Throughout history there are countless examples of athletes who have and continue to inspire us through their stories. Whether it be their ability to overcome insane odds, personal hardship or even the utilization of their position to bring awareness to global issues, many athletes have definitely gone beyond the playing field. At the same time however many have also been known to exploit the external, particularly the idea of charity. There is no doubt that many athletes have personal incentives -such as tax exemptions and the creation of good publicity -that motivate their acts of kindness, but here are four stories that I have come to know that I believe to be both genuine and inspiring.
Genki Sudo (Retired MMA Fighter & Kickboxer)
As an MMA Fighter Genki Sudo’s numbers definitely don’t stand out as being amongst the best, although he did fight to a winning record of 16-4-1. It was Sudo’s stance out of the ring that can be recognized as inspiring. A practicing Buddhist, Sudo’s primary philosophy in life was and still is that “We Are All One.” Sudo brought this philosophy to public attention in 2004 after winning a fight at the K1 MMA Romanex event. Rather than celebrating by carrying the flag of his native country, Sudo revealed and publicly displayed a collage featuring the flag of every country in the world along with his token phrase. Since retiring Sudo has gone on to become a Japanese singer, composer, actor and author. In one of his hit songs entitled World Order Sudo also hints at a bit of a deeper understanding with lyrics such as “Pushing aside the veil on the world… distorted truths that are buried in the crevices” and “As the curtain is being raised for another era, we’ll cross the bridge of this spotless world.”
Lyman Bostock (Deceased MLB Player)
In an era filled with highly overpaid athletes no matter their statistical output the story of baseball player Lyman Bostock is definitely quite inspiring. The career .311 hitter and fundamentally sound outfielder was widely considered a rising star in the late 1970′s. However after starting the 1978 season with a terrible April, where Bostock struggled to hit only .150, Bostock surprised Angel management by requesting to not be paid for the month. The reasoning? Bostock felt that his performance did not warrant his monthly payment. The Angels organization went on to decline the request but Bostock alternatively donated the entire amount to charity. Unfortunately Bostock’s career was cut short later that year when he was shot and killed in an unrelated incident.
Dikembe Mutombo (Retired NBA Player)
As a four time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and eight time All-Star Dikembe Mutombo is definitely most recognizable for his incredible 18-year NBA Career. One of the best blockers to ever play the sport however has also been quite the All-Star off the court as well. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mutombo is said to have given over $15 million to help the war-torn nation. He founded the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation in 1997 and has since been at the forefront of building hospitals and schools to help those in need.
Roberto Clemente (Deceased MLB Player)
Easily one of the best players to ever play Major League Baseball, Roberto Clemente amassed over 200 Home Runs, drove in over 1300 Runs, and hit .317 over his illustrious 18-year baseball career. In addition to being one of the best, Clemente also made providing for those in his native Puerto Rico (and many other Latin American countries) a primary priority in his life. Clemente was regularly seen directly delivering food and baseball equipment to the nations to ensure that they were received as he had intended. Clemente was always at the forefront of global need and in 1972 was one of the first to respond in helping earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Unfortunately on his way to Nicaragua to provide aid Clemente’s plane crashed killing the star baseball player and humanitarian at the age of 37. In honor of his extraordinary efforts, Major League Baseball has named it’s annual Humanitarian Award the Roberto Clemente Award.
Know of any other inspiring athletes stories that you think are worth sharing. Be sure to share them through the comment section of this article.