The Best Pro Athletes Who Double as Excellent Fathers
Professional athletes are often bigger than life, doing things in sports that seem to defy logic and make grown-ups scream like children. That’s why it’s easy to forget that, just like everyone else, they put their pants on one leg at a time.
So, we wanted to put a human face on some of sports’ best fathers. From elite basketball players to baseball sensations to boxing champions, we’ve amassed a group of men who personify what it means to be a good dad.
For us, that’s putting your family above all else. It’s encouraging your children to be good citizens of the world while helping them pursue their passions even if they don’t align with your own. It means unconditional love — and in one case giving up your own dreams to ensure that your child can live a healthy and happy life.
Partner: Savannah James
Kids: Lebron James Jr., born Oct. 6, 2004; Bryce Maximus, born June 14, 2007; Zhuri, born Oct. 22, 2014
They call him King James when he steps on a basketball court, but he’s also a royally great father when he takes off the uniform. Just check out the setup for his youngest son’s 10th birthday party in 2017 and the joy James gets from making it all happen. And you’d have to be a pretty good dad if your oldest is making a video for you on Father’s Day.
On an episode of James’ HBO show “The Shop,” he talks about his experience growing up without a father and how that drove him to be present in his own kids’ lives. However, now that his oldest boy is becoming a stud basketball player himself, James wishes Junior didn’t have the added pressure of sharing the LeBron name with his dad.
Partner: Gisele Bündchen
Kids: John Edward Thomas Moynahan, born Aug. 22, 2007 (with Bridget Moynahan); Benjamin Rein, born Dec. 8, 2009; Vivian Lake, born Dec. 5, 2012
As an NFL superstar, Tom Brady is quite a polarizing figure thanks to several on-field scandals and his supreme football talents. But off the field, he’s the leader of this Brady bunch. Case in point: You insult Tom’s daughter and you will lose your job, deservedly so. This photo says it all.
The Brady clan is a really happy family. They’re so tight-knit that they understand Tom’s insatiable appetite for football, and he understands that they want daddy around more. The kids also eat extremely well, but not in the lavish sense. The Brady family chef says they all eat the same thing, and athlete dad and supermodel mom are extremely health-conscious. Tom also doesn’t pressure his kids to follow in his footsteps, saying he’s totally happy with their non-football choices in sports.
Partner: Ayesha Curry
Kids: Riley, born July 19, 2012; Ryan, born July 10, 2015; Canon, born July 2, 2018
Adding to his already strong swoon-worthiness, Steph Curry is genuinely a feminist. Having daughters and being the husband of an incredibly successful, self-made woman has showed him the importance of raising Riley and Ryan to feel empowered. Steph wrote a terrific story in The Players’ Tribune about raising daughters in a world that is still trying to figure out what equality means.
Describing his wife, his mother and his daughters, Steph wrote: “And one lesson from that education that’s really stood out to me is: to always stay listening to women, to always stay believing in women and — when it comes to anyone’s expectations for women — to always stay challenging the idea of what’s right.”
Steph also hosts a girls basketball camp, and when a 9-year-old girl called him out for not marketing his shoes to boys and girls, he made sure Under Armour changed its tune. And for good measure, he makes sure to do super-cool dad things like take his daughters to the Ice Cream Museum in San Francisco.
Partner: Jelena Djokovic
Kids: Stefan, born Oct. 21, 2014; Tara, born Sept. 2, 2017
In 2018, the Serbian reclaimed his place atop the tennis world with two Grand Slam victories. The first of which, England’s Wimbledon, was made all the more special when Djokovic was able to look up into the stands during the trophy presentation and see his 3-year-old son, Stefan, cheering on his father. (Wimbledon’s overtly traditional rules aside, News.com of Australia reported that Djokovic soaked up the moment. “For the first time in my life, I have someone screaming, ‘Daddy, daddy’ as I’ve done it,” he said during the presentation.)
Djokovic also has a daughter, and he and wife Jelena, through their charitable work, are helping to ensure that disadvantaged children around the world have opportunities to succeed in life. As with many proud parents, Novak shares heartwarming family moments on Instagram. In this post, he says of Tara and Jelena, “My heart belongs to my two girls. I’m taken for life.”
