Fathers And Their Daughters: Sports’ Sweetest Duos
Father’s Day is right around the corner (yes, this is your friendly reminder to go and get a thoughtful card and gift for your dad), and we’re looking back at some of the greatest, most athletic father/daughter pairings in sports history. No, we’re not saying you and your dad aren’t athletic. But what we are saying is it’s exceptionally cool and incredibly rare for a father to make it to the pros, then to have his daughter reach the highest level in her respective sport.
Cue the envy towards that family’s insane athletic ability. Cue the relief to not have grown up in such a competitive household. Family BBQs must have been a real blast. Pickup basketball, anyone? Anyone? With that being said, let’s jump into the list and take a look at these incredibly fortunate, athletic, and special father/daughter pairings.
The Ali’s: A One-Two Combo
This is one father-daughter pairing that should not be trifled with. Seriously. They both can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, and rumor has it their one-two combination is lethal. Introducing boxing’s greatest father daughter tandem: The Ali’s.
No other boxer (and few other athletes) had a bigger influence than Muhammad Ali, both inside and outside the ring. Besides being widely considered the greatest boxer of all time, Ali was a counterculture icon during the 1960s and ‘70s, as America struggled to find its identity as the population swirled amid the hippie movement, anti-Vietnam War sentiment, and the associated political strife.
Born in Louisville, Ky., as Cassius Clay Jr., he decided to abandon his birth name, which he referred to as his slave name, and convert to Islam, where he took the name Muhammad Ali. Following his controversial conversion to Islam, Ali continued to ignite social controversy by refusing to be drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, citing his religious beliefs. Because of those beliefs, Ali was stripped of his eligibility to box in the U.S. and was forced to take a four-year hiatus from the sport. Eventually, Ali’s objections were taken to the Supreme Court, where his boxing eligibility was reinstated.
Despite sitting out from boxing for such an extended period of time, Ali returned to the ring as sharp as ever and shined in some of boxing’s most memorable bouts, including the Thrilla in Manila in 1974 and The Rumble in the Jungle in 1975. Eventually, Ali would go on to win his third heavyweight title in 1978 before hanging up his gloves in 1981, after a disheartening fight where early signs of Parkinson’s disease were sadly on display in front of a world-wide audience.
The eighth of Ali’s nine children, Laila was just as fierce a boxer as her father and, unlike her dad, retired from boxing with a perfect record. Laila’s record aside, her path to boxing stardom wasn’t as easy as one would imagine.
Before Laila’s boxing career, she and her father found themselves at odds regarding religion, with Muhammad wanting Laila to be an active participant in the Islamic faith and Laila wanting to establish her spirituality on a different path. This religious battle was just the start of the tension found between Muhammad and Laila.
After graduating college, Laila opened up a fairly successful nail salon and was content painting nails rather than throwing vicious left hooks. However, being the daughter of The Greatest, boxing was in her DNA and the temptation to step in the ring could only be kept in check for so long. Finally, after seeing a women’s boxing match on television, Laila succumbed to her desires and began training as a boxer.
Her dad, however, was vehemently opposed to women boxing and initially didn’t support her quest to enter the ring. Ali once said that “women are not made to be hit in the breast and face.” Slowly but surely, with Laila showing no signs of slowing down in the ring, her dad began to embrace his daughter’s dreams, as Laila fought her way to become WIBA world champion. Laila would not only pave the way as one of boxing’s most influential figures, she would also soften her father’s heart to the point where he fully supported women’s boxing.
Good Luck Catching These Two Stars
Who said girls can’t hoop? In the mere chance that it was you to utter this, here is your warning to take it back and apologize. Because if you don’t, someone by the name of Tamika Catchings will be waiting to take you to school. And in the miraculous case that you get by Tamika, her massive father, Harvey, will be lurking in the shadows ready to swat and dunk all over you. These two ballers may be the greatest father/daughter duo to ever play on the blacktop, with each of them reaching the highest league in their respective sport.
Harvey Catchings may be the less famous of the two Catchings mentioned here, but this high flying, high-sock wearing baller proved to be an effective big man in the NBA for 11 seasons while playing for a variety of teams. Harvey is also one of only 44 players in NBA history to record at least 10 blocks in a single game.
