When you think of your favorite player as a sports fan, an image of a young, athletic, superstar comes to mind. The iconic moments of said player winning a championship, hoisting the trophy, conjures up pictures and emotions from our youth. Take Jordan for example. Whether he’s lying on the floor, emotionally cradling the Larry O’Brien trophy after losing his father, or dunking from the free-throw line, you would probably be able to notice him if he was just walking down the street.
But, what about today? Do you think you could still recognize Jordan, considering his age and weight have caught up to him? For “His Airness,” since he’s stayed in the spotlight, most fans could probably identify him in a crowd, but that’s not true for all athletes. Some of these players deal with weight issues, substance addictions, or just change up their look. In some cases, it’s simply father time taking its toll. It’s a reminder to everyone that these athletes are human and they’re not immune to the same issues regular people face when their bodies undergo changes. We will play “Guess Who?” and “Where’s Waldo?” today, and examine 20 athletes who are completely unrecognizable from their heyday!
20. Keith Tkachuk
They say in hockey that when you retire, the first thing to go is your hands. Suddenly, you’re not quite as quick with the puck and you can’t dipsy doodle around others the way you used to. Well in Keith Tkachuk’s case, it’s no mystery to see what was the first thing that went. Tkachuk retired from the game in 2010 and has since worked as a scout. He also has two sons who are making quite an impression, with his older son Matthew getting drafted into the NHL, now playing for the Calgary Flames and his younger son Brady about to be drafted this summer. As for the elder Tkachuk, it seems like things have gotten a little too cushy up in the scouting box.
19. Ryan Leaf
One of the biggest draft busts of all-time, Ryan Leaf, is completely unrecognizable today. The former second-overall pick of the San Diego Chargers has suffered from years of substance abuse, culminating in several drug-related arrests. Leaf has since been in and out of prison and drug rehabilitation facilities, and we hope, for his own sake, that he stays clean in the coming years.
The guy has some serious demons that he’s contending with, but damn, he looks disheveled and broken nowadays. I guess I would turn to drugs too if my career, which was hyped originally, ended up busting. The best comparison to Leaf is Uncle Rico from Napolean Dynamite. He probably gets high, reminisces of the glory days, and brags to any unsuspecting person willing to listen. “How much you wanna make a bet I can throw a football over them mountains?”
18. McKayla Maroney
The retired American Olympic gymnast, McKayla Maroney, became a viral sensation back in 2012. At the summer games in London, Maroney placed silver in the vault, and was clearly not impressed. Her picture spread like wildfire on the internet, and became one of the most popular memes of all-time, titled “McKayla is not impressed.” She apparently wasn’t too impressed with Obama either!
After her competition days were over, McKayla stayed in the spotlight, but you wouldn’t even notice it was her! Many have speculated that she received a few injections, maybe had some plastic surgery, but damn, her Instagram game is strong! Let’s just say if they decide to add a new sport to the Olympics where you just walk on stage, and look great, McKayla wouldn’t settle for silver!
17. Art Schlichter
And you thought Jordan had a bad gambling habit? After being selected fourth overall by the Indianapolis Colts, Schlichter’s bad habits caught up to him. He was gambling all throughout his career, sometimes losing up to half-a-million dollars at a time! The NFL suspended the former Ohio State quarterback, but once reinstated with the Buffalo Bills, Schilchter never got his starting job back, as he was usurped by Hall of Famer, Jim Kelly. After a brief stint in the Arena Football League, he retired in 1992.
Schlichter served a some time in prison due to his gambling addiction previously, but was arrested again in 2011 on fraud charges linked to gambling. Now labeled as a top 10draft bust of all-time, you won’t be recognizing Schlichter on the street anytime soon, as he’s serving 10 years in federal prison.
