Famous athletes and sports figures are often treated like royalty – not just in the sports community, but in society as a whole. Some are richer than others, more popular than others, and even more beloved than others, but they all share a similar passion and are all driven by similar principles that make them great.
They have a way of influencing, inspiring, and emboldening younger generations to not only be the best version of themselves, but to reciprocate that same energy to those they surround themselves with. When athletes and sports figures use their platform for the greater good, amazing things can and will happen.
We see it on a daily basis. Whether they do something incredible in sport or do something charitable in their community, athletes and sports figures are constantly making a difference in this world – ultimately creating a legacy that will be remembered forever, even when their time on Earth comes to an end.
Which Famous Athletes and Sports Figures Have Passed Away in 2023?
There comes a time when we must say goodbye to the athletes and sports figures we’ve grown to love and support – it’s the harsh reality we’re all dealt with in life. Some of them lived a life full of glory and accomplishments, while others were just getting started and hadn’t quite reached their full potential yet.
Either way, it’s a tragedy every single time. For example, some of the famous athletes and sports figures we had to say goodbye to in 2022 are Bill Russell, Pelé, Franco Harris, Paul Silas, Mike Leach, Vin Scully, Len Dawson, Guy Lafleur, Bob Lanier, Shirley Spork, Joan Joyce, John Clayton, and more.
While 2023 is far from over, we’ve already had to say goodbye to some lovable and talented athletes and sports figures – and unfortunately, we’ll have to extend those goodbyes to many more athletes and sports figures in the coming months. Below, we remember those that might be gone, but are never forgotten.
1. Art McNally
Art McNally was born on July 1, 1925 and passed away on January 1, 2023 – he was 97 years old at the time of his death. His son, Tom McNally, confirmed his death and revealed that he died of natural causes at a hospice facility in Yardley, Pennsylvania – he was surrounded by his wife, kids, and grandkids.
McNally served as a field judge and referee for the NFL between 1959 and 1967 before being named the Supervisor of Officials and later the Director of Officiating – he continued to work with the NFL up until 2015. Last year, McNally became the first game official to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
2. Ken Block
Ken Block was born on November 21, 1967 and passed away on January 2, 2023 – he was just 55 years old at the time of his death. He was snowmobiling up a steep slope in the Mill Hollow area when his snowmobile was upended, ultimately landing on top of him. He was declared dead at the scene.
Block was a professional rally driver for the Hoonigan Racing Division. He competed in theFIA ERX Supercar Championship, World Rallycross Championship, Global Rallycross Championship, World Rally Championship, and Rally America – totaling 23 wins across all formats. His number 43 was retired.
3. Rosi Mittermaier
Rosi Mittermaier was born on August 5, 1950 and passed away on January 4, 2023 – she was 72 years old at the time of her death. Her cause of death is being attributed to a long battle with cancer. She was a talented German alpine skier between 1967 and 1976 and often went by the nickname ‘Gold-Rosi.’
Mittermaier made her World Cup debut in 1967 at the age of 16 and retired in 1976 at the age of 25 – the same year she was named overall World Cup champion. She also represented Germany in the 1976 Winter Olympics, winning a gold medal in the Downhill and Slalom, as well as a silver in the Giant Slalom.
4. Nate Colbert
Nate Colbert was born on April 9, 1946 and passed away on January 5, 2023 – he was 76 years old at the time of his death. According to his obituary, he died in his Las Vegas home and was surrounded by his wife and children – they had nine children together. An official cause of death wasn’t revealed.
Colbert made his MLB debut on April 14, 1966 and played in his final game on October 1, 1976. He spent 10 years in the majors, mostly with the San Diego Padres. He retired with a .243 batting average, 833 hits, 141 doubles, 25 triples, 173 home runs, 520 RBIs, 481 runs, and three All-Star appearances.
5. Gianluca Vialli
Gianluca Vialli was born on July 9, 1964 and passed away on January 6, 2023 – he was just 58 years old at the time of his death. He was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November 2018, but was cleared of it in April 2020. Unfortunately, the disease returned in December 2021 up until his death.
Vialli was an Italian footballer and manager who played for Cremonese, Sampdoria, Juventus, and Chelsea between 1980 and 1999 – scoring 259 goals at the club level. He also made 59 appearances for Italy’s national team and scored 16 international goals. He was also the manager of Chelsea and Watford.
6. Jorge Ballesteros
Jorge Ballesteros was born on May 27, 1983 and passed away on January 10, 2023 – he was just 39 years old at the time of his death. He was found in his car with a gunshot wound to the head in an apparent suicide. He was immediately rushed to the hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
Ballesteros was a Spanish sharpshooter who competed in the IPSC Handgun World Shoot, IPS European Handgun Championship, and IPSC Spanish Handgun Championship. He won 15 gold medals across all three formats, including a gold medal at the 2017 IPSC Handgun World Shoot in Châteauroux.
7. Charles White
Charles White was born on January 22, 1958 and passed away on January 11, 2023 – he was 64 years old at the time of his death. He struggled with dementia in recent years – as a result of his football career – and was living in an assisted living facility as of 2022. His cause of death was attributed to liver cancer.
White was a running back who spent four years with the USC Trojans – rushing for 6,245 yards and 49 touchdowns in 49 games played. After winning the Heisman Trophy in 1979, he was drafted into the NFL and spent 8 years in the league. In 1987, he rushed for 1,374 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Rams.
8. Hunter Brown
Hunter Brown is a name many people might not recognize, but he’s a name everyone should remember. He was an offensive lineman for the Air Force Academy football team and was excited to represent his country in the Air Force – assigned to Cadet Squadron 16 while he pursued a major in management.
He tragically passed away on January 9, 2023 while on his way to class at the academy. His autopsy report revealed his cause of death was a blood clot in the lungs, which followed a blood clot in his legs that developed after football practice. He was beloved by his squadron, coaches, and teammates.
