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Notable Sports Deaths of 2014


The sports world bid farewell to some legends in 2014. We mourn their passing, but celebrate the memories they leave behind.

Marvin “Bad News” Barnes, basketball legend

Died Sept. 8, Age 62

In marking his death, the New York Times called Barnes “one of basketball’s most talented and defiantly self-indulgent players, whose career dissolved in a haze of drugs and alcohol.” But, as sportscaster Bob Costas said, “The truth is that there were many nights, even when Dr. J was in the game, when the best player on the floor was Marvin Barnes.” Barnes helped lead Providence to the Final Four in 1973 before spending two seasons for the Spirits of St. Louis in the American Basketball Association and then four in the NBA.

Rob Bironas, Tennessee Titans kicker

Died Sept. 20, Age 36

One of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, Bironas holds the NFL single-game record with eight field goals against the Texans in 2007, a year in which he earned All-Pro recognition. Bironas died in a single-car accident in Nashville; witnesses reported that he had been driving aggressively, and tests revealed a blood alcohol level of 0.218.

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, boxer

Died April 20, Age 76

Immortalized in song by Bob Dylan and portrayed on screen by Denzel Washington, Carter was a middleweight boxer who was convicted of murder but freed after almost 20 years in prison via a petition of habeas corpus. Carter’s saga inspired the Dylan song “Hurricane” and the 1999 film “The Hurricane.”

Jimmy Ellis, boxer

Died May 6, Age 74

Ellis was a former WBA heavyweight champion who had memorable fights with Jerry Quarry, Floyd Patterson, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, among others. Upon Ellis’ death, Ali said: “In the world of heavyweights I always thought him one of the best.”

Tom Gola, basketball Hall of Famer

Died Jan. 26, Age 81

One of the biggest basketball stars of the 1950s, Gola led La Salle to the 1952 NIT title and the 1954 NCAA title. Gola, who still holds the NCAA record for career rebounds with 2,201, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976. He was later elected to the Pennsylvania State House.

Tony Gwynn, Baseball Hall of Famer

Died June 16, Age 54

Quite possibly the hardest-working, sweetest-swinging player in baseball history, Mr. Padre used an incomparable mind for the game, tireless hours of film study and an uncanny ability to find gaps in the defense to win eight batting titles and rap out 3,141 career hits. His death from oral cancer made him a cautionary tale against smokeless tobacco use.

Frank Jobe, pioneer sports surgeon

Died March 6, Age 88

Countless athletes owe their careers to the pioneering orthopedic surgeon, who performed the first “Tommy John surgery” on the procedure’s namesake in 1974 and also performed the first major shoulder reconstruction for a pro athlete, allowing Orel Hershiser to continue his career.

Ralph Kiner, Baseball Hall of Famer

Died Feb. 6, Age 91

In the years following World War II, Kiner was the most feared slugger in baseball, leading MLB in homers every year from 1947-52 and surpassing 50 dingers twice. He then spent 53 years as a beloved broadcaster for the Mets.

Philip Lutzenkirchen, football player

Died June 30, Age 23

The former Auburn tight end was a fan favorite who played for the 2010 National Championship team and set a school record for tight ends with 14 career touchdown catches. He died in a one-car crash in his home state of Georgia.

Don Meyer, basketball coach

Died May 18, Age 69

Meyer held the record for most wins by a men’s college basketball coach with 923 until his total was surpassed by Mike Krzyzewski in 2011. A highly influential coach and teacher of basketball, Meyer was credited by Pat Summitt with teaching her “how to teach others how to play the game.”

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Chuck Noll, Hall of Fame NFL coach

Died June 13, Age 82

Noll’s legendary 23-year tenure as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers produced 209 wins, four Super Bowl titles and induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. He was the architect of the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s and also was known for providing significant opportunities for African Americans, both on the field and on the sidelines.

Dr. Jack Ramsey, NBA coach and broadcaster

Died April 28, Age 89

A highly respected coach and broadcaster, Dr. Jack led the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers to the NBA title and won a total of 864 games as an NBA head coach. He then spent nine seasons as a color commentator for the 76ers and Heat. He also authored several books on basketball.

Oscar Taveras, Baseball phenom

Died Oct. 26, Age 22

Known as "El Fenómeno,” Taveras was a highly coveted baseball prospect from the Dominican Republic who drew comparison to countryman Vladimir Guerrero and spent one season with the St. Louis Cardinals before his death in an automobile accident in his home country.

Kevin Ward Jr., driver

Died Aug. 9, Age 20

Ward was an obscure young competitor on the lower levels of professional auto racing before his death in a controversial and tragic dirt-track incident with Sprint Cup star Tony Stewart. Angered by Stewart’s aggressive driving during a sprint car race at New York’s Canandaigua Motorsports Park, Ward got out of his car on the track to confront Stewart but was struck and killed by Stewart’s car.

Don Zimmer, MLB player/manager/coach

Died June 4, Age 83

Baseball lifer Zimmer spent 65 years in professional baseball as a player, manager and coach., winning 885 games as a big-league manager. From 2008 until his death, Zim was the last former Brooklyn Dodger still in the game.

Other Notables:

Jerry Coleman, baseball player-turned-broadcaster

Lou Hudson, basketball player

Hank Lauricella, Hall of Fame football player

Earl Morrall, Super Bowl quarterback

Robert Newhouse, NFL running back

Bob Suter, hockey player and member of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” U.S. team

Orlando Thomas, NFL lineman

Fuzzy Thurston, member of the 1960s Packers dynasty

Bob Welch, MLB pitcher