Athletes Who Died In 2024

In 2023, the sports world mourned the loss of several towering figures and beloved icons, including Olympic champions Torie Bowie and Elena Fanchini, as well as NBA legends Willis Reed and Nikki McCray-Penson, among others.

Regrettably, 2024 appears to be echoing the previous year, with more reports of untimely passings among sports luminaries. In February, fans were saddened by the loss of former NFL star and "Rocky" actor Carl Weathers, who died aged 76 after reportedly struggling with heart disease for years. We also said goodbye to former wrestling star Michael Jones — also known as "Virgil" — who died on February 28 after being diagnosed with early-stage dementia back in April 2022. He was 61 years old. "Virgil passed peacefully at the hospital this morning," former wrestling referee Mark Charles III, a good friend of Virgil, announced in a statement on Facebook. "I ask that you pray for him and for his family. May his memory be eternal!"

Aside from Weathers and Virgil, fans also mourned the loss of former NBA star Earl Cureton and Philadelphia Eagles' Norm Snead, among other industry greats who passed away early this year. To honor their memory, below is a list of athletes we said goodbye to in 2024.

Carl Weathers

Former Oakland Raiders linebacker and "Rocky" star Carl Weathers died at age 76 on February 1. "We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Carl Weathers," his family said in a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. "Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life. Through his contributions to film, television, the arts and sports, he has left an indelible mark and is recognized worldwide and across generations. He was a beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner and friend." An investigation revealed that Weathers — who played Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" film franchise alongside Sylvester Stallone — died of "atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease" at his home in Venice, California, according to a death certificate obtained by The Blast. He is survived by his sons Matthew and Jason Weathers from his marriage to ex-wife Mary Ann Castle from 1973 to 1983.

Weathers took to the gridiron with the Oakland Raiders and the CFL's BC Lions before hanging up his cleats in the 1970s to chase his passion for acting. "I knew that it's time for me to walk away from this. It's not what I really want to do," Weathers said in his interview with Sports Illustrated in 2023. "I'm going to go to Los Angeles and give myself a shot. I was blessed enough to have made it." In 2021, he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for his role as Greef Karga in the "Star Wars" series "The Mandalorian." His other credits include Colonel Al Dillon in "Predator," Jericho Jackson in "Action Jackson," and Mark Jefferies in "Chicago P.D." 

Konstantin Koltsov

On March 18, Russian hockey team Salavat Yulaev announced that Konstantin Koltsov, its former player-turned-coach had died at the age of 42. "It is with deep sorrow that we inform you that the coach of Salavat Yulaev, Konstantin Koltsov, has passed away," the team wrote in a statement shared on Instagram. "He was a strong and cheerful person, he was loved and respected by players, colleagues, and fans. Konstantin Evgenievich forever wrote himself into the history of our club ... May he rest in peace." The Pittsburgh Penguins, whom Koltsov previously played for, also shared condolences with the late hockey star's family and friends.

Before retiring in November 2016, Koltsov played professional ice hockey for 18 years during which he competed in the Ice Hockey World Championships. Koltsov, a Belarus native also represented his home country twice at the Winter Olympics, first in 2002 and then in 2010. In addition to his international career, Koltsov also had a short stint in the NHL, playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins for three seasons between 2002 and 2006. 

Outside of his professional life, Koltsov was most notably in a relationship with Aryna Sabalenka whom he was first linked to in 2021. "Konstantin's death is an unthinkable tragedy, and while we were no longer together, my is heart is broken," Sabalenka wrote in a tribute shared on her Instagram Story (via the Daily Mail).

Char-ron Dorsey

On March 4, the sports community suffered a huge loss after the death of Char-ron Dorsey. The former NFL star died at the age of 46 after suffering complications from a stroke. Michael Holloway, a former colleague of Dorsey's, confirmed his passing to the Florida Times-Union while also touching on the athlete's legacy. "He's had an impact on so many kids that have had the opportunity to make it to the next level," Holloway told the outlet. "That was what he always told the kids, all you've got to do is work hard and you can make it," Holloway said. "But you have to be willing to go through the fire."

