Professional athletes truly get to live luxurious lives once they make it to the big time. We as regular individuals definitely find ourselves wishing that we could have the immense success and wealth that these men and women are able to achieve. However, we often are not told about the negatives of these individual’s life. Sometimes we do not recognize that they also are humans who have problems of their own. In fact, many athletes actually grew up in atrocious living conditions that made them subject to things such as bullying and even abuse. As fans of many of these people, we should spend more time admiring the journey that these individuals went through to get where they are.
With that, in this article, we will be looking at fifteen people who were abused/bullied as children growing up. Although the significance of their struggles definitely vary, at the end of the day, these athletes went through events that traumatized them and shaped the way they live today. It is very interesting to see that a lot of these individuals used being viciously bullied as a way to push them to greatness. You will also be very surprised to hear that some of these athletes have been through, not to belittle bullying, far worse situations that very well could have led them to miserable adult lives. Yet, every athlete on this list made it and did fantastically. That deserves a lot of recognition.
With that, let’s take a look at the fifteen athletes that were tragically abused as children.
15 Drew Brees
Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks of this generation and is the main reason why the New Orleans Saints have had immense success in the NFL. Brees has overcome a lot of adversity in his career, especially when it appeared that his NFL career was on the decline when he got injured. After leaving the Chargers for the Saints, Brees turned his career around and even won a Super Bowl.
The hardest part of Drew Brees’ life came when he was a child because he was viciously bullied by his classmates and even teammates. Brees was ridiculed for having a birthmark on his cheek and was given a handful of mean nicknames because of it. Brees has stated that the constant taunting is what motivated him to be a star football player and it clearly worked.
14 Ronda Rousey
Love her or hate her, Ronda Rousey is a very inspiring figure in the UFC because she completely changed the perception of women’s fighting. Rousey’s work ethic and incredible ability in the octagon is something that was always well respected by the fans during her prime years. Although things have changed a bit for her, she still is one of the best in the game today.
Ronda Rousey was bullied immensely as a child and teenager because of her size. It is apparent that Rousey is a person who dedicates a lot of time in the gym and the results are truly remarkable. Yet, in her younger years, people made fun of her and constantly called her masculine. Rousey now has the last laugh because she is a world famous UFC fighter and is very wealthy.
13 Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh had a very storied NBA career and will forever be remembered for his contributions for both the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat. During his prime and when he was at his healthiest, Bosh was one of the most dominant players in the entire league because of his size and strength. Although Bosh has significant injury troubles today, he will never be forgotten for how great he once was.
Believe it or not, Chris Bosh was bullied immensely when he was a child because he was incredibly skinny giant in size. His classmates would mock him being lanky and consistently told him he had no chance of ever being a professional baller. It is apparent that Bosh ended up proving them wrong in the best way possible.
12 Georges St. Pierre
Georges St. Pierre is one of the greatest fighters to ever step into the UFC octagon and because of that, had immense success during his career. St. Pierre has been the Welterweight Champion of the UFC multiple times in his career. In fact, he recently even came out of retirement this year and ended up winning it in his first match back in the octagon.
Georges St. Pierre definitely lives a pretty marvellous life these days, but his childhood was another story. St. Pierre was constantly bullied by an older group of teenagers when he was growing up and fought every week. St. Pierre stated that he lost the majority of the times, but it did motivate him to learn how to protect himself and has given him his drive to fight for a career.
11 Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali will forever be classified as one of the greatest and most inspirational athletes in the entire history of the world. Ali’s signature catchphrase, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” will forever be a mantra for not only athletes, but for everyday individuals who are trying to overcome their own issues. Ali’s political awareness also shows how in depth he was as a person.
It is crazy to believe that the greatest fighter in the history of the world was bullied growing up. Through these experiences, Ali began to take up fighting as a way to protect himself from danger. Ali trained constantly for years before he ended up becoming the best boxer of all time. His story is one that all children should read or hear about it if they are experiencing bullying.
10 Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps is by far the greatest olympic swimmer in the history of the world and because of this, has made the sport a huge hit in the United States. Phelps has a record of 23 individual gold medals, as well as the most medals in the history of all Olympians with 28. So, with that, Phelps is technically deemed as the most successful Olympian of all time and his records could be untouchable.
Michael Phelps’s story is even more magnificent when you recognize all that he overcame growing up. Phelps was viciously bullied by his classmates for his appearance and body size, but it is apparent that he was able to do far better than all of them. Phelps’ legacy will forever be remembered by all sport fans and the journey he went through should truly be examined more.
9 John Cena
John Cena is without a doubt the most popular wrestler of this generation and will forever be one of the greatest in the history of the WWE. Cena has been a polarizing figure for the sport ever since his arrival in the early 2000s and still is one of the top wrestlers in the world even at his older age. Love him or hate him, the man has done so much for the wrestling community.
Although John Cena has a great life today, that was far from the case when he was growing up in Massachusetts. Cena faced a lot of bullying by his classmates, especially because of his choice of style and music. Cena used the harsh words he received as motivation in the gym to become one of the most athletic individuals in the entire world. Clearly it all worked out for him.
8 Gerald Green
Gerald Green was one of the most interesting players in all of the NBA because he never was necessarily a star, but the dude could dunk at an elite level. Due to this, as a member of the Boston Celtics, he won the NBA Dunk Competition in 2007 and made himself a popular name in the sport. Green would end up playing another decade in the league, but currently is a free agent.
