The month of February is Black History Month, which celebrates the achievements of African-Americans. This year, we take a look at some sporting heroes who have changed our lives.
The african american sports history timeline is a great resource for those looking to learn about the sporting heroes who changed our lives.
Who is your favorite black athlete? That was the first athlete who meant everything to you, gave you unending joy, conquered the globe, and forever altered your life?
To commemorate Black History Month, we asked Sport employees who their personal hero is, who shaped their identity, and who inspired them to pursue a career in sports.
Nesta McGregor’s Ian Wright
Wright played for Arsenal for 185 goals, nine for England, and six other clubs.
Ian Wright had a huge influence on me as a kid. Nothing has changed as an adult.
The gold teeth, the Bogle dance goal celebration, and the cocksure manner he walked across a field were all the rage back then. It’s still how he uses his voice now to speak out against all kinds of prejudice.
Arsenal’s greatest player. England has qualified for the World Cup. Unapologetically dark.
He looked, sounded, and acted like the folks I grew up with in south-east London. Any of us could make it if Ian could. Although my ambitions to play professional football never materialized (the closest I came was playing for Dulwich Hamlet’s reserve squad), working as a sports reporter isn’t a terrible fallback.
There are some startling similarities between my life and Wrighty’s. I share his mother’s name (yep, Nesta), and I was on the same youth squad as his son, Shaun Wright-Phillips. I used to play for Ten Em Bee FC, which is where Wrighty got his start.
My grandmother used to remark that she didn’t want flowers placed on her grave because she wanted to smell them while she was alive. So, thank you, Wrighty – here’s a huge bouquet of whatever your favorite flowers are – have a smell!
Olivia Portas’ portrait of Simone Biles
Biles has won four Olympic gold medals and 19 world titles in gymnastics.
Simone Biles reminded me, and many others, this summer that it’s okay to be yourself.
Today’s athletes are more than simply athletes. They may be public speakers, political activists, or role models who utilize their position to spread awareness, but they are also people.
Simone showed this in the Tokyo Olympics by withdrawing from the gymnastics team final to concentrate on her mental health.
“We need to safeguard our brains and bodies rather than simply doing what the world tells us to do,” she added.
This reminded me that life is brief, and every choice we make to do something, or not do something, is valuable. Do what brings you joy.
Califia Davis’s Myrtis Dightman
Dightman is part of a strong, though not often apparent, heritage of black cowboys in the United States, which protesters highlighted during a march in Texas in 2020 in honor of George Floyd.
I’ve always felt locked out of rodeo as a former horse girl who spent some of her early years barrel racing. Myrtis Dightman shown that there is room for me in rodeo.
He was the first black cowboy to participate in the National Finals Rodeo in 1964, and he qualified six more times after being informed he could only compete if he was white. Bull riding is badass – I can’t think of any sport that packs as much drama into eight seconds – but it’s not as badass as tearing down boundaries in a sport that is synonymous with the Good Ol’ Boys.
Even if my barrel racing days are over, I’ll always know I belong on the saddle because of Dightman.
Stephen Lyle’s tribute to Sir Viv Richards
Richards scored 8,540 runs for the West Indies in Test cricket, as well as 14,698 first-class and 7,349 one-day runs for Somerset.
Growing up in the 1980s, black brilliance was underappreciated, but the West Indies cricket team and Viv Richards were unmasked.
I’d see him go out without a helmet, chewing gum, and ready to amuse the quickest bowlers. Then he’d rule, but in such a manner that even his opponents would like him.
Viv demonstrated to us black children that we, too, could be the greatest and accomplish things our own way. On the field, he wore crimson, gold, and green sweatbands to show his pride in his African heritage.
I had the pleasure of meeting Viv once, and he informed me that turning down a million dollars to play cricket in apartheid South Africa was the best decision he ever made. GOAT, legend, and hero.
Nelson Kumah’s John Barnes
At Liverpool, Barnes earned two league championships and two FA Cups, as well as 79 England appearances.
My life may most likely be split into two parts: before Barnes and after Barnes.
In the late 1980s, his rise to the top of English football with Liverpool coincided perfectly with my own coming-of-age. My musical preferences had shifted to Public Enemy, and it was time to ditch my father’s footballing idols in favor of one of my own.
In my opinion, Liverpool’s 1988 title-winning squad will never be surpassed. Barnes was the lifeblood of that side. He taught me that football could be an art form, that black people could overcome prejudice, and most importantly, that black people could be the greatest in the world.
I still have the same feelings for that guy after more than 30 years. He had a profound effect on me. Everything changed because of him.
Tom Gayle’s interview with Mark Lewis-Francis
Lewis-Francis (centre) with teammates Darren Campbell (left), Marlon Devonish (right), and Jason Gardener won Olympic gold in the 4x100m relay in Athens in 2004.
I saw firsthand at track meets as Mark Lewis-Francis become the most talked-about sprinting talent in the nation as a fellow, but much inferior young athlete.
When my father was breaking up a brawl, he pinned a teenage Lewis-Francis against a bus. My father was very humiliated at the time, but in retrospect, he was just protecting someone he thought was destined for greatness. He was dead on.
