The heat of the moment can bring even the most level-headed person to their breaking point. Imagine what it must be like to face controversy as a professional athlete. The cameras and lights are on, thousands of fans are watching, and millions of dollars are at stake. Whether it’s because of an opponent who sends them over the edge or a referee making a call that they don’t agree with, some athletes tend to lose their cool (justified or not). Rather than screaming “serenity now”, some athletes spiral downwards and throw a temper tantrum that can either cost them some hard-earned money, some games played, or the respect of fans in the stands.
Sometimes, tantrums are just part of the game, and may be considered justified. I’m willing to guess however that a few of these big name athletes cringed when they saw themselves on all of the morning highlight shows the next day (and “top 10’s” for years to come). No matter how big and strong the following grown-ups are, it seems as though even the smallest of incidents triggered them, and made them behave like little kids, crying and throwing temper tantrums over spilt milk on a school yard. While a few of these athletes managed to survive these infamous moments, for others on this list, their tantrum became their legacy, which is unfortunate considering they had impressive careers.
Here are 15 tantrums that these sport stars likely regret.
15 Serena Serving Up Threats
Serena Williams is already considered the best female tennis player of all-time, and perhaps the greatest athlete as well, but not without a few bumps along the way… At the 2009 U.S. Open, after being called for a foot fault, Serena told the line judge that “if she could, she would take this (explicit) ball, and shove it down your (explicit) throat”. Despite claiming that she didn’t “threaten her”, the official docked Williams a point - which forced the match to go to “match-point”, effectively costing her the tournament.
After the incident, Williams refused to apologize and felt as though she was being singled out, noting that “players, athletes get frustrated”. Williams was fined 175,000$ for the incident, and despite her talent, will always have to live with the criticisms that come with her tantrum at Flushing Meadows that summer day.
14 McGregor Takes The Bus
The most recent incident on this list involves Conor McGregor. The U.F.C. fighter turned boxer, perhaps turned back to UFC fighter has always shown that he has a short fuse, but this time he may have taken things a little too far.
McGregor made a surprise appearance at UFC 223 Media Day (an event that he was not even fighting in), and (very impressively) picked up a dolly and threw it through the window of a coach bus containing other U.F.C. fighters in the Barclays Centre parking lot. The objects thrown and shattered windows led to injuries to Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg, which left them unable to compete in the event. McGregor’s future in fighting is in jeopardy as he now faces the music for his sudden and emotional outburst.
13 The Malice At The Palace
All good brawls get a name, and this one is no different. “The Malice at the Palace” is arguably the most surprising sports scene of all-time. What started out as a heated on-court altercation between the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers, turned into a serious scuffle between the Indiana Pacers and the fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The player most affected was Ron Artest, who while laying down on the scorers table, had a drink thrown at him. In response, Artest, along with teammates Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal climbed up into the crowd to confront the fans and give them anything but “Metta World Peace”.
The incident affected the careers of many, specifically Artest (suspended for 86 games, and fined for 4.9 million dollars), Jackson (30 games, and 1.7 million), and Jermaine O’Neal (15 games, and 4.1 million). It also led the NBA to reconsider beverage limits, and what “fan interaction” truly means.
12 The Raging Rocket
The 2000 Subway Series between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets had tons of drama even before the infamous Clemens vs. Piazza showdown. The two were stars for their respective crosstown rival teams, and already had some tensions boiling from earlier in the year, when Clemens plunked Piazza in the head with a fastball (with the latter complaining that it was done intentionally).
In the first inning of game 2, Roger Clemens threw an inside fastball which Piazza fouled off - and in the process shattered his bat, which bounced towards Clemens and hit him right in the gut. In the process of running to first base, Piazza looked up as he was running down the line and noticed that Clemens had chucked the broken bat back at him, which cleared the bench, and saw a 20 thousand dollar fine for Clemens.
