What Happened To These Athletes Of The 80s?


Roger Clemens – Then

It did not take long for Roger Clemens to dominate Major League Baseball. The Rocket won both the Cy Young Award for best pitcher and MVP in just his third season, 1986. He capped the season by striking out 20 Seattle Mariners batters.

Roger Clemens – Now

Clemens eventually played 24 seasons in the MLB. He finished his career with an incredible seven Cy Young awards, ninth on the all time wins list, and third in career strikeouts. After he retired from baseball, Clemens notoriously became linked to using performance enhancing drugs. He vehemently denies the allegations but has not been elected to the Hall of Fame likely due to his connection to banned substances. In 2010, he was indicted on making false statements to Congress about his PED use.

Larry Bird – Then

In a league increasingly dominated by supremely athletic black men, the Hick from French Lick might not have had a large vertical leap but used his pristine passing and sharpshooting to become one of the greatest players of all time. His rivalry and friendship with Magic Johnson captivated American audiences, dragging the NBA from the depths of substance abuse into a global entertainment brand. He won three NBA championships with the Celtics and three MVP awards for himself.

Larry Bird – Now

Five years after he retired from the Boston Celtics, Bird joined his hometown Indiana Pacers as the head coach. He resigned in 2000, but came back as President of Basketball Operations a few years later. He is the only player to ever win NBA Rookie of the Year, MVP, Finals MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year. In 2017, Bird stepped down from his role with the Pacers, but remains connected with the team.

Jim McMahon – Then

Few 80s athletes had as much swagger as Jim McMahon. McMahon was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1982 and instantly shed the restrictive culture from his alma mater, Brigham Young University. He showed up to his first press conference with a beer in hand. McMahon was at the helm during the Bears memorable 1985 season, and contributed a verse to the infamous Super Bowl Shuffle starting with “I’m the punky QB known as McMahon/When I hit the turf, I’ve got no plan.”

Jim McMahon – Now

Although he became a fan of the press, McMahon’s career would peak in the 80s. He won another Super Bowl at the tail end of his career with the Green Bay Packers as a backup. He got in some legal trouble in 1997 due to poor loans from a bank where he was a board member. In 2010, McMahon spoke up about his memory problems due to football and filed a lawsuit against the NFL. He admitted to forgetting why he walked in a room.

Joe Montana – Then

Throughout his 16 year career, Joe Montana defined the quarterback position. Few plays came close to his level of success. Joe Cool led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl victories, three of which he was also named Super Bowl MVP. He was two MVP awards and was always known for his clutch performances. His most famous, a game-winning pass to Dwight Clark with 36 seconds left in the Super Bowl, has become colloquially known simply as “The Catch.”

Joe Montana – Now

Unlike many ex-players that go into coaching or commentating, Joe Montana decided to take it easy into retirement. He still makes plenty of appearances for the 49ers, but sticks mostly to being a dad. He has been married three times, but has been married to his current wife, Jennifer Wallace, sine 1985. They have four kids together. You can find Montana these days living in San Francisco, tending to his horses or his wine label, Montagia.

Chris Evert – Then

Before Serena Williams dominated women’s tennis, Chris Evert was the rock at the top of the game. Over the course of her 18 year career, Evert won an astounding 18 Grand Slam titles, including nine during the 80s. In her career, Evert won 90% of her matches, winning 157 singles titles in total. She ended the year at number 1 in the rankings seven times. Her 34 Grand Slam finals reached are the most by any tennis player ever, male or female.

Chris Evert – Now

Chris retired from competitive tennis in 1989 but never truly left the game. She served as the president of the Women’s Tennis Association into retirement. Today, she owns a tennis academy with her name in Boca Raton, Florida. In 2011, Evert hopped into the broadcast booth as part of ESPN’s announcing team for Grand Slam tournaments. In addition to her tennis play contributions, Evert launched a line of activewear and tennis apparel called Chrissie by Tail.

Florence Griffith Joyner – Then

Nobody in the 80s could match Flo-Jo’s combination of talent and style. Florence Griffith Joyner was so dominant at the 1988 Seoul Olympics that her world records in the 100 meter and 200 meter sprints still stand, making her the fastest woman ever. Between the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, she earned five medals – three gold and two silver. When she was not wowing viewers on the track, she impressed them with her style. She always showed up in the boldest outfits imaginable.

