Our fathers play a big part in making us all who we are. Many of us tend to follow in their footsteps. It’s no surprise then that many professional athletes have children eventually developing into pro athletes.
When the guy you’re playing catch or shooting hoops with happens to be one of the top athletes in the world, there’s probably a good chance you’re going to turn out pretty good yourself. In honor of Father’s Day, we are going to take a look at the best father-child combos in all of sports history.
Sorry LaVar Ball, no talking your way on to this list.
16. Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The Earnhardt’s are one of the most well known names in all of NASCAR history. Senior is a member of multiple motorsport Hall of Fames, and is tied for the most all-time drivers’ championships with seven. Junior doesn’t have the championship pedigree that his father did, but is no slouch behind the wheel. He has won the Daytona 500 -- regarded as the most important and prestigious NASCAR race -- twice during his career (one more than his father). Dale Jr. also won the Most Popular Driver Award 14 consecutive times from 2003-2016. The father-son duo has combined for 147 wins in their careers, and are fully ingrained in the legend of the sport.
15. Clay Matthews Jr. and Clay Matthews III
The Matthews are part of one of the most successful football family dynasties with seven of them making it to the NFL. Clay Jr. and Clay III, as of right now, are the best father-son duo in the family. Clay Jr. was a first round draft pick that played in the NFL for 19 seasons. He ended his career with 4 Pro Bowl selections, 3 First-Team All-Pro selections, and the third-most tackles in NFL history. He left a lot for his son to live up to, but Clay III is well on his way to catching -- and possibly surpassing him. In only eight seasons, he has already racked up six Pro Bowl selections, three All-Pro selections, an NFC Defensive Player of the Year award, Butkus Award, and (one thing his father never captured) a Super Bowl ring. If he can produce at this kind of level for as long as his dad did, then there’s no doubt he will go down as one of the football greats.
14. Bob Boone, Bret Boone and Aaron Boone
With his family being descendants of American pioneer Daniel Boone, it kind of makes sense that Bob Boone and his sons would become one of the most recognizable families in America’s pastime. All three were named as All-Stars at least once in their careers. Bob was also a 7-time Gold Glove Award winner and World Series champion in 1980 with the Philadelphia Phillies. Bret followed that up with 4 Gold Glove Awards and 2 Silver Slugger Awards -- even going so far as to lead the AL in RBIs during the 2001 season. Aaron didn’t garner all the accolades that his father and brother did, but he was a solid utility infielder who would step up in the big moments. While playing for the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS versus the hated Red Sox, Boone hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning to win the series and prolong the Sox’ long time curse. That home run was later rated the ninth-best home run of all-time on the ESPN show Baseball Tonight.
13. Lee Petty and Richard Petty
The Petty’s are legends in the sport of car racing. Lee was a pioneer of NASCAR and one of the sport’s first superstars. He began his career at NASCAR’s first-ever race, and went on to finish in the top five in season points for NASCAR’s first eleven seasons. He also won the driver’s championship three times, and came away first in the inaugural Daytona 500. Despite all of that, perhaps the greatest thing he did for the sport was inspire his son, Richard, to become a driver as well. Richard earned the nickname The King by becoming the most accomplished driver in the history of the sport. He holds the all-time records for championships (7), race wins (200), race poles (127), Daytona 500 wins (7), and single season wins (27). These two helped shape NASCAR into what it is today. Both were inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and NASCAR Hall of Fame.
12. Joe Bryant and Kobe Bryant
Okay, so, Kobe’s legendary 20-year career is definitely doing the heavy lifting for this duo. Joe “Jellybean” Bryant wasn’t a star by any means, but playing professionally for 17 years in the NBA and Italy is still an impressive athletic accomplishment. He passed on his passion for basketball to Kobe -- allowing him access to hone his skills against professional talent from a very young age. This is an advantage most athletes don’t get, and Kobe definitely didn’t waste it. He racked up a never-ending list of accolades including five NBA championships, two Finals MVPs, two Olympic gold medals, and is third all-time in scoring. His obsession drove him to become arguably one of the greatest basketball players of all-time.
