The annals of sports history are filled with athletes who excelled at multiple sports, but very few have gone on to star in more than one pro league. With all due respect to Danny Ainge, the career .220 average and two home runs he amassed in the Major Leagues before tallying some 12,000 career points in the NBA isn’t going to cut it here. We’re counting down the top five two-sport athletes of all time — athletes who played both of their sports at a high level.
5. Brian Jordan
Though he only played in three full NFL seasons, Jordan earned the rare honor of becoming an all-star in two different pro sports. In 1992, while playing safety for the Atlanta Falcons, Jordan was named to the Pro Bowl. Then, in 1999, the football player-turned-outfielder was added to the National League’s MLB All-Star Game roster as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
4. Lionel Conacher
In the 1920s and 1930s, Lionel “The Big Train” Conacher was a dominant force in Canadian football and hockey. He helped the Toronto Argonauts win a Grey Cup championship in 1921 to go along with Stanley Cup wins with the Chicago Black Hawks and Montreal Maroons. As if that wasn’t enough, he went on to become a Member of Parliament after his retirement, just to make the rest of us feel like hapless underachievers. Conacher was later voted the top Canadian male athlete of the first half of the 20th century.
3. Deion Sanders
The illustrious “Neon” Deion Sanders was a two-sport star in football and baseball during the 1990s. He’s the only person ever to have played in an MLB and an NFL game in a single 24-hour span, and he’s also the only pro athlete in history to hit a home run and tally a touchdown in the same calendar week. All in all, Sanders played 14 NFL seasons and nine in the Major Leagues.
2. Bo Jackson
What does Bo know? Just about everything, when it comes to starring on the gridiron and the ball diamond. Jackson played eight MLB seasons, primarily with the Kansas City Royals, amassing 141 career home runs — which works out to an average of 33 homers per 162-game season. Jackson also won the Heisman Trophy as the top college football player in the United States and played four spectacular, though injury-marred campaigns with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. Before a hip injury forced him to give up football, Jackson was named to the Pro Bowl, and he’s the first person ever to receive all-star nods in two different major pro sports leagues.
1. Jim Thorpe
Not only did Jim Thorpe enjoy seven productive seasons in Major League Baseball, but he was also a fearsome force in the NFL’s precursor, the American Professional Football Association, where he played for 13 years. You’d think that was an impressive enough resume, but there’s more — Thorpe was also an Olympic gold medalist, having finished on top of the world in both the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.