Sports fans have typically always had an appreciation for different games, but one we've often failed to pay enough attention to is the game of love.
Lucky for us, six months before Michelle Branch and Carlos Santana dropped their 2002 hit of the same name, love got a network TV deal when The Bachelor—romance's current national championship—first aired on ABC.
Fifteen years later, Twitter wisdom suggests The Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor in Paradise/Bachelor Pad are indeed sports, a conclusion the franchise's producers realized long before most of us. Professional and semiprofessional athletes have competed on the show since its first season, and the current Bachelorette—Rachel Lindsay, a 32-year-old lawyer from Dallas who loves basketball and is the show's first leading African-American—is no exception.
Former professional basketball player Michael Black and wrestler Kenny Layne started the season among her suitors, and though Black got booted in the first episode, the sports references continued into week two when Lindsay hosted a basketball-themed date with NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. A few days later, Us Weekly shared a report from an "insider" that Lindsay dated Golden State Warriors superstar and competitive balance-ruiner Kevin Durant in college (ABC also happens to be airing the NBA Finals).
To prepare for Durant's seemingly inevitable turn as The Bachelor (or at least the show's already announced 2018 Olympics-themed spinoff, The Bachelor Winter Games), B/R has gathered intel on every paid athlete who has competed on the show and ranked them in order from least to most sporty, with bonus points for Bachelor success. Cheerleaders and NBA dancers are eligible while personal trainers are not—nobody wants this list to be hundreds of people long.
Consider this your primer to the sports side of The Bachelor franchise.
37. Kat Hurd, Bachelor season 18: Phoenix Suns dancer
Hurd made it all the way to week six with Juan Pablo while taking a hiatus from her only season as a Suns dancer.
36. Nick Sutter, Bachelorette season 10: Golfer
It's hard to call Sutter a true professional, but he's certainly given it the ol' college try. His social media is still mostly about The Bachelorette even though he got kicked off in the second week three years ago.
35. Cassandra Ferguson, Bachelor season 18: Detroit Pistons dancer
Ferguson was a dancer for the Detroit Pistons before having a son with then-Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey in 2011. She hung around on Juan Pablo's season through week six, got engaged to Stuckey soon after getting cut, then appeared on Bachelor in Paradise in the summer of 2015.
34. Justin Rego, Bachelorette season six: Wrestler
Rego's wrestling name was supposedly "Rated R," but his career must have been pretty brief because he's most known for pulling what current viewers might know as a DeMario—going on the show while still having a girlfriend (or in Rego's case, two) at home.
33. Kimberly Sullivan, Bachelor season 14: Oklahoma City Thunder dancer
Sullivan got kicked off the first week of Jake Pavelka's season, but she'll always have her time as a dancer for Oklahoma's first professional sports team, the Seattle Super—excuse me—the Oklahoma City Thunder.
32. Lori Todd, Bachelor season two: Dallas Mavericks dancer
Todd may have gotten sent home during the first rose ceremony of The Bachelor season two, but she did parlay her two years as a dancer for the Mavs into a career as a cheerleading judge and coach.
31. Mary Delgado, Bachelor seasons four and six: Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleader
Delgado had an unorthodox stint on The Bachelor—after competing in season four, she came back for season six and wound up winning, sticking with angler Byron Velvick for five years. In the '90s, she was a cheerleader for the Bucs, and she took up competitive bass fishing herself while dating Velvick. "Fish don't know what your gender is," she told David Figura of Syracuse.com in 2010, which sounds about right.
30. Jamie Blyth, Bachelorette season one: Basketball player
Blyth admitted to going on the show for what are now colloquially known as "the wrong reasons," namely to find a publisher for his memoir on (ironically) social anxiety—which he did. Before he was wisely taking the exposure for what it's worth, Blyth played "a few games" for a pro basketball team in Stockholm, Sweden, according to Cara DiPasquale of RedEye, and reportedly turned down a contract in Germany to compete for roses (and royalties). After The Bachelorette, he briefly played for the now-defunct United States Basketball League's Adirondack Wildcats, who were looking for an injection of star power.
29. Sean Ramey, Bachelorette season four: Martial artist
Ramey has a black belt in taekwondo, is in the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame and has won more medals than any other instructor in Kentucky. Though the Bluegrass State doesn't sound like a hugely competitive martial arts market, I'm taking Ramey's word for it since his IMDb page lists "Thug One" as one of his breakout roles. He made it to week five on DeAnna Pappas' season.
28. Nikki Delventhal, Bachelor season 19: New York Jets cheerleader
Nikki got to week four on farmer Chris Soules' season, which was likely only slightly more depressing than spending three seasons cheering for Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith.
27. Trista Sutter, Bachelor/Bachelorette season one: Miami Heat dancer
Trista holds a special place in Bachelor lore. Not only was she the very first Bachelorette (after being snubbed by the first Bachelor), she's also half of one of the few Bachelor couples who actually stayed together. Before she became Mrs. Sutter, Trista spent two seasons as a dancer for the Miami Heat (apparently her nickname was "Triscuit").
