Thursday, June 13, 2024

10 of the greatest father-son combos in professional sports history

In honor of Father's Day, Stacker compiled a list of 10 of the greatest father-son duos in professional sports history.

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Ken Griffey Jr. and Ken Griffey Sr. of the Seattle Mariners laugh together, circa 1993.

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It's not always easy when Dad is a legendary athlete.

Nobody knows this better than Bronny James, the eldest child of LeBron James, a man widely considered one of—if not the—greatest basketball players of all time. The basketball phenom started college at the University of Southern California in 2023 and is projected to be a late pick in the 2024 NBA draft.

But the spotlight has proved challenging.

"It's tough," Bronny said in a May 2024 interview with SiriusXM NBA Radio. "A lot of criticism gets thrown my way, but I've got to deal with it."

It would be notable if Bronny lived up to his father's soaring reputation, especially since LeBron surpassed expectations after he was touted as the next Michael Jordan. But Bronny is far from the only athlete who has excelled despite the pressures of having a sports superstar for a dad.

From the gridiron and the diamond to the rink and the race track, there are a handful of special cases in which the son of a prolific athlete matched—or exceeded—their old man's greatness. Stephen Curry, Ken Griffey Jr., and the Manning brothers are just a few who have achieved the latter distinction.

To highlight generational athletic prowess, Stacker compiled a list of 10 of the best father-son duos in professional sports history—scouring such sources as ESPN, Bleacher Report, and Rotowire. There's even a trio and quartet on the list.

Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr.

Ken Griffey Jr. and his father, Ken Griffey Sr. of the Seattle Mariners, stand together in the outfield.

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It's one thing to play on the same MLB team as your dad. It's another to hit back-to-back home runs with him, a feat only Ken Griffey Jr. and Ken Griffey Sr. have accomplished in baseball history.

The elder Griffey played for 19 seasons, including 12 with the Cincinnati Reds, and won the World Series with the Big Red Machine in 1975 and 1976 on his road to being inducted into the team's Hall of Fame.

The Griffeys' professional paths overlapped in 1990-1991 with the Seattle Mariners, for whom Junior began and ended his 22-year career. With one of the sweetest left-handed swings in baseball, "The Kid," as he was nicknamed, clubbed his way to seventh on the all-time home run list with 630, ensuring his induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016.

Together, their careers made big impressions, but their consecutive bombs as teammates remain a feat that no other father-son duo will likely ever meet.

Archie Manning, Peyton Manning, and Eli Manning

Peyton Manning, Archie Manning, and Eli Manning attend DIRECTV

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Unlike his two NFL star sons, Archie Manning never experienced a winning season in the NFL. He spent 13 years as a quarterback, 11 of which were with the New Orleans Saints. He also made two Pro Bowls and entered the team's Ring of Honor and Hall of Fame despite the Saints' poor records.

His sons Peyton and Eli boosted the family's winning percentage.

The first pick in the 1998 draft, Peyton set NFL records for career passing yards (71,940) and passing touchdowns (539) and has five MVP awards and two Lombardi trophies to his name.

Though Eli, another #1 overall pick, doesn't have his older brother's stacked regular-season résumé, the youngest Peyton also earned two Super Bowl victories. Eli made 222 consecutive starts for the New York Giants from 2004 to 2017 and set the franchise record of 57,023 career passing yards and 366 passing touchdowns.

Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds

Bobby Bonds stands next to his son, Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants, during a game.

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Bobby Bonds was a sure bet to kick-start his team's offense. On the San Francisco Giants, with whom he spent half of his 14 seasons, the speedy slugger set a record for leadoff home runs in a season (11), making him the first player after Willie Mays with 300 home runs and 300 steals.

However, these accomplishments pale in comparison to those of his son. After starting his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Barry put up prolific numbers for the Giants, most notably establishing the records for most career home runs (762) and most homers in one season (73). Though his career was marred by steroid use, Bonds' accolades (14-time All-Star, 12-time Silver Slugger, eight-time Gold Glove winner) will be hard to beat.

Dell Curry and Stephen Curry

Seth Curry, Dell Curry, and Steph Curry pose for a picture.

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Shooting threes is in the Curry family genes. Over an impressive 16 years in the NBA, Dell made an astonishing 40.2% of his attempts from three-point land, was named the Sixth Man of the Year in 1993-1994, and set the mark for most points in Charlotte Hornets history.

It wasn't clear if Stephen would follow his dad's lead when he set an NCAA record for threes in a single season while at Davidson in 2007-2008. But his creative and reliable touch led to his time with the Golden State Warriors, and, in 2015-2016, Stephen set the NBA record for threes in a season (402).

Along with Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala, Steph and the Warriors won four championships. He also has two MVPs and revolutionized the way teams value long-range scoring, giving rise to a generation of snipers.

Let's not forget Steph's brother, Seth, a sharp-shooting role player who hit 43.1% of his threes in 10 seasons.

Pat Mahomes and Patrick Mahomes Jr.

Patrick Mahomes celebrates with his father, Pat Mahomes, after the AFC Championship.

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Most of the time, father-son duos shine in the same sport. Not the Mahomeses.

After starting his 11-year career with the Minnesota Twins, Pat played for five other teams, pitching in 308 games and posting a 5.47 earned run average.

Though Patrick played baseball growing up, he committed to play football at Texas Tech, where he soon began setting records. The Kansas City Chiefs selected him 10th overall in the 2017 NFL draft, arguably the most important decision the franchise has ever made.

Since then, Patrick has won two MVP awards and led the Chiefs to three Super Bowl victories, including the last two titles, in four appearances, thereby entering the running for the greatest quarterback of all time.