9. Gino Odjick
Gino Odjick was born on September 7, 1970 and passed away on January 15, 2023 – he was just 52 years old at the time of his death. His cause of death was attributed to a heart attack, which was confirmed by his sister. He left behind eight children and five sisters, who all loved him dearly.
Odjick was a Canadian hockey player who was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 5th round of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. He spent 12 years in the league and retired with 64 goals, 73 assists, and 137 assists in 605 games played. He recorded a career-high 16 goals, 13 assists, and 29 points in 1993-94.
10. Chris Ford
Chris Ford was born on January 11, 1949 and passed away on January 17, 2023 – less than a week after celebrating his 74th birthday. He had suffered a heart attack earlier in the month and later died in the hospital from heart failure. He’s best known for scoring the first ever three-point shot in NBA history.
Ford was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the 2nd round of the 1972 NBA Draft and spent 10 years in the league between 1972 and 1982. He averaged 9.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.6 steals per game (794 games played). He won a title with the Boston Celtics in 1981 before retiring a year later.
11. Sal Bando
Sal Bando was born on February 13, 1944 and passed away on January 20, 2023 – he was 78 years old at the time of his death. His family announced his death in a statement and confirmed he had succumbed to cancer after a five-year battle. He is survived by his wife of 54 years and the couple’s three sons.
Bando was an American third baseman who made his MLB debut on September 3, 1966 and spent 16 seasons in the major leagues. He retired with a .254 batting average, 1,790 hits, 242 home runs, 1,039 RBIs, and 982 runs. He was a four-time All-Star and won three World Series titles with the Oakland A’s.
12. Jay Briscoe
Jamin Dale Pugh, known professionally as Jay Briscoe was born on January 25, 1984 and passed away on January 17, 2023 – just one week before his 39th birthday. He died in a car crash when a Chevrolet Silverado 1500 unexpectedly changed lines and hit his Chevrolet Silverado 2500 head-on.
Briscoe was an American professional wrestler who teamed up with his brother, Mark Briscoe – known as the Briscoe Brothers – in Ring of Honor. Together, they won two ROH World Championships, a World Six-Man Tag Team Championship, and a record 13 World Tag Team Championships in the promotion.
13. Anton Walkes
Anton Walkes was born on February 8, 1997 and passed away on January 19, 2023 – he was just 25 years old at the time of his death. He was involved in a boating collision near Miami Marine Stadium on January 18 and rushed to a nearby hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries the following day.
Walkes was an English professional footballer who began his senior career with Tottenham Hotspur in 2016 and also played for Portsmouth, Atlanta United, and Charlotte FC. He spent the last three seasons of his career in the MLS. He made 23 appearances for Charlotte FC during their inaugural MLS season.
14. Bill Schonely
Bill Schonely was born on June 1, 1929 and passed away on January 21, 2023 – he was 93 years old at the time of his death. A cause of death wasn’t released at the time. He’s remembered as a United States Marine Corps veteran and legendary broadcaster with a unique baritone voice – nicknamed ‘The Schonz.’
Schonely spent 28 years as the Portland Trail Blazers’ broadcaster – beginning with the team’s inaugural year. He also spent time as a broadcaster for the MLB, NHL, college sports, and amateur sports. He’s best known for his unique voice and coining the term ‘Rip City’ – a popular nickname for the Trail Blazers.
15. Jessie Lemonier
Jessie Lemonier was born on January 31, 1997 and passed away on January 26, 2023 – he was just 25 years old at the time of his death. A cause of death wasn’t released at the time and has yet to be revealed to this day. He left behind a girlfriend, who was expecting their first child at the time of his sudden death.
Lemonier played college football at Liberty University and went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft. He was eventually signed by the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted free agent. He only played 13 games in the NFL and had 1.5 sacks with the Lions in 2021. He was scheduled to play in the USFL in 2023.
16. Billy Packer
Billy Packer was born on February 25, 1940 and passed away on January 26, 2023 – he was 82 years old at the time of his death. His cause of death was attributed to kidney failure. He and his wife, who passed away in 2022, left behind three children – two of whom now work in the sports media industry.
Packer is a legendary play-by-play announcer who spent more than three decades with NBC Sports and CBS Sports. He’s best known as a play-by-play announcer for March Madness (including the Final Four) between 1975 and 2008. In 1993, he won an Emmy in 1993 for Outstanding Sports Personality/Analyst.
17. Kyle Smaine
Kyle Smaine was born on June 27, 1991 and passed away on January 29, 2023 – he was just 31 years old when he died. He was skiing in an avalanche at Mount Norikura, a potentially active volcano in Japan and part of the Hida Mountains. He died alongside Adam Ü, who was also buried in the avalanche.
Smaine was an American freestyle skier who represented the United States in the 2015 FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships in Kreischberg, Austria – where he won a gold medal in the halfpipe discipline. He’s being remembered as someone who loved to have fun and live life on the edge.
18. Bobby Hull
Bobby Hull was born on January 3, 1939 and passed away on January 30, 2023 – just a few weeks after celebrating his 84th birthday. A cause of death wasn’t released at the time, but he died in his Wheaton, Illinois home and his death was confirmed by his son, Brett Hull, via the St. Louis Blues’ Twitter account.
Hull spent 7 years in the WHA before embarking on a legendary 16-year career in the NHL with the Jets, Whalers, and Blackhawks. He scored 610 goals, 560 assists, and 1,170 points in 1,063 career games in the NHL. The Hall of Famer was a 12-time All-Star who won a Stanley Cup and two WHA championships.
19. Stanley Wilson Jr.
Stanley Wilson Jr. was born on November 5, 1982 and passed away on February 1, 2023 – he was just 40 years old at the time of his death. Reports initially indicated that he collapsed inside the Metropolitan State Hospital, but it was later reported that he was beaten by law enforcement through excessive force.
Wilson Jr. was a standout cornerback for Stanford University between 2001 and 2004 after redshirting in 2000 – he earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors as a senior in 2004. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 3rd round in 2005 and spent three years with the team before a career-ending injury.
