Ultimate Athletes Countdown: Jim Thorpe

Ultimate Athletes Countdown: Jim Thorpe

Ultimate Athlete

Ultimate Athletes Countdown: Jim Thorpe


We're counting down the Top 10 male and female all-time Ultimate Athletes. Previously: Lolo Jones, LeBron James, Mary Lou Retton, Michael Jordan, Cheryl Miller, Ray Lewis, Kelly Amonte-Hiller, Allen Iverson, Bonnie Blair, Dave Winfield, Mary Decker Slaney, Jim Brown, Lisa Leslie, Joe Mauer, Mia Hamm, Bo Jackson and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Jackie Robinson and Babe Didrikson Zaharias.

1. Jim Thorpe

The first modern multi-sport athlete. He won two Olympic gold medals and competed professionally in football, basketball and baseball.


Why Him: He was a star in track and field, football, basketball and baseball. He won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, winning eight of the 12 events in the decathlon and pentathlon. Because he had played minor league baseball before competing in the Olympics, his medals were stripped from him, though they were reinstated in 1982, 29 years after his death. His record in the decathlon stood 15 years. He played professional baseball and basketball but his best-known professional sport was football. He starred at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pa. In Carlisle's 18-15 upset in 1911 of Harvard, then the NCAA's top-ranked team, Thorpe scored all of his team's points with four field goals and a touchdown. He led Carlisle to the national championship that year, scoring 25 touchdowns and scoring 198 points. He was the first big-name athlete to play pro football. He was signed by the Canton Bulldogs for $250 in 1915 and led the Bulldogs to unofficial world titles in 1916, 1917 and 1919 as a running back and kicker who could drop kick a field goal 50 yards or kick it the same distance the conventional way. When the NFL was formed in 1920, then called the American Professional Football Association, he was named the league's first president. He played professional baseball, averaging .252 for a six-year Major League career. His best season was his last, as he hit .327 for the Boston Braves in 1919.

Ultimate Moment: In a college dual track meet against Lafayette in 1909, he won the meet for Carlisle by himself, competing in every event and winning six: high hurdles; low hurdles; high jump; long jump; shot put; and discus.

Funky Fact: From 1932 to 1937, Thorpe was a Hollywood extra and frequent stunt man in Westerns and sports movies.


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