The Best Teenage Athletes in Sports History

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History was made at Wimbledon on Monday night as 15-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff upset five-time grass court champion Venus Williams in straight sets.

Gauff has etched herself in the history books by becoming the youngest player ever to qualify for the main draw, which got us here at Ladbrokes reflecting on some of the best teenage athletes to ever grace our screens.

Tennis’ oldest Grand Slam just got a whole lot more exciting, but we think you’ll find some of our sporting GOAT’s were destined for greatness from a very early age.

Here’s a look at some of the Best Teenage Athletes in Sports History.

Benji Marshall

The NRL changed for the better in 2003 when 18-year-old Benji Marshall burst onto the scene against the Newcastle Knights as a replacement fullback.

Marshall scored four tries in his rookie season for the Wests Tigers before shoulder troubles shortened his 2004 season.

With two years under his belt, Marshall was back to his best in 2005 helping the Tigers win their first, and only, premiership.

Betty Cuthbert

Showing our age here, but Australia’s Golden Girl is well deserving of a spot on this list.

At the age of 18, Cuthbert set a World Record in the 200-metre sprint at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, going on to win three gold medals in the 100-metre final, the 200-metre final and the 4×100-metre relay.

Cuthbert sadly passed away in 2017 and will be remembered as one of Australia’s most inspirational athletes on and off the track.

Bob Feller

Baseball’s long and rich history is full of interesting tidbits.

Bob Feller was still in high school when he debuted as a starter for the Cleveland Indians in 1936, but he already had enough zip on his pitches to fool even the most accomplished hitters.

At the age of 17, Feller threw a complete game against the St. Louis Browns, striking out 15 batters and allowing only one earned run. He went on to post a 3.39 ERA in his rookie season before leading the league in strikeouts as a 19-year-old two years later.

Boris Becker

The German World No. 1 kicked off his lengthy 15-year career in 1985 winning the Wimbledon men’s singles title at the ripe age of 17.

Becker went on to defend his Wimbledon crown the very next year, right before winning the US Open in 1989 and the Australian Open in 1991 and 1996. He retired in 1999 with a career 335-90 win/loss record.

Bryce Harper

Drafted first overall by the Washington Nationals in 2010, Bryce Harper hit the ground running once he was called up to Major League level two years later.

Harper recorded a hit and drove in a run during his debut against the Dodgers, encouraging signs from the 19-year-old who went on to slash .282/.354/.472 with eight home runs by the midway point of the season.

Harper was then selected to the All-Star Game, becoming the youngest player to earn All-Star honours in Major League history. As of March, Harper owns the third-highest paying sports contract in North America after signing a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Darren Lockyer

Hardcore Rugby League fans will remember 18-year-old Darren Lockyer stepping in from the bench at five-eighth for the Broncos during their 60-14 walloping over the Eels in 1995.

Lockyer would go on to be named Broncos Rookie of the Year before earning a spot on Queensland’s Origin side two seasons later.

Ian Thorpe

A natural athlete as a kid, Thorpey took the pool by storm in 1997 becoming the first 14-year-old to swim the 400m in less than four minutes.

That very same year Thorpe was selected to represent Australia, becoming the youngest male ever to be selected for the national team.

Twelve months on, Thorpe found himself with gold around his neck winning the 400m freestyle at the World Championships in Perth. The victory made him the youngest male World Champion at 15 years and three months of age.

Joel Selwood

First round draft picks don’t always pan out, but the Cats knew what they were getting with Joel Selwood.

After being selected seventh overall in 2006, Selwood debuted a year later for Geelong. He played 21 games for the Cats and averaged 19.2 disposals, all at the age of 18.

Selwood played a key role in Geelong’s Grand Final win over Port Adelaide, racking up 17 disposals and a trio of tackles in the Cats’ blowout 119-point win. The now six-time All-Australian went on to win two more flags in 2009 and 2011 in navy and white, making him one of Geelong’s most successful draft picks.

Joey Logano

A bright-eyed Joey Logano won the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway in 2008, his first win of the Nationwide Series.

The victory saw Logano overtake Casey Atwood to become the youngest driver to win a Nationwide Series at just 18 years of age. Not long after Logano went on to claim victory in New Hampshire to become the youngest Sprint Cup Series winner – NASCAR’s highest level of competition.

John Coleman

The namesake for the AFL’s time-honoured Coleman Medal, John Coleman’s brief but brilliant footy career all started at the age of 12 when he, believe it or not, was good enough to play with the under-18’s at Moonee Ponds Central School.

At age 17 Essendon deemed him too young for a spot in the senior side, leaving Coleman to spend time refining his skills at Hastings, where he booted 296 goals.

Coleman eventually earned a spot with the Bombers’ senior squad when he was 21-years old.