Florence Griffith Joyner – Now

Unfortunately, Florence Griffith Joyner was taken from us too early. She died in her sleep due to an epileptic seizure. Even though she could no longer race, her legacy lives on. She had one daughter with her husband Al Joyner. She was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1995. Many of her contemporaries believed that she used performance enhancing drugs, but nothing has ever been proven. Until then, she will continue to hold on to her world records.

Sharron Davies – Then

Sharron Davies is not the first name you think of when it comes to 80s athletes, but her feats were no less impressive. Davies first competed at the Olympics in 1976. She did not medal, but became well known since she was only 13. Four years later at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow (famously boycotted by the United States), the British Davies took home a silver medal in the 400 meter individual medley. She broke over 200 British swimming records by her retirement in 1994.

Sharron Davies – Now

When Davies retired from international competition, she was not ready to give up swimming. She joined the BBC as a commentator for their sports coverage. Initially, Davies only worked on covering various swimming events, but eventually expanded her repertoire to cover other sports. Davies became quite popular in England and has worked on the BBC’s coverage of numerous Olympic games including 1996 in Atlanta, 2000 in Sydney, 2004 in Athens, 2008 in Beijing, 2012 in London – of course, and 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

Glynis Nunn – Then

Aussies go wild for Glynis Nunn thanks to her domination at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. In the first year that the Olympics hosted the heptathalon, Nunn shocked the world by barely beating the American Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Throughout the event, five athletes were close to the top, and amidst some confusion on who had one, Nunn came out on top. Two years before the Olympics, she upset the English favorite for the gold and came out on top as the winner.

Glynis Nunn – Now

When she returned home from the Olympics, Nunn decided that she had had enough with the heptathalon and wanted to only focus on one event. She switched her focus to hurdles and began competing appropriately. Injuries forced her to limp towards retirement in 1994, but not before she grabbed a bronze in the hurdles at the 1986 Commonwealth games. After returning to Queensland, she became a sprinting coach. You can find her caring for her eight horses and watching her daughter and son grow up.

Martina Navratilova – Then

In basketball, Magic had Bird. In tennis, Evert had Martina. They helped push each other to incredible highs. Martina won 18 Grand Slam singles titles and a record 31 major women’s doubles titles. Between 1982 and 1990, she reached the Wimbeldon each year and won in nine of her 12 appearances there. She is considered arguably the greatest women’s tennis player ever and spent 332 weeks at number one in singles. Navratilova is the only player to have top spot in singles and doubles for over 200 weeks.

Martina Navratilova – Now

Navratilova continued to play at a high level into her forties, although mostly in doubles. In 2003, she became the oldest major champion ever, wining the mixed doubles title with Leander Paes at the Australian Open. She retired for good in 2006, over 30 years after she won her first singles title. Since retiring, she has been a major activist for a variety of issues including LGBT rights and animal rights. She also works as the AARP’s Health and Fitness Ambassador.

Carl Lewis – Then

When Carl Lewis stepped on the track, all eyes turned to him. Due to the US boycott of the 1980 Olympics, Lewis could not start his Olympic career until 1984. Impressively, he won four gold medals (three sprints and long jump) leading to Jesse Owens comparisons. Lewis is one of three athletes to win gold medals in the same Olympic event at four consecutive games (long jump). In total, he won nine Olympic gold medals and one silver before retiring in 1994.

Carl Lewis – Now

Lewis put his track and field life behind after retiring, but did not give up on the spotlight. He made multiple appearances in film and TV, sometimes as himself and other times as characters. Lewis last appeared in the film Tournament of Dreams. He made headlines in 1993 for a botched rendition of the national anthem at an NBA game. In 2011, he ran for New Jersey Senate but was disqualified due the amount of time he had lived there.

Joan Benoit – Then

Joan Benoit might not have the same name recognition of her 80s athlete contemporaries, but she was no less important of an 80s athlete. Benoit is one of the most accomplished marathon runners in US history. Only months after knee surgery, Benoit won the gold medal at the 1984 Olympics for the Women’s Marathon. Between 1979 and 1985, Benoit won the Boston Marathon twice, won the Chicago Marathon, and placed third at another Boston Marathon. No female marathon runner could top her 80s success.

Joan Benoit – Now

Benoit has devoted her life to distance running and has not stopped hitting the pavement. She wrote two books about running at the peak of her success. In 1998, she founded a 10k race, the Beach to Beacon 10k, in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Her race times in the Olympics and Chicago Marathon are still record for American women. Benoit’s Boston Marathon record lasted for 28 years before being broken. She now serves as a cross country coach and motivational speaker.

