It may be cliché, but a lot of people get into sports because of their fathers. They watch sports with their dad. Maybe they went out in the backyard and played catch. Flash forward a lot of years and they are professional athletes. Of course, these fathers don’t always have the best of reputations. Here are some of the famous, and infamous, fathers in sports. Some of them were themselves professional athletes, but we feel like these days they are as famous, if not more famous, for their progeny.
LaVar came into our world like a tornado when his son Lonzo became one of the top NBA prospects. He declared himself the reason that not just Lonzo but also his other two sons would be NBA stars. He had willed it into existence. Flash forward a few years and Lonzo has been solid but unspectacular, LiAngelo is in the G League and we have to see what LaMelo ends up doing. Suddenly, LaVar isn’t talking so much.
Dell had a fine NBA career, even winning Sixth Man of the Year. And yet to many, he is best known as the father of Steph and Seth Curry. Seth is a fine player, one of the best three-point shooters ever by percentage, but Steph is on his way to being a Hall of Famer. Dell is primarily seen these days in the stands rooting on his sons.
Earl was prepping his son Tiger for success from a time when he could barely walk. We all saw the clips of a toddler Tiger playing “golf” on a talk show. It turned out that Earl’s instincts were right, as Tiger became the best golfer in the world. If not for injuries, Woods would be a lock to be considered the greatest golfer ever, and it started with Earl, even if perhaps he pushed a bit too much at times.
Williams decided to teach his children to play tennis from a very young age. Those children happen to be Venus and Serena Williams, two legends of the game. Richard was known for being a little boisterous or uncouth at times, but he also played a part in changing the face of tennis.
Long has graced our TV screens for years on FOX’s NFL programming. He also graced our movie screens in films like “Firestorm.” Long was a fine player in his own right, though, and those genes were passed on to two of his sons. Chris Long was a star in college and became a second-overall pick. He had a fine NFL career before retiring recently. Kyle didn’t follow in his dad's and brother’s footsteps to become a defensive end. Instead, he became an elite offensive lineman, but he has now retired as well.
When your dad is Mr. Hockey, it’s a lot to live up to. Fortunately, Gordie’s love for the game helped him spend some quality time with his kids. After stepping away from the NHL, Gordie came out of retirement in his 40s to join the Houston Aeros in the WHA. Why? Because it gave him a chance to play alongside his sons Mark and Marty. Yes, the Howes all played together on the same line. By the way, being Gordie’s kid apparently wasn’t too much pressure. Mark is in the Hall of Fame as well.
If you watched “The Last Dance,” — and it seems like every sports fan did — you know about Michael Jordan’s complicated relationship with his father. You also know that, according to Michael, part of the reason why he retired from basketball to play baseball was to honor a dream of his father’s. Unfortunately, James wasn’t there to experience it, as he was tragically murdered prior.
When an athlete’s parents get involved in negotiations, it can often get a little messy. On top of that, the parent is almost certainly going to get a lot of blame if things go poorly. Enter Carl Lindros, father of Hall of Famer Eric Lindros. Eric was the obvious top choice in the 1991 NHL Draft. The problem was that Eric, and his agent, didn’t want him going to the team with the first-overall pick, the Quebec Nordiques. That agent? Carl, of course. The Nordiques did take Lindros, and then Eric proceeded to hold out for a full year before finally being traded.
Marv Marinovich is perhaps the quintessential example of a sports parent who takes things too far. After a failed career, Marv set out to make his son Todd the perfect football player. He started from the time Todd was barely able to walk, and Marv controlled every aspect of Todd’s life as a kid. There is no way to characterize Marv’s actions by modern standards as anything but abuse, and while Todd did excel in college he started to struggle personally. While Todd did have a career as an NFL quarterback, his life has also been ravaged by drug issues.
Archie was a decent NFL quarterback, but nobody really thinks of him as a player anymore. After all, he’s the father of Peyton and Eli Manning, and he has always been seen around his kids. In fact, Archie played a role in getting Eli traded from the Chargers to the Giants after he was taken first overall in the 2004 NFL Draft.
Joe Bryant, known as “Jellybean,” had a bit of an NBA career and then went to Italy to play basketball. For many, that would be the end of their relevance. He made it to the top but was largely forgettable. However, Joe had a son, and that son was Kobe Bryant. This made Joe a big part of the Kobe story. One also has to wonder if Joe would have gotten the chance to coach the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA if he wasn’t Kobe’s dad.
If you were a Broncos fan in the late ‘90s, you might remember McCaffrey. He had a few good seasons at receiver back then and was on a couple of Super Bowl winners. Of course, he was also, at most, the fourth-most-famous guy on those offenses. Meanwhile, his son Christian is one of the biggest names in the NFL and perhaps the top running back in the league. His son Dylan was the second-ranked quarterback prospect out of high school and may start for Michigan this year. He has another son, Luke, at Nebraska.
