Whether you were rooting for Pat Holmes, J. LO, or the Bill Murray ads, I think we can all agree that the recent Super Bowl was one for the books. The great thing about national championships is that it’s a way to bring us all together and appreciate the competition as well as the athleticism of these two teams. So what makes an athletic champion? Well, aside from being in prominent physical shape, it takes a superb level of focus and self-discipline to be able to do what these individuals do. Then we began to think…what makes a great musician? Pretty much the same thing except we can’t run a mile in six minutes, I think we might be closer to thirty with a water break. So what about those who do both music and professional sports? Shouldn’t they receive some kind of recognition for being the closest thing thus far to super-humans ?
Here they are! As we ring in the NBA and NHL regular seasons, Hollywood Piano wants to honor the recent Super Bowl with our list of musician pro-athletes!
Doug Flutie is an American former quarterback in the National Football League. Famous for his “Hail Flutie” pass with Boston College, Flutie had a twenty-year career between the CFL and the NFL on top of being a Heisman trophy winner for his time at Boston College. Most don’t know that Flutie has a hidden talent for drumming. Although he mostly does it as a hobby, he’s been seen making special appearances behind the kit with some top-notch acts.
Kobe Bryant was an American professional basketball player. He was drafted to the National Basketball Association right out of high school by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick of the 1996 draft. Immediately, he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac. He played the entirety of his 20-season career with the Lakers where he led the team to five NBA championships. He’s widely considered one of the greatest players of all time. In 2013, Bryant posted a video of himself playing Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14, also known as “Moonlight Sonata.” According to Romona Shelbourne, Kobe learned the song for his wife, “I wanted to play something nice for Vanessa..sitting down and taking lessons would be too easy, so I taught myself by ear.”
Jonathan Stewart is a former American football running back for the National Football League. He played college football at the University of Oregon then was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft with the 13th overall pick. He played ten seasons with Carolina and one season with the New York Giants. Before retirement, Stewart signed a one-day contract with Carolina so that he could retire as a Panther. Stewart did not study piano the traditional way; he’s a self-taught ear-player, which he describes as “giving me the edge to be more creative.”
Drew Gooden is a Finnish-American former professional basketball player who is currently a sports broadcaster for NBC Sports Washington. He played 14 seasons in the National Basketball Association as a Power Forward. In college, as a Kansas Jayhawk, he was a first-team All-American before he was selected in the first round of the 2002 NBA draft with the fourth overall pick to the Memphis Grizzlies. Gooden studied piano as a kid and still plays to this day for personal enjoyment, claiming that hotel lobby pianos truly saved him during away games.
Manny Pacquiao is a Filipino professional boxer. He currently holds the record as the only eight-division boxing world champion as well as the first boxer to win major titles in four of the eight divisions. He’s won twelve world titles and was also the first boxer to win the lineal championship in five different weight classes. Pacquiao is an incredibly gifted singer and guitarist. He also has quite an established music career, having released a number of albums over the years.
Bernie Williams is a Puerto Rican former Major League Baseball center-fielder for the New York Yankees, from 1991 to 2006. On top of winning four Golden Glove awards, Williams was on a World Series Champion team four times and played as a five-time All-Star. As a kid, he studied classical guitar and kept the passion with him through his adult years. In 2003, he signed with (Paul) McCartney Productions Ltd. Communications and released a debut album. After his retirement from baseball, he studied classical guitar at the State University of New York at Purchase before releasing a second album.
Pelé is a Brazilian former professional footballer, regarded as one of the greatest players in history. Winner of three World Cups, he’s been voted as the FIFA Player of the Century, World Player of the Century, and Athlete of the Century. He holds the world record for 1,281 goals in just 1,363 games. Pele is also a gifted guitarist, fiddling with a Del Vecchio six-string that was gifted to him from Baden Powell. He was also very active in the Nordoff Robbins centre, a musical therapy center for children with mental disabilities.
Mike Piazza is an American former Major League Baseball catcher who played from 1992 to 2007. Piazza was a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger Award winner. He recorded 427 home runs during his career. As a big-time fan of hard Rock ‘N Roll, Piazza picked up the drums and has played on stage with many different bands over the years.
Bronson Arroyo is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher from 2000 to 2017. Arroyo played for the Boston Red Socks, during their win in the 2004 World Series Championship. Arroyo was known in the league for the precise movement and spotting of his fastball. As a guitarist, Bronson has released a handful of covers and accompaniments dating back to 2004.
Carl Edwards is an American former stock car driver for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. In 2007, he was the champion of the NASCAR Busch Series, and then in 2011, lost the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series by a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart. Edwards also plays guitar and signed a deal with CMA records and started a record label in Columbia, Missouri.