A few days after Tara’s birth, Djokovic described how he was feeling: “... as a man, I have to send my love and admiration to every single women out there for going through so much pain and effort to create life, to bring life and raise a human being ... what a blessing to have an opportunity to be a parent!”
Partner: Nina Earl
Kids: Noah, born May 16, 2017; Skye and Jordyn, twins born Nov. 11, 2018
This NBA superstar is such a good father that when a boy shoved Westbrook from behind mid-game, he didn’t lose his cool and go agro on the kid and his dad. He simply gave the pair a brief lesson in what not to do when you’re sitting courtside at a professional sporting event.
Besides free advice, Russell is a true family man. Adorably, he and wife Nina were also high school sweethearts. She shared a sweet Father’s Day message about Russ and their son shortly after Noah was born in 2017. Then, Russ got in on the action with his own all-caps Father’s Day shout-out to his own dad: “HAPPY FATHERS DAY TO MY OG , I THANK YOU FOR ALWAYS BEING A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL IN MY LIFE AND SOMEONE I CAN LOOK UP 2. YOUR THE BEST DAD A SON LIKE ME COULD ASK FOR, AND I NEVER TAKE THAT FOR GRANTED. I’M BLESSED TO HAVE A DAD WHO IS A PRIME EXAMPLE OF HOW TO BE A FATHER. NOW I CAN FOLLOW YOUR LEAD THRU MY FATHERHOOD! LOVE YOU OG!”
Partner: Asha Joyce
Kids: Leah, born May 6, 2010 (with Channing Smythe)
Devon Still is no longer playing professional football, but as his book attests, he’s still very much “in the game.” And so is his daughter, who at 4 years old survived stage IV neuroblastoma and remains cancer-free years later. We bet there’s no way you’ll keep a dry eye when you watch this video of Devon and Leah reading letters to each other.
Leaving football was a difficult choice, Devon told the Cincinnati Enquirer, but not nearly as hard as meeting families whose children did not survive. “Honestly, to this day I just sit there and stare at Leah,” he told the newspaper in 2018. “I meet so many kids that pass away from this. I may have lost something I wanted so bad — being in the NFL — but I still have my daughter, and that's so much more important.”
Devon also started the Still Strong Foundation to help families cover the costs associated with childhood cancer and works with the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, which supports doctors and researchers who are trying to cure cancer.
Kids: Torrey, born April 4, 2014; Kameron, born June 22, 2016; Kori Lynn, born Dec. 18, 2018
This two-time Super Bowl champion gets extra dad points for his Instagram account alone. It contains more about his kids and family than anything else, even football. In 2017, he shared a Father’s Day message about being present in your children’s lives and discussed the special bond siblings have for each other.
He’s also shared the difficult moments of parenthood, like when he revealed that he and Chanel’s second son, Kameron, had a high chance of being born with Trisomy 18, or Edwards syndrome, which can cause developmental problems and even death before age one. Thankfully Kameron was in the clear before birth, but the scare was all too real for the Smiths.
Partner: Tika Pachulia
Kids: Davit; Miriam; Saba (birthdays unknown)
Zaza is such a great dad that he just takes it in stride when his kids confess to liking his Golden State Warriors teammates more than their own father. ESPN spent an afternoon with the basketball star from the country of Georgia. Even though most of the video is not about Zaza’s family, there are some sweet moments with Tika and their kids.
The real moment that makes Zaza a champion father, however, is when he busted out the camcorder to record the Warriors’ championship parade in 2017. As SB Nation asked, when is the last time you saw someone with a camcorder?
And let’s not forget: In 2004, Zaza started hosting a free basketball camp for youths in Georgia. He now has his own academy in Tbilisi, complete with the retired basketball court floor from the Milwaukee Bucks’ arena.
Partner: Kristen Posey
Kids: Lee Dempsey and Addison Lynn, twins born Aug. 14, 2011
Sometimes, being a great star-athlete father is about keeping your kids out of the spotlight while helping other people’s kids live healthier and happier lives.
When Buster and Kristen heard a mother’s devastating story of her daughter’s neuroblastoma cancer, they both knew they needed to do something. The mother’s daughter is the same age as the Posey twins, and “it just really hit home with both of us,” Buster told Sports Illustrated Kids. So, since 2016, the Posey Family Foundation has been raising funds to boost treatment and research for pediatric cancer. Posey is so dedicated to this cause that he takes time out during the season when the San Francisco Giants are on the road to visit with sick children.
