50 Amazing Vintage Photos of Superstar Athletes

Amber LeeSports Lists Lead WriterFebruary 27, 2014

50 Amazing Vintage Photos of Superstar Athletes

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    Associated Press

    A scan through the photo archives reveals a veritable treasure trove of athletes, both past and present—in moments that deserve to be revisited.

    The ability to travel back in time like this is just one of the many wonders of the digital age in which we live. 

    Here are 50 amazing vintage photos of superstar athletes. 

Charles Barkley

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    Susan Ragan/Associated Press

    Date: July 31, 1992

    Hall of Fame baller Charles Barkley flashes a smile as he relaxes on the sideline during a game against Brazil with Dream Team teammate Larry Bird at the Barcelona Olympics. 

Derek Jeter

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    RON FREHM/Associated Press

    Date: November 4, 1996

    It’s hard to believe that Derek Jeter has been donning the pinstripes for 18 years now.

    The 39-year-old recently announced this coming season would be his last, but here is a fresh-faced "Jeet" at a press conference after he was named the AL Rookie of the Year. He was the unanimous choice. 

Joe Montana

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    Associated Press

    Date: January 21, 1985

    Hall of Fame 49ers quarterback Joe Montana is pictured with his wife, Jennifer Wallace, and his parents, Theresa and Joe Sr., on the campus of Stanford University. 

Richard Petty

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    CHARLES KELLY/Associated Press

    Date: March 13, 1981

    Racing great Richard Petty looking as Richard Petty as humanly possible, rocking his signature cowboy hat, sunglasses and cigar. 

Mike Tyson, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry

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    Ray Stubblebine/Associated Press

    Date: September 10, 1986

    Former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson hanging with former Mets players Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry at Shea Stadium. 

    Hopefully, Tyson's playful punches were stopped before things got out of hand.

Mike Tyson

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    CHARLES WENZELBERG/Associated Press

    Date: July 22, 1988

    Boxer Mike Tyson and then-wife Robin Givens exit the New York State Supreme Court building with mogul Donald Trump. Trump was advising Tyson at the time. 

John McEnroe

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    Susan Weinik/Associated Press

    Date: January 1978 

    You cannot be serious! 

    American tennis great John McEnroe is just 18 years old in this photo. Though this was during McEnroe’s pre-bad boy years, he still looks surprisingly menacing because of his resemblance to Wayne Arnold of The Wonder Years

Larry Bird

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Date: March 20, 1979

    In this picture Indiana State All-American Larry Bird is holding the Eastman Award, given by the National Association of Basketball Coaches distinguishing college basketball's player of the year. 

    Bird led the team all the way to the championship game that season…and boy, does he looked thrilled about it. 

Larry Bird

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Date: June 2, 1979

    Months after being named as college basketball's player of the year, Larry Bird was invited to Busch Stadium in St. Louis to throw out the first pitch at a Cardinals game. 

    Here he is getting friendly with Cards mascot Fredbird. Actually, it looks more like Fredbird is getting a little too friendly with Bird, whose hand on the beak tells me he’s a little concerned. 

Roberto Clemente

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    Associated Press

    Date: November 16, 1964

    The late Pirates great, Roberto Clemente, is pictured with new bride Vera Cristina Zabala following their wedding. The glowing pair of newlyweds were married in Carolina, Puerto Rico. 

Mark Messier

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    Ed Bailey/Associated Press

    Date: April 5, 1992

    Hall of Fame great Mark Messier, then the captain of the New York Rangers, speaks for the players at a press conference during the NHL players’ strike. 

    Bryan Trottier, another Hall of Famer, is seen sitting to the left of Messier’s ridiculous Cosby sweater. 

Walt “Clyde” Frazier

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    Associated Press

    Date: January 27, 1970

    In a deadlock tie with Joe Namath, Knicks great Walt “Clyde” Frazier is absolutely one of the two coolest professional athletes to ever play in New York. 

    Here Frazier poses in a slick fur-trimmed leather coat after playing the Celtics at Madison Square Garden. 

