Every day, amateur athletes rise at dawn, endure their coaches’ abuse and train diligently in their chosen sport, all in the hope that someday they might hit the big time and turn pro. Sadly, most of these hopefuls get turned away, often for the simple reason that the supply of athletes outweighs the demand. Despite the long odds, some famous athletes not only hit the big time, but even have a sibling who’s done the same.
Click ahead to see sibling athletes who have beaten the odds and made it into the big leagues at the same time.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 29 June 2011
Tennis players Venus and Serena Williams are arguably the best-known sibling athletes in the world. Venus has won the Grand Slam title seven times and Serena has won it thirteen times, and on eight of these occasions they competed against one another. After all, they had knocked out everyone else. Each has been ranked number one in the world, so they make a formidable Doubles team, and they have taken top honors at the 2010 French Open.
The likelihood of one set of parents producing two such star athletes is slim --- so slim in fact that in 2002, The New York Times likened it to “one set of parents raising Picasso and Monet.” The sisters were trained by their father from an early age, and although they have an intense professional rivalry, it’s not so intense that one won’t show some sisterly support by watching the other one play.
Eli Manning and his older brother Peyton both play professional football. Eli is a quarterback for the New York Giants and Peyton quarterbacks for the Indianapolis Colts. Both are the sons of Archie Manning, himself a quarterback for the National Football League in times past. Eli Manning won the Most Valuable Player award in 2008 for his performance in Super Bowl XLII, in which his team defeated the New England Patriots, previously thought to be undefeatable.
Peyton Manning holds four NFL Most Valuable Player awards, the most ever held by a single player. In 2009, The Sporting News named him the top player in the league, based on the votes of such players as Troy Polamalu, who said that Manning “really carries that team on his shoulders.” Peyton and Eli both performed guest voice spots on a 2009 episode of The Simpsons, thereby providing another sign of their cultural supremacy.
Kurt Busch is a NASCAR driver who showed interest in the sport as a child and pursued it ever since adolescence. His first NASCAR victory took place when he won the Food City 500 at the 2002 Winston Cup Series, and in 2011 he made history when he gained a license to compete in NHRA Pro Stock. This made him only the third NASCAR driver ever to compete in both leagues, an accomplishment shared only by such racing legends as John Andretti and Richard Petty.
Kurt’s younger brother is Kyle Busch. However, just because he’s the little brother, it doesn’t mean that he hasn’t racked up considerable achievements of his own. He is the current record holder for the most NASCAR victories in a single season, winning 24 competitions across three different series in 2010. He is also the only driver in NASCAR history to win races in two of the association’s national touring series. He topped this 2009 record in 2010, when he became the first driver to win NASCAR’s top three touring series in one weekend.
Cheryl Miller reports on National Basketball Association games for TNT Sports and NBA TV. Prior to that, she was a college basketball player, but her career was cut short by injuries. She later found success as a coach, and when she was an active player, her performance earned her spots in the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the International Basketball Federation Hall of Fame.
Cheryl Miller has two brothers who are both distinguished athletes: Reggie Miller played in the NBA for the Indiana Pacers, sticking with that team for his entire 18-year career; her other brother is Darrell Miller, who broke with his siblings and chose to play baseball instead --- he played for the California Angels from 1984 to 1988.
Marc, Jordan and Eric Staal are all hockey players. Raised in Canada, the three brothers play for three different teams, but they have each distinguished themselves individually within the sport. Marc plays for the New York Rangers, and he’s known for his adept skating, shot blocking and brutal body-checking.
Younger brother Jordan plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins. His powerful defensive play has earned him the nickname “Gronk,” based on the Marvel comics character with superhuman strength. Eric is the oldest of the three brothers and captain of the Carolina Hurricanes. There is also a fourth and youngest Staal brother, 20-year-old Jared, and though he signed with the Hurricanes in May 2010, he has yet to make his NHL debut.
Brook and Robin Lopez are basketball-playing twin brothers whose grandfather played at the University of Colorado. Brook plays starting center for the New Jersey Nets and stands at an imposing seven feet. In 2009, he was chosen to play in the NBA All-Star Weekend Rookie Challenge, and he placed third in Rookie of the Year voting.
Brook’s twin brother Robin plays for the Phoenix Suns. He earned the title of Most Valuable Player at the Adidas Superstar Camp All-Star Game during his junior year in college, and he broke the Stanford University record for blocked shots with a total of 73.
Me’Lisa and Mikele Barber are twin sisters, sprinters and gold medal winners. Me’Lisa burst onto the international scene in 2001 when she competed with Team USA at the World University Games. At the 2003 World Outdoor Championship in Paris, she won a gold medal by running the lead leg of athe relay race for Team USA. However, all the accolades were old hat. Me’Lisa had been winning relays since high school that had won All-American honors, and she appeared in Track & Field News before she had even graduated.
Mikele Barber is also a notable sprinter. She won the gold medal for a relay race at the 2007 World Championships in Athletics in Osaka, Japan, and she has competed on a relay team with her sister Me’Lisa at the University of South Carolina. The two have been featured together in publications including Sports Illustrated, Track & Field News and USA Today.
Tony and Phil Esposito are legends, both of whom are honored in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Tony made his name as a goalie for the Chicago Black Hawks, and he is known as the inventor of “butterfly style” of goaltending, in which the player drops to his knees and blocks a shot with spread goal pads, thereby assuming the sinuous form of the Lepidoptera.
Tony’s brother Phil is a veteran of 18 seasons with such teams as the Boston Bruins, the Black Hawks and the New York Rangers. After retirement, he was general manager and head coach of the Rangers and later co-founded the Tampa Bay Lightning. Phil currently appears in a recurring role on the Denis Leary television series Rescue Me.
Vitalii and Wladimir Klitchko are brothers from the Ukraine. Both are boxers, and feared ones. Vitalii is the current heavyweight champion of the World Boxing Council, and he has never been knocked out, or even knocked down, in his entire career. But lest anyone think he’s all brawn, he holds a Ph.D. in sports science, leading him to bear the nickname “Dr. Ironfist.”
Wladimir Klitchko is Vitalii’s younger brother. He is considered one of the hardest punchers in the sport, and he has been noted for his ability to save his most devastating punches for late in the fight, when his opponent has already run out of energy and can barely defend himself. Outside of the ring, Wladimir appeared in the George Clooney remake of Ocean’s Eleven, and until May 2011 he was romantically involved with actress Hayden Panettiere.
Bobby and Terry Labonte are both NASCAR drivers, both of whom have competed in the Sprint Cup Series. Bobby LaBonte is the only driver in NASCAR history to win both the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR Winston Cup.
His older brother Terry is now retired, but he was once an International Race of Champions winner and a two-time Winston Cup champion. In 1998, he was chosen as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. Terry is also the father of former NASCAR Nationwide Series competitor Justin Labonte.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Al Joyner are both Olympic gold medalists. Jackie has also won an Olympic silver medal and two bronze medals to go with the three gold medals that she won in the heptathalon. Sports Illustrated named her the Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th century.
Jackie’s brother Al Joyner won an Olympic gold medal for his performance in the triple jump in 1984, becoming the first American to do so in 80 years. He was married to Olympic sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner, who sadly died in 1998 from an epileptic seizure. Joyner re-married five years later, and today he directs the Flo Jo Community Empowerment Foundation, a charity founded in his first wife’s memory.