The Most Successful Father-Son Combos in Sports History
Though athletic greatness is most often associated with notions like hard work and dedication, sometimes genetic excellence supersedes all, in a way stealing the leading role.
In these rare instances, sports stardom is passed down from father to son(s), almost as if they were born to play their respective games.
Along the gridiron, for example, three different Mannings have dominated football on both the collegiate and pro levels, beginning with the patriarchal Archie all the way back in 1969.
Likewise, in hockey, Bobby Hull set the standard for offensive excellence in the '50s, '60s and '70s, while his son, Brett, seamlessly continued the family tradition more than two decades later.
The same can be said of numerous baseball families, like the Alous, Bonds, Griffeys and Boones, all of which produced multiple generations of baseball greats.
With, then, the aforementioned families in mind, we've sought to highlight and honor the 15 most prolific father-son combos in sports history.
Though we used a sliding scale of sorts—one generation's mediocrity could, in theory, be overcome by the next generation's excellence—for the most part we only selected duos in which both members had achieved some form of professional success.
Also, additional credit was given if a father-son combo's athletic greatness extended to a third generation—to another son, if you will—or if a father produced not one, but two or three superstar sons (like Archie).
And while most of our spotlighted duos played the same sport, a few chose to migrate in divergent directions. Either way, though, each of our father-son combos nonetheless ranks among the most naturally gifted and athletically prolific in all of sports history.
Close, but No Cigar
Though we'll highlight the 15 most prolific father-son duos, there are plenty of others worthy of attention. With them in mind, we're calling this our familial list of honorable mentions:
- Joe and Kobe Bryant
- Dolph and Danny Schayes
- Tony Gwynn Senior and Junior
- Doc and Austin Rivers
- Mario and Michael Andretti
- Howie and Chris Long
- Jimmy Walker and Jalen Rose
- Greg and Ryan Malone
- Bill and Luke Walton
- Mike Dunleavy Senior and Junior
- The Ripkens
Felipe and Moises Alou
It all started with Felipe in 1958, when he signed with the San Francisco Giants, becoming the first Dominican to appear regularly in MLB. Between then and 1974, the elder Alou would play for five more teams, including the Yankees and Braves.
During his 17 years in professional baseball, Felipe made three All-Star appearances ('62, '66, '68) and led the NL in hits twice and in runs once. While playing all three outfield positions, he hit .286 lifetime to go along with 852 RBI and 206 homers.
Like his father, Moises also spent 17 successful years in the league, mostly in Montreal while playing for, you guessed it, his father. In 1,942 career games—between 1990 and 2008—the younger, five-tool Alou hit an impressive .303 with 2,134 hits, 421 doubles, 332 home runs and 1,287 RBI.
To this day, the two Alous remain one of just four father-son duos in which both father and son had at least one 20-homer season, joining the Griffeys, Fielders and Wards.
Calvin and Grant Hill
While most of our prolific father-son duos played the same sport, Calvin and Grant Hill chose completely different paths to stardom. Still, when in their primes, both reached elite status in their respective leagues.
Calvin made his name on the NFL gridiron, where he enjoyed a 12-year career from 1969-81. The Yale grad's many accomplishments include four Pro Bowl selections ('69, '72, '73, '74) and, in 1972, he became the first Dallas Cowboy to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, which he did again in '73.
His son, Grant, did well to follow in father's footsteps, even if he did it while wearing basketball shoes. On the hardwood, the younger Hill was a transcendent talent, using a uniquely versatile game to lead his college team—Duke—to national titles in both 1991 and 1992 before moving on to the NBA in 1994.
At the pro level, Hill took his game to an even higher level, appearing in seven All-Star games while making four All-NBA Second Teams and one All-NBA First Team.
In 1999-00, the former Dukie put together one of the most impressive seasons in NBA history, averaging 25.8 PPG in addition to 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists per contest. Though a collection of injuries would later slow his production, Hill still managed to play 18 long NBA seasons.
Ken Norton Senior and Junior
Sticking with the theme of fathers and sons who chose different routes to fame and fortune, it's time now to take a closer look at Ken Norton Senior and Junior. In truth, both Nortons were paid handsomely to professionally punish opponents, but their backdrops were nothing alike.
