It doesn’t matter how rich and famous a person is, it doesn’t protect them from the horrors and reality of life. Like any other citizen, an athlete’s life can suddenly come to an end at the hand of society’s evil and/or deranged members. Unfortunately, millions of people are murdered across the globe on an annual basis. These people come from all walks of life and they include athletes. This list consists of 15 athletes who were murdered in the modern era.
These people died violently in several different manners and for several different reasons. There are also a couple of other athletes who died in mysterious fashion such as former world-champion boxers Sonny Liston and Arturo Gatti, but aren’t on the list because their deaths have never officially been ruled as murder. However, there are many people who believe they suffered their fates at the hands of others.
Former heavyweight champ Liston met his demise in 1970 and his wife found his lifeless body at their Las Vegas home after she returned from a two-week trip. Police said he died from a heroin overdose, but there are several murder conspiracies out there. Gatti, who was born in Italy, and raised in Montreal, Canada, was 37 years old when he lost his life while on holiday in his wife’s homeland of Brazil.
Gatti’s body was found slumped on the floor of their rented apartment on July 11, 2009, but his wife was charged with murder when her blood-stained purse strap was found. Controversially, the death was later ruled a suicide by Brazilian police after they said the boxer hanged himself with his wife’s purse and Gatti’s widow was set free. However, after further autopsies, private investigators still insist Gatti was murdered.
Here are 15 athletes who were murdered since the 1960s.
15 Ivan Calderon
Baseball player Ivan Calderon was a 10-year Major League veteran who had appeared in the All-Star game in 1991. He had stints with the Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos and owned a .272 career batting average. Ten years after retiring he was shot in the back while visiting a bar called El Trompo in the town of Loiza in his native Puerto Rico. Calderon passed away at the age of 41 on December 27, 2003. There had already been several murders at the bar that year, but it was still open for business instead of being forced to shut down by local authorities.
Rikidozan was a legendary professional wrestler who hailed from Korea, but made a name for himself in Japan. He was 39 years old when he died on December 15, 1963. Rikidozan had won the heavyweight crown in three different wrestling organizations and also added a pair of tag-team belts. In 1957 he created the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance and was one of his nation’s most-recognizable figures. His popularity couldn’t save him when a member of the Yakuza organized crime gang stabbed him in a Tokyo nightclub on December 8 with a blade that was soaked in urine. Rikidozan managed to physically throw his attacker out, but died a week later when his abdominal lining became inflamed. His killer was jailed for seven years for manslaughter and reportedly apologized to Rikidozan’s family on the anniversary of his death every year and also visited his grave.
13 Fred Lane
NFL football running back Fred Lane died on July 6, 2000 at the age of 24. He broke into the league as an undrafted free agent and eventually became a starter with the Carolina Panthers in 1997. He set a franchise record at the time by rushing for 147 yards during a game and had 2,001 yards during three seasons with the team along with 13 touchdowns.
He was then traded to the Indianapolis Colts and was gunned down by his wife Deidra Lane. Prosecutors said she wanted to cash in on his life insurance policy which was worth a cool $5 million. She shot him twice with a 12-gauge shotgun from point-blank range, once in the back of the head and once in the chest. Three years later she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Defense attorneys said she was a battered wife who killed her husband in self defense. The woman received a sentence of just 11 years and seven months even after the judge called the killing a deliberate act and said there was no need to shoot him twice. Lane’s wife was released from prison in 2009, just six years after pleading guilty.
12 Darrent Williams
NFL player Darrent Williams was a cornerback for the Denver Broncos who looked like he had a fine career ahead of him after two seasons with the team. However, he was killed on New Year’s Day 2007 at the age of 24. Williams had attended a birthday party for Denver Nuggets’ player Kenyon Martin at the Safari nightclub. A verbal altercation began with some gang members and Williams decided to leave with a couple of his teammates including Brandon Marshall and a female companion. They drove away in a limousine but Williams was shot in the neck by Willie D. Clark, a member of the Crips as he drove alongside the limo. The football player from Fort Worth, Texas, dropped into the lap of his teammate Javon Walker and died almost immediately just after 2 a.m. Two other passengers also received gunshot wounds. Clark was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to life in prison on April 30, 2010.