Walt “Clyde” Frazier

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    Richard Drew/Associated Press

    Date: April 16, 1974

    As pointed out by The Associated Press, “Walt Frazier, of the New York Knicks, owns a $20,000 Rolls-Royce but still takes the subway to work in New York,” noting that while he “thrives on heavy traffic on a basketball floor, [he] can’t abide it on the New York streets.” 

    It really worked out for the best. If Frazier drove himself to work, imagine how many New Yorkers would’ve been deprived of that unforgettable image. 

Dale Earnhardt

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    JOE HOLLOWAY JR./Associated Press

    Date: November 5, 1983

    Racing great Dale Earnhardt is pictured napping in his stock car. He was catching a few winks while waiting for the trial time at the Atlanta International Raceway ahead of the Atlanta Journal 500. 

Joe Louis

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    Joe Caneva/Associated Press

    Date: January 12, 1939

    Boxing heavyweight champion Joe Louis napping next to his record player at his training facility in Pompton Lakes, N.J. The photo was taken two weeks prior to his fight against John Henry Lewis. 

Walter Payton

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    David Banks/Associated Press

    Date: January 14, 1986 

    Hall of Fame Bears running back Walter “Sweetness” Payton is pictured in a Chicago recording studio. He and teammate William “Refrigerator” Perry recorded an anti-drugs and anti-prejudice song that was written by four teenagers. 

Tiger Woods and Greg Norman

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    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    Date: April 4, 1995

    Back when he was just the U.S. Amateur Champion, PGA pro Tiger Woods talks with Greg Norman during practice holes ahead of the Masters. 

Julius "Dr. J" Erving

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    ML/Associated Press

    Date: January 6, 1975

    Athletes simply don’t get much cooler than Julius Erving. Here, the Nets legend is pictured at the Gillette Cavalcade of Champions Awards in New York. 

    On anyone else, that afro, tinted glasses and wicked '70s leisure suit might look dated. On Dr. J, it looks nothing short of magical. 

John Elway

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    Associated Press

    Date: January 1983

    Hall of Fame Broncos quarterback John Elway doesn’t look a day over 14 in this photo. This picture was taken after he announced he would play baseball for the Yankees instead of signing with the Baltimore Colts, who had the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft. 

    Obviously, Elway was just posturing since he never actually played professional baseball. And it worked—he was eventually traded to the Denver Broncos. 

"Mean" Joe Greene

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    Associated Press

    Date: February 1974

    After being named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene, of the vaunted '70s Pittsburgh “Steel Curtain” defense, is pictured at home with his family in Duncanville, Texas. 

    Greene doesn’t look nearly as “Mean” sitting next to his wife Agnes and the couple’s two sons, Charles and Edward. 

Jose Canseco

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    ALAN GRETH/Associated Press

    Date: October 13, 1988

    Former A’s slugger Jose Canseco and then-fiance Esther Haddad—many, many fiances ago—arrive at LAX for Game 1 of the 1988 World Series against the Dodgers. 

Dick Butkus

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    Larry Stoddard/Associated Press

    Date: October 25, 1972

    Bears linebacker Dick Butkus’ Hall of Fame career in the NFL spanned nearly a decade. Despite being one of the most fearsome and bruising players to ever play the position, he missed just seven total games in nine years on the field. 

    Yet, at his suburban home in Chicago Heights, Butkus looks just like any other guy. Any other guy with a ridiculously awesome '70s mustache. 

Willie Mays

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Date: May 21, 1951

    The great Willie Mays is seen at the airport in Omaha, Neb., picking up his ticket to New York. The Giants had just called him up from the minors, and he was scheduled to play later that night. At the time, he was hitting a whopping .477. 

Steve Spurrier

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    JOHN J. LENT/Associated Press

    Date: December 1, 1966

    South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier played a little ball back in the day—and played pretty well, it seems. The former Florida quarterback actually won the Heisman back in 1966. 

Shaquille O'Neal

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    MONIKA GRAFF/Associated Press

    Date: November 6, 1995

    The legendary Shaquille O’Neal scoops up tennis star Monica Seles—An Officer and a Gentleman-style—at the Official All Star Cafe in New York. They were among the six prominent athletes who invested in the venture. 

