For decades, Bo Jackson has often been considered the best multi-sport athlete in history. Well, Air Bud might have something to say about that. Twenty years ago, Buddy first burst onto the scene with Air Bud, a franchise that has now spanned 14 films, and soon, he showed that being an all-time great in multiple sports isn’t as hard as Michael Jordan made it seem. While Jackson excelled in baseball and football, this talented golden retriever demonstrated uncanny abilities in those same sports plus basketball, soccer, and beach volleyball. To celebrate the pup’s big anniversary, we did the only reasonable thing and ranked his skills in all five sports-centric movies… although, who can really say if he’s better at basketball than his puppies are at saving the world?
5. Baseball (Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch)
I hate to question the skills of a sport-playing dog who seems to have an undefeated record, but I have a bone to pick with Seventh Inning Fetch. Other than the great opportunity for a dog pun (see previous sentence), there wasn’t much sense in putting Buddy on the diamond. There are two crucial things he’s lacking that are integral to baseball: Hands. And even two good hands doesn’t guarantee sucess — just ask the star of Space Jam. The lack of such appendages causes an issue both at-bat and in the field for Buddy, and yet, he somehow still scores a call-up from the Anaheim Angels. I can only imagine the amount of favors Joseph Gordon-Levitt had to call in.
4. Volleyball (Air Bud Spikes Back)
Every great career must come to an end, and for some reason, Buddy’s came to a close with beach volleyball. (Personally, I’d have loved to see Air Bud: Puck This, but Spikes Back is a much more family-friendly title.) Once again, Buddy’s height is working against him in this sport, so he can’t do much actual spiking, but he does prove to be a natural setter and continues to bring his winning DNA to any team he joins. Surprisingly, there isn’t a bidding war over him among the professional teams in every sport. Just imagine the millions of treats he could fetch for his services.
3. Basketball (Air Bud)
“That dog couldn’t give a rat’s behind about his point average or if he’s MVP—he just loves to play the game!” That quote from Coach Chaney (Bill Cobbs) perfectly summarizes Buddy’s basketball game, for better and worse. While basketball may have been the dog’s first sport, it wasn’t his best, which is understandable since you can only get better with practice and experience. And let’s be honest, he’s kind of a limited player. He’s short, can’t dribble, is a bit out of control, and a tad dirty. I mean, to get a steal, he smashed the ball into a kid’s junk (yes, really). That being said, he has much better form in his shot than both his owner and Shaq.
2. Soccer (Air Bud: World Pup)
As an athlete, serving multiple purposes or being able to play different positions is an extremely valuable quality to have, and in World Pup, Buddy is the very definition of versatility. He can do it all, whether it’s score on a penalty kick, play goalie for the U.S. Women’s Team (he’s a male dog last time I checked, which was pretty recently), or rescue his six kidnapped newborn puppies. I’d like to see David Beckham pull that off. But for real, I’d love to see a movie where David Beckham tries to pull all those things off.
1. Football (Air Bud: Golden Receiver)
“Oh man, you can play football?!” Buddy’s owner Josh (Kevin Zegers) confusedly asks early on in the series’ second film. Despite the dog having already demonstrated his basketball prowess, people seem genuinely shocked that he can run and catch—two things pups are known to do. Like, if LeBron James could catch a football, would we be surprised? The one knock on Buddy’s football career is that the team was still able to emerge victorious in the big game after he sustains an injury. He did inspire a “ruff” chant at halftime, though, that led to their comeback, so he still probably deserves both Most Valuable Player and Most Valuable Puppy.