20. Christian Atsu
Christian Atsu was born January 10, 1992 and passed away on February 6, 2023 – he was just 31 years old at the time of his death. He disappeared following the massive earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey – he was in Turkey. On February 14, his body was found among the rubble of a building he resided in.
Atsu was a Ghanaian soccer player who was playing for Hatayspor in Turkey at the time of his death. He joined the team before the 2022-23 season and played in three league games and one Turkish Cup game. On February 5, the day before he died, Atsu scored his first goal with the team – a game-winner.
21. Volkan Kahraman
Volkan Kahraman was born on October 10, 1979 and passed away on February 8, 2023 – he was just 43 years old at the time of his death. He was involved in an argument with a former friend, Orhan, in Vienna, Austria. Ohran ended up shooting and killing Kahraman before shooting and killing himself.
Kahraman was an Austrian footballer and football manager. He played for numerous teams across Austria between 1997 and 2009 – he was a bit of a journeyman. He also played three international games for Austria’s national team in 2002. He coached youth football and was involved in politics prior to his death.
22. Elena Fanchini
Elena Fanchini was born on April 30, 1985 and passed away on February 8, 2023 – she was just 37 years old at the time of her death. She was diagnosed with cancer ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics, forcing her to withdraw. Her cause of death was attributed to colon cancer nearly five years later.
Fanchini was an Italian alpine ski racer who competed in three Winter Olympics (2006, 2010, and 2014), 13 seasons of the World Cup (2005-2008, 2010-2018), and six World Championships (2005-2007, 2011-2017). She finished her World Cup career with two wins in the downhill discipline in 2006 and 2015.
23. Conrad Dobler
Conrad Dobler was born on October 1, 1950 and passed away on February 13, 2023 – he was 72 years old at the time of his death. A cause of death wasn’t revealed, but his daughter confirmed he struggled with memory loss and decision making in his later years. His brain was donated for CTE research.
Dobler was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 5th round of the 1972 NFL Draft. He spent 10 seasons in the NFL with the Cardinals, Saints, and Bills. He’s best known as being one of the NFL’s dirtiest players of all-time – many people said he didn’t want to just tackle you, he wanted to hurt you.
24. Tim McCarver
Tim McCarver was born on October 16, 1941 and passed away on February 16, 2023 – he was 81 years old at the time of his death. The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced his death and it was later confirmed that he died of congestive heart failure – he was surrounded by family in his final moments.
McCarver was an American catcher who made his MLB debut on September 10, 1959 and spent 21 years in the major leagues. He retired with a .271 batting average, 1,501 hits, 97 home runs, 645 home runs, and 590 runs. He was a two-time All-Star and won two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
25. Ryan Keeler
Ryan Keeler was born in mid-February 2003 and passed away on February 20, 2023 – a week after celebrating his 20th birthday. Police reports indicate that he was battling an illness the week leading up to his death and was prescribed medication a few days before being found dead in a studio apartment.
Keeler was a 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive lineman who hadn’t yet received his opportunity at the college level. He spent the 2021 season with Rutgers, but didn’t see any game action. He transferred to UNLV after the season and played in seven games last season, totaling eight tackles for the Rebels.
26. Jerry Richardson
Jerry Richardson was born on July 18, 1936 and passed away on March 1, 2023 – he was 86 years old at the time of his death. A cause of death wasn’t revealed, but it was reported that he died peacefully in his sleep at his home. The news comes six years after he was forced to sell the Carolina Panthers.
Richardson was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the 1958 NFL Draft, but only spent two years in the NFL as a player. More than three decades after he retired, Richardson became the owner of the Panthers after they were awarded an expansion team. During his 23 years as owner, the Panthers were 183-184-1.
27. Otis Taylor
Otis Taylor was born on August 11, 1942 and passed away on March 9, 2023 – he was 80 years old at the time of his death. He began experiencing seizures in 1969 and had been bedridden the past few years after a 30-year battle with Parkinson’s disease – he was first diagnosed in 1990 – and dementia.
Taylor was a wide receiver who spent 11 seasons in the NFL – all of which with the Kansas City Chiefs. He recorded 410 catches, 7,306 yards, and 57 touchdowns in 130 games played – he surpassed 1,000 yards twice and led the league in yards in 1971, while also leading the league in touchdowns in 1967.
28. Dick Haley
Dick Haley was born on October 2, 1937 and passed away on March 10, 2023 – he was 85 years old at the time of his death. His son, former NFL head coach Todd Haley, announced his death after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Todd is now the coach of the USFL’s Memphis Showboats.
As for Dick Haley, he spent six seasons as a player in the NFL between 1959 and 1964 before embarking on a legendary career as an executive. He served as the director of player personnel for the Steelers and Jets between 1971 and 2002, and was a personnel analyst for the Jets and Dolphins in his later years.
29. Bud Grant
Bud Grant was born on May 20, 1927 and passed away on March 11, 2023 – he was 95 years old at the time of his death. An exact cause of death wasn’t revealed, but it was reported that he died at his home in Bloomington, Minnesota. He’s survived by his two daughters, three sons, 21 grandchildren, and brother.
Grant had a short playing career in the NBA (2 seasons) and NFL (2 seasons) before embarking on a legendary coaching career. He led the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL) to a 102-56-2 record between 1957 and 1966, and then led the Minnesota Vikings (NFL) to a 158-96-5 record between 1967 and 1985.
30. Felton Spencer
Felton Spencer was born on January 15, 1968 and passed away on March 12, 2023 – he was just 55 years old at the time of his death. His sister, Tammy Pollock, announced his death later that day and revealed that he ‘passed away peacefully’ in a hospital bed at the University of Louisville Hospital.
Spencer was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 6 overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. He spent 12 seasons in the NBA with six different teams and averaged 5.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game over his career. He was a member of the 1990-91 All-Rookie Team with Minnesota.
