Wear and tear inevitably becomes part of any young athletes life cycle. Sometimes this inevitability can be readily accelerated because of a number of factors. The young athlete may be naturally injury-prone due to genetics and pre-disposed physical traits that cause him to look ancient. Other times an athlete simply does not put in the hard work and training necessary to foster longevity in a career that is – by its very nature – prone to deterioration and attrition.
Athletes also don’t help their own longevity by spending inordinate amounts of cash on partying, drugs and alcohol – all elements that can shortcut a once-promising career and leave them looking haggard. Most sports fans can remember guys like Vin Baker, Lamar Odom and other athletes that just didn’t know how to just Netflix and chill almost ever. Even now, athletes like former 49er and current Oakland Raider, Aldon Smith, can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Second and even third chances are few and far between in professional sports.
If athletes can’t keep it together and maintain their stratospheric levels of performance, inevitably someone younger, stronger and more talented will come along and gladly take your job. After that happens, it’s a slippery slope that can leave you looking like a grandpa. Stomachs bulge out, hair follicles lose their coloring and faces begin to develop wrinkles at alarming rates. No amount of Just For Men can save them.
Here are 15 athletes that aged terribly way in advance of their years and the successes of their careers. These guys are the tragic figures that gave your franchises so much hope and promise only to watch it whither away too soon. They are the Syd Barrett's and Brian Wilson's of our sports generation that simply could not hack it.
15 Larry Bird
Larry Legend is a top 10 player in NBA history but he did not age very well at all. Not only did he have back problems throughout the latter portion of his career that relegated him to looking like a human snail when not in the game but as life has gone on for ole’ Larry he more and more resembles some kind of freakish buzzard that sits quietly in the stands while his Pacers come up short time and time again.
14 Patrick Ewing
Ewing was a dominant center in the league for a strong decade until his knees began to resemble radioactive toxic sludge. Once his coaching career started, it seemed as though things only got worse for the former first overall selection. One look at him now and he'd seem unrecognizable. It's fair to say that Father Time has not been kind to Ewing. Years and years of getting dunked on by Michael Jordan may do this to you.
13 Lamar Odom
Long before he became Mr. Kardashian, Odom was a highly-touted prospect from the NYC area. The 4th overall pick by the LA Clippers in the 1999 draft, Odom could never live up to the hype in LA and followed up his tenure there with somewhat successful campaigns with the Heat and Lakers. In 2009, Odom married Khloe Kardashian and everything went to pits after a DUI and going MIA during a drug binge. Subsequent comeback attempts by Odom has resulted in disappointing efforts.
12 Brett Favre
Brett Favre’s youthful, good-old-boy enthusiasm on the field has given way to looking like your granddad trying too hard. Even before he sent pictures of his penis to Jenn Sterger, Favre was already looking old and grizzled on NFL sidelines for the Jets. Since retiring he is more recognized for ridiculous Lee jeans ads where he drives around in an old truck with some cool dog your dad wish he had. He's a far cry from being the Hall of Fame QB that was so exciting to watch.
11 Sam Cassell
Sam Cassell may or may not be an alien. He's ridiculously tall, lanky and can dunk. There may have been an X-Files episode centered around his arrival to our solar system. We’re not sure. You’d have to look it up. The man never looked too good to begin with. Not when he was in his early 20's and not now. He's got kind of a wrinkled egg for a face. He looks weird, man.
His performances as a striker for the Brazil international team throughout the late 90's and early Aughts culminated in a win for Brazil in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. After this high water mark, Ronaldo became noticeably bigger and slower for both his club teams and for the Brazil national team that was knocked out by France 1-0 in the 2006 quarterfinals. Although much larger than he used to be, Ronaldo has hinted at a comeback of sorts as late as this past January.
