Douglas Healy

Oct 14, 2021

4 min read

4 Former Athletes Who Went on to Have Surprising Second Careers

The world’s top athletes recently converged in Tokyo, showcasing their talents at the 2020 Olympics. There, they strove to be the best of the best and bring home gold for their respective countries.

Professional sportsmen and women push themselves to the brink, building their whole lives around their sport, sacrificing everything in pursuit of excellence. Nevertheless, with a relatively short career trajectory, many are forced to rethink their future once their performance starts to falter.

In this article, we look at four extraordinary athletes who launched themselves into unlikely second careers.

1. Brian Johnson

Born in Oakland, California in 1968, Brian David Johnson was scouted by the New York Yankees while still in his junior year at Stanford. During a distinguished career in professional baseball, Brian Johnson played for six prestigious clubs: the San Diego Padres, Detroit Tigers, San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Johnson played in the Major League from April 1994 to September 2001. He is renowned for scoring a homerun for the Dodgers that propelled the team to victory, earning them a place in the National League West title game.

Following his retirement from sport, Brian went on to have a successful career in the banking industry. For 27 years, he worked with the Kaleidoscope Group, managing relationships with numerous high-profile clients. Johnson also worked for JP Morgan Chase, as well as scouting for the San Francisco Giants.

2. Terry Crews

Terry Crews played for the Rams, the Redskins, and the Chargers in the NFL. Born in Flint, Michigan in 1968, Crews played as linebacker. He retired from the NFL in 1997 and relocated to Los Angeles, determined to become an actor.

Despite never taking acting classes, Crews firmly believed that he was born to act. He initially landed bit parts in films, music videos, and advertisements, including an Old Spice commercial. Terry Crews’ breakout part came with a role in Friday After Next, in which he appeared beside the rapper-turned-actor, Ice Cube.

Crews went on to star in White Chicks, The Longest Yard, Are We There Yet? and the TV series Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He is perhaps best-known for his role in TV sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, in which he played the father of the child-protagonist, Chris Rock.

3. Bill Bradley

Bill Bradley played for the New York Knicks, joining the team in 1967, and playing with them for a decade. Born in 1943 in Crystal City, Missouri, Bradley excelled at basketball as a child, becoming all-county and all-state player. Also a gifted academic, he received 75 college scholarship offers in total, opting to go to Princeton.

Bill Bradley won gold at the 1964 Olympics playing for the US basketball team. He was voted NBA Player of the Year in 1965. Bradley subsequently attended Oxford University in England on a Rhodes Scholarship, delaying his decision on whether or not to join the NBA for two years.

After serving in the Air Force Reserve for six months, Bradley joined the New York Knicks. He subsequently led the team to NBA victory in 1970 and 1973. Following his retirement from sports in 1977, he entered politics.

Bill Bradley served in office from 1979 to 1997. During his tenure, he participated in complex reform initiatives, including the federal tax code overhaul in 1986. Bradley played a leading role in the implementation of legislation tackling lead-related children’s health problems, as well as reforms regulating child support enforcement, the re-apportioning of California water rights, and campaign finance reform.

Bill Bradley ran for office in the 2000 Democratic presidential primaries, but was defeated by the incumbent Vice President, Al Gore.

4. Magic Johnson

Born in Lansing Michigan in 1959, Magic Johnson spent the duration of his NBA career playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. He played for the Lakers for 13 seasons in total, and he is widely regarded as the NBA’s all-time greatest point guard. Johnson is a five-time NBA Champion, 12-time NBA All-Star, and three-time MVP.

In 1991, Magic Johnson held a press conference, announcing that he had HIV, abruptly retiring from the NBA. Following his retirement, he became an ardent advocate for HIV awareness and prevention, branching out into philanthropy, entrepreneurship, broadcasting, and motivational speaking. Magic Johnson’s bravery was widely commended, and he is credited with helping to dispel misconceptions surrounding AIDS/HIV.

In 2012, Magic Johnson became a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, leading an investment group that paid $2 billion for the team. It was the largest sum ever paid for a professional sports team.

When Magic Johnson announced that he had HIV/AIDS — a disease which, at the time, was considered a death sentence — the media commented on his optimism. Now in his 60s, Johnson’s positivity proved well-founded. Thanks to a lifesaving three-drug combination, he remains as healthy as ever, still striving to educate the public and eliminate discrimination against people affected by HIV/AIDS.