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The Most Notable Sports Deaths of 2013


The sports world bid farewell to some legends in 2013. We mourn their passing, but celebrate the memories they leave behind.

Bud Adams, Titans owner
Died Oct. 21, Age 90

The colorful Adams had owned the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise from its creation in 1960, turning a $50,000 investment into a billion-dollar operation. Adams, a founding father of the American Football League, won AFL championships in 1960 and 1961, the first two seasons of the league’s existence. His relationship with the city of Houston deteriorated over the lack of a new stadium to replace the once-innovative-turned-dilapidated Astrodome, prompting Adams to move his franchise to Tennessee. After a rocky start, the newly christened Tennessee Titans made a memorable “Music City Miracle” run to Super Bowl XXXIV in their first season with their new name, logo and stadium.

Walt Bellamy, NBA Hall of Fame center
Died Nov. 2, Age 74

"Bells" languished in the shadow of NBA titans like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain while fighting a reputation for a lack of motivation, but history has been kind to the NBA Hall of Famer. The starting center on the 1960 U.S. gold medal team at the Rome Olympics, Bellamy earned Rookie of the Year honors after one of the greatest debut seasons in league history — 31.6 points and 19 rebounds per game. For his 14-year career, Bellamy averaged 20.1 points and 13.7 rebounds and gained entry into the Hall of Fame in 1993. 

Jerry Buss, Lakers owner
Died Feb. 13, Age 80

Buss ranked among the most successful owners in sports history, winning 10 NBA Titles as owner of the Lakers during a tenure that spanned from Showtime to Shaq. In their entertaining, fast-paced style, Buss' Laker teams mirrored their owner, whose colorful lifestyle included a Hefner-esque reputation for dating younger women. Upon his death, six of his seven children worked for the Lakers organization.

Todd Christensen, former Raiders tight end and broadcaster
Died Nov. 13, Age 57

Christensen was a remarkably productive tight end for the Raiders, earning five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances (1983-87), winning two Super Bowl rings, and leading the NFL in catches in 1983 (with 92) and 1986 (with 95). After his retirement, the athletic BYU product had a couple of baseball tryouts before embarking on a successful second career in Masters Track and then becoming a highly regarded NFL color analyst in the early 1990s. Christensen died from complications of liver transplant surgery.

L.C. Greenwood, Steelers Pro Bowler
Died Sept. 29, Age 67

Shock over learning of Greenwood's death was matched by the shock of learning that he's not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Perhaps the most colorful member of the legendary Steel Curtain defense in Pittsburgh in the 1970s thanks to his gold shoes and Hollywood aspirations, Greenwood made six Pro Bowls and won four Super Bowl rings as an end for one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. In Super Bowl X alone, Greenwood sacked Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach four times.

Don James, former University of Washington football coach
Died Oct. 20, Age 80

James' 18-year stint as coach of the Washington Huskies saw the creation of a formidable college football power in the Great Northwest. James won 153 games as the Huskies' no-nonsense boss, leading UW to six Pac-8/Pac-10 championships and four Rose Bowl wins. His 1991 Huskies, one of the greatest teams in conference history, shared the national title with Miami. James resigned in the wake of NCAA sanctions — protesting the University's decision not to fight the penalties — with a coaching record of 178–76–3 in 22 seasons (four of them at Kent State).

Deacon Jones, NFL Hall of Famer
Died June 3, Age 74

One of the greatest defensive players in NFL history, Jones was a fixture at defensive end from 1961-74 with the Rams, Chargers and Redskins, earning unanimous All-League honors in five consecutive seasons as an anchor for the Rams' Fearsome Foursome. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980. Sports Illustrated named him their "Defensive End of the Century," and as of this season, the award for the leading sacker now honors the player who actually coined the term.

Chuck Muncie, All-Pro running back
Died May 13, Age 60

The bespectacled Muncie was the 1975 Heisman runner-up as a senior at Cal and then had a productive NFL career (6,702 rushing yards, three Pro Bowls) that was derailed by cocaine use that eventually led to homelessness and a stint in prison. Muncie overcame his drug problems to establish a foundation that worked with at-risk youth before his death of a heart attack in May.

