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How 12 Sports Legends Changed Throughout Their Career

When we think about Serena Williams or Cristiano Ronaldo, a picture of them at the peak of their careers comes to mind. However, they’ve changed greatly between taking their first steps in the world of sports and now, both physically and professionally. Fortunately, social media and the internet allow us to see how they’re still doing today, and remember some of their incredible athletic feats and record-breaking scores.

Viral4y now shows you how these iconic athletes have transformed throughout the years.

1. Lionel Messi

How 12 Sports Legends Changed Throughout Their Career

Lionel Messi began his career in 2003 inFutbol Club Barcelona C, a reserve team for FC Barcelona. After just 1 year and at just 17 years old, he joined the senior team. Until leaving the club in 2021, he won a club-record 35 trophies.

On November 29th, 2021, Messi won his 7th Ballon d’Or (Golden Ball), the most prestigious individual award for soccer players, becoming the player with the most Ballon d’Ors in history. He’s married to Antonela Roccuzzo, a childhood friend, and has 3 sons, Thiago, Mateo, and Ciro.

2. Serena Williams

How 12 Sports Legends Changed Throughout Their Career

Serena Williams has been ranked the Nº1 female tennis player in the world 8 times since 2002. She holds several records, including most Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles combined among active players.

Since gaining recognition in sports, Williams has also become a fashion designer, movie producer, and philanthropist. She got married in 2017 to Reddit’s co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, and together they have a daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr.

3. Nadia Comăneci

How 12 Sports Legends Changed Throughout Their Career

Nadia Comăneci is a Romanian gymnast known for being the first gymnast to ever be awarded a perfect score of 10.0 at the Olympic Games. She was only 14 years old when she achieved this and 3 Olympic gold medals.

Now at 60 years of age, Nadia has long retired but is still very involved with gymnastics. Along with her husband, Bart Conner, another Olympic-gold medalist, she owns the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy, the Perfect 10 Productions, and several sports equipment shops.

4. Marta

How 12 Sports Legends Changed Throughout Their Career

Marta Vieira da Silva, commonly known as Marta, is a Brazilian soccer player who’s often regarded as the greatest female player of all time. Her performance on the field excels beyond the gender divide, as she holds the record for Brazil’s top international goal scorer for either gender, with 113 goals, and she was the first footballer of any gender to score at 5 World Cup editions.

Nowadays, Marta plays for US-based team Orlando Pride, where she met her teammate-turned-fiancé, Toni Pressley.

5. Cristiano Ronaldo

How 12 Sports Legends Changed Throughout Their Career

Since hitting the spotlight in 2003, when he first joined Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo has broken countless records, such as most international goals by a male player (115 total).

12 years after leaving Manchester United, he returned in 2021 to the English club, and at 36 years old he is still considered to be one of the best active players in the world. His personal life is full of victories too. He has 4 children and twin babies on the way, after announcing on Instagram that his long-term partner, Georgina Rodríguez, is pregnant.

6. Rafael Nadal

How 12 Sports Legends Changed Throughout Their Career

Spanish tennis player, Rafael Nadal, turned pro in 2001 at the young age of 15, and 4 years later won his first Grand Slam title. His road to sports icon was encouraged by his family with his uncle, Toni Nadal, coaching him throughout most of his career.

He still plays to this day. On top of that, he opened a tennis academy in Mallorca and is an active philanthropist. After dating for 14 years, he married his longtime partner, María Francisca Perelló, in 2019.

7. LeBron James

How 12 Sports Legends Changed Throughout Their Career

LeBron James was nicknamed “King James” because of his outstanding performances as a basketball player. Often compared to Michael Jordan, James is the only player to have ever won NBA championships with 3 different teams. He has been playing since 2003 and he continues to collect titles, having won the fourth championship in the 2019-2020 season.

Recently, he ventured into the world of cinema by becoming the face of the movie Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021), that has the first installment from 1996 featuring none other than Michael Jordan.

8. Billie Jean King

How 12 Sports Legends Changed Throughout Their Career

Billie Jean King was the Nº1 tennis player in the world during her prime competitive years, between 1964 and 1980. Besides winning multiple titles, King became known for her fight for gender equality. In 1973, she won a tennis match against male player Bobby Riggs, which was turned into a movie in 2017, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, titled Battle of the Sexes.

Currently, Billie Jean King lives her happily-ever-after with her wife and longtime partner Ilana Kloss, who she tied the knot with in 2018, at 75 years old.

9. Lewis Hamilton

How 12 Sports Legends Changed Throughout Their Career

Lewis Hamilton went from excelling at karting as a child to becoming one of the world’s best racing drivers in history, having won his first Formula One world championship in 2008. In Formula One, the British driver holds multiple records, including for most wins and podium finishes.

These days, motorsports aren’t Hamilton’s sole focus. He has a passion for music, being featured on a song with Christina Aguilera under the pseudonym XNDA, and a love for gastronomy, shown by the launch of his own vegan restaurant, called Neat Burger.

10. Usain Bolt

How 12 Sports Legends Changed Throughout Their Career

Usain Bolt stunned the world with his speed, which earned him the recognition of being the greatest sprinter of all time and the media nickname “Lightning Bolt.” The Jamaican is an 8-time Olympic gold medalist and an 11-time World Champion.

Since retiring in 2017, due in part to a hamstring injury, Bolt gave a soccer career a chance after playing for 8 weeks for the Australian club Central Coast Mariners. Eventually, he decided to no longer pursue another career in sports. He is now a father to a daughter and twin boys.

11. Roger Federer

How 12 Sports Legends Changed Throughout Their Career

Swiss tennis player Roger Federer is perhaps one of the most recognized names in tennis history. His career, which spans over a 23-year period, has earned him countless trophies and records, including 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles, an all-time record he shares with the previously mentioned Rafael Nadal.

At 40 years of age, the Swiss keeps on playing and leaving his mark in the tennis sphere, having played an instrumental role in the creation of the Laver Cup.

12. Michael Phelps

How 12 Sports Legends Changed Throughout Their Career

Michael Phelps is a former competitive swimmer, with the most successful Olympic career of any athlete in history. Throughout 5 Summer Olympics, Phelps won a total of 28 medals, 23 of which are gold.

His retirement in 2016, at 31 years old, allowed him to focus on his personal life and his career as a coach. It was that same year that he joined Arizona State Sun Devils’ swim team as an assistant coach and married former Miss California USA Nicole Johnson. They now have 3 sons.

What’s your favorite sport? Tag the athlete that inspired you the most in the comments and see if they reply!

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