Magic Johnson – Then

You must have something going for you to get the nickname ‘Magic.’ Earvin Johnson certainly had the magic during his 13 year NBA career. The boy from Lansing became one of the greatest basketball players and greatest winners ever. He was a five time champion, three time Finals MVP, and 12 time All Star. As the orchestrator of the Showtime Lakers, Magic impressed fans with his flashy passing, uptempo play, and imaginative command of the floor. He is still fifth all-time in assists.

Magic Johnson – Now

With plenty of years left in his career, Magic Johnson suddenly retired in 1991 due to his contraction of HIV. He would go on to play for Team USA’s Dream Team and attempted an ill-fated comeback in 1995. Magic always kept himself busy in retirement, whether with various business ventures or broadcast work. He is currently a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2017, he came back to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations in the hope of bringing a title back to LA.

Nadia Comaneci – Then

Nadia Comaneci became a household name after she received the first perfect ten in the history of gymnastics for her routine on the uneven bars. She followed up her three gold medal performance in Montreal with two more golds and two silvers in Moscow four years later. American audiences could not get enough as she embarked on her “Nadia ’81” tour. She became the center of media attention in 1989 after defecting to the United States from Romania, weeks before the Romanian Revolution.

Nadia Comaneci – Now

Nadia Comaneci never left her roots in gymnastics. She serves as the honorary president of Romania’s Gymnastics Federation. She and her husband (former gymnast) Bart Conner own and run the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy which helps train youngsters in gymnastics. They also run a production company named for her Olympic feat – Perfect 10 Production Company – and are editors for International Gymnast Magazine. Comaneci has provided television commentary in a couple Olympic games, most recently in Rio de Janeiro.

Steffi Graf – Then

In the shadow of the Evert – Navratilova rivalry, Steffi Graf grabbed the spotlight and carried it to the tune of 22 Grand Slam singles titles (third behind Margaret Court and Serena Williams). She is the only tennis player of either gender to win all four Grand Slams and the Olympics in the same calendar year, better known as the Golden Slam. Graf raised herself to number one in the rankings for a record 377 weeks. Her versatility allowed her to compete with any style of play.

Steffi Graf – Now

Graf called it “quits” in 1999, but could not truly step away from the game. She played numerous exhibition games through the aughts. After the 1999 French Open, Graf began dating tennis star Andre Agassi. They married in 2001 and have two children together, Jaden Gil and Jaz Elle. Graf does not mind taking a step back from the spotlight. You can still find her sitting court side at major tournaments with Andre. She was rooting for Serena Williams to break her Open era record for Grand Slams.

Mary Lou Retton – Then

Every four years, the Summer Olympics gives young athletes the chance to shine on a global stage. When Mary Lou Retton stepped on to the mat in Los Angeles in 1984, she brought the whole country with her. She became the first American to win the all-around gold medal in gymnastics, also taking home two silver medals and two bronze medals. Retton worked with famed coach, Bela Karolyi, to become the best gymnast in the world.

Mary Lou Retton – Now

Mary Lou Retton retired from professional gymnastics in 1986. She became the godmother of American women’s gymnastic – eight Americans have since won the all-around gold after never having done so before. Retton is now a mother of four with her husband Shannon Kelley. She puts her duties as a mother ahead of everything. In 2004, she was a member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Currently, she serves as the fitness ambassador for Nature’s Bounty, a vitamin and supplements company.

Wayne Gretzky – Then

Across his 20 year career, Wayne Gretzky was so great that they simply called him “The Great One.” Gretzky held 61 NHL records by the time he retired in 1999. During one stretch, he reached 100 points in a season 14 straight times. He is the only player to ever tally 200 points in a season, and he did it four times. He is still the NHL’s leader in points, goals, and assists. His combination of size, strength, speed, and skill were too much for anyone to handle.

Wayne Gretzky – Now

Gretzky was so great that they waved the three year waiting period to induct him into the Hall of Fame just months after he retired. Soon after retirement, he bought a stake in the Phoenix Coyotes. In 2005, he named himself as head coach but he would never reach the playoffs as a coach. In 2016, he returned to his former team, the Edmonton Oilers, as a partner and vice-chairman of the team’s parent company. He and his wife Janet Jones have five children.