The sports world mourned the loss of a few legends in 2022. We remember these 60 for their contributions to the games – and our enjoyment of them – through the years.
Jan. 1 – Dan Reeves, 77, was a running back for the Dallas Cowboys from 1965-72 but was better known as an NFL head coach, spending 23 years in stints with the Broncos, Giants, and Falcons from 1981-2003. Three of his Denver teams reached the Super Bowl in the 1980s, as did his Atlanta team in 1998, but all lost. He won one Super Bowl each as a player and an offensive coordinator.
Jan. 5 – Ralph Neely, 78, was an offensive tackle for 13 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys from 1965-77. He was a three-time first-team All-Pro from 1967-69. In the 1970s, he moved from right tackle to left tackle, protecting Roger Staubach’s blind side and opening holes for the likes of Calvin Hill, Walt Garrison, Robert Newhouse, and Tony Dorsett. In his final season, the Cowboys won Super Bowl XII over Denver. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s all-1960s team.
Jan. 10 – Don Maynard, 86, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. He was a receiver for 16 pro seasons, including one with the NFL’s New York Giants out of college and one with Hamilton in the CFL, before signing with the AFL’s New York Titans (later renamed the Jets). He spent 13 with them, including their Super Bowl season in 1968. When he retired in 1973 after a season in St. Louis, he was pro football’s leading receiver with 633 catches, 11,834 yards, and 88 touchdowns. He was the first player to eclipse the 10,000-yard mark.
Don Maynard making a catch in a 1967 AFL game against Buffalo. Walter Iooss Jr. / Sports Illustrated / Getty Images
Jan. 11 – Don Sutherin, 85, is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. The defensive back/kicker won four Grey Cups as a player (two with Hamilton and two with Ottawa) and later won three more titles as a coach. He spent two seasons in the NFL and was also a member of Ohio State’s 1957 national championship team, kicking the winning field goal in the Rose Bowl.
Jan. 15 – Joe B. Hall, 93, was the head basketball coach at Kentucky from 1972-85. He led the Wildcats to eight SEC regular-season titles, 10 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, and three Final Fours. His 1976 team won the NIT championship, and the 1978 squad took the NCAA title. He was elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.
Jan. 18 – Lusia Harris, 66, won three straight women’s national championships at Delta State in the 1970s and was the tournament MVP all three times. She was a member of the U.S. team that won the silver medal in the first Olympic women’s basketball tournament in 1976. In 1977, the New Orleans Jazz selected her in the seventh round of the NBA draft, although she declined to attend training camp. She is the first Black woman enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. This year, a documentary about her called “The Queen of Basketball” won the Academy Award for best short subject.
Jan. 21 – Clark Gillies, 67, was a member of the Islanders’ Trio Grande line with Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier that led New York to four Stanley Cups championships from 1980-83. He remains fourth all-time in goals for the Islanders franchise (304), fifth in assists (359), fourth in points (663), and seventh in penalty minutes (891). He was a popular fixture with fans around the team in retirement. The Islanders retired his No. 9 in 1996, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002.
Clark Gillies, left, with Islanders teammates Bryan Trottier and Denis Potvin. Bruce Bennett / Getty Images
Feb. 2 – Bill Fitch, 89, coached in the NBA for 25 seasons with five teams, reaching the summit with the 1981 champion Boston Celtics. He started in the NBA as the coach of the expansion Cavaliers. Following his four years in Boston, he took the Rockets to the NBA Finals in 1986, and later coached the Nets and Clippers. He was a two-time coach of the year, and ranks fourth on the NBA’s all-time coaching list with 2,050 games.
Feb. 19 – Charley Taylor, 80, was selected in the top 10 in both the NFL and AFL draft in 1964 out of Arizona State. Washington took him at No. 3 and he enjoyed a 13-year career there, first as a halfback and then as a wide receiver. He made eight Pro Bowls, was first-team All-Pro in 1967, and was a member of the 1972 team that lost Super Bowl VII to the perfect-season Dolphins. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
Charley Taylor at training camp in 1971. Nate Fine / Getty Images
Feb. 19 – Emile Francis, 95, played in the NHL for six seasons after World War II but made a bigger name as a coach and executive with the Rangers, Blues, and Whalers from the mid-1960s until he retired in 1993. He coached the Rangers for 10 seasons from 1965-75, taking them to the Stanley Cup final in 1972. He later spent three seasons behind the bench in St. Louis. He is credited with expanding grassroots hockey in the U.S. by starting junior B leagues in the eastern U.S. and in the St. Louis area.
