Joe Frazier forever will be linked to great rival Muhammad Ali.
Rest in peace
The sports world had to say goodbye to some of its stars this year, including the NHL's Rick Rypien. We remember those who have left us in 2011.
Seattle Mariners outfielder Greg Halman died on November 21, after being stabbed to death at his home in Rotterdam, Netherlands. His 22-year-old brother was arrested as a suspect in the case. Halman hit .230 in 35 games and made starts at all three outfield positions for the Mariners in 2011 before being optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. He also played in the Dutch Pro League and was part of the gold medal winning Dutch squad at the 2007 European Championship.
Arkansas tight end Garrett Uekman died Nov. 20, 2011, after being found unconcious in his dorm room. An autopsy later determined that the 19-year-old football player died of a previously undetected heart condition.
Legendary boxer Smokin' Joe Frazier died November 7 at the age of 67. Frazier was in hospice care for the final weeks of his battle against liver cancer.
British race car driver Dan Wheldon died on October 16, after a fatal crash during an IndyCar series race in Las Vegas. He was a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and his last win as a driver was at the Indy 500 in 2011.
Al Davis died on Oct. 8, ending his 48-year tenure as an executive with the Oakland Raiders. Known for his outlandish personality and competitive spirit, Davis' motto was "Just win baby."
Former NHL enforcer Wade Belak was found dead at his downtown Toronto condo Aug. 31. Sources said Belak, 35, hanged himself. Belak spent 14 seasons in the NHL, playing for the Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators.
Bubba Smith first made a name for himself in the NFL, playing for the Baltimore Colts, Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers. Following his NFL career, Smith became a pop culture icon with his turn as Moses Hightower in the Police Academy movies. Smith, 66, was found dead at his home in Los Angeles on August 3.
Xavier Tondo died on May 23 in a freak accident after he was crushed between his car and a garage door in southern Spain, a Civil Guard spokesman said. Tondo, winner of this year's Castilla y Leon tour, was planning to compete in the Tour de France for his new Movistar Team. The Spanish cycling federation said Tondo had won 14 races in his career.
Former NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard died from a mixture of drugs and alcohol.
Robert Traylor was found dead at his apartment in Puerto Rico on May 11. Traylor became a star player at Michigan but was unable to transfer that collegiate success to the NBA. After his NBA career came to an end, Traylor played internationally. He was 34 years old.
Former offensive tackle Orlando Brown, who played for the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, was found dead in his home at the age of 40 on Sept. 23. Ravens director of player development Harry Swayne, Brown's former teammate and fellow tackle, called Brown ''a big old puppy dog with a little bit of a bark."
On August 15, Rick Rypien was found dead after committing suicide in his Alberta home. The 27-year-old enforcer spent six seasons playing for Vancouver before signing with Winnipeg in the 2011 offseason. Rypien had nine goals, seven assists and 226 penalty minutes in 119 career NHL games, often dropping the gloves against much larger opponents.
Just 16 years old, the death of the unknown high school hoops star captivated the nation because of the heartbreaking circumstances involved. After making a game-winning shot to secure an unbeaten season, Leonard collapsed and died during the postgame celebration. The cause of death was determined to be an enlarged heart.
Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew died on May 17 after a battle with esophageal cancer at age 74. Known for monster home runs and being a perfect gentleman, Killebrew loved the Twins and the fans loved him back. The slugger was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.
Hideki Irabu was a star pitcher in Japan before playing for the Expos, Rangers and Yankees, winning two World Series with the latter. On July 27, he was found dead in his California home. The 42-year-old apparently committed suicide by hanging himself. His marriage had reportedly fallen apart a few weeks before he took his life.
Grete Waitz was widely known as one of the best marathon runners in history. A nine-time winner of the New York City marathon, Waitz also captured a gold medal in the 1983 world championships and a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics. The 57-year-old Waitz died in Norway on April 19 after a long battle with cancer.
