Because behind every great athlete is a great mom.
On Mother’s Day, every professional sport in America claims to have the best moms. There are sites and articles devoted to NBA moms, NFL moms, MLB moms and Olympic moms, among others.
We’re having none of that. Because at this very moment, in many places across America, devoted mothers are loving, praising and nurturing the next generation of athletes.
We’re talking about the NBA All-Stars of the 2020s and 2030s. We’re talking about the gold medalists in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, and the 2024 Summer Olympics where they’re held.
They’re packing lunches, organizing car pools, spending tireless weekends on fields and inside gyms and aquatic centers. They paying for summer camps and private coaches. Most off all, they’re cheering on their sons and daughters through victories and defeats.
So we’re not saying these are the best moms, or the greatest moms. Just five moms you might want to think about if you’re waking up at 5 a.m. to get your kid to the field, or driving home late with lunches still to pack for the next morning.
We salute you Mom! And thank you for all you’ve done.
— Claudette Kirkland (@kirkland0410) August 10, 2016
Michael Phelps’ mother has been a fixture at every Olympics the swimmer has ever competed in, always there to cheer her son on and break down in tears when he wins yet another gold. Everyone credits her with being the engine behind Phelps’ rise. Of course it takes ambition and raw natural talent, but this mother has expertise far beyond mere love and nurturing. Debbie Phelps began her career as a teacher in 1974. She has worked in a variety of education positions, including administration, coordinator and principal.
— Wanda Durant (@MamaDurant) February 13, 2017
The mother of NBA star Kevin Durant does not hesitate to make her feelings known when her son is being dissed. When he made his first return with the Golden State Warriors to Oklahoma – where he played 9 seasons with the Thunder – he was predictably booed. That didn’t sit well with mom. “It’s the people who make it so personal, and attack his character so viciously, like they know him – (all) because he decided to play somewhere else,” Wanda Durant said. “But then, the bold thing is they’re standing in my face. They’re bold enough to call him a snake and a coward. One guy even called him – I can’t even say it – the p-word. In my face.” Two days later, Wanda hit back with the perfect response. She posted to Twitter a photo of her wearing a cupcake T-shirt that was used to mock her son.
When the New York Giants drafted Eli Apple in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, he instantly became a huge star. So did his mother, Annie Apple. She has not hesitated to criticize Giants owner John Mara, tossing some shade on Twitter in his direction. A survivor of domestic violence, she didn’t condone the decision to keep kicker Josh Brown on the roster after he was arrested for domestic violence. She did not hesitate to explain why to Sports Illustrated: “I flew to London last Wednesday to watch a game that by Sunday no longer mattered to me. We went overseas to watch Eli back on the field as the Giants faced the Rams. But I never made it to Wembley,” Annie Apple said. “At that moment I just couldn’t cheer for a team I felt had turned its back on what was right to protect an image. It was difficult because I love my son and I’ve always been in his corner at every game, but for me, this was bigger than a game.” She also said Giants were “leaning heavily” on her son in order to have him restrict her public comments. For this strength and honesty, Deadspin said she just might be “the best sports mom in the game.”
— Orioles on MASN (@masnOrioles) September 21, 2016
In 2016, first baseman Trey Mancini was making his debut with the Baltimore Orioles. It would have already been a great day for mother Beth but then Trey went and hit a home run at his second at-bat. Her reaction was everything you’d expect it to be and went viral.
— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) February 10, 2016
One of the great traditions of the National Hockey League is the “Dads Trip,” where players’ fathers accompany the team on a road trip to see what life in the NHL is really like. In recent years, though, some teams have realized how wildly unfair this is to mothers. They have switched it up and invited mothers to come along on their own day. The Vancouver Canucks brought along their mothers when they visited the Colorado Avalanche. Canucks’ defenseman Matt Bartkowski’s mom Beth was blown away after she watched her son score the go-ahead goal in an eventual 3-1 win.