Sports stars who (un)successfully decided to shine in another industry

5/7/2020 12:45 pm

In the distant past, it was not uncommon for someone to excel at two (or more) different sports.

Jordan’s wish to his father comes true

However, that time has practically passed. Despite this, there are still “daring people”, even those we consider superstars in their “profession”, who are also trying in another area. Successfully and less successfully. We bring you a miniseries with stories about them.


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Michael Jordan

Source: TASR

The most famous and best basketball player in history unexpectedly ended his career in the fall of 1993. As a 30-year-old, he shocked by switching to baseball and spent the following 1994 season with the Birmingham Barons, the ranching team of the famed Chicago White Sox.

Although Michael Jordan was at the top (winning the NBA title three times in a row), “he no longer had the motivation and purpose to achieve anything more in basketball.” It was then that he was struck by the tragic death of his father, who was murdered by two teenagers. His parents always wanted him to play baseball, and Michael Jordan wanted to fulfill his wish when he flirted with baseball as early as high school.

He first pitched under Walt Hriniak, the White Sox coach who praised his discipline and hard work, before being transferred to Birmingham. Even though he wasn’t one of the flashiest baseball players, he hit three home runs, still attracted attention, 10,000 people went to his minor league games, but mostly it helped him come to terms with his father’s death and find the joy of basketball again. After his return, he added three more NBA championship titles.


A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, one of the greatest goalscorers in history and the NBA’s most valuable player in 2001, he was able to achieve comparable success in American football’s most prestigious league, the NFL. As a high school student, Allen Iverson was probably the most talented American football player in the US, and it was pure coincidence that he chose basketball even though he liked American football more.

“I cried when I had to play basketball. For me it was a soft sport, while American football has the appeal of competition and contact. I was the best at it, everyone will agree.” says the player who scored more than 24,000 points in the NBA. He led the basketball and soccer teams in high school, but dreamed of a career in soccer.

But in 1993, he got into a racially motivated fight, was convicted, was released on parole and, although he had finished high school, he was not allowed to play sports there. Therefore, although he was extremely talented, he struggled to enter university. He was eventually hired at Georgetown, where legendary basketball coach John Thompson took him under his patronage, and the decision was made. Allen Iverson wanted to make NFL history as a quarterback and always missed football even though he was successful in the NBA.


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Alessandro Zanardic

Source: TASR

He spent five seasons in Formula 1, not winning a single race, scoring just one point and finishing sixth in the Brazilian Grand Prix in 1993. He raced on the most famous motorcycle circuits, but in 2001 Alex Zanardi’s greatest sporting passion betrayed him.

He had a serious accident in Germany on the Eurospeedway Lausitz, he lost both legs, lost a lot of blood and only the quick intervention of the paramedics saved his life so that he did not bleed to death. After a long recovery, he did not dislike sports. On the contrary.

“A perfect life is a combination of good and bad moments. Mine must be fantastic, because I took a lot of blows. I discovered that humans are an incredible machine. Each of us has a hidden reservoir of energy that emerges when you need it.” said Alex Zanardi, who returned to motorsport and became extremely successful at paracycling on the road. He returned to racing in a modified sports car, but gradually focused entirely on the hanbike and failed in the triathlon as well.

He won two gold medals in paracycling at the London Olympics, he was equally successful in Rio, winning a total of ten world championships. Although unintentionally, after an unfortunate event, he discovered a great sporting spirit in himself, which was not stopped even by a physical disability. Unfortunately, two weeks ago, Zanardi was hit by a truck during a Paralympic handbike race in the Tuscan town of Pienza. He sustained injuries to his face and skull in the accident. Doctors warned there could be serious brain damage. He is currently in artificial sleep after two surgeries.


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Ester Ledecká

Source: Reuters

Czech historic moment at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Only 22-year-old Ester Ledecká sensationally dominated the super-G in skiing and a week later, parallel giant slalom dominated in snowboarding. No other athlete has won a gold medal at the same Olympics in two different disciplines before.

Alpine skiing and snowboarding have only snow in common, but the Czech athlete manages both branches perfectly, which is a rarity in the world. Since the 2015/16 season, she has been the best female snowboarder in parallel disciplines, especially in giant slalom, and has won 17 World Cups since then.

In alpine skiing she likes sliding disciplines, but until her victory at the Olympics she did not have a single championship or podium place. The combination of both is challenging and “A lot of coaches say you can’t do both sports at the highest level, you have to choose. How can they know if it’s possible if no one has tried it before? I started it and it works. They’re wrong” describes Ester Ledecká’s daring approach, which she wants to continue as she gets better at alpine skiing and is still strong in snowboarding.


He ended his career as a football player in 2004, and before he started coaching, he found a new hobby. Luis Enrique fell into endurance sport. He jumped on his bike, loves the Dolomites and started doing marathons and triathlons, even if it wasn’t easy at first.

“I wanted to run, but my legs got stiff after 45 minutes. They learned to play football. I could run for a long time, but just like football, with a change of rhythm. Run ten meters, pause, then another twenty meters. It was hard to because the marathon requires a regular pace. After a lot of training I was able to do it, and gradually the triathlon won me over.” says the former Spanish footballer, who was one of the few who changed the jerseys of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

Gradual training in 2007 saw him run the marathon in Florence in just under three hours, complete the triathlon in Frankfurt in over ten hours, and in 2008 he also successfully completed the Marathon des Sables – a six-day ultramarathon with a length of 251 kilometers in the Sahara in the south of Morocco. None of the former footballers could run a marathon under three hours, but his new and promising career as an endurance athlete came to a halt in 2008. He became a successful coach.

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