Michael Jordan, Most Famous 2-Sport Careers After Tim Tebow Retires from Mets

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIFebruary 18, 2021

Michael Jordan, Most Famous 2-Sport Careers After Tim Tebow Retires from Mets

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    Vera Nieuwenhuis/Associated Press

    The baseball career of former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has come to an end after he worked his way through the New York Mets farm system over the last five years.  

    Tebow announced his retirement from baseball Wednesday as pitchers and catchers across Major League Baseball reported to spring training. The former Heisman Trophy winner started out playing in the Arizona Fall League in 2016 and worked his way up to Triple-A Syracuse in 2019, but the lack of a minor league season in 2020 due to the pandemic left him without a team to play for.

    Now two years after he last stepped on a pro ballfield, Tebow is giving up the sport for good. 

    "I loved every minute of the journey, but at this time I feel called in other directions," Tebow said in a statement. "I never want to be partially in on anything. I always want to be 100 percent in on whatever I choose. Thank you again for everyone's support of this awesome journey in baseball, I'll always cherish my time as a Met."

    Here's how Tebow's time as a two-sport athlete stacks up with some of the most notable pros to attempt the feat. 

Michael Jordan

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    Mark Elias/Associated Press

    The greatest basketball player in the world traded in his sneakers for spikes in the prime of his NBA career in what remains one of the most shocking moments in sports history. 

    Four months after he left the Chicago Bulls in 1994, Jordan announced he would play for Jerry Reinsdorf's other pro team: the Chicago White Sox. Of course, it wasn't that simple, even for His Airness. Jordan never played a regulation game in the majors for the Sox, but he did light up the city with two hits against the Chicago Cubs during an exhibition game at Wrigley Field. 

    The rest of his time in baseball was spent riding the bus from small town to small town in the minor leagues. 

    Jordan spent 1994 with the Double-A Birmingham Barons and slashed .202/.289/.226 with three home runs and 51 RBI in 127 games. He struck out 114 times while drawing 51 walks.

    He went back to basketball in 1995.

    Could Jordan have made it to The Show if he stuck with baseball? There are many who believe it was only a matter of "when," not "if." Then again, there are worse consolation prizes than three more championship rings with the Bulls.

Deion Sanders

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    Joe Holloway Jr./Associated Press

    Deion Sanders wasn't the otherworldly athlete on the baseball field that he was on the gridiron, but that says more about his abilities at cornerback than his nine-year stint as an MLB outfielder. 

    The Pro Football Hall of Famer fit in time with the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants in between his full-time NFL job. He's still the only player to hit a home run and score a touchdown in the same week, as well as the only person to play in both a Super Bowl and World Series.

    In 641 MLB games, Sanders slashed a career .263/.319/.392 with 39 home runs and 168 RBI. He also led the National League in triples during the 1992 season and twice finished in the top 10 for stolen bases. 

    While Prime Time's baseball career may have been above-average, it's impossible to separate what he did on the diamond from what he did on the football field. An eight-time Pro Bowler, two-time Super Bowl Champion and six-time first-team All-Pro, Sanders is proof that two-sport stardom is possible. But being an all-time great at one sport won't make you an all-time great in another. 

    Still, it's hard to imagine anyone pulling off playing in any one sport with the amount of style and swagger Sanders had, let alone in two. 

Bo Jackson

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    Associated Press

    There's a reason Bo Jackson remains the gold standard of two-sport athletes. 

    The Alabama native won the Heisman Trophy in 1995, was named to the Pro Bowl in 1990, was drafted No. 1 overall in the NFL and then gave it up to embark on an MLB career in which he was named an All-Star and All-Star Game MVP and finished top-10 in home runs in three different seasons.

    Jackson was simply built different. 

    He just wasn't built to be flawless. If not for injuries, Jackson could've been named a Hall of Famer in both baseball and football. He certainly had the skill set to do it. His body just wouldn't cooperate. 

    Four years into his NFL career, Jackson suffered a debilitating hip injury that eventually required him to undergo hip replacement surgery. While the injury kept him from returning to football, he made it back to baseball with the Chicago White Sox and then-California Angels. 

    Overall, Jackson spent eight years as a professional athlete—four of them coming after his hip injury. 

    Jackson might not have been long for pro sports, but he provided more than enough highlights during his career to last a lifetime and remains in the conversation as one of the best athletes of all time.

Russell Wilson

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Would Russell Wilson be in the NFL if he never transferred to Wisconsin after three years at North Carolina State? He might be playing pro baseball instead. 

    The Seattle Seahawks quarterback was taken in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Colorado Rockies—only three years after the Baltimore Orioles tried to sign him as the No. 5 overall pick in 2007— and spent the following summer in Single-A as a second baseman. He batted .230 with two home runs and 11 RBI. 

    The infielder returned to the Rockies farm system the following summer to play with the Asheville Tourists, where he hit .228 with three home runs in 61 games. But his full-time baseball career was reaching a close.

    Wilson led the Wisconsin Badgers to the 2012 Rose Bowl, and that was pretty much it for his baseball days. The Ohio native focused almost exclusively on football going forward, though he still carved out time to get back on the diamond. 

    The Texas Rangers were able to nab Wilson in the 2013 Rule 5 draft, and he briefly showed up to spring training in 2014 and 2015. By then he was already a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, and the likelihood of him trying to become a two-sport star was minimal at best. 

    Texas ended up trading Wilson to the New York Yankees in 2018, and he got into an exhibition game against the Atlanta Braves, striking out against Max Fried.  

Tim Tebow

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    Matt Smith/Associated Press

    Tebow's two-sport career differs from the others on this list in one major way: The former Heisman winner only gave pro baseball a look once his football opportunities began to run out. 

    Playing in the Mets organization allowed him to remain a college football analyst with ESPN while trying to make it to The Show the rest of the year. Unfortunately, there's little to suggest he had much of a chance at climbing the ranks in New York. 

    It's also fair to view Tebow's stint with the Mets with a fair bit of skepticism. How committed both sides were to making this work remains in question, and the fact he retired during the team's first year under new chairman Steve Cohen will only add to the speculation that the Wilpon family had a limited view of Tebow's prospects of helping the team. 

    The outfielder ends his baseball experiment with a minor league slash line of .223/.299/.338, including 18 home runs and 107 RBI over 287 games. 

    He will not be the next two-sport superstar, but he deserves at least some praise for the attempt.

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