Senior, for example, did his damage in the ring, where the heavyweight boxed his way to 42 wins, including one against Muhammad Ali in 1973. The once-WBC world heavyweight champion also became well-known for his classic bout with Larry Holmes, which he lost by split decision.
Widely regarded as one of the 50 greatest heavyweights of all time, Norton Sr. was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1989, the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992 and the WBC Hall of Fame in 2008.
Taking an equally physical but different path, Junior excelled on the football field, first at linebacker for the UCLA Bruins (1984-87). A 1987 All-American, Norton Jr. is currently in the UCLA Hall of Fame.
On the pro level, believe it or not, the younger Norton enjoyed even more success, making it to three Pro Bowls while winning the same number of Super Bowls. In fact, in 1995, Junior became the first NFL player to win a Super Bowl ring in three consecutive seasons, suiting up for both Dallas and San Francisco along the way.
Dell and Stephen Curry
During Dell's 16 years in the NBA, he averaged 11.7 PPG while shooting nearly 46 percent from the floor and better than 40 percent from three. Thanks in large part to his sweet stroke, he was named the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in 1994, and he still ranks as the all-time leading scorer in Charlotte Hornets history.
With that said, Dell's most talented son, Steph, has been even better than his father, and by a lot. In 2008, during his sophomore season at Davidson, Steph set the NCAA record for threes made in a single season.
And, since joining the Golden State Warriors in 2009, the younger Curry has done nothing but surprise and improve, becoming one of the top PGs in the Association while scorching nets on a nightly basis.
During the 2012-13 NBA season, Curry set an NBA record for most three-pointers made in a regular season (272) and, in 2013-14, he teamed up with Klay Thompson to set the NBA record for combined threes in a year (484).
In just over fives seasons in the league, Steph has averaged a gaudy 20.6 PPG in addition to 6.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per contest. Better yet, he's done it while shooting 47 percent from the floor and a ridiculous 43.5 percent from three.
Quickly, we should note that Steph's younger brother, Seth, currently plays for the Orlando Magic developmental team, but he hasn't done nearly as much to make a dent in the league.
Yannick and Joakim Noah
Growing up in Cameroon, Yannick took to tennis early on and, at age 11, was discovered by Arthur Ashe and Charlie Pasarell. Soon after, he moved to France, where he'd train and, in 1977, begin a promising tennis career.
Over the next two decades, Yannick was a true force on the court. Though he is best remembered for winning the French Open in 1983, the elder Noah also experienced tremendous success as the captain of France's Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams.
In all, Yannick captured 23 singles titles in addition to 16 doubles titles, and he rose all the way to No. 3 in the world in singles and to No. 1 in the world in doubles.
His son, Joakim, took a much different route to championship glory, making the hardwood his surface of choice. First, he starred at the University of Florida, leading the Gators to back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007. Then, after his junior season, Noah entered the NBA draft, where he was selected ninth overall by the Chicago Bulls.
In Chicago, Noah has seemingly grown into an even larger star.
In a little more than seven professional seasons, Joakim has made two NBA All-Star teams, as well as an All-NBA First Team. He was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2014.
Few families, if any, have experienced more baseball success than the Boones, which includes a combined 10 All-Star appearances over three generations.
With them in mind, then, we extend our commentary here beyond the traditional father-son talk, to a third a generation.
To be exact, the Boone connection to pro baseball dates all the way back to 1948, when Ray Boone broke into the majors with the Cleveland Indians. During his 13-year career, the two-time All-Star and World Series champion managed to hit .275 with 151 home runs, and he was the AL's RBI champ in 1955.
While playing for three different teams—the Phillies, Angels and Royals—Bob appeared in four All-Star Games, won seven Gold Gloves and, in 1980, captured a World Series title.
Of course, like his father, Bob passed on his love and eye for baseball, doing his part to produce two more Boone All-Stars.
Bob's oldest son, Bret, spent 14 years in the league—from 1992-2005—splitting time between six different franchises. A true all-around star, Bret was a three-time All-Star and the winner of four Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers.
