The Most Successful Father-Son Duos in Sports

Sean Hojnacki@@TheRealHojnackiFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2014

The Most Successful Father-Son Duos in Sports

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    Hard-nosed offensive lineman Bruce Matthews entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007. Jake Matthews will seek to emulate his dad after the Atlanta Falcons selected him sixth overall in the 2014 draft. No pressure, kid.

    Many professional athletes have groomed their sons to learn their craft and pursue a future in pro sports. Most failed, while many other sons found marginal careers. Few father-son pairs have enjoyed significant individual success in comparable measure, but these 12 sports families rose above all others.

    For this list, fathers who had multiple successful sons merit higher consideration, as do dads who found success in a different sport than their offspring chose. Individual accomplishments like All-Star appearances also carry more weight than team accomplishments like winning championships, though multiple rings are hard to refute.

    For example, while Brent Barry won a pair of titles with the Spurs and the 1996 Slam Dunk Contest title, he never made an All-Star appearance. His achievements combined with those of his father, Rick Barry, did not measure up to the paternal duos highlighted on this countdown, and Jon Barry only merits a mention for his competency as a TV analyst.

    These 12 families run the gamut of sports from baseball's Boones to football's Mannings, but the connection between father and son, both natural and nurtured, unites them all.


12. Felipe Alou and Moises Alou

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    Felipe Alou went to three All-Star Games as a player, then won Manager of the Year with the Montreal Expos in the strike-shortened 1994 season. He rose from poverty in the Dominican Republic to become a major leaguer, helping pave the way for his brother Matty Alou, who made a pair of All-Star teams.

    Felipe sired Moises Alou, who played his way to six All-Star nods, two Silver Sluggers and the 1997 World Series title.

    However, the most famous play involving an Alou came when Moises wildly gesticulated at notorious Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman, who had just hampered Alou's attempt at a foul ball late in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. The Cubs had a 3-0 lead and needed five more outs to reach the World Series, but they gave credence to their curse by managing to lose the game and the pennant.

    Instead of Bartman, Alou should have saved his ire for shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who booted a costly error two batters later.

11. Dell Curry and Stephen Curry

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    Dell Curry remains the the leading scorer in New Orleans Pelicans franchise history, but he did it as a Charlotte Hornet before the team moved. Though he never made an All-Star appearance, he did claim 1994 Sixth Man of the Year honors. He led the league in three-point percentage in 1998-99, which gave his son something to shoot for.

    Stephen Curry set the record for three-pointers in a season in 2013, and some, including reigning MVP Kevin Durant, have called him the best shooter in NBA history. The 26-year-old already projects as a perennial All-Star whose skills as a point guard will only continue to blossom, provided his ankles hold up.

    Steph and Dell also teamed up for the Shooting Stars competition during the 2014 All-Star weekend, along with the WNBA's Becky Hammon.

10. Cecil Fielder and Prince Fielder

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    Few hitters brought a more fearsome presence to the plate in the early '90s than Cecil Fielder. He led the AL in RBI for three consecutive seasons and home runs for the first two of those.

    In 2007, Prince Fielder blasted 50 home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers, making the Fielders the first father and son to each hit 50 homers in a single season. With Prince's neck injury ending his 2014 season, the Texas Rangers may never enjoy the player who put up multiple years of an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) above 1.000.

    Unfortunately, Cecil and Prince have been estranged for years.

9. Clay Matthews Jr. and Clay Matthews III

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    Clay Matthews Jr.—brother of aforementioned HOFer Bruce Matthews and son of Clay Sr., a former San Francisco 49er—went to four Pro Bowls as a Cleveland Browns linebacker. Though Clay Jr. failed to join his brother in Canton, his son may have a bust there one day.

    Linebacker Clay Matthews III made the Pro Bowl in each of his first four years in the league and won Super Bowl XLV as a marauder on the Green Bay Packers defense. He claimed both NFC Defensive Player of the Year and the Butkus Award in 2010, his second season.

    His brother Casey Matthews enjoyed a strong college career at Oregon but has not made an impact with the Philadelphia Eagles.


8. Calvin Hill and Grant Hill

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    Calvin Hill made four Pro Bowls and earned two All-Pro nods. The Yale graduate won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1969, an era when running backs absorbed huge amounts of punishment. He also won Super Bowl VI as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

    Calvin was smart enough to steer his son toward a career in a more sustainable sport, though Grant Hill's sensational talent never reached its full potential. He enjoyed an excellent college basketball career at Duke and played for 19 seasons in the NBA, but he would have notched more than seven All-Star selections had a litany of ankle injuries not hampered him.

7. Bob Boone, Bret Boone and Aaron Boone

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    Not only did three generations of Boones play in the big leagues, but the entire family descended from legendary pioneer Daniel Boone.

    Ray Boone led the AL in RBI in 1955 and made two All-Star teams. His son, Bob Boone, won seven Gold Gloves at catcher and appeared on four All-Star teams. Bob later managed the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds, though he never led his charges to a .500 season.

    Bret Boone—begat by Bob, son of Ray—avoided the rigors of playing catcher but still inherited his father's proclivity for defense, winning four Gold Gloves at second base, plus a pair of Silver Sluggers and three All-Star honors.

