It’s not easy following in your father’s footsteps regardless of your profession, but for these athletes the task was that much greater. On one hand, there must be a tremendous sense of pride in knowing that you and your father or son both got to realize your dreams and be successful as pro athletes. On the other hand, the inevitable comparisons and media pressure can put a strain not only on careers, but also on family life. All the athletes on this list overcame these challenges, and in some cases the son ultimately outshone their father’s professional sports career.
10. Ken Norton Sr. and Ken Norton Jr. – Boxing and Football
Defeating Muhammad Ali in a boxing match is no easy feat. Breaking his jaw in the process seems near impossible, but that’s what Ken Norton Sr. did. The fight became known as ‘The Jawbreaker.’ During the 1970s Norton Sr. was a feared fighter, winning 42 of his 50 bouts, none more impressive than his victory over Ali. The younger Norton eschewed the ring for the football field where he became a formidable linebacker for both the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers. During his career Norton Jr. was named to 3 Pro Bowls, was an All-Pro selection twice and won four Super Bowls in a row, three with Dallas and one with San Francisco.
9. Felipe and Moises Alou – Baseball
Both the elder and younger Alou have been prolific players in Major league Baseball spanning a period of over 60 years. Felipe once led the league in runs scored and hits, and played in three All-Star games. Upon retiring in 1974 Felipe eventually made a name for himself as a successful manager as well, winning Manager of the Year in 1994. For his part, the younger Alou has been no slouch either, being named an All-Star 6 times, winning 2 Silver Slugger Awards and becoming a World Series Champion in 1997 with the Florida Marlins.
8. Calvin and Grant Hill – Football and Basketball
An example of a multi-sport family, the elder Calvin Grant was a dominant running back for the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1970s winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1969, and the Super Bowl with them in 1971. During his career, in which he also played in Washington and Cleveland, Calvin Hill amassed 6,083 rushing yards, was voted to four Pro Bowl teams and was named to two All-Pro teams. He set a Cowboys record in 1972 by becoming the first running back in team history to break the 1,000-yard barrier.
His son Grant however, put his 6’8’’ frame to better use on the basketball court where he was named an All-Star seven times and scored over 17,044 points in his career before retiring from the NBA in 2013.
7. Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – NASCAR
The Earnhardt name is iconic in the world of NASCAR; sadly following Dale Sr.’s death in 2001 legendary may be a more apt description. In Dale Jr.’s case both iconic and legendary are probably best to describe his career. During his career the Sr. Earnhardt won a record-tying seven NASCAR championships. His 76 wins place him fifth all time. Following his fatal crash in 2001 he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. While Dale Earnhardt Jr. has never been as prolific as his father behind the wheel, he has compiled a decent resume of his own, by far most notably his two Daytona 500 wins, the first which came six years to the day after his father’s victory there.
6. Cecil and Prince Fielder – Baseball
When you’re the only father and son duo to both ever hit over 50 home runs in a single season, you’re all but guaranteed a spot on this list. And while both Fielder’s have lower than preferred career batting averages, as power hitters they are formidable. During his 14 year career Cecil was named an All-Star three times, won the Silver Slugger Award twice, won a Babe Ruth Award, and was the American League home run champion twice and RBI champion three times. He also retired with a World Series ring. Prince Fielder’s resume is not so far off of his father’s. He’s considered one of the best power hitters in the game, and his three Silver Slugger Awards can attest to that. He’s also got a Hank Aaron Award, five All-Star nominations and National League home run and RBI leader awards to pad his resume; all before the age of thirty.
5. Archie and Peyton/Eli Manning – Football
Clearly this list without the Manning family would be incomplete. Though the theme is duos, ignoring the Eli would be a disservice to how good a sports family the Mannings are. While Archie Manning was a good Quarterback who happened to play for a really bad team, his son Peyton is a phenomenal Quarterback who made a really bad team very good. There is no real comparison in statistics or career achievements with these two; Archie was selected to the Pro Bowl twice, Peyton owns most records in the NFL and has been one of the leagues top players his entire career. His resume would fill this entire article. Having the Mannings place mid-level on the list really could be solely based upon Peyton’s career in the NFL alone, but younger brother Eli is a great, albeit inconsistent Quarterback in his own right, owning two Super Bowl rings, one more than his older brother. The Mannings sit at five because Archie Manning created very talented offspring.
4. Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. – Baseball
Ken Griffey Sr. had a very good baseball career. He was an All-Star three times (including one in which he was voted MVP), and won the World Series twice. He recorded over 2,100 hits and nearly retired with a .300 batting average; very admirable numbers over an 18-year career. His son however, was one of the biggest stars in the game during his career. Ken Griffey Jr. was a first overall pick in the amateur draft and lived up to his potential. Griffey was an All-Star 13 times. He won the Silver Slugger Award seven times and was the AL home run champion on four occasions. While his batting accolades are incredible, perhaps even more telling of his all-around skill on the field was that Griffey won the Golden Glove as the league’s best defensive player ten times. Arguably the best player in baseball during his prime, Ken Griffey Jr. should be a lock for the Hall of Fame when he is eligible in 2016.
3. Gordie and Mark Howe – Hockey
Some still consider ‘Mr. Hockey’ Gordie Howe to be the greatest player that ever laced up a pair of skates. In his day, there would have been no debate. Gordie owned every league scoring record that many thought would never be broken until some young upstart named Wayne Gretzky broke into the NHL. He finished his career with 1,850 points and 801 goals, good enough for third and second of all time, respectively. He also won six Hart Trophies as league MVP. Howe wasn’t only known for his scoring; his toughness (not to mention his mean streak) made him nearly impossible to defend against. There’s a reason scoring a goal, recording an assist and getting in a fight all in the same game is called a Gordie Howe hat trick. To top it all off ‘Mr. Hockey’ was athletic and durable enough to be the only player to ever play in the NHL over the course of five decades, from the 1940s to the 1980s. With such a looming figure as a father, you’d imagine most sons would choose a different career path. Not Mark Howe. It would be easy to be overlooked, or disregarded as Gordie Howe’s son, but Mark was a very, very good defencemen during his NHL career. He was a five-time All-Star, a three-time Norris Trophy finalist, and an integral part of a defensively dominant Philadelphia Flyers team in the mid to late 1980s. He was also offensively gifted on the blue line, finishing with over 700 points in 929 games. Mark was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 2011, joining his father.
2. Bobby and Barry Bonds – Baseball
Controversial choice? Perhaps. Barry Bonds’ very public association with performance enhancing drugs and his subsequent legal troubles are not lost in the compilation of this list. However, Bonds was either using performance enhancing drugs at a time when many other baseball players were as well, or he wasn’t using them at a time when every other baseball player wasn’t either. That’s for the courts to decide. This list is purely statistical. Barry’s father, Bobby Bonds was a very good baseball player. Over his career he put together five seasons where he hit over 30 home runs and stole over 30 bases. He also won three Gold Glove Awards, and was an All-Star three times. Bobby Bonds was very good indeed, but Barry was incredible. A 14-time All-Star, Barry also won seven League MVP Awards and is one of only three players to have hit over 700 home runs. In fact, he holds the MLB record for most homeruns ever with 762, as well as most homeruns in a season with 73. He was no slouch as a fielder either, winning eight Golden Glove Awards. All told, and legalities aside, statistically Barry Bonds is one of the greatest baseball players to ever live.
1. Bobby and Brett Hull – Hockey
The most formidable father and son duo in sports goes to Bobby and Brett Hull. During their respective careers both were among the best goal scorers of their time. Nicknamed the ‘Golden Jet’ Bobby Hull scored a total of 610 goals and 1,170 points in 1,063 games. A ten-time All-Star and Stanley Cup champion, Bobby also led the league in scoring three times, and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP twice. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983. Filling such enormous skates would be impossible for most sons, but not Brett Hull. Earning the nickname the ‘Golden Brett’ in homage to his father, Brett finished his career third all time in goals scored with 741, behind only Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe. Between the 1989-90 and 1991-92 season Brett scored over 70 goals three straight times. The 1990-91 season saw him score an incredible 86 goals helping him win the Hart Trophy just as his father had years before. Beyond the personal achievements Brett accumulated during his career he also retired a two-time Stanley Cup champion. He joined his father in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009, cementing the Hulls as the greatest father/son duo in sports.