Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Before LeBron and Bronny, the Griffeys were among the fathers and sons who made sports history

By Victor Mather New York Times

When the Los Angeles Lakers selected Bronny James, 19, in the second round of the NBA draft on June 27, the team set up an intriguing storyline. Next season, he could play in the same lineup as his father, 39-year-old superstar LeBron James.

While there have been many great parent-child combos in sports history – Bobby and Barry Bonds in baseball; Peter and Kasper Schmeichel in soccer; Pamela, JaVale and Imani McGee in basketball – seldom do they play at the same time, much less on the same team.

But at least on a few other occasions, the stars have aligned to make it possible.

The Ageless Gordie Howe and sons

Gordie Howe retired from hockey at age 43 after an illustrious career. But when his sons, Mark and Marty, joined the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association three seasons later, he could not resist.

“They knew my greatest wish has always been to play pro hockey with my sons,” he said, “and when they asked me, ‘Would you be interested?’ I said, ‘Hell, yes.’ ”

His return proved not to be a brief cameo. Astonishingly, he played with his sons for seven seasons, moving on to the New England Whalers, who joined the NHL for the 1979-80 season as the Hartford Whalers. Howe was skating on major league ice at 51.

He played 80 games with the Whalers in his final season, scoring 15 goals before finally hanging up his skates. “I think I have another half-year in me,” he declared at the announcement.

Mark Howe played until 1995, and, like his father, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Griffeys, Junior and Senior

In August 1990, Ken Griffey announced his retirement at age 40. He had finished a great career as a talented slugger, most memorably for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s.

But only days later, he was picked up by the Seattle Mariners, who not coincidentally employed his son, 21-year-old budding superstar Ken Griffey Jr.

Batting second in his first at-bat for his new team, Griffey Sr. hit a single, which helped him win a bet with his son over who would get the first hit. Batting next, Griffey Jr. had a single of his own, and both players went on to score. “I wanted to cry,” Griffey Jr. said after the game.

In September of that season, they hit back-to-back homers against the California Angels.

The Griffeys played two seasons together before Griffey Sr. retired. Griffey Jr. went on to have a hall of fame career.

Another Junior-Senior pair

Late in the 2001 season, the Montreal Expos traded the great hitter and base stealer Tim Raines, 42, to the Baltimore Orioles, who had just called up Raines’ son, 22-year-old Tim Jr.

Their time together was brief, just four games before the season ended. The next season, Raines Jr. was back in the minors. Raines Sr. played one more season for the Florida Marlins.

In this case, the father’s career clearly outshined the son’s. Raines Sr. made the hall of fame. Raines Jr. played in only 75 career games.

Panhandle family

Sports historians had to dig deep into history to unearth a professional football player who played on the same gridiron as his dad – all the way back to 1921, to be exact.

The Columbus Panhandles of the Ohio League had tapped heavily into the Nesser family: Brothers Ted, John, Phil, Frank and Fred all played on the team at one point or another.

In 1920, the Panhandles became part of the new American Professional Football Association, and, in 1921, Ted Nesser was the player-coach. He was joined on the team by not only several brothers but also his son, Charles Nesser, 19.

The Columbus Panhandles? Of the American Professional Football Association? Are you thinking, “So what?”

If so, consider that the next year, the APFA changed its name: to the National Football League.

The Columbus Panhandles, by then named the Columbus Tigers, played their last season in 1926, but Ted and Charles Nesser remain the only NFL father-son duo to play on the same team at the same time.

Passing the Icelandic torch

In 1996, Iceland was playing a friendly match against Estonia in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, when striker Arnor Gudjohnsen subbed out. Replacing him was a talented 17-year-old making his debut for his country: Arnor’s son, Eidur.

Both men were mainstays of the Icelandic team for years and had good club careers. Arnor played in Belgium, France and elsewhere, while Eidur was most known for his time with the Chelsea Football Club in England.

Eidur has three soccer-playing sons of his own, and two of them, Sveinn Aron and Andri, have played for Iceland, although not at the same time as their father.

Iceland only has a population of 380,000.

Not quite LeBron

LeBron James is indisputably one of the best basketball players of all time, and some would argue the best.

The draft selection of LeBron James Jr., who goes by Bronny, was not a surprise. “My last year will be played with my son,” LeBron said in 2022.

But how good will Bronny be? Being drafted No. 55 is not a guarantee of success, or even a job; some players selected in that range don’t even make an NBA team.

Bronny played one season at Southern California, but started only six times and averaged 4.8 points a game. Predraft scouting reports projected him as a complementary NBA player at best.

But that isn’t likely to matter when he steps on the court and joins LeBron as part of the first father-son duo to play in the NBA.

And who’s next?

Well, golf is not a team sport. But did you know a certain 15-year-old just qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur? His name is Charlie. Charlie Woods.

Yeah, that Woods.