16. Jason Giambi
Years of alleged steroid abuse have caught up to the “Giambino”. The young and innocent first baseman entered the league in 1995 with the Oakland Athletics. After a few years of decent play, Giambi exploded in 2000, taking home the AL MVP. He eventually made his way to New York, where all former MVPs end up. From 2000-2004, he made five-consecutive All-Star games.
In 2003 though, Giambi admitted in his testimony to a federal grand jury during the BALCO scandal that he was using HGH throughout the 2003 season, and other forms of steroids two years prior. Not too many people were shocked at this news, since he ballooned up in weight in a short time span. He ended up retiring with the Indians in 2015, and has served as a guest instructor with Cleveland prior to the 2017 season.
15. Donyell Marshall
If you were to guess how old Donyell Marshall is, what would you say? 60? 65? Well the former UConn basketball star is only 44. The fourth round pick in the 1994 NBA Draft is suffering from puffy eyes these days. More medically inclined NBA fans say Marshall’s swollen eyes could be the result of kidney issues or diabetes. Pretty much, his body is retaining too much water, causing his eyes to seem permanently closed.
During his career though, the 16-year veteran started off in 1994 with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and retired in 2009 with the the Philadelphia 76ers. The journeyman, ironically nicknamed “Yell” by his teammates, played with eight teams during his time in the NBA. Now, he’s the head coach at Central Connecticut State.
14. Pete Rose
Rose is one of the most controversial figures in all of sports. As a member of the Reds, Phillies, Expos, and Reds (again), “Charlie Hustle” sits atop the record books with 4,256 hits, and his play on the field warrants him to be a Hall of Famer. But, the 17-time All-Star is more known for his gambling problems, in which he was caught betting on games he was playing in and managing. He remains banned from baseball today
Nowadays, the 76-year-old former NL MVP is petitioning around the country to have his name enshrined in Cooperstown. He openly admits to betting on games, but still thinks a lifetime ban is too strict of a punishment, considering he was one of the greatest to ever play the game.
13. Kevin McHale
It’s good to see that McHale lived up to his nickname of “Herman Munster.” The 6’10” power forward out of the Univeristy of Minnesota dominated the league in the 80s alongside superstar, Larry Bird. The epic Celtics-Lakers rivalry will go down in the record books as one of the fiercest of all-time. Even Hall of Famer Charles Barkley once stated, “Kevin McHale’s the best player I played against because he was unstoppable offensively, and he gave me nightmares on defense.”
The seven-time All-Star’s career was cut short due to nagging leg and back injuries. After a few head coaching stints in the NBA, “The Black Hole” now spends his day on the golf course. There is no doubt that you wouldn’t be able to recognize him from his playing days!
12. Lenny Dykstra
The years have not been kind to Lenny “Nails” Dykstra. The center fielder was once a force at the plate for both the Mets and Phillies, winning a World Series with the Mets in 1986, receiving three All-Star nods, and a Silver Slugger award. After a serious of injuries and an attempted comeback in 1998, Dykstra retired from the MLB.
But, we aren’t here to just reward the guys accolades, and due to drugs, bankruptcy, and grand theft auto charges, Dykstra was sentenced to three-years in prison. During his time serving time, “Nails” lost all his teeth in jail, and we can barely recognize him today. He opened up about his MLB career and life as a criminal in his memoir, House of Nails: A Memoir of Life on the Edge.
11. Alan Faneca
Nine-time Pro Bowler offensive guard, Alan Faneca, is a Steelers legend. The former LSU Tiger was a beast with a rare combination of speed and size, at a 316 lb. playing weight. After he retired in 2010 though, the six-time First Team All-Pro lineman decided it would be unhealthy to keep all that extra fat, and dedicated his life to running marathons.
That’s right, we finally have a positive story of appearance change, as opposed to the previous entries. In an interview with Runner’s World, Faneca credited his weight-loss to a harsh cardio training program and limited calorie intake of 1,800 cals/day to slim down to 215 lbs.