Unbeknownst to most, probably the most notable thing to happen to Harvey during his career was catching Larry Bird with a brutal elbow to the face in 1982, resulting in a $1,000 fine for Harvey and a broken cheek for No. 33. Thankfully for Bird and Celtics fans, this elbow only forced Bird to miss a paltry five games and didn’t affect the superstar’s career in the long run.
Because of Harvey’s underwhelming stat line throughout his career, his most notable contribution to the game of basketball probably comes in the form of the amazing genes he passed down on to his daughter Tamika, one of the most celebrated women’s basketball players in history.
Drafted into the WNBA No. 3 overall in 2001 out of the University of Tennessee, where she played under the legendary Pat Summitt, Tamika went on to have an outstanding 15-year career playing for the Indiana Fever.
Some notable achievements of her career include winning the league MVP, winning the WNBA Championship and Finals MVP, 10 WNBA All-Star teams, and four Olympic gold medals. Besides amassing some serious hardware, Tamika also overcame a hearing disability that tormented her as a child all the way through college.
Tamika, however, didn’t listen to the hate and used the insults as motivation to fuel her fire. She was destined to play basketball and simply outworked and out played those detractors.
Cool, Calm, and Controversial: Meet the Wiggins
Although this father/daughter pair’s relationship was cut far too short, this athletic duo shined bright on the diamond and the hardwood. Alan and Candice Wiggins both impacted their teams and climbed the highest mountains in their respective sports.
Born in California, Alan Wiggins is best known as the star second baseman for the 1984 San Diego Padres, one of only two teams in Padres history to appear in the World Series. Although the Padres would fall to the Tigers in five games, Alan’s impact on the team was profound.
He batted one spot ahead of the legendary Tony Gwynn and was a certified speedster. During the 1984 season, Alan amassed 70 stolen bases, a team record that still stands today. Sadly for Wiggins, his production declined as his drug problems and dependencies became more apparent with each passing year.
These drug issues eventually led to Wiggins contracting the HIV virus through the use of intravenous needles. His health continued to spiral downward until he eventually succumbed to complications from AIDS. At the time of his death in 1991, his daughter Candice was only four years old. To this date, Alan is the only MLB player known to have died from AIDS.
Candice Wiggins’ career was notably marked by ups and downs, both on and off the court. On the court, Candice found success early on in her career, winning WNBA Sixth Man of the Year and Rookie of the Year during the same season. She would also go on to win the WNBA championship, albeit as a backup guard. Championship success and personal accolades aside, Candice’s career was plagued by injuries that certainly limited the capacity of the 2008 No. 3 overall pick from Stamford.
Off the court, Candice gained her fair share of notoriety when she publicly accused players in the WNBA of physically and emotionally abusing her because she is heterosexual. She went on to claim that the WNBA is 98% gay and 2% straight, and her being in that 2% made her a pariah.
Following her retirement from basketball, Candice has taken up beach volleyball, a climate she believes is a bit warmer on her emotionally.
The Sloane’s: Where Power Meets Precision
Another multi-sport combination whose relationship was cut short prematurely, John and Sloane Stephens make a formidable tandem in two demonstrably-different sports. John Stephens was a bruising running back who excelled on the gridiron for six seasons and his daughter, Sloane, is currently one of the most formidable tennis players on tour.
Long before Sloane Stephens became one of the most prominent American women’s tennis players in recent memory, her father John was bruising defenders and racking up yards for the New England Patriots.
Originally drafted in the first round out of Northwestern State, John would go on to have one of the best rookie seasons in Patriots history. During his stellar rookie campaign, John totaled over 1,000 yards on the ground and was selected for the Pro Bowl, his only appearance as a player.
John’s relationship with his daughter, sadly, was slightly less impressive than his playing career, and the two only formed any semblance of a real parent-child connection when Sloane was a teenager. During her childhood, John was, for the most part, absent.
As the negative physical and mental effects of John’s football career became more apparent, his health continued to decline, something Sloane felt keenly. Tragically, John’s life came to an end when he crashed his pickup truck in a single-car accident in Louisiana.