AFP/Getty ImagesROALD BERIT
Walt Hazzard had a long history with Los Angeles basketball, starring with the UCLA Bruins as a player and also coaching the team. He had ties to the Los Angeles Lakers as both a player and scout. Hazzard died Nov. 19 in Los Angeles at the age of 69 after complications from heart surgery.
Ron Lyle has battled some of the biggest names in boxing with Muhammad Ali and George Foreman among his list of opponents. He ran a gym in Denver and once trained light welterweight contender Victor Ortiz. Lyle died Nov. 26 from stomach abscess.
Former San Francisco Giants outfielder Matty Alou enjoyed success in major league baseball along with his brothers Felipe and Jesus Alou. In fact, all three brothers played together for the Giants, marking a first for Major League baseball. Alou died Nov. 3 of complications from diabetes.
Dave Duerson played for the Chicago Bears, New York Giants and Phoenix Cardinals, winning Super Bowls with the ’85 Bears and ’90 Giants. The former NFLer died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 50. Duerson's family donated his brain to trauma research.
Margo Dydek, a former WNBA player, died at 37 following a heart attack on May 27. Tragically, Dydek was pregnant with her third child at the time of her death.
A gifted football player, Ollie Matson played multiple positions in the NFL including receiver, running back and kick returner. When he retired, Matson had amassed more than 12,800 yards playing for the Chicago Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles — mostly losing teams. On Feb. 19, Matson died of respiratory failure at 80.
Former NC State forward Lorenzo Charles was responsible for the last second slam dunk in the 1983 national championship game that lifted the Wolfpack over the vaunted Houston Cougars. The 47-year-old Charles was driving a bus on Interstate 40 that crashed, killing him.
Legendary soccer player Sócrates died on Dec. 4 in his home country of Brazil. One of FIFA’s top 100 players, Sócrates became known for more than his feats on the field — he was also a doctor and respected political commentator.
Lee Roy Selmon
Lee Roy Selmon had a distinguished football career. At the collegiate level, Selmon was part of two national championship teams and an All-American. As an NFL player, he was voted to six consecutive Pro Bowls. But football was a family affair for Selmon and his brothers. Lee Roy played alongside his brothers Lucious and Dewey at Oklahoma. Moving on from Oklahoma, Selmon again joined his brother Dewey as a member of the Buccaneers.
John Mackey left a legacy in the NFL that lasted far beyond his playing days as a Hall of Fame tight end for the Baltimore Colts and San Diego Chargers. Mackey also served as the first head of the NFL players association. Mackey died on July 6 of dementia and his plight led to the NFL Players' Association creating the "88 plan" — named after Mackey's number — to provide care for retired players.
Bob Forsch is the third-winningest pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals behind only Bob Gibson and Jesse Haines. Forsch was so well respected in the city that he had the honor of throwing out the first pitch before Game 7 of the World Series this year. St. Louis won the game — and the series. Forsch died just one week later at 61.
McGlockton, who played college football at Clemson and spent years with the Raiders, had been part of the Stanford coaching staff since 2010. As a defensive tackle, McGlockton had a stellar NFL career totaling 555 tackles, 51 sacks and forcing 14 fumbles. McGlockton was just 42 at the time of his death of an apparent heart attack.
Mike Flanagan was a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles where he won the Cy Young Award in 1979 and was part of the Orioles World Series winning squad in 1983. Flanagan died Aug. 24 of a reported self-inflicted gunshot wound.
"Easy" Ed Macauley
Hall of Famer Ed Macauley died at 83. Macauley was famously traded by the Boston Celtics to the St. Louis Hawks in 1956 for center Bill Russell. The Hawks faced the Celtics twice in the Finals winning the second matchup in 1958.
Gilliam played 13 NBA seasons for seven different teams including the Bucks, Sixers, Jazz, Nets, Hornets and Suns. Gilliam died July 5 while playing pickup basketball. He was 47.
Splittorff died the winningest pitcher in Kansas City Royals history and maintained a close connection with the club. Splittorff died May 25 at 64 of complications from melanoma.