There’s nothing more disheartening than seeing a once great athlete who, for whatever reason, is now unrecognizable. As a fan, you want to remember that athlete forever as the youthful, powerful person they once were, but the truth is professional athletes are no more immune to Father Time than the rest of us.
It’s not unheard of that an athlete lets him-/herself go after retiring. In fact it’s understandable. After years of competing at the highest level of their respective sport, training day in and day out and watching what they eat, it’s only natural that once they retire they should want to relax and not have to worry about what physical shape they’re in. Some, however, take this relaxing to an extreme. They don’t just gain a few pounds; they let themselves go entirely, as if in an effort to make up for lost time.
Not all former athletes look unrecognizable now simply due to the natural process of aging. As you'll see, some take it upon themselves to intentionally change their appearance.
Here are 15 athletes who, for various reasons, look nothing like they did when they were still competing.
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15 Scott Hall
With a career that spanned nearly three decades, Scott Hall is one of the most prolific wrestlers of all-time. Among his many accomplishes are a then-record four WWF Intercontinental Championships, two WCW US Heavyweight Championships, a WCW World Television Championship, and nine total world tag team championships. Unsurprisingly, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.
Hall’s life after retiring has been decidedly less impressive. No stranger to legal troubles in his wrestling days (he was charged with second degree murder in 1983), he has found himself on the wrong side of the law on several occasions in the last few years. He was arrested in 2008 after showing up high on cocaine to a roast of the Iron Sheik, in 2010 for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and in 2012 for domestic abuse.
Years of hard living and drug abuse have taken a toll on him, as the now 57-year-old looks nothing like he did when he was in his prime.
14 John Kruk
To be fair, John Kruk was never much of an athlete to begin with. After all, Chris Farley portrayed him in a Saturday Night Live sketch. And as legend goes, during one spring training a woman approached Kruk, who was overweight, drinking, and smoking, and said that he should be ashamed of himself. After all, he was an athlete. He famously responded, “I ain’t an athlete, lady. I’m a baseball player.”
While it may be true that he was never the prototypical athlete, at least he wasn’t as big as he is today. On more than one occasion, the former Philadelphia Phillies all-star has hammed (get it?) it up for the cameras by stuffing his face with food, like the time he had a one-man hot dog eating contest during an ESPN broadcast at Wrigley Field (he won).
13 Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman was in the midst of his bizarre transformation when he was still playing in the NBA, when he started covering his body in tattoos and dying his hair whacky colors. Younger generations might know Rodman as that weird guy with the piercings who was once married to Carmen Electra, but older basketball fans remember him as one of the greatest defensive players of all-time, leading the league in rebounds seven times and helping the Chicago Bulls to five NBA championships.
It’s not just that Dennis Rodman is unrecognizable now from when he was a young player; it’s that he is unrecognizable from one day to the next, as his appearance is constantly changing. He regularly changes his hair color, wears makeup, or dawns lady’s garments—not that there’s anything wrong with that.
12 Lex Luger
Once known as the “Total Package,” former wrestler Lex Luger had one of the most muscular builds in the WWF. However, a spiral infarction in 2007 left him temporarily paralyzed, causing him to lose a considerable amount of weight. Thankfully Luger has since recovered from the injury, and in 2010 he stated that his walking had improved to the point that he was even able to drive.
Despite having recovered from the injury, the now 58-year-old Luger still looks nothing like he did when he was in the ring. He now works with WWE and their Wellness Policy, and said of his role with the company: “I counsel a lot of their athletes on nutrition, wellness, exercise, and taking care of their bodies. That’s another thing that WWE is being very proactive now with the Wellness Department and really train these guys with health and nutrition and drug prevention.” Furthermore, he said that WWE is “trying to prevent the young guys, this young generation of guys from going down the same path as we did back in the '80s and '90s.” Admirable work.
11 Brett Favre
Brett Favre is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. He might not have the most Super Bowl rings, but he does have the second most passing yards ever (71,838), the second most passing touchdowns (508), and the most pass completions (6,300), most of which came during his 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.
Favre, who was shorthaired and clean-shaven throughout his career, adopted the Grizzly Adams look in retirement, letting his grey hair and beard grow out. Call it a midlife crisis or a post-retirement crisis, whatever it is, football fans were shocked to see him in public with his noticeably less kempt appearance. Proving that he has a sense of humor, the Hall of Famer poked fun at himself by appearing in a commercial for MicroTouch grooming tools.
10 Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona’s name is right up there with football greats like Pelé and… yeah, that’s the only other football player I know. Appearing in four World Cups for Argentina, he has the fourth most goals in his country’s history yet is considered by many to be the greatest player of all-time.
Football, as you know, is a cardio-intensive sport, which means that footballers are amongst the fittest athletes in the world. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at Maradona these days. 2016 Diego Maradona looks like he swallowed three younger Diego Maradonas. Apparently he’s been eating too much asado in his retirement (asado is Argentina’s national dish, in case you didn’t know).
Maradona will forever be remembered for the infamous “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup against England, but if he doesn’t be careful he might turn into the “Belly of God.”
Despite being from rival countries, it appears as though Brazilian former football player Ronaldo was heavily influenced by Diego Maradona. At least he’s modeled his retirement after the Argentinian midfielder, gaining a considerable amount of weight in his post-playing days. In fact, Ronaldo started to pack on the pounds before he had even retired, showing up to his final World Cup in 2006 looking like he’d spent the offseason stuffing his face with feijoada.
Ronaldo never really had your classic footballer’s build, but in his farewell appearance for the Brazilian national team he looked more like Bartolo Colon than Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite his weight issues, Ronaldo is one of the best players to ever have come out of one of the best football countries of all-time, second only to Pele in all-time goals scored.