In Athens in 2004, my family and I shouted all the way down the home stretch as Lewis-Francis led Team GB to Olympic 4x100m relay gold by 0.01 seconds against the highly favored Americans.
Liam Loftus – Shaun Wright-Phillips
Shaun Wright-Phillips is an English footballer who has played for Chelsea, Manchester City, and QPR.
Shaun Wright-Phillips is a sports idol of mine. With even larger jerseys, he’s a big-time player.
When I walked into the garden with SWP29, I felt like a man. ‘Shauny Wright Wright Wright’ rang in my mind as I spun away in jubilation, dribbling around the dog before shooting the ball past my inattentive brother.
I loved football before Shaun, but I fell in love with it after seeing him play week after week. With the way I boast about it to my pals, you’d think it was me who scored against Ukraine in 2004.
I’m still not sure what it was about him that made him so important to me as a kid; he simply was. That’s simply football, I suppose.
Nathanael Hutchinson’s Venus and Serena Williams
Venus (left) and Serena Williams (right) have a combined total of 30 Grand Slam singles championships.
My family and I were not big tennis fans when I was little. Wimbledon was, of course, a regular summer event, but ask me to identify more than five male or female players, and I’d be stumped. My family and the sports world, however, were fascinated by two names: Venus and Serena Williams.
The Williams sisters worked diligently to polish their skill under the guidance of their demanding father, Richard Williams, in a sport that was and still is primarily white, although to a lesser degree. Despite the fact that the color of their skin presented them with unjust difficulties and barriers throughout their lives, they were able to achieve full and absolute dominance in the early 2000s.
Anyone who was drawn against one of the sisters was terrified. Their ability, drive, passion, and talent were unrivaled. If you come up against them in a final, you may as well take second place.
Despite the fact that age and injuries have taken their toll in recent years, Serena Williams is just one Grand Slam singles championship away from tying Margaret Court for the all-time record.
Whether she accomplishes her goal or not, the Williams sisters’ heavenly sporting position has already been written in stone.
Serena Williams was photographed by Karinah Turner.
I grew up in north London, only yards from a tennis court. My mother played netball, so that was my sport growing up, but I remember seeing Serena Williams play against her sister at Wimbledon, and it was a game-changer for me to witness two women of color in a big tournament final playing a sport I had never heard of.
From that point on, I remember spending every weekend at the tennis courts with my brother and cousins, playing tennis games. We were all thinking the same thing: if you see it, you can be it.
Serena’s resolve to return year after year is what motivates me the most. I like the fact that I was able to follow a professional athlete from start to finish.
Serena Williams is the black sports icon I want to celebrate. Seeing her become a mother while continuing to play tennis was a deal-breaker.
Sam Harris writes about Kobe Bryant.
Bryant is a five-time NBA champion, an 18-time All-Star, and widely regarded as one of the best basketball players of all time.
Kobe Bryant was a superhero as well as a basketball star. My 10-year-old self could only dream of becoming an icon with the drive to win, the ambition to create genuine change, and the capacity to not feel pain.
The closest I ever came was imitating his famous fadeaway with a messed-up wad of paper thrown into a garbage can while screaming ‘Kobe!’
Kobe possessed the kind of drive that made free throws on a torn Achilles. He provided an example of how hard you must work to accomplish your goals and improve every day. A better father, friend, and ally.
For me, Mamba will always remain Mamba.
Patsy Goodwin’s article about Anthony Joshua
Joshua is a two-time heavyweight world champion and a London 2012 Olympic gold medalist for Team GB.
Anthony Joshua is the most recent sportsman to inspire me. After his heavyweight championship defeat to Oleksandr Usyk in September, I appreciated his comments.
The whole world was watching, listening, and commenting on AJ, which can be a lot of pressure to bear, but he managed to keep his head up and use his defeat as motivation to do better.
“I can’t go back and pout; it would be a waste of time,” he said. “Today’s lesson was fantastic. We may look at it from a bad perspective, but I have to look at it as a wonderful lesson and grow on it.”
I admire his perseverance in continuing to develop, build, and learn. That’s all we can do as humans, and it serves as a reminder that life isn’t always smooth sailing; there are ups and downs.
Adam Samuel’s portrait of Patrick Vieira
At Arsenal, Vieira won four FA Cups and three league championships, as well as the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championships with France.
The gallop with big strides. The composure. The people in charge. The capacity to drown out any background sounds.
As an Arsenal fan growing up in east London, there was only one guy who captured my mind. It’s not the Frenchman you’re thinking of; instead, it’s Patrick Vieira.
It would be hard to pick anybody else after seeing him easily build, demolish, and everything in between while being the beating heart and captain of the most dominating squad of the period.
He showed a generation of black boys that it was possible to lead from the front, to act with elegance and dignity, and to be unapologetically oneself. There was no bling or ‘rar rar’, no headlines or declarations of kingship, just the coolest cat on the field, purring in every manner.
My generation was fortunate enough to see Patty V in his prime, and I’ll be eternally grateful.
Here’s some of Sport’s Black History Month coverage from the previous year.
Black History Month is celebrated in February. The famous black athletes 2020 are those who have made a difference to the sporting world.
- black athletes that broke the color barrier in sports
- african american athletes who made history
- african american athletes who made a difference
- famous black athletes female
- black sports history facts