly by the extent of the failure, but also the attention and interest which followed the athletes switch. There can be a number of reasons for a change of sport. Some athletes lose their love for their sport and move on to another, while some face bans from their current sport or feel they are too old to compete and hence try their hand at something new. Here are the top 15 athletes who tried and failed at other sports:
15 Michael Jordan
The most famous case of an athlete switching sports was by one of the most famous athletes of all time, Michael Jordan. The greatest basketball player to have ever lived, MJ tried to conquer another sport when he swapped the NBA for Minor League Baseball in 1994. The decision was made in 1993, when Jordan first retired from basketball, and he later stated it was because his father - who died that year - had always envisioned his son as an MLB player. The switch was short-lived, with Jordan returning to the NBA in 1995. It was largely viewed as a failure, despite Jordan doing well for a beginner.
14 Marion Jones
Marion Jones falls firmly into the category of athletes who were forced to leave a sport due to misdoings and a ban from the sport. She was one of the most high-profile athletes involved in the BALCO scandal, and had her three gold and two bronze medals which were won at the 2000 Sydney Olympics stripped from her after admitting to the use of steroids. She was eventually handed a prison sentence and banned from athletics, and she chose to turn to the WNBA. A talented basketball player at university level, Jones struggled after years away from the sport, and retired with an average of 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds per game.
13 Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar's inclusion in this list is slightly controversial. Lesnar is best known for his work in the WWE, but he was originally hopeful of becoming an NFL star and more recently tried his hands at MMA. In both football and MMA, Lesnar's success is up for debate. His football career lasted just one pre-season, where he made a habit of getting into fights before a cut ended his football career, and thus it could be seen as a failure.
While his MMA career included becoming UFC Heavyweight Champion, yet consecutive first round defeats once competitors realized Lesnar struggled with blows to the face ended his MMA career as quickly as it had started.
12 Jerry Rice
One of the greatest NFL players of all-time, and widely regarded as the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, Jerry Rice holds the NFL records for the most receptions, touchdown receptions and yards for a wide receiver. There can be no doubt then that Rice could play football, and play it well, but his ability as a golfer is a little more up for debate. Rice played golf for over 20 years before his retirement from football in 2005, and ventured into the world of golf in 2010, taking part in the French Express Classic. He finished in 151st position out of 152 players, 17-over and only one shot ahead of last place. Rice never played golf competitively again.
11 Chris Chelios
Perhaps the most unusual sport for an athlete to have switched to on this list, former NHL defenseman Chris Chelios tried his hand at the bobsled in 2004. Chelios, who has made the fifth most NHL appearances of any player in history, began training with the U.S. Bobsled federation in 2004 in midst of the NHL lockout, in the hope of competing at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. Chelios eventually joined up with the Greek team, who took him on board but sadly were unable to qualify. He did go to the 2006 Winter Olympics, but competed in ice hockey and captained the U.S. team.
10 Dwain Chambers
Another disgraced track and field athlete who was forced into searching for a new career, Dwain Chambers is one of the fastest Europeans in history. He holds the European 60 meters record (6.42 seconds) and is the fourth fastest European over 100 meters in history (9.97 seconds). Chambers set the world junior record in 1997 and raced at the 2000 Sydney Olympics by was banned for doping in 2003. He received a two-year ban from athletics and a lifetime ban from the Olympics and Commonwealth Games. He tried to break into the NFL Europe and later rugby league, but failed at both.
9 Emmanuel Yarborough
He may not look like your typical athlete but he is one. Weighing in at 270 kg, Yarborough is the heaviest athlete in the world, and he stands at 6-foot-8 and wears size 21 shoes. He was originally trained in Judo, but due to his size, Sumo wrestling seemed like his natural calling. In 1995, he became the World Amateur Sumo Champion. He is regarded as the most famous sumo wrestler outside of Japan. He tried to make the move from sumo to UFC in 1994, competing in UFC 3. In total, Yarborough fought three MMA fights, losing twice and winning once, in what was not only a bizarre spectacle, but also a spectacular failure.