11 Zidane Uses His Head
Before he became the manager of Real Madrid in Spain, Zinedine Zidane was a French soccer legend. The three time FIFA World Player of the Year (1998, 2000, and 2003), is considered one of the best to ever play “the beautiful game”. Unfortunately, the casual fan only remembers Zidane for his infamous late career temper tantrum. In the 110th minute of a tie-game between Italy and France in the 2006 World Cup Final, Zindane head-butted centre-back Marco Materazzi in the chest, leading to Zidane’s ejection from the game, an Italy victory, and a world-class flop by Materazzi. This would be the last match that Zinedine would ever play
Years later, Zidane still refused to apologize for the incident, claiming that he still felt it was well-deserved. He did admit however that he acted out of “passion, temper, and blood”.
10 A Giant Tantrum
Odell Beckham Jr. is as exuberant as he is talented. During the 2016 season, after being shutdown by Josh Norman (who Beckham spent all week trash-talking with) and the Washington Redskins all afternoon, Beckham became so irate that he took a swing at a nearby innocent-looking kicking net. Unfortunately for the wide receiver, this tantrum would not have made its way through news cycles had the kicking net not gotten him back by recoiling and hitting him in the face. Yes, O.B.J. fought a kicking net, and lost.
For those of you who were worried that Beckham Jr. and his relationships with kicking nets were done forever, fear not. Since the incident, Odell has been spotted celebrating touchdowns by hugging, kissing, and even proposing to the kicking net on the sidelines.
9 Mike Tyson Gets An Earful
The hype of "Tyson-Holyfied II” was insurmountable, but the attendance at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and Pay-Per-View customers around the world certainly got more than their moneys worth. As he did 7 months earlier, Holyfield controlled the early goings of the match. As he was getting dominated, Tyson believed that “The Real Deal” was intentionally head butting him - to which the referee, Holyfield, and his trainer all vehemently denied.
A frustrated Tyson came out of his corner in the 3rd round, leaving his mouthguard behind. During a tie-up, in the later portion of the round Tyson bit off a chunk of cartilage from Evander’s right ear, and spat it right out onto the ring. Despite the move, the fight was not stopped. In another tie-up, Tyson would take a chomp out of Holyfield’s left ear, which prompted the referee to stop the fight. As a punishment for his antics in “The Bite Fight", Tyson was fined three million dollars, and was given an indefinite suspension from boxing.
8 McSorley Goes Clubbing
Throughout his career, Marty McSorley was known primarily as a physical player, not necessarily a dirty one (perhaps with the exception of him being caught with a non-compliant stick during the 1993 Stanley Cup), but an incident on February 21st, 2000, changed his reputation forever. With under 5 seconds remaining in a game between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks, McSorley lifted his stick and clubbed Donald Brashear in the head, leading to Brashear falling to the ice.
Being suspended for the remainder of the season (which led to his retirement) was the least of McSorley’s worries. Years later, he still works in hockey, but it’s hard to bring up Marty McSorley’s name without mention of the incident.
7 Rodman Doesn't Like To Be Photographed
Already known for his bad-boy antics, Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman took this tantrum perhaps a step (or a kick) too far. On January 15th, 1997, in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, “The Worm” fell to the ground while trying to secure a rebound. Before getting up, he delivered an infamous kick to cameraman, Eugene Amos’ groin.
The league responded quickly to the incident fining Rodman 25 thousand dollars and suspending him for 11 games without salary (resulting in approximately one million dollars). As if that wasn’t enough, Rodman had to pay Amos 200 thousand dollars in settlement money. Good thing he had already paid for his wedding dress and hair appointments…
6 Knocking Some Sense Into Yourself
Mikhail Youzhny was conscious enough not to inflict damage to anyone else during his tantrum at the 2005 French Open, unfortunately the same can’t be said about himself. While settling a tie breaker in his first round match, Youzhny committed an unforced error, and hit the ball into the net. He became so frustrated with himself that he smacked his own head with his racket “not once, not twice, but thrice” causing a cut, which led him to retire from the match with “headaches”.
