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Athletes who played multiple sports

The idea of elite athletes switching sports has always been a confusing sight. Seeing NBA player Nate Robinson laying sparked on the canvas at the hands of a YouTuber turned ‘boxer’ has got many discussing other athletes who have changed sports. So, without further ado, here are five other big names who have tried their hands at something new – our list of the athletes who have tried multiple sports.


5 athletes who tried multiple sports


5. Andrew Flintoff

Freddie Flintoff was the cricketer who won the hearts of a nation with his dominant 2005 Ashes displays before his booze filled exploits further endeared him to the average man. Unfortunately, wear and tear forced him to retire in 2009 but the competitor in him couldn’t quit when his body told him he wasn’t fit enough to handle his favoured sport any longer.

In 2012 the all-rounder took that term to whole new levels by stepping into the world of boxing. To be fair, he did win his only fight courtesy of a points decision over Richard Dawson but his boxing style was less pro and more akin to a something you’d expect to see on a drunken night out. With encouragement from his coaching team, his boxing career was over. Two years later he had a last hurrah with his true love – Lancashire County Cricket – and he also has the honour of sitting fifth on our list of athletes who played multiple sports.


4. Paolo Maldini 

Paolo Maldini is one of the most decorated football players of all time having spent a quarter century playing for Italian giants AC Milan. On the domestic front, he made 902 appearances and won 26 trophies with many of them held aloft as captain. That trophy haul we mention includes a staggering five Champions League wins and seven Serie A titles. The trophies didn’t follow at international level despite 126 appearances and seven major tournaments.

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Maldini rebuffed offers to move into football coaching, which is the route many ex-pros go down, and instead opted to play tennis. He did alright too as he made the 2017 Aspria Tennis Cup, which is hosted in the familiar surroundings of Milan. Maldini had qualified for the doubles side of the pro tournament with partner Stefano Landonio but lost in round one. It would prove to be his only appearance on the professional tennis circuit.


3. Fabian Barthez

Manchester United’s former number one boasts a hugely impressive footballing CV that includes major honours at club and international level with the World Cup and European Championship wins of 1998 and 2000 the unquestionable highlights of a career spent at the top. After calling his 17 year career to an end in 2007 that seemed to be Barthez’s sporting career over.

Just 12 months later though the Marseille legend traded the penalty box for gear box as he entered the world of motorsport. It wasn’t a flash in the pan either. Barthez started off competing in the Porsche Carrera Cup before entering several different tournaments and, five years after his racing journey began, he was French GT Champion where he raced for Ferrari. His last appearance on track came in 2017 at Le Mans. One of the more successful sportsmen to attempt multiple sports.


2. Sonny Bill Williams

We’ve already spoken about Flintoff struggling with the move to boxing. It’s not easily done. Sonny Bill Williams, however, took to the ring like a duck to water. The 6’3 Kiwi managed to juggle his two careers at the same time too. In rugby, he represented New Zealand in both Rugby League and Rugby Union and had success with both. He helped the All Blacks to back to back World Cup triumphs and, in league, won a Super Rugby championship.

A six year and seven bout boxing career overlapped with the peak of his rugby years. His boxing record is unblemished. His fights weren’t all low hanging fruits either because after a 4-0 start he stopped Clarence Tillman to claim the NZPBA championship before following it up with unanimous decision over Francois Botha to win the WBA Heavyweight crown. South African Botha was no mug either with Williams his 61st career fight following previous bouts with huge names such as Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.

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1. Michael Jordan

If Williams is the most successful athlete to have played multiple sports then Michael Jordan is without question the biggest name to have done so. He did it when he was at the top in Basketball too. MJ had been in the NBA for nine years winning three MVP awards, had just won a trio of consecutive Championships with the Chicago Bulls and had led the scoring charts for seven seasons on the spin. His retirement announcement was met with widespread shock.

What came next was even more surprising. Jordan was to try his hand at baseball penning a deal with Minor League side Chicago White Sox; they shared an owner with the Bulls. His career on the diamond field is widely seen as being a dream gone wrong. All of his recognised games came for the Birmingham Barons who are an affiliate of the White Sox and although he struggled to post good numbers with the bat in hand, many people think he would have made it to the MLB had he persevered. Instead he returned to the NBA after a year out to continue his domination and cement his place as the GOAT. Presumably you have the luxury of trying a different sport if you are the highest paid athlete of all time!



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