Music is a very effective mood setter, and it’s probably for this reason that many athletes listen to tunes to put themselves in the proper frame of mind for their competitions. 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps, for instance, kept his earphones on up to two minutes before the start of his races because he felt that the practice helped him achieve optimum performance.
But how about athletes actually creating music themselves? Well, several sportsmen, both active and retired, have dared to pursue careers as musicians. While some have achieved very little success, several have made considerable commercial and artistic dents in the music industry. Here are ten accomplished athletes who were also able to establish themselves as successful musicians:
10. The 1985 Chicago Bears / American Football
In 1985, the NFL’s Chicago Bears were on a quest for redemption after losing 1-15 to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Well, the team certainly accomplished its goal by winning Super Bowl XX and completing what is viewed by many to be one of the all-time best seasons by any NFL team.
That year was made even more memorable by The Super Bowl Shuffle, a song that the whole team, excluding defensive lineman Dan Hampton, recorded (Hampton refused to participate due to the song’s arrogance). The single was supported by a popular music video and peaked at #41 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Quite remarkably, Shuffle sold over half-a-million copies and was nominated for a “Best Rhythm and Blues Performance by a Duo or Group” Grammy.
9. John Cena / Professional Wrestling
One of WWE superstar John Cena‘s signature catchphrases is “You can’t see me!” and that line eventually became the title of his commercially successful 2005 debut rap album. The effort was actually a culmination of the professional wrestler’s foray into music, which began when he composed his own entrance theme.
Featuring seventeen tracks and recorded with Cena’s cousin, Tha Trademarc, You Can’t See Me peaked at #15 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and #10 on the R&B/Hip-Hip Albums Chart.
8. Darren McCarty / Hockey
As an enforcer for the Detroit Red Wings team that won four Stanley Cups (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008), Darren McCarty was best known for two things: (1) being part of the Grind Line — a defensive trio that ground and wore out the opposing team’s scoring line — and (2) his role in 1997’s “Fight Night at the Joe” where a chaotic brawl broke out between the Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche. It was therefore hardly a surprise when McCarty pursued a music career through a style of rock that is likewise very aggressive in nature: heavy metal. The band called itself “Grinder” and Darren was its lead singer.
The group was actually founded in support of McCarty’s former teammate Vladimir Konstantinov and Red Wings’ masseur Sergie Mnatsakanov, who were paralyzed in a limousine accident in 1997. Since then, McCarty has worked with a vocal coach to improve his singing, released the album Gotta Keep Movin’ through the band’s website, and played to crowds of up to 12,000 people.
7. Roy Jones, Jr. / Boxing
Roy Jones, Jr. has displayed noteworthy versatility through the various weight classes he has fought in throughout his career. The 90s Fighter of the Decade has, in fact, fought in six different weight classes and holds the distinction of being the only boxer in history to start his career as a light middleweight and to go on and win a heavyweight title. Jones Jr. is so versatile that he even pursued a career in music.
Roy started his foray into rap with Round One: The Album (2001). The record reached #50 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and spawned a #2-peaking hit, That Was Then, featuring Dave Hollister, Period & Hahz the Rippa. Later, in 2004, Jones formed a group called “Body Head Bangerz” with rappers Magic and Choppa. The trio released two albums: Body Head Bangerz: Volume One (2004) and Business At Hand (2012), the first album delivering I Smoke, I Drank (feat. YoungBloodz), which peaked at #25 on the Hot Rap Songs chart.
6. Kyle Turley / American Football
Two-time All-Pro (2000, 2003) Kyle Turley was an offensive tackle in the NFL for ten seasons, during which he played for the New Orleans Saints (1998-2002), the St. Louis Rams (2003-2004), and the Kansas City Chiefs (2006-2007). Throughout that period, Turley suffered several concussions, and as a result, developed a seizure disorder. After his retirement, the Provo, Utah native thus made it is advocacy to raise awareness on the post-health career of NFL players. In fact, when Kyle pursued a music career, he donated all proceeds of his tour to the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, which provides financial and medical assistance to retired NFL players.
