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.
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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.
While Walt did not have the opportunity to shine in the NBA, his career in Europe was nothing short of remarkable, as the Washington Post referred to him as “the best professional basketball player in the world outside the NBA,” after three seasons leading European powerhouse Real Madrid, which included a 1974 European Cup, a 1976 International Cup and a scoring average of 33 points per game.
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.
Clay Matthews, Jr. was a standout in his own right, as the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker and 2012 Hall of Fame semi-finalist played 19 NFL seasons, most of which came with the Cleveland Browns. While Clay Matthews, Jr. had an impressive NFL career, his son, Clay Matthews, III, has already outdone his father. Now entering just his age-29 season, the leader of the Packers defense still has plenty of prime years remaining.
13 Klay Thompson
Though Mychal Thompson can still claim more NBA Finals victories than his son Klay (Mychal had two with the Lakers in 1987 and 1988), rings are the only aspect that remains decidedly in Mychal’s favor when comparing father and son. Klay, a veteran of just four NBA seasons, has quickly established himself as one of the game’s best young players, having already made an All-Star Game appearance and earning an All-NBA selection. While it is still very early in Klay’s career, it seems more than obvious that he is well on his way to far surpassing what his father accomplished during a 12-year career spent with the Blazers, Lakers and Spurs.
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.
Prince, now DHing for the Texas Rangers, has six All-Star Games under his belt and is a three-time winner of the Silver Slugger. While the younger Fielder has never been the runner-up in the MVP as his father had, Prince has twice finished third and should surpass his father’s career home run total of 319 early in the 2016 MLB season. Prince, like his father before him, has had a 50-homer season, but Cecil’s single-season total of 51 in 1990 is still tops in the family.
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.
Despite foot injuries that limited him significantly, Yao was still an eight-time All-Star and averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds per game over the course of eight NBA seasons, all spent with the Houston Rockets. A worldwide icon for his basketball exploits and for his status as the best player to ever come out of China, Yao now owns the Shanghai Sharks, the Chinese Basketball Association team both he and his father once played for.
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.
Roberto’s father, Sandy, was a defensive standout as well, earning his only All-Star selection in 1970 despite posting a paltry batting line of .251/.302/.293 with the California Angels. Roberto’s older brother, Sandy Alomar, Jr., a catcher who played 20 MLB seasons and played in six All-Star Games and won a Gold Glove in the same year he won Rookie of the Year, also had a better pro baseball career than his father, though not quite on the same level as Roberto.
9 The Rock
Rocky Johnson, a WWE Hall of Famer, was a World Tag Team Champion in the early 1980s, earning the title as part of the immensely popular “Soul Patrol.” While Johnson was in many ways a wrestling pioneer, his son, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has enjoyed a level of success that is beyond comparison in the world of professional wrestling. A former collegiate football player at the University of Miami, The Rock went on to become one of the WWE’s most iconic champions and he has since enjoyed widespread commercial success as an actor in both film and television roles, most recently starring in the NFL-themed HBO series, “Ballers.”
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.
Steph, who also led the league in steals during the 2014-15 season, is superior in every offensive category, as the Warriors point guard carries career averages of 20.9 points, 6.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game, numbers that Dell never managed to exceed even during his best seasons. Not only has Steph been the far more productive player, he already has the championship ring that eluded his father during his 16 NBA seasons.
7 Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
While there is certainly an argument to be had over whether Floyd Mayweather, Jr. ranks among the best fighters of all-time, it is undeniably the case that he has easily surpassed what his father was able to accomplish in the ring. In fact, the elder Mayweather’s greatest accomplishment may be the skills he taught to his son as a young boxer, particularly the defensive skills that have made Mayweather, Jr. both wildly successful and nearly unwatchable.
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).
Barry’s absurd career numbers and accolades, of course, are often alleged to have been the result of the frequent use of performance-enhancing drugs. While some will always question the validity of Bonds' accomplishments, it is still easy to argue that the younger Bonds was a better player than his father. In total, Barry made 14 All-Star teams, won seven MVPs and was a Gold Glove winner on eight occasions, retiring as the all-time leader in home runs*, walks and intentional walks.
5 Ken Griffey, Jr.
Ken Griffey was a three-time All-Star and a member of the famed Big Red Machine in the 1970s, enjoying a 19-year career that lasted so long that he was able to be a teammate of his son, Ken Griffey, Jr. A 13-time All-Star who hit 630 home runs over the course of his 22-year career, one could only imagine what the younger Griffey could have accomplished had he not been dogged by injuries throughout his 30s. The 1997 AL MVP and a phenomenal defender who won nine Gold Gloves, Griffey, Jr. was a once-in-a-generation talent, easily outshining the solid accomplishments of his father.
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.
Calvin’s son, Grant, would also deal with a devastating early-career injury, but the younger Hill managed to play in the NBA until the age of 40, making seven All-Star teams and scoring over 17,000 points while playing for the Pistons, Magic, Suns and Clippers. Before the ankle issues began to limit him, Hill was considered one of best players in the game, with many believing that he was the best all-around player in NBA at the time. Over his first six seasons in the league before the injury, Hill averaged 21.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game while shooting just over 48 percent from the floor.
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.
Ripken also played alongside his brother, Billy, with the Orioles being managed by Cal Ripken, Sr., who himself had played professional baseball in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The elder Ripken never made it to the big leagues, however, instead playing for the Orioles’ minor league squad before setting out on a managing and coaching career with the organization that would last until 1988. Ripken, Sr. was at the helm when the Orioles won the World Series in 1983, with a large part of the team success fueled by his son’s phenomenal MVP season.
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.
Entering his 20th NBA season, Kobe has scored over 32,000 points in his career, made 17 All-Star Game appearances and was named the 2008 NBA MVP. A five-time NBA champion and a Lakers legend, the future Hall of Famer has enjoyed far greater success than his father, although Kobe is deficient to his father in one obvious way: Kobe's many self-applied nicknames fall well short of the perfection his father achieved with the simple-yet-elegant “Jellybean.”
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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