26. Graham Bunn, Bachelorette season four: Basketball player
Bunn played guard for Germany's Schalke 04 for two years, but more importantly, he's one of a handful of Bachelor contestants who can claim a triple: Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad and Bachelor in Paradise. In fact, he had to make a public declaration that he would not be back on any iteration of the show. He's now a country radio host, apparently.
25. Julie Durda, Bachelor season five: San Francisco 49ers cheerleader
Naturally, the season in which NFL player was the Bachelor, an NFL cheerleader was a contestant. Durda spent 2002 to 2004 as a cheerleader for the 49ers and also appeared in EA Sports' Tiger Woods PGA 2003, according to CraveOnline. Today, Durda is a meteorologist in Miami, and even though she made it through three weeks on the show, she does not mention The Bachelor on her webpage.
24. Michael Black, Bachelorette season 13: Basketball player
The most recent athlete to bite the dust, Black was a star at University of Albany and played professionally with Bulgaria's Beroe from 2014 to 2015. Maybe Rachel was scarred by her reported relationship with KD?
23. Damon Bowers, Bachelorette season two: AFL wide receiver
Bowers recorded significantly more touchdowns during his six years in the Arena Football League (39) than he did on The Bachelorette, where he was sent home in week two.
22. Brittany Fetkin, Bachelor season 19: WWE NXT wrestler
Fetkin spent two years with WWE NXT under the ring name Devin Taylor, performing mostly at live events. She had better results there than she did her Bachelor run (out in the first episode), aside from this cringeworthy clip.
21. Jeff Popovich, Bachelorette season one: Defensive back
Popovich never made an NFL or CFL start, but he did bounce around training camps and competed for the Barcelona Dragons in the 2001 World Bowl. He's now a defensive quality control coach for the Indianapolis Colts under head coach Chuck Pagano, whom he played for at the University of Miami. On the first season of The Bachelorette, he gained notoriety as "Tire Guy" for self-explanatory reasons (he changed a tire).
20. Ryan Hoag, Bachelorette season four: NFL wide receiver
A former Mr. Irrelevant, Hoag is the definition of a journeyman: He signed with the Giants, Vikings, Washington, Edmonton Eskimos, Jaguars and New York Sentinels, yet never took a single regular-season snap. On the show, he claimed he was a virgin and wound up getting kicked off in the second episode. A second stint on Bachelor Pad was not much more successful.
19. Ryan Sutter, Bachelorette season one: NFL defensive back
Sutter had way better luck on The Bachelorette than on the gridiron: He won the former and is still married to the first-ever Bachelorette, Trista. In the NFL, the Ravens cut him in training camp after drafting him in the fifth round, and he was injured on the first play of his first game with the Carolina Panthers after spending months on the practice squad. He also eventually played for the Barcelona Dragons, an apparent destination for future Bachelor contestants.
18. Jesse Csincsak, Bachelorette season four: Snowboarder
Though his rankings in the snowboarding world never got above triple digits, Csincsak became the snowboarding coach for MTV's Made after his stint on Bachelorette, which seems like far more fun anyway. DeAnna Pappas picked him at the end of season four, but they broke up and Csincsak wound up marrying a Bachelor contestant from the following season. Because all's well that ends well, or something like that.
17. Jenni Croft, Bachelor season 11: Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, Miami Heat dancer, Phoenix Suns dancer
Croft has an impressive resume—three seasons with the Cowboys and a season each with the Heat and the Suns. She was even one of the final two contestants in Brad Womack's season, which is mostly notable because he rejected both of them in a much-vaunted Bachelor "first."
16. Jasmine Goode, Bachelor season 21: New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, Golden State Warriors dancer
Goode may have been dancing for the Warriors when they blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals last year, but thankfully her resume is more extensive than that—two seasons with the Jets and three with the Cowboys round out her credentials.
15. Harold Hersh, Bachelorette season two: Hockey player
Hersh spent over a decade playing center on semipro and minor league teams around Canada, most notably for a farm team for the Montreal Canadiens. He also played in a Jewish hockey tournament in Israel, which sounds like fodder for an entirely separate story.
14. Andy LeRoy, Bachelorette season three: Skier
LeRoy went to the Olympics, which makes it seem like he's automatically too cool to be on any Bachelor show. He competed in Nagano in 1998, won the 1997 British National Slalom Championship and now is the head coach of alpine skiing at the University of Denver.
13. Byron Velvick, Bachelor season six: Bass fisherman
Velvick is a recently retired two-time Won Bass U.S. Open champion fisherman, the B.A.S.S. record-holder for heaviest catch in a three-day tournament and "a pioneer in the swimbait movement," all plaudits that seem fairly self-explanatory. He was also the sixth Bachelor, inspiring what must have been thousands of puns about what a "catch" he and his suitors were.