11 Lorenzen Wright
NBA player Lorenzen Wright was 34 years old when he was killed in July of 2010. He had played with his hometown Memphis Grizzlies as well as the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008-09. Wright went missing for several days in July of 2010 after leaving his ex-wife’s home in Collierville, Tennessee on July 18 and was never seen again. His family filed a missing-persons report four days later. Wright’s body was eventually discovered in a wooded area on July 28 and police believe he was murdered in Germanville, Tennessee during an early morning drug deal on July 19. Police reported that they had received a 911 call from the basketball player’s cell phone early that morning and gunshots could be heard during the call. The case was ruled a homicide, but no arrests have been made.
10 Vladimir ‘Spider’ Sabich
Spider Sabich was a well-known alpine skier who was murdered by somebody equally as well known, his actress/singer girlfriend Claudine Longet. Sabich met his end in Aspen, Colorado on March 21, 1976 at the age of 31 when Longet shot him while he was in the bathroom. Sabich was known as pro-skiing’s richest racer and competed in the 1968 Winter Olympics for his native America. Longet told a judge that Sabich died when he was showing her how to use a gun. The prosecution made a botch of the trial and several items of key evidence weren’t allowed to be introduced. The gun was known to be defective and the trigger needed to be pulled several times before it fired, which led most people to believe Sabich definitely wasn’t shot by accident. Longet was convicted of a misdemeanor and soon after she went on vacation with her married defense lawyer. Sabich’s family launched a civil lawsuit against his former girlfriend in 1979 and it was resolved out of court two years later.
9 Ben Wilson
Ben Wilson was a 17-year-old basketball player when he died on November 21, 1984. The Chicago youngster was America’s top-ranked high-school player at the time. Wilson, who stood at 6-foot-9, was shot and killed after becoming involved in an altercation with his girlfriend and mother of their child. During the argument Wilson made contact with a patron at a luncheonette who eventually ended up shooting him twice. Wilson died the following day in hospital. Several NBA players have honoured Wilson by wearing his number 25 during their pro careers at some point. These include Nick Anderson, Juwan Howard, Jabari Parker and Derrick Rose. Two men were convicted in 1985 for Wilson’s death. One of them received a 40-year sentence and the other was given 30. However, by 2005 both of them had been released on parole.
8 Oscar Bonavena
Oscar Bonavena was a top-10 heavyweight boxing contender from Argentina. He made a name for himself by taking on the best of his era such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Chuvalo, Ron Lyle, Zora Folley, Jimmy Ellis, and Floyd Patterson. He was just 33 years old when he was shot to death in Virginia City, Nevada on May 22, 1976. Bonavena had a pro record of 58-9-1 with 44 KOs and was stopped just once in his nine losses. He also fought just three months before his murder. Bonavena was shot through the heart by an ex-convict bodyguard at the Mustang Ranch brothel after he began an affair with the wife of the ranch’s owner. An employee was charged with the boxer’s murder, but served just 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
7 Dino Bravo
Dino Bravo was a popular Italian-born Canadian wrestler who competed in the WWE. He was a Canadian champion and also won a tag-team title. Bravo met his end at the age of 44 on March 10, 1993, in Laval, Quebec just a year after retiring from the sport. Bravo was shot 17 times while watching a hockey game on TV at home. Seven of the bullets found the wrestler’s head while another 10 ended up in his torso. Reports stated that he was murdered due to his involvement in a cigarette-smuggling ring. Bravo was the nephew of an organized crime figure and told friends before he died that he knew his life was about to end. Nobody was ever charged with this unsolved crime.
6 Lyman Bostock
Lyman Bostock of Birmingham, Alabama was a Major League Baseball player who was gunned down on September 23, 1978 at the age of 27. Bostock had a career batting average of .311 average and lost the AL batting title by just two points in 1977 to Dave Parker. The next season Bostock joined the California Angels from the Minnesota Twins. After playing a game in Chicago, Bostock visited his uncle and met up with a girl he used to know as a teenager in Gary, Indiana.
Leonard Smith, the estranged husband of the woman’s cousin saw his wife get into a car with Bostock and two other people and believed she was having an affair with the outfielder. Smith caught up to the vehicle at an intersection and fired a shotgun at the car, allegedly aiming at his wife. However, Bostock was hit in the head and passed away shortly after. Smith was tried two times for murdering Bostock. The first trial resulted in a hung jury and he was found not guilty in the second trial due to insanity. Seven months later he was judged to be sane and released. In total Smith spent just 21 months in custody for the killing.