8 Steve Francis
Former rookie of the year and three-time all-star Steve Francis played in the NBA from 1999 to 2010. The second pick overall in the ‘99 draft, Francis was known for his electric style of play and impressive ball handling skills, often drawing comparisons to Allen Iverson. His best season came in 2001-2002 with the Houston Rockets, when he put up career highs in points per game (21.6) and rebounds per game (7). Due to persistent injuries, his career was cut short, forcing him to make a go of it with the Beijing Ducks of the Chinese Basketball Association before ultimately calling it quits.
The former University of Maryland standout was recently photographed looking worn down and noticeably puffier than he was in his playing days, leading many to question: What happened to Steve Francis?
7 Lenny Dykstra
Lenny Dykstra, the former New York Met and Philadelphia Phillie who may or may not have used anabolic steroids (he did), batted .285 throughout his controversial career. A three-time all-star and one-time World Series champion, Dykstra was never not seen with a huge wad of chewing tobacco sticking out of his mouth.
Recently, the former Silver Slugger was photographed with noticeably less teeth—as in, like, none. But it wasn’t his addiction to tobacco that cost him his pearly white smile; it was a jailhouse beating. Sentenced to three years in prison in 2012 due to various run-ins with the law, Dykstra found himself on the wrong end of a behind-bars-beatdown that left him sans chicklets.
6 Sammy Sosa
Sammy Sosa is one of the greatest home run hitters of all time, with 609 career roundtrippers. He’s also the only player to have hit 60+ homers in three seasons. His career achievements, however, will forever be mired in allegations of steroid use. Listed as roughly 165 lbs. when he broke into the big leagues, by the end of his career Sosa had ballooned up to a muscular 200+ lbs. (thus the suspected steroid use).
But Sosa’s weight gain isn’t the only radical transformation that the Dominican born player went through. Not long after retiring, Sosa, who had dark complexion during his playing days, was spotted in public with noticeably lighter skin, almost reminiscent of the change that Michael Jackson went through. The former Cub said of the drastic change in appearance: “It’s a bleaching cream that I apply before going to bed and whitens my skin some. It’s a cream that I have, that I use to soften my skin.”
5 OJ Simpson
What with all the documentaries and TV shows being made about O.J. Simpson’s life, the former Buffalo Bill legend/not-wife-killer (yeah right) has been back in the public consciousness lately. Before becoming the most hated man in America, Simpson set the single season rushing record with the Buffalo Bills. He was also adored by women around the country for his good looks.
All of that is a distant memory now, as the former Heisman winner, who is currently serving a 33-year sentence for armed robbery and kidnapping, has been seriously affected by Father Time. Now in his late 60s, the man they once called “Juice” looks nothing like he used to. He now has bags under his eyes, grey hair, and is considerably heavier.
OJ will remain in prison at the Lovelock Correctional Center at least until 2017, at which point he will go up for his first parole hearing.
4 Roberto Durán
Panamanian former pro boxer Roberto Durán was named the best lightweight of the 20th century by the Associated Press. In a career that spanned more than three decades, Durán, who is the subject of a recent Robert De Niro film entitled Hands of Stone, compiled a record of 103 wins and 16 losses. He had an unusually long career for a boxer, not retiring until the age of 50, and only then because of injuries he sustained in a car crash.
While Durán may have drank from the fountain of youth in his fighting days, as soon as he retired he took a big gulp from the trough of old and overweight. Can you really blame the guy, though? After 33 years of taking beatings, you’d probably let yourself go, as well.
3 Jeff Saturday
Not all of these physical transformations are a bad thing. Take Jeff Saturday, a former center who played for the Indianapolis Colts from 1999-2011. In his playing days, Saturday weighed roughly 300 lbs., which he used to protect Peyton Manning from oncoming linemen. Rather than gain weight after he retired, which it seems like most athletes do, the Super Bowl champ and six-time Pro Bowler lost approximately 70 lbs., bringing him down to a healthier 230 and making him virtually unrecognizable.
Saturday now works to help other former NFL players to live healthy lifestyles post-retirement. He is a regional captain for the NFLPA’s “The Trust,” which gives former players medical advice, career counseling, and tips on how to stay in shape.
2 Tonya Harding
American former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding will forever be remembered for her “alleged” (although, who are we kidding, it’s a fact) involvement in the attack of Nancy Kerrigan, Harding’s main competition, prior to the 1994 Winter Olympics, wherein Harding’s boyfriend hired someone to break Kerrigan’s leg so that she couldn’t compete.
Harding’s career went downhill after the scandal, and on top of losing her reputation she also lost her slim figure. The now 45-year-old former figure skater from Portland, Oregon, looks nothing like she did when she was competing, having gained a considerable amount of weight. She put her weight gain to good use, however, by competing in a number of boxing matches in the early 2000s, compiling a record of 4 wins and 3 losses (with one of those wins coming against comedian Doug Stanhope on an episode of The Man Show)—a far cry from the gracefulness of figure skating, to say the least.
1 Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner
This one is fairly obvious. No doubt the most drastic transformation, during a widely viewed episode of 20/20, Jenner revealed to Diane Sawyer that she is a transgender woman, and since then she has appeared in public as Caitlyn.
A former track star, once described as the greatest athlete in the world, Jenner won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Although she didn’t come out to the public as transgender until well into her 60s, Jenner revealed that she cross dressed long before then, and even took hormone replacement therapy before beginning a relationship in the early ‘90s with Kris Kardashian. Jenner is now the subject of a reality show called I am Cait, which focuses on her life after coming out as transgender. The goal of the show, according to its star, is to bring awareness to transgender issues.
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