Feb. 24 – John Landy, 91, was the second person to break the four-minute mile, doing so two months after Roger Bannister in 1954. At a race in Finland, Landy eclipsed Bannister’s record by 1.5 seconds with a clocking of 1:57.9. Later that year, he and Bannister jointly broke the four-minute mark again as Bannister won the race at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. Landy represented Australia at the Olympics in 1952 and at the 1956 Games in his hometown of Melbourne, earning the bronze medal in the 1,500 meters.
Feb. 25 – Dick Versace, 81, was the head basketball coach at Bradley for eight seasons, winning the NIT title in 1982. He then joined Chuck Daly’s staff in Detroit before becoming the head coach of the Indiana Pacers from 1988-90. He later joined the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies as director of basketball operations and general manager.
March 4 – Shane Warne, 52, was a cricket bowler for Australia’s national team from 1992-2007, which earned him numerous accolades including induction into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2013. He competed in nearly 350 Test and one-day international matches, and was a member of Australia’s World Cup-winning team in 1999.
March 8 – Johnny Grier, 74, joined the NFL as an official in 1981 and became the first Black referee in 1988. He worked his only Super Bowl in 1988, which was his final game as a field judge (now called the back judge). He worked 15 playoff games in his career, with his biggest assignment as a referee coming in the 1993 AFC championship game. He retired from on-field duties in 2004 because of leg injuries.
Johnny Greer working a Rams-49ers game in 1990. George Rose / Getty Images
March 14 – Scott Hall, 63, was a WWE Hall of Fame wrestler who fought under the ring name “Razor Ramon” and under his own name in WCW. He was WWE’s intercontinental champion in the mid-1990s and was also a founding member of the Hall of Fame collective nWo.
March 15 – Jean Potvin, 72, played in the NHL as a defenseman for five teams from 1970-81. He played eight of those seasons with the New York Islanders, where he suited up with his brother Denis, the Hall of Famer, for seven of them. He has his name on the Stanley Cup as a member of the 1980 and 1981 championship teams, although he didn’t appear in the playoffs in those seasons.
March 16 – Ralph Terry, 86, pitched for the New York Yankees in eight of his 12 major-league seasons, earning two World Series titles in 1961 and 1962. He was the MVP of the 1962 Series for winning Game 5 and pitching a four-hit complete-game shutout in Game 7 in which he successfully protected a 1-0 lead over the final five innings on the road at Candlestick Park.
Ralph Terry, center, between Yankees teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Bettmann / Getty Images
March 18 – John Clayton, 67, was a long-time NFL reporter who gained notoriety nationally after joining ESPN in 1995. He was selected for a spot in the writers’ wing of the Hall of Fame in 2007 by the Pro Football Writers Association.
March 28 – Eugene Melnyk, 62, purchased the Ottawa Senators from near bankruptcy in 2003 and watched them reach the Stanley Cup final in 2007, as well as the conference final in 2017. His hockey-ownership path began in the Ontario Hockey League in 2001 and extended to the American Hockey League in 2016. As an owner and breeder, his horses have won all three of the Canadian Triple Crown races, and Sealy Hill won the fillies’ Triple Tiara in 2007 and was Canada’s horse of the year. Melnyk was twice named Canada’s thoroughbred owner of the year.
Andre Ringuette / NHL / Getty Images
April 3 – Tommy Davis, 83, was an 18-year major leaguer, most notably with the Dodgers, with whom he won three World Series championships in 1959, 1963, and 1965. Davis won the National League batting title in 1962, and his .346 average and 153 RBIs from that season remain club records.