Stan Musial, Baseball Hall of Famer
Died Jan. 19, Age 92

The inscription on his statue outside Busch Stadium reads: "Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight." It's not an exaggeration. One of the greatest ballplayers ever to put on spikes, Stan the Man was arguably the most iconic and popular figure in St. Louis' rich sports history, a 24-time All-Star, a three-time MVP, seven-time batting champion, three-time World Series champion and a man of incomparable decency and humility.

Ken Norton, former heavyweight champion
Died Sept. 18, Age 70

Norton was a titan of the golden age of heavyweights, famously breaking Muhammad Ali's jaw in a 12-round split decision on ABC's Wide World of Sports in 1973. Norton fought Ali twice more, losing the third bout on a particularly controversial decision at Yankee Stadium but in the process establishing himself as one of the division's all-time greats. His post-boxing years were marred by a near-fatal car accident in 1986 and a series of strokes that left him in a nursing care facility at the time of his death.

Bum Phillips, former Oilers and Saints coach
Died Oct. 18, Age 90

Ironically, Bum and his former boss, Bud Adams, came into the world in the same year (1923) and departed within three days of one another some 90 years later. Phillips had a style all his own, wearing a ten-gallon hat on the sideline at away games but not home games because, “Mama always said that if it can’t rain on you, you’re indoors” — which he was at Houston’s Astrodome and New Orleans’ Superdome. Phillips retired from coaching with a record of 86–80, with three playoff appearances, including two AFC title game losses to the Steelers.

Pat Summerall, former NFL kicker and legendary play-by-play announcer
Died April 16, Age 82

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Hearing Pat Summerall's voice meant that there was something on worth watching. Whether it was the Super Bowl, The Masters, the U.S. Open tennis tournament or a routine September NFL Sunday, Summerall provided the essential soundtrack for countless classic sports moments that were elevated by his familiar, low-key delivery. Prior to his legendary broadcasting career, Summerall had spent a decade in the NFL as a placekicker, kicking a field goal in the Greatest Game Ever Played, the Colts' 23–17 win over the Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship.

Dick Trickle, NASCAR driver
Died May 16, Age 71

His unusual name became something of a running joke on ESPN, but his death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound — due, apparently, to struggles with chronic pain — brought a tragic, sobering end to a life cut short. Trickle was a dirt-track legend who never found Victory Lane on the Sprint Cup circuit but was a popular and respected wheelman among fans and his peers.

Ken Venturi, U.S. Open champion and golf broadcaster
Died May 17, age 82

Golf is not often thought of as a test of endurance, but at the 1964 U.S. Open, Venturi fought through heat exhaustion and near-100-degree temperatures on the 36-hole final day to win by four shots, earning PGA Tour Player of the Year and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year honors as a result. The win helped Venturi overcome the disappointment of letting The Masters slip away in 1956, when he was poised to become the only amateur to win the tournament until a final-round 80. Venturi later turned to broadcasting, serving as lead analyst for CBS for some 35 years, making him the longest-serving network analyst in any sport.

Earl Weaver, Orioles Hall of Fame manager
Died Jan. 19, Age 82

The feisty, irascible Weaver is probably best remembered for his dirt-kicking, cap-turning tantrums that led to nearly 100 ejections (he was ejected from both games in a doubleheader three times), but in his approach to the game — "pitching, defense and the three-run homer" — he was ahead of his time. He also led some of the greatest teams in American League history, winning four pennants and a World Series. The 1996 Hall of Fame inductee died of an apparent heart attack while on an Orioles fantasy cruise. 

Other Notables

Jack Butler, NFL Hall of Famer

Charlie Coles, former Miami (Ohio) basketball coach

Joe Dean, former LSU basketball player and AD and longtime announcer

Art Donovan, NFL Hall of Famer, frequent guest on Letterman

Ron Fraser, former University of Miami baseball coach

Phil Henderson, former Duke guard

Thomas Howard, Raiders linebacker

Dick Kazmeier, last Ivy Leaguer to win Heisman Trophy

Bob Kurland, basketball Hall of Famer

Jason Leffler, NASCAR driver

Tommy Morrison, former heavyweight champion

Clarence “Ace” Parker, oldest Pro Football Hall of Famer

Jack Pardee, former NFL player and coach

George Scott, former Red Sox and Brewers first baseman

Bill Sharman, basketball Hall of Fame player and former Lakers coach

Jim Sweeney, former Fresno State football coach

Michael Weiner, Executive Director of the MLB Players Association