It’s Gotta Be the Genes: Sports’ Most Athletic Families
How cool would it be for your dad to be a professional athlete? How cool would it be for you to follow in your dad’s path and make it to the professional ranks as well? Pretty darn cool, yet highly unrealistic. The odds aren’t in your favor. For reference, the odds of getting struck by lightning in your lifetime are 1 in 3,000. The odds of making it to the NBA are 1 in 11,000. But defying the odds aren’t strictly works of fiction destined for the big screen. For a few select families, defying the odds is a fact of life. Here are some of the most famous and accomplished multi-generational athletic families sports has ever known.
1. The Mannings
Got rings? For America’s quintessential quarterback family, winning is just a part of the job. Clock in, clock out, and win.
The patriarch of the family is legendary Saints quarterback Archie Manning. Born in Mississippi, Archie attended Ole Miss before being drafted second overall by the New Orleans Saints. In the NFL, Archie would play for 13 seasons, being selected for two Pro Bowls and elected into the New Orleans Saints’ Hall of Fame.
However, his greatest crowning achievement may have been raising three boys, two of which would become some of the NFL’s all-time great passers.
The oldest of the three Manning boys, Cooper, had health issues and was forced to stop playing football following his senior year of high school. Brother’s Peyton and Eli were now next in line to carry the torch. And carry it they did.
Middle son Peyton elected to forge his own path and attend the University of Tennessee, one of the chief adversaries of his father’s alma mater, Ole Miss. At Tennessee, Peyton would have a stellar four-year tenure, where he would be nominated for three Heisman Trophies and solidify himself as the greatest college quarterback in recent memory. To one-up his father yet again, he was taken first overall, one pick ahead of Archie. In the NFL, Peyton had arguably the greatest career ever for a quarterback, racking up five MVP awards and winning two Super Bowls.
Youngest son Eli decided to make his dad proud by choosing to attend Ole Miss. His career there wasn’t as notable as Peyton’s, but he did enough to warrant being chosen, like his brother, first overall. As a New York Giant, Manning has guided Big Blue to two Super Bowl victories, including that historic upset of the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. He’s the last Manning on the field today, following Peyton’s retirement from the game after his victory in Super Bowl 50.
This family, hailing from the deep south, has made its mark on football and will go down as one of the greatest quarterback trios of all-time. Seriously, the three of them were drafted either first or second overall, they have four Super Bowl rings and too many individual awards and records to count.
2. The Currys
It’s only fitting that the greatest three-point shooter in history comes from a family of three legendary basketball players (we’ll get to Sydel later). For the Currys, aka the Splash House, finding the bottom of the net is almost instinctual.
Father Dell Curry was selected by the Utah Jazz with the 15th pick in the 1986 NBA draft. His mark on the game of basketball, however, was truly felt as a member of the Charlotte Hornets, where he played for 10 seasons. Dell would end up leaving the Hornets holding numerous all-time records, including games played and field goals made. He was recently surpassed by Kemba Walker as the franchise’s all-time points leader.
Dell’s career was very impressive, but his oldest son Steph’s meteoric rise to superstardom obliterates any of his on-court achievements. Steph has taken over the game of basketball over the course of these past few seasons with his astounding three-point range and accuracy. He is the league’s best sniper and can hit from virtually anywhere on the court. Drafted seventh overall in 2009 by Golden State, Steph has won three NBA Finals, while being named league MVP twice. He holds the NBA’s one, two, and three spots for thee-pointers made in one season. He is prolific.
Steph’s younger brother Seth has had a harder time in the NBA, and will, in all reality, forever live in Steph’s shadow. After transferring from Liberty to basketball powerhouse Duke, Seth, despite averaging 17.5 points during his senior year in college’s toughest conference, went undrafted. In the NBA, Seth has struggled to find a permanent home, bouncing around from team to team with sprinkled stints in the D-League. As summer free agency heats up, it remains to be seen where the guard – who missed last season with a leg injury – will end up. What we do know is when he is on his game, he can hit the three in spurts.
Side note: the youngest sibling in the family, Sydel Curry, was a volleyball player at Elon University and is engaged to Atlanta Hawks’ Damion Lee.
