In years past, it was regular not only in high schools, but colleges as well to see multi-sport athletes excelling in two or more sports.
However, in today's culture of American Legion baseball, AAU basketball, spring football, and Olympic Development Program Soccer, few athletes have the time or inclination from a young age to excel at multiple sports.
The age of sports specification has caused many of our top athletes to choose only one sport from a young age, denying themselves the opportunity to compete at a high level in multiple sports.
This has led to the elite multi-sport athlete going the way of the dinosaur: into extinction.
However, the following ten athletes did what today is almost unheard of, competing in two or more sports and excelling at each on the biggest stages and highest levels.
Sports: Football, Lacrosse, Basketball and Track and Field.
Claim to Fame: One of only two male athletes who are a Hall of Fame member in two separate sports (the other is Walter Ray Williams, but that's only if you count bowling and horseshoes as "sports").
Jim Brown is the only athlete who can seriously be considered "the greatest to ever play the game" in two separate sports.
Brown's football resume has few peers; he was an outstanding running back and placekicker in college at Syracuse; as a running back for the Cleveland Browns, Brown was an eight time All-Pro; three-time MVP; and averaged 5.2 yards a carry for his pro career.
However, as great of a football player as Brown was, he always considered football his second best sport behind Lacrosse where during his senior season at Syracuse he scored 4.3 goals a game.
A member of the College Football, Pro Football, and Lacrosse Halls of Fame, Brown also was an excellent sprinter in college as well as Syracuse's leading scorer on the basketball court his sophomore seaso,n before giving up the hardwood to concentrate on football and lacrosse.
Sports: Basketball and Track and Field.
Claim to Fame: Aside from being one of the five best basketball players to ever live, Wilt was an elite college track athlete in three disciplines (high jump, triple jump, and shot put).
Wilt Chamberlain was a college basketball All-American, a two-time NBA Champion, three-time MVP, 13-time All-Star, the only center to ever lead the NBA in assists per game, and never fouled out of a game in 1,045 professional contests.
However, Chamberlain was also an excellent track athlete, winning a conference title in the high jump; placing third in the shot put; and was a medalist in the triple jump during his college track career.
Sports: Baseball and Basketball.
Claim to Fame: The only person to win a World Series and NBA Championship.
Conley played 11 seasons as a major league pitcher and was a two-time All-Star with a career ERA of under 4.00.
In 1957 he won the World Series as a member of the Milwaukee Braves, and also won three NBA championships (1959-61) as a reserve forward for the Boston Celtics.
Conley never attended college but played six seasons in the NBA, averaging over six rebounds a game off the bench.
Sports: Track and Field and Football
Claim to Fame: Won both a Super Bowl and a Gold Medal in the World Track and Field Championships.
While Gault became known as a football star with the 1985 Chicago Bears, his best sport was track and field.
Gault competed in college in both track and football at Tennessee and set a world record in college as part of the U.S. National 4x100 relay team, and qualified as a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, but did not compete due to the boycott of the Moscow games.
His senior year in Knoxville, Tenn., Gault won the Track world championship as part of the same U.S. 4x100 relay team as Carl Lewis, yet gave up his track career when he was drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Bears.
As a wide receiver for 10 seasons, Gault gained over 6,600 yards and scored 45 touchdowns during his NFL career.
After retirement from football, Gault returned to the track and holds the men's masters (for competitors over 45 years of age) world record in the 100 meter dash.
Sports: Baseball and Football.
Claim to Fame: The only athlete to be drafted in the first round in both the NFL and Major League Baseball.
One of sports greatest "what if" stories, Bo Jackson was the best athlete in the world during the early 1990's before a hip injury ended his football career and seriously slowed his baseball tenure.
As a two sport college All-American at Auburn University, Jackson was a first-round pick (first overall pick in the NFL) in both baseball and football. Unwilling to play for the football team who drafted him, Jackson played only baseball in 1996.
One of the best power hitters in the game during the late 80s and early 90s, Jackson's penchant for striking out was offset by his speed on the base paths and by being one of the best (and most spectacular) fielding outfielders in the game.
When Jackson did make his NFL debut, he did so only as a "part-time" NFL player who in limited service throughout his career averaged 5.4 yards a carry for the Raiders.
During a NFL playoff game in 1991, Jackson literally pulled his hip out of socket and was discovered to have a condition that would cost him his hip. However, two seasons later, against all available medical consensus, Jackson returned to Major League Baseball, playing three more seasons.
Sports: Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Track and Field.
