Though it might seem otherwise, it is not exactly easy to be the offspring of a successful professional athlete. Sure, they are able to hang around first-class training facilities and sometimes get to goof off with some of the greatest players of a generation, all while learning the game from the best minds in professional sports. It would seem that the obvious combination of top-notch genetics and access to the best possible training would all but guarantee a future professional sports career that would include easily exceeding the accomplishments of their parent, but that is not always the case.
There is the intense pressure of outsized expectations, and despite a tremendous work ethic or tireless commitment, some are simply not as athletically gifted as one might expect. In other circumstances, the accomplishments of the parent are so phenomenal that it is almost impossible to live up to. Tony Gwynn, Jr., a fringe big-leaguer who is a solid defensive outfielder, could have been a 10-time All-Star and a lifetime .300 hitter and still would have fallen well short of his father’s accomplishments.
So even though Brent, Jon and Drew Barry, Mark and Marty Howe, Luke Walton and Kellen Winslow, Jr. all enjoyed professional athletic careers of varying success, none could quite match the accomplishments of their Hall-of-Fame fathers. The 15 athletes who appear on this list, however, are those that managed to step out of the sizable shadow of their parents, many of whom were outstanding professional athletes in their own right.
15 Wally Szczerbiak
Wally Szczerbiak, a sharpshooter who enjoyed a 10-year career in the NBA, was an outstanding wing scorer who enjoyed his best years in Minnesota while playing alongside Kevin Garnett. The duo formed a solid inside-out tandem, and Szczerbiak earned his lone All-Star selection as a member of the Timberwolves in 2001-02. Over the course of his career, Szczerbiak averaged 14.1 points per game, but repeated knee surgeries forced him into retirement at the age of 31.
Though Szczerbiak had a relatively modest NBA career, he far exceeded what his father Walt was able to accomplish stateside. The elder Szczerbiak was taken by the Phoenix Suns with the 65th pick of the 1971 NBA Draft, but instead opted to play a single season in the ABA with the Pittsburgh Condors. The 6-6 small forward from George Washington University averaged just 6.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game that season, and he ultimately opted to head overseas.
14 Clay Matthews, III
A member of one of the greatest NFL families to ever grace the gridiron, Clay Matthews, III, will have a hard time outshining his uncle, Hall of Famer and 14-time Pro Bowler Bruce Matthews, though it appears that the Green Bay linebacker is indeed well on his way. After all, the third Clay Matthews to play in the NFL is already a five-time Pro Bowler who has racked up 61 sacks and won a Super Bowl through his first six seasons in the league.
13 Klay Thompson
12 Prince Fielder
Cecil Fielder and his son, Prince, are remarkably similar in both appearance and skillset, as Cecil was a powerfully outsized first baseman and designated hitter long before Prince went on to be the same. Cecil was a three-time All-Star during his 13-year career, which included a serious assault on Roger Maris’ single-season home run record in 1990. A two-time Silver Slugger and twice the runner-up in the MVP vote, Cecil’s son has been able to do just a bit more through his first 11 seasons.
11 Yao Ming
Both of Yao’s parents were professional basketball players, with his father, Yao Zhiyuan being the 6-8 starting center for the Shanghai Sharks during the 1970s. Yao’s mother, Fang Fengdi, was likely the more successful of the two, as she had been the captain of the Chinese National Team and, at 6-1, also played center. At the time, Yao’s parents were among the best basketball players in all of China, but their accomplishments were wildly exceeded by their 7-6 son.
10 Roberto Alomar
Roberto, the son of Sandy Alomar and younger brother of Sandy Alomar, Jr., was without a doubt the best of his family. A Hall of Fame second baseman, Roberto enjoyed a 17-year MLB career in which he was named to 12 consecutive All-Star teams while earning 10 Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers. As one of the best players of his generation to man the keystone, Roberto easily eclipsed what his father accomplished during a 15-year pro career.
9 The Rock
8 Stephen Curry
Dell Curry was a very solid pro, having enjoyed a lengthy 16-year career in which he could be reliably counted upon to provide excellent outside shooting, finishing with a 40.2 percent career three-point shooting percentage. While Dell’s NBA accolades include the 1994 Sixth Man of the Year Award and status as the all-time leading scorer for the Charlotte Hornets, his son, Steph, already has an MVP Award on his resume and has made two All-Star teams after just six NBA seasons, easily outdoing his father in short order.
7 Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
6 Barry Bonds
Over 14 seasons as a pro, Bobby Bonds played in three All-Star Games and won three Gold Gloves, hitting 332 career home runs before retiring at the age of 35. His son, Barry, exceeded the career accomplishments of his father in just the years after he turned 35, as the San Francisco Giants slugger won four MVPs, five Silver Sluggers and made six All-Star teams in the last eight seasons of his career (he nearly hit as many home runs as his father during that stretch, racking up 317 over the eight-year period).
5 Ken Griffey, Jr.
4 Grant Hill
Though his father played an entirely different sport, Grant Hill’s accomplishments on the hardwood far exceed what his father achieved on the gridiron. A four-time Pro Bowler whose best years came as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, Calvin Hill used his exceptional athleticism to become a dominant NFL running back, topping 1,000 yards rushing twice during his 12-year NFL career. Hill won a Super Bowl with the Cowboys in 1972, playing on a torn ACL that would limit him throughout the remainder of his career.
3 Cal Ripken, Jr.
Ripken, Jr. is best known as baseball’s “Iron Man,” as his consecutive game streak is widely considered an unbreakable record. It’s easy to forget that Ripken was not just a constant presence in the Baltimore lineup, as the 6-4 shortstop was a two-time MVP and a 19-time All-Star. A Gold Glover at shortstop, Ripken led the Orioles to victory in the 1983 World Series and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, receiving an astonishing 98.53 percent of the vote.
2 Kobe Bryant
Kobe’s father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, had a long professional basketball career that included time in the NBA and in the European leagues. After spending eight seasons in the NBA, Joe Bryant played for seven more in Italy and France before finally retiring. With a career average of 8.7 points per game during his time in the NBA, Joe's offensive output was a far cry from the scoring prowess of his son, Kobe.
1 Peyton and Eli Manning
Both of Archie Manning’s sons have achieved tremendous success as NFL quarterbacks, with each surpassing Archie’s NFL prowess during the course of their respective careers. Archie, a two-time Pro Bowler, languished on some very poor New Orleans Saints teams throughout the 1970s, playing 11 of his 13 seasons for the franchise and accumulating 396 sacks, 12th most all-time.
His sons, however, have both been overwhelmingly successful in the NFL, with the two combining for 17 Pro Bowls (14 for Peyton; three for Eli), eight MVPs (five league MVPs and one Super Bowl MVP for Peyton; two Super Bowl MVPs for Eli) and three Super Bowl victories (two for Eli; one for Peyton).
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