Sports star relationships with uncomfortable age gaps

Sports stars often have it easy when it comes to attracting beautiful women. With tons of fans watching them on the field or on the court, there's never a shortage of gorgeous women interested in dating an athlete. Sometimes these women just so happen to be young … very young. People may turn their noses up at May-December romances, but, as they say, the heart wants what the heart wants.

Though many popular athletes were once married to women with whom they were close in age, some left those marriages behind to begin relationships with younger women who captured their hearts. Surprisingly, many of these relationships have continued to blossom throughout the years. Apparently, the massive age gaps just couldn't stop these older athletes and their young partners from falling more deeply in love.

These athletes' relationships are proof that love knows no bounds. From professional wrestlers to basketball players to golf legends, here are a few sports star relationships with uncomfortable age gaps.

Derek Jeter's young wife is an 'old soul'

Once upon a time, Derek Jeter was one of the sports world's most eligible bachelors. He dated everyone from Mariah Carey to Jessica Biel, though no one locked him down for long. But the former New York Yankees star changed his relationship status from single to taken when he met Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Hannah Davis in 2012.

Despite their 16-year age difference, a source told Us Weekly, "Their relationship works because they are both supportive and sweet to each other … They almost never fight."

Perhaps they get along so well because Davis is more mature than what her age would suggest. A family friend told the New York Post, "Her mom told me, when Hannah was about 16, that she was an 'old soul' … She definitely has a wisdom beyond her years."

The couple later tied the knot in 2016 when Davis was 26 and Jeter was 42. The nuptials took place in an intimate ceremony in St. Helena, Calif., a source told People, and in August 2017, the couple welcomed a baby girl named Bella Raine.

Julius Erving married his much younger mistress

Professional basketball player Julius Erving's philandering past is no secret. The athlete wrote all about it in the pages of his autobiography, Dr. J, spilling the tea on his own womanizing ways (via Daily Mail).

As he explained, the Hall of Famer was married to his then-wife, Turquoise, at the height of his career. The couple had four children together, but that apparently didn't stop his wandering eye. Having cheated multiple times, Erving would father not one but two children outside of his marriage to Turquoise. 

The first child was the product of an affair he had with a woman named Samantha Stevenson, which resulted in the birth of their daughter, tennis player Alexander. His second child conceived outside of his marriage to Turquoise was carried by his mistress, Dorýs Madden, who is 19 years his junior. But Erving and Madden's relationship wasn't just a fling — it appeared to be the real deal.

Not letting their age difference (or his marriage) stop them from solidifying their relationship, Erving and Madden got married in 2008 after he finalized his divorce from Turquoise, and they went on to have two more children together.

Michael Jordan is 15 years older than his wife

After divorcing his ex-wife, Juanita, in 2006 and being ordered to pay one of the most costly divorce settlements ever (to the tune of $150 million), we thought for sure that basketball legend Michael Jordan was done with love. And we certainly didn't expect him to walk down the aisle again, but, boy, were we ever wrong. Even if he had made a personal vow to swear off committed relationships in the future, the sports star's love life made a slam dunk when he met Yvette Prieto in 2008, as reported by USA Today.

After getting engaged in 2011, the high-profile couple tied the knot in 2013 in Palm Beach, Fla. Jordan was 50 years at the time, and Prieto was 35 — proving that, when it comes to love, age is just a number. The following year, the New York Daily News reported that Prieto had given birth to twin daughters, Victoria and Ysabel. 

Wladimir Klitschko & Hayden Panettiere's relationship 'looked crazy' at first

It's pretty obvious that Nashville star Hayden Panettiere has a thing for older men. During the height of her acting career, she added her name to the list of celebs who've dated their on-screen love interests when she went out with her Heroes co-star Milo Ventimiglia when she was barely 18 years old and he was 29 (via Mr Porter). After their 2009 breakup, Panettiere upped the ante in terms of finding a much older mate, and she went completely gaga over former professional boxer Wladimir Klitschko, who was 13 years her senior.

Even Panettiere knew that she and Klitschko were an odd match when she spoke to Cosmopolitan in 2014. "On paper, a relationship between the two of us looked crazy. From where we live to where we come from, the differences in our lives are fairly big," she told the publication. She forgot to mention their staggering height and age difference, but we digress…

After meeting at a book party and becoming an item in 2009, they had a brief breakup before reconnecting and getting engaged in October 2013 (via ABC News). The couple later welcomed their first child together in 2014, as reported by Us Weekly.

Steve Nash found love with a college athlete

Steve Nash's first marriage to Alejandra Amarilla — with whom he shares three children with — may have hit the skids after nine years, but that didn't deter the former professional basketball player from giving marriage another shot when he met Lilla Frederick.

He and Frederick, a former college volleyball player, got engaged in March 2016, according to TMZ. The proposal took place in the super romantic city of Majorca, Spain where the couple had been vacationing. Nash obviously couldn't wait to share the news of the engagement, so he posted a photo on his Instagram soon after with a caption that simply read, "She said yes!"