Claim to Fame: The only athlete in UCLA history to letter in four sports.
Jackie Robinson is best known as the man who broke baseball's color barrier, and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame on merit.
A Negro League All-Star, six time MLB All-Star, 1947 Rookie of the Year, 1949 MVP, led the National League in stolen bases six times, and was a career .311 hitter.
However, for all of his baseball accomplishments in college at UCLA baseball was Robinson's worst sport.
During his college career in football, he averaged 12 yards a carry and 20 yards a punt return; he was the Pacific Coast Conference's leading scorer in basketball, and he won the NCAA long jump championship as a junior.
Sports: Football, and Baseball
Claim to Fame: The only athlete to ever play in both the World Series and the Super Bowl.
Unlike his peer Bo Jackson, who was a full-time baseball and part-time football player, Sanders was a part-time baseball and full-time football player.
One of the best defensive backs in NFL history, and a probably first ballot Hall of Famer, "Primetime" was the gold standard for both cornerbacks and punt returners in professional football for over a decade.
An All-American in college, nine-time Pro Bowler, two-time Super Bowl champion, and 1994 Defensive Player of the Year, Sanders was the first two-way starter in the NFL in over 40 years at cornerback and wide receiver.
Over his pro football career, Sanders totaled nearly 8,000 all-purpose yards and 26 touchdowns, he also holds the record for most non-offensive touchdowns in NFL history.
As a baseball player, Sanders was a career .263 hitter, who stole 183 bases in part-time action. He also played in the 1992 World Series, where in a losing effort he hit .533, scored four runs, and had eight hits.
Sports: Track and Field, Football, Basketball. Baseball, and Lacrosse.
Claim to Fame: Voted the best male athlete of the first half of the 20th century.
Perhaps the greatest athlete to ever live, Thorpe was an elite athlete in three sports as well as playing professional basketball and being a national champion ballroom dancer.
Beginning his athletic career at the Carlisle Institute (a college for Native Americans), Thorpe was a three-sport star in baseball, lacrosse, and his best sport, football.
At Carlisle, Thorpe started as a running back, safety, kick returner, kicker, and punter, leading his school to the 1912 National championship while scoring 25 touchdowns for the year.
Later that summer, Thorpe headed to Sweden for the Olympic games, where he claimed the gold medal in both the decathlon and the pentathlon.
For 13 years, Thorpe played as the forerunner of the NFL and was later named to the "All-Pro" team for the 1920's; he also played four seasons in Major League Baseball.
One of sports most tragic figures, Thorpe's Native American heritage made him a subject of racism, and a trumped up "professionalism" charge led to his Olympic honors being stripped (his embittered former teammate Avery Brundage would become the head of the IOC and refuse to reinstate Thorpe's medals).
Sports: Golf, Track and Field, and Basketball.
Claim to Fame: Arguably the greatest female athlete to ever live.
It's one thing to be an elite athlete in one sport; to be an elite athlete in three sports (four if you count bowling a sport) is unheard of.
"The Babe" was just that—a star player on a national championship women's basketball team, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and one of the greatest female golfers of all-time.
Zaharias competed in the 1932 AAU Women's Track championship in eight events and won six, while setting five world records.
Later at that summer's Olympics in Los Angeles, she could only compete in three events, winning two gold medals (in the javelin and 80-meter hurdles) and being disqualified in the long jump for "jumping too much like a man."
After her amateur success, she decided to take up golf, and within a decade, made the cut in three MEN'S PGA tour events.
Later, Babe would be one of the founding members of the LPGA Tour and win 41 career events, 10 majors, the forerunner to the Women's British Open, and the Grand Slam in 1950.
While still in the prime of her golf career, Zaharias was stricken with colon cancer and died at the age of 45.
Sports: Snowboarding and Skateboarding
Claim to Fame: Possible title as one of the world's greatest performer in two separate extreme sports.
While it can be debated if snowboarding and skateboarding are really sports, nobody can debate that they do take a great deal of athleticism and a tremendous toll on the body.
For a performer to be the best in one discipline would be impressive; however, Shaun White has proven over the past half-decade that he's just as good on a ramp as he is on the snow.
Beginning on the professional extreme sports circuit at the age of 15 as a snowboarder, he's won nine X-Games gold medals and 12 total medals as well as Olympic gold in Torino.
With little practice or preparation, White entered the Summer X-Games four times in vertical ramp skateboarding and has claimed three medals (one gold in 2007) as well as three first place finishes on the wooden ramp in Dew Series events over the past two years.