The United States of America has two long standing constants. One being our political system — though often criticized, our republic has fared quite well compared to other nations — and the other being our sports.
Legend has it that the first jersey swap happened between Aaron Burr and founding father Alexander Hamilton before their infamous duel, which resulted in the death of the New York lawyer and outspoken federalist.
But, while these events and people are mutually exclusive, what happens when an athlete joins the realm of politics?
The list of athletes who have dabbled in the realm of politics is never-ending, including baseball legend and Hall of Famer Walter Johnson’s unsuccessful bid for a seat in the House of Representatives in 1940 and even now, with former Auburn football coach — Tommy Tuberville — challenging incumbent Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat in the Senate for the state of Alabama.
Then, there are those who express sheer excellence not only in their respective sport, but in the game of politics as well.
Here are five of the greatest athletes turned politicians.
Bill Bradley is widely regarded as not just one of the greatest March Madness players of all time, but as one of the greatest college basketball players to ever step foot on the hardwood.
He led his Princeton Tigers to their first Final Four in 1965 (the same year he won the AP College Player of the Year award) and while they lost to Michigan, he still captured the 1965 Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player award.
Professionally, he won titles in 1970 and 1973 as a member of the New York Knicks. He was also elected to one All-Star team in 1973, and due to his tenure in Madison Square Garden his no. 24 is currently hanging in the rafters.
Bradley was a United States Senator from his collegiate state of New Jersey from January 3rd, 1979 to January 3rd, 1997. He also conducted a failed bid for the presidency against Al Gore in 2000.
Bunning had the career that every kid playing baseball grew up to have.
While in the majors, he compiled a 224-184 W-L record, a 3.27 ERA, and nearly amassed the 3,000 strikeout threshold, but ended with 2,855. His accolades include 9 All-Star nods, the AL wins crown in 1967, and three strikeout titles (1959, 1960, and 1967).
While he never won a Cy Young or even a World Series, he is one of few who can claim they threw both a no-hitter and a perfect game.
His no. 14 is currently retired for the Philadelphia Phillies and is a member of the Phillies Wall of Fame and the National Baseball Hall of Fame (Class of 1996, Veterans Committee).
His eminence transferred into politics as well, serving as a member of the House of Representatives and the Senate from his home state of Kentucky for a combined 24 years. Bunning passed at the age of 85 in 2017.
Kemp is one of the legends of the ill-fated American Football League (AFL).
While he threw more interceptions than touchdowns and had a mere, pedestrian passer rating of 57.3 plus a measly 21,218 yards in the air, his accolades put him among the best of the best. During his signal calling career under center, he was nominated to 7 AFL All-Star teams, 5 All-AFL teams, won the 1965 AFL MVP award and even led the Buffalo Bills to two championships in 1964 and 1965.
After his football career, he was a member of the House of Representatives from New York for 18 years (1/3/71-1/3/89) and served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George H.W. Bush.
After his death in 2009, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama.
When discussing the greatest NFL players of all time, the conversation must include Steve Largent.
The lifetime Seattle Seahawk retired with several all-time receiving records when he retired in 1989. Largent was a seven time Pro Bowler, a member of five All-Pro teams (one first team, four second team), led the league in receptions twice, was a recipient of the Bart Starr Award in 1989 and the NFL Man of the Year Award in 1988.
His no. 80 is retired in Seattle, and he is also an inductee of their ring of honor. He became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995 (his first year of eligibility) and was voted onto the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019.
Politically, he served within the House of Representatives from 1994 to 2002 as a representative from his home state of Oklahoma.
Arnold. The Terminator. But more impressively, Mr. Olympia. The Austrian-born bodybuilder can claim that he is a sports, acting, and political legend.
During his career, Arnold took home three Mr. Universe titles and seven (including six consecutive) Mr. Olympia awards. His first Mr. Olympia title was secured in 1970, when he was but 23 years old, the youngest to ever win the competition.
Later, he was elected as the Governor of California in 2003 and held the position until 2011. Plus, he was the Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports during the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations.