No matter how rich you are, no matter how famous you are; death spares no one. That fact applies to Regular Joes like you and I as well as to professional athletes. The sports world is a microcosm of the real world and the same issues that affect “normal” people in society also affect athletes. Every day there are stories on the news of one person killing another and every once in a while, those killings involve athletes.
This list looks at athletes on both sides of the equation: those that have allegedly taken another life and those that lost their lives at the hand of another person. This could be via murder, homicide or manslaughter and while each of those has vastly different meanings; they all result in the same thing and that is the passing of someone.
These 20 athletes come from many different sports as, again, death spares no one. Some killed/were killed by someone that they know while others killed/were killed by complete strangers. Of those that committed killings, some of them then turned around their lives while others have continued their downward spiral and are either in jail or dead. Without further ado, here are 10 athletes who killed someone and 10 athletes who were victims.
20 Perpetrator: Lawrence Phillips
Phillips’ rap sheet is even lengthier than his list of football accomplishments. Phillips was a national champion at Nebraska but was a bust in the NFL. Once his playing career ended, Phillips continued a career of crime including driving his career into a group of teenagers following a pick-up football game dispute. While serving time in prison for that, he was also convicted on seven counts of assaulting his former girlfriend and those two sentences resulted in a combined 31-year prison sentence. While in prison, Phillips’ cellmate was found choked to death and with the cell having only two inmates, there was just one suspect. The cellmate was serving a life sentence for committing murder which makes Phillips the only one on this list who committed a murder of a man who committed murder. But, while awaiting trial for his cellmate’s death, Phillips hung himself in his cell and died at the age of 40.
19 Victim: Sean Taylor
Perhaps the most physically-gifted safety to ever lace up a pair of cleats, Taylor was an All-American at the University of Miami and an All-Pro with the Washington Redskins. While recovering from a knee injury in 2007, Taylor went back to his home in Miami as the Redskins did not allow injured players to travel with the team. In the middle of the night, burglars broke into his empty home and rifled a safe. A week later, the same thing happened except Taylor was at home this time with his family. Five intruders broke into his home and one of the men shot Taylor in the leg. The bullet severed an artery and due to the blood loss, Taylor would die the next day at the age of 24. Four of the men would be sentenced to a combined 134 years in prison and the gunman was sentenced to life imprisonment.
18 Perpetrator: Jimmy Snuka
Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s defining moment was his legendary leap off a steel cage in WWE in 1983. But just a few months prior to that, Snuka killed his girlfriend in a motel via still-unknown means. The fact that his girlfriend died via brain injuries and had cuts on her face, arms, back and legs suggest that he physically assaulted her to the point of death. But Snuka was never arrested…until 32 years later! In 2015 he was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter at the age of 72. But in 2016 a judge ruled that Snuka was not mentally competent enough to stand trial and six months later the charges were dropped due to Snuka’s mental and physical state. Snuka was in a hospice at the time with terminal illness and just 12 days after charges were dismissed, Snuka passed away at the age of 73.
17 Victim: Nick Adenhart
A pitcher for the Angels, Adenhart made his 2009 season debut on April 8 by pitching seven shutout innings vs. the Athletics. Just hours later, the 22-year-old was dead after a drunk driver hit the vehicle he was a passenger in. The driver ran a red light and broadsided Adenhart’s vehicle which sent it into a telephone pole. Adenhart was one of three people in the hit vehicle that died while the fourth needed five hours of surgery to reattach his skull to his spine in order to survive. The drunk driver fled the scene on foot but was later captured and charged with three counts of murder along with hit-and-run and a DUI. He would eventually be sentenced to 51 years in jail.
The Angels postponed their game set for the next day and dedicated the remainder of their 2009 season to their teammate. The team would advance to the playoffs and they gave a full playoff share of over $138,000 to Adenhart’s family.
