They've Got Game: 18 Athlete Romances You Should Be Rooting For

Meet-cutes, adorable pickup lines, grand gestures—yeah these athletes have game. And when it comes to envy-inducing relationship, these pairs are truly in a league of their own.

By Sarah Grossbart Jun 27, 2020 7:00 AMTags
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Admittedly, it's been a minute since our lives were filled with #sports. But not so long that we can't remember all that our favorite athletes have given us. 

There have been fourth quarter Super Bowl comebacks and impossible half-court shots and the utter joy of watching the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team saunter into France, brimming with confidence, and methodically best the competition, returning home to celebrate their World Cup win unabashedly with magnums of champagne and all the ticker tape in New York City.

And those are only the moves we've seen on the field, court and pitch. 

Athletes Who've Acted

Because make no mistake about it, these sports stars have got game

When your resume includes Olympic medals and Super Bowl rings and World Series wins and some 23 Grand Slam singles titles (hi, Serena Williams!), one might think you have a bit of a home field advantage in the dating department. But these athletes' tales of romance include adorably earnest pick-up lines, rom-com worthy meet cutes and the type of go-for-the-gold grand gestures that come natural when you're used to being cheered on by scores of screaming fans. 

And, frankly, they deserve a standing ovation. Because while Hollywood is filled with #relationshipgoals-worthy pairs (your Chrissy Teigen and John Legends of the world), these phenoms sure know how to step up to the plate and hit one out of the park romance-wise. You know, so to speak. 

Check out just a few of the sports-minded couples we feel are truly in a league of their own. 

Russell Wilson & Ciara

When you come out of the gate with a mid-vacation proposal in the Seychelles followed by a wedding in an actual castle in Cheshire, England, well, it starts to feel like there's nowhere left to go but down. But when it comes to his four-plus year marriage with effervescent pop star Ciara, she of the magical hips, tireless work ethic and the catchy No. 1 singles, all the Seattle Seahawks quarterback does is win. 

Having landed his dream girl—who gave birth to her third child, son Win this July— "I'm truly grateful every day to get to come home," he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "and it puts a smile on my face every time."

Sterling Shepard & Chanel Iman

The Giants wide receiver made the ultimate catch attending former teammate Victor Cruz's birthday party back in November 2016. Spying the Gucci and Versace runway vet, "I walked up to her and bought her a drink and it was over after that," he told People

Thirteen months later, the Victoria's Secret model was accepting his birthday proposal and by March 2018, they were wed and expecting their first daughter Cali. Daughter Cassie rounded out their team this past December with Iman crowing, "Our Christmas gift came early."

Tom Brady & Gisele Bundchen

No matter that Tampa Bay's newly minted quarterback started this season in a new uniform with a different coach, a few things haven't changed. New England's former 14-time pro bowler still has his six Super Bowl rings and is still out-kicking his coverage personally thanks to bride of 11 years, Bundchen. 

Sure, the 6-foot-4 dad of three is no slouch, but the Brazilian-bred beauty—the world's highest-paid model for 15 years straight—is practically synonymous with supermodel. As Brady wrote in a February anniversary tribute, "You have always been the one to hold us up and you love us the way no one else can."

Rob Gronkowski & Camille Kostek

He's got three Super Bowl rings and some 79 NFL touchdowns, but the tight end's best catch might just be girlfriend Kostek. "Whatever he does, whatever he wants to pursue, anything that excites him, I'm like, 'Go for it. I got your back,'" the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover model told E! News of her love of five years. "And he's the same way with anything. He's watched me on this journey for years as we've been together."

Their path has led them down to Tampa Bay, where Gronk joins back up with former Patriots teammate Tom Brady, but the spring quarantine afforded them a break from their constant, on-the-go careers. "It would always be, like, waking up early, like, 4 a.m. to catch a 6 a.m. flight," she said. "Now it's so nice to not set an alarm and sleep in and snuggle in the morning." The rest of their days was a picture-perfect mix of workouts, creating TikTok content and teaming up in the kitchen. "He's like my little sous chef and we bake," she shared. "We do mediating together. "We do a lot of breath work and yoga stretches and I've been teaching him a lot of stuff as much as he teaches me about workouts."