8 Jimmy Bullard
Former Premier League 'funny man' Jimmy Bullard has his career cut short by a number of injuries, and decided to turn to the only other game he knew, golf. Bullard played in the Premier League for Wigan, Fulham and Hull, and in his prime, he was called up to the England squad three times, although he never managed to win a full cap. He retired from soccer in 2012, and tried to break into the world of professional golf in 2013. He attempted to qualify for the PGA EuroPro Tour, but failed. It was clear Bullard was not up to the caliber required to make it at that level, and he soon turned his back on the idea.
7 Justin Gatlin
Brooklyn-born Justin Gatlin has been the subject of much controversy over the years. He has served two separate bans for doping, and some feel he has never truly apologised to the damage that he did to the sport. As a sprinter, Gatlin is one of the fastest men in history, despite having sullied his name and legacy. His record best is 9.74 seconds, making him the fifth fastest man in recorded history. After his second ban, a four-year ban, in 2006, Gatlin looked to break into the NFL, despite not having played football since the tenth grade. He failed to secure a contract with either the Houston Texans or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
6 Jose Canseco
Former MLB star and admitted drug cheat, Jose Canseco spent 16 in MLB, with his best years coming with Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox. Canseco admitted to his drug use after his retirement in his autobiography, but added that doing so was common place among baseball players throughout his career. Having retired from baseball in 2001, he set about making a career in MMA in 2009, when he fought the 7-foot-2 Choi Hong-man. Canseco claims to hold black belts in karate and taekwondo, but few could tell, as he suffered a humiliating first round defeat, bringing a swift end to his MMA career.
5 Usain Bolt
Unlike the track and field athletes that have preceded him, Usain Bolt has not been disgraced or banned at any time. In fact, quite the opposite, Bolt has largely played the role of the good guy. The fastest man to have ever lived who doesn't need any help from banned substances. An image which has been perpetuated by his recent rivalry with Justin Gatlin, which has been billed as good against evil by many in the media. Bolt announced in 2011 that he would like to play soccer professionally, particularly for Manchester United who he supports. He released a video of his skills in the hope of a trial. Sir Alex wasn't interested and Bolt's football career was over before it had even begun.
4 James Toney
Former IBF middleweight, super middleweight and cruiserweight champion James Toney is one of the biggest names to have made the transition from boxing to MMA. As a boxer, Toney was a three-weight world champion and defeated 11 world champions over the course of his career, including the likes of Mike McCallum and Evander Holyfield. Spotted in attendance at UFC 108, talks soon began for Toney to enter the sport, and he did so in 2010. He wasn't given an easy introduction, with UFC Hall of Famer and former Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture his first opponent. A first round defeat meant Couture was Toney's first and last UFC opponent, and he returned to boxing once more.
3 Manute Bol
Being the joint tallest NBA player in history, who stood at 7-foot-7, it was no surprise that Manute Bol's best attribute was his blocking skills. He was regarded as one of the league's finest blockers, although his all-round game was far from excellent. He is the only player in NBA history to have blocked more shots than he scored points. Unlike most on this list, Bol was never really looking to make a serious career in another sport, but did so to raise funds for charity.
He tried boxing and horse riding, but most famously ice hockey, when in 2002 he signed a one-day contract with the Indianapolis Ice. Sadly, Bol couldn't skate, so you can guess how it went, but he did raise money to help starving children in his birthplace of Sudan.
2 Kimbo Slice
Internet sensation Kimbo Slice became world famous as millions across the globe watched him pummel challenger after challenger in street fights. His devastating fighting technique and power led to many wanting to see him move from unsanctioned fights into the world of professional combat sports. He finally did so in 2007, fighting his first MMA fight, which he won. He had a mixed MMA record when UFC gave him the chance to prove himself on 'The Ultimate Fighter' television program. Slice lost his debut fight and won only once on the program, but remains active on the MMA scene due to his popularity and despite his failure to move from real-life fights to regulated ones.
1 Johnnie Morton
The most humiliating and damning switch from one sport to another was that of Johnnie Morton. The former NFL wide receiver who played for the Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers over an 11-year career in which he played 182 NFL games was another who tried his hand at MMA. Having left the NFL in 2005, his MMA debut came in 2007. Morton fought Bernard Ackah, who had only previous fight to his name. Ackah annihilated Morton, defeating him after 38 seconds. Morton never fought a MMA bout again and even refused to take a drug test after the fight, leading many to believe he lost so spectacularly despite doping.
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