Much of Buster’s Instagram is devoted to his charitable work and the youth sports camps he participates in. But he also posts sweet if simple messages about his wife, kids and extended family.
Partner: Georgina Rodriguez (others unknown)
Kids: Cristiano Jr., born June 17, 2010; Eva Maria dos Santos and Mateo, twins born June 8, 2017; Alana Martina dos Santos, Nov. 12, 2017
Many will call his parenting unconventional, but there’s no doubt that the Portuguese soccer sensation is an incredibly dedicated father. And by unconventional, we just mean that he is unmarried and had children with two different women plus a surrogate, with three of his kids being born six months apart. Nevertheless, Cristiano has plenty of love to spread around.
He once told Portuguese magazine, Hola, that being a father has “taught me things about love that I never knew existed. It has softened me and given me a different perspective on what is really important in my life.”
Cristiano’s oldest son, Cristiano Jr., is following right in his father’s footsteps. He’s already a top player on Portugal’s youth team, Juventus, and he aspires to be even better than his father. Those are mighty large shoes to fill, as the Daily Mail points out, but Cristiano Sr. will be there every step of the way cheering on his son.
Partner: Antonella Roccuzzo
Kids: Thiago, born Nov. 2, 2012; Mateo, born Sept. 11, 2015; Ciro, born March 10, 2018
Partner: Victoria Beckham
Kids: Brooklyn, born March 4, 1999; Romeo James, born Sept. 1, 2002; Cruz, born Feb. 20, 2005; Harper Seven, born July 10, 2011
David and Victoria Beckham are a triumph in celebrity couples for their longevity alone, having been married 20 years come July 2019. And they have an adorable family to boot. Just check out David’s reaction when their oldest son surprises him for his birthday.
Victoria revealed to Entertainment Tonight that their 20th anniversary, naturally, will be about family: “We'll probably just celebrate with the kids. David is such a great husband, such a great dad and the most incredible business partner that anybody could ever want. He really supports me in what I do.”
The two are also quite conscious of their children’s celebrity status and have worked to ensure that they lead down-to-earth lives. David explained to Closer, “My children are my motivation. Simple as that. I want to prove to them that if you work hard you can be successful.”
He added that he’d love to have a fifth child but that Victoria is less enthusiastic, so they will stick with four.
Partner: Chandra Janway
Kids: Geneieve, born July 7, 2010; Lydia, born Sept. 6, 2013
We might think of racecar drivers as real manly kind of men, and Jimmie Johnson proves that in the best possible way when he dresses up with his two girls for Halloween. Exhibit A in 2016 and Exhibit B in 2015, and here’s 2018 just for fun. And, of course, we couldn’t leave out the Von Trapp family Halloween of 2017.
Jimmie hopes to raise strong women who know what they want in life, he told Life of Dad, but he also hopes they are kind and peaceful. His advice for new fathers? “It is the most rewarding and difficult job that you will ever have,” he told Life of Dad. “You get out of that first year and you keep plugging along. Then, you see behavioral stuff. You are just constantly looking to do the right thing. I guess if those thoughts are going through your mind, in my opinion, you are doing the right stuff.
The NASCAR champion and wife Chandra also started the Jimmie Johnson Foundation to raise money to support K-12 public education for families in need.
Partner: Jinkee Pacquiao
Kids: Emmanuel Jr., born Feb. 6, 2001; Michael, born Dec. 13, 2001; Mary Divine Grace, unknown birthday (12 to 13 years old); Queen Elizabeth, born Dec. 30, 2008; Israel, born April 27, 2014
At 40 years old, Manny is still fighting and still in Filipino politics, now serving as a senator. But first and foremost he is a family man, as evidenced by his reluctance to allow his oldest son, known as Jimuel, to follow his father into the boxing ring.
Jimuel, however, has made up his mind, and now Manny and Jinkee are reluctantly allowing him to pursue his passion. Still, Manny says it pains him to see his son get hit while boxing, according to Rappler. We’re guessing the Pacquiaos are a bit more accepting of their second-oldest son’s interest in music.
The Pacquiao clan are also devote Christians, with Manny frequently sharing the family’s faith with the rest of the world.