As a youth, Ed Sullivan loved to play sports and when he began his professional career as a newspaper reporter in New York he actually first wrote for the sports column. Years later, when Ed Sullivan was given the opportunity to host of his own variety show he continued to share this passion with his audiences by inviting great sports figures and iconic athletes on his stage.
During The Ed Sullivan Show’s 23 year run, appearances were made by basketball players, baseball players, football players, golfers, boxers, jockeys, Olympians and many other types of athletes. Famous sports names that appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show included Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bill Russell, Red Auerbach, Rod Laver, Arthur Ashe, Ben Hogan, Jack Dempsey, Yankees players Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra & Joe Dimaggio, O.J. Simpson, Joe Namath and many, many other sports heroes. From Harlem Globetrotters to Heavyweight champions to Wimbledon winners, The Ed Sullivan Show had it all from the world of sports. Here are a few of the memorable appearances by sports stars on The Ed Sullivan Show:
On March 4, 1962, just a few days after scoring his 100 point game, Wilt Chamberlain appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. During Ed and Wilt’s conversation a small man actually comes out and bites the basketball star on the leg!
A young University of Florida quarterback named Steve Spurrier made a special appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on November 27, 1966 after Ed mistakenly left him out of an earlier 1966 All-American Football Team segment.
On May 20, 1962, The Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson gave batting stance and hitting tips to Ed Sullivan and little leaguers across the country.
At only 15 years old, Lew Alcindor, aka Kareem Abdul Jabbar, joined the rest of the 1963 high school All-American basketball team on The Ed Sullivan Show on March 31, 1963. That evening also featured Jackie Wilson on The Ed Sullivan Show performing “Baby Workout.” Sports columnist and ESPN analyst Bill Simmons recently mentioned this video of Kareem on Twitter!
On February 3, 1963, boxer Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, joked around with Ed about his upcoming bout with Doug Jones before showing off a magic trick. When asked how many rounds would it take the Ali to knock Ed Sullivan out, Ali responded “Well Ed, if you run I will have to cut it to one!”