Becoming a professional athlete doesn’t happen without the help of a dedicated and passionate parent(s) who is there to help at every stage of development. While some parents do the bare minimum in dropping their kid off at practice or bringing them to games, others push their child to the point when the sport becomes less about having fun and more about playing well and earning enough attention to potentially build a career. In reality, a lot of those parents are attempting to live out their failed dreams through their children, which you can definitely argue is the case with LaVar Ball, who is an overconfident clown whose claims include being able to beat Michael Jordan one-on-one and that his three kids – Lonzo, LaMelo, and LiAngelo – will lead the Lakers to multiple championships.
As obnoxious as LaVar is to some, he’s beloved by fans around the world for his boisterous attitude and larger-than-life personality. It doesn’t matter if what he says is true or not – it only matters if he believes it. For that reason, he’s made the headlines on various instances, especially on the likes of Twitter. Though he can be annoying, he’s far from the worst parent of a popular athlete, as you’ll find out below.
15. LaVar Ball (Lonzo Ball)
Despite the fact there are far worse than LaVar, we can’t simply ignore him from this list. In fact, he’s the inspiration, given that he is one of the few parents in today’s sports world that has become just as much – if not more – of a celebrity than his son. That all could change if Lonzo actually does become an NBA All-Star and lead the Lakers to a championship, but for the time being, you could make the case LaVar is more popular in terms of celebrity status. Seriously though, has Lonzo challenged The Miz on WWE Raw?
His antics seem to be tolerated by his children, all of whom seem to have the same level of cockiness, and if they’re successful then we can certainly praise LaVar for his parenting – and coaching – skills. However, it would be nice if he could learn to shut his mouth for a minute or two.
14. Andrea McDonald (Alex Collins)
Alex Collins is a Baltimore Ravens running back who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Before that, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida native started for the University of Arkansas, where he recorded a combined 3,870 yards from scrimmage in three seasons and scored 36 touchdowns. However, had his mother, Andrea McDonald, had it her way, Collins would have been playing elsewhere.
McDonald wanted her son to stay close to home, which is reasonable, but took measures to try an ensure he would attend the University of Miami as opposed to Arkansas. She refused to sign his letter of intent. Collins’ brother explained the issue to ESPN: “He could get home faster and it’s more convenient if mom wants to go to a game – instead of having to fly to Arkansas.” His mother didn’t attend his signing day event and even hired a lawyer in the matter.
13. Tony Rasmus (Colby Rasmus)
Before LaVar Ball became the most outspoken parent in sports, Tony Rasmus wore the crown. The father of former MLB outfielder Colby Rasmus wasn’t shy about voicing his comments and concerns about Rasmus’ managers and teams, which more often than not ruffled a few feathers. It even wore on Colby, who never really looked like he enjoyed the game, which probably stems for an upbringing completely dedicated to baseball.
Tony wasn’t shy about talking to local beat writers either and his media presence sparked the headline “S**t Colby Rasmus’ Dad Says.” Included in the article were comments such as “Colby was not a great hitter in high school … and he’s still not a great hitter.” He also ripped Cardinals manager Tony La Russa following Rasmus’ trade to the Toronto Blue Jays, stating “Tony needed pitching and wanted to force the GM into making a trade, so he belittled Colby to the fans.”
12. Philander Rodman (Dennis Rodman)
If you wonder why Dennis Rodman is the way he is (the bizarre, wedding dress-wearing, North Korea-going clown), it might have something to do with his upbringing. Good parenting can have a positive impact on a child’s upbringing, but Rodman didn’t have that; in fact, he hardly knew his father and finally met him briefly in 2011 after a 42-year absence.
That’s because his father, Philander, had been living in the Philippines for nearly 50 years. It could also be in part due to the fact that Philander had other children to worry about – 29 to be precise. That’s right, Philander fathered 29 children with 16 different women, which isn’t surprising given what we know about Dennis. He detailed his lack of relationship with his father in his 1996 memoir: “Some man brought me into this world. That doesn’t mean I have a father; I don’t. I could say, ‘This is my father. This is my dad,’ but that doesn’t sound right to me. I grew up with my mother and two younger sisters, Debra and Kim. There wasn’t a male role model in my life until I got to college and started getting my [act] together.”