And, as alluded to above, Bret's brother, Aaron, also did well to keep alive the family's rich baseball tradition. More specifically, Aaron graced MLB with his presence from 1997-2009, but is best known for his mythical year in New York.
In his lone All-Star campaign (2003), the youngest Boone belted 24 homers and drove in 96 runs, including a legendary 11th-inning walk-off shot in Game 7 of the ALCS.
All told, the Boones have been an active and productive part of MLB for roughly 60 years, featuring four All-Stars across three different generations.
We now move to NASCAR to honor the sport's two most prolific families: the Earnhardts and Petties.
We begin our tour of the track, then, with the oldest of the group, one Lee Petty. An American stock car driver in the 1950s and '60s, today Lee is considered a pioneer of the sport and one of its first true superstars.
Between 1954 and 1959, the oldest Petty won three Grand National Championships and then capped it all off with a 1959 win at the Daytona 500. For it all, Lee was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011.
His son, Richard Petty, began his NASCAR career all the way back in 1958 at just 21 years of age and, in a major way, improved upon his father's legacy, winning a record 200 races in a historic 35-year career.
Most notably, The King won seven NASCAR Championships and a record seven Daytona 500s before retiring in 1992 as, statistically, the sport's most accomplished driver ever. Not surprisingly, he was inducted into NASCAR's Hall of Fame in 2010.
Of course, Richard's son, Kyle Petty, wasn't able to match his father's unprecedented dominance, but he still put together a solid 31-year career. In 829 total races, the youngest Petty won eight times with another 173 top-10 finishes.
On the Earnhardt side of things, it all started in 1975, when Dale Sr. began his professional racing career. During his 27-year run, Senior cemented his status as one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history.
In addition to racing his way to 76 first-place finishes, The Intimidator also managed to tie the aforementioned Petty with a record seven Winston Cup Championships and, also like Petty, was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.
In 1991, Dale Earnhardt Jr. decided to follow in his father's racing footsteps, and his first NASCAR appearance came roughly eight years later, in 1999. Since then, Junior has had a tremendous career, notching 23 wins in all, including two at the storied Daytona International Speedway.
And, with his father's shadow always close by, the younger Earnhardt has been named the sport's most popular driver for an astonishing twelve consecutive seasons (2003-14).
Cecil and Prince Fielder
Back to the diamond we go, where—with a last name like Fielder—Cecil and Prince were destined to star.
The older Fielder, Cecil, launched his baseball career in 1985, suiting up for the Toronto Blue Jays. In 13 years of professional work, he established himself as one of the game's premier power hitters, belting 319 homers and 1,008 RBI, leading the league in the former twice and the latter three times.
In fact, while suiting up for the Detroit Tigers in 1990, Cecil hit an extraordinary 51 homers, becoming the first player to reach the 50-homer mark since 1977, when George Foster hit 52.
When the powerful Fielder retired in 1998, he had an impressive resume, which included three All-Star nominations, a World Series title and two Silver Slugger awards. Oh, and by the way, Cecil was also a two-time AL home run champion and a three-time AL RBI champ.
Like his father, Prince has also used power to dominate MLB, which he joined in 2002. Over his 10 years in the league—suiting up for Milwaukee, Detroit and Texas—Prince has a .285 batting average with 886 RBI and 288 home runs.
In 2007, Prince became baseball's youngest player ever to hit 50 home runs in a single season and is one of just three players to win two Home Run Derbies, joining Ken Griffey Jr. and Yoenis Cespedes. As reward, the three-time Silver Slugger is also a five-time All-Star.
The Barry Family
Over the last 50 years, the Barry family has remained a constant force within the NBA.
So, like with the Boones, we must extend our Barry banter a bit to make it a father-sons discussion.
Their professional legacy began in 1965, when the San Francisco Warriors used the draft's second overall pick on small forward Rick Barry. The University of Miami product was an instant sensation, winning Rookie of the Year honors while averaging 25.7 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in his first NBA season.
Over his 14-year career, the NBA champion and Finals MVP put up gaudy averages, including 24.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per contest.
Before all was said and done, Barry led the league in points once (1967), in steals once (1975), made it to eight NBA All-Star games and was named to five All-NBA First Teams. In 1996, he was honored as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.
