by Paul Knepper
As I watched TNT’s coverage of the Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday night, I was struck by how remarkable it is that two individuals as talented as Cheryl and Reggie Miller grew up in the same house. In fact, countless families have produced more than one professional athlete, whether it be siblings, father and son, or in some cases three generations of ballplayers. So I decided to countdown the 20 most athletic families in sports history.
To clarify the criteria I used; the athletes had to be blood relatives. Married couples such as Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi and Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra weren’t considered. Neither were sister-in-laws Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Florence Griffith-Joyner. I also didn’t count NASCAR families like the Earnhardts, Andrettis or Pettys because I don’t believe driving around in a circle requires athleticism.
20) Perry – Jim and Gaylord
Gaylord was the first pitcher to win the Cy Young award in both leagues. The master of the spitball won 314 games and was elected to Cooperstown in 1991. Older brother Jim won 215 games and a Cy Young award of his own. They made eight all-star appearances between them.
19) Niekro – Phil and Joe
The knuckleballers combined for 539 wins, a record for a brother combo. Phil won 318 of those and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997. Joe was an all-star in 1979 and a member of the 1987 World Series champion Minnesota Twins.
18) Sharpe – Sterling and Shannon
Shannon was the first tight-end to amass 10,000 yards receiving and won three Super Bowls as a member of the Broncos and Ravens. His brother Sterling would have joined him in Canton had it not been for a career-ending neck injury. The elder Sharpe was a five-time All-Pro selection as a wide receiver for the Packers and led the NFL in touchdowns twice.
17) Griffey – Ken Sr. and Ken Jr.
The Griffeys were the first father-son combo to play in the Major Leagues at the same time and even hit back-to-back home runs with the Mariners. Junior was one of the premiere players of his generation and ranks fifth on the all-time home run list. Senior won two World Series with the Reds and was a three time all-star.
16) Alomar – Sandy Sr., Sandy Jr., Roberto
Sandy Sr. played several positions over his 15 year career and was named an all-star in 1970. Junior made the all-star team six teams as a catcher and was named the game’s MVP in 1997. Younger brother Roberto was one of the best all-around second basemen to ever play the game. He’ll be inducted into Cooperstown this summer.
15) Spinks – Leon and Michael
Both brothers won a Gold Medal in the 1976 Olympics. Leon became heavyweight champion when he defeated Ali in 1978 and Michael was the light heavyweight champion. Michael also won the IBF heavyweight title after beating Larry Holmes, though he’s best remembered for his pathetic showing against Mike Tyson.
14) Robinson – Mack and Jackie
In addition to breaking baseball’s color line, Jackie Robinson was named N.L. MVP in 1949 and won a World Series with the Dodgers in 1955. His older brother Mack won a Silver Medal in the 1936 Olympics in the 200 meters, finishing just .4 seconds behind the great Jesse Owens.
13) Ali – Muhammad and Laila
Muhammad Ali was the three-time heavyweight champion of the world and in his own words, “The greatest of all-time.” The champ’s daughter won the Super middleweight title in 2002 and never lost a professional fight.
12) Waner – Paul and Lloyd
The Waner brothers starred in the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield in the 1920’s and both went on to the Hall of Fame. Paul was named NL MVP in 1927 and compiled over 3,000 hits. Lloyd was a lifetime .316 hitter and had close to 2,500 hits of his own.
11) Bonds – Bobby and Barry
Barry holds the single season and career home run records and was named N.L. MVP seven times. His father Bobby wasn’t too shabby either. The elder Bonds became only the second player to hit 300 home runs and steal 300 bases over a career and reached the 30-30 mark five times in his career.
10) DiMaggio – Joe, Vince and Dom
The “Yankee Clipper” was one of the greatest all-around ballplayers to ever step foot on a baseball diamond. His 56 consecutive game hitting streak is a record that may never be broken. Joe’s younger brothers Vince and Dom also played center field in the big leagues. Dom made seven all-star appearances as a member of the Red Sox and Vince smacked 125 career home runs.