Denny McLain is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher who played for ten seasons (1963 – 1973). McLain is known as one of the very few to win 30 or more games during a season. This has only been accomplished by eleven players in the 20th century. McLain was an accomplished organist. He learned to play from his father and released a number of records as well as live performances throughout his life.
Alexi Lalas is an American retired soccer player. He played in the 1994 FIFA World Cup with the United States Men’s National Soccer Team. Right after the World Cup, Lalas went to play for Calcio Padova, becoming the first American in Serie A, a professional Italian League. Lalas played guitar in a band called The Gypsies before releasing seven solo albums of rock music.
Bob and Matt Bryan are American professional doubles tennis players, and are the most successful duo of all time. In 2012, they won the Olympic gold medal and currently hold the record for the most wins out of any other duo on top of various other world records. Not only did they pick up tennis from their father, Wayne Bryan, but he also passed on the gift of music. As a band, they tour all over the world with Bob on the keyboard and Mike alternating between lead guitar and drums. They released their debut album, “Let it Rip” in 2009, then another single one year later.
Brandon Webb is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher. In 2006, he won the National League Cy Young Award as well as being a three-time MLB All-Star. He retired in 2013. Webb plays the guitar for personal enjoyment and claiming that it was a way for him to relax, during and after his time with the MLB.
Lionel Messi is an Argentine professional footballer who captains both Barcelona and the Argentina National Team. Messi has won a record six Ballon d’Or awards, and a record six European Golden Shoes. He has spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, and has scored over 700 senior career goals for club and country. Messi shocked the world with his viral 2017 piano performance, where he played the anthem for the Union of European Football Associations Champions League.
Nick Swisher is an American former Major League Baseball player. He was a member of the 2009 World Series Champion team with the Yankees and in 2010, was All-Star for the MLB. In 2011, Swisher released the album, “Believe.” Swisher also started a charity for children with health disabilities called “Swish’s Wishes”. A percentage of the proceeds from the album went into that charity.
Barry Zito is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher. Over a span of fifteen seasons, Zito played for the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants. A 2012 World Series Champion, Zito was the recipient of the 2002 Cy Young Award and a three-time All-Star. He bought a guitar while traveling and playing baseball, and so this passion led to a second career after the MLB where he now tours with his album, “No Secrets.”
John Daly is an American professional golfer on the Professional Golfer’s Association tour. He is the 1991 PGA Champion as well as the 1995 Open Champion. As an artist, Daly has released two albums and has gained attention for his exceptional Bob Dylan covers.
Mario Balotelli is an Italian professional footballer for Serie A club Brescia as well as the Italy National Team. His career began at Lumezzane where he played for the first team twice but was unsuccessful during the trial at Barcelona. In 2007, he joined Inter Milan and is considered globally as one of the most well-known athletes. Similar to Bryant and Messi, Balotelli’s skill for the piano was unknown until a video went viral of him playing the Italian National Anthem in 2013.
John McEnroe is an American former tennis player, ending his career with 77 singles and 78 doubles titles. He’s won the Grand Slam single seven times, and the Grand Slam double nine times. He holds a singles match record of 82-3 from 1984. After retirement, he picked up guitar to begin a music career and has made a number of appearances both live and in the studio throughout the years.
Wayman Tisdale was an American basketball player in the National Basketball Association. At the University of Oklahoma, he was a three-time All-American on top of being elected into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Tisdale was 2nd pick overall in the 1985 NBA Draft after already winning an Olympic gold medal with the national team before the season. Tisdale was a skilled jazz bass guitarist releasing sixteen albums during his musical career.
John Cena is an American professional wrestler. After his 1999 debut for Ultimate Pro Wrestling, Cena signed with the World Wrestling Federation (now known as World Wrestling Entertainment). In 2004, he won his first championship singles title and then won the WWE Championship the next year. Cena studied the piano in China. According to Nikki Bella, he claims that, “I tell myself, ‘You can surf the web for 15 minutes, or put the time toward a skill.’ What am I gonna learn in 15 minutes? Your first 15 minutes, maybe where the middle C note is. But after about 125 hours, you learn how to play the piano.”
All of these athletes demonstrate, on the court or on the field, that hard work is truly rewarded. When you set your mind on something and you fully dedicate yourself to being the best version that you can possibly be, you WILL be successful. All of these individuals, at one point, sat behind an instrument having no clue what to do, they probably barely fumbled and stumbled their way through the C scale on day one…BUT they applied their athlete mentality to champion the craft. So regardless of what you do, whether you’re a dancer, or a writer, or still just figuring it out, I hope that these pros have convinced you to ‘just do it’, for lack of a better term. After all, life is short.. So go learn something your future-self will thank you for.
Who is your favorite musician athlete? Is there anybody we missed on our list? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!