Professional sports are full of sons who have taken up the mantle of their fathers and gone into the family business. There’s Bobby and Barry Bonds. There’s Archie Manning, who spawned a professional football dynasty in his sons Eli and Peyton. And then there’s the Ken Griffeys and the Cal Ripkens, junior and senior.
Unlike some who follow their fathers into the family business, none of these pro athlete sons can be accused of gaining their careers through nepotism. They may have famous pedigrees that make coaches interested in them initially, but the fact is they still have to be able to cut it on the playing field or on the court, or they’ll simply get cut from the team. Fans and shareholders will see to that.
Who are some professional athlete fathers whose sons have followed in their footsteps? Click ahead and find out.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 01 December 2011
The legendary Patrick Ewing distinguished himself on such National Basketball Association teams as the Seattle SuperSonics and the Orlando Magic, but it was his 15-year stint with the New York Knicks that remains the era for which he is best remembered. Ewing was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.
Patrick Ewing, Jr., is his oldest son. He was chosen by the Sacramento Kings in 2008, the same year his father was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and was traded to his father’s former team, the Knicks, that very same year. After spending some time in the development league, he signed to the New Orleans Hornets in 2011.
Cecil Fielder is a retired baseball player whose career spanned two decades and saw him grace the rosters of five teams. He was best known for his hitting on such teams as the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees. Fielder’s longest tenure was a six-year stretch with the Detroit Tigers, during which he became the only player in baseball history to hit a home run completely outside of the park at Milwaukee's County Stadium.
Fielder is the father of Prince Fielder, a formidable hitter in his own right who made the roster of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002 at the tender age of 18. He currently holds the team’s all-time record for home runs in a single season and is the youngest player in the history of Major League Baseball to hit 50 home runs in a single season. Not just any batter has been able to hit 50 or more home runs in a single season — one of the few who has been able to do it is none other than Prince’s father, Cecil.
Ed Spiezio played third base for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago White Sox, and the San Diego Padres baseball teams. His career spanned the years of 1964 to 1972, and he played in the very first game in Padres history on April 8, 1969. During that game, he had the first hit and the first home run in the club’s history.
Ed Spiezio’s son Scott has played for the Oakland Athletics, the Anaheim Angels, the Seattle Mariners, and the St. Louis Cardinals. He is best known for his time with the Angels, thanks to a three-run homer that he hit in game six of the 2002 World Series that is recognized as the opening salvo in a rally that brought his team to victory that year.
Milt Wagner was a point guard and shooting guard who played for several basketball leagues in a number of countries for 13 years. In addition to stints with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat he played for three Israeli teams and two French teams, including the interestingly named Paris Basket Racing.
His son, Dajuan Wagner, also played outside of the U.S., playing for the Polish team Prokom Trefl Sopot in addition to the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA. His career with Cleveland was put off indefinitely when he became ill with ulcerative colitis, which was unresponsive to medication and ultimately caused him to undergo major surgery to have his entire colon removed. Amazingly, he not only recovered, but signed a two-year contract with the Golden State Warriors.
Fans of mediocre action movies may remember Howie Long from his supporting role alongside John Travolta in the 1996 film “Broken Arrow.” However, acting is just one of Long’s many skills, including a stint with the Raiders football team that was so long that the team moved from Oakland to Los Angeles in the middle of it. Today, Long is an NFL analyst for Fox.
Howie’s son Chris Long has played football for the St. Louis Rams since 2008, when he signed a six-year deal with the team worth $56.5 million, $29 million of which was guaranteed. He turned out to be such a good investment for the team that in 2011 his contract was restructured to include a signing bonus of more than $12 million and a base salary of over $10 million for 2012.
Floyd Bannister was a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals, and that was just in the 1980s. As early as high school he showed a superhuman command of the game, closing out his senior year with 15 wins, zero losses and an earned run average of 0.00. After achieving similar results in college, the Houston Astros snatched him up for the 1977 season. For 15 years Bannister had a successful professional career, which he closed out with the Texas Rangers.
Brian Bannister is Floyd’s oldest son. After refining his pitching in the minors, he made his major league debut in 2006 as a member of the New York Mets. He played well, but sadly after just five starts he was put on the disabled list. After struggling to get back on his game the Mets traded him to the Kansas City Royals. With that team Bannister was named the American League’s Rookie of the Month for June 2007 and came third in Rookie of the Year voting. Unfortunately, his playing was decidedly less stellar in the ensuing years, and in 2011 he signed with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan. He left the team after just two months, and recently stated that he had no plans to play any more baseball in either Japan or the U.S.
Joe “Jellybean” Bryant is the head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks of the Women's National Basketball Association. He took the job in July 2011, but it was old hat to him as he had already served as the team’s head coach in 2005 and 2006. Before any of that happened, though, Bryant had distinguished himself as a basketball player, playing for such NBA teams as the Philadelphia 76ers, the San Diego Clippers, and the Houston Rockets.
If the dream of all parents is to see their children do better than they did, then Bryant must be a happy man. His son is none other than Kobe Bryant, who has been a loyal member of the Los Angeles Lakers since 1996. His career hit a major stumbling block in 2003 when he was accused of sexual assault. The case was later dropped, however, and Bryant went back to the business of repairing his public image. Bryant led the NBA in scoring records several times since 2005, won the Most Valuable Player Award, and almost broke superstar player Wilt Chamberlain’s single game scoring record.
Jesse Barfield was an outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1981 to 1989, and the New York Yankees from 1989 to 1992. Career highlights included hitting 20 home runs and stealing 20 bases in the 1985 season. The following year he made the All-Star Team and won the Gold Glove Award. He played reasonably well when he joined the Yankees, but his performance was not up to the standard of his mid-1980s glory days.
Barfield’s oldest son Josh is a second baseman. He debuted as a major leaguer with the San Diego Padres in 2006, who promptly traded him to the Cleveland Indians that same year. He currently plays for the Philadelphia Phillies’ minor league team. His younger brother, Jeremy, made headlines in 2006 when he pushed their father down a flight of stairs after an argument.
Gerald Wilkins was a basketball player for the New York Knicks during the 1980s. But for the presence of Patrick Ewing on the team, Wilkins would have been the team’s highest scorer — his second-place standing was impressive nonetheless. Wilkins became a Cleveland Cavalier in 1992, but his career with that team was notable mainly for the amount of time that he was sidelined with injuries. He finished out his playing days with the Orlando Magic.
Gerald’s son Damien Wilkins had a tough journey to the National Basketball Association. He first entered the NBA Draft in 2001, but didn’t end up on a team until the Seattle SuperSonics added him in 2004. Wilkins stayed with the team until 2009, eventually moving on to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He is currently a member of the Atlanta Hawks.
The career of former left fielder Gary Matthews dates back to 1968, when he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants. His major league career began four years later, and from then until 1987 he played for a number teams including the Atlanta Braves, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Chicago Cubs and the Seattle Mariners. He was 1973’s National League Rookie of the Year and played for 16 seasons before retiring.
Matthews’ son, Gary Matthews, Jr., is an outfielder and a former member of eight teams, including the San Diego Padres, the Pittsburgh Pirates and two tours of duty with the New York Mets, in 2002 and 2010. Today he is a free agent, but in 2007 he courted controversy when he was implicated in an investigation of a steroid ring, which landed him the unfortunate nickname “Gary Matthews Juicer.”