31. Joe Pepitone
Joe Pepitone was born on October 9, 1940 and passed away on March 13, 2023 – he was 82 years old and living with his daughter, Cara Pepitone, at the time of his death. His son, BJ Pepitone, announced his death and, while an exact cause of death was unknown, the family believes he suffered a heart attack.
Pepitone was an American baseball player who spent 12 seasons in the MLB between 1962 and 1973 – most of which with the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs. He retired with a .258 batting average, 1,315 hits, 219 home runs, 721 runs batted in, and 606 runs scored – he was a three-time All-Star.
32. Willis Reed
Willis Reed was born on June 25, 1942 and passed away on March 21, 2023 – he was 80 years old at the time of his death, which was confirmed by his teammate, Bill Bradley, and later by his former team, the New York Knicks. Reports indicate that he was struggling with congestive heart problems for years.
Reed is a Hall of Fame basketball player who spent 10 seasons with the Knicks between 1964 and 1974. During that time, he averaged 18.7 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 650 career games played. He was a two-time champion, 7-time All-Star, two-time Finals MVP, and one-time regular season MVP.
33. Bill Leavy
Bill Levy was born on March 25, 1947 and passed away on March 28, 2023 – he was 76 years old at the time of his death, which came just three days after celebrating his birthday. An official cause of death wasn’t revealed and nothing has been released since, but reports suggest he died from a heart attack.
Leavy was a police officer and firefighter in San Jose, California for 27 years before embarking on a legendary officiating career. He spent 11 years as an official in Division I college football and another 20 years as an official in the NFL – appearing in 15 playoff games and two Super Bowls in his career.
34. Robert Miller
Robert Miller, better known by his ring name Bushwhacker Butch, was born on October 21, 1944 and passed away on April 2, 2023 – he was 78 years old at the time of his death. He died in a hospital in Los Angeles with an undisclosed illness – he was visiting LA to take part in the festivities for WrestleMania 39.
Bushwhacker Butch was best known for teaming up with Bushwhacker Luke in the WWF – they called themselves The Bushwhackers. They won numerous championships during their time together, which lasted between 1983 and 1988, and were eventually inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015.
35. Hobie Landrith
Hobie Landrith was born on March 16, 1930 and passed away on April 6, 2023 – he was 93 years old at the time of his death. While no official cause of death was released at the time and nothing has been released since, several reports suggest he died of natural causes inside his home, surrounded by family.
Landrith was an American catcher who made his MLB debut on July 30, 1950 and spent the next 14 years in the major leagues. He retired with a .233 batting average, 450 hits, 34 home runs, 203 RBIs, and 179 runs. He spent most of his career with the Cincinnati Reds, but played for six other teams in his career.
36. Raymond Sawada
Raymond Sawada was born on February 19, 1985 and passed away on April 10, 2023 – he was just 38 years old at the time of his death. His family created a GoFundMe account in his honor, revealing in the description that he died of a heart attack doing what he loved – playing a recreational game of hockey.
Sawada was drafted by the Dallas Stars in the second round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and he made his NHL debut with the team during the 2008-09 season. He only played in 11 games during his three years in the NHL and only had one career goal before playing in various leagues around the world.
37. Craig Breen
Craig Breen was born on February 2, 1990 and passed away on April 13, 2023 – he was just 33 years old at the time of his death. He died doing what he loved, but in the most tragic way possible – he was driving his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 car during a testing session for the 2023 Croatia Rally when he crashed.
Breen made his World Rally Championship debut in 2009 and has competed every year since, with the exception of 2013. He raced in 82 rallies and, while he had no wins or championships, he did have nine podium finishes, 35 stage wins, and 405 career points. His last rally was the 2023 Rally Sweden.
38. Chris Smith
Chris Smith was born on February 11, 1992 and passed away on April 17, 2023 – he was just 31 years old at the time of his death. He was killed in a shooting at an apartment complex in Meridian, Mississippi, but no further details were released at the time. His death comes just two months after he turned 31.
Smith played college football at Arkansas before being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He spent eight seasons in the NFL and last played for the Houston Texans during the 2021 season. In 72 games played, he had 80 tackles, 11.0 sacks, and 12 tackles for loss.
39. Tori Bowie
Tori Bowie was born on August 27, 1990 and passed away on April 23, 2023 – she was just 32 years old and 7-9 months pregnant at the time of her death. She was found dead in her home in Orlando, Florida by police officers, who were conducting a welfare check after her family hadn’t heard from her in a while.
Bowie represented the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, winning a gold medal in the 4×100-meter relay, a silver medal in the 100-meter dash, and a bronze medal in the 200-meter dash. She also won two gold medals and one silver medal at the World Championships.
40. Dick Groat
Dick Groat was born on November 4, 1930 and passed away on April 27, 2023 – he was 92 years old at the time of his death. His family revealed that he died of complications from a stroke he suffered a week prior and was being treated in the UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh – a city he called home for a while.
Groat was an American shortstop who made his MLB debut in 1952 and went on to spend 14 years in the major leagues between 1952 and 1967. He retired with a .286 batting average, 2,138 hits, 39 home runs, 707 RBIs, and 829 runs. He was an 8-time All-Star, 1960 MVP, and a two-time World Series champion.
41. Lance Blanks
Lance Blanks was born on September 9, 1966 and passed away on May 3, 2023 – he was just 56 years old at the time of his death, which was reported as a suicide. His daughter, Riley Blanks Reed, confirmed the cause of death in an ESPN column – the family is unsure why he decided to end his life when he did.
Blanks spent just three seasons in the NBA before spending several years overseas. He returned to the NBA in 2000 as a scout, director of scouting, assistant GM, and even spent three years as General Manager of the Phoenix Suns between 2010 and 2013. He also spent several years as a TV analyst.