11. Peter Graf (Steffi Graf)
It’s no secret that, more than any other sport, becoming a world-class player in tennis requires incredible commitment and dedication. It’s a sport that’s just as much about mental toughness as it is about skill. There’s not much in terms of talent that separates the top players in the world, but what does is their ability to battle through adversity and on-court challenges. Staffi Graf’s father Peter knew this.
Aptly nicknamed Papa Merciless, Peter was Steffi’s manager in not only tennis but seemingly all aspects of her life. He managed her money early in her career and, in 1997, was convicted for failing to pay $7.3 million in taxes on her earnings, while Steffi was exonerated. Beyond his poor financial management skills, he once got into a fight in the stands at the French Open and often verbally abused officials.
10. Marc O’Hair (Sean O’Hair)
Sean O’Hair (not to be confused with the former wrestler Sean O’Haire) is a 35 year old professional golfer who has won nearly $2 million on the PGA Tour, which is likely not nearly enough for his estranged father Marc, who would be outraged that Sean has yet to win a PGA Tour event.
Like several athletes on this list, Sean’s father imposed a strict training regiment on his son and essentially controlled his entire childhood. Additionally, upon helping Sean turn pro in 1999 at the age of 17, Marc forced him to sign a contract which obligated Sean to pay him ten percent of his future career earnings. His crazy demands forced Sean to break down in tears during a PGA Tour Q school event in 2002, and three years later their relationship was severed.
9. Richard Williams (Serena & Venus Williams)
As mentioned, tennis players, more than any other athletes, are subject to intense pressure and scrutiny from a young age and the Williams sisters were no different. Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena, can be viewed as a revolutionary or a hardass who had no love for his daughters and only wanted to develop them into money-making machines. If you ask the American Tennis Association, they would say the latter as he was recently inducted into its Hall of Fame.
Forbes even posed the question as to whether he’s the greatest coach of all-time, and he could be, but he was far from a great parent in the traditional sense. As Forbes notes, “[He] saw a tennis match on TV and was shocked at the size of the check being handed to the winner. So, as a middle aged black man, he decided to teach himself this remarkably complex game. He then wrote a 78-page plan, scrounged a shopping cart full of balls and taught his two youngest daughters the game.” It worked out at least, right?
8. Bob Stevenson (Bobby Ryan)
There’s overbearing and intense parent figures, and then there’s Bob Stevenson, the father of National Hockey League (NHL) player Bobby Ryan. Much has been made of their relationship, especially prior to Ryan being selected second overall in the NHL Entry Draft behind Sidney Crosby, and it’s a remarkable story.
It started with a common theme as the father believed he could do whatever was necessary to help Bobby develop into a star hockey player, but his intense focus led him to brutally attack his wife when Bobby was only ten years old. He punched and choked her while Bobby was asleep waiting for the police to arrive. His father was charged with attempted murder, but his mother didn’t want to cooperate with police and the family took on an alias and went on the run. Their past caught up to them when people in hockey circles began taking notice of the young star; one day in 2000, a group of U.S. marshals tacked down the family and arrested Bob Stevenson, who was now known as Shane Ryan. Despite that, they still maintain a relationship.
7. Marv Marinovich (Todd Marinovich)
Todd Marinovich is a former high school football phenom who starred for the University of Southern California before failing to establish himself in the NFL. Following his short-lived football career, he turned to drugs (he was arrested after being found nude passed out in a stranger’s backyard in 2016), which isn’t a shock given the intense pressure he had been put under throughout his entire existence.
His father, Marv, had the similar goal of several parents in that he wanted to create a Superstar athlete who he could potentially profit from. In doing so, he subjected his son to odd practices such as physically stretching him as an infant to better prepare him for athletic success and running him through intense, full-gear drills as a child. Yet, despite his personal troubles, Todd holds no ill-will toward his father, who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Damir Dokic (Jelena Dokic)
Jelena Dokic is a tennis commentator who once reached the world number two ranking on the ATP Tour. Her father is Damir Dokic, a war veteran who brought the strict discipline he was taught in the military to his role as both a father and tennis coach. While some of the fathers on this list are guilty of overworking their children, Damir took it to another level on more than one occasion.
