We all know those women who were “Daddy’s girls” growing up—you know, the ones who begged to play catch for hours in the backyard or who shot hoops with the Old Man at the court down the street. But few female father-loving sportsters can say that their father was a professional athlete and that they’re now one too.
That said, not all elite female athletes with pro-sports fathers have the same or even similar story. Some athletes like boxer Laila Ali followed in their fathers’ footsteps to take on their dads’ sport while others like soccer player Keelin Winters choose to pursue a different path. And while tennis player Sloane Stephens and basketball star Candice Wiggins had pro dads, their fathers weren’t around to encourage, shape and support.
In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, we look at the stories behind the most athletically talented father-daughter duos in American sports history.
01. Laila and Muhammad Ali
My father passed a year ago today. He sure was something extraordinary…an ANGEL walking on earth! My dad believed that we ALL have something special inside and that you just have to believe in yourself!💜 So thankful and blessed to have his same DNA and so many gifts passed down that have shaped me into the fighter and person that I am! #LOVEMYDAD
In 2007, former professional boxer Laila Ali retired as an undefeated champ, thanks in part to the tutelage of her father, Muhammad Ali—one of the greatest boxers and most quoted civil-rights activists in American history. Inspired by her father’s legacy, Laila entered the ring in 1999 and won 24 of 24 fights. Her success earned her the nickname “She Bee Stinging” after one of her father’s famous sayings, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
[More from Excelle Sports: Claressa Shields finds last minute replacement for Friday night’s fight]
02. Keelin and Brian Winters
Retired Seattle Reign FC captain Keelin Winters can not only score a goal on the soccer field, she can also shoot some hoops. Her passion in part came from her father, Brian Winters, who played with the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks in the 1970s and early 1980s. After playing in the NBA for nine years, Brian became an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1986 and then transitioned into the WNBA in 2004 to become the head coach of the Indiana Fever.
03. Sloane and John Stephens
When New England Patriot running back John Stephens talked about his daughter Sloane, he’d tell friends and family that she was the next up-and-coming tennis legend. “She gon’ beat that Serena [Williams] one day, you watch and see,” he’d say, according to Sports on Earth. In January 2013, his prophetic words came true. Sloane became famous for defeating the Grand Slam Queen at the 2013 Australian Open. Today, the 24-year-old has four major titles. Unfortunately, her father never lived to see the day of her triumphs. John died in a car crash in 2009.
[More from Excelle Sports: WATCH: Serena still practicing while pregnant]
04. Nastia and Valeri Liukin
American Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin grew up around gymnastics: Her parents, Valeri Liukin and Anna Kotchneva, were some of the top gymnasts for the Soviet Union. Her father, Valeri, won a gold medal in the horizontal bar event at the 1988 Summer Games, narrowly missing gold in the individual all-around competition to accept silver. In 2008, Nastia avenged her father and made the top of the podium in the individual all-around at the Beijing Games.
05. Brittany and Frank Viola
U.S. Olympic diver Brittany Viola plunged into a sport very much unlike her father’s. Frank Viola was an All-Star pitcher for the the Minnesota Twins (1982–1989), New York Mets (1989–91), Boston Red Sox (1992–1994), Cincinnati Reds (1995) and Toronto Blue Jays (1996). Brittany swam in her own lane, however, and chose to pursue her dreams to become one of the world’s best divers. In 2012, she made the U.S. national team for the Olympic Games in London, but failed to bring home a medal.
06. Candice and Alan Wiggins
At first, former Minnesota Lynx guard Candice Wiggins was “ashamed” of the way her father died. The late Alan Wiggins was a star second baseman for the San Diego Padres in the 1980s before he developed a drug addiction and contracted HIV. “There was always a cloud that hovered over us, with our family name being so linked to AIDS. It was really hard,” Candice wrote in a personal essay. But she took that shame and turned it on its head: The 30-year-old player is now an HIV/AIDs activist and works with various organizations to prevent the disease from spreading.
[More from Excelle Sports: Imani Boyette responds to Candice Wiggins’ comments about WNBA culture]
07. Cheryl Ford and Karl Malone
Former Utah Jazz forward and 14-time NBA All-Star Karl Malone shared his basketball genes with his daughter Cheryl Ford, who went as the No. 3 WNBA draft pick in 2003. In her first season as a pro baller, Ford signed with the Detroit Shock and led her team from the bottom to the top of the rankings in a matter of months. That same summer, the Shock won its first WNBA title and Ford became the first player to earn Rookie of the Year and a championship trophy in the same season.
08. Logan and Mel Tom
Logan and Mel Tom have two things in common: Their full names are made up of two first names and they are both extremely gifted at sports. In 2000, daughter Logan became the youngest woman ever to make the U.S. Olympic volleyball team at age 19. Since then, she’s won silver medals with Team USA at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games. Her father played nine seasons in the NFL as a defensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears.
09. Alexandra Stevenson and Julius Erving
For years, former top-20 tennis player Alexandra Stevenson refused to celebrate Father’s Day. Her father, Julius Erving, aka “Dr. J,” a four-time NBA MVP and a prolific dunker, abandoned her mother when she was just a newborn. Stevenson refused to even Google his name or acknowledge that she had a dad—that is, until he finally gave her a call when she was 27 years old in an effort to finally heal their relationship. Click here to read their story.
[More from Excelle Sports: Chiney Ogwumike joins ESPN to co-host SportsCenter across Africa]
10. Tamika and Harvey Catchings
Retired Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings is one of the most heralded American female basketball players of all time: She’s won four Olympic gold medals, and in her 15 seasons with the Fever, she won five Defensive Player of the Year awards. Perhaps she got some of her skills from her father Harvey Catchings, who played for various teams in the NBA from 1974 to 1985.