April 3 – Gene Shue, 90, played for 10 seasons in the NBA with Philadephia, New York, and Baltimore, and spent six highly productive years with the Pistons franchise. He was a five-time All-Star with Detroit from 1958-62 and earned a first-team All-NBA selection in 1960. He coached in the league for another 22 years with the Bullets, Sixers, and Clippers franchises, earning two trips to the Finals and two coach-of-the-year awards. In the early 1990s, he was the general manager of the Sixers for two seasons.
April 7 – Rayfield Wright, 76, played for 13 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys as an offensive tackle on their legendary teams of the 1970s. He was a three-time first-team All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowler, and member of the Super Bowl-winning teams from the 1971 and 1977 seasons. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
April 15 – Mike Bossy, 65, only played 10 seasons in the NHL but left an indelible mark. His 573 goals were fifth all-time when he retired, and he was a key member of the New York Islanders’ run of four straight Stanley Cup victories. He was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1982 and scored the Cup-winning goals in 1982 and 1983. Bossy, Alex Ovechkin, and Wayne Gretzky are the only players to record nine 50-goal seasons; he and Gretzky are the only ones with five 60-goal campaigns. He entered the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991 and had his number retired by the Islanders in 1992. Back and knee injuries forced him to retire at the age of 30. His last job was as an analyst on TVA Sports broadcasts.
Mike Bossy, center, with Clark Gillies to his left in 1982. John Iacono / Sports Illustrated / Getty Images
April 21 – Daryle Lamonica, 80, played 12 seasons in the AFL and NFL as the first great quarterback in Raiders history. Coming out of Notre Dame, he was a 24th-round selection by Buffalo in the 1963 AFL draft, and Green Bay took him in the 12th round in the NFL. He was never able to supplant Jack Kemp as the Bills starter and was traded to Oakland before the 1967 season. He was the AFL player of the year in 1967 and 1969, and took the Raiders to three straight AFL championship games. The 1967 team steamrolled the Oilers in the title game but lost to Green Bay in Super Bowl II.
April 22 – Guy Lafleur, 70, had a 17-year Hall of Fame career in the NHL, primarily with Montreal, with which he won five Stanley Cups; he later came out of a three-year retirement to play with the Rangers and Nordiques. He was a first-team All-Star for six straight years, was voted the outstanding player in the league three times by his peers, and won the Hart Trophy in 1977, the second of three consecutive seasons in which he led the league in scoring. When he retired in 1991, he was seventh all-time in goals (560) and eighth in points (1,353).
Guy Lafleur in 1984. Bruce Bennett / Getty Images
May 10 – Bob Lanier, 73, was a seven-time All-Star center for the Detroit Pistons in the 1970s. The No. 1 overall pick after leading St. Bonaventure to the Final Four in 1970, he averaged 22.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in nine full seasons with Detroit, but the team only made the playoffs four times. He finished his career with five campaigns in Milwaukee, helping them to the Eastern Conference final in 1984, his last season. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
May 12 – Gino Cappelletti, 88, spent his entire 11-year playing career with the Patriots organization and later served as a game analyst on radio for another 28 seasons. He was the AFL player of the year in 1964 when he did double-duty as a receiver and placekicker, and was a five-time Pro Bowler. He still holds the Patriots record for points in a game, as he caught two TD passes, kicked four field goals, and added four extra points in a 42-14 win over the Oilers in 1965.
May 20 – Roger Angell, 101, had a long career as a writer and editor at The New Yorker but is best known for his baseball writing. He published six baseball books through the years, in addition to his essays about the game in the magazine. He received the first PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing in 2011, and earned the J. G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Hall of Fame in 2014.
May 24 – Thomas Ulsrud, 50, skipped Norway’s entry at 12 world curling championships, winning in 2014 on his 10th try. He also earned a silver and three bronze medals at the event. He competed in three Olympics including the 2010 Games, when he lost to Canada’s Kevin Martin in the final and the team first wore Loudmouth Golf pants that became a Norwegian staple.