Kobe Bryant

The Black Mamba debuted in 1996 for the Lakers after being traded from the Hornets on draft day.

At 18 years of age, Bryant became the youngest player to ever play in the NBA. He spent only six minutes on the court against the Timberwolves but quickly made a name for himself averaging 7.6 points off the bench by seasons end.

A year later, Kobe finished runner-up in the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award voting and won the Slam Dunk Contest – the only time he ever participated in the event. He was named an All-Star a year later.

LeBron James

Before he became a three-time NBA Champion, LeBron James was a promising No. 1 pick out of high school selected by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.

LeBron scored 25-points in his first-ever game against the Sacramento Kings at the age of 19, going on to win Rookie of the Year honours six months later.

As if we needed further evidence LeBron was destined for greatness, he also joined Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan as the only other player to average 20-points, five rebounds and five assists in their rookie season.

Lydia Ko

One of the most impressive stories golf has to offer.

Korean-born New Zealander Lydia Ko became the youngest golfer male or female to be ranked No. 1 in the world after winning The Evian Championship in France in 2015.

Ko’s final round 63 remains the lowest closing round score in the history of LPGA majors, while the 22-year-old has since gone on to win the ANA Inspiration.

Martina Hingis

Hingis became the youngest Grand Slam champion in 1996 after teaming with Helena Sukova to win the women’s Wimbledon doubles at the age of 15.

The Swiss icon then set the bar to extraordinary new heights winning singles titles at the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open all before she turned 20. Hingis retired in 2017 with five Grand Slam singles titles to her name and over $24 million in prize-money.

Michael Phelps

Phelps failed to take home any hardware at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, but he did become the youngest male since Ralph Flanagan in 1932 to make the US Olympic swim team at the age of 15.

Long-time fans of the multiple gold medal winner will remember his effort in the 200m butterfly final, where he finished fifth. Phelps then went on to break the world record in the 200-meter butterfly a year later at the 2001 World Championships.

Mike Tyson

Made his professional in-ring debut as an 18-year-old in 1985 defeating Hector Mercedes via TKO in the first round.

Tyson fought in 15 bouts during his first year as a professional boxer, winning all of them by TKO or KO.

It’s still a shame he broke his back.

Nadia Comaneci

At just 14-years of age, Romanian born Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast to achieve a perfect 10.0 score at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

Comaneci went on to win three gold medals during the same Olympic games, and two more in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.

Pele

Before Pele became Brazil’s all-time leading goal scorer, he was a humble 17-year-old suiting up in the 1958 World Cup.

At the time Pele was the youngest player to play in a World Cup final as Brazil beat Sweden 5-2. He chipped in with a pair of goals, and well, let’s just say the rest is history.

Sachin Tendulkar

India faced a tough selection decision ahead of their tour of Pakistan in 1989.

Raj Singh Dungarpur chose to call upon 16-year-old Sachin Tendulkar to make his debut against the sharp Pakistani bowling attack, and although he made only 15 runs on debut, Tendulkar’s craftsmanship was on full display.

Tendulkar copped a beating from Pakistan’s fast bowlers, at one stage being hit on the nose in the fourth test. He averaged just over 53 runs in the four-match series, setting up what would become a 24-year journey as one of India’s all-time greats.

Sidney Crosby

There are good players and then there are great players.

At just 18 years of age, Sidney Crosby debuted for the Penguins in 2005 facing off against the Devils. He registered a lone assist in the 5-1 loss but finished the season with 102 points to his name – the sixth-most in the league.

A year later Crosby went one better leading the NHL with 120 points to become the only teenager to win a North American sports league title. Not surprisingly, he was named the Hart Memorial Trophy winner in the same season.

Tracy Austin

The former World No. 1  holds perhaps one of the most underrated tennis resumes of all time. Across her 16-year career, Tracy Austin became:

  • the youngest player to win the US Open (1979)
  • the youngest sports millionaire (1980)
  • the youngest player inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Game (1992)

Wayne Gretzky

Michael Scott said it best, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and boy aren’t the Edmonton Oilers glad they took a gamble on the 19-year-old kid from Brantford Ontario.

Gretzky went on to win the Hart Trophy in his rookie season (the NHL’s version of the MVP award).

Now dubbed “The Great One”, Gretzky won seven more Hart Trophy’s during his 21-year career and still holds the record for most goals scored in a single season (92).

Honorable Mentions

  • Amobi Okoye
  • Ben Cousins
  • Brad Fittler
  • Chris Evert
  • Dwight Gooden
  • Israel Folau
  • Jarryd Hayne
  • Kevin Garnett
  • Maria Sharapova
  • Mario Lemieux
  • Shaun White
  • Steven Stamkos
Tips, recommendations and commentary are for entertainment only. We provide no warranty about accuracy or completeness. You should make your own assessment before placing a bet.