Athletes on Wheaties Box The Top 10 Athletes to Grace the Cover of a Wheaties Box10. Bruce Jenner
Before making waves in the LGBT community by coming out as a transgender and spearheading the movement for equality amongst her kind, Bruce Jenner (now appropriately referred to as Caitlyn Jenner) was a true Olympic hero at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
Jenner was a gold medalist at the decathlon event, which was arguably the most challenging of all trials at the Olympics considering that she had to literally partake in 10 different sporting fields to achieve true success.
In 2012, General Mills released a commemorative Wheaties cover featuring a black-and-white photo of Jenner of the box, which was a much better rendition than her outdated-looking debut appearance on the breakfast treat back in 1977.
9. Lou Gehrig
If it wasn’t for this very first Wheaties cover featuring Lou Gehrig from back in 1934, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, nor would future athletes be recognized for their outstanding achievements.
Although this cover obviously appears very outdated (and more like any other classic baseball card, right?), General Mills certainly chose a terrific baseball player to grab national attention right from the get-go and to make their entire athlete-on-our-cover gimmick such a huge success.
8. Wayne Gretzky
Ice Hockey hardly steps under the spotlight compared to the three other major sports in the US, but Wayne Gretzky finally appeared on a box of Wheaties in 2003 – some four years after he retired from the NHL and instantly became a Hall-of-Famer.
The wait was worth it, as “The Great One” had a great image on the box indeed, primarily by having the fact that Gretzky as an 18-time All-Star is printed right on the box along with a sweet, frosty star as the backdrop for Number 99.
7. Cal Ripken Jr.
Fittingly, Cal Ripken Jr.’s appearance on Wheaties in 1995 is very symbolic of the breakfast cereal campaign’s long-running tradition of portraying athletic prowess.
That year, Ripken just broke Lou Gehrig’s MLB record for consecutive games played, and General Mills capitalized on his milestone by printing a cover commemorating the 19-time All-Star’s 2,131st-straight game in the majors.
Ripken would go on to appear in 501 more contests after that feat, and his 2,632 consecutive games played in all of baseball still stands to this date; a record that would likely stand the test of time and never be conquered given today’s modern, more physical approach to baseball.
6. Walter Payton
The 1985 Chicago Bears were so dominant in their 46-10 demolition of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX that they basically didn’t even need star running back Walter Payton to win the NFL title. So much so that Payton only had 22 carries for 61 rushing yards and no touchdowns in that game, much to the two-time MVP’s own frustration. Plus, he was probably reluctant to do that ridiculous Super Bowl Shuffle on camera as well.
However, Walter’s contribution to this all-time football squad would not go overlooked the following year, as he gleefully posed for the Wheaties cover in 1986. Without a doubt, Payton is one of if not the best running backs to set foot on the gridiron, and his unabashed grin on the box exudes the typical positive attitude from the nine-time Pro Bowl selection that we have come to know and love.
5. Muhammad Ali
Only four professional boxers have made it to the cover of a Wheaties box, but only Muhammad Ali’s name still comes to mind as one of those four fighters.
Ali twice appeared in front of the famed breakfast treat, and the gold-plated rendition from 1999 is our superior box of choice featuring The Greatest. Considering Ali’s untimely and unfortunate passing this year, expect the demand and value for this collector’s item to have soared already.
4. Michael Johnson
Every time that the Olympic Games come around, General Mills is right there ready to tout the next great American Olympic athlete. Four-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson rightfully earned his place on a Wheaties box in 1996 – the year that he won two of his four gold medals in Atlanta along with several broken world records in his wake.
Johnson’s cover is probably the most patriotic that Wheaties has ever been, and yet the design is still true to its personal image by not getting rid of the predominant orange color palate behind the American flag. Slap on a superb image of Johnson in full stride, and we surely have a keeper on our hands.
3. Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth achieved baseball fame even before General Mills came up with the idea of Wheaties. In honor of Ruth’s then-standing record of 60 home runs in a single season, the company released a special collector’s edition of its cereal box in 1992 by having Ruth as the featured athlete on GM’s 60th-year anniversary of having athletes on the cover of Wheaties boxes.
Even though the print on this cover’s variant looks more like a traditional baseball card (again), the fact that this is the one and only appearance of Ruth on a Wheaties box and with a limited release at that makes this an instant classic for baseball and breakfast food fans.
2. Mary Lou Retton
She may not have been the first female to make the cover of a Wheaties box, but Mary Lou Retton and her stunning performance at the 1984 Olympics captivated so many hearts that she easily garnered a spot on General Mills’ shortlist of cover athletes that year.
“America’s Sweetheart” wowed the Los Angeles crowd with her dazzling display of gymnastic skills, eventually winning one gold, two silver and two bronze medals for a total of five medals; the most by any single competitor at that year’s edition of the Olympic Games.
Retton has posed for the Wheaties box a total of three times, but her maiden appearance from her medal-hoarding run in 1984 – with her arms held up high in youthful victory – still stands as an iconic slice of American pride to this day.
1. Michael Jordan
With 18 appearances and 11 years of corporate sponsorship, Michael Jordan was the unequivocal poster boy of Wheaties, as well as for many other brands that wanted to ride His Airness’ flight to superstardom.
Out of all of the MJ-related covers that have been printed, the one with him in full “Jumpman” mode and basically nothing else but dead orange space below him from 1998 stands tall above the rest.
That image of Mike front-and-center highlights what Wheaties’ slogan is really all about: being the Breakfast of Champions. Having Jordan appear on the box after winning his sixth NBA title was a fantastic call by General Mills, and that decision was made all the more better by having the Greatest of All Time grab all the attention on this particular, everlasting image greatness.