3. The Boones
Three generations of Major League Baseball players make the Boone’s one of the MLB’s most impressive, albeit sometimes hated, families.
The great Boone lineage all began with Ray Boone, an infielder who saw the world with the U.S. Navy and saw America playing for six teams over his 13-year career. He was a two-time All-Star and World Series champion, but most importantly passed on his inclination towards baseball to his son, Bob.
Bob Boone picked up right where his dad left off. He played 19 years of quality baseball, winning one World Series, seven Gold Glove awards, and appeared in four All-Star games. After retiring from baseball, Boone somewhat unsuccessfully managed two teams before officially retiring. However, the MLB couldn’t rid themselves of the Boone’s just yet.
Bob’s oldest son Brett had an impressive 14-year career, playing for six teams. He was a three-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, two-time Silver Slugger winner, and led the American League in RBIs.
Brett’s younger brother Aaron might not be the most talented of the Boone’s, but he certainly is the most notorious, at least in Boston. Over the course of his 12-year career, Aaron only managed to hit 126 home runs and was selected for one All-Star team. However, Boone was responsible for sending the entire city of Boston into a deep depression following his extra-inning, Game 7, 2003 ALCS walk-off home run. Red Sox fans can find consolation that the Yankees would lose to the Florida Marlins in the World Series, and the following season Boone would sit out due to a knee injury he acquired playing pickup basketball — which led to the Yankees trading for Alex Rodriguez.
And while no one in the Boone family tree is an active player in the Major Leagues, baseball is not done with the Boones. Aaron is currently the Yankees’ manager.
4. The Longs
One of the NFL’s most formidable families, the Longs, have had their presence felt on the league with three NFL players spanning two generations.
Leading off for the Long clan is father, Howie. Originally from Boston, Howie elected to play college football at Villanova, a school more well-known for its basketball tradition. Long did enough at Villanova to capture the interest of many NFL teams and was eventually selected by the Oakland Raiders in the second round. He played his entire NFL career for the Black and Silver, and as a Raider, Long became one of the most feared players in the league. He won one Super Bowl, was selected for eight Pro Bowls, and, after winning a handful of other impressive individual awards, was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Howie’s oldest son Chris clearly inherited his dad’s genes for sacking the quarterback and wreaking havoc on the field. Drafted second overall out of Virginia, Chris’ NFL stats have fallen short of his legendary father. However, he has been an influential player for two separate Super Bowl winning teams and has been a prominent figure fighting for social justice in sports and America at large.
While the first two Long’s mentioned on this list have a pension for getting to the quarterback, the third Long, Kyle, makes his living protecting them. A 6-foot-6 guard from the University of Oregon, Kyle was taken 20th overall by the Chicago Bears. Although the Bears have been a perennial disappointment, Kyle has been a bright spot for the team. He’s started in 64 out of 65 possible games and signed a four-year $40 million contract that will keep him protecting Bears quarterback and No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky until 2021.
5. The Matthews
The most prominent family in NFL history, spanning three generations, the Matthews family is steeped in history and success.
Please bear with us as we dissect this complicated family’s football lineage, starting with the man paved the way, Mr. Clay Matthews Sr.
Clay Matthews Sr. was a defensive end and tackle who played four seasons for the San Francisco 49ers. His career was interrupted by the Korean War, where he served as a paratrooper. Following his deployment, he returned to the States and resumed his playing career.
Matthews Sr. had two sons, Clay Matthews Jr. and Bruce Matthews. Matthews Jr., the older brother, attended USC where he was a star linebacker. He was taken 12th overall in the 1978 NFL Draft and played 19 seasons, racking up four Pro Bowls and one first team All-Pro selection.
His younger brother, Bruce, also played at USC and was drafted 9th in the 1983 NFL Draft. He played a legendary 19-year career where he amassed tons of awards including 14 Pro Bowls and a spot in Canton in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Now things get a bit confusing. Introducing, the third generation.
Matthews Jr. had two children who made it to the NFL, Clay Matthews III and Casey Matthews. Clay III is a linebacker who followed his family tradition and played football at USC. He was drafted in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft by Green Bay and has played his entire standout career there, winning one Super Bowl and racking up six Pro Bowls.
