Yep, that’s right. There are sports stars that make me feel nostalgic about the 80s and early 90s. I think when I was younger I kind of looked at sports stars as super heroes. I used to watch them in awe. And these ones I’m listing here are the ones that (most of them at least) were even more awe inspiring because there were American or they were playing sports that I didn’t have access to play myself. So I’m not just listing British footballers like Davie Cooper and Kevin Keegan. These ones below are slightly more exotic or slightly more random. Let the list commence.

One of the sports that I am most nostalgic about is BMX and many would say that the 80s were the heyday of BMX. Films like BMX Bandits and Rad were coming out, BMXers were becoming stars, freestylers were everywhere on the TV. It was a great time. For me the big stars that I remember from those days were Andy Ruffell, possibly the biggest UK star at the time, and the big American riders that I knew were Eddie Fiola, Matt Hoffman and Mike Miranda. These names just seem legendary to me. They strike the same tone with me as Tony Hawk does with skateboarding. Tony doesn’t quite make me nostalgic though as he has never quite stopped skateboarding and also his name has constantly been used in video games. He’s been an ever-present. But take a look at these images below of the BMXers, taken from my much loved BMX Action Hotshots annual. Just check out Mike Miranda’s moustache at the age of only 20!


Yep, I’m coming in with one of the big guns right here. But before we come to him, I’ll mention the other NBA stars that I think back to very fondly right from the early 80s through to the US Dream Team at the Olympics in 1992. (I think I still have a VHS that I taped of the Dream Team). Names like Eric McHale (who I learned about from an appearance on Cheers), Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Larry Bird, Muggsy Bogues, Patrick Ewing and Scottie Pippen.

But you can’t mention basketball, or 80s/90s sport or just supreme athletes in general without mentioning Michael Jordan. The man was just unbelievable. Watching him play basketball just looked so easy. He looked so cool. He became a true icon of the game but also of clothing and he almost became the Nike brand. His ‘Jumpman’ logo was almost just as synonymous as the ‘swish’. When someone says ‘Mike’ you think of MJ. True, true class.

I thought I’d continue the three letter theme, with the NFL. American Football became absolutely massive during the 80s in the UK. It was everywhere, mostly thanks to Channel 4 who had a regular show.

We also had some beautiful painting or airbrush prints of NFL teams up in our upstairs bathroom. I’ve just researched and learned they were by Chuck Ren. They were possibly standard ones that everyone got cheaply from Athena or B&Q or somewhere that everyone had, but they were brilliant. I remember we had the Miami Dolphins, the Cleveland Browns and I think the other one was the NY Giants. I’ve found two of them online which you can see below. Fantastic artwork. They would fall into the camp of ‘retro images burned into my brain’ (now there’s an idea for a blog post). Again, I think I will post about these pictures separately at some point.

Players and people that I really associate with that time include Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Lawrence Taylor, Brian ’The Box’ Bosworth, Mike Ditka, Randall Cunningham but most importantly Dan Marino and William ‘The Fridge’ Perry. Dan Marino just seemed a cool dude. The main quarterback superstars at that time seemed to be Dan Marino and Joe Montana, and Marino just seemed by far the coolest. And the whole bright orange and green colours of the Dolphins seemed so 80s. But William Perry became a worldwide superstar, known even by people who didn’t know about NFL. He appeared in Wrestlemania, The A-Team and even guested on Wogan in the UK! That’s when you know you’ve made it.

Onto another Channel 4 classic now. They were great at bringing world sports to the UK on that channel. Sumo was huge in the late 80s. Great to watch on a weekend morning. We used to know the names to all the big stars but the ones I most remember are Konishiki (The Hawaiian) and Chiyonifuji (The Wolf). Very different styles of Sumo wrestler but both great to watch.

And we can’t talk about classic Channel 4 sports from the 80s and 90s without mentioning Kabaddi! This definitely was an interesting cultural flavour that Channel 4 brought to us in the UK. It seemed like grown men playing ‘Tig’ to us at first, but it soon became a cult classic as it was very addictive to watch. I didn’t know any names of the stars but to us the sport was the star! I can’t find any old clips sadly.

Speaking of the sport being the star, one other random sport I remember from the 80s is Jai-Alai which appeared in one episode of Miami Vice that I remember and also very briefly in the title sequence. A very strange but incredibly fast sport. Fascinating to watch.

Chess – Nigel Short
Yes, Chess. Not a physical sport but a sport of the mind. I believe it was Channel 4 yet again who showcased a match between Britain’s Nigel Short and Russia’s Gary Kasparov. The excitement around Nigel Short within the UK was pretty big at the time, considering it was chess, and I can remember with excitement rushing home from school to watch the great footage on Channel 4. They had some great Grandmasters who added the colour commentary and it was surprisingly entertaining! I’ve recently gotten quite into chess again and will be doing a separate post soon.

Judo – Brian Jacks
Brian Jacks was one of the first real superstars in the UK from what you could call a non-mainstream sport, Judo. Ironically he achieved this status by doing incredibly well on the TV show Superstars. He went on to become a household name and have at least one video game named after him.

Jump in at about 5:44 in the video below to see Daley Thompson coming off the bars and Brian Jacks then do his famous dips.

British Wrestling
We can’t talk about British sport without talking about British Wrestling. And you can’t talk about British Wrestling without talking about Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. They were the Hulk Hogan and Undertaker of their time. Big Daddy was amazing. He would win everything. Even more than Hulk Hogan would win. I hardly ever remember him losing. If he lost then all the grannies would have come up and smacked the heel wrestler with their handbags. I’m not going to mention the WWF/WWE just now though because that was such a big part of my life that I would have to list about 100 wrestlers, so I’ll do a separate post about the WWF one day.

Motorcycling – Barry Sheene
Barry Sheene. An absolute legend of world motorcycling. And quite a jack-the-lad apparently. Friends with James Hunt, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and others. Most of his big wins were in the 70s I believe but he was very much a huge household name in the 80s.

Ski-jumping – Eddie The Eagle
Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards. The man who made a nation fall in love with him, by Ski Jumping not very well, but giving it his all and doing it with a smile. So much so that they made a recent movie about it.

Thank you 80s/90s sportsmen. You inspired me in many ways. I salute you.