9 O.J. Simpson
O.J. has had maybe the roughest tumble of everyone on our list. After being accused, tried and eventually acquitted in the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, Juice laid pretty low whilst living in the Miami suburb of Kendall during the late 90s and early 2000s. Lately, though, Juice has spent much of his time in a Nevada jail cell due to an armed robbery and kidnapping charge from 2007. O.J. has never looked more haggard, even when he was being tried for DOUBLE HOMICIDE.
8 Ozzie Guillen
The once-lithe and acrobatic shortstop for the Chicago White Sox is now a bloated man that sits back and collects checks from Jeffrey Loria and the stupid Miami Marlins. Ozzie is what it looks like when a man drinks 15 Coronas and smokes 3 packs of cigarettes every day for 35 years. The results are not pretty, folks.
7 Greg Oden
We’ve never seen a picture of a young Greg Oden so one can only reasonably assume he was born looking 45 years old. After getting a second chance with the Heat in 2013-2014 season, Oden partied and punched his way out of the NBA and in August of 2014 was charged with domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend. Comeback attempts fell short in 2014-2015 and Oden eventually signed a 1-year deal with China’s Jiangsu Dragons. We will likely never see Old Man Oden again.
6 Jason Giambi
Giambi and his career benefited greatly from the inflated numbers and inflated bodies of professional baseball’s steroids era. Giambi was one of the early ones to come out and show some level of contrition for pumping testosterones into his body for the benefit of increasing his production and bank account. Well, all that testosterone must have done something to the man because by his 2013 season with the Cleveland Indians Giambi resembled more 50-year-old-grizzly-bear than young slugger.
5 Sammy Sosa
Who knows what race Sammy Sosa is anymore after pictures surfaced of him looking strange shades of some color not even on the spectrum. Sosa was a force during the home run record chase of 1998 when he battled fellow steroid-abuser Mark McGwire for the chance to top Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Sosa finished the season with 66 compared to McGuire’s 70. An ugly ‘achievement’ in the face of eventual steroid allegations that Sosa has denied time and time again but nothing is uglier than whatever ‘skin rejuvenation’ Sammy has taken on in his retirement years.
4 LeBron James
LeBron James emerged as the once-in-a-lifetime talent straight out of high school in 2003. At the time, LeBron was joyful, youthful and displayed all manner of the pep you’d expect from a high school kid. However, years and years of unbelievable pressure and ridiculous expectations (alongside with playing with a franchise like the Cleveland Cavaliers that will suck the very soul out of you like a blood-sucking Hell-beast) would destroy any man. Though only 30, LeBron is looking more and more like Greg Oden’s slightly younger brother and that’s not a good look, man.
3 Tonya Harding
Along with Nancy Kerrigan in the early 90's, Tonya Harding was a symbol of the dominance and elegance of US Women’s skating. Her involvement in the attempt to ruin America’s Sweetheart, Nancy Kerrigan’s, career came down on her with the nastiest of karmic hammers. Nowadays the once fit and cute Harding looks like a monster that was born out of the Wal-Mart snack aisle. Time and revenge are cruel beasts, indeed.
2 Charles Barkley
Sir Charles was once one of the most fearsome forwards in NBA league history. Nowadays he’s mostly a bitter loudmouth that yells about stuff on TNT and interrupts his co-hosts constantly to "LET HIM TELL YOU SOMETHING" that simply cannot wait for the next break in conversation. Once feared on the court; now feared by Blackjack table chairs and tequila bottles, Sir Charles is a force to be reckoned with any weekend in Vegas on the casino floor or at the buffet table.
1 Diego Maradona
There has never been a player like Maradonna. Messi is a wonderful, amazing player and Pele brought international notoriety to the sport of soccer but no one mixed such incredible speed, talent, ball-handling and power the way Maradonna did. His run in the 1986 World Cup is stuff of legends and a performance that may never be topped. However, his desire to party his ass of is also legendary and Maradonna spent much of the 90s in a cocaine-and-alcohol-fueled haze. Though he came back a few years ago as the Argentine national team coach, he still looks as though he might have a heart attack at any minute. Let’s pray to the Hand of God this Keith Richards of soccer sticks around a lot longer.