Though his sons, Brent and Jon, never came close to equaling their dad's prolific production, both were NBA successes in their own right.
Brent won NBA titles with the Spurs in 2005 and 2007 and, in between, won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest as well. During his 15 years in the league, he posted eight double-digit scoring seasons, shot better than 40 percent from three and better than 52 percent on twos.
Jon, though slightly less successful than Brent, also managed to spend 15 years in the league, from 1992-2006. In a mostly reserve role, he scored 5,041 career points, including both regular-season and postseason play. Barry's best year came in 2001-02, when he averaged 9.0 PPG in addition to 2.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
Ken Griffey Senior and Junior
Though Junior is the guy most fans remember today, Ken Griffey Sr. was a baseball star in his own right. Suiting up for four different teams from 1973-91, Senior managed to make three All-Star appearances and, as a member of the vaunted Big Red Machine, won two World Series titles as well.
During a long and consistent 19-year run in the big leagues, the elder Griffey posted a .296 lifetime batting average, knocked in 859 runs and hit 152 homers. Interestingly, his career actually overlapped with Junior's, as the two spent a couple of seasons together in Seattle.
In Seattle—where Griffey Jr. played from 1989-99—he established himself as one of the best home run hitters in baseball history. There, Junior hit a large majority of his 630 career home runs, which ranks sixth most all-time.
In addition to the long ball, the four-time AL home run champ hit for average—he hit .284 lifetime, was an AL RBI champion and won seven Silver Sluggers—and played impeccable defense, too, taking home 10 Gold Gloves.
For his impressive output, Junior was named to 13 All-Star teams, was voted the 1997 AL MVP and currently resides in two Halls of Fame (Seattle and Cincinnati).
Bobby and Brett Hull
You'd be hard-pressed to find a father-son combination that dominated their respective sport to the degree that both Bobby and Brett Hull dominated hockey.
The Hull family name burst onto the hockey scene all the way back in 1957, when Bobby first turned pro. It didn't take The Golden Jet long to make a dent, either, as he finished second in Rookie of the Year balloting. And, by his third year in the league, he was leading it in both goals and points.
All told, during what was a truly illustrious 23-year career, Bobby won the Hart Memorial Trophy twice, the Art Ross Trophy three times and the Stanley Cup once. Considered one of the greatest players of all time, the elder Hull was elected into hockey's Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
In unbelievable fashion, Bobby's son, Brett, actually managed to meet the standard his father had previously set. In 20 NHL seasons, from 1986-2005, The Golden Brett scored 741 goals—the third-highest total in NHL history—and posted five consecutive seasons with 50 goals or more. His 86 goals in 1990-91 is the third-highest single-season total in league history.
Additionally, the younger Hull also managed to win two Stanley Cups, a Hart Memorial Trophy and a Lester B. Pearson Award while also appearing in eight NHL All-Star games.
In 2009, Brett joined his father in the Hockey Hall of Fame, as the two became the first pair to achieve such lofty status. To this day, they are the only father-son duo to have both father and son record 1,000 career points apiece.
We now take an up-close look at the Alomars, yet another family deeply rooted in professional baseball excellence.
Sandy Alomar Sr. kicked things off in 1964, when he got his MLB start with the Milwaukee Braves. More of a defensive specialist than an offensive weapon, Alomar Sr. was able to play every position in the field during his 15-year career.
His best offensive season, which came in 1970, included a .260 batting average, four home runs, 179 hits and his lone All-Star appearance.
His own baseball efforts, however, were not his greatest contribution to the game. That distinction instead belongs to the two sons Senior gave to the sport.
Sandy Jr., the older of the two boys, spent 20 years in the league, beginning in 1988. As a defensive whiz behind the plate, Junior won AL Rookie of the Year honors in 1990 as well as a Gold Glove. Playing for nine different teams along the way, he was voted into six MLB All-Star games.
In the end, though, Junior's brother—Roberto—was the best Alomar of all. During his 17 years in pro baseball, Roberto made an impressive 12 All-Star appearances and won more Gold Gloves (10) than any other second baseman in baseball history.