9) Howe – Gordie, Mark and Marty
“Mr. Hockey” was an all-star 23 times. He won four Stanley Cups, six Hart Trophies and is the second leading scorer in NHL history. His son Mark made the Stanley Cup finals three times during his 16 seasons in the NHL and his older brother Marty bounced back and forth between the NHL and minors over seven seasons.
8) Boone – Ray, Bob, Bret and Aaron
Ray played thirteen seasons in the Major Leagues during the 1940’s and 50’s. His son Bob was an excellent defensive catcher and grandson Aaron sent the Yankees to the World Series with his 11th inning blast in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. When Aaron’s brother Bret was named an All-Star in 1998, the Boones became the first family to have three generations of all-stars.
7) Barry – Rick, Scooter, Jon, Brent and Drew
Rick was named NBA Finals MVP in 1975 and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. His oldest son Scooter won the 1988 NCAA championship with Kansas. Jon, played 14 seasons in the NBA. Brother Brent won NBA Championships with the Spurs in 2005 and 2007 and Rick’s fourth son Drew also played three years in the league.
6) Matthews – Clay Jr., Bruce, Clay III and Kevin
Clay Jr. made four Pro Bowls as a linebacker with the Browns and his younger bro Bruce is considered one of the greatest offensive linemen ever. Their father Clay Sr. played four seasons with the 49ers in the 50’s. Clay III just won the Super Bowl and finished second in voting for NFL Defensive Player of the Year this season. His younger brother Casey, a linebacker at Oregon is a pro prospect and his cousin Kevin (Bruce’s son) plays center for his father’s old team, the Titans.
5) Sutter -Brent, Brian, Darryl, Duane, Rich, Ron, Brandon and Brett
Six Sutter brothers: Brent, Brian, Duane, Rich and Ron reached the NHL in the 70’s and 80’s. None of the brothers were stars, but collectively they played closed to 5,000 games, scored 1,320 goals and won six Stanley Cups. Darryl’s son Brett and Brent’s son Brandon now play for the Carolina Hurricanes.
4) Miller – Darrell, Cheryl and Reggie
Reggie’s big sis once scored 105 points in a high school game and many basketball insiders believe she was the greatest female basketball player ever. Reggie was the NBA’s all-time three point leader until last week and little known older brother Darrell was a catcher for the California Angels for four seasons.
3) Hull – Bobby, Dennis and Brett
Bobby is probably the best left winger to ever play the game. He led the NHL in scoring three times and won the Hart Trophy twice. His brother Dennis was his linemate for several seasons in Chicago and scored over 300 goals of his own. Bobby’s son Brett led the league in goals three times and ranks third all-time with 741 for his career.
2) Williams – Venus and Serena
Not only have they dominated the women’s game over the past decade, they’re arguably two of the top ten greatest players of all-time. Serena has 13 Grand Slam titles to Venus’ 7. The sisters have also won 12 Grand Slams as doubles partners.
1) Manning – Archie, Peyton and Eli
Archie was a two-time Pro Bowler with the Saints and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, but he wasn’t able to accomplish what two of his sons did, win a Super Bowl. Peyton will own a slew of NFL records by the time he retires and Eli was MVP of Super Bowl XLII.
Gus, Buddy, David and Mike Bell; Cal Jr., Cal Sr. and Billy Ripken; Felipe, Matty, Jesus and Moises Alou; Ramon and Pedro Martinez, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Sr.; Bengie, Jose and Yadier Molina; Ken Norton Jr. and Sr.; John and Patrick McEnroe; Calvin and Grant Hill; Cecil and Prince Fielder; Howie and Chris Long; Bill and Luke Walton; Kellen Winslow Jr. and Sr.; Dizzy and Daffy Dean; Yannick and Joakim Noah