Thomas Ulsrud delivers a rock at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Streeter Lecka / Getty Images
June 17 – Hugh McElhenney, 93, was a member of the 49ers’ Million Dollar Backfield in the mid-1950s and went on to play 13 seasons in the NFL with late-career stops in Minnesota, New York, and Detroit. When he retired in 1964, he had compiled the third-highest all-purpose yards total in league history. He went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1970 and the College Football hall in 1981.
June 22 – Tony Siragusa, 55, had a 12-year NFL career as an interior defensive lineman, first with Indianapolis from 1990-96 and then with Baltimore through 2001. He was a key cog in the Ravens’ all-time great defense that backstopped their Super Bowl XXXV victory. His big personality gave him a second career as a sideline reporter with Fox from 2003-15.
June 22 – Bruton Smith, 95, started his auto racing empire as a race promoter in the early 1950s competing with NASCAR. He made his first big splash by building Charlotte Motor Speedway with partner Curtis Turner in 1959. He repurchased Charlotte in 1973 and founded Speedway Motor Sports in 1994, which now owns and operates 11 race tracks.
June 27 – Marlin Briscoe, 76, was an unlikely choice to be the first Black starting quarterback in NFL history as an unheralded 14th-round draft pick in 1968 from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. But the opportunity presented itself in the fourth quarter of a September game in his rookie year in Denver, and he grabbed it. He started five games that season. Seeking to continue to play quarterback, he asked for his release and jumped to the AFL, but never started another game at QB. Instead, he became an accomplished receiver in Buffalo for three seasons, earning an all-star nod in 1970. He spent the next three years back in the post-merger NFL with Miami, winning two Super Bowls.
Marlin Briscoe at a 50th anniversary celebration for the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. Joel Auerbach / Getty Images
June 29 – Jim Pappin, 82, had a 14-year NHL career including five with Toronto, seven with Chicago, and the last two with the California/Cleveland franchise. He was a member of the Maple Leafs’ 1964 and 1967 Stanley Cup-winning teams, scoring four goals in the six-game final in 1967 against Montreal. With the Black Hawks, he was a member of the well-regarded MPH line with Pit Martin and Dennis Hull.
July 4 – Hank Goldberg, 82, had a long career at ESPN as an NFL analyst, and a football and horse racing handicapper. He began both his media and betting careers as an aide to Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder in the 1970s, and became the Miami Dolphins’ color analyst on radio in 1977, a spot he held until 1991. He had a daily radio show in Miami from 1978 through 2007.
July 6 – Bryan Marchment, 53, was a rugged defenseman who played for 17 years in the NHL with nine teams, most notably San Jose and Edmonton. He amassed 44 goals, 2,409 penalty minutes, and was plus-35 in 1,010 regular-season and playoff games. He later rejoined the Sharks organization as a scout after he retired from playing in 2006.
July 21 – Jim Lynch, 76, was a standout linebacker at Notre Dame in 1965 and 1966, and played 11 seasons in the NFL with Kansas City. Lynch was the defensive captain of Notre Dame’s 1966 national championship team, a unanimous All-American, and earned the Maxwell Award as the country’s top player. As a pro, he was a starter on the Chiefs’ team that won Super IV, earning him a spot in the team’s Hall of Fame. In 1992, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
July 31 – Bill Russell, 88, won 11 NBA championships in his 13 years with the Boston Celtics, tied for the most ever won by a player in any major North American sport. He was a player-coach for the last three titles. He was a five-time most valuable player and a 12-time All-Star. He is one of four players to appear on all four NBA anniversary teams (25th, 35th, 50th, and 75th). He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 and subsequently named to the FIBA and college basketball halls. Before his pro career, he led the University of San Francisco to two straight national titles in 1955 and 1956, and the U.S. to gold at the 1956 Olympics. The NBA has retired his No. 6 league-wide.