Meanwhile, his total of four Silver Sluggers ranks third all-time among players at his position. As expected, the two-time World Series champion is also a member of the prestigious Baseball Hall of Fame.
To be honest, an entire book could justifiably be dedicated to the impressive Matthews bloodlines. We, however, will be more economical here.
Clay Matthews Sr. started the family's lengthy football tradition in 1950, when he made his NFL debut with the San Francisco 49ers. But his pedestrian career—which spanned just five years—was overshadowed when his son, Clay Jr., hit the field for the Browns in 1978.
Over the next 19 seasons, while making the 17th-most appearances in NFL history, the younger Matthews recorded 69.5 sacks to go along with 1,561 tackles, the third-most in league history. As a result, the prolific linebacker was a three-time All-Pro selection and a four-time Pro Bowler.
Fast-forward a couple decades to present time, and the expression "like father, like son" most obviously comes to mind, as Clay Matthews III is now terrorizing the NFL from the same linebacker position. Through just six NFL seasons, the youngest Matthews already has five Pro Bowl appearances, a Defensive Player of the Year award and a Super Bowl title.
Still, in one-of-a-kind fashion, we can actually take the Matthews bloodline a few steps further, as Bruce Matthews—the brother of Clay Jr. and son of Clay Sr.—was actually the best Matthews of them all. Playing along the offensive line for 19 NFL seasons—from 1983-2001—Bruce made it to a record 14 Pro Bowls and to the NFL Hall of Fame as well.
And, like his brother Clay Jr., Bruce also gave life to a future NFL star. His son, Jake Matthews, was the sixth overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft and currently starts at left tackle for the Atlanta Falcons.
Bobby and Barry Bonds
Over the last 40 years or so, the name Bonds, more than any other, has become synonymous with baseball.
Bringing an unprecedented combination of power and speed to the game, the elder Bonds became baseball's first player to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in more than two seasons, accomplishing the 30-30 feat a record five times (a mark only his son would eventually equal).
Additionally, Bobby was also just the second player in baseball history to hit 300 career homers and steal 300 career bases, joining Willie Mays in the prestigious and equally exclusive club. And, for a good while, Bobby also held the record for most homers hit when leading off a game (35).
Of course, as most already know, Bobby's son, Barry, only added to his father's list of accomplishments, putting together one of the most accomplished careers in the history of the sport.
Though the end to his career was riddled with controversy, Barry holds a number of important hitting records, including most career home runs (762), most home runs in a single season (73) and most career walks (2,558), all while hitting .298 lifetime.
Combined, Bobby and Barry hold MLB father-son records for career homers, RBI and stolen bases.
No family screams football royalty quite as loudly as the Mannings. Their impressive football run dates all the way back to the late 1960s, when Archie Manning electrified the nation while starting at quarterback for the Ole Miss Rebels.
Utilizing a unique dual-threat style, the eldest Manning won the Walter Camp Memorial Trophy in 1969 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
While his pro career didn't unfold exactly how he intended—he won just 26.3 percent of the games he started and never made the playoffs—Archie still managed to play his way into two Pro Bowl selections.
Of course, it's no secret, Archie's children were destined to be the family's true football legends. His oldest gridiron great—Peyton—was a consensus first-team All-American at Tennessee in 1997 and won the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien awards, among others.
The pro game, however, has been even better to Peyton, who is now regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. For some perspective, the 17-year vet is a 14-time Pro Bowl selection, a seven-time first-team All-Pro, a five-time NFL MVP (a league record) and a Super Bowl champion.
Equally impressive, he currently holds records for most career touchdown passes (530), most single-season touchdown passes (55) and most single-season passing yards (5,477), to name a few.
While Peyton's brother, Eli, hasn't been quite as prolific, the current New York Giant has had an amazing football career nonetheless. From setting or tying 45 single-game, season and career records at Ole Miss, to leading his Giants to two Super Bowl championships, the youngest Manning has experienced nearly all forms of football success.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Eli currently holds Giants franchise records for career passing yards, touchdowns and completions, and he is also the NFL record-holder for most fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a season.
Combine all three, and one thing's clear: No family in the world can quarterback quite like the Mannings.
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