11. Mychal Thompson and Klay Thompson
Mychal and Klay are very different in terms of the type of players they are. Mychal was a defensive minded big man, and Klay is one of the best sharpshooters the NBA has ever seen. What is interesting though is that they both have ended up playing for their respective generation’s “showtime” team. First with Mychal playing for the original Showtime Lakers of the '80's, and now with Klay on the high-powered Warriors. Both teams are fast-paced, entertaining, offensive juggernauts that are difficult for any team to handle. Following the Warriors historic playoff run this year, Mychal and Klay are now only the second father-son duo to each have won two NBA championships.
10. Cecil Fielder and Prince Fielder
We all take a little after our fathers, but Prince seems almost like a clone of his father more than just a child. Both of them are large hulking men known predominantly for their ability as power hitters. They were both named as an All-Star multiple times and winners of multiple Silver Slugger Awards. These two aren’t the greatest all-around father and son duo to ever play, but they may be the best hitting duo ever. They both had over 1,000 RBIs in their careers and combined for 638 home runs - each of them hitting exactly 319. Cecil and Prince are also the only father-son duo in the history of the MLB to each hit 50 home runs in a single season. This is definitely one family no one would want to pitch to.
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9. Dell Curry and Steph Curry
This is one combo you definitely don’t want to challenge to a game of H-O-R-S-E. The two sharpshooters can basically hit a shot from anywhere on the court. Steph Curry has changed the game over the last few seasons with his ability to knock down the deep ball at a historic clip and that shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering his dad was a 40% shooter from deep over his career. Dell was known for providing instant offense off the bench -- which eventually resulted in winning the Sixth Man of the Year award in 1994. He spent most of his career with the Charlotte Hornets -- retiring as their all-time leader in points and three-pointers made. Steph has taken the family shooting ability to new levels. He is on pace to shatter Ray Allen’s career record. After a slow start to his career, Steph has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last few seasons - taking home two league MVPs and two NBA championships. The scary thing is that it feels like him and his Warriors team are just getting started.
8. Ken Norton Sr. and Ken Norton Jr.
Most father and child athletes tend to have careers in the same sport, but this is the first duo on our list to break that trend. Ken Norton Sr. was a professional boxer while Ken Norton Jr. was a linebacker in the NFL. Despite the different career paths they were still both known for punishing their opponents. Ken Sr. boxed from 1967 to 1981 with a career record of 42-7-1. He is most well known for his trilogy with Muhammad Ali -- in which he won the first fight for the NABF heavyweight title. He was later inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and named one of the 50 greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. His son, Ken Jr., had a successful 13 year career playing for the Cowboys and 49ers. Racking up over 1,000 career tackles and 3 Pro Bowl selections. He is also the only player in NFL history to win a Super Bowl ring in three consecutive years.
7. Calvin Hill and Grant Hill
Another duo that followed different career paths. Calvin Hill was a standout running back at Yale and then a first-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys. He was an instant force in the league winning the award for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and was named to his first of four Pro Bowls. In 1971, Calvin became the first running back in Cowboys franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards. He would go on to help the Cowboys win a Super Bowl and two NFC titles. Grant had a career in basketball that paralleled his father’s surprisingly close. After a storied college career at Duke, Grant was drafted in the first round by the Pistons and would go on to be widely considered as one of the best all-around players in the world. Just like his father he would be awarded the Rookie of the Year award and be named to multiple All-Star games. Sadly, also just like his father, Grant’s career was plagued by injuries and he was never able to sustain the level of play he showed early on.
6. Gordie Howe and Mark Howe
Gordie Howe is considered by many to be the most complete player ever to play hockey, and his list of achievements runs so long that it almost seems fake. He played a record 26 years in the NHL, was a 23-time NHL All-Star, won six league MVPs, six Art Ross Trophies as league leading scorer, and also won the Stanley Cup four time for good measure. Suffice it to say that Mark had a lot to live up to in order to escape his father’s shadow. He of course didn’t match everything his father did, but he was a multiple time All-Star and a three-time runner up for the Norris Trophy -- an award given to the league’s best defensemen. Mark was known as one of the very best two-way defensemen through his 16 year career. The Howe's became the second father-son combination in hockey to both be named to the Hall of Fame.
5. Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr.
The Griffeys are a signature name in the game of baseball, mostly because of Junior. However, Senior had a successful 19-year career himself. He didn’t put up the kind of numbers that his son did, but he was an effective and an integral member of the famous Big Red Machine. He gathered three All-Star selections while playing for the Cincinnati Reds, and captured back-to-back World Series championships in 1975 and 1976. Griffey Jr.’s exciting play-making in the outfield and sweet stroke at the plate made him one of the most popular players in the history of the sport. His acrobatic catches in center field earned him 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards and he finished his career with 630 home runs, the sixth-most in MLB history. The father and son tandem actually played together for a short period and are the only father-son duo to hit back-to-back home runs. In 2016, Ken Griffey Jr. was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, receiving a record 99.3% of the vote.
4. Archie Manning, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning
The Manning quarterback dynasty is quite impressive, and has to be the greatest father-child combo ever in football. Archie had the toughest career of the three playing for a terrible Saints team for nearly his whole career. He never played on a team that had a winning record, but he was well respected by his NFL peers. The elder Manning still put up over 20,000 passing yards in his career -- despite running for his life most of the time. His two sons have fared much better in their careers. Both Peyton and Eli were selected No. 1 overall in their respective drafts and as of right now, Peyton has had the more storied career statistically -- holding multiple NFL career and season passing records. But, with his recent retirement, Eli isn’t too far off from chasing down his big brother’s numbers. While Archie has the record for worst winning percentage of all-time (including no playoff appearances), his sons have both reached the pinnacle of the sport -- each having won two Super Bowl championships apiece.
3. Muhammad Ali and Laila Ali
Both of these fighters could lay claim to being the greatest ever in their sports. Muhammad is regarded as one of the most significant sports figures in history and the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. He is the only three-time heavyweight champion, winning the title in 1964, 1974, and 1978. Muhammad competed in the golden age of boxing and participated in several of the most historic matches in history, such as the famed “Thrilla in Manila” and “Rumble in the Jungle.”Laila followed closely in her legendary father’s footsteps by becoming one of the most accomplished female boxers ever. She went undefeated in her 24 career fights and laid claim to the IBA, IWBF, WIBA, and WBC Super Middleweight titles and the IWBF Light Heavyweight title. The two of them combined for a career fight record of 90-5.
2. Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds
Asterisk or not, the Bonds are the most accomplished father-son combination in baseball history. Everyone knows about Barry and his record setting career leading some to regard him as one of the greatest baseball players of all time. When people think of Barry, most just consider him a great hitter since he holds the records for most career home runs (762) and single season home runs (73). However, he was much more well-rounded than that. He also was an outstanding defender -- winning eight Gold Gloves. Bonds holds the records for most career walks and is the only member of the 500 home run/500 stolen base club. Because of Barry’s greatness, some people forget just how great Bobby also was. He was known for his combination of power hitting and speed. He holds the record (along with Barry) as the only person to have five seasons of 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. He was the second player ever to hit 300 career home runs and steal 300 bases. Bobby and Barry hold the father-son records for combined home runs (1,094), steals (975), and RBIs (3,020).
1. Bobby Hull and Brett Hull
The Golden Jet and The Golden Brett are two of the best hockey players to ever play the game. They have both accomplished just about every single one of the highest achievements possible in the sport. Both were known for their scoring ability, as they are the only father-son tandem to hit the marks of more than 50 goals in a season, over 600 goals in a career, and 1,000 points in a career. Brett still has the fourth-highest goal total in NHL history with 741. Bobby and Brett have also each won a Stanley Cup, and are the only duo on this list to both win League MVPs. They were the first father-son combo to both be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame -- followed by the previously mentioned Howe duo. On January 27, 2017, they were both named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players in history -- the only father and son to both make the list. If there was an award to win, a record to break, or a championship to take home then the Hulls did it. No one else on this list has both father and child checking every single career achievement box and that’s why Bobby and Brett Hull are the greatest family sports combo ever.
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