Dorsey kicked off his career as a college student playing for the Florida State University Seminoles. While with the Seminoles, Dorsey played the national championship in 1999, eventually going on to earn an All-ACC recognition the following year. Prior to his college career, Dorsey shone as a high school athlete, playing defensive tackle at the Bolles School where he won the state championship. "I remember Coach Bobby Bowden came out here to watch him play for Bolles basketball, because he heard he had great feet," Holloway recounted of Dorsey's remarkable skills.

In addition to his college career, Dorsey also played with the NFL, first with the Dallas Cowboys and then the Houston Texans.

Richard Caster

On February 2, former NFL player Richard Caster, who had been living with Parkinson's disease died at the age of 75. "I am really sad to hear about his passing," James Hartfield, Caster's former teammate at Jackson State University told the Clarion Ledger while confirming the news. Stanley Blackmon, another former Jackson State Tigers player described Caster as an "all-around good guy," whose loss will be felt by all. "He was a great athlete, fast, and he ran on the relay team at Jackson State," he added. 

Caster's football career started out at Williamson High School before moving on to Jackson State University to play college football. With the Tigers, Caster first played under the coaching of Rod Paige from 1996 through 1998 and then Ulysses McPherson in 1969. The following year, Caster was picked by the Jets in the second round of the 1970 NFL Draft. With the Jets, Caster played eight seasons, during which he had 245 receptions and 36 touchdowns. In his time with the Jets, Caster made it to the Pro Bowl three times, in 1972, 1974, and 1975. Eventually, he moved to the Houston Oilers and the New Orleans Saints before joining the Washington Redskins. Caster ended his career with the Redskins, during which he earned a Super Bowl championship.

Earl Cureton

Earl Cureton, NBA star who formerly played for the Detroit Pistons, died on February 4 at the age of 66. "Earl was one of the most generous, positive, and caring people I know," Tom Gores, Pistons owner, said in a statement to the Detroit News confirming the news of Cureton's passing. "He was a loving father, and I was honored to be his friend. He was a champion as a player and an important ambassador in our community. We are heartbroken over his loss." Though a cause of death was not immediately released, Cureton was confirmed to have collapsed at his Farmington Hills home.

Originally picked by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1979 draft, Cureton played with the team for three seasons before moving on to sign with the Detroit Pistons where he played for another three seasons between 1983 and 1986. Throughout his career, Cureton also played for other teams including the Chicago Bulls, the Charlotte Hornets, and the Houston Rockets. Of his many achievements, Cureton was a two-time NBA champion, first with the 76ers in 1983 and then with the Rockets in 1994. 

In his 12 years in the league and beyond, Cureton left a remarkable legacy, one that will be remembered by his fans and loved ones. "He was a tremendous teammate, tough competitor, a champion, and a great human being. Earl always held the Detroit community close to his heart and worked tirelessly to make a difference," Cureton's former teammate Isiah Thomas said in a statement (via the New York Post).

Don Gullett

On February 14, the Cincinnati Reds confirmed the death of one of its former players, Don Gullet, at the age of 73. "Don dedicated 24 years to this franchise as a player, coach, and minor league instructor. An anchor on the pitching staff of one of the greatest baseball teams in history, his contributions to our rich tradition, our city, and his community will never be forgotten," Reds CEO Bob Castellini said in a statement shared on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Gullett made his way into the major leagues after he was picked in the first round of the 1969 draft. The following year, he made his debut on the field, going on to make a name for himself with the team. In three years, Gullet became a four-time World Series champion; two of the wins being with the Reds in 1975 and 1976 and the last with the New York Yankees in 1977. Though he was still a part of the Yankees in 1978, Gullet missed the team's play at the World Series after suffering an injury. The famed athlete would later retire from baseball after the '78 season.

Despite his short time in the league, however, Gullett left an indelible mark, one that will be remembered by all who encountered him. "He was a total athlete," Gullett's former Reds teammate Johnny Bench told the Cincinnati Enquirer of the late athlete. "He could hit and run like the wind and the nicest, nicest person. I don't think I've ever heard a bad word ever said about Don."

O.J. Simpson

On April 10, former NFL star O.J. Simpson died at the age of 76. "...Our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren. During this time of transition, his family asks that you please respect their wishes for privacy and grace," the Simpson family wrote in a statement. The athlete's death came nearly a year after revealing a prostate cancer diagnosis back in May 2023.

