People with dyslexia can be seen thriving on the fields better than they do in their classes. We have seen various examples of this in our previous posts, where we have talked about the various CEOs, musicians, writers, and many more celebrated people, who have had this learning disability.
When talking about athletes, there are certain sports that can be great for people with dyslexia, and at the same time, a plethora of famous athletes have had this LD, and yet became what they are today. To name a few, Muhammad Ali, Magic Johnson, and Nolan Ryan are some popular names on the list.
The opportunity to be a team member gives them a sense of inclusiveness. Sports also provide a positive chance to perform better in a field other than just getting good grades.
No matter what, we can see dyslexic individuals are great performers in their respective fields and achieving success.
Here we have curated a list of famous athletes:
List of famous athletes who once struggled with dyslexia
1. Muhammad Ali
World-famous Muhammad Ali, people mostly know him as a champion boxer, yet he also battled for racial and social justice throughout his life. Ali had an exceptional boxing career and was an Olympic gold medalist in 1970.
But, not many people know that he had Parkinson’s and was a role model for many individuals who have physical disabilities. Also, he had dyslexia, and he, in his own words once said in an interview, “As a high school student, many of my teachers labeled me dumb… I knew who the real dummies were. I barely graduated…There was no way I was going to college– I never even thought about it. I could barely read my textbooks.” His words give the message that he was an extremely talented person.
Nonetheless, Muhammad Ali is a role model who has set higher standards for young people with any disorders and learning disabilities like Dyslexia.
2. Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan, nicknamed ‘The Ryan Express’, an American Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher, played for teams – New York Mets, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros. Ryan has completed 27 seasons long career as a major baseball pitcher (the longest career of any baseball player). Ryan was a top player who played both baseball and basketball.
Ryan in many interviews states how dyslexia proved to be a barrier in his academics yet not in his sports career. Ryan was not good at spelling and was a shy student and tried to practice sports rather than his schoolbooks. After high school, he joined New York Mets immediately. He was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was an adult. Yet, his career was never affected by dyslexia, and he led the no-hitter record of the league and won the Basketball Hall of the Fame in 1999.
3. Caitlyn Marie Jenner
Jenner(born as William’s Bruce Jenner on 28 October 1949), an American Tv personality and a retired Olympic gold medalist decathlete in Montreal in 1976. She said once, “It was my dyslexia and gender issues that made me an Olympic champion. I channeled my struggles to drive and push myself.”
Moreover, in a chat session with a leading magazine and media outlet, she tells how she faced problems academically due to her learning disability. To an extent, she even failed the second grade because of dyslexia.
Now, I see those issues as my gift. I needed sports more to prove to myself that I could be good at something, and I worked a little harder than I think I would have if I hadn’t been successful.”
4. Tim Tebow
Tim(born on 14 August 1987) is an American baseball player, a former football quarterback, and a broadcaster. He played football for the University of Florida in his college days. NFL quarterback Tim has battled with dyslexia on and off the field. Tim said, “You can be extremely bright and still have dyslexia. You just have to understand how you learn and how you process information,”When you know that, you can overcome a lot of the obstacles that come with dyslexia.”
He found flashcards extremely helpful and used them to learn instead of trying to read books repeatedly. Off the field, he tackled the symptoms of dyslexia well. And on the field, when we look at his high GPA of 3.7 and study habits, it’s hard to believe that he was diagnosed with dyslexia at such a young age of 7. His dedication to overcome his dyslexia and willingness to put his best efforts into his career helped the star football player win various awards and honors in his career.
5. Billy Blanks
Billy Blanks, a famous martial artist and fitness expert is well-known around the world today. But not a lot of people know that he has dyslexia, and his childhood and education had become a grind for the little Billy.
In an interview, he talks about how during his childhood Dyslexia was not a known learning disability, so a lot of teachers and relatives used to think of him as ‘retarted.’ He vaguely recalls how he used to feel plight while studying because no matter how hard he used to try, he always lagged behind.
Billy also expresses how he could not read because of his disability. However, he also felt that he could not excel in school, and therefore deviated his attention into sports, fitness, and martial arts. He thus thanks his learning disability for making him who he is today!