Dwyane Wade & Gabrielle Union

Okay, technically the former Miami Heat guard has hung up his sneaks, but he's still got game and one of the more enviable marriages around. Always able to find the fun (see, for example: the '90s-themed bash Wade threw for the actress' 46th birthday), they do their best not to get bogged down in petty arguments. "He lets me off the hook, and I do the same," she told Glamour. "Is it annoying that he refuses to put the cap back on the toothpaste? Yes. But at the end of the day, I just screw it back on myself. It's give-and-take."

And to the star what she reaps is well worth it. Calling her husband "a Nicholas Sparks book exploded into an NBA player" she told E! News, "he's very romantic and a great gift-giver." (Among his best: a surprise first anniversary trip to Bora Bora.) In fact their married life is so "freakishly awesome," Union told E! News, "It's almost kind of embarrassing to talk about."

Justin Verlander & Kate Upton

By the time the Florida native met the Virginia-bred athlete in 2012, they already had the makings of a power couple. Named the Rookie of the Year in the 2011 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Upton had long shed her catalog model roots while the baseball pro had won the Pitching Triple Crown, the AL Cy Young Award, the AL Most Valuable Player Award and the Sporting News Player of the Year Award. So he was awash with confidence when he decided to shoot his shot on the set of the MLB 2K12 commercial they were filming, telling his friends he was going to get her number. Only snag, "I had my microphone on and didn't realize," he shared with Us Weekly in 2018.

He was slightly mortified that she heard, but as he told the mag, "It worked." Five years later, the couple wed in Italy mere days after he won the World Series with the Astros. As he put it to People, "It's such a crazy dream-come-true moment and two of those happened within a span of a couple days."

Gerard Pique & Shakira

The Colombian singer knows how to pick a winner, singling the Spanish soccer player out after he appeared with other in the video for "Waka Waka (This Time for South Africa)," the official song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. "I wasn't a soccer fan, so I didn't know who he was," she recalled on 60 Minutes. "When I saw the video, I was like, 'Hmm, that one's kind of cute.' And then someone decided to introduce us."

By March 2011, they were Insta official, but the duo aren't looking to solidify things much more beyond their two sons. "To tell you the truth, marriage scares the s--t out of me," she said on the CBS newsmagazine. "I don't want him to see me as 'the wife.' I want him to see me as his girlfriend. Lover, his girlfriend, a little forbidden fruit, you know? I want to keep him on his toes. I want him to think that anything's possible, depending on behavior." 

Megan Rapinoe & Sue Bird

"I'm kind of wild, and people are f--king here for it," the two-time World Cup winner joked to InStyle in October 2019, detailing the differences between her and three-time WNBA champion Bird, who's "more private and keeps things close to the vest."

Together, though, Seattle's most badass couple make some pretty damn good teammates. A solidified pair since connecting at the 2016 Olympics, the athletes share a knack for winning (jointly, they've amassed the two World Cups, a trio of WNBA and NCAA championships and five Olympic gold medals) a passion for activism and a mutual respect. "We have a lot in common and just sort of clicked," Rapinoe told ESPNW in 2017. "I joke she is my No. 1 go-to-for-advice person. She's just so level-headed."

LeBron James & Savannah Brinson

The true MVP of the James' household, Brinson was the small forward's teammate long before he was collecting championships with Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving. And during that first date to an Akron, Ohio Outback Steakhouse, the cheerleader and softball player had no inkling that the basketball standout from her rival high school would go on to rule the NBA. "I just thought he'd be a hometown hero for his era and it would be over," she told Harper's Bazaar.

Fast forward a decade or so, and she and 2003's No. 1 draft pick were marrying at an event so star-studded Beyoncé and Jay-Z were on hand to perform their hit "Crazy in Love". Now raising their brood of three at a $23 million mansion in L.A., where James took his talents to the Lakers, "The only reason why I can do what I do at the highest level both on and off the floor is my because my best friend got my back regardless the outcome!" he wrote in a November 2019 tribute. "I'm just the car, she's the engine!"

Julie & Zach Ertz

When the Santa Clara University soccer star accepted a handful of sunflower seeds from a cute guy at a Stanford baseball game back in 2012, she had no clue he was an All-American on the Cardinal's football squad. But their first date to Chipotle is still memorable. "To this day, still one of our favorites," he told Philadelphia Magazine. Two years later, she was selected third by the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL draft, landing her some 750 miles from where the 2013 second round pick catches passes for the Eagles.

