These Are the Coolest Athlete Dads In America

From Jalen Ramsey to Dennis Rodman, these are the GOATs of fatherhood.

by Emily Kelleher

Athletic skill does not make the man. It’s what he does with that talent — on the field and off — that matters. The men on this list are not only good at sports, they are good at being good and looking good doing it. They are fashion plates and side hustlers. They know how to play smashmouth and then delicately hand a ball to a kid. Faster. Higher. Nicer.

Jalen Ramsey

Cool Dad Job: Shutdown CornerLatest

Cool Dad Achievement: Bringing attitude back to LA football.

Students of America’s most popular sport know that teams used to dread traveling to Los Angeles anticipating a beatdown at the hands of the Raiders or the smashmouth Rams. To say that LA football has been softer since the Rams returned and the Chargers moved into their divorced dad single-bedroom stadium would be an understatement. Enter Ramsey, arguably the best corner in football (he’d argue it) and definitely one of the games few remaining characters. Should the 2020 season move forward, the Rams will pay big money — Ramsey is exiting a rookie contract — for a guy who talks big and plays bigger. They’ll also get a leader and family man. Ramsey is the dad of Breelyn and Brooklyn, who he stepped away from the Jaguars to spend time with last season. The man has value and values. That’s something to root for.

Kobe Bryan

Cool Dad Job: Basketball Coach

Last Cool Dad Achievement: Leaving a legacy.

After Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash on TK, the NBA great was memorialized more for his role in his daughter’s life than for his successes on the court. Bryant courted controversy over the years and settled a sexual assault case out of court. That can’t be denied or ignored. It also can’t be denied or ignored that Bryant because a role model for young women looking to compete at the highest levels and for other NBA dads. His death was a tragedy not because he was already a great man, but because he seemed to be on the verge of becoming one.

Look around a Black Lives Matter protest and you will find the number 24. Bryant inspired. Did he shoot too much, sure, but you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. Kobe hit plenty.

Adam Thielen

Cool Dad Job: NFL Player

Adam Thielen was a D2 football player for the Minnesota State Mankato with zero prospects when he showed up at a regional combine — not even the NFL’s combine — and ran a 4.45 40-yard dash. That put him on scout’s radars and, eventually, the roster of the Minnesota Vikings. It’s a good thing it did. Now, Thielen’s a pro bowler and top 10 wide receiver. In 2017, he became the first Vikings wide receiver to be a 1,000-yard receiver since Sidney Rice and in 2018 he helped lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship. A father of two boys, Asher and Hudson, Adam and his wife Caitlin also run the Thielen Foundation, which gives back to youth development programs in Minnesota. Think of Thielen as your average suburban golf dad, but, you know, one of the best athletes alive.

Dennis Rodman

Cool Dad Job: Weirdo

Latest Cool Dad Achievement: Taking a victory lap.

The Last Dance, the Michael Jordan documentary that expanded to fill the vacuum left by professional sports in the early days of the pandemic, didn’t just showcase the greatness of 23, it reminded the world that number TK was a dominant defensive and cultural force. Sure, the stories are excess and the Carmen Elektra cameos were fun, but here’s the thing about all that old footage of Rodman: It’s impossible not to see that he was a man before his time. So many of the gender-bending antics of Rodman presaged two decades of progress. The Worm refused to conform or judge. He embraced the queer community and told his haters what they could do. The father of three leaves a complicated but largely positive legacy. Oh, and if you haven’t heard of his daughter, Trinity, you will. She’s one of the best soccer players in America.

Dwayne wade

Cool Dad Job: Vintner

Latest Cool Dad Achievement: LGBTQ rights activism

Dwyane Wade, 13 time NBA All-Star, ended his 16-year career with the Miami Heat in 2019 and stepped into a new public role as an activist. It suits him. Wade has been supportive of his transgender daughter Zaya, tackling prejudice with the self-assured vibe of a man profoundly please with how things have turned out. And why shouldn’t he be? He and his wife Gabrielle Union have a beautiful and mixed family that now includes Kaavia, who was born via surrogate. They are role models and behave like they know it because they do. There’s a lot to be said for that.

Eric Reid

Cool Dad Job: Free Agent

Latest Cool Dad Achievement: Demanding accountability.

Eric Reid was the first player to kneel alongside Colin Kaepernick during the National Anthem. Unlike Kaepernick he stayed in the league — at least until March, when he was released by the Carolina Panthers. Was Reid let go because of his outspoken politics? Likely not. After a brilliant career, Reid’s on-field work was flagging. But there was always the sense that football was nothing more than Reid’s first act. Smart and uncompromising, Reid has long commanded the admiration of his teammates. Now, he commands the attention of NFL brass, who are hurriedly mea culpa-ing their way toward white hat status as Black Lives Matter protests reach their cities. Reid is the guy who isn’t going to let them get off the hook that easy. After 49ers owner Jed York announced his organization would donate $1 million (the amount he pays Ronald Blair, a defensive end you’ve never heard of) to “local and national organizations who are creating change,” Reid responded quickly. “Nobody wants your money Jed,” Reid wrote on Twitter. “We want justice. We’ve always wanted justice.”