“For athletes, when you stop [playing] you have to realize you can’t keep eating the things you were eating because you’re not doing the things you were doing.”
10. Adam Morrison
Ah, we finally get to the most infamous rat ‘stache in the history of basketball, Adam Morrison. During his playing days in Gonzaga, Morrison dominated the West Coast Conference. In 2006, Charlotte Bobcats owner, Michael Jordan, decided to take a risk on the Bulldog forward with the third-overall pick. He started his rookie year slow, and finished his career even slower, washing out of the NBA by age 30.
Many deem Morrison as one of the top busts of all-time, but neglect to recognize his debilitating disease, Type I Diabetes. He seriously suffered with energy levels and stamina throughout his career. Nowadays, he is living a quiet life in Washington, with a fully stocked arsenal in his basement. No, he’s not a psycho, just had enough money to fuel his gun hobby. You probably wouldn’t recognize Morrison anymore, as he traded in his mustache for a man-bun/ponytail. Don’t feel too bad for him though, he’s got two more rings than Charles Barkley!
9. Ricky Williams
From his signature dreads, to his scruffy beard, to his dynamic personality, Ricky Williams has changed drastically over the years. Despite being one of the more dominant running backs in the NFL during his heyday, Williams remained shy and humble through and through. Many teammates were baffled by “Little Earl’s” personality, and he even conducted post-game interviews with his helmet on, avoiding eye contact due to his later diagnosed social anxiety disorder and depression.
Williams was banned from football in 2006 after repeatedly failing drug tests, but made a brief return, leading up to his retirement with the Ravens in 2011. Fans and experts alike have never been able to peg Williams’ odd behavior, but he is just a down-to-earth guy with an eastern philosophy. This led Ricky to start up his own gym in San Francisco that focuses on holistic and spiritual healing with marijuana.
8. Tonya Harding
Tonya Harding’s transformation is one for the record books. In 1994, Harding had aspirations of being a top Olympic figure skater in Lillehammer, and nothing was going to stop her from pursuing that goal, even her teammate and competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. The cute girl, who mesmerized onlookers with her dazzling outfits and elegant routine on the ice, was a cold-hearted bitch outside the arena. For those that don’t know the story, she hired some guys to bash in Nancy Kerrigan’s knee prior to the 1994 Olympics, in which Kerrigan’s shrill screams were heard around the world.
Harding eventually admitted to her involvement in the incident, and was banned from competing on the ice. She made the odd move to boxing and wrestling, but will always be known as a jealous ice queen! Recently, Margot Robbie starred in a biopic titled, I, Tonya, which details Harding’s fall from grace.
7. Mark Spitz
“Mark the Shark” dominated the pool during his short Olympic career. At the age of 22, Spitz officially retired from swimming, leaving at the top of the sport. He did attempt a brief comeback at the age of 42 on a bet that he couldn’t qualify for the Olympics. But, despite posting times on-par and better than his world-record setting 1972 heats, he failed to make the team.
Spitz’s record of seven gold medals in seven events was eventually broken my Michael Phelps, who took home eight medals in Beijing in 2008. After his swimming days, he dabbled in Hollywood and is noted for being one the top 50 athletes of all-time. Needless to say, the swimmer who once was famous for donning the porn ‘stache is now clean-shaven and still active at the ripe age of 67.
On a side note, fun little fact about Spitz, his mustache was so famous, that after his dominance in the 1972 games, all Russian swimmers started rocking a mustaches the following year! All because he jokingly told the Russian coach that it made him faster!
6. Steve Francis
There is no other way to say it, Stevie “Franchise” Francis looks terrible these days. The former second-overall pick had a tumultuous journey to stardom, starting back in high school. In his senior year, his mother died at age 39, and he had to work his way up to the junior college ranks to even be recognized by the University of Maryland. After a stellar year as a Terrapin, Francis eventually reached his dream of making it to the NBA.