Though she was on hand to watch him win a Super Bowl in Minneapolis in 2018, they spend more time chatting through FaceTime than in person. "We always joke that I have a relationship with my phone," she told the mag. "But I think we knew that going in. I don't want to say it makes it easier at all…but we understand."

Serena Williams & Alexis Ohanian

Remember the time Alexis Ohanian commissioned a series of billboards to be set up in Palm Springs, welcoming wife Serena Williams back to competition following an arduous maternity leave? Or when he swept her off to Venice because she mentioned that some pasta might be nice? "She had a craving, so I delivered," he modestly shared with Glamour

So endlessly supportive, he'd likely be quick to remind you he's the one that scored, being wed to arguably the greatest tennis player in the world and the GMOAT (that'd be the Greatest Momma of All Time) to their 3-year-old daughter Alexis. But what makes him the perfect love match for the athlete has little to do with his sweeping gestures. "You have to show up," he wrote in his Glamour essay. "You have to be supportive. These are the things that matter."

Sydney Leroux & Dom Dwyer

"If our kid doesn't want to play soccer and he or she wants to do something else, we're fine with that," Orlando Pride forward Leroux declared in a 2015 editions of MLS Insider. "I mean, they will play soccer." Considering Mom and Dad's story—each born outside of the U.S., coming to America in the hopes of scoring for the national team—it would be pretty shocking if son Cassius, 4, and 14-month-old daughter Roux didn't eventually find their way onto the pitch. ''I think it's the coolest thing. The fact is that both of us weren't born here: We followed the American Dream,'' the Canada native, who's earned a gold medal and World Cup with the U.S. women's team, told Sports Illustrated.

Along the way, they found another one, meeting at a Seattle match and marrying in secret less than a year later in January 2015. "It all sort of happened pretty quickly," British bred Dwyer, a forward for Orlando City," admitted. Now one of the sport's top power couples, "I can't write a better story," Leroux wrote in a social media post, honoring her guy's appointment to the national team, "but I know this is just the beginning."

Lindsey Vonn & P.K. Subban

The New Jersey Devils defenseman doesn't just have moves on ice. His opening salvo—declaring to ESPN at the July 2017 ESPYs, "It's hotter outside than Lindsey Vonn looks today, which is pretty hot,"—fell a little flat due to her relationship with former L.A. Rams assistant coach Kenan Smith. But it wasn't all that much later that Vonn began showing up rinkside. "As soon as I was single, he was very persistent in his messages until we finally met up and, yeah," Vonn told Access Live in February 2019. "He won me over."

His continued grand gestures—a custom G.O.A.T.-shaped cake when she announced her retirement; a private chef whipping up her favorites for Valentine's Day—had her confidently declaring, "He's definitely the one," and that was several months before he proposed with an emerald ring. Four months later, she returned the favor on their two-year anniversary. "We talk about equality but actions speak louder than words," she explained. "Men should get engagement rings too and this is what PK deserves. Can't wait to marry you babe."

Patrick Mahomes & Brittany Matthews

You get a ring...and you get a ring! At least that was the sitch when the Super Bowl MVP went to pick up his new bling Sept. 1. Filling a suite at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium with hundreds of white roses and a marquee spelling out his proposal, he left bride-to-be Matthews gushing, "My heart is so full! I love this man so incredibly much and today was so so special! Couldn't imagine this day being any more perfect!"

The quarterback had worked out his game plan for quite some time, admitting he felt more stress about the day then he did leading the Chiefs to victory in February. Since the pair had pretty much decided on forever eight years after meeting when she was a cheerleader and he a standout safety at Texas' White House High School, "You don't think it's going to be nerve-racking when you've been with someone for so long," the Kansas City Royals' part owner told KCSP 610 Sports Radio, "but before you get on that knee, man, your heart's racing. I promise you that."

Jrue & Lauren Holiday

Back in 2008 when the New Orleans Pelicans guard was a stand-out freshman at UCLA, an autograph seeker approached him at a women's basketball game, thinking he was his teammate Darren Collison. Witnessing the whole exchange, Lauren, a member of the Bruins soccer team, chimed in, "Don't worry, you're cuter than Darren."