"The things he was doing at such a young age, I knew that was different," Pat told CNN of his son. "I knew that was special and I knew that if he continued to move in that fashion and to continue working every day that he'd have a chance to be a professional athlete."

Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays gives a ball to his father, Vladimir Guerrero Sr.

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No pitcher ever wanted to face Vladimir Guerrero Sr. The Dominican slugger and right fielder began his career with the Montreal Expos, building an impressive résumé that included nine All-Star nods, the American League MVP award in 2004, and a National Baseball Hall of Fame induction in 2018.

Outside of his ability to hit for contact and power (as well as his rocket arm), Guerrero's biggest asset might have been his availability. Vladdy played over 140 games in 12 of his 16 big league seasons, racking up 2,590 hits and 449 home runs.

Today, pitchers fear his son. Since breaking into MLB in 2019 with the Toronto Blue Jays, Vlad Jr. has embodied his dad's menacing approach at the plate. The first baseman mashed 48 home runs during the 2021 season, helping the Guerreros to join Cecil and Prince Fielder as the only father-son duos with 40 home runs each in a season.

In 2023, Vlad replicated his father's feat by winning the Home Run Derby, marking the first time a father-son duo triumphed in the exhibition power display.

Joe Bryant and Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant hugs his father, Joe Bryant.

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As a basketball player, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant was a model of longevity, bouncing up the court into his 50s. He played eight years in the NBA and at least as long abroad before latching on with the Boston Frenzy of the relaunched American Basketball Association.

Joe went on to have a diverse coaching career in the college ranks, the WNBA, and various overseas leagues.

His son, Kobe, quickly stole headlines—first in the Philadelphia area while attending Lower Merion High School and then as a guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, for whom he played his entire 20-year career.

In purple and gold, Kobe won five championships, scored 33,643 points (fourth all-time), and earned 18 All-Star selections. Considered one of the greatest players ever, the "Black Mamba" credited his determination and success to his father, who supported him early in his life after he struggled during a summer tournament.

"I remember crying about it, being upset about it," Kobe told Haute Hisse. "And my father just gave me a hug and said, 'Listen, whether you score zero or score 60, I'm gonna love you no matter what.' Now, that is the most important thing that you can say to a child."

Ray Boone, Bob Boone, Bret Boone, and Aaron Boone

Aaron Boone poses for a photo with his dad, Bob Boone.

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There isn't one family that can boast the same amount of baseball love, success, and experience as the Boones, whose major league dominance spans three generations and includes 10 All-Star selections.

The lineage started with Ray, who won the World Series with Cleveland in 1948 at the start of a 13-year career as an infielder. His son, Bob, spent nearly two decades in the big leagues, winning the 1980 World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies. He later managed for three-season stints with the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds.

The Boones' playing legacy continued in the 21st century thanks to Bob's sons, Bret and Aaron. Bret spent his 14-year career with six different teams, starting in 1992 with Seattle, where he returned in 2001 to help lead the team to an AL-record 116 wins and earn one of his three All-Star selections and two Silver Sluggers.

In 2003, Aaron was an All-Star with his brother, hitting 24 homers and driving in 96 runs for the Reds and New York Yankees. He punctuated that season with a walk-off home run against the rival Boston Red Sox to send New York to the World Series. In 2018, he returned to the Bronx as the Yankees manager, leading the club to winning seasons in his first six years.

Bobby Hull and Brett Hull

Bobby Hull with son Brett Hull at the 1991 NHL Awards in Toronto.

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Amazingly, Bobby and Brett Hull are paired together in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The left- and right-wingers were inducted 26 years apart. Bobby paved the way, spending most (1957-72) of his 23-year career with the Chicago Blackhawks and winning two Hart Memorial trophies as the NHL MVP, plus the 1960-61 Stanley Cup.

"The Golden Jet" was the third player to reach 50 goals in a season (a feat he'd replicate four more times) and led the league in points three times, scoring 610 goals with 560 assists.

Brett skated in his wake, scoring 741 goals (fifth most in NHL history) with 650 assists and winning two Stanley Cups with the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings.

In 19 NHL seasons, "The Golden Brett" posted five consecutive seasons with 50 or more goals, including three straight with 70-plus. He and Bobby remain the only father-son duo to record more than 1,100 points in their respective careers.

Ralph Earnhardt Sr. and Ralph Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. and his son, Dale Earnhard Jr., pose together at the raceway in Daytona Beach, Florida.

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Ralph Dale Earnhardt Sr., a legendary stock car racer who amassed over 350 NASCAR victories over his 23-year career, would be proud of his family legacy.

In addition to winning the 1998 Daytona 500, his son, Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose career began in 1975, won 75 other NASCAR Cup Series races and a record-tying seven championships. His remarkable 27-year run was cut short when he died on the final lap at Daytona in 2001.

"The Intimidator" was posthumously inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.

After entering the racing world in 1991 and winning two contests in his first full season in 2000, Dale Jr. became a leading figure in the sport. He won the first top-flight race at Daytona after his father's death, and his two Daytona 500 victories (2004 and 2014) were part of 26 Cup Series wins that cemented him as a fan favorite.

Dale Jr. also won the sport's Most Popular Driver Award 15 consecutive times from 2003 to 2017 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2021.

"There's some regrets and mistakes and things that I wish I would have done differently," he told the Associated Press at the time. "Dad would have pointed those out for sure."

Story editing by Mike Taylor. Additional editing by Paris Close. Copy editing by Meg Shields. Photo selection by Clarese Moller.