He consistently verbally and physically abused his daughter throughout her career, was ejected from Wimbledon in 2000 after smashing a journalist’s phone, received the boot from the U.S. Open that same year for abusing staff, and, after being tossed from the Australian Open, he threatened the Australian ambassador to Belgrade (the capital of Serbia) with a hand grenade. Yeah, you read that right.
5. Mike Agassi (Andre Agassi)
Andre Agassi hates tennis. You might not think that was the case given his tremendous success in the sport, but like many others, the talented star and former world number one was pushed relentlessly by his militant-like father, a former Olympic boxer who emigrated from Tehran to the United States to raise his family. Because he demanded so much out of himself as an athlete, he expected the same intense training from Agassi as a child.
In his 2009 book, Open: An Autobiography, Agassi details some of the extremes his father took to help him become a star. He called him “violent by nature” and recalled how he would force him to practice for hours on end and even detailed one instance in which his father pointed a handgun at someone in an instance of road rage.
4. Cecil Fielder (Prince Fielder)
Before being forced to retire due to injuries, Prince Fielder was a dominant hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers, although ironically was a rather poor fielder given his size. His father, Cecil, was much the same; a two-time Silver Slugger, he played 13 seasons in the MLB, hit 319 home runs and recorded 1,008 RBI.
While they both had productive careers, they don’t share many moments together these days. That’s because Prince severed ties with his father in 2004, saying he was “dead to me” following Cecil’s divorce from his Prince’s mother as well as his well-documented gambling addiction, for which he took some of his son’s signing bonus, claiming he was owed it as his agent. I guess it’s true what they say: mo’ money, mo problems.
3. John O’Sullivan (Patrick O’Sullivan)
Patrick O’Sullivan was once a highly-touted American junior hockey player who was destined for stardom. While he wasn’t the top pick many expected him to become, he did get drafted in the second round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and went on to play in 334 NHL games, while recording 161 points.
Yet, it’s an amazing feat he even made the NHL to begin with, given the emotional and physical abuse he suffered at the hands of his father, John. Patrick detailed that abuse in his memoir, Breaking Away: A Harrowing True Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph. Besides waking him up in the middle of the night to do pushups, “Crazy John,” as Patrick called him, made his son eat vomit-inducing meals of baked beans and spam. When he did hurl, John made Patrick eat the vomit. Needless to say, they’re not on speaking terms.
2. Rosalio Pacquiao (Manny Pacquiao)
There’s the physical abuse that parents like John O’Sullivan inflicted upon their children and then there’s the insane next-level emotional abuse that Rosalio Pacquiao subjected to his son, Manny. Long before Manny was regarded as one of the world’s greatest boxers, he was an excited child who grew up in the Philippines with a passion for Bruce Lee films and martial arts.
Growing up in a poor family, he took a liking to a stray dog that hung around near his neighborhood and even in his home at times. One night, his father came home drunk and engaged in an argument with Manny. What happened is so unbelievable that we’ll let Manny’s own words detail it: “He killed my dog. He took the puppy I found and killed it. To a young boy, that was unforgivable — it was stealing something I loved, which is far more terrible than stealing money.”
1. Jack Sr. and Kristina Johnson (Jack Johnson)
We’ve detailed several athletes whose parents have taken measures to ensure they at least receive some money for the work and commitment they put into developing their child’s athletic ability, but none of those instances compare to Jack Johnson, an NHL defenseman who currently plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Instead of hiring someone he didn’t trust to manage his finances, Jack assumed his parents, Jack Sr. and Kristina, would do the job while truly taking his best interests into consideration. They didn’t. Instead, they grossly mismanaged his money, bought high-priced cars and jewelry, extended lines of credit that pushed him into millions of dollars owrth of debt and ultimately bankrupted him. As of 2016, he was in a fight with his parents over their Michigan home, which he was attempting to sell despite the fact they were still living there.
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