16 Perpetrator: Brian Blades
Brian is the eldest of the Blades Brothers who ran roughshod at the University of Miami in the 1980s and 1990s. Blades was an All-Pro receiver in 1989 with the Seahawks and spent his entire 11 year career with the team and when he retired only Steve Largent had more receptions in team history. After a Fourth of July cookout in 1995, Blades and his cousin, Charles, got into a confrontation in which a gun was accidentally fired. The bullet hit Charles in the neck and killed him which resulted in Blades being charged with manslaughter and facing 15 years in prison
A jury would convict Blades of the charge but 72 hours later the presiding judge overturned the verdict citing a lack of evidence. Blades walked away scot free and it was later revealed that the judge’s father had employed Blades while at UM.
15 Victim: Malik Sealy
Sealy was an 8-year NBA veteran who was named after Malcolm X for whom Sealy’s father had been a bodyguard for. In the early morning of May 20, 2000, Sealy was driving home after attending teammate Kevin Garnett’s 24th birthday party. His vehicle was struck by a pickup truck that was traveling the wrong way down the highway and neither driver was wearing a seatbelt. The other driver survived but Sealy didn’t. The driver’s blood alcohol content was revealed to be twice the legal limit and he was charged with vehicular manslaughter. After spending four years in jail, the other driver was convicted of drunk driving in 2006 and again in 2008 which resulted in an eight-year prison sentence. Sealy remains the only member of the Timberwolves, for now, to have his jersey retired.
14 Perpetrator: Oscar Pistorius
Nicknamed “The Blade Runner”, South African Oscar Pistorius is the only amputee runner to compete in the Summer Olympics. He’s won 8 Paralympic medals and also won a silver medal at the 2011 IAAF World Championships.
On Valentine’s Day in 2013, Pistorius shot and killed his model girlfriend after mistaking her for an intruder. However, the defense argued that the killing was intentional as Pistorius awakened from bed, took the time to put on his prosthetic legs, and shot his girlfriend four times. He was first found guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to five years. However, after an appeal he was later found guilty of murder and that conviction overruled the homicide conviction. In 2016 Pistorius was sentenced to six years in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2019.
13 Victim: Vernon Forrest
Forrest was a four-time boxing champion at the welterweight and super welterweight classes and had a 41-3-1 record. He is one of two boxers to defeat Sugar Shane Mosley twice and he won the WBC Super Welterweight title in his last match. 10 months after winning that title, Forrest was at a gas station when a man robbed him at gunpoint. After the man fled, Forrest then chased after him and that is when a second man shot him in the back seven times. Those two men then got into a vehicle with a third man and drove off. Before Forrest could be transported to the hospital, he was pronounced dead at the scene at the age of 38. The three men (the robber, the gunman, and the driver) were convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
12 Perpetrator: Jayson Williams
The first “Jason” Williams in the NBA, Williams was known as a ferocious rebounder on the court with a larger-than-life personality off the court. He was raised in Queens, attended St. John’s and became an All-Star with the New Jersey Nets in 1998. He was then an NBA analyst for NBC after his playing career ended. At a Valentine’s Day party at his house in 2002, Williams was playing with his shotgun in front of guests when the gun suddenly went off. Williams shot his limo driver and immediately started screaming, “My God, my life is over!”
He allegedly then tried to make it look like the driver killed himself by wiping his fingerprints off the barrel and placing the gun in the driver’s hands. Williams pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was also convicted on four counts of trying to cover up the shooting. Williams ended up spending only two years in jail and now operates a drug and alcohol wellness center in Florida.
11 Victim: Bobby Phills
Phills was always known as one of the NBA’s good guys but he made a terrible decision on January 12, 2000. After a Charlotte Hornets’ practice, Phills got into his Porsche and reportedly street-raced with teammate David Wesley. Phills lost control of his vehicle which crossed into oncoming traffic and hit another car. That car was then rear-ended but those two drivers escaped with their lives while Phills was killed at the scene. Wesley was originally charged with racing Phills but that was eventually downgraded to a reckless driving charge. The Hornets would postpone their next game to help the players cope with their teammate’s death. Phills’ jersey would become the first retired by the Charlotte Hornets franchise and Wesley currently works on the broadcast team of the New Orleans Pelicans who were once the Charlotte Hornets before relocating.
10 Perpetrator: Javaris Crittenton
Before his fascination with guns, Crittenton was a high school teammate of Dwight Howard and was handpicked by Phil Jackson to be the Lakers’ point guard of the future. After bouncing from LA to Memphis to Washington, Crittenton was infamously involved in a locker room confrontation with Gilbert Arenas in which both players pulled out guns. No shots were fired in that situation but the same couldn’t be said two years later in Atlanta. Crittenton shot a mother of four, unintentionally, as he was aiming for someone else who had robbed him. The mother died during surgery and in addition to charges of murder and felony murder; Crittenton was also charged with participation in street gang activity.
He had joined the Crips while with the Lakers and he was arrested at a Los Angeles airport after pulling the trigger. He would be convicted of voluntary manslaughter with a weapon and sentenced to 23 years in prison.
9 Victim: Tim Hague
The most-recent and least-known person on this list, Hague was an MMA fighter turned boxer who was killed from his action in the ring. He had a 21-13 record across 34 MMA fights but decided to make the transition to the boxing ring in 2011. He won his first match and then took a five-year hiatus from boxing before returning in 2016. After two defeats he stepped into the ring on June 16, 2017 where he faced Adam Braidwood who was a former CFL player who spent two years in prison for sexual assault. Braidwood had been boxing since 2009 and is the top-ranked heavyweight in Western Canada. During his match with Hague, Braidwood beat Hague badly and knocked him out for a victory.
Shortly thereafter, Hague was taken to a hospital with brain injuries and was declared brain dead. Just two days after his fourth career boxing match, Hague would die due to the injuries at the age of 34.
8 Perpetrator: Cesar Cedeno
The All-Star outfielder was one of the premier power/speed combos in his day with the Houston Astros. Cedeno is one of three players in MLB history with 175 HRs and 550 SBs and he also racked up 5 Gold Gloves along with 4 All-Star appearances. But after that first All-Star appearance in 1972, Cedeno accidentally killed his girlfriend in the Dominican Republic when his gun was discharged. Even though Cedeno killed his girlfriend, his wife stuck by his side during the trial in which Cedeno was charged with voluntary manslaughter. After spending three weeks in prison, the charge was reduced to involuntary manslaughter after some negotiations from his lawyers. Cedeno would be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter but his sentence was all of a $100 fine.
7 Victim: Arturo Gatti
One of the best lightweights of his era, Gatti was a two-time world champion who stepped into the ring with Floyd Mayweather Jr., Oscar De La Hoya and others. He was in Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year four times in his career and was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The reason he was posthumously inducted is because in 2009 his wife was arrested for his homicide. Gatti’s death was eventually ruled a suicide but to this day no one has been able to explain why Gatti had bruises over his body and appeared to be defending himself before his “suicide.” Gatti died to asphyxiation but that also doesn’t explain why his blood was found on the hotel room floor he was found on. Gatti’s widow also couldn’t explain how she spent 10 hours in a hotel room with a dead man on the floor before anyone was notified. Even though Gatti’s death certificate says suicide via asphyxiation, everyone in the boxing world suspects foul play was a factor.
6 Perpetrator: Leonard Little
The Tennessee Volunteers had two All-Americans in 1997: one was Peyton Manning and the other was Leonard Little. Little would be drafted by the Rams in 1998 where he would win a Super Bowl with the team and make a Pro Bowl. He retired in 2009 as the Rams’ all-time leader with 87.5 sacks. But during his rookie season in St. Louis, and after leaving his 24th birthday party, a drunk Little got behind the wheel, ran a stoplight, and crashed into a mother which resulted in her death. Little was so drunk and indifferent after the crash that, according to the police report, he said, “The [expletive] ran a yellow light and hit me, wrecking my $45,000 [expletive] car.” He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was only sentenced to 4 years of probation and 1000 hours of community service. The NFL suspended him for 8 games. Just after his probation ended, Little again was arrested for drunk driving and charged with a DWI in 2004. He was sentenced to two years of probation after the DWI charge was acquitted and he was only convicted for speeding.