They later tied the knot in September of that same year when Frederick was just 26 and Nash was 42. Frederick gave birth to their son, Luca, in 2017, and the sports star and his young bride were ecstatic about the new addition to their family. "Mom's a serious champ and we're in love with this little guy," Nash wrote in the caption of an Instagram photo featuring the adorable newborn.

Hines Ward swapped his young wife

Former Pittsburgh Steelers player Hines Ward may not be on the field during game days anymore, but the team's home stadium of Heinz Field was the backdrop to his 2014 wedding to Lindsey Georgalas. TMZ reported that the former wide receiver had been dating Georgalas since 2012. After walking down the 50-yard line to say their "I do's," the couple appeared on an episode of Celebrity Wife Swap in 2015 when Ward was 39 and Georgalas was 24.

During filming, Ward swapped Georgalas with actor Verne Troyer's girlfriend Brittney Powell. "She was hesitant," Ward told AJC about his young bride's reluctance in appearing on the reality show. 

Come to find out, Georgalas may have been young, but she was far from being naive. Maybe her inner voice was trying to save her from the impending national embarrassment. On an episode of the program, Georgalas attempted to redecorate Troyer's game room, and the Austin Power star let out a huge, smelly fart right in front of her as a form of protest. Gross.

Bjorn Borg now has the 'perfect life'

Swedish tennis champ Bjorn Borg was swarmed by fans during his heyday, thanks to his long and luscious hair and, of course, his skills on the court. "There were girls on the way to the practice court, girls by the match court, and girls waiting in the lobby of my hotel," he once told The Telegraph. And after two failed marriages, he was finally able to rifle through a bevy of eager women to finally find the girl of his dreams.

The five-time Wimbledon champ married Patricia Ostfeldt in 2002 in front of 130 family members and friends, according to Hello! magazine. Borg was 46 on their wedding day and Ostfeldt was 35. Now, their age gap may not seem that bad compared to some of the other athlete relationships, but keep in mind that when Borg was 10 years old Ostfeldt wasn't even born yet. Yeah, let that sink in.

Even though they have more than a few years between them, Borg believes he's finally with his one true love. "It feels as though I have found the right woman for me and I'm now living the way I want to live. I have the perfect life now and I wouldn't change a thing," he gushed to The Telegraph.

Tiki Barber & his intern drove off into the sunset

Scandal erupted when former New York Giants and NBC Today show host Tiki Barber was exposed for having an affair with his babysitter-turned-NBC intern, Traci Lynn Johnson. What made the story even more scandalous was the fact that Barber's wife, Ginny, was pregnant with twins at the time he was engaging in the affair.

Eight days after his divorce from his ex-wife was finalized, 37-year-old Barber wed 23-year-old Johnson at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau, the Daily Mail reported. Their union wasn't without backlash, though, especially after details leaked on just how aggressively he had pursued the young woman. 

"On her 21st birthday, he sent her 21 dozen roses to her dorm. He also gave her a diamond and sapphire bracelet," a source told the NY Post. "At this point, she had a boyfriend, and told him that she and Tiki were 'just friends,' but nobody bought it."

With the scandal finally behind them, the mismatched couple has appeared to be more in love than ever. They even welcomed their second child together in 2016.

Robert Kraft mended his broken heart with a young babe

Robert Kraft lost the love of his life, wife Myra, when she died of ovarian cancer in July 2011. The owner of the New England Patriots found comfort in his football organization and the team's players who graciously dedicated the 2011 football season to Myra's memory. "I sort of feel robbed," Kraft told the Boston Globe when he described having his time with Myra cut short. But a year after her passing, he found companionship in Ricki Noel Lander, a dancer and actress who was 39 years his junior.

While getting to know one another, Lander accompanied Kraft to various events, including a Boston Celtics basketball game and a U.S. Open tennis match, and it was clear to everyone that they were a couple. But, in an unusual twist, TMZ reported in early March 2018 that Lander had secretly given birth to a baby — and it wasn't Kraft's! 

At the time, Kraft's rep issued this statement: "While Robert Kraft is not the biological father, he is thrilled with Ricki's blessing of having a healthy child. With respect to her family's privacy, we will not be commenting any further." Say what?!

Kurt Angle won his wife over with a trip to Arby's

Olympic gold medalist and WWE and TNA Hall of Famer Kurt Angle had just ended his first marriage to Karen Smedley, which played out on television as an Impact Wrestling storyline, when he met Giovanna Yannotti. The two connected on the set of the 2009 movie End Game, according to an interview Yannotti gave to Vince Russo in 2016.

Completely ignoring their 18-year age gap, Yannotti fell in love with the sports star's "big blue eyes" and how handsome he was. After becoming friends for a few years, he finally asked her out on a date to Arby's because nothing says "I love you" like a roast beef sandwich.

Friendship eventually turned into romance, and the couple later married in July 2012. As of 2016, Angle and Yannotti have had three children together and have apparently remained determined not to let their age difference get in the way of their unconventional love.