Thursday’s Den: 13 athletes who excelled at more than one sport

(listed alphabetically)
— Danny Ainge— Played 14 years in the NBA, after a great career at BYU. He also hit .220 in 211 games over three years for the Toronto Blue Jays.

— Jim Brown— One of the best running backs in NFL history, he led the NFL in rushing in 8 of his 9 seasons. Brown also played basketball, ran track, and was a great lacrosse player while in college at Syracuse.

— Wilt Chamberlain— Scored 31,419 points in his NBA career; once scored 100 points in a game- he averaged over 30 ppg for his career. He preferred track in high school, high jumping, long jumping, running the quarter-mile and half-mile events while also throwing the shot put.

When he was in the NBA, Wilt got annoyed that he was criticized for shooting too much so the next season (1967-68) he led the league in assists. 

— Bob Hayes— Played wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys for 11 years; he also won two gold medals in track at the 1964 Olympics. Hayes caught 371 passes for 20 yards/catch in his NFL career, scoring 73 touchdowns.

— Bo Jackson— Was a great running back at Auburn, and played 38 games for the Raiders, averaging 5.4 yards/carry. He played eight years in the major leagues, hitting 141 homers- he played the last two years with an artificial hip.

— Michael Jordan— Not much to add here; won a national title at North Carolina, six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls, and out of nowhere, he hit .202 for the AA Birmingham Barons in 1994, as an outfielder, during his sabbatical from the NBA.

Hitting .202 doesn’t sound like much, but I was an official scorer for two years at the AA level; there are guys who were career baseball players who didn’t hit .200 at that level. Jordan also stole 30 bases that season.

— Kenny Lofton— Played 17 years in the big leagues, with a .372 on-base %age and 622 stolen bases— hell of a ballplayer, a 6-time All Star. Lofton also played college basketball at Arizona; he is one of only two people EVER to play in the Final Four and World Series.

— Nate Robinson— Played 11 years in the NBA, he won the Slam Dunk title three times even though he is only 5-9; he scored 11 ppg for his professional career. Robinson originally went to U of Washington on a football scholarship; he played football for the Huskies as a freshman, but gave football up after that season.

— Bill Russell— Played 13 seasons in the NBA, won 11 titles, lost in the finals another year. San Francisco won consecutive NCAA titles with Russell as their center in 1955-56. Russell also was a high jumper at USF; at one time, he was ranked as the 7th-best high jumper in the world, but had to choose between track and basketball as far as the Olympics went- he chose basketball.

— Deion Sanders— Played 14 years in the NFL for five teams; he picked off 53 passes in his pro career, running back nine of them for touchdowns. He also played baseball, playing nine years in the major leagues, hitting .263 for four teams, with 186 stolen bases.

— Tim Stoddard— First person ever to play in a Final Four and a World Series; he was a starting forward on NC State’s championship team in 1974. He also pitched in the major leagues for 13 years, winning a World Series ring with the ’83 Orioles. He also got a hit in his only at-bat in a World Series game.

— Charlie Ward— He won the 1993 Heisman Trophy, leading Florida State to their first-ever national title on the gridiron. Ward also played 11 years in the NBA for three teams, mostly the Knicks, scoring 6.3 ppg for his career.

— Dave Winfield— Played both baseball/basketball for the Minnesota Gophers; his college basketball coach was Bill Musselman, who later coached in the NBA. Winfield was also drafted by the NFL’s Vikings, but he never played college football.

Winfield was a great baseball player; he played 22 years in the majors, hit .283 with 465 career homers and an on-base %age of .353.