Happy Father's Day

Thanks, Dad: The bond between father and son is strong in sports

Thanks, Dad: The bond between father and son is strong in sports

Michael Jordan and father James Jordan
Michael Jordan celebrated his third NBA championship with his dad, James Jordan, in 1993. A little more than a month later, James was murdered.  Tumblr.com

As we approach another Father's Day, I'd like share how truly inspirational dads have been in the world of sports. I've had the privilege of covering daily teams and major events for the past quarter century.  The Manning family probably holds the most prominent distinction, with Archie and sons Peyton and Eli and their amazing NFL careers. But there have been dozens of amazing "Father & Son" sports combinations.

Bobby Hull's DNA was ever present in Brett's amazing career NHL career, but not every son followed in his father's exact sporting foot steps. Ken Norton Jr, whose father once broke Muhammad Ali's jaw in a heavyweight bout, was a feared NFL linebacker.   

I'm reminded daily of Calvin Hill, as an early Sports Illustrated cover is framed and displayed in my boss's office shows the star running back flashing down the sidelines against the Rams, but his son Grant chose a basketball career, trading sneakers for cleats.    

There have been a handful of father/son basketball combinations. The most recent duo in the mainstream consciousness is, of course, Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry and proud papa, Del. It should be noted that despite a long and productive NBA career, Del Curry actually never made an All Star Game appearance, but his son of course will be penciled in for the next decade.  

In the 1989 MLB season, Ken Griffey Jr. broke in with the Seattle Mariners and actually played with his father and shared spots on the daily lineup card.   

The biggest father influence that I ever personally witnessed in the sporting realm was the late James Jordan, who mentored emerging superstar Michael Jordan in the late '80s and early '90s.  James wasn't a professional athlete by any stretch. He was a common working man putting food on the table and providing for his family day in and day out.  

On one particular occasion I recall Michael discussing his "learned work ethic" and how it stemmed directly from his father. He began to describe how when working around the home, James would stick out his tongue when really engaged on the task at hand. That "tongue" of course became one of Michael's signature trademarks, especially when driving to the basket for a signature dunk.  

When MJ first captured an NBA trophy, James was at his side, just as he was at many of the Chicago Bulls contests throughout the seasons. When Jordan won his fifth title (on Father's Day 1996) he collapsed to the floor with emotion overcoming him in the remembrance of his father who was murdered a few years earlier in a terrible random tragic act of gun violence. That title was for Dad.

I largely contend that Michael didn't retire initially from the NBA to chase curve balls for Terry Francona in Birmingham, Alabama, because he was "burned out" on the game of basketball but rather, because he was dealing with the pain and loss of his Dad which was too much. Thus, he elected to honor his father and chase a new dream of playing baseball. 

As a proud father of two, and as a man who was raised by a Dad who woke up every day for 40 years at 4 am to drive a truck, I can identify with the amazing bond that a father and son can enjoy for a lifetime. In the event your dad is still alive this weekend, do something special and tell him how much you love him for all of his sacrifices.

Even if your dad wasn't a former professional boxer or football player, he's still one of the world's greatest influences.


Craig Larson Jr. is program director of SB Nation Radio Network.