12. Arie Luyendyk Jr., Bachelorette season eight: Race car driver
The son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, the driver never quite managed to surpass his dad's long shadow, placing 28th the one time he qualified for the race. On The Bachelorette, however, Luyendyk Jr. came in second. He's still racing—sometimes alongside Lolo Jones—so he's doing OK in his post-Bachelorette life.
11. Josh Cox, Bachelorette season three: Marathoner
Josh was a buzzy marathoner back in his day (yes, there is such a thing) as the youngest qualifier for the 2000 Olympic marathon trials and the current record holder for the 50-kilometer race. He also contributed to Chicken Soup For the Soul: Runners, though his sensitive side did not give him the edge on Jen Schefft's season.
10. Adam Duvendeck, Bachelorette season five: Track cyclist
Duvendeck was sent home in the first episode, but he has two gold medals from the U.S. track cycling championships and has been to the Olympics twice, so he's probably not too torn up about it.
9. Jordan Rodgers, Bachelorette season 12: NFL quarterback
Rodgers, perhaps best known as Aaron Rodgers' estranged brother who turned their family beef into tabloid fodder, was also a backup quarterback in his own right—he made practice squad appearances for the Jaguars, Bucs and Dolphins before hanging up his cleats. Until The Bachelorette, that is, when he tossed the football around with Ben Roethlisberger at Heinz Field during a date. Needless to say, he won JoJo's heart and they're still together—plus, he landed an ESPN gig, which is more or less what he was working toward the entire time.
8. Ryan Bowers, Bachelorette season eight: NFL, AFL and NFL Europe wide receiver/defensive back
Bowers got kicked off when he called Bachelorette Emily Maynard a "trophy wife" during a one-on-one date, but before that cringeworthy episode, he had already played eight years of professional football, mostly in the Arena Football League. He did sign a one-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons in 2006, but they promptly shipped him off to the Berlin Thunder. Watch some of his (very blurry) highlights here.
7. Justin Sherrod, Bachelorette season two: Minor league outfielder/third baseman
Sherrod spent six years in the Red Sox farm system and one playing in Italy, averaging .264 and an on-base percentage of .344. He was kicked off during the first episode, but a fan site notes he was "a favorite to many of the female fans." During his time in the minors, he wound up getting his own baseball card.
6. Melissa Rycroft, Bachelor season 13: Dallas Cowboys cheerleader
Rycroft came to The Bachelor with reality TV bona fides. As a Cowboys cheerleader from 2006 to 2008, she was a regular fixture on CMT's Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team. Here she is posing for the squad's annual calendar, hopefully for charity or something. She took a break from the gridiron to appear on Jason Mesnick's season of The Bachelor and "won"—until he dumped her for the runner-up, Molly Malaney, on the After the Final Rose special. Since then, Rycroft has been on Dancing With the Stars twice, beating Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson to win the show her second time around.
5. Mandy Clemens, Bachelor season five: Soccer player
Clemens may have gotten cut in the second episode of Palmer's season, but her achievements on the pitch (and blessedly far from any rose ceremonies) speak for themselves. One of the 20 founding players of the Women's United Soccer Association, the first women's professional soccer league in the United States, Clemens played for the U.S. national team in the early 2000s.
4. Juan Pablo Galavis, Bachelor season 18: Miami FC soccer player
Perhaps the most notorious villain in The Bachelor history (though Chad may have recently usurped him), Galavis had a reasonably successful career as a soccer player in his native Venezuela. He signed with Miami FC in 2008, which has since folded and been revived as a North American Soccer League team. Here he is scoring a goal:
3. Josh Murray, Bachelorette season 10: Baseball player
The Bachelor franchise-lifer first won The Bachelorette, broke up with Andi Dorfman and then went on Bachelor in Paradise where he started dating Amanda Stanton, with whom he's also since ended things. Baseball didn't go much better. After the Milwaukee Brewers selected him 48th overall in 2002, Murray spent six years in the minors. Jon Lester and Curtis Granderson were both picked after him, which goes to show how inexact of a science the draft is.
2. Jesse Palmer, Bachelor season five: NFL quarterback
Palmer, who spent four seasons as a backup quarterback for the Giants and one with the 49ers, didn't do much to improve upon his career completion percentage (52.5 percent) during his stint as the Bachelor. He decided not to propose to winner Jessica Bowlin and broke up with her a few months after the show aired. At least he can still claim the prestigious title of "second Canadian ever to start an NFL game at quarterback."
Today, he's a "special contributor" for Good Morning America (here he is with Michael Strahan) and host of the Food Network's Spring Baking Championship. What he's most remembered for today, Bachelor-wise, is forgetting a contestant's name during the first rose ceremony.
1. Kenny Layne, Bachelorette season 13: Wrestler
Sitting atop our Bachelor sports power ranking, Layne earned his spot because he's still on the show and appears to have an actual shot with Rachel, but mostly because he's been wrestling under the name Kenny King for over a decade around the WWE, Ring of Honor and TNA. On the show, though, he seems to be a total teddy bear—which makes clips like this even more jarring. Sports entertainment!