42. Petr Klima
Petr Klima was born on December 23, 1964 and passed away on May 4, 2023 – he was just 58 years old at the time of his death. He reportedly died in his home in Chomutov and, while a cause of death wasn’t revealed, it was described as an unexpected death and confirmed by the Czech Ice Hockey Federation.
Klima spent 13 seasons in the NHL between 1985 and 1999, most of which were spent with the Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, and Tampa Bay Lightning. He scored 313 goals, dished 260 assists, and had 573 points in 786 games – most notably winning a Stanley Cup with the Oilers in 1989-90.
43. Vida Blue
Vida Blue was born on July 28, 1949 and passed away on May 6, 2023 – he was 73 years old at the time of his death. Blue had a history of drug problems and was also diagnosed with cancer, which ultimately led to his demise earlier this year – he died in a San Francisco hospital of complications from cancer.
Blue spent 17 years in the major leagues between 1969 and 1986 with the Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, and Kansas City Royals. He retired with a 209-161 record, 3.27 ERA, and 2,175 strikeouts in 3,343.1 innings pitched. He helped lead the Athletics to three-straight World Series titles.
44. Joe Kapp
Joe Kapp was born on March 19, 1938 and passed away on May 8, 2023 – just a few months after his 85th birthday. He was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for nearly seven years and ultimately died from complications of the disease – he was staying at a care facility in San Jose, California at the time.
Kapp spent four seasons in the NFL between 1967 and 1970, most notably leading the Minnesota Vikings to a 12-1-0 record in 1969 – where he threw for 1,726 yards, 19 touchdowns, and came second in MVP voting. He also won an NFL Championship in 1969 and went on to coach the University of California.
45. Denny Crum
Denny Crum was born on March 2, 1937 and passed away on May 9, 2023 – he was 86 years old. Crum had a history of strokes, suffering one in 2017 and one in 2019 before dying in his Louisville home. He died on the same day he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame 29 years prior.
Crum coached the University of Louisville men’s basketball team for 30 years between 1971 and 2001. During that time, he led the school to a 675-295 (.696) record and won two NCAA titles with the Cardinals – one in 1980 and another in 1986. Crum also coached the Cardinals to six Final Four appearances.
46. John Bland
John Bland was born on September 22, 1945 and passed away on May 9, 2023 – he was 77 years old at the time of his death, which came as a result of his long battle with cancer. According to the PGA Tour, the former golfer is ‘survived by his wife, Sonja, and his three children, John-Mark, Bonney, and Candice.’
Bland turned professional in 1969 and spent time on the European Tour, Sunshine Tour, Champions Tour, and European Senior Tour. He compiled 36 wins as a pro, including 19 on the Sunshine Tour and five on the PGA Tour Champions. He played in The Open Championship 15 times, but missed the cut 11 times.
47. Marlene Hagge
Marlene Hagge was born on February 16, 1934 and passed away on May 16, 2023 – she was 89 years old at the time of her death. She died in a memory care facility and was dealing with complications due to a fall she suffered last year. Her death came roughly 10 years after her husband, Ernie Vossler, died.
Hagge was one of 13 women who founded the LPGA Tour in 1950, but she was the last surviving founder – none of the 12 others are still alive. She ended up winning 26 tournaments on the LPGA Tour and even won the 1952 LPGA Championship. She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame 50 years later.
48. Billy Graham
‘Superstar’ Billy Graham was born on June 7, 1943 (his real name is Eldridge Wayne Coleman Jr.) and passed away on May 17, 2023 – just three weeks before his 80th birthday. He was treated for an ear and skull infection in January, but it worsened and he died of multiple organ failure – he was on life support.
Graham played an integral role in the popularization of the World Wide Wrestling Federation – now known as the WWE – between 1975 and 2009 before transitioning to a non-wrestling role in the WWE in 2015. He was a three-time world champion, award-winning bodybuilder, and friend of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
49. Jim Brown
Jim Brown was born on February 17, 1936 and passed away on May 18, 2023 – just a few months after his 87th birthday. He reportedly died of natural causes while at his Los Angeles home with his wife – Monique Brown – by his side. His death touched a lot of people, both in sports and entertainment.
Brown only spent nine seasons in the NFL, but he made the most of it. He amassed 12,312 rushing yards, 2,499 receiving yards, and 126 total touchdowns in 118 games. The 9-time Pro Bowler, 3-time MVP, and one-time NFL Champion was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
50. Jaden Hullaby
Jaden Hullaby was born on February 13, 2002 and passed away sometime after May 19, 2023 – just a few months after his 21st birthday. A cause of death wasn’t revealed, but his family confirmed his body was found shortly after they reported him missing. He was last seen on May 19 and was untrackable.
Hullaby was a talented high school athlete who was a part of the Texas Longhorns’ recruiting class in 2020. He only appeared in one game over the next two seasons as a linebacker before entering the transfer portal and becoming a tight end for the University of New Mexico. He had 103 yards in 2022.
51. Malik Grant
Malik Grant was born on May 29, 1997 and passed away on May 25, 2023 – just four days before his 26th birthday. A cause of death wasn’t revealed, but his family confirmed his body was found on May 25 and described him as a ‘remarkable individual’ in a statement after news of his death went viral.
Grant played three seasons of college football at Marshall University before joining the New England Patriots upon graduating college. He suffered a season-ending injury in the 2019 preseason and was released in 2020 before re-signing with the Patriots in 2021 – he last played football in 2022 in the USFL.
52. Dave Wilcox
Dave Wilcox was born on September 29, 1942 and passed away on April 19, 2023 – he was 80 years old at the time of his death. He was the father of Justin Wilcox, who currently coaches the University of California men’s football team. A cause of death wasn’t revealed, but was confirmed by the Hall of Fame.
Wilcox was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000 after a storied 11-year career with the San Francisco 49ers. He recorded 36.5 sacks, 12 fumble recoveries, 14 interceptions, and 2 defensive touchdowns in 153 games as a linebacker. He was named to seven Pro Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro linebacker.
