Sharing a name and surname with many people is guaranteed to cause you problems sooner or later, though it could've been worse. While musicians or actors often use stage names, athletes don't have much choice. For example, having "Jordan" as your surname may help your basketball career, but if your name is also "Michael," that may become a nightmare. While it's easy to be the best Mike Tyson or Diego Maradona, if your name is Jim/Jimmy/Jimmie Johnson, you may have a hard time getting into the top ten list! So let's take a look at the best of them!
10. Jim Johnson (Ice Hockey Center)
Jim Johnson (born Norman James Johnson) is not even the best Jim Johnson ice hockey player, but he was still good enough to earn a place on our top 10. Born in Canada in 1942, Johnson had a respectable NHL career, spending eight seasons in some famous teams. However, he wasn't a rule-changer. After three seasons in New York Rangers, he also played for Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings.
Johnson spent his best years with the Flyers, where on average, he played 70 games per season, scoring close to 20 goals with 25 assists. In his later years, he joined the long-forgotten World Hockey League before retiring in 1975. While he didn't win any trophy, he is an honored member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame.
9. Jim Johnson (Boxer)
Being a black pugilist in the early 20th century is already enough to give Jim Johnson (1887-1918) some respect. Our hero was a heavyweight who fought many terrific fighters of the era, including Sam Langford, Kid Norfolk, or Joe Jeanett. Still, as he is only ninth on our list, you can guess that he lost against all of them.
Nicknamed Battling Jim, he had an average record, including 23 wins, 16 losses, and 6 draws. However, he still had a shot at the world championship title, challenging one of the best ever, Jack Johnson. Nevertheless, the match was farcical as both Johnsons barely traded shots, so no wonder it ended up without a winner. Still, even that was enough for Battling Jim to have another chance for the belt, this time against Sam Langford. Yet, he easily lost a ten-rounder and never got another opportunity. Unfortunately, Johnson died in 1918, aged only 31.
8. Jimmie Johnson (Football Tight End)
Jimmie Olden Johnson Jr. (1966) had a solid college career playing for Howard University and was officially among the best in All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference during his senior season. That was good enough to enter the draft in 1989 before being picked by the Washington Redskins in the 12th round. Johnson did much better in his rookie season than anyone could have expected, playing all 16 games. The next season was his best, as he caught 15 passes and scored two touchdowns.
After that, it all went south for him. After suffering an injury in the Super Bowl-winning 1991 season, he moved to Detroit Lions. Despite being a starter, his production was diminishing, so he was released in 1993. His tenure in Kansas City Chiefs was a disaster, so he came to Philadelphia Eagles, where he ended his career. Johnson had more success as tight ends coach for teams such as Minnesota Vikings or "cursed" New York Jets.
7. Jim Johnson (Ice Hockey Defense)
James Erik Johnson (1962) had a pretty inspiring playing career. Despite being undrafted in 1985, he never gave up and was eventually signed as a free agent by the Pittsburgh Penguins the same year. Johnson soon proved to be a worthy acquisition as in his first four seasons, he played 70 games on average. Later, he also had three decent seasons for Minnesota North Stars, playing for Stanley Cup Championship in 1991.
Even in his late-career with the Washington Capitals and Phoenix Coyotes, he participated in more than 50 games per season before retiring in 1998. It's also noteworthy that he represented the USA at the international level but never won a medal. Like some other guys on our list, Johnson later became a successful coach, working as an assistant for Capitals, Sharks, and Oilers.
6. Jim Johnson (Baseball)
James Robert Johnson (1983) was never considered a top talent, as he was picked in the fifth round of the 2001 MLB draft. Despite this, his debut for Baltimore Orioles came five years later! These were frustrating times for Johnson, as in 2006 and 2007, he played only a single game per season! Still, in 2008 he finally got more playing time and in 2012 was an All-Star. That season and the next one, he was also MLB saves leader.
Unfortunately, after moving from Orioles, Johnson experienced a strong decline. From 2014 to 2018, he played for six teams without any success, prompting him to retire. His downfall was a subject of many analyses, with one of them concluding that he became one-dimensional and easy to read. Overall, his MLB career is well above-average, but it feels like he could have done so much more.
5. Jim Johnson (Jockey)
This Jim Johnson (1929-2021) is probably the best Jim Johnson you've never heard of! Still, the Australian jockey was a real star in his home country, winning tons of races, including the world-famous Melbourne Cup. Moreover, he is one of only eight people finishing first at least three times. Johnson had a very distinct and rather strange riding style, and he was the king of tight finishes.
Unfortunately for the world, he didn't have an international career, opting to spend most of his life in Adelaide. In 2009, he was finally elected into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame, despite retiring in 1976. Until his death, he was still active, regularly visiting horse racing events and performing his hall of fate duties.
4. Jim Johnson (Football Coach)
Jim Johnson (1941-2009) dedicated his whole life to football, despite his modest playing career. Despite being undrafted in 1963, he signed the contract with Buffalo Bills, staying there for two seasons. His performance as a tight end never drew much attention, so in 1964, he decided to quit. However, he found much more success as a coach. In 1977 his work with defensive backs helped the University of Notre Dame win the national championship, promoting him to assistant head coach.
In 1986, he was finally in the NFL, working as a defensive line coach for the Cardinals, before moving to Colts, Seahawks, and finally Eagles. Only in Philadephia Johnson was given full freedom as a defensive coordinator. During this time, he was among the highest-paid NFL coordinators, while 26 Eagles defenders played in Pro Bowls. What made him so successful was his ability to coordinate terrific blitzes, which often surprised opponents. Unfortunately, cancer stopped him from creating an even better legacy.
3. Jimmy Johnson (Football Cornerback)
Born in 1938, James Earl Johnson was a terrific multi-sport athlete best known for his tenure in the NFL. Drafted in 1961 as the sixth pick overall, he stayed in San Francisco 49ers during his whole career. During that period, he was a Pro Bowler five times while being selected eight times as All-Pro, including four first-team selections. As one of the most respected NFL figures, he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Also, the 49ers retired his No. 37 shirts.
Johnson was also an NCAA 110-meter hurdle champion, so potentially, he could have been an Olympic champion, like his older brother Rafer. However, that's not all, as, during his high school days in Kingsburg, he also was a captain of his football, basketball, and baseball teams. Finally, Jimmy was a good guy and a hard worker who let his performance speak more than his words.
2. Jimmy Johnson (Football Coach)
Of all Jims, Jimmys, and Jimmies on our list, only James William Johnson (1943) never had a professional playing career. His college football performance in Arkansas never brought much attention, as he went undrafted in 1965. To stay in football, Johnson decided to become a coach aged only 22, working as an assistant for Louisiana Tech.
By 1970 he became a defensive coordinator for Arkansas before promotion to assistant head coach in Pittsburgh. He continued to steadily climb the ladder, finally becoming a head coach for Oklahoma State in 1979. However, his best came once he signed a contract with Dallas Cowboys, leading the team to Super Bowl titles in 1993 and 1994. However, he unexpectedly left the team after the owner Jerry Jones said something very wrong. Unfortunately, he wasn't nearly as successful during his tenure in Miami, as in four seasons, the Dolphins were barely above-average team.
1. Jimmie Johnson (Auto Racing Driver)
We had some hall of fame Jim/Jimmy/Jimmie Johnsons on our list, but there's no doubt that Jimmie Kenneth Johnson (1975) is the greatest among them. Johnson is already one of the most exceptional racers in history, as he won seven NASCAR Cup Series! This result ties him with other biggest icons of the championship – Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Talking about his records would take a long time, but let's mention his 83 career wins, including two at Daytona 500.
Johnson started competing aged only four, and since 1998, he's a stock car racer. However, in 2020 he shocked everyone by joining the IndyCar series and Chip Ganassi Racing. Despite being 45, he plans to stay in the series at least until the end of 2022, driving on some of the best street and road courses. Although no one expects much from him, there's no doubt that Jimmie will give everything not to tarnish his amazing racing legacy.
As we could see on our top ten list, Jim/Jimmy/Jimmie Johnsons are some terrific athletes and sporting figures who managed to become recognizable, despite sharing similar names. Interestingly, no young athletes are going by this name, but they'll be here sooner or later!
Who is your favorite Jim, Jimmy, or Jimmie Johnson? Do you know anyone named Jim/Jimmy or Jimmie Johnson? Tell us in the comments!
Cover photo: Mick Haupt/Unsplash