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Welsh Sportsmen Who Dabbled in American Sports Leagues

Welsh sports stars are renowned for being loyal servants to their beloved national sports. This means that very few ever compete outside of rugby union, football, or boxing.

However, there are a select few figures who down through the years at least pitched themselves into other sports, some in which their existing skills were expected to serve them well, and others not so much.

Here are some of the Welsh sportsmen who having found fame in their native Wales, went on to try and crack the US via leagues like the NBA, NFL, and MLB.

With its similarities to rugby union, it is perhaps a surprise that more Welsh rugby players have not transferred over to the world of American football

Steve Nash – The NBA Star with Welsh Roots

Wales has never had a representative in the NBA, or has it? Because, unbeknownst to many, NBA legend Steve Nash does actually have Welsh roots.

The Hall of Famer, who was always worth a bet to lead the basketball teams he captained to victory, had an English father from London, but his mother originally hailed from Swansea.

During interviews, Nash has commented a few times about how fond he is of his Welsh heritage, despite having been born in South Africa and becoming a Canadian resident, from where he went on to become the NBA icon he is today.

As well as featuring in NBA betting tips and money lines his whole career, Nash was also a pretty nifty footballer, with the dribbling skills of Ryan Giggs and a haircut to rival those sported by Gareth Bale or the great Bobby Woodruff.

In the end, even if Nash had opted to play football he would have probably played for Canada, just as he did in basketball, leading the Maple Leaves into the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney where he suffered an agonizing defeat to the French.

In that game, just as in all those he played in the NBA, Nash went above and beyond to prove his doubters wrong. He failed on that occasion, but his legacy is one of near total dominance out on the parquet wherever he played, including NBA franchises like the Lakers, the Suns, and the Mavericks.

To top it all off he is now even the coach of the resurgent Nets, harnessing the Welsh underdog in him to propel Brooklyn to a maiden NBA title, for which they are placed as joint NBA betting favorites to achieve, once the grueling regular season and playoffs are all said and done.

The welsh weather is perhaps part of the reason why baseball has never taken off in the valleys

Paul Thorburn – A Gridiron One Hit Wonder

Paul Thorburn is one of the most decorated full backs that the Welsh rugby union national team has ever seen, receiving a total of 37 caps and notching no less than 304 points. Throughout his rugby career he was known for having a kick like a mule, regularly launching penalties through the uprights from as far back as 70 yards.

Sure enough, NFL bigwigs clapped eyes on some of this footage and came to the UK to find out what they were missing. This culminated in Thorburn trying out for the Los Angeles Rams while playing an exhibition game at Wembley Stadium against the Denver Broncos.

At the time rugby union was still a strictly amateur endeavor, so Thorburn had to trudge out to kick a penalty knowing he was surrounded by NFL millionaires. Unsurprisingly the moment got to him, and he missed the only kick he had been expected to easily make.

As a result, his American football career was over before it had even started, something which in interviews he has sounded somewhat bitter about.

Who can blame the man, having been judged off the back of just one kick? What was the NFL’s loss was rugby union’s gain, that is for sure.

Jimmy Austin – One of Baseball’s Founding Fathers

While Nash and Thorburn both played contrasting roles in sports that were already well established by the time they came to them, Jimmy Austin of Swansea was so much more than that to the sport of baseball, featuring in the team that would eventually become the revered New York Yankees.

His true claim to fame was being photographed as a baseman, as one of the greatest players in history, Ty Cobb, slid in to be called safe at third base.

By the time he retired, Austin was so respected in the game that he went on to have an eight-year stint as coach of the Chicago White Sox.

Not content with all that achievement, the Welshman undertook civic duties, becoming mayor of his adopted hometown in the US.