53. Rick Hummel
Rick Hummel was born on February 25, 1946 and passed away on May 20, 2023 – he was 77 years old at the time of his death. He reportedly died at his St. Louis home in his sleep after what was described as a ‘short, aggressive illness,’ according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch – the same newspaper he wrote for.
Hummel spent more than 50 years covering sports for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch – he was hired in 1971 after serving three years in the U.S. Army. He served as President of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and served on the Baseball Hall of Fame Overview Committee – he was an iconic columnist.
54. Jim Hines
Jim Hines was born on September 10, 1946 and passed away on June 3, 2023 – he was 76 years old at the time of his death. A cause of death wasn’t revealed, but it was confirmed by the Olympics and World Athletics. The track and field community is remembering him as one of the fastest men on this planet.
Hines spent a few years in the NFL between 1968 and 1970, but his talents were best served on the track – where he became the first man to run the 100-meter dash in under 10 seconds. He won a gold medal in the 100-meter dash and the 4×100-meter relay at the 1968 Olympics – which were held in Mexico City.
55. Norma Hunt
Norma Hunt was born on March 28, 1938 and passed away on June 4, 2023 – she was 85 years old at the time of her death, which came more than six years after her husband, Lamar Hunt, died of prostate cancer. A cause of death wasn’t revealed for Norma, but the family confirmed the death in a statement.
Along with her three children, Norma Hunt inherited the Kansas City Chiefs’ organization following her husband’s death in 2006. She’s the only woman to attend every Super Bowl, a streak that will officially come to an end in February 2024. She always maintained a close relationship with the staff and players.
56. Roger Craig
Roger Craig was born on February 17, 1930 and passed away on June 4, 2023 – he was 93 years old at the time of his death. An exact cause of death wasn’t revealed, but a family member revealed that he was battling a short illness leading up to his death. He reportedly died in San Diego, where he was living.
Craig spent 12 seasons in the major leagues between 1955 and 1966 – mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets. He retired with a 74-98 record in 186 starts, throwing a 3.83 ERA and 803 strikeouts in 1,536.1 innings pitched. He also managed the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants.
57. The Iron Sheik
Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, best known by his ring name ‘The Iron Sheik,’ was born on March 15, 1942 and passed away on June 7, 2023 – he was 81 years old at the time of his death. A cause of death wasn’t revealed, but he died at his home in his sleep and it’s believed he passed away of natural causes.
The Iron Sheik played an integral role in the popularization of professional wrestling in the 1970s and 1980s – he’s the only Iranian wrestler to be named a WWE champion, which he achieved in 1983 when he won the World Heavyweight Championship. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.
58. Jim Turner
Jim Turner was born on March 28, 1941 and passed away on June 10, 2023 – he was 82 years old at the time of his death. He reportedly died of heart failure in Arvada, Colorado with his family by his side. He’s survived by his wife, Mary Kay, their three daughters, his four siblings, and eight grandchildren.
Turner spent 16 seasons in the NFL as a kicker for the Denver Broncos (9 seasons) and New York Jets (7 seasons). He made 304 of his 488 field goals (62.3%) and 521 of his 543 extra point attempts (95.9%) during his career. He was a two-time Pro Bowl kicker and won the Super Bowl with the Jets in 1968.
59. Patrick Gasienica
Patrick Gasienica was born on November 28, 1998 and passed away on June 12, 2023 – he was just 24 years old at the time of his death. He was returning home from work on his motorcycle when he was involved in a deadly crash. He was living with his mother in McHenry, Illinois when he died in June.
Gasienica was born in the United States, but his parents were immigrants from Zakopane – a small town in Poland. He was born to a family of ski jumpers, so it was only natural he follow in their footsteps. He made his Olympic debut in 2022, where he competed in the men’s quartet, normal hill, and large hill.
60. Ray Lewis III
Ray Lewis III, the son of Hall of Fame NFL player Ray Lewis, was born on June 5, 1995 and passed away on June 15, 2023 – he was just 28 years old at the time of his death. Police believe he died from an accidental overdose. They administered Narcan after responding to a 911 call, but it was too late.
Lewis III never made it to the NFL, but he did play five years of college football – starting his career at Miami University and eventually transferring Coastal University and virginia Union. Unfortunately, he didn’t see much playing time in college and never caught the eye of NFL scouts. His death came as a surprise.
61. Clark Haggans
Clark Haggans was born on January 10, 1977 and passed away on June 19, 2023 – he was 46 years old at the time of his death. While no foul play was evident, the Larimer County coroner’s officer couldn’t release a cause of death and was investigating the manner of his passing. He died inside his residence.
Haggans was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the No. 137 overall pick (5th round) in the 2000 NFL Draft. The Super Bowl XL winner spent 13 seasons in the NFL and recorded 520 tackles, 49 tackles for loss, 46.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, and 24 passes defensed.
62. Cedric Killings
Cedric Killings was born on December 14, 1977 and passed away on June 21, 2023 – he was just 45 years old at the time of his death. His cause of death was pancreatic cancer and he was survived by his wife, Shavon Killings, and their three children. Shavon wrote a touching tribute for him on Facebook.
Killings went undrafted in the 2000 NFL Draft, but was later signed as a free agent. He went on to play five seasons in the NFL with five different teams, and record 41 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, and 3.0 sacks in 34 games played and 2 games started. He spent most of his career fighting for a spot on the roster.
63. Ryan Mallett
Ryan Mallett was born on June 5, 1988 and passed away on June 27, 2023 – he was just 38 years old at the time of his death. He was swimming off Gulf Shore Drive in Destin, Florida when he drowned on his way back to shore from a sandbar. His tragic death wasn’t caused by a rip tide or dangerous conditions.
Mallett was drafted by the New England Patriots with the No. 74 (3rd round) in the 2011 NFL Draft. He spent five years in the NFL as a backup quarterback and threw for 1,835 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in 21 games played – he was 3-5-0 as a starter. He last played for the Ravens in 2017.
