The 5 Best Multi-Sport Professional Athletes

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The odds of someone making it to the highest levels of a single professional sport are very slim. Yet, in some cases, a person possesses such stellar and versatile athletic abilities that he is able to make it as a professional athlete in multiple sports. This is an amazing feat given that elite athletes usually spend the entire year preparing for, or participating, in a single sport.

5 Charlie Ward

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Though his most notable achievements in professional sports came as a point guard in basketball with the NBA’s New York Knicks, Charlie Ward can claim something few other athletes can. He was drafted by teams in America’s three biggest sports—football, basketball and baseball. Ward’s single greatest achievement was winning the 1993 Heisman Trophy as a quarterback at Florida State University.

4 Babe Didrikson

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While women haven’t generally enjoyed the same level of respect in the sports world, Babe Didrikson is certainly among the top multi-sports stars ever. At the 1932 Olympics, Didrikson won three track and field medals, including gold in the 80-meter hurdles and javelin throw. Didrikson achieved All-American status as a college basketball player, as well. Her most significant professional achievements were in golf, where she was a three-time U.S. Open champion and was twice the top female earner on the LPGA tour in the 1950s. Didrikson is in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

3 Jim Thorpe

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Long before being a multi-sport star was cool, Jim Thorpe set the bar. In the early 1900s, Thorpe was a standout baseball and football player. Perhaps his biggest claim to fame, though, was winning two gold medals at the 1912 Olympics. According to an August 2011 “Yahoo! Sports” article, Thorpe was also believed to have played semi-pro basketball in the 1920s and he was widely revered as the best athlete ever by peers of his era.

2 Deion Sanders

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Football and baseball star Deion Sanders actually achieved much greater results (personally and professionally) than Jackson. He was the fifth pick in the 1989 NFL draft and had a 13-year career as an eight-time all-pro cornerback and punt returner. Sanders is the only athlete ever to appear in a Super Bowl and a baseball World Series. On the diamond, Sanders played 10 seasons and batted .263 with 186 stolen bases.

1 Bo Jackson

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Bo Jackson is often renowned not only as a great multi-sport star, but one of the best athletes of all time when you factor in speed and strength. Jackson won college football’s Heisman Trophy before getting drafted in 1987 by the Oakland Raiders. While his football career was cut short by injuries, Jackson showed his prowess with many impressive runs from 1987 to 1990. Statistically and athletically, Jackson actually achieved more in baseball. During an eight-year career from 1986 to 1994, he batted .250 with 141 home runs. Nagging leg and hip problems impacted Jackson’s career longevity.

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