His brother Casey decided to ditch the family’s USC tradition and play football up at Oregon. He was taken by the Eagles in the fourth round and lasted four seasons in the league, failing to muster up any notable plays or achievements.
Bruce Matthews also had two children who ascended to the NFL, Kevin and Jake Matthews.
Kevin’s NFL career began after he went un-drafted in the 2010 NFL Draft out of Texas A&M. He played for three seasons where he managed to play in a total of 17 games. His younger brother, Jake, followed in his footsteps and played football at Texas A&M. He was taken sixth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by Atlanta. In his first four NFL seasons, Kevin has started every game except for one for the Falcons, missing only one due to injury.
6. The Thompsons
If the Currys were the Splash House, the Thompson’s must be the Swish Mansion. Before Klay Thompson was making it rain in Oakland, his father, Mychal, was putting up points and pulling down boards with ease.
Drafted first overall by Portland, Mychal Thompson had a healthy 13-year career playing for Portland, San Antonio, and the Los Angeles Lakers. As a Laker, Mychal was a key member of two championship-winning teams. In his prime, he averaged 20.8 points and 11.7 rebounds for the Blazers.
Mychal’s oldest son, Mychel, hardly had an NBA career at all, but can proudly say that he did, in fact, make it to the association. After going undrafted out of Pepperdine, Mychel bounced around the D-League before the Cavs acquired the 6-foot-7 shooting guard. He only appeared in five games in which he averaged a meager 3.6 points per game.
Mychal’s middle son, Klay, has so far had the best career out of any of the Thompsons. He was selected 11th overall by Golden State and has since gone on to win three NBA Finals, an Olympic gold medal, and is a four-time All-Star. He’s widely regarded as one of the NBA’s top three-point specialists and boasts the record for points scored in a quarter (37).
The last of the Thompson clan, Trayce, abandoned the hardwood for the diamond. So far, Trayce has jumped around the MLB, playing for four teams throughout his career. He’s batting .208 and has hit 22 homeruns to go along with his 58 RBIs. Although his baseball career hasn’t fully taken off, he’s proved decently effective when healthy.
Whether it be winning championships, draining threes, or robbing/hitting homers, the Thompsons are one of the most athletic, diverse families in sports. Next up for the future generations: football and hockey.
7. The Griffeys
This list would be incomplete without mentioning baseball’s most famous father/son duo, the Griffeys.
Ken Griffey Sr. is most famous for being the father of Baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., but he was no slouch on the diamond, either. He played 19 years in the Bigs for the Reds, Yankees, Braves, and Mariners. Through the years, the Elder Griffey appeared in three All-Star games and was a two-time World Series champion. His most notable on-field achievement was lasting long enough in the league to play on the same field for the same team as his son, Ken Griffey Jr. In one of baseball’s most iconic moments, the Griffeys hit back-to-back home runs, marking the first time in baseball history that a father-son pair would bat back-to-back and hit consecutive home runs. What are the odds?
Ken Griffey Jr.’s resume is a lot more padded than his father’s, and aside from playing next to his dad, Griffey Jr. made a name for himself as one of baseball’s most feared hitters and deft fielders. He was the face of the MLB during the 1990s, notching an AL MVP award, 10 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Slugger Awards, and was a four-time home run champion. Let’s not forget his 13 All-Star appearances or his outlandish signature shoe from Nike, either. The former No. 1 overall pick was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016 after receiving 99.32 per cent of the votes, breaking the prior record set in 1992.
The Griffeys may be the most publicized father/son pairing here, but let’s not discredit Griffey Jr.’s son, Trey. Trey Griffey, a wide receiver from the University of Arizona, was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s yet to play in an NFL game, but there remains a glimmer of hope that the son of a baseball icon will take the field for the Steelers, catching long balls instead of fly balls.
8. The Sutters
The biggest family in terms of professional athletes, the Sutters are bred for hockey. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, we’ll only be covering the first generation of Sutters, the six (of seven) brothers who all made it to the NHL from the small town of Viking.
Starting off for the Sutter Bros. is Brian, one of the St. Louis Blues’ all-time greats, and the only Sutter brother to have their jersey retired by an organization. Immediately following his retirement from playing – where he was a three-time All-Star — the left winger took up coaching for his former squad. In total, Brian coached in the NHL for 13 seasons.