Currently ranked No. 4 in the world, Sloane Stephens has quite the impressive resume and is only 25.
In 2017, Sloane was crowned the U.S. Open Champion and has other top finishes, including a semifinal appearance in the Australian Open and quarterfinal appearance at England’s famed, prestigious Wimbledon. Sloane was also named the WTA Comeback Player of the Year following foot surgery that forced her to miss considerable playing time.
In the 2018 French Open, Sloane finished second in a very impressive performance. Despite the second place finish, Sloane’s future looks very bright.
A Viking Family That Loves the Irish?
Slightly less famous than other pairings on this list, yet just as accomplished, Jeff and Kelley Siemon both excelled in their respective sports. Jeff was a star on the gridiron as a fearless, bone-crushing linebacker for the feared and revered Minnesota Vikings Purple People Eaters defenses of the late 1960s and ‘70s. His daughter, Kelley, was a focal point for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s basketball squad from 1998-01.
While at Stanford University, Jeff Siemon won two Rose Bowl games and was one of the nation’s top linebackers. His stellar career as a Cardinal earned him a shot at the NFL, where the Vikings would draft him 10th overall.
Jeff, now dressed in Viking purple, proved to be worthy of the top ten selection; he would start in four NFC championship games, winning three of them. The Super Bowl, however, eluded him and still remains evasive for those loyal to the purple. He was also a 4-time Pro Bowler, three of which were consecutive.
Jeff is currently third in Vikings history for total tackles and holds the single-season record for solo and combined tackles. When it comes to tackling, Jeff was like Steph Curry from the foul line: He rarely missed.
Jeff’s daughter, Kelley, decided that hitting people for a living was a bit too abrasive and took up shooting hoops instead. This choice proved to be fruitful as she led a standout four-year career at Notre Dame. Besides, it’s super fitting that a girl named Kelley would suit up for a team that rocks Kelly green.
During her senior year, Kelley was named the Big East’s Most Improved Player, was an honorable mention all-Big East, was selected for the Big East’s All-tournament team, and, most importantly, helped the Fighting Irish capture the National Championship against Purdue in 2001.
Oh how the times have changed. Purdue hasn’t been on the national championship radar in over a decade.
Gold Runs in the Liukin Family, Literally.
For father Valeri and daughter Nastia, flexibility, precision, and excelling at the Olympics are just a few things that they have in common besides their last name. Seriously, think about the odds of becoming an Olympian and, let alone, winning a medal. Now have your child duplicate the experience. Crazy.
Valeri Liukin has had an interesting career marked by personal success, gaining citizenship in a new country, running a successful gymnastics center that produces Olympians, and being caught up in the shocking sex abuse scandal that has mired the U.S. Gymnastic team’s reputation and rocked the sports world.
Originally from the former Soviet Union, Valeri began practicing gymnastics at age seven, where he moved from his native Kazakhstan to Russia to compete on the Soviet National team. In 1988, Valeri shined on the world’s brightest stage and captured two Olympic gold medals and two silver medals in a dominant performance in Seoul, South Korea.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Valeri, his wife, and daughter immigrated to the United States where they settled in Texas after a brief stint in New Orleans. While in Texas, Valeri put his knowledge of gymnastics to good use and founded the World Olympic Gymnastic Academy (WOGA), a gymnastics academy that has produced numerous Olympians.
His success running the WOGA gyms and coaching his daughter, Nastia, helped elevate his status within USA Gymnastics, eventually earning him the top spot in the US Gymnastic organization. However, not everything in Valeri’s life was smooth sailing. Amid the abuse scandal that shook the gymnastic community to its core, Valeri resigned from his post. It remains to be seen whether he knew of the gross and despicable actions that took place under Dr. Larry Nassar.
Nastia, has also led an incredibly successful career as a gymnast and is currently engaged to a former Boston College hockey player.
Before retiring from gymnastics in 2012, Nastia became one of the most decorated gymnasts in US history and recorded an astounding five Olympic medals for her efforts in the 2008 Beijing games. Besides her Olympic medals, Nastia collected nine World Championship medals and is a member of the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
As of today, Nastia is a graduate of New York University, public speaker, hosts an annual gymnastics competition in her name, and has appeared on numerous television shows. Seems like post-Olympic life isn’t too bad for Nastia.