Bobby Bonds was a good player for the Giants in the ‘70s. We wonder if that may be why his son decided to join San Francisco after leaving the Pittsburgh Pirates. That son, of course, is Barry Bonds. Quickly, Bobby became known as “Barry’s dad” more than a former player in his own right. Well, when your son is the home run king, that’s going to happen.
Foreman boxed into his 40s and then lent his name to a grill that made him arguably even more famous then he was as an athlete. Why is he on this list of dads? Because Foreman had an interesting approach to naming his children. Foreman has 12 kids, including five sons. Those sons? They are all named George. He even named one of his daughters Georgetta.
Irvine had a decent enough NHL career, finishing with over 300 points. His son, Chris, decided to take a different path though. You may not know him as Chris Irvine, because he’s taken on another moniker. That name is Chris Jericho. Yes, Irvine is the father of the legendary professional wrestler. In fact, Ted recently made an appearance on an AEW show alongside his son.
It must be awkward to be an NBA coach when your son is in the league. That’s especially true when some people think your son is, maybe, not a future star. New Orleans drafted Austin, Doc’s son, 10th overall, but his career didn’t take off. The Clippers eventually traded for Austin, and they just so happened to be coached by Doc. Oh, and Doc was the de facto GM at the time as well. Claims of nepotism were inevitable.
Here is a fun fact about former baseball relief pitcher Pat Mahomes: By Fangraphs WAR, Mahomes is the second-least-valuable pitcher in MLB history (take that, Alan Mills!). OK, so maybe Pat doesn’t find that fact terribly fun. He’d probably rather talk about being the father of Patrick Mahomes, the best quarterback in the NFL. Now, when Pat comes up, it’s in relation to his son and how Patrick could have played baseball like his dad.
Bum is a Texas football legend, known for his trademark cowboy hat and memorable quotes. He was a fine football coach, and the same is true of his son. Wade Phillips got his NFL start coaching alongside his dad, and some consider him the best defensive coordinator ever. Wade has always spoken highly of his father. In fact, his Twitter handle is “@sonofbum.”
Ripken Sr. didn’t make it out of the minors as a player, but he eventually became a coach for the Baltimore Orioles. Working there as a scout as well, Cal may have had some insight when it came to a player the Orioles drafted in the second round in 1981: his son Cal Jr. The younger Ripken would go on to become baseball’s iron man and a Hall of Famer, and for many years he and his dad shared a dugout. Let’s not forget that Cal’s other son, Billy, also made it to the majors.
Who is Louis Sutter? The father of a hockey dynasty. Louis was a farmer, but he had seven sons; six of them went on to play in the NHL. There was a Sutter brother playing in the league from 1976 through 2001. The Sutters won six Cups as players, and Duane has two as a coach. Three of Louis’s grandkids have now played in the NHL too.
Buddy was known for his acumen as a defensive mind, mostly because he was the defensive coordinator of the 1985 Chicago Bears. As a head coach, though, he was only 55-55-1, mostly with the Philadelphia Eagles. His sons followed in his defensive footsteps. Rob, the one with the wild hair and beard, has never been a head coach but has been in the NFL for 20 years. Rex, slightly more clean cut, has had a couple of different stops as a head coach. Neither is known for being timid.
Snoop is a hip-hop legend, but he loves sports, especially L.A. teams. His passion for sports, and his personal largesse, led to him opening his own youth football league in Los Angeles. Snoop also became a certified coach so he could coach his son Cordell in high school. Cordell got a lot of hype as a prospect, in large part because of Snoop’s doing. There was much fanfare when Cordell committed to play football at UCLA, especially since Snoop was a longtime USC fan. Of course, Cordell quickly decided not to play football any longer, so Snoop never had to root for the Bruins.
Larry Fitzgerald, the longtime Arizona Cardinals receiver, has gotten plenty of press coverage in his career. Some of that has come from his dad, Larry Sr. The elder Fitzgerald spent many years as a sportswriter for the “Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.” This includes covering the Cardinals, and his son, when they went to the Super Bowl.
OK, so LeBron isn’t more famous as a father than a player. He’s still in the midst of a Hall of Fame career. However, everything LeBron does is huge, and that is starting to trickle down to his kids. Suddenly, his son Bronny is getting a ton of attention. Some are wondering if LeBron wants to stick around long enough to play alongside Bronny, should he be good enough to make the NBA. Will LeBron someday become known as “Bronny’s dad?” We’ll find out.