    Brother Aaron Boone made the 2003 All-Star team as a member of the Reds, but he moved to the New York Yankees via midseason trade in time to swat the biggest home run of his career, an 11th-inning game-winner off Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to walk off as winners in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Boone added his name to an alliterative triumvirate of hated baseballers in Boston, along with Babe Ruth, Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner.


6. Ken Norton Sr. and Ken Norton Jr.

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    One of the few multi-sport father-son pairs, Ken Norton Sr. compiled a career 42-7-1 record with 33 KOs and earned the moniker "Black Hercules." He famously broke Muhammad Ali's jaw in their first bout, a 12-round split decision that awarded Norton the heavyweight title in 1973. He also assumed the WBC title in 1978.

    Ken Norton Jr. eschewed the boxing ring for another brutally violent sport, compiling 1,130 career tackles and making three Pro Bowls. He collected three Super Bowl rings playing with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers; he added a fourth title in 2014 while serving as the Seattle Seahawks linebackers coach.


5. Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds

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    Bobby Bonds Sr. burst onto the scene in 1968 with the San Francisco Giants and banged out 332 home runs and over 1,000 RBI before retiring in 1981. He received three Gold Gloves and made three All-Star appearances, but he could hardly have envisioned his son swatting more homers than Hammerin' Hank Aaron.

    Barry Bonds began his career in 1986 with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a speedy outfielder before joining the Giants in 1993. Some time around the turn of the millennium, every part of his body doubled in size, including his head. He retired with the records for home runs in a season and a career, but his legacy will be forever tarnished by rampant suspicion of steroid use.

    The BALCO scandal began in 2003 and ensnared the Giant, with reporting by Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada from the San Francisco Chronicle proving particularly damning. In retrospect, it did seem a little suspicious that Bonds clubbed a record 73 dingers at the age of 37 despite never before eclipsing 50. Bonds remains out of the Hall of Fame as the baseball writers punish him for chemically enhanced numbers.


4. Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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    Dale Earnhardt Sr. turned the No. 3 car into "The Intimidator" with his menacing driving. He won 76 races in his career, achieving perhaps his most elusive victory at the 1998 Daytona 500.

    Tragically, he perished on the final-lap wreck at Daytona in 2001. Dale Earnhardt Jr., then age 26, finished second in that race. In the traumatic aftermath of his father's passing, Earnhardt Jr. won the Pepsi 400 that year in the first race held on the Daytona track since the tragedy.

    A visible and charismatic figure, Earnhardt Jr. was named NASCAR's Most Popular Driver for 11 consecutive seasons. After winning the Daytona 500 in 2004, he thrilled fans by taking the checkered flag there in 2014 at age 39, his 20th career win.


3. Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr.

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    Like Bobby Bonds Sr., Ken Griffey Sr. earned three All-Star nods and also won an All-Star Game MVP. He won two titles with Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" and retired with a lifetime .296 average.

    While dad played on a '70s baseball dynasty, some consider Ken Griffey Jr. the most exciting player in modern baseball history.

    He debuted in 1989 and even played with his dad on the Seattle Mariners. He not only brought a stunning combination of speed and power to the game, but his sweet home-run swing looked like baseball's equivalent of a Michael Jordan dunk. Griffey Jr. also exuded his own signature style, frequently spinning his hat backward during batting practice and even during the Home Run Derby.

    In 2000, after moving to the Cincinnati Reds to be closer to his family, Griffey Jr. hit 40 home runs and played in 145 games. He never eclipsed either total and battled myriad injuries before retiring during the 2010 season with 630 career home runs.


2. Bobby Hull and Brett Hull

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    Regarded by some as the greatest left winger to put on skates, Bobby Hull—nicknamed "The Golden Jet"—collected the Hart Trophy twice as the league's MVP and led in points three times. His statue now stands outside the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

    Needless to say, Brett Hull had a very high standard to aim for, and he drastically outperformed his two brothers to earn the honorific of "The Golden Brett." He joined dad in the Hall of Fame in 2009, the first father-son duo ever enshrined. While Brett won "only" one MVP award, he doubled up his father in Stanley Cups and scored more often; they tallied 1,351 career goals between them.

    Brett currently serves as executive VP of the St. Louis Blues.

1. Archie Manning, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning

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    This family easily tops the list, as it boasts a duo of great father-son duos. Archie Manning played a creditable career at quarterback that included a couple of Pro Bowls, though fans of his New Orleans Saints wore paper bags on their heads during the doldrums of the '70s. Archie saw his No. 18 retired at Ole Miss and his No. 8 reserved in perpetuity by the Saints, a franchise that does not retire numbers.

    All fathers want their sons to have something better than they had, and Archie determined that his kids should avoid exile on a moribund team. As a result, Peyton Manning and younger brother Eli Manning have three Super Bowls between them and a shot at the playoffs every season.

    While Peyton has achieved universal recognition as the superior QB, the single-season leader in passing yards and touchdowns came up short in two of his three trips to the big game. Eli led the New York Giants on game-winning drives to defeat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in two different Super Bowls. Retiring with more rings would be the ultimate little brother's revenge, but it's all gravy for Archie.