Research done by UCSF Benioff’s Children’s Hospital found that NBA players who participated in multiple sports leading up to their basketball professions saw longer careers and better averages than those who focused only on basketball after adolescence. In fact, there were many multi-sport NBA players for this 2017 study to analyze.
While the NBA’s structure does not allow for many multi-sport athletes, several players have tried their hand at other sports.
Starting with the most obvious two-sport NBA star, Michael Jordan took time off in the prime of his career to focus on a baseball ambition he’d had since he was a kid. Although Jordan never made it to the big leagues past spring training, he saw the most time with the Chicago White Sox Double-A affiliate, the Birmingham Barons.
Former NBA player and current Boston Celtics general manager isn’t only multifaceted when it comes to basketball. In 1977, the Toronto Blue Jays drafted Danny Ainge, and he even made it up to the Majors while still in college. After three years in Toronto, he decided to pursue basketball. The rest is history.
After the NBA, Wilt Chamberlain found a second career in volleyball. Despite few NBA players following this path, Chamberlain’s 7-foot-1 build was perfect for the sport, and his skills drew major attention. Some even credit his volleyball career with further growth of the sport. Chamberlain is even in the Volleyball Hall of Fame.
Fun fact: The NBA star also participated in track and field in college.
Unlike these other athletes, Darko Milicic parlayed his shortened NBA career into a different kind of sport. After his basketball dreams ended, Milicic pursued a career as a boxer. Alas, the fallback career did not last.
Obviously, LeBron James went pro after high school, but many believe if he had pursued his football dreams, he may have been an NFL superstar. James’ athleticism on the football field had Notre Dame and Ohio State clamoring to get him on their football teams. Unfortunately for them, James had other plans.
Charlie Ward has the rare distinction of being a Heisman winner to go undrafted in the NFL. Not to fear, however, as he had a backup career. Unlike the other names on this list, it would appear like Ward stumbled into his NBA career, and it was a good one. Although Ward did not play baseball in college, the Milwaukee Brewers drafted him.
Steph Curry has a second passion besides basketball. Although he’s competed mainly in celebrity tournaments, he’s shown a knack for golf that makes many believe he could have taken up the sport on the side. Unfortunately, he has to settle for being the greatest shooter in NBA history.
With such a big name as a coach and GM, Pat Riley makes many forget that he was a player at one point. In the ’60s, when Riley was coming up in the basketball world, he was also gifted in another sport. A top-tier football player, he was even drafted by the Dallas Cowboys as a wide receiver.
Tim Duncan grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where basketball was not on the same level as it is in America. Although he eventually joined the NBA, Duncan was poised to be an Olympic-caliber swimmer.