Professional sports take a toll on athletes mentally and physically. Injuries, broken bones, missing teeth, and concussions are all common are among the cons of playing pro sports. Athletes give their all to play the sport they love, so we often see players being glued back together, taped up, or having blood cleaned off their wounds during a game. For tough athletes, they’ll have this taken care of and be back playing as soon as possible. A broken bone or a little blood is nothing for NBA, NHL, MLB and NFLers who eat, sleep, and breathe their sport. This sometimes can affect their physical appearance. At the end of the day, they’re not entered in a beauty pageant; they’re there to play.
For other athletes, they were so young at the beginning of their career that one could wonder if their voice had even dropped at the time they were drafted. Whether they grew out their hockey flow just a bit too long, sport the playoff beard well beyond the Stanley Cup final, or let their hair get a bit out of control like Troy Polamalu’s one million dollar insured mane, some of these men look nearly repulsive at the start of their careers.
Needless to say, professional athletes aren’t always looking their finest during their seasons. Like a fine wine, some athletes actually got better looking with age, whether it can be attributed to maturity, learning to clean themselves up, looking more presentable, or perhaps their wives being responsible for their five-star transformations. Regardless, the following are 15 players who were much more attractive at the end of their career than when they started out.
15 Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman has always been famous for his many hairstyles, colours, and cuts. He truly had it all, with green hair, rainbow hair, a blonde mohawk, red hair, blue hair, bumble bee hair, and too many facial piercings. In 2013, before going to play basketball in North Korea and with full retirement in sight (he hasn't played in the NBA since 2000), Rodman did something no one expected. He actually returned to his normal hair colour. Even though he chose to not get rid of every piercing, he looked much more presentable with brown hair than any other colour of the rainbow.
14 Wayne Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky resembled Harry Dunne from Dumb and Dumber in his early years in the NHL. Going through his awkward teen phase as he entered his early professional career, Gretzky was not the great one when it came to looks. The good news is he had a bucket on most of the time, so the public was not exposed to his blonde mullet. Fast forward to 1999, the last year of Gretzky’s playing career, and he looks older, wiser, and like he found a professional to style his hair. Pulling in over $6 million in his final year, I’m glad Wayne could finally afford a haircut that didn’t involve business in the front and party in the back.
13 Matt Birk
Matt Birk played his final season in the NFL in 2012 for the Baltimore Ravens. As a center for the Vikings and Ravens, Birk had to keep his body large and in charge. Birk weighed in at 310 pounds during his last season with the team. A year after retirement, Birk lost 75 pounds and looks like he’s in the best shape of his life. Birk has been showing off his six-pack, and muscular physique in recent photos. In case anyone was concerned about Birk’s career plans post- NFL, he is now modeling.
12 Jeff Saturday
Like Matt Birk, Jeff Saturday has lost a lot of weight since retiring. No wonder the Broncos couldn't lure him back. pic.twitter.com/wILRS2gq7q
— David P. Woods (@davidpwoods) August 12, 2013
Jeff Saturday finished his career in 2012 playing for the Green Bay Packers and spent a large portion of his career with the Colts from 1999-2011. He played center, meaning he, like Birk, had to stay hefty for his position. He was a big guy who knew how to throw some weight around. He weighed 295 pounds in his final NFL season. Now retired, Jeff has lost a ton of weight. As of 2013, Saturday weighed in around 230 pounds. Former Saturday fans may not even recognize Jeff’s new and improved self.
11 Nick Hardwick
Keeping up with our stories of former offensive lineman who lost a ton of weight, we have Nick Hardwick, who played for the San Diego Chargers for 10 years. He decided to retire in February of this year after suffering a neck injury early on last season. At the start of the season, Hardwick weighed in at a massive 300 pounds. As an offensive lineman, it’s part of his job contract to maintain a Hulk-ish figure. Announcing his retirement at a news conference, Hardwick was no longer the beast he once was. With a shaved head, trimmed beard, and of course, the body of a God, Hardwick boasted his weight loss displaying his 208-pound body.
10 Jordan Gross
Jordan Gross was an offensive tackle for the Carolina Panthers and he was a beast of a man during his career. During his last season with the Panthers, Gross weighed in at 305 pounds. This 6’4" former footballer is now down to an impressive 225 pounds and Gross claims he wasn’t even trying to lose weight, he’s simply eating right and exercising. Gross also touched on an important topic of how difficult it was to maintain strength while weighing in at over 300 pounds, He was quoted saying “I don’t believe there’s really any natural 300 pound person.” Needless to say, he looks healthier and happier now that he’s retired.