The Mailman and Mailwoman.
Karl Malone and his daughter Cheryl Ford are potentially the most potent and lethal father-daughter basketball duo of all time. Individually, each player knew how to wreak havoc down in the paint and help guide their teams to glory. Although Malone never won a ring (we’ll get to that later), he revived the Utah Jazz franchise and helped Team USA win gold on two separate occasions.
Cheryl Ford, however, was able to do what her father couldn’t: win a professional title, and she would go on to win a total of three over the course of her career. Simply put, Karl Malone and Cheryl Ford are two basketball greats, and them being a father/daughter pair makes it that much better.
Karl Malone spent all but one year of his professional career playing for the Utah Jazz, where he amassed two league MVPs, 14 All-Star games, and, among a litany of other achievements, 11 All-NBA First Team selections. Sadly for Malone and his Hall-of-Fame teammate John Stockton, they were never able to climb to the pinnacle of the mountain at win the NBA Finals. Malone’s Jazz twice ran into Michael Jordan’s Bulls, in 1997 and ’98, and succumbed both times.
In a last-ditch effort to win a championship, Malone went to the LA Lakers and joined a star-studded lineup, only to lose once again in the NBA Finals to the almost star-less Detroit Pistons in 2004. Fortunately for Malone, there is some silver lining to his ring-less story, and that comes in the form of two Olympic gold medals. Those aren’t anything to scoff at.
Cheryl Ford’s championship record is actually the exact opposite of her dad, as she has won three WNBA titles as a member of the Detroit Shock. Besides claiming basketball supremacy on those three separate occasions, Ford was the WNBA rookie of the year and was a 4-time WNBA All-Star.
Interestingly enough, Cheryl starred in college at her father’s alma mater, Louisiana Tech University. If, however, you think their relationship was always as smooth as their game, you’d be dead wrong.
It wasn’t until Cheryl was 17 that Karl Malone entered her life and acknowledged that he was her and her twin brother’s father. At first, Karl Malone refused to recognize the two twins as his own and it wasn’t until a positive paternity test that Malone would publicly acknowledge and accept the twins as his own.
Fortunately for Malone and Ford, the relationship seems to be cordial. For Malone’s third son, a former NFL lineman, this isn’t the case.
From Paris With Love
This seemingly larger-than-life combination starred on the gridiron and hardwood, where their physically imposing size contributed to good careers and even larger reputations.
A massive protector of the quarterback, University of Michigan’s Bubba Paris found stardom in the NFL at tackle. During his nine-year career, Paris won three Super Bowls as a part of the San Francisco 49ers dynasty of the 1980s. Although Bubba was a crucial member of the 49ers offensive line, protecting the great Joe Montana, his weight problems eventually got the best of him.
After failing to make weight in the 1991 preseason, Bubba was cut by the 49ers and was signed by two other teams, where he struggled to find similar success that he grew accustomed to in the Bay Area. Currently, Bubba is a motivational speaker and an ordained minister, blessing those who he once demolished on the field. By the looks of things, he also has learned to keep his weight in check.
Courtney Paris, like her father, is a force to be reckoned with, and those opponents she faced while at the University of Oklahoma realized this in spades. She currently holds records for most consecutive double-double games and is the only player in NCAA history, men’s or women’s, to have 700 points, 500 rebounds, and 100 blocks in one season. Utter dominance. Besides putting up gaudy numbers in college, Courtney gained some notoriety by exclaiming she would pay back OU all of her scholarship money if her Sooners didn’t win the national championship.
For those of you who are wondering, that’s a $64,000 guarantee. Well, they didn’t end up winning, and it appears to this day that Courtney hasn’t paid her university back. However, it is important to note that OU was adamant in refusing to accept Courtney’s money and was simply appreciative of the kind gesture on her behalf.
After OU, Courtney took her talents to the WNBA. Despite a slow start, in which she struggled to adapt to the professional level, Courtney has successfully found her stride. She is a 2-time WNBA rebounding champion and current fixture on the Seattle Storm.