Bill Russell, left, and coach Red Auerbach celebrate after the Celtics won their eighth NBA title in a row in 1966. Bettmann / Getty Images
Aug. 2 – Vin Scully, 94, was the preeminent voice of baseball on TV and radio for nearly seven decades. He called Dodgers games continuously from 1950-2016, first on radio and then on television, starting in Brooklyn and moving with them to Los Angeles. He also worked a number of network jobs, calling an NBC TV Game of the Week, working World Series in both mediums, and doing NFL games and golf for CBS. He received the Ford Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, was a four-time National Sportscaster of the Year, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Aug. 15 – Pete Carril, 92, used the so-called Princeton Offense to its greatest effect as the men’s head coach at the school from 1967-96. He took the Tigers to 13 Ivy League championships, 11 NCAA tournaments, and two NITs, winning the NIT in 1975. In 1989, they nearly became the first No. 16 seed to win in the first round, losing 50-49 to Georgetown. In his final season, Princeton upset defending champion UCLA in the first round. Following his retirement from Princeton at age 66, he worked for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings as an offensive assistant for three stints until 2011.
Aug. 20 – Tom Weiskopf, 79, was a major name in golf in the 1970s, winning 12 of his 16 titles in the decade. He won the Open Championship, Canadian Open, and World Series of Golf in 1973, and another Canadian Open in 1975. Between 1969 and 1975, he finished second at the Masters four times. He joined the Senior Tour in 1993 and won the 1995 U.S. Senior Open.
Tom Weiskopf circa 1971. PGA TOUR / Getty Images
Aug. 24 – Len Dawson, 87, had trouble landing a starting spot in the NFL before jumping to the AFL in 1962 and leading the Dallas Texans to the league title. He joined Kansas City the next season and stayed for 14 years. He led the Chiefs to the AFL title in 1963 and to Super Bowl I. The Chiefs were the last AFL winner of the Super Bowl when it was a contest between the rival league champions. Dawson had a long media career as the sports director at a Kansas City TV station, as the host of HBO’s Inside the NFL, as a color analyst for NBC for six years, and then as the analyst for Chiefs games on radio for more than 30 years.
Sept. 19 – Maury Wills, 89, was one of baseball’s greatest base-stealers – the first modern-era player to swipe more than 100 bases in a season. His 1962 season earned him the National League MVP crown when he hit .299 and stole 104 bases to edge out Willie Mays. He was a five-time all-star shortstop in his time with the Dodgers and earned two Gold Gloves. The Dodgers won three World Series with him in 1959, 1963, and 1965. He played two seasons in Pittsburgh after being traded. He was taken in the expansion draft by Montreal but was traded back to L.A. where he spent his final four seasons.
Maury Wills following his MVP season in 1962. Bettmann / Getty Images
Oct. 13 – Bruce Sutter, 69, won the 1979 National League Cy Young Award and was a six-time all-star in his 12-year major-league career with the Cubs, Cardinals, and Braves. In the era when relievers regularly threw 100 or more innings, Sutter led the NL in saves five times. He earned three saves in the playoffs as a member of the St. Louis team that won the 1982 World Series. He retired with 300 saves, which was the third-highest career total at the time, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in the Class of 2006. He was the first pitcher to enter the Hall without ever starting a major-league game. The Cardinals retired his number, 42, the same year.
Oct. 19 – Charley Trippi, 100, was an all-around threat on offense, defense, and special teams with Georgia in the 1940s and was an early NFL star with the Chicago Cardinals from 1947-55. Georgia won the national championship his sophomore year in 1942, and after two years serving in World War II, he returned to win the Maxwell Award in 1946 and finish second in Heisman Trophy voting. He signed for $100,000 to join the Cardinals’ Million-Dollar Backfield and helped them to the 1947 NFL championship by playing on both sides of the ball and returning kicks. He entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959 and the Pro Football Hall in 1968.
Charley Trippi, center, with Chicago Cardinals teammates during a 1947 game. Nate Fine / Getty Images
Oct. 28 – Vince Dooley, 90, was involved in football at the University of Georgia for more than 40 years, starting as head coach in 1964 at the age of 31. He was the head coach for 25 seasons and won 201 games, six SEC titles between 1966 and 1982, and one national championship in 1980 with a roster led by freshman running back Herschel Walker. Dooley also became an athletic director in 1979, a role he maintained until 2004. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Oct. 31 – John McVay, 91, is best known as the head of football administration for the San Francisco 49ers during their heyday from 1979-94. The franchise won five Super Bowls in that span, three under head coach Bill Walsh and two under George Seifert. McVay led the drafts that netted players such as Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Ricky Watters, Roger Craig, and Charles Haley. McVay’s grandson, Sean, is the current head coach of the Rams.