Gerald Green is not only known for his amazing ability at dunking, but also for overcoming a lot of bullying when he was a child. Today, Green spends a lot of his free time working on his anti bullying campaign because he understands and empathizes with the trauma that can be experienced through it, It is good to see that Green ended up doing well after for himself.
7 Donald Brashear
Donald Brashear will forever be known as one of the best enforcers to ever play in the NHL because the man could fight. Brashear was always a threat when he was on the ice because he was no afraid to stand up for himself and mix things up. Although Brashear was not necessarily a goal scorer, he was a very reliable fourth line forward who had a long tenure in the NHL.
Donald Brashear had by far one of the worst childhoods in all of professional sports. When Brashear was just six months old, his biological father threw him through a window. With that, his mother left the father, but had him stay there because her new husband was racist. After his mother finally took him in, Brashear was abused by his stepfather because of racism. His mother then gave him up to foster care and deemed him as too mentally ill to live with them. It is truly a sad story, but Brashear did end up being very successful.
6 Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson may go down as the fiercest boxer in the history of the sport because, at times, his temper led him to fight a bit dirty. In fact, Tyson was famous for biting at opponents during his bouts, especially the time he bit a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear off. Since then, Tyson has been working on his anger issues and now is actively engaged in pop culture.
Mike Tyson, one of the toughest men on the planet, was bullied badly growing up and it is what turned him into the fighting machine he is today. Tyson started to stand up for himself when a bully took one of his pet pigeons and ripped its head off. This led Tyson to get into his first fight and he has yet to stop standing up for himself. It’s crazy to believe so much abuse led Tyson to success.
5 Patrick O’ Sullivan
Patrick O’Sullivan was a solid depth forward in the NHL for the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers. O’Sullivan had a few seasons where it appeared that he would blossom into a star, but it quickly came crashing down due to injuries. O’Sullivan would end up finishing his hockey career in the AHL and in Europe after a few years of failing to make it back to the NHL.
Although Patrick O’Sullivan did not necessarily leave an impact on the NHL with his skill, his childhood story does. Ever since the first time Patrick O’Sullivan played hockey, his father used to viciously beat him after games for not performing up to his standards. O’Sullivan would deal with the abuse for years without anyone helping him until he finally fought back and got a restraining order from him. It is such a sad story, but it is great that he has opened up the world to his struggle.
4 Bobby Ryan
Bobby Ryan has had an up and down NHL career, but at the end of the day, he definitely can be classified as a talented player. During his tenure with the Anaheim Ducks, Ryan was one of the game's most elite scorers, but playing in Ottawa has seemed to slow him down a bit. Yet, this past playoff run, Ryan averaged about a point per game and showed that he still has a lot left in the tank.
When looking at Bobby Ryan's childhood, he very well can be classified as someone who faced abuse personally. His childhood was extremely atrocious. After his father was charged with attempted murder on his mother, the family fled to Canada to avoid his punishment. Ryan, who was born as Robert Stevenson, would grow up with a false identity before his father was eventually arrested in Canada. Although Ryan has decided to stay with his fake name, the trauma from his childhood will never be forgotten.
3 Adonal Foyle
Adonal Foyle was a fairly average basketball player during his stint in the NBA, but he was always well respected around the league for his leadership abilities. Foyle was a key player off the bench for the Golden State Warriors and Orlando Magic when he was in his prime. Although Foyle will never go down as an NBA all star, he will always be remembered for what he has done off the court.
Growing up, Foyle was devastatingly bullied by his peers because he was incredibly awkward and had horrible coordination skills. As a result of this, Foyle now spends a lot of his time working as an activist focusing on bullying and equality. It is apparent that Foyle not only became a professional athlete from bullying, but also an outstanding individual with a great deal of empathy.
2 Theo Fleury
Theo Fleury was not only a spectacular goal scorer in the NHL, but he also played with a very tenacious edge. What made this so intriguing was the fact that Fleury was also one of the smallest guys on the ice every time he played. Yet, he constantly was active in the physical side of the game and often reached over 100 penalty minutes each season. With him being a great scorer and hitter, he was always very fun to watch.
Besides being a fantastic hockey player, Theo Fleury also spends a lot of his time now writing and as an activist. Fleury was abused throughout the entirety of his junior hockey career by his coach, Graham Jones. Fleury went through a lot of destructive turmoil after this happened and became addicted to drugs and alcohol. Today, he has worked past his demons and now is helping others through situations like his own.
1 Kassim Ouma
Kassim Ouma is a top notch boxer who has put up a fairly respectable record in his career thus far. Ouma has 29 wins, 10 losses, and a draw since starting his career all the way back in 1998. During his prime years, Ouma was one of the best fighters in the entire world, but age has definitely caught up with him a bit. Yet, he still competes and does a decent job.
Ouma’s real story comes from his childhood because his was by far the worst out of everyone from this list. Growing up in Uganda, Ouma was kidnapped and became a member of the Ugandan based National Resistance Army. From there, Ouma was a child soldier and openly stated that he was forced to take the lives of many people. It is remarkable to see how much Ouma has overcome and that he became a professional athlete after escaping to the United States.