Football players with dyslexia
6. Steven Naismith
Steven Naismith, the Scotland football player, and ranger has revealed how Sir Sean Connery supported and encouraged him to speak about his struggles with dyslexia. Naismith, the sports star, said his classmates would snigger about his reading. Yet, he focused on football and successfully maintained a dream career many would wish to have.
Naismith revealed in an interview, “I am dyslexic. It was not so bad for me because I had football, and if you are at school and good at football, there is a respect that comes with that.”
7. Frank Gore
Gore, NFL, was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. Gore struggled at school. He played football to make him feel good from his class woes. Gore learned and asked for help to manage his dyslexic condition. He could overcome other personal hindrances as well. He had a positive mindset and was passionate about his football career. Because of his dyslexic condition, he could get a special education diploma. But, he refused to take any special diploma and went to get a regular diploma with the help of special and intense training.
Talking to various publications about his learning disability, he tells the youth how his dyslexia made him strive and thrive to become a great footballer.
8. Alex Green
Alex Green is a graduate of Hawaii University; he struggled with reading throughout his life. His teachers told him he would never pass even high school. When the University of Hawaii allowed him to pursue his studies, he got a chance. A specialist conducted a few tests and found that Green had dyslexia.
In various interviews, Green expressed that he was so determined, and that’s how he tackled his learning issues effectively. He started to play audiobooks. Finally, armed with the knowledge. he started to apply it to the field. He started to visualize the movements and used them correctly on the field. Now that he knows about his dyslexic condition, he can tackle the issues well. Alex Green feels he is just unstoppable.
Basketball players with dyslexia
9. Magic Johnson
“The looks, the stares, the giggles… I wanted to show everybody that I could do better and also that I could read,” said Magic Johnson.
Magic is an American professional basketball player and former president of basketball operations of the Los Angeles Lakers by the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played for the Lakers as a point guard for the 13 seasons. He was the five times NBS champion and received his nickname ‘Magic’ after he scored 36 points in a high school game.
He found his success on the field and not in the classrooms. He struggled with dyslexia and was judged by both classmates and teachers. Despite no one having high hope for him yet, he saw his potential as a player. He dedicated his mornings to practice and secured a place in the Michigan State University team. Johnson, who got selected in the team finally, won five championships.
10. Jason Conley
Jason Conley, a basketball player, also struggled with dyslexia and got to know when he gave his entrance exam for SAT. Yet, he managed to get to the college and became a freshman to lead the NCAA division in scoring. He expressed his struggles in various interviews.
Jason was the leading scorer on his college basketball team. Yet, Jason got the points on an average of 28.6 points in a game is a kind of record. The lowest score of his career was 17. He was at his best when he scored 38 points at Villanova, 26 at Kentucky, and 25 at Virginia.
11. Kobe Bryant
We all know about dyslexia, yet when a sports star like Kobe Bryant suffered from it and disclosed his journey, it’s a true motivation for people with the same condition. Kobe was a world-class basketball player. He was even considered as a top scorer of all time. Kobe was described by his teachers dyslexic as he was not able to spell words. Later he had eyesight issues, but he never felt negative and went for treatment. He talked about his learning disability and told how challenging it had become for him to cope up with his studies.
In his dyslexic condition, everything appears jumbled in his condition – numbers or letters, such as 734, may look like 437 or even 347. Kobe had an early diagnosis and went for appropriate training and support. Soon Kobe thrived, which made him a star athlete of all time.
Many of us idolize our athletes and sports stars for their performance, hard work, fitness. We watch them by spending hours. The stories behind the hard work, sweat, and pain they take to perform are just an inspiration. We need to remind ourselves of all the amazing personalities who have accomplished great things despite their incapacities.
Despite any negative feedback, you need to find a way to work on yourself. Stay committed and focused; success will follow you at the end.
An engineer, Maths expert, Online Tutor and animal rights activist. In more than 5+ years of my online teaching experience, I closely worked with many students struggling with dyscalculia and dyslexia. With the years passing, I learned that not much effort being put into the awareness of this learning disorder. Students with dyscalculia often misunderstood for having just a simple math fear. This is still an underresearched and understudied subject. I am also the founder of Smartynote -‘The notepad app for dyslexia’,