64. Vince Tobin
Vince Tobin was born on September 29, 1943 and passed away on July 3, 2023 – he was 79 years old at the time of his death. While no cause of death was revealed, it was confirmed that he passed away inside his home in Goodyear, Arizona. He was remembered by players and coaches around the NFL.
Tobin was a defensive back for the Missouri Tigers before starting a coaching career that would span five decades. He led the Arizona Cardinals to a 28-43 record as head coach between 1996 and 2000. He was also a defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, and Detroit Lions in the NFL.
65. Fred Willis
Fred Willis was born on December 9, 1947 and passed away on July 4, 2023 – he was 75 years old at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife, Darlene Shiner and their five children – Drew, Brett, Hunt, Taylor, and Layne – and was also the grandfather to 9 grandchildren. A funeral was held on July 12.
Willis was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals with the No. 93 overall pick (4th round) in the 1971 NFL Draft. He played six seasons in the NFL and recorded 2,831 rushing yards, 203 catches, 1,380 receiving yards, and 23 total touchdowns in 77 games played. He had a career-high 950 scrimmage yards in 1973.
66. Johnie Cooks
Johnie Cooks was born on November 23, 1958 and passed away on July 6, 2023 – he was 64 years old at the time of his death. While an official cause of death wasn’t revealed, it was confirmed that he was battling an illness leading up to his death. A memorial was held inside Davis Wade Stadium on July 13.
Cooks was drafted by the Baltimore Colts with the No. 2 overall pick (1st round) in the 1982 NFL Draft. He spent 10 seasons in the NFL and recorded 2 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, 4 interceptions, 32.0 sacks, and 1 defensive touchdown. He won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants in the 1990 season.
67. Nikki McCray-Penson
Nikki McCray-Penson was born on December 17, 1971 and passed away on July 7, 2023 – she was just 51 years old at the time of her death. An exact cause of death wasn’t revealed, but she allegedly had pneumonia leading up to her death and had a four-year battle with breast cancer between 2013-2017.
McCray-Penson was drafted by the Washington Mystics in the 1998 WNBA Allocation Draft and went on to spend nine seasons in the league. She averaged 10.1 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 0.9 steals per game and was named to three All-Star rosters. She also won two Olympic gold medals with the USA.
68. Mikala Jones
Mikala Jones was a 44-year-old who died on July 9, 2023 doing what he loved – surfing. He was out on the ocean in the Mentawai Islands off the western coast of Sumatra when tragedy struck. The fin of his surfboard ended up cutting his femoral artery, which is responsible for delivering blood to the lower limbs.
Jones was well-known for his incredible surfing videos and photographs, which helped to show the artistic side of surfing. He liked to live life on the edge, often going the extra mile in order to get the perfect shot. The 44-year-old was survived by his wife, Emma Brereton, and their two daughters, Bella and Violet.
69. Joe Campbell
Joe Campbell was born on May 8, 1955 and passed away on July 9, 2023 – he was 68 years old at the time of his death. He was allegedly hiking in Eustis, Florida when he suffered an apparent heart attack – resulting in his tragic death. He was survived by his two daughters, Daryn Garnant and Micah Mirigian.
Campbell was drafted by the New Orleans Saints with the No. 7 overall (1st round) pick in the 1977 NFL Draft. He only played five seasons in the NFL and recorded just 8.0 sacks and two fumble recoveries in 65 games played, but he was a part of the Oakland Raiders’ Super Bowl championship team in 1981.
70. Mike Halac
Mike Halac was born on May 14, 1968 and passed away on July 11, 2023 – he was just 55 years old at the time of his death. An official cause of death wasn’t revealed, but his daughter said he died peacefully in his sleep. He talked about his Type 2 diabetes diagnosis in the past and suffered a recent back injury.
Halac, who many people know as ‘Mantaur’ or ‘Tank,’ was an American professional wrestler who spent time with the World Wrestling Foundation (now known as the WWE) in the mid-1990s. He also spent time with the Catch Wrestling Association, Extreme Championship Wrestling, and US Wrestling Association.
71. Danielle Ballard
Danielle Ballard was born on November 16, 1993 and passed away on July 13, 2023 – she was just 29 years old at the time of her death. It was reported that she was struck by a vehicle and later succumbed to her injuries while being treated in a nearby hospital. The incident allegedly happened at 1:30 a.m..
Ballard was a standout guard with the LSU Tigers between 2012 and 2015 – when she averaged 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.4 steals in 29.6 minutes per game (81 games played; 67 games started). She helped lead the Tigers to the third round of the NCAA Tournament in 2013 and 2014.
72. Cody Ince
Cody Ince was born on December 18, 1999 and passed away on July 15, 2023 – he was just 23 years old at the time of his death. His body was discovered inside his apartment in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, but a cause of death was not immediately revealed to the public – it was described as ‘shocking’ and ‘sudden.’
Ince was a standout offensive lineman for the Iowa Hawkeyes between 2018 and 2021 – he was 6-foot-5 and weighed 260 pounds. He started 10 of his 29 games played during his college career, but various lingering injuries forced him to retire from the game before earning an opportunity to play in the NFL.
73. Magnus White
Magnus White was born on November 18, 2005 and passed away on July 30, 2023 – he was just 17 years old at the time of his death. He died doing what he loved, which was cycling. He was riding down the shoulder of a highway in Boulder, Colorado – his hometown – when he was struck by a vehicle.
White was a member of the USA Cycling’s junior men’s national team and had a promising career ahead of him. In 2021, he won the USA Cyclocross Junior Men’s National Championship and he even got the opportunity to represent the United States at the cyclocross world championship in 2022 and 2023.
74. Rocky Wirtz
Rocky Wirtz was born on October 5, 1952 and passed away on July 25, 2023 – he was 70 years old at the time of his death. He died after a brief illness and was survived by wife Marilyn, and children Danny (Anne) Wirtz, Hillary Wirtz (Erin Quaglia), Kendall (Brendan) Murphy, and Elizabeth Queen (Joe Barley).