Nov. 3 – Ray Guy, 72, remains the only player who was exclusively a punter to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was also the first punter to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft, going 23rd to the Oakland Raiders. It was a fruitful pick as Guy led the league in yards per punt in three of his first five seasons and made the Pro Bowl in seven of his first eight. He was a three-time first-team All-Pro from 1976-78 and was particularly known for his hang time. He was an All-American as a senior at Southern Miss and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
Ray Guy at his Hall of Fame induction. Jason Miller / Getty Images
Nov. 6 – Peter McNab, 70, enjoyed a 14-year career as a center in the NHL with Buffalo, Boston, Vancouver, and New Jersey. He spent his formative years in San Diego where his father Max, who played three NHL seasons himself, was the coach of the minor-pro team. McNab earned a baseball scholarship to the University of Denver but ended up playing hockey there instead. Following his playing career, he re-joined the Devils as the color commentator on TV starting in 1987–88. After eight years, he moved back to Denver to become the first color analyst for Avalanche games, a job he held until his death.
Nov. 24 – Borje Salming, 71, was one of the elite defensemen in the NHL in his prime from 1974-80 with Toronto. He was a first-team year-end all-star in 1976-77, and a second-teamer in the other five seasons. He finished in the top four in Norris Trophy voting each season, and was runner-up to Larry Robinson in both 1977 and 1980. He anchored the Maple Leafs’ blue line for 15 seasons, concluding his NHL career with one season in Detroit. He also played three seasons with Brynas before jumping to the NHL and spending three more with AIK before retiring for good. In 1996, he became the first European-raised player elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame and was selected among the top 100 players of the NHL’s first 100 years.
Borje Salming, right, at a 1979 All-Star Game skate with Maple Leafs teammates Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald. Frank Lennon / Toronto Star / Getty Images
Nov. 30 – John Hadl, 82, had a 16-year career as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, 11 of them coming with San Diego and the remainder with the Rams, Packers, and Oilers. He was a two-time All-American at Kansas as quarterback/halfback in 1960 and 1961, and was drafted by both the NFL and AFL in 1962. He selected the Chargers and was Tobin Rote’s backup on the 1963 AFL championship team. From 1964-69, Hadl established himself and was a four-time AFL all-star. In 1973, he took the Rams to the playoffs and earned his only nod as an NFL first-team All-Pro. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Dec. 1 – Gaylord Perry, 84, was well-known in his 22-year major-league pitching career for having not only a vast repertoire of pitches, but as a leading practitioner of deploying foreign substances on the ball. (He was only ejected from a game for this once, in 1982.) After breaking in with San Francisco in 1962, he went on to pitch with Cleveland, Texas, San Diego, the Yankees, Atlanta, Seattle, and Kansas City. He won 314 games with a career ERA of 3.11 and is one of 19 pitchers who reached 3,000 strikeouts. He was the AL Cy Young winner in 1972, his first year with Cleveland, and became the oldest player to win a Cy Young in 1978 in his age-39 season with the Padres. He was sent to the Hall of Fame in the class of 1991.
Dec. 4 – Nick Bollettieri, 91, was perhaps the most well-known professional tennis coach, establishing his eponymous tennis academy in 1978 in Bradenton, Fla., which is now the multi-sport IMG Academy. Bollettieri notably coached Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, and Jim Courier as they reached No. 1 in the world, and also trained Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova, Mary Pierce, Jelena Jankovic, and Max Mirnyi. The Williams sisters often trained for Grand Slams at the academy. He was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014.
Dec. 6 – Mills Lane, 85, is best known for presiding over the second Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield bout in 1997, in which Tyson was disqualified for biting Holyfield’s ear twice. He started refereeing boxing matches in 1971 and parlayed his later fame into a TV career as the star of the syndicated courtroom show “Judge Mills Lane” (he was a lawyer and judge in real life) from 1998-2001, and as the voice of his own regular character on MTV’s “Celebrity Deathmatch.” He was enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013.
