In the modern world of sporting superstars, it’s easy to get distracted by huge results, personal bests, and out-of-this-world performances. But, many athletes, despite the insane levels of natural talent, remain firmly grounded in the real world.
Many talented athletes come from disadvantaged backgrounds themselves, and their incredible talents look even more impressive when you consider the non-sporting challenges they have had to overcome.
Here’s a group of seven sports stars who all rose from difficult places to the top of their game.
Mike Tyson. Image source: foxbusiness.com.
Number One: Neymar Jr.
The Brazilian football star is a great example of an incredibly talented, if sometimes controversial, player who supports the community he came from. Neymar grew up in Sao Paulo to a football-loving family, but it wasn’t until he started earning big bucks through football that they were able to buy a house.
He regularly makes big efforts to look after poor Brazilian communities in places like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Number Two: LeBron James
LeBron might be a household name now, but he grew up in humble surroundings in Akron, Ohio. His desire to prove himself and be the best was built on challenging circumstances as a child, including moving out of his mother’s home to live with a football coach so he could focus on sports.
His return to hometown heroes the Cleveland Cavaliers (after a stint in Miami) and bringing home the NBA Championship provided a fairytale ending to a story of a young boy who grew up in a struggling town just down the road.
Number Three: Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson might be famous for weird trash talk and some of the biggest punches ever thrown (and that biting incident), but what lots of people might not know is that he had to overcome one of the toughest childhoods to reach that level.
He has spoken openly about how his mother beat him, including apparently once knocking him out with a frying pan…
Number Four: Marshawn Lynch
Nicknamed ‘Beast Mode’, the former NFL running back created some of the most electric runs ever witnessed during his time playing. But, he grew up in grim conditions in Oakland, California and has always tried hard to help the community he came from.
Number Five: Simone Biles
Whilst her professional and brilliant performances on the way to becoming the most decorated gymnast ever didn’t show it, Biles came from a very difficult upbringing in order to triumph. Along with her siblings, she spent significant time in care, and one of her brothers was recently charged with murder.
Number Six: Paul Gascoigne
The British football player, nicknamed ‘Gazza’, is almost as famous for his lavish lifestyle after football as for his scintillating skills. But, he has sadly filed for bankruptcy several times, and his family has talked about how damaging it can be to achieve enormous levels of success without the right guidance from a young age.
Number Seven: Pele
The most famous footballer ever? Pele grew up playing football barefoot using fruit and other round objects, so poor are his roots. Yet, he developed into the most talented ever to play.