Wirtz was the principal owner and chairman of the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL, which he inherited from his father, Bill Wirtz, in 2007. He helped lead the franchise to three Stanley Cup titles during his tenure as owner (2010, 2013, 2015) and played a big part in fixing the team’s reputation among fans.
75. Alex Collins
Alex Collins was born on August 26, 1994 and passed away on August 13, 2023 – he was just 28 years old at the time of his death. He was riding his motorcycle in Lauderdale Lakers, Florida when he suddenly crashed into the rear passenger side of an SUV. Police officers pronounced him dead at the scene.
Collins was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks with the No. 171 overall (5th round) pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and went on to play five seasons in the league. He recorded 1,997 rushing yards, 59 catches, 467 receiving yards, and 19 total touchdowns in 50 games played. He last played for the Seahawks in 2021.
76. Rodion Amirov
Rodion Amirov was born on October 2, 2001 and passed away on August 14, 2023 – he was just 21 years old at the time of his death. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor two years ago before deciding to return to Ufa, Russia for treatment and continued that treatment in Munich and Toronto before his death.
Amirov was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs with the No. 15 overall (1st round) pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He spent most of his young career in the MHL, KHL, and VHL, while also appearing on Russia’s national team IIHF U18 World Championship (silver medal) and World Junior Championship.
77. Rick Jeanneret
Rick Jeanneret was born on July 23, 1942 and passed away on August 17, 2023 – he was 81 years old at the time of his death. His family revealed that he had suffered from multiple organ failure leading up to his death – a condition that began in 2021 during his final season as a broadcaster for the Buffalo Sabres.
Jeanneret goes down as one of the greatest hockey broadcasters of all-time. Known for his distinct voice and memorable calls – he made every goal exciting – Jeanneret embodied everything the Buffalo Sabres’ organization stands for. He was one with the city of Buffalo and was beloved by every single Sabres fan.
78. John Devitt
John Devitt was born on February 4, 1937 and passed away on August 17, 2023 – he was 86 years old at the time of his death. He died peacefully in Sydney, Australia, and was surrounded by his wife, Wendy, and their four children: Carmel, Mark, Julie, and Sean. The freestyle swimmer lived a long and fruitful life.
Devitt represented Australia at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne and the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy. He won a gold medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay and a silver in the 100m freestyle in 1956, and then a gold medal in the 100m freestyle and bronze in the 4x200m freestyle relay in 1960.
79. Alex Cole
Alex Cole was born on August 17, 1965 and passed away on August 19, 2023 – just two days after his 59th birthday. Details of his death (including the cause of it) weren’t immediately available, but it was confirmed and announced by the Cleveland Guardians – a team he played for between 1990-1992.
Cole made his major league debut with the Guardians on July 27, 1990 and went on to play seven years in the MLB with the Guardians, Twins, Rockies, Pirates, and Red Sox. He batted a career .280 with 493 hits, 58 doubles, 26 triples, 5 home runs, 117 RBIs, 148 stolen bases, and 286 runs in 573 games played.
80. Terry Funk
Terry Funk was born on June 30, 1944 and passed away on August 23, 2023 – he was 79 years old at the time of his death. He was diagnosed with dementia in June 2021 and was living in an assisted living facility until returning home later that year. He passed away nearly 18 months later in a Phoenix hospital.
Funk enjoyed a legendary career as a professional wrestler – a career that spanned 50 years. Known as one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time, he made his debut in 1965 and retired multiple times before doing so for good in 2017. He won dozens of championships and awards during his noteworthy career.
81. Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt was born on May 23, 1987 and passed away on August 24, 2023 – he was just 36 years old at the time of his death. He reportedly died of a heart attack while sleeping in his Brooksville, Florida residence – which was confirmed by WWE chief content officer Triple H, who spoke with Wyatt’s father.
Wyatt, who was born Windham Lawrence Rotunda, is best known for his time in the WWE between 2010 and 2021, and between 2022 and 2023. He was a third-generation wrestler after his grandfather, father, and two uncles made a name for themselves in the sport – his brother, Bo Dallas, is also a wrestler.
82. Gil Brandt
Gil Brandt was born on March 4, 1932 and passed away on August 31, 2023 – he was 91 years old at the time of his death. No cause of death was revealed at the time. He was remembered by the Dallas Cowboys – an organization he spent 28 years with as a chief talent scout between 1960 and 1988.
His impact on the NFL and the game of football will never be forgotten. He completely reinvented the scouting process and thrived with his unorthodox ideology and innovation. Known for finding talent in places no one else was looking, Brandt helped turn the Cowboys’ franchise into what it is today.
These Famous Athletes and Sports Figures Are Gone, But Never Forgotten
Saying goodbye is never easy and, unfortunately, will never get easier as time passes. Whether it’s a friend, family, loved one, colleague, role model, or anyone who has ever had an impact on your life – saying goodbye sucks. Unfortunately, it’s something we all have to learn to do in our own unique way.
When trying to cope with the death of an athlete or sports figure that inspired you to be the best you can be, it’s important to remember the legacy they leave behind and celebrate their life for what it was – no matter how long or short their life was. There’s beauty in all life, so long as you can open up to it.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Sports Legends We Lost in 2021
Just because someone is gone, doesn’t mean they have to be forgotten. In fact, it’s even more reason for them to be remembered and revered for all they gave to themselves, their family, their loved ones, their teammates, and their community – and that’s exactly what we shall do for those that are listed above!
At The Buzzer, or ATB is the place for those who love sports, life, family, community, and so much more. We are far from the run-of-the-mill 24/7 sports news websites. We not only bring you what’s happening in the world of sports in terms of trades and breaking news, but we also bring you the news that goes on behind the scenes, like big life moments, and so much more. So take a minute and read one of our articles, we promise you won't regret it.