50 Amazing Vintage Photos of Superstar Athletes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Date: January 1, 1965
Former University of Alabama quarterback Joe Namath with legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant after being defeated in the Orange Bowl.
Date: September 25, 1972
Hall of Fame Jets quarterback Joe Namath hangs with Sesame Street's Big Bird.
Barry Bonds and Deion Sanders
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.