In 2010, Turley’s debut album, Anger Management, was released by Gridiron Records. The “power country” album included mostly songs about Kyle’s football career and was embraced by critics.
5. Oscar De La Hoya / Boxing
Oscar De La Hoya may have won an Olympic gold medal (1992) and world titles in six different weight classes, but when it came to music, “The Golden Boy” specialized in performing sugary ballads. However, the style seemed to suit Oscar as his 2000 self-titled debut album won critical acclaim and was even nominated for a Best Latin Album Grammy. Commercially, the album peaked at #2 on Billboard’s Top Latin Album charts, while its singles Para Que and Ven A Mi reached #23 and #6, respectively, on the Latin Pop Songs charts.
In terms of boxing, De La Hoya unfortunately lost his most recent and likely last career fight when he was soundly defeated by Manny Pacquiao in 2008. Well, at least Oscar can claim victory over PacMan in one area.
4. Shaquille O’Neal / Basketball
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to call retired NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal a “Shaq of All Trades.” After all, aside from being a four-time NBA champion (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006) and the 2000 Most Valuable Player, he’s also been an actor, a businessman, a law enforcer, and a sports analyst. And of course, we shouldn’t forget Shaq’s turn as a rap artist who achieved considerable success in the mid-90s.
His first album released in 1993, Shaq Diesel, reached a peak of #10 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and moved 864,000 units to be certified platinum by the RIAA. After that, O’Neal released five more albums and guested alongside Aaron Carter on the 2001 hit single That’s How I Beat Shaq and Michael Jackson on 2 Bad from the HIStory album.
Shaq also used rap to take digs at his former teammate Kobe Bryant. During the offseason of 2008, O’Neal delivered the following:
3. Bernie Williams / Baseball
A five-time All-Star and four-time World Series champion (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000), Bernie Williams spent all sixteen years (1991-2006) of his MLB career as the center fielder of the New York Yankees. In that period, he won four Gold Glove Awards (1997-2000) and the Silver Slugger Award (2002).
On the side, however, Williams was sharpening his classical guitar skills. In fact, soon after the Puerto Rican retired from the MLB, he studied guitar and composition at the State University of New York at Purchase. That prepared him for signing up with Paul McCartney‘s publishing company, MPL Communications, which released Bernie’s 2003 major label debut, The Journey Within. That album peaked at #3 on Billboard’s Jazz Albums chart, as did his second effort, 2009’s Moving Forward, which spawned two #1 Jazz Songs hits: Go for It and Ritmo de Otono. The album was also nominated for a Latin Grammy in the category “Best Instrumental Album”.
2. Wayman Tisdale / Basketball
6-foot-9 Wayman Tisdale had a twelve-season NBA career with three teams: the Indiana Pacers (1985-89), the Sacramento Kings (1989-94), and the Phoenix Suns (1994-97). During that time, the 1985 second overall draftee won an Olympic gold medal (1984) and averaged 15 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Near the end of his basketball stint, Wayman launched a music career as a smooth jazz bassist. He went on to record eight albums, all of them reaching the top 10 of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. In fact, three went to #1: Face to Face (2001), Way Up (2006), and Rebound (2008).
In 2007, Tisdale was diagnosed with cancer in his right knee. He passed away in 2009.
1. Mike Reid / American Football
Two-time Pro Bowler Mike Reid played only four injury-plagued seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals (1970-1974). However, in that short span of time, he and the Bengals won the AFC Central Division in the team’s third season. It was knee and hand injuries that cut Mike’s career short, but he made the best of that situation and began a music career that many aspiring artists can only dream of.
The Pennsylvania-born Reid had actually performed as a pianist for the Utah, Dallas, and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestras in between football seasons, but it was in 1984 that he truly made his presence felt in the entertainment industry. That was the year he penned Stranger in My House, a song recorded by Ronnie Milsap and the recipient of a Grammy for Best Country Song. In total, during the 1980s and 1990s, Mike wrote twelve number one hits.
In 1990, Reid signed to Columbia records as a solo artist and released Turning for Home, which produced the #1 country song Walk on Faith. He also went on to compose music for musicals and operas and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.
It might also surprise many that Reid actually co-wrote this mellow classic: