Louisiana has two major league professional sports teams: the Saints of the National Football League and the Hornets of the National Basketball Association. The Hornets were formerly located in Charlotte. Both the Saints and Hornets are located in New Orleans. The Super Bowl has been held in New Orleans six times: in 1978, 1981, 1986, 1990, 1997, and 2002. It has been played in the Louisiana Superdome, the largest indoor arena in the United States.

New Orleans also has a minor league baseball team, the Zephyrs, of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. In Shreveport, the Captains compete in the Double-A Texas League. There are several other minor league baseball and hockey teams scattered throughout the state.

During the 1850s, New Orleans was the horse-racing center of the US, and racing is still popular in the state. The principal tracks are the Louisiana Jockey Club at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and Evangeline Downs at Lafayette. Gambling has long been widespread in Louisiana, particularly in the steamboat days, when races along the Mississippi drew huge wagers.

From the 1880s to World War I, New Orleans was the nation's boxing capital, and in 1893, the city was the site of the longest bout in boxing history, between Andy Bowen and Jack Burke, lasting 7 hours and 19 minutes—110 rounds—and ending in a draw. The TPC of Louisiana at Fairfield is a newly constructed championship-level golf course that will become the home of the PGA's HP Classic beginning in 2005.

In 1935, Tulane University inaugurated the Sugar Bowl (which they won that year for the first and only time), an annual New Year's Day event and one of the most prestigious bowl games in college football. Louisiana State University (LSU) won the Sugar Bowl in 1959, 1965, and 1968. They were named National Champions in 1958. The LSU Tigers baseball team won the College World Series in 1991, 1993, 1996, and 1997. The LSU Tigers have had a number of famous basketball alumni, including "Pistol" Pete Maravich and Shaquille O'Neal.

Professional sports heroes Terry Bradshaw, Bill Russell, and Marshall Faulk all were born within the state's borders.