The odd tantrum is excusable, but this incident was not even the first time that he attacked himself with his own racket - he did the same thing a few years early. The former the number 1 ranked Russian and world top 10 player was a great tennis talent, yet he is now remembered mostly for his head-smashing antics.
5 Yes, He Was Serious
Over the years, some of the lines that have been uttered by players, coaches, and announcers have turned into timeless quotes that are forever engrained in the brains of even the most casual fans... John McEnroe’s, “You Cannot Be Serious” is one of those lines (so much so that it’s also the title of his own autobiography)
At Wimbledon in 1981, a young Johnny Mac was irate at umpire Edward James over an out-of-bounds call. Opponent Tom Gullikson could only look on as McEnroe shouted “You can’t be serious, man. YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! That ball was on the line! Chalk flew up! It was clearly in! You guys are the absolute pits…”. While the rest of the rant has been forgotten over time, “You cannot be serious” has become a staple in sports lore. Since the incident, McEnroe has stated publicly that he feels terrible about the incident, and has a lot of respect for Edward James.
4 The Magic Loogie
In between his time with the Toronto Blue Jays, and his Hall of Fame enshrinement in Cooperstown, Roberto Alomar held it down at the two-sack for the hard-hitting Baltimore Orioles of the mid-to-late 90’s. It was during this time that Alomar had a tantrum that he has stated publicly that he wishes he could take back.
On September 27th, 1996, Alomar wholeheartedly disagreed with a strike three call made by home plate umpire John Hirschbeck, which led to a huge argument resulting in Alomar spitting in the umpire’s face. Roberto would receive a 5 game suspension, and admits that the incident still haunts him to this day.
3 Not Your Typical Garden Party
On December 23rd, 1979, the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers faced off at the famous Madison Square Garden. The two teams were certainly not strangers to each other, and would typically have their share of rough plays and dirty hits in any game in which they competed. This night however got completely out of hand.
The game ended, and as both teams were leaving the ice, they started to scrap. During the commotion, a Rangers fan lunged over the protective glass and hit a Bruins player in the face with a shoe. This triggered Terry O’Reilly who made his way into the crowd to confront the fan. Led by O’Reilly, 18 Boston players climbed into the crowd to fight whoever wanted a piece of them. O’Reilly would wind up getting an 8 game suspension for his role in the fight, his rightful place in tantrum history, and the honour of being Happy Gilmore’s favourite hockey player of all-time.
2 Joey Gets Batted
It was pretty obvious from the get-go that the Texas Rangers never got over the “bat-flip heard around Canada” during the 2016 ALDS. The next season, after a Matt Bush fastball drilled Jose Bautista, he threw a tantrum of his own. With Bautista on first, the ensuing batter hit a double-play ball up the middle. Rather than slide normally, Jose Bautista over-slid second base in an attempt to take out Rougned Odor’s legs. As benches cleared, Odor, not appreciative of Bautista’s attempt to hurt him, landed a right hook that caught Bautista squarely in the jaw.
While perhaps Bautista thought he was going to get revenge for all of the Rangers uncalled-for antics, it seems that his tantrum led to a “brouhaha” that he wasn’t quite ready for (despite the fact that the haymaker didn’t knock him down).
1 Famous Bust, Has Famous Tantrum
Ryan Leaf has taken a pretty bad rap since being drafted 2nd overall in the 1998 draft. Being labelled a “bust” is never fun, and Leaf is usually the first athlete that comes to mind when being asked to recall the more famous ones. The label is fair, and was well on its way to fruition just three weeks into his rookie campaign.
After observing Leaf losing it on a cameraman, a San Diego beat writer made note of the incident and reported it. This didn’t sit well with Leaf who verbally assaulted the reporter in the locker room shortly after, screaming “don’t talk to me alright, knock it off” (which was ironically caught on camera), before teammates finally separated the two. Maybe the Chargers should have added some player/reporter roleplaying with Leaf during the pre-draft meetings before making him their choice.