5 Victim: Patrick Dennehy
Per the recently released Showtime documentary “Disgraced”, the Baylor basketball scandal is the only time in NCAA history an athlete murdered his teammate. Patrick Dennehy had been at Baylor for one year after transferring from New Mexico and was a friend of teammate Carlton Dotson. The two were firing guns in Waco, TX when they had an argument which resulted in Dotson killing Dennehy in June 2003. Dennehy’s head and body were found in different areas of a gravel pit but that was reportedly due to scavenging animals separating the two rather than Dotson decapitating his teammate. Nearly a month after the murder, Dotson was charged and he would eventually be sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Seeking to absolve himself from all blame, Baylor coach Dave Bliss instructed his players to lie to police and paint Dennehy as a drug dealer with his death resulting from a failed drug deal. Somehow, Bliss escaped any charges and after resigning from Baylor, he’s had to settle for high school and NAIA coaching jobs.
4 Perpetrator: Aaron Hernandez
Hernandez is the only person on this list to be convicted of murder after he killed Odin Lloyd in 2013. Not only was Lloyd dating Hernandez’s fiancée’s sister at the time, but he was also acquainted with the two men that Hernandez allegedly killed via drive-by in 2012. Lloyd was shot and killed either in a vehicle and dumped into an industrial park or was outright killed in the park. The industrial park is located just one mile from Hernandez’s residence in Massachusetts and the body was discovered by a jogger later that day. It took authorities about one week to nab Hernandez as the prime suspect and he was arrested for first-degree murder and released by the Patriots on the same day.
In 2015 he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole while his accomplices were sentenced to 4.5-7 years in prison each. In 2017 Hernandez committed suicide in his jail cell just five days after being acquitted of the double homicide from 2012.
3 Victim: Steve McNair
While the 1973 NFL MVP allegedly murdered two people before fleeing in a white Bronco, one of the 2003 NFL MVPs was killed by his girlfriend in a murder-suicide. The football world was shocked on the Fourth of July in 2009 when the married McNair was shot and killed by his 20-year-old mistress. McNair had reportedly just put his kids to bed, in the house he shared with his wife, before driving over to a condo that he owned in which his girlfriend was a resident of. While McNair was asleep on the couch, his girlfriend shot him four times before she laid beside him and shot herself in the head.
Two of McNair’s friends found them on July 4 and the girlfriend apparently thought that McNair was having another extramarital affair outside of that one. Ray Lewis, Vince Young and fellow Mississippian Brett Favre were among the guests at McNair’s funeral. McNair’s oldest son, Steve Jr., would play football at Southern Miss and each of McNair’s four kids received $500,000 after his widow requested a judge unfreeze his assets.
2 Perpetraor: Ty Cobb
The man with the highest batting overage of all-time and who was the Hit King for over 50 years was also reportedly a bigot, a racist and a murderer.
“In 1912, and you can write this down, I killed a man in Detroit,” Cobb once told his biographer.
The story goes that Cobb and his wife were on the way to a game when three men jumped the Cobbs and demanded the car they were in and money. Cobb suffered a slight knife wound but fought off the attackers and while two of them escaped, one did not. Then, according to Cobb, he beat the man with the barrel of his gun and then used the gun sight as a blade “until the man’s face was faceless. Left him there, not breathing, in his own rotten blood.”
That was Cobb’s account of things but that excerpt never made it into his autobiography. However, it does make it onto this list.
1 Victim: Bison Dele
Dele was formerly known as Brian Williams and was an NBA journeyman for eight years who is best remembered for winning a championship with the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls. He suddenly retired at the age of 30 despite being the highest-paid player on the Detroit Pistons. In 2002, Dele along with his girlfriend, his brother, and a skipper were on a voyage in the Pacific Ocean. When the boat returned to dock, only Dele’s brother was aboard. According to his version of events, he and Dele got into a fight in which Dele’s girlfriend accidentally hit her head and died as a result. The skipper wanted to report the death but a panicked Dele then killed the skipper. The brother then shot his brother in self-defense and threw all three brothers overboard. The brother also forged Dele’s signature in order to buy $152,000 worth of gold and also used Dele’s passport as identification.
The brother was detained by authorities as a part of a sting operation and was facing possible murder charges. But he then stopped taking his asthma medication and overdosed on insulin which put him into a coma that he wouldn’t awaken from. After the brother’s suicide, officials stopped pursuing the case with all individuals involved deceased.