Daryl Sutter may be the most accomplished brother in the family, partly because of his success as a coach. During his eight-year playing career, Sutter exclusively suited up for the Blackhawks. Following his retirement, he, like his brother, took up coaching. He coached for 18 seasons, winning two Stanley Cup Finals with the Los Angeles Kings.
Duane Sutter is the first brother on this list to win a Stanley Cup as a player, a feat he achieved four times. In total, Duane played for 11 seasons before taking up, you guessed it, coaching. He lasted two years as the Florida Panthers head coach before being relieved of his duties.
Brent Sutter played 18 seasons in the NHL and was fortunate enough to be his brother’s teammate on the New York Islanders, winning consecutive Stanley Cup Finals. Following his retirement, he lived up to his family’s tradition and became an NHL head coach for five fairly -successful seasons.
The highest of the Sutters to be taken in the NHL Draft, Ron was taken fourth overall by Philadelphia. In total, he played in the NHL for an astonishing 19 seasons, although he was never able to hoist the cup. Unlike his brothers who came before him, Ron has yet to take up a head coaching position.
The last Sutter brother to grace this impressive list is Ron’s twin brother, Rich. Drafted by Pittsburgh six spots after his brother with the 10th overall pick, Rich only lasted a season and a half before being traded to his brother’s Flyers. He had a few productive seasons playing next to his twin before bouncing around the league as a journeyman. After retiring in 1995, Sutter opted for broadcasting rather than coaching.
9. The Pettys
All hail the King!
Stock-car racing would not be the same without the monumental impact the Petty family had on the sport.
The Petty family’s patriarch is legendary driver Lee Petty, winner of the first Daytona 500 in its prestigious history. After retiring from racing a three-time NASCAR Cup champion and one of the most successful drivers in history, Lee was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and NASCAR Hall of Fame. If you think Lee’s resume was impressive, wait until you see his son Richard’s.
Nicknamed “The King” and widely considered to be the most iconic figure in NASCAR history, Richard Petty dominated from behind the wheel for three decades. He is a seven-time NASCAR Cup champion and holds the record for most series wins at 200. He’s in virtually every racing hall of fame and proudly holds many of NASCAR’s most prestigious records. Widely popular and seen as a cultural icon, Richard was awarded the 1992 Presidential Medal of Freedom award.
Richard’s son, Kyle, had some enormous racing shoes to fill following his dad’s retirement. He did a respectable job living up to his family name, but, understandably, didn’t even approach the amount of fame or success his father had. In the NASCAR Cup series, Kyle managed to win eight races and had 173 top-ten finishes.
Of course, the logical conclusion to make after reading this as that Kyle would have a son who would grow up to be a NASCAR driver like the rest of his paternal family. Kyle did, in fact, have a son of his own – Adam – who would race in one NASCAR Cup Series race before tragically dying in a practice session.
10. The Barrys
Another basketball family, the Barrys have three players to join the NBA and are one of the few father-son pairs to win a championship.
Father Rick Barry is, bar none, the best Barry on this list, and it’s not even close. He was voted one of the 50 greatest NBA players and is the only player in basketball history to lead the NCAA, ABA, and NBA in scoring. A legend at the U (Miami), Barry was taken second overall by the then San Francisco Warriors. He would migrate to the ABA and back to the NBA over his 14-year professional career, winning both an NBA and ABA championship. After retirement, Barry watched as three out of his four sons made it to the NBA.
Oldest son Jon was a first-round pick out of Georgia Tech and played 14 years for eight different teams. He was nowhere near the prolific player or scorer as his dad, yet somehow was deemed serviceable enough to stay in the league for so long.
Brent Barry led the most successful career out of the Barry boys, winning two championships and was chosen for the 1995-96 All-Rookie team. He also soared to victory in the highly-disappointing 1996 Slam Dunk Contest. Brent, in total, played 14 years, managing to have a few productive seasons from an offensive perspective.
The last brother here to make the NBA is Drew Barry, a three-year veteran of the NBA. His career averages aren’t worth mentioning here, but, again, he somehow was able to land on an NBA roster for three years. Nepotism, anyone? There are probably tons of other players who were better in college and in the NBA who didn’t last as long.
One could say that this family knew how to Barry a shot or two.