Your Favorite Old-School Athletes: Then and Now

Laura Depta@lauradeptaFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2015

Your Favorite Old-School Athletes: Then and Now

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    AP, Ben Margot/AP

    OK, we all know Michael Jordan owns the Charlotte Hornets, but what is Oscar Robertson up to these days? Here are a few of your favorite old-school athletes, then and now.

    You might be wondering what exactly "old school" refers to. For today's purposes, it simply means an athlete whose heyday was in the 1990s or before. Get ready, we're going to work our way backward all the way from Ken Griffey Jr. to Yogi Berra. 

    Mind you, the following is merely a sampling of beloved athletes from the last half century(ish), but these are certainly some of my favorites. Let's check in with some legends, shall we? 

Ken Griffey Jr.

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    MARK DUNCAN/AP, Al Behrman/AP

    ThenOctober 13, 1995

    In 1995, Ken Griffey Jr. was in the middle of his fifth All-Star/Gold Glove season with the Seattle Mariners. He was coming off a 1994 season in which he batted .323/.402/.674. Two years later, he would win the American League MVP. 

    Now: August 9, 2014

    Griffey was inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame in 2013, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in August 2014 and will be eligible for the big guy in 2016. He has also taken up photography in retirement. 

Andre Agassi

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    TOBY TALBOT/AP, Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

    Then: July 27, 1988

    Andre Agassi was an up-and-comer on the pro tennis scene in 1998. He went on to win his first of eight Grand Slams at Wimbledon in 1992.

    Now: September 27, 2014

    Agassi is married to fellow Hall of Famer Steffi Graf, and the two live in Las Vegas with their children. According to Rosanna Greenstreet of the Guardian, Agassi spends time working with his foundation and recently came out with a line of fitness equipment.

Jack Nicklaus

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    AP, Jay LaPrete/AP

    Then: June 24, 1961

    Legendary golfer and Ohio State alumnus Jack Nicklaus turned pro in 1961, the same year he won the NCAA golf championship. As you might know, he went on to win 18 majors.

    Now: June 7, 2015

    Nicklaus retired in 2005. Ten years later, he won the Congressional Gold Medal for his legendary career and ongoing dedication to community service.

Michael Jordan

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    Charles Bennett/AP, Chuck Burton/AP

    ThenJune 18, 1991

    In 1991, Michael Jordan was busy taking the NBA by storm. He won his first of six NBA championship trophies and first of six Finals MVP Awards, too. 

    NowJune 23, 2015

    Now, Jordan is a Hall of Famer and still a fixture in the NBA as owner of the Charlotte Hornets. In June, he helped announce Charlotte as the host of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. 

Wayne Gretzky

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    AP, Arthur Mola /Invision/AP

    Then: January 1984

    In 1984, Wayne Gretzky's brilliant hockey career was still in relative infancy. Still, by the end of that year, he had already won the Hart Trophy for MVP five consecutive times.

    Now: September 9, 2014

    Gretzky retired in 1999, and he is now part-owner of a wine business, according to Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times. When asked if he plans to have an official role with the NHL or any of its teams in the future, Gretzky told Elliott, "Good friends of mine ask me daily, and I always say never is a long time, but right now it's just probably not going to happen for me."

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

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    ERIC RISBERG/AP, Jason DeCrow/AP

    Then: September 29, 1988

    Jackie Joyner-Kersee is one of America's great Olympians. The track and field legend won her first of three Olympic gold medals in 1988.

    Now: July 31, 2014

    Now, Joyner-Kersee does philanthropic work aimed at keeping kids active. In 2013, she told Diana Kelly of Prevention, "I'm staying active, I do a lot of work with young people, mentoring, speaking and traveling."

Carl Lewis

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    AP, Thibault Camus/AP

    Then: August 11, 1984

    In 1984, Carl Lewis won four gold medals at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He eventually won 10 Olympic medals (nine gold) and eight World Championship golds, making him one of the greatest American track and field athletes of all time.

    Now: October 5, 2014

    Lewis had a short-lived, unsuccessful run for the New Jersey senate in 2011, and he is now a track coach at the University of Houston.

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird

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    LENNOX MCLENDON/AP, Charles Sykes/AP

    Then: March 25, 1979

    In March 1979, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were in college, going head-to-head for the NCAA men's basketball national championship. Johnson's Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird's Indiana State Sycamores, but they both went on to become pretty decent NBA players.  

    Now: April 11, 2012

    Johnson and Bird have remained major figures in sports even after retirement. Johnson is a successful businessman and part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bird is the president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers.

Bo Jackson

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    AP, Ben Margot/AP

    Then: 1985

    Bo Jackson won the Heisman Trophy at Auburn in 1985. He went on to have a rare professional two-sport career. Jackson played in the NFL for four seasons, MLB for eight and famously became the only athlete to ever make the Pro Bowl and MLB All-Star team.

    Now: December 7, 2014

    Many wonder what would've happened in Jackson's career had he not suffered a devastating hip injury in 1991. As it stands, sports fans will always remember his unreal athleticism and talent. He is now an instructor at Chicago White Sox spring training.

Joe Montana

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    WFH/AP, Eric Risberg/AP

    Then: January 2, 1979

    In 1979, Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana led his team to an incredible comeback victory over the University of Houston in the Cotton Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers drafted him in the third round that year, and he went on to become one of the greatest QBs in NFL history.  

