Odds Against Both Succeeding as Pros Are Astronomical


Horace Grant collects the rings, having won three NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls.

Harvey Grant collects the hoops, having averaged 18.6 points a game last season for the Washington Bullets and scoring well this season for the Portland Trail Blazers.

They are identical twins who each earn multimillions playing professional basketball, but they are an extraordinary exception.

The same odds that keep most athletes from reaching the pros are doubly daunting to twins, many of whom quit a sport when one of the pair peaks out.

Ozzie Canseco has had brief stints in the major leagues, never able to approach the success of Jose, his twin.

Prior to the Grants, basketball players Dick and Tom Van Arsdale, who retired in 1977, and tennis players Tom and Tim Gullickson excelled as pros.

"The odds that both twins would get that good are astronomical," Tom Gullickson said.

Constantly boosting one another up the ladder, twins inevitably separate by the time they reach the pros. To survive at the top, they ultimately must learn to live without each other.

"When you are working with your twin in the same sport, sharing the same pain and glory, somehow it helps you through it as you are growing up," Gullickson said. "But eventually you have to play at the same level on your own."

The Van Arsdales played on different teams until the final season of their 12-year NBA careers when Tom joined Dick on the Phoenix Suns. Their numbers are remarkably similar, with Dick scoring 15,079 points in 921 games and Tom scoring 14,232 in 929 games.

For statistical similarity, however, it would be difficult to top the 1991 performance of Dodger minor league pitchers Michael and Mark Mimbs. In two Class-A leagues, each won 12 games and allowed 42 earned runs. "Two pitchers, one person," Michael said at the time.

However, the Mimbs also exemplify the difficulty of twins advancing together through the professional ranks.

Michael was released this year during spring training after posting a 10-8 record at double-A San Antonio in 1992. Mark is hanging on, having shuttled between San Antonio and triple-A Albuquerque last season.

Fraternal twins of different genders must go it alone professionally regardless of how close they were while growing up.

John Elway's biggest fan playing football and baseball at Granada Hills High in the 1970s was his twin sister, Jana, a tennis standout in her own right.

"They were regulars at each other's events," said Darryl Stroh, a longtime Granada Hills teacher and coach. "The closeness of their family was obvious. They did nothing but boost one another."

The demands of pro sports put physical distance between twin athletes, from the Grants to the Cansecos to the Elways.

The bond remains strong, however, as the Gullicksons demonstrate. Both have significant coaching responsibilities: Tom is the U.S. Davis Cup captain; Tim is coach of Pete Sampras, the No. 1 player in the world.

Still, they make time to play together in doubles matches several times a year.

"Whether it is miles or families keeping us apart, that relationship is there," Tom Gullickson said.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World