As we turn the chapter to 2022, let’s take a moment to reflect on some of the notable sports legends we lost in 2021.
From coaches to players, football to boxing, young to old, sports lost a diverse list of impactful figures.
Here is a list of 10, in the order of when they died.
Tommy Lasorda (1/7/21, 93-years-old)
The longtime Dodger manager coached the team from
Hank Aaron (1/22/21, age 86)
Hammerin’ Hank, who many still consider to be baseball’s home run king, played the game the way it’s supposed to be played – with humility and determination. Aaron is widely regarded as one of the greatest baseball player’s in history, spending 22 years in the MLB, 20 of them with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves from
John Chaney (1/29/21, age 89)
The hard-nosed, gritty college basketball coach brought Temple basketball to the forefront, coaching the Owls from
Marty Schottenheimer (2/8/21, age 77)
Widely known as the greatest NFL coach to never appear in a Super Bowl, Schottenheimer still accomplished a lot during his 22-year head coaching career. He is eighth in career wins with 205, coaching the Browns, Chiefs, Washington Football Team and Chargers. His most successful and longest-tenured job was with Kansas City during the 1990s when he coached legendary quarterback Joe Montana, who was nearing the end of his storied career. Unfortunately, Schottenheimer’s success during the regular season didn’t translate to the postseason, winning only five of 18 playoff games. He is the only coach in history to have a losing playoff record but also have over 200 wins. Nonetheless, the coach had an incredibly successful career and will be remembered for his efficient offensive schemes.
Vincent Jackson (2/15/21, age 38)
This one hit much harder than the ones listed above because he was still very young. The three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver played for 11 seasons from 2005-16, playing for the Chargers and Buccaneers. He was a true one-on-one deep threat for quarterback Philip Rivers during his years with San Diego, standing at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. Jackson was found dead by a housekeeper in a Florida hotel room. His family said he may have suffered from chronic alcoholism, which contributed to his death. Later in the year, Jackson’s family confirmed that researchers had discovered stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy in his brain, a disease caused by repeated head traumas from playing in the NFL.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler (3/13/21, age 66)
Known as Marvelous Marvin, Hagler boxed from 1973-87, reigning as the undisputed middleweight champion from 80-87. He defended his title 12 times, all but one by knockout, and holds the highest knockout percentage at 78% for all middleweight champions. He was nicknamed “Marvelous” and later changed his legal name to that in 1982 after he became annoyed that announcers didn’t refer to him as that. He is known for having one of the most durable chins ever as he was only knocked down once in his career, a knockdown that is disputed to this day.
Elgin Baylor (3/22/21, age 86)
This one hits closer to home as the basketball hall of famer was a standout at Seattle University, leading the team to the national championship game in 1957, before losing to legendary coach Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky team. Baylor averaged over 32 points per game that year, which led him to be drafted No. 1 in the 1958 NBA Draft by the Minneapolis Lakers. He played 14 years for the iconic franchise in both Minneapolis and Los Angeles, though he never won a professional championship. Baylor was known for his all-around game of shooting, rebounding and passing, resulting in 11 all-star appearances and an all-star game MVP nod in 1959.
Bobby Bowden (8/8/21, age 91)
Bowden was a giant in the world of college football, leaving his legacy as one of the most accomplished coaches of all time and bringing the Florida State football program to prominence with consistent excellence. He coached the Seminoles for over 30 years from
Demaryius Thomas (12/9/21, age 33)
The standout four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver is the youngest player on this list. Thomas was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos, where he played the first eight years of his career. His first marquee moment was when he caught an 80-yard touchdown from Tim Tebow in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2012 Wild Card round. Then Peyton Manning joined the Broncos, which resulted in the best seasons of his career while playing in the high-scoring offense. He was part of the Broncos team that won the Super Bowl in 2015. To the shock of many, Thomas was found dead at his home in Georgia a few weeks before his 34th birthday. The cause of death was a seizure due to complications of injuries he suffered in a 2019 car accident.
John Madden (12/28/21, age 85)
The world lost a football coaching and broadcast legend in John Madden. The timing of his passing was ironic because it came only days after an All-Madden documentary was released on FOX. Nonetheless, Madden lived a fulfilled and joyous life through his passion for the game of football and the people who loved it. He first came to prominence as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, winning the Super Bowl over the Vikings in 1977. He then became a color commentator for NFL broadcasts from 1979-2009, which earned him 16 Sports Emmy Awards. Madden appeared on all four major TV networks (CBS, FOX, ABC, NBC) throughout the years, and fans gravitated to his lively commentary with words like “boom” and “whap” to describe the action. He was the first to use the telestrator onscreen. The video game Madden NFL was named after him and is now one of the most popular video games in the world.
Other notable sports figures who died in 2021 include former boxer Leon Spinks, former college football coaches Terry Donahue and Howard Schnellenberger, former NFL wide receiver David Patten, MLB Hall of Famer Don Sutton and NBA Hall of Famer Sam Jones.