9 Mats Sundin
Mats Sundin was drafted first overall into the NHL in 1989. At this point in his life, Mats resembled a skinny little Swedish girl with a receding hairline. Luckily, there’s hope for everyone! By the time 2009 rolled around and Sundin announced his retirement, he had given into male patterned baldness and accepted his destiny to resemble Mr. Clean. However, it should be noted he looks much more manly and attractive with a shiny head than the fluffy cut he rocked for far too long.
8 Steve Nash
Steve Nash is a retired Canadian NBA player, who, when he signed with the Mavericks, was sporting a ridiculous hairstyle reminiscent of the Backstreet Boys. Things didn't get much better during Nash’s second time with the Phoenix Suns. as he thought it would be a good idea to grow his hair out long and sport a middle part. Just to clarify, it was not Steve Nash who played Marv in the Home Alone movies, although the resemblance is uncanny. During the last couple of years with the L.A. Lakers, Nash cleaned himself up and looked less like an ex-con who might rob your house and more like a guy you’d willingly be seen with in public.
7 Robert Swift
Robert Swift retired from the NBA at the ripe old age of 26. Robert had many interesting looks in his first few years in the NBA. He tried the ponytail, the shag look, and even grew some questionable chin hair to add to his strange appearance. Nearing the end of his career, Robert made the wise decision to get rid of his Sporty Spice pony and released whatever animal he was keeping captive on his chin. Needless to say, Robert looked much better near the end of his career compared to when he started out.
6 Kurt Rambis
Kurt Rambis is a retired NBA player who now works as the Assistant Coach for the New York Knicks. During his early career Kurt had a long blonde mullet, moustache, and glasses. To be clear, this is not a look that would work for anyone. Nearing the end of his professional playing career and when he began beginning to coach, Rambis cut his hair, trimmed his moustache, and got rid of his thick-rimmed glasses. Nearly unrecognizable, Rambis now looks like an NBA coach instead of someone trying to be Clark Kent.
5 Mike Miller
Beginning his career in 2000, Mike Miller thought he should grow his hair out when he moved to Memphis and wear a headband. This was not a good choice for Miller. After being in the NBA for 15 years, Mike finally figured it out and got himself a big boy haircut. With a bit of scruff and his new hairstyle, Miller has come a long way since 2003. Let’s just hope he never tries to bring back the headband look again.
4 Chris Kaman
Chris Kaman is currently playing for the Portland Trail Blazers, but while playing with the Clippers, Kaman grew out his blonde locks and quickly came to resemble a heavy metal band member. His string cheese hair was nothing short of repulsive. It was short on the sides, mullet in the back, and I’m not sure exactly what he told the barber when he went to get his hair cut but he looked straight up creepy. Now in 2015, I’m happy to report that Kaman has a shaved head and has grown out a beard. He actually looks friendlier and more approachable without his heavy metal look.
3 Scot Pollard
Pollard is currently retired, but during his early career, Pollard sported many questionable looks including the lumberjack, complete with thick beard and moustache, as well as a bun with a receding hairline, and finally a bleached blonde mohawk. His facial hair during his early career included heavy sideburns, a soul patch, and a pencil thin moustache and goatee which made him the spitting image of Jafar from Aladdin. Near the end of his career, Pollard cut his hair and cleaned up his facial hair making him look like a more professional guy that one could take seriously.
2 Adam Morrison
Sadly, Adam Morrison is another NBA player who fell victim to a terrible mullet. Adam had thicker hair, which made this fluffy hairdo even worse. To make him look even worse, he grew a peach fuzz moustache to complete the ridiculous look. He looked like he was going to a casting call for Weird Uncle #3 more than a professional NBAer. After ending his professional career, Adam got rid of his awful stache and rocks a man bun. His new neat and tidy appearance gets an A+.
1 Jaromir Jagr
At the beginning of Jaromir Jagr’s professional career in 1988 he rocked a serious fluffy mullet. Try to look at a picture of him from the beginning of his career without laughing. The Billy Ray Cyrus look was not in Jagr’s favour. Now, nearing the end of his career at the age of 43, I’m happy to report that Jaromir Jagr has cut off his long locks. It turns out he was actually hiding a handsome face under the curly mop of hair. Needless to say, Jagr cleans up well and has left his mullet days in the past.