Despite having a successful football career, Simpson's athletic achievements — which earned him a spot on the NFL's Greatest Running Backs of All Time list — were greatly overshadowed by his legal troubles. In 1994, the former Buffalo Bills star was arrested and charged with the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. The infamous murder trial, spanning eleven months, ended with Simpson getting acquitted on both counts of murder. Eventually, though, a 1997 lawsuit found Simpson liable for the murders of Brown and Goldman and he was subsequently ordered to pay $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the victims' families.

But while Simpson's death has been plagued by mixed reactions, the sports industry continues to remember him for his great strides. "His on-field contributions will be preserved in the hall's archives in Canton, Ohio," Jim Porter, president of the Professional Football Hall of Fame, wrote in a statement (via CBS News).

Grayson Murray

Grayson Murray, a two-time PGA winner, died at the age of 30 on May 25. TMZ was one of the first outlets to announce Murray's tragic death, which took place one day after he voluntarily pulled out of the Charles Schwab Challenge. Shortly after his death, PGA Commissioner, Jay Monahan revealed that, at the urging of Murray's parents, they had decided to continue on with the competition. "I reached out to Grayson's parents to offer our deepest condolences, and during that conversation, they asked that we continue with tournament play," said Monahan. "They were adamant that Grayson would want us to do so. As difficult as it will be, we want to respect their wishes."  

Unfortunately, Murray's parents soon announced that he died from suicide. "We would like to thank the PGA Tour and the entire world of golf for the outpouring of support," Eric Murray and Terry Murray said in a statement (via CBS Sports). "Life wasn't always easy for Grayson, and although he took his own life, we know he rests peacefully now."

Murray made an indelible impact during his career. The would-be pro's talents surfaced when he was still in high school, when he won three consecutive Callaway Junior World Championships. He also won the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A State championship. After going pro, Murray faced a series of highs and lows, but he managed two wins at the PGA Tour, in 2017 and 2024. He will also be remembered as an outspoken advocate for mental health and substance use struggles. 

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Bill Walton

Bill Walton, a renowned sports broadcaster, and former NBA star, died from cancer at the age of 71, in May 2024. NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, highlighted Walton's on-court triumphs in a heartfelt statement. "Bill Walton was truly one of a kind," said Silver (via CBS Sports). "As a Hall of Fame player, he redefined the center position. His unique all-around skills made him a dominant force at UCLA and led to an NBA regular-season and Finals MVP, two NBA championships and a spot on the NBA's 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams." Silver also highlighted Walton's accomplishments off the court. "Bill then translated his infectious enthusiasm and love for the game to broadcasting, where he delivered insightful and colorful commentary which entertained generations of basketball fans."

Walton's NBA career started after he left his mark at UCLA as a member of the Bruins' men's basketball team, where he thrice claimed the College Player of the Year Award. Upon entering the league as a player for the Portland Trail Blazers, in 1974, Walton was the number one overall draft pick. During his career, which was unfortunately limited by several consecutive foot and ankle injuries and reconstructive surgeries, Walton played for two other teams: the Clippers and the Celtics. In 1993, Walton was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He spent the second half of his career making a mark as a sports broadcaster for professional and college basketball.

Willie Mays

Baseball legend Willie Mays, widely regarded as one of the greatest players to ever live, died on June 18, according to the San Francisco Giants, the team he played with for over 21 seasons. "It is with great sadness that we announce that San Francisco Giants Legend and Hall of Famer Willie Mays passed away peacefully this afternoon at the age of 93," the statement read.

Mays, affectionately known as the "Say Hey Kid," was a force to be reckoned with in the baseball world. Over his 23 seasons in MLB, playing for the New York and San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets, he amassed an impressive 660 home runs, the third-highest total at the time of his retirement in 1973. He's perhaps best known for "The Catch," a jaw-dropping over-the-shoulder catch he did during the 1954 World Series, which became the defining moment of his baseball career. But for Mays, it was more skill than luck. "Everyone said, 'Well, it was a hard catch. I said, 'Nah, it was an easy catch,'" he recounted (via MLB).

Many believed Mays could have surpassed his records and become the top player of all time if not for his service in the Army, but the Hall of Famer had no regrets. "I don't like to look at it that way," he shared with the San Francisco Chronicle. "I like to look at it as, I had a good 20, 22 years. I had my time, and I enjoyed my time."