Experts noted Francis’ style as “Allen Iverson with discipline,” and he made three-straight All-Star teams during his time with the Houston Rockets. After bouncing around the league, Francis finished his career overseas in China in 2010. Nowadays, through a combination of alleged alcohol abuse and mental issues, the 40-year-old is completely unrecognizable. The Root wrote an interesting piece about Francis’ demise, and it’s worth a read.
5. Diego Maradona
Down in Argentina, footballers are viewed as gods. When it comes to the debate between the greatest Argentinian of all-time, I’m sure families have had some heated arguments between current player, Lionel Messi, and “El Pibe de Oro” (“The Golden Boy”), Diego Maradona. The attacking midfielder was known for his electric footwork and passing ability, cutting in and out of defenders, and at only 5’5″, was able to quickly maneuver around larger opponents.
One thing Maradona couldn’t dribble away from though is drug addiction and obesity. After he retired in 1997, “The Golden Boy” ballooned up to a rumored 280 lbs., and underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2005 to help control his weight issues. Also, he had been in and out of rehab for alcohol and cocaine abuse. It’s sad to see a legend’s legacy tainted by off-the-pitch issues, even though many will still view Maradona as one of the greatest soccer players of all-time!
4. O.J. Simpson
“The Juice” couldn’t be stopped back in his heyday. Simpson was in a league of his own, and was relentless on the field. Despite being one of the greatest running backs of all-time, Simpson is now infamous for his trial for the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. The live 1994 police chase had audiences across America glued to their television, as O.J. tore through LA in his white Ford Bronco. Despite the public believing he was guilty, the glove didn’t fit, and he was found not guilty of the murders.
But, in 2007, OJ was found guilty of robbing a Las Vegas casino, in which he was trying to steal back some of his memorabilia. After nearly a decade in jail, he was recently released in 2017. The years behind bars (and supposed drug abuse throughout his lifetime) were not friendly to OJ.
3. Brett Favre
“The Gunslinger” is looking a little worse for wear these days. I guess that’s what 297 consecutive regular-season starts will do to you! Well, that and years of alcohol and painkiller abuse. He truly was one of a kind. Despite rumors of retiring for almost a decade, the Hall of Fame quarterback hung up his cleats in 2010, at the top of almost every quarterback leader board.
Off the field, Brett was a party animal plain and simple. During his college days, he allegedly would show up to games drunk from the night before, and still ball out. It was interesting to watch Favre age publicly throughout the years, transitioning from arrogant young QB to a Silver Fox seasoned-veteran. Behind that Santa Claus-like white beard though, I don’t think you would be able to recognize him today!
2. Sammy Sosa
“Slammin’ Sammy” Sosa was a spectacle on the diamond back in his heyday. Who could forget the epic steroid-fueled home run race between him and Mark McGwire? While the former NL MVP’s Hall of Fame chances are dwindling as the years go on, there is no doubt that he is one of the greatest baseball players in the 90s.
Recently though, Sosa has been in the news, and for something completely unrelated to baseball. He’s white! That’s right, the dark-skinned, Dominican-born slugger has been bleaching his skin for several years, and it has the internet rolling. While he states his chameleon-like color change is due to a moisturizer he uses, it’s quite obvious what’s going on here.
1. Caitlyn Jenner
The athlete formerly known as Bruce Jenner won the gold in decathlon back in the 1976 Olympic games in Montreal. He was dubbed the “world’s greatest athlete” and took America by storm. In 2015 though, Bruce disappeared without a trace.
That’s because Jenner came out to the world as a woman. She told Diane Sawyer in an interview that she had felt this way since being a child, and even took part in hormone replacement therapy until her relationship with then-wife, Kris Jenner, became serious in the early 90s. Caitlyn was lauded for her courage to come forth in her true skin, and received many accolades across all media. The best part of the whole story is that she stuck it to the Kardashians by spelling her name with a “C” instead of a “K,” like the rest of the bunch.
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