Mills Lane steps in between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson early in their controversial 1997 fight. Mike Nelson / AFP / Getty Images
Dec. 10 – Paul Silas, 79, simply did it all on the basketball court, from being California’s Mr. Basketball in 1960 at age 17, to returning to the sidelines to coach the Charlotte Bobcats in 2010 at age 67. He was a second-round draft pick by the St. Louis Hawks in 1964 after being a second-team All-American at Creighton. He played 16 seasons in the NBA as a high-rebound power forward with the Hawks, Suns, Celtics, Nuggets, and SuperSonics. He was twice an all-star and earned three rings, two of which came with Boston in 1974 and 1976, and the other with Seattle in 1979. His first head coaching job was with the Clippers in 1980 and he spent 23 seasons on the sidelines, 12 as head coach. His son, Stephen, is now the head coach of the Houston Rockets.
Dec. 10 – Grant Wahl, 49, was a sportswriter best known for his work covering soccer in the U.S. and around the world. He got his start at Sports Illustrated, where he wrote about college basketball, soccer, and the Olympics. He also worked in TV, covering soccer with Fox and then CBS. In 2020, he launched his own independent site to cover the sport. He wrote two books, “The Beckham Experiment” and “Masters of Modern Soccer.”
Dec. 12 – Mike Leach, 61, was the head football coach at three major college programs between 2000 and 2022. In 21 seasons, his teams went to 17 bowl games while he earned four conference coach of the year awards and took home national coach of the year awards in 2008 and 2018. He got his start in coaching at small colleges starting in 1987 before becoming the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Kentucky in 1997. In 1999, he joined Bob Stoops’ staff as the OC at Oklahoma. In 10 seasons as the head coach at Texas Tech, he was 84-43, and the 2008 team rose as high as No. 2 in the AP poll while going 11-2. He took over the program at Washington State in 2012, staying for nine seasons, and his 2017 and 2018 teams both rose into the top 10 in the AP poll. In 2020, he joined the program at Mississippi State.
Mike Leach coaching against LSU in September. Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images
Dec. 21 – Franco Harris, 72, was the primary ball carrier for the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s. He had a modest college career at Penn State but was selected 13th overall by Pittsburgh in the 1972 draft. He made an immediate impact, rushing for 1,055 yards and 10 touchdowns to earn offensive rookie of the year honors and a second-team All-Pro nod. He had eight 1,000-yard seasons in his 11 years with the Steelers and was selected to nine Pro Bowls. He was named the MVP of Super Bowl IX after rushing for 158 yards in the 16-6 win over Minnesota. He was third in career rushing yards (12,120) and touchdowns (91) when he retired after a final season in Seattle in 1984. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.
Dec. 24 – Kathy Whitworth, 83, holds what may be an unbreakable record: 88 LPGA Tour victories in her career, six more than fellow Hall of Famer Mickey Wright (and six more than PGA Tour all-time leader Sam Snead). She won her first in 1962 and 52 more in the decade; she won her last event in 1985. In between, she was the LPGA player of the year seven times in a span of eight years and the tour money leader in eight seasons. She won six majors, including the LPGA Women’s Championship three times. She passed the World Golf Hall of Fame qualifying standards in 1975 and was officially enshrined in 1982.
Dec. 29 – Pele, 82, started playing first division soccer in Brazil at the age of 15 and was on the national team by 16. By the time he was 21, he was so important to Brazil that all attempts by European teams to sign him were rebuffed. He led Brazil to World Cup titles in 1958, 1962, and 1970. His club team, Santos, is the only Brazilian side to win the state, league, and continental trophies in a single year (1962). Santos won Brazil’s Serie A championship six times in the 1960s. He holds a Guinness world record for most goals scored in all competitions, including friendlies: 1,279 in 1,363 games. In 1975, he left Brazil to sign with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, setting attendance records in his three seasons and opening up America to other world legends. Following his playing career, he was Brazil’s Minister of Sport for a time in the 1990s but was more known as an ambassador of sport in different forms.
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