The Most Famous Moms in Sports
Some holidays seem like thinly veiled schemes designed to increase sales of candy, flowers and greeting cards destined for a lonely, dusty drawer.
Mother's Day, however, is different. Mom's deserve this day, and they're not just looking for Hallmark cards. After years of care-taking, educating and sports-practice shuttling, the least we can do is stop and show our love.
Moms never stop being a mom, even when the paychecks grow from five- to seven-figures and her precious boy is featured on SportsCenter. Fame may change their children, but for the biggest stars in sports, their moms are almost always wonderfully consistent Mom (with the exception of fancy new digs).
These are the most famous moms in sports.
Olivia Manning, the wife of Ole Miss great Archie Manning and the mother of the NFL’s most famous pair of brothers, Peyton and Eli, never seems to be looking for the spotlight herself, but when your last name’s Manning, good luck staying out of it.
The relationship of Olivia and Archie, who were college sweethearts, was featured prominently in The Book of Manning, a gem of a documentary that premiered during the third season of ESPN Films' “SEC Storied.”
In recent years the parents of Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin, particularly his mother Natalia, have become local Pittsburgh celebrities in their own right. They’re always seen huddled together in the crowd cheering on the Pens during the playoffs.
In 2009 Mrs. Malkin’s lucky borscht recipe was featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. That was the same year this epic YouTube video, a parody song called “Geno’s Mom Has Got It Going On” was published.
Though Natalia may only be a regional celebrity in the U.S., back home in Russia she’s a carrying the Olympic torch celebrity.
Lakers great Kobe Bryant’s relationship with his mother Pamela definitely seems to run hot and cold. As recently as three years ago she was a fairly regular presence at the Staples Center, but a very public feud over money took center stage in 2013.
According to TMZ, Pamela planned to auction off a whole mess of Kobe’s high school memorabilia in order to pay for a house in Nevada. When Kobe delivered on the house, as he promised, it wasn’t quite what she had hoped. It took them a few months to iron things out.
It’s a feud that has allegedly been brewing since Kobe’s marriage to wife Vanessa over a decade ago. Tension aside, mother and son maintain enough of a relationship that he credited her for “his fire” in a 2012 Sports Illustrated article. Pamela’s comments in the piece are classic Kobe.
Diane Gronkowski is the mother of Patriots superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski, Chargers running back Chris Gronkowski and free agent fullback tight end Dan Gronkowski—three of the five strapping sons she and Mr. Gronk unleashed upon the world.
Though her boys were obviously quite the handful growing up, as seen in this ESPN E:60 segment, Mrs. Gronk is Super Mom in their eyes. She has been quick to defend Rob against critics who say he parties too much or hasn't been eager enough to get back on the field.
Diane may become even more famous if anything actually comes of the animated TV show the family has pitched.
Nuggets center JaVale McGee is one of the more colorful characters in the NBA, and apparently the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Pam McGee, his mother, is enough of a character to have landed her own reality show earlier this year.
Mom’s Got Game premiered on the OWN Network in January. It centered primarily around Pam’s life, but her relationship with her son, who she also manages, was also featured. Later that month JaVale made headlines when he surprised Pam with a $400,000 car for her 50th birthday.
Naturally it all played out on the show.
American swimmer Michael Phelps is one of the most easily recognized athletes in the world. He’s been an international superstar in his sport for years, but etched a permanent place in history at the 2012 London Olympics by winning his 22nd medal—an Olympic record.
By his side the whole way has been none other than Debbie Phelps, his loving mother. A longtime teacher, more recently a principal within the Baltimore county school system, insightful interviews with her over the years have helped feed the public thirst for all things Phelps—at least every few years.
In 2012 Phelps stepped down from her job as principal to become the director for the Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money for schools. According to her Twitter bio, an account which boats almost 14,000 followers, Phelps is also an author and motivational speaker.
It’s been awhile since Donovan McNabb was quarterbacking the Eagles in Philadelphia and even longer since his delightful mother Wilma starred in those memorable commercials for Campbell’s Chunky Soup.
Wilma’s popularity definitely transcended the ads—she was profiled a number of times between 2005-08, including this interview on CBS’ The Early Show. In fact, Momma McNabb was such a force that she actually convinced Campbell’s to use her in the campaign, rather than the actress that had played her early on.
In January 2013 Wilma wrote and recorded a tribute song for Donovan and posted it to YouTube. “As parents of an athlete you feel more than you see as you watch the game. Listen to the words, and I am sure you too will understand the emotions we get, when your heart is on the field,” said Mrs. McNabb.
Awwww. If only her son was nearly as lovable to the rest of us.
Dee Dee Bonner
Dee Dee Bonner is the mother of former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Although her son maintains a relatively low public profile, Bonner has courted media attention almost as hard as her future daughter-in-law, Katherine Webb.
In August 2013 she and Webb were featured together on the cover of Access magazine, an issue dedicated to “women, fashion & football!” Bonner was a visible present at McCarron’s home games last fall and was deemed relevant enough to be featured in a FOXSports piece last November.
Bonner has been particularly active on social media—boasting upwards of 25,000 followers currently. In fact, maybe she’s a bit too active at times. Following Auburn’s defeat to Florida State in the BCS Championship, Bonner took to Twitter to question the English-speaking abilities of Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston.
With many interpreting her comment as racist, the online backlash was swift. Bonner quickly apologized and has since put the whole thing behind her. Expect both Bonner and Webb to be at McCarron's side whenever he ends up being drafted this May.
Gloria James, the mother of Heat superstar LeBron James, has made more than her own fair share of headlines during her son’s career in the NBA. Some of them have been good, while others have been decidedly not so good.
In April 2011 TMZ published security footage in which James is seen slapping a parking valet and hurling a racial slur at him—she was arrested at the scene. A year later she accepted a plea deal with reduced chargers and put the incident behind her.
More recently James’ relationship with rapper Da Real Lambo, who at age 31 is at least 20 years her junior, has kept gossip bloggers blogging. After a very public courtship, the happy couple got engaged in December 2013.
Say what you will about Ms. Gloria, but you know she keeps it real. And her occasional brushes with scandal haven’t changed anything between her LeBron, who wrote a touching essay about her in January, which was published on Today.com.
Leigh Anne Tuohy
First of all, obviously that actress Sandra Bullock in the photo, not the real Leigh Anne Tuohy. But the fact that Bullock won an Oscar for her portrayal of Tuohy in 2009’s The Blind Side speaks to just how famous Tuohy is.
The film was based on the real life story of the Tuohy family and Titans offensive tackle Michael Oher, who they took in as one of their own when he was in high school. In 2010 she and her husband co-authored the book, In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving.
In June 2013 Tuohy landed her own weekly reality television series called Family Addition, which spotlights foster children hoping to match them with the right families.