Most sports stars are freaks with athletic ability that an average Joe can only dream of. Yet, there are a rare few sporting legends that weren't born with talent and those who had disabilities to overcome. Despite this, they still managed to make a name for themselves through sheer will and hard work.
Basketball has always been better suited to those blessed with a great height. Shorter men have carved out decent career for themselves in the past, but it's mostly possible in the back court where speed, not size, is the most powerful weapon. Battling with towering giants in the front court though is a whole different story. But NBA legend Charles Barkley managed to do just that during his 16-year career.
With a height of just 6'4 and weight close to 300 pounds, the man nicknamed "the Round Mound of Rebound" regularly fought off much taller man than himself and earned a spot in the league's Hall of Fame.
At the age of 11, Lionel Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency but his family didn't have the resources to afford his $900 a month treatment. Spanish club, FC Barcelona, decided to finance his treatment if he joined them. He accepted their offer, and the rest is history. He is arguably the greatest football player ever to play the beautiful game.
With both her parents being avid surfers, Bethany Hamilton's passion and natural talent for this water sport is understandable. Tragedy hit her, however, in 2003 when at the age of 13 she lost her arm and nearly lost her life in a vicious shark attack. Despite her disability she returned to the sea won the Explorer Women’s Division of the NSSA National Championships two years later. Her story has already inspired a hit Hollywood movie – Sour Surfers – and a second one is expected to hit theatres later this year.
Forget Lance Armstrong because Mike Lowell is the real deal. He basically did in baseball what Armstrong did in cycling but without indulging in any illegal substances. His testicular cancer diagnosis came in 1999 just a few months after he made his MLB debut. He recovered and became a two-time World Series champion and a four-time All-Star.
Anthony Robles was born without a leg, but he didn’t let that stop him from becoming a national high school and college wrestling champion.
Russian former mixed martial artist Fedor Emelianenko is widely regarded as the greatest fighter ever to enter the octagon. He went an entire decade undefeated in the brutal world of MMA during which time he won 28 consecutive fights. Do you know how big he was? He was an average 6-footer who punched above his weight for his entire career and bested men far bigger and stronger then himself.
Jason P. Lester
Endurance athlete Jason P. Lester lost the use of his right arm at the age of 12 when his bicycle was hit by a woman driving 70 mph. He suffered 21 broken bones and a collapsed lung but recovered. He went on to playing baseball and football. By age 18, he was ranked #2 for biathlons in the state of Arizona. He turned to triathlon before becoming the first disabled athlete to complete the Ultraman World Championships.