It's a decidedly adorable meet-cute, but the rest of their love story is even better. Retired from the national women's team, the World Cup champ and two-time gold medalist was nearly five months pregnant when she learned she had a brain tumor. Without thought, Jrue took a months-long sabbatical from his NBA gig in 2016 to be at his bride's side until the meningioma was successfully removed. Now a devoted father to their 4-year-old daughter Drue, "You show us everyday what unconditional love looks like," Lauren wrote in a Father's Day tribute. You show up for us on your best and your worst days and it never feels like you give us any less."

Alex Morgan & Servando Carrasco

Coming of age in the nineties just down the interstate from each other in California, both Morgan and Carrasco were big names in the soccer world when they landed at University of California, Berkeley in 2007. Standouts on their respective teams (Carrasco served as co-captain; Morgan finished her career ranked third all-time in goals scored and points for the Cal Golden Bears), it just made sense for king and queen of the pitch to be together.

More than a decade on, the L.A. Galaxy midfielder has watched in awe as his wife, now mom to 4-month-old daughter Charlie, has, quite simply, ruled. "She's a badass woman," he marveled to last June, before she nabbed her second World Cup. "When my nieces talk to her and they look up to her, that's as good as it gets. I mean, the soccer stuff, yeah, for sure, cool. But to see her on the '100 Most Influential in the World' in Time magazine? I'm like, damn. She's making a difference." 

J.J. Watt & Kealia Ohai

When the Houston Texan's standout defensive end wed the soccer forward in the Bahamas this past February, he took a moment to remind everyone just how much he'd scored, popping his color to show the "Mr. Kealia Watt" embroidered underneath. It was a fitting callback to the time he took Houston's ABC affiliate to task for referring to the athlete simply as J.J. Watt's fiancée in a story about her trade to the Chicago Red Stars. "This headline is trash," he wrote in a tweet. "Kealia Ohai (which is her name by the way, since you didn't even bother to mention it) is incredible entirely on her own merit and deserves to be treated as such."

He certainly does, the five-time pro bowler admitting to People, "We're very competitive. Very, very competitive and we like to workout together. She's much faster than me, [while] I'm slightly stronger." But the duo—introduced by Watt's former teammate Brian Cushing, who's wed to Ohai's sister Megan, a former USC soccer player—aren't all work and no play. Continued Watt, "We have a lot of fun together." 

Steph & Ayesha Curry

Hard to believe the two-time NBA MVP failed to connect on his initial move with now-wife Ayesha. But when the then-Davidson College standout went in for a kiss during a hang with his former youth group pal, she ducked. Thankfully, "We had a do-over!" she told told E! News' Jason Kennedy in October 2017. And a few years after that first kiss in his parents' driveway back in their hometown of Charlotte, he proposed in that very spot. "Yeah, it was like The Notebook," he told Parents

When they discovered months after their 2011 vows they were expecting their first child—future press conference scene-stealer Riley, 8—Ayesha worried she'd never fully find her professional footing. But nearly a decade, two more kids and an entire lifestyle empire later, she's done just fine, her list of titles including cookbook author, Food Network personality, model and philanthropist. Just don't saddle her with the term "basketball wife." As she shrewdly pointed out to ABC News, "I mean, I don't think my husband would call himself 'chef's wife.'"

Ashlyn Harris & Ali Krieger

When the soccer stars first connected at a U.S. Women's National Soccer Team camp in 2010, "It was definitely for me like a love-at-first-sight type of thing," goalkeeper Harris recently told Sports Illustrated. Whenever they were afforded free time, "We would sit and have really long conversations and talk about our hopes and dreams and what we wanted to accomplish," she said. "We were just so infatuated with each other, and all of our goals aligned. I just felt like it was so effortless." Her future bride, agrees, noting how captivated she was by Harris' easy confidence. "I think I was more myself when I hung out with her, and that's when I knew she would become someone important in my life."

It took some nine years for them to make it to the altar this past December, but it was well worth the wait, the Miami bash, officiated by Leroux, with Rapinoe as maid of honor, coming just five months after the Orlando Pride teammates' joint World Cup win. "I don't know if we can top 2019," defender Krieger admitted, "but we're going to try."

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