Brock Lesnar (l.) and Michael Jordan (r.) have done it before, now it's Usain Bolt's (c.) turn to to swap sporting disciplines. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA
Brock Lesnar (l.) and Michael Jordan (r.) have done it before, now it's Usain Bolt's (c.) turn to to swap sporting disciplines. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA

Lesnar, Jordan and... Bolt? The world's biggest and best crossover sports stars

"And it's Boooooollllltttt!! Usain Bolt gives Borussia Dortmund the lead, and Bayern Munich could just not live with the Jamaican's pace!" Far-fetched? If you think so, then you obviously did not see the eight-time Olympic sprint champion's trial with Dortmund. The 31-year-old 100 and 200 metre world record holder showed he has the footballing smarts and skills to go with his lightning pace, and with his ambition and will to win, why couldn't Bolt fulfil his dream of successfully swapping spikes for studs? picks out a crop of star athletes who have already made the leap from one discipline to another, and some others who fell in the attempt.

Watch: Owo meets... Usain Bolt!

Herschel Walker, American football, Olympic bobsleigh & MMA

Could Walker be the greatest all-round athlete of all time? An NFL Pro Bowl running back with the Dallas Cowboys before also playing for the Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, Walker could do so much more, and proved it.

While still an active NFL player, he used his power and pace to good effect at the 1992 Winter Olympics, coming seventh in the USA's two-man bobsleigh in Albertville. A taekwondo black belt, Walker won his two MMA bouts by knockout, the second coming less than two months before his 49th birthday. And as if that wasn't enough, he also danced with the Fort Worth Ballet company during his time in Dallas and won a celebrity cooking programme. Impressed? We are.

Herschel Walker just couldn't get enough of sport as he took a remarkable route through the NFL, Olympics and MMA. - © gettyimages

Jim Thorpe, American football, baseball & basketball

Walker's achievements followed in the trail blazed by Jim Thorpe, whose Native American name 'Bright Path' could not have been more fitting. A member of the Sac and Fox Nation, Thorpe was the world's first multi-sport superstar. Double Olympic gold at the Stockholm Games of 1912 in pentathlon and decathlon — themselves multi-discipline events — suggested he could apply his phenomenal physical attributes to any sport.

A Major League Baseball outfielder between 1913 and 1919, his exploits for American football outfit, the Canton Bulldogs, and six NFL teams earned him a place in the inaugural Pro Football Hall of Fame entry in 1963, ten years after his death. Thorpe was also a member of the travelling basketball team, the Haskell Indians, who earned money through touring US states and playing exhibition games in the late 20s when Thorpe was nearing 40. There is a town in Pennsylvania named after him, which says it all. Maybe something for local boy Christian Pulisic to aim for?

The pioneer of crossover sports stars. Jim Thorpe is the original phenomenal athlete worthy of every sport available to him. - © imago

Deion Sanders, American football and baseball

"I'm married to football, baseball is my girlfriend," Sanders once said, but he gave both sports his own brand of TLC as 'Primetime' followed in Thorpe's and Bo Jackson's footsteps by embarking on a successful and simultaneous baseball and American football career in 1989.

Sanders was already a master-of-all-trades at Florida State University where he famously ran a 4x100m relay leg for the athletics team in between two games of baseball for his alma mater, a feat he tried to repeat by playing an NFL and MLB game on the same day later in his career.

When he was fifth pick in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, he had already been drafted a year earlier by the New York Yankees. During the 1989 season, he became the only man to hit an MLB home run and score an NFL touchdown in the same week, and he has also achieved the unique feat of playing in the World Series — losing with the Atlanta Braves against the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 — and the Super Bowl, winning back-to-back championship rings with the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys in 1995 and 1996 respectively.

'Primetime' was a world-class athlete across sports, and he knew it. The nickname aptly given to him for the "clutch" plays he made throughout his career. - © gettyimages

Can Bartu, basketball & football

Could future Dortmund generations be training at the Usain Bolt Centre? That is a good way off yet perhaps, but it's not impossible as Can Bartu has proven.

Fenerbahce's first team now trains at facilities named in honour of Bartu, who began and ended his sporting career with the Istanbul giants. But it was by shooting hoops — not goals — that he first starred as part of Fenerbahce's basketball team.

He even played for his country before he was invited to join Fenerbahce's footballers. Was he any good? Two goals and an assist on his debut, which came hours before he also helped the basketball team triumph, set the tone for a ground-breaking career.

The first Turk to play a European final — the 1961/62 Cup Winners' Cup final against Atletico Madrid — while at Fiorentina, Bartu would go on to feature for Venezia, Lazio and Turkey as an attacking midfielder before returning to Fenerbahce, ending his career with a fourth top-flight title.

Can Bartu's name is so large in the history of Fenerbahce that the club's training facilities are named after him.

Brock Lesnar, WWE, UFC & American football

Former Germany, Werder Bremen and Hoffenheim goalkeeper Tim Wiese is battling to make headway in the wrestling world, but Lesnar is the real and very big deal deal.

A university wrestling champion, he has switched from WWE to UFC and back again twice during his career, and won titles in both. Given he could do all that without protection, you would have thought he would do even better wearing a helmet and pads.

"This is no load of bull, it's no WWE stunt. I am dead serious about this," Lesnar explained as he announced his hope of starting an NFL career. "Now people say I can't play football, that it's a joke. I say I can. I'm as good an athlete as a lot of guys in the NFL, if not better."

"I am the greatest crossover sports star!" - we won't argue with you, Brock. And he's still going strong. - © imago

At 6'3" and 281lb, we won't argue with Lesnar, but the Minnesota Vikings did. Though he played some pre-season games for them as a defensive tackle, he was released before the serious business of the NFL began.

It did not stop the Lesnar juggernaut powering on though. He eventually returned to WWE — he currently has five heavyweight titles — and made his name in UFC by beating then-heavyweight champion Randy Couture at UFC 91 before — in 2010 — winning his unification bout with Shane Carwin at UFC 116.

Simply one of the greatest athletes of all time. He made the number 23 his own on the court, but almost took steps onto the Major League Baseball diamond. - © gettyimages

Michael Jordan, basketball & baseball

Like Lesnar and Bolt, Jordan had a dream. He had won everything there was to win with the Chicago Bulls and the US Olympic basketball team, and following the tragic murder of his father in 1993, he decided it was time to pursue it.

"For the last nine years, I lived in a situation where I had the world at my feet. Now I'm just another minor leaguer in the clubhouse here trying to make it to the major leagues," said Jordan after signing for the Chicago White Sox, also owned by Bulls chief Jerry Reinsdorf.

After joining the White Sox's minor league affiliate, the Birmingham Barons, the 31-year-old rookie right fielder lived up to his 'Air Jordan' nickname, but only because that was all he hit for most of the next few months. "It's been embarrassing, it's been frustrating - it can make you mad," Jordan explained. "I don't remember the last time I had all those feelings at once. And I've been working too hard at this to make myself look like a fool."

By March 1995, he had just three words to say, "I'm back", as he returned to the Bulls, taking them on a second run of three successive NBA titles.

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