Magic Johnson

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    NICK UT/Associated Press

    Date: November 9, 1991

    Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson appears on the Arsenio Hall Show—it was his first public appearance after announcing his planned retirement because he had contracted HIV. 

    That’s quite the jacket Arsenio is sporting there! Kind of like a leather Cosby sweater. 

Magic Johnson

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    AP

    Date: September 8, 1988

    A series of hilarious photos of Magic Johnson and busty television personality Elvira, taken at the MTV Video Music Awards. 

Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus

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    Toby Massey/Associated Press

    Date: December 10, 1966

    Golf legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus may have had a decades-long rivalry on the course, but their friendship dates back just as long. Here they’re pictured after winning the $250,000 PGA Team Championships. 

    Considering their impressive accomplishment, both Palmer and Nicklaus look oddly unaffected by it all. Suppose it was just another day on the golf course for these two. 

Michael Jordan

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    Eric Risberg/Associated Press

    Date: July 25, 1992

    Hall of Fame basketball great Michael Jordan looks pleased as Punch during a Nike press conference at the Barcelona Olympics. To the left of MJ is Sergei Bubka, a member of the Ukrainian track and field team. 

    Jordan and Bubka are probably laughing at how ridiculous those outfits are. 

Michael Jordan

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    Tim Boyle/Associated Press

    Date: March 18, 1995

    Decked out in a "swooshy" jumpsuit and eye-catching (in a bad way) yellow sunglasses, "His Airness" exits his royal coach outside the Bulls’ training center in Deerfield, Ill., after announcing that he was coming out of retirement. 

    The royal coach, in this case, being a crimson Corvette that perfectly matches his outfit.

Jackie Robinson

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    Anthony Camerano/Associated Press

    Date: April 15, 1950

    The trailblazing Jackie Robinson became the first African-American player in MLB when he broke the color barrier after being called up by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. 

    Here he is three years later having some fun in the snow with teammates Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese and Gil Hodges at Ebbets Field. 

David Beckham

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    MATTHEW FEARN/Associated Press

    Date: July 7, 2000

    Here is English soccer great David Beckham and wife Victoria, at a party in London—both awaiting a meet-and-greet with the Prince of Wales. Victoria, a former Spice Girl, made her solo debut in front of 100,000 fans at the event earlier that day. 

    As for Beckham, there’s absolutely no explaining the sleeveless ladies blouse or the Nelly-inspired pantyhose skull cap. 

David Beckham

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    LUCA BRUNO/Associated Press

    Date: January 11, 1998 

    Sans Victoria here, David Beckham is seated in the front row at a Versace runway show in Milan. To the left of him is English pop singer Elton John. Italian singer Zucchero is on the other side of Beckham. 

Babe Ruth

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    Associated Press

    Date: December 12, 1924

    Legendary Yankees slugger Babe Ruth spent his offseasons at his farm in Sudbury, Mass. 

    Here "The Babe" is pictured with his adorable pet calf, Flossy. 

Pele

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    Frings/Associated Press

    Date: February 26, 1966

    Brazilian soccer superstar Pele and wife Rosemeri on their honeymoon in Germany.

    The newlyweds look amused while clutching their beer steins at the famed Hofbrauhaus beer house in Munich. 

Wilt Chamberlain

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Date: December 13, 1957

    Wilt Chamberlain, then a college basketball star at Kansas, is at a news conference in his hotel room prior to a game against St. Joseph’s. 

    In order to get comfortable and relax, Chamberlain requires four separate chairs, all placed several feet apart to extend his very long limbs.  

Wilt Chamberlain

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Date: May 27, 1958

    Looking at the early photos of Wilt Chamberlain, it’s clear how fascinated the press was with his size. There are countless photos of him like this, obviously aimed at demonstrating his impressive height. 

    Years later, the novelty has worn off. You won’t find many crotch-up photos of Shaquille O’Neal or Yao Ming. 

Johnny Unitas

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    David F. Smith/Associated Press

    Date: January 5, 1965

    Hall of Fame Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas joined several other Pro Bowlers on the set of The Munsters back in 1965. Here he is being playful with Herman Munster, played by actor Fred Gwynne. 

    Seeing them together in this photo really makes you wonder if Herman Munster was the inspiration for Unitas’ famed crew cut. Of course, only one of them has a haircut you can set your watch to. 

Wayne Gretzky

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    Susan Ragan/Associated Press

    Date: May 11, 1989

    Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky listens intently to Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels during rehearsal. Gretzky hosted the show hours later—one of just a handful of professional athletes to have done so. 

Pete Rose and Willie Stargell

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Date: July 24, 1973

    Each committing their own various crimes against fashion, here are former MLB All-Stars Amos Otis, Willie Stargell, Bobby Murcer and Pete Rose. 

    Actually, Stargell almost pulls off that ridiculous blazer and butterfly-collared shirt. Rose, on the other hand, is doing just the opposite with that plaid jacket and insane haircut. 

Cris Collinsworth

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Date: January 4, 1982

    Former Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth stops to sign autographs for a pack of adoring fans after defeating the Bills in an AFC playoff game played in Cincinnati. 

    It’s very easy to forget that Collinsworth wasn’t always the irritating ghoul playing (a distant) second fiddle to Al Michaels. It looks like he even used to be…kinda cool.

Muhammad Ali

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    AP

    Date: March 1, 1964

    A very young Muhammad Ali is captured by an AP photographer. No additional details are provided, but it’s one of the rare moments from early photos in which Ali doesn’t seem to be putting on a show. 

Muhammad Ali

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    Associated Press

    Date: July 19, 1963

    The legendary Muhammad Ali at the Las Vegas Press Club—holding up a photo of a jackass, which he believed to bear a strong resemblance to then-champ Sonny Liston. 

    Ali has always had a way of making a fairly innocuous insult hurt. 

Joe DiMaggio

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    Associated Press

    Date: October 24, 1939

    Everyone knows of Hall of Fame Yankee Joe DiMaggio’s relationship with bombshell actress Marilyn Monroe. But she wasn’t the first starlet who took a shine to the "Yankee Clipper." 

    DiMaggio’s first marriage was to actress Dorothy Arnold. Their wedding was such a spectacle that more than 20,000 people crowded inside and around the church just to catch a glimpse of them.

Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon

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    PETER COSGROVE/Associated Press

    Date: July 1, 1993

    Thanks to the precise bowl cut and creeper mustache, this was the photo of NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon that ultimately won out. The fact that he’s standing next to Dale Earnhardt is just a bonus. 

    Two years later, this photo of Gordon was taken. At first glance, it may not look as ridiculous as the other, but that frosted head of his, and those ridiculous sunglasses, look far more out of place on the track than the mustache.

Ted Williams

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    BILL CHAPLIS/Associated Press

    Date: March 6, 1949

    Famed Red Sox slugger Ted Williams catching a few rays in center field before reporting to the first day of spring training in Sarasota, Fla. 

Andre Agassi

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    Chris Gardner/Associated Press

    Date: August 27, 1988

    It’s crazy that the Williams sisters have taken heat in the past for what they’ve worn on the tennis court. If Andre Agassi can rock that mullet with those acid-wash jean shorts, then nothing is off limits. 

    This wasn’t even a one-time thing. Agassi actually rocked jean shorts at quite a few tournaments and events in the mid-to-late '80s. In this one, he looks like the long-lost brother of George Michael. 

Joe Namath and Bear Bryant

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    Robert Houston/Associated Press

    Date: January 1, 1965

    Former University of Alabama quarterback Joe Namath with legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant after being defeated in the Orange Bowl.

Joe Namath

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    Associated Press

    Date: September 25, 1972

    Hall of Fame Jets quarterback Joe Namath hangs with Sesame Street's Big Bird. 

Barry Bonds and Deion Sanders

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    Gene Puskar/Associated Press

    Date: October 9, 1992

    Deion Sanders, then with the Braves, and Barry Bonds, then with the Pirates, are pictured having a friendly conversation prior to Game 3 of the NLCS at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.