    Now: July 12, 2014

    Montana has led a relatively quiet off-field life since retirement, but he did make news in 2014 for his plans to develop an area near Levi's Stadium. The $400 million building plan includes a hotel, sports bar, office and retail space, but it has been stalled several times. TBD.

Billie Jean King

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    AP, Scott Gries/Invision/AP

    Then: July 11, 1973

    Billie Jean King won 12 Grand Slams in her storied tennis career. Her most famous victory, however, wasn't in a Grand Slam final. It was in a 1973 exhibition match against Bobby Riggs dubbed "The Battle of the Sexes."

    Now: June 4, 2015

    King has since become a social activist and a champion for equal rights and gender equality. She founded WomenSports magazine and the Women's Sports Foundation, an organization dedicated to Title IX advocacy and youth fitness.

Mary Lou Retton

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    Lionel Cirroneau/AP, Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

    Then: 1984

    At just 16 years of age, Mary Lou Retton became the first American woman to ever win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. She accomplished the feat by nailing a perfect score on the vault to take the all-around gold. 

    Now: January 12, 2014

    According to her official bio, Retton now spends her time as a motivational speaker and spokesperson. Her daughter recently made the gymnastics team at LSU.

Muhammad Ali

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    Ferd Kaufman/AP, Timothy D. Easley/AP

    Then: April 27, 1967

    In 1964, Muhammad Ali became the heavyweight champion of the world. In 1967, he was convicted of draft evasion and stripped of his title. The conviction was eventually overturned in 1971.  

    Now: September 27, 2014

    Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1984, just three years after his retirement from boxing. He remains dedicated to community service and social change. He is seen here in 2014, attending the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards, an event "created to celebrate the greatness of people from around the world who are making differences in their communities and beyond."

Bobby Orr

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    AP, Elise Amendola/AP

    Then: December 16, 1970

    Bobby Orr is a hero in Boston. He won three Hart Trophies, led the Bruins to two Stanley Cup championships and gained early entry into the Hall of Fame. In 1970, he was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.

    Now: September 28, 2014

    In 1991, Orr created his own agency, the Orr Hockey Group, and he also has a sports memorabilia company, according to Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe.  


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    AP, Andre Penner/AP

    Then: May 25, 1962

    Pele's legendary soccer career really got started in 1958, when he played in his first World Cup at age 17. The Brazilian went on to play in four World Cups and score a world-record 1,281 goals over his long career. FIFA named him Player of the Century in 2000.

    Now: March 12, 2015

    In 1992, Pele became a UN ambassador for ecology and the environment and remains active in philanthropy today. Oh, and he also hung out with Rihanna at the 2014 World Cup, for which he was Brazil's ambassador. 

Hank Aaron

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    PS/AP, Mike Groll/AP

    Then: March 3, 1954

    In 1954, Hank Aaron was a rookie right fielder with the Milwaukee Braves. He went on to have one of baseball's most storied careers, famously breaking Babe Ruth's career home run record in 1974.

    Now: July 26, 2015

    Aaron's home run record has now been broken, but he still holds the league records for career RBI and total bases. Since his playing days, Aaron has owned several restaurants and car dealerships, proving to be a savvy businessman. He also serves as a senior vice president for the Atlanta Braves.

Oscar Robertson

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    AP, Kiichiro Sato/AP

    Then: December 30, 1959

    In 1959, Oscar Robertson was still in college in the midst of leading the Cincinnati Bearcats to two consecutive Final Four appearances. He went on to become a Hall of Fame point guard and one of the NBA's all-time greatest players.

    Now: April 3, 2015

    After a 14-year career, Robertson retired in 1974. After basketball, Robertson became a businessman, author, broadcaster and advocate for social change in his hometown of Indianapolis. He served as interim head men's basketball coach at Cincinnati for a minute in 2004 as well.

Willie Mays

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    AP, Carolyn Kaster/AP

    Then: September 20, 1954

    In 1954, Willie Mays was the National League MVP (a title he won again in 1965). Over his 22-year MLB career, Mays made 20 All-Star teams and won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves as a center fielder. The Hall of Famer is recognized as one of the greatest all-around players in MLB history.

    Now: July 29, 2013

    Mays has served as a special assistant to the President of the San Francisco Giants since 1986. He was just honored as one of baseball's four living legends at the MLB All-Star Game in Cincinnati.

Jim Brown

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    AP, Tony Dejak/AP

    Then: 1957

    In 1957, Jim Brown was an All-American running back at Syracuse and the first pick in the NFL draft. He went on to rush for 12,312 yards and net 15,459 over his nine-year, Hall of Fame professional career.

    Now: April 14, 2015

    Brown retired from football in 1966 but remains a public figure. He went on to become a Hollywood actor and appeared in over 50 films, according to Creg Stephenson of His other roles have included activist, counselor and advisor to the Cleveland Browns.

Yogi Berra

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    AP, Mel Evans/AP

    Then: September 25, 1951

    In 1951, Yogi Berra was busy winning his first of three American League MVP Awards and just one of his 10 World Series titles with the New York Yankees. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.

    Now: May 12, 2015

    After his playing days, Berra became a coach and managed the Yankees and New York Mets. His World Series rings were stolen from his museum, the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in New Jersey, in 2014, and MLB gave him replicas for his 90th birthday in May.


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