5 Trevor Berbick
Former heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick will forever be known as the last man to face Muhammad Ali and the man Mike Tyson beat to become the youngest-ever heavyweight champion. However, the Jamaican-born Berbick also faced some other fine boxers during his career such as Larry Holmes, Hasim Rahman, Iran Barkley, Buster Douglas, Carl Williams, Greg Page, John Tate, and Pinklon Thomas. Berbick was no angel and had been in trouble with the police on several occasions. He retired with a record of 49-11-1 with 33 KOs.
The former Olympian received a five-year sentence for sexually assaulting his family’s babysitter and was deported from the U.S. twice. Berbick was killed in Norwich, Jamaica at the age of 52 on October 28, 2006 when he was beaten with a steel pipe. Two men were arrested with one of them being Berbick's nephew. The nephew was found guilty of murder and received a life sentence while his 18-year-old accomplice was guilty of manslaughter and got 14 years. Police said the boxer was murdered because of a dispute over some land.
4 Andres Escobar
Soccer player Andres Escobar had just represented his homeland of Colombia at the 1994 World Cup in America. His team was beaten by Romania 3-1 in its opening match and needed to beat the host nation to advance to the next round. The defender scored an own goal in the 35th minute and the U.S. went on to with the game 2-1. The 27-year-old Escobar was then gunned down on July 2nd after he returned home to Colombia. The soccer player was with friends at a bar named El Indio and was shot about 3 a.m. when he walked back to his car. Three men approached him and shouted “Gol” as they pulled the trigger six times. A total of 120,000 people showed up for his funeral procession. Humberto Castro Munoz, who had ties to a local drug cartel, confessed to the murder after he was arrested. He worked for a criminal who lost a lot of money by betting on Colombia and was handed a 43-year prison sentence in June 1995. The sentence was reduced to 26 years later and he was released in 2005 for good behaviour. He ended up serving just 11 years for the murder.
3 Sean Taylor
Another NFL player was killed in 2007 when 24-year-old Sean Taylor of Miami, Florida died in late November. Taylor had played four years with the Washington Redskins and appeared in a Pro Bowl game. Taylor’s Palmetto Bay home was broken into in November while he was away, but the crooks returned a week later on November 24 when the football player was home. Taylor was shot in the leg during the home invasion while he tried to protect his 18-month-old child and girlfriend. A major artery was struck and Taylor was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. He was comatose and died three days later. Five men, four of them teenagers, were charged with his murder and other crimes related to the event. The killers were sentenced to different terms ranging from 29 years to life and another suspect is still awaiting trial.
2 Vernon Forrest
Another former world champion boxer met a violent death when 38-year-old Vernon Forrest of Augusta, Georgia was shot dead at a gas station in Atlanta. Forrest had a career record of 41-3 with 29 KOs and held titles in the welterweight and junior middleweight divisions. He had faced the likes of Shane Mosley, Ike Quartey, Carlos Baldomir, Sergio Mora, Ricardo Mayorga, Vince Phillips, and Ray Oliveira during his career.
The world champ was murdered shortly before midnight on the evening of July 25, 2009 when he and his 11-year-old Godson stopped at a gas station. Forrest was filling one of his tires with air while the youngster went inside. Forrest was robbed at gunpoint and then the armed boxer chased after the crook and shots were fired. He stopped chasing him at this point and began speaking with a second man who then shot him several times in the back. Forrest was pronounced dead at the scene while three men were charged with his murder. One of them received the death sentence while the other two got life in prison.
1 Steve McNair
NFL player Steve McNair retired from the game in 2008 after spending most of his career with the Tennessee Titans. He was killed on the 4th of July in 2009 at the age of 36. Although he was married, McNair was riding with his 20-year-old girlfriend Sahel Kazemi in a Cadillac when the car was stopped by police. Kazemi was charged with a DUI while McNair of Mount Olive, Mississippi left the scene. However, he bailed her out of jail later on. Kazemi allegedly purchased a gun from a convicted murderer who was interested in buying her vehicle. She used it on McNair when she shot him twice in the body and twice in the head while he was napping on a couch at home in Nashville. Kazemi then pulled the trigger a fifth time when she fatally shot herself.