5 of the Most Unforgettable Sports Athletes from the 1980s

photo by Scott Beale / Laughing SquidCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A decade full of huge hair, video games, electronic dance music and bold color clothing — the 1980s is full of profound nostalgia. The era that stands out in people’s minds in a number of different ways including some of the world’s most unforgettable sports stars who spread their influence across pop culture as well as the courts, fields, and ballparks.

While this list could total dozens of superstars, we remember five athletic '80s icons in professional sports.

Larry Bird (NBA)

Steve Lipofsky www.Basketballphoto.com
CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The list of achievements that basketball legend Larry Bird acquired in the 80s is longer than most. A 12x NBA All-Star, 3x Finals Champion, and 3x MVP, “Larry Legend” ruled every court he stepped foot on, averaging a whopping 24.3 points in nearly 900 regular season games. Because he often played on the same stage as other NBA greats, the sharpshooter is sometimes not given the credit he really deserves as one of the best basketball players of all time. However, the Hall of Famer’s stats speak for themselves.

After his dominance in '80s basketball with the Celtics, Bird went on to become the head coach and later, the president for the Indiana Pacers. He has since stepped down as president but stated he will continue to help with scouting for the franchise as he is passionate about the organization.

Although he is sometimes overshadowed by above-the-rim greats of the NBA, Larry Bird should be widely considered as one of professional basketball’s greatest players.

Joe Montana (NFL)

Jeno's, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Who can forget Joe Montana? Even after more than four decades without the star QB, the San Francisco 49ers are still synonymous with “The Comeback Kid”. During his NFL prime, Montana was undoubtedly a household name across America. He led San Francisco to win four Super Bowl titles and was the first player to be named the game’s MVP three times. At the quarterback position, Montana facilitated a variety of jaw-dropping plays, most memorably “The Catch” which is one that has gone down as perhaps the most incredible football moment in history.

Today, San Francisco is still known as a franchise that is rich in Super Bowl appearances and victories. In fact, with the 2021-2022 season right around the corner, the 49ers are currently preparing for a heated set of new matchups with their fans reviewing expert NFL picks all the way up until the playoffs. They are poised to have a great season with their coveted QB Jimmy Garoppolo looking sharp. Although there will never be a San Francisco squad quite like the one there was with Montana, the organization continues to rage on with different QB options in the modern NFL era.

Wayne Gretzky (NHL)

erik forsberg from Helsingborg, Sweden,
CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Whether you’re a devout hockey fan or don’t even know what ‘NHL’ stands for, there’s a chance you have heard the name Wayne Gretzky. An absolute legend in the sport, the centerman played at the top of the charts for over 20 years, dominating the ice throughout the entire decade of the '80s.

Known as “The Great One,” the player’s nickname speaks for itself as Gretzky recorded an incredible 2,857 points in regular and post-season games. Still today he holds dozens of different records in the sport with little chance of anyone breaking them anytime soon.

Chris Evert (Tennis)

US federal Govervenment, Public domain,
via Wikimedia Commons
You can’t mention great female tennis stars without talking about Chris Evert. The Florida native was considered the best tennis player in the world in the late '70s and continued her reign into the early '80s, winning 157 singles titles and 18 Grand Slams. Only a few other female players succeed her record, namely Margaret Court (24) and Serena Williams (22).

During her career, she also won seven French Opens and six US Opens. Fast forward to the present day and Evert remains present in the tennis world in several ways. She is an analyst for high-profile tournaments and also owns her own tennis apparel line.

Roger Clemens (MLB)

Boston Red Sox Photo Cards,
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
An unforgettable pitcher that is still talked about today, Roger Clemens delighted Red Sox fans over the course of his 24 seasons playing professional baseball. Nicknamed “The Rocket” for his lightning-fast arm, Clemens recorded over 4,600 strikeouts during his peak, setting the mark as the first pitcher to record twenty strikeouts in one game.

Who are some of your most unforgettable athletes from the '80s?

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