Sports are regulated by rules that, for the most part, prevent players from losing their minds on an opponent should one player lose his patience with another player who is trying to get under his skin.
There are plenty of athletes who have proven to be able to keep their cool with an agitator breathing down their necks. Take LeBron James, for example. Last season he was followed around the court by former Indiana Pacer Lance Stephenson the way Pikachu would follow Ash in Pokemon Yellow, which you might have played as a child. Stephenson went as far as blowing into LeBron's ear in the middle of a game, to which James simply responded with a smile and an incredulous shake of the head.
There are other athletes out there who might have responded quite differently to Stephenson's antics. They might have given him a good shove and shouted some choice words in his general direction. They might have complained to the referee. The might have even flopped to try and draw a call, somehow.
And then there are those who would have simply turned around, swung a mean right hook into the jaw of Lance Stephenson, and walked off until the ensuing mayhem began.
There have been plenty of athletes through the years who've been labelled as guys with short fuses, who could simply not contain themselves. This list will stick to active players, to keep it fresh and interesting and thankfully there are plenty of athletes currently playing who haven't learned from the mistakes of former hotheads like Dennis Rodman, Ron Artest and Rob Dibble, just to name a few.
In compiling the list of today's sports hotheads, I secretly hoped that I never cross paths with any of these fine athletes, for fear that the claims made here might result in a ham-like fist being hurled at my head.
15 Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard is added to this list more for it's comedic value than his knack for losing his temper. It would have helped his street cred if he had retaliated a bit more forcefully to the repeated slaps he received from Yaya Toure during halftime of last week's match between Manchester City and Chelsea - for now, Hazard makes the list by the skin of his teeth (or Luis Suarez, depending on how you want to look at it) thanks to his antics in a match against Swansea last year when he took the phrase "kicking and screaming" to a whole new level when he "attacked" a Swansea ball boy who was attempting to keep the ball away from him (the jury is still out whether he kicked the ball or the kid).
Either way, if Hazard is ready to kick a child, I wonder what he might do if he lost it on another player.
14 Josh Beckett
Josh Beckett just retired, so technically he shouldn't on this list - but since the memories are still fresh we'll allow it. Throughout his career Beckett earned a reputation as a less-than-likeable fellow, found a way to drink-beer-and-eat-wings-during-games his way out of Boston, and carve out a niche as a hothead with some sweet chin music. Beckett might not be the one to throw the first punch, but he'd be sure to instigate with a high and tight fastball that may or may not whiz right by your nose.
13 Steve Downie
Steve Downie has since calmed down after antics of years past got him in trouble more often than not. Once a hothead, always a hot-head, though. Downie's rep as a "rough" guy began before he ever stepped on an NHL ice-surface, after a hazing incident with former teammate Akim Aliu led to Downie cross-checking and then fighting Aliu during a practice. This was while the two were still with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. Downie's foray into professional hockey has seen him continue to be the violent type, as he's gotten into plenty of scraps and altercations throughout his NHL career.
12 Jeff Gordon
There's nothing quite like a scuffle before, during or after a NASCAR fight. When you do see one, the smart money might be on Jeff Gordon being involved in the fight one way or another. Most recently, we've seen Gordon attack fellow driver Brad Keselowski after an on-track incident involving the two. It's not the first time Gordon has blown a fuse, though - incidents date back to 2006, as there have been separate altercations with Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer in his racing past.
11 Floyd Mayweather Jr.
It might seem like taking the easy way out - adding a guy who makes a living knocking people out to a list of athletes who might lose it and knock someone out. Floyd was hard to leave off the list, though, as we've seen him take his boxing prowess out of the squared circle and into real life. We can ignore the domestic abuse charges in his past and simply look at his demeanor outside of the ring and suggest that should push come to shove, Mayweather might transfer his million-dollar making abilities to a street fight.
10 Dominic Raiola
Dominic Raiola has slowly but surely taken over the mantle from Ndamukong Suh as the Lions dirtiest player. Raiola has begun to earn a reputation as a guy with a knack for doing or saying something stupid - highlighted by incidents involving hurling homophobic slurs at marching bands, now compounded with the incidents of last week's 34-9 loss to the New England Patriots where Raiola punched a defensive lineman in the back of the head during one play, and followed that up by diving at the knees of another during the final moments of the loss. Not only will Raiola try and go for the knockout, he might not wait for the other guy to prepare for it.
9 Nick Young
Nick Young might not be a name many people are familiar with. Does "Swaggy P" ring a bell? Now that we've established who we're talking about, we can reminisce about last season's incident between "Swaggy P" and Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragić. Young - sorry, "Swaggy P" - took exception to a hard foul by Dragić and came up swinging. Give "Swaggy P" credit for standing up for himself against a much larger foe, but keep in mind that there were referees and teammates who immediately ran into the scuffle. I have a feeling, though, that "Swaggy P" would not take kindly to anyone who dares step up to his woman (Iggy Azalea). We might have to deal with "Angry P" should that ever occur.
8 Zdeno Chara
Disclaimer: you'd have to be a fool to piss off Zdeno Chara. At 6'9 (OFF of his skates), Chara is a giant. On skates, Chara is a behemoth, and he is not to be trifled with. Those who have tried to poke the bear have quickly regretted the decision (ask Bryan McCabe about it). While Chara is not one to drop the gloves with regular frequency, he's the last guy you want to see charging you, because there's a 99.9% chance that it won't end well. While usually under control, when Chara gets the "crazy eyes" look...well, you know the rest.
7 Adam “Pacman” Jones
Adam "Pacman" Jones has had a rough go of it in the NFL, to say the least - all of his own doing, of course. He's been arrested numerous times, and while he still has managed to keep an NFL roster spot despite all the headaches he's caused, it's not improbable to believe that it's only a matter of time before Jones lands himself in trouble again. While the majority of the issues have stemmed from altercations off the field, one can wonder what might happen should someone anger him in the middle of a hard-fought football game.
6 Richard Sherman
Richard Sherman doesn't land on this list because of the unfounded labels that have been placed on him over the last couple of seasons. He is not a thug, or anything associated to the term, but for a guy who plays with as much fire as he does, there's legitimate concern that Sherman might try and pop an opponent should he get under his skin. We've already seen what a rejected handshake can do to Sherman, and we've also seen him get into a training camp scuffle with teammate Doug Baldwin. Sherman is no idiot, but if someone can push him over the edge, he might just start throwing.
5 A.J. Pierzynski
A.J. Pierzynski was once voted the meanest player in Major League Baseball, and the vote was taken by his peers, not fans or media. That's never a good title to have, and just the mention of it might make Pierzynski a little cranky. He's gotten into several altercations over the years, the most memorable being the famous brawl in Chi-town with Cubs catcher Michael Barrett (Pierzynski was with the White Sox at the time). While Pierzynski might as easily be on a list of people who you might want to knock out, he's shown that he can get agitated enough to start swinging himself.
4 Steve Smith, Sr.
We don't need to wonder whether Steve Smith, Sr. would throw a punch - his track record speaks for itself. In 2002, it was a training camp altercation with Guilian Gary. Later that season, he broke the orbital bone of teammate Anthony Bright. In 2008, he broke Ken Lucas' nose during training camp. More recently there have been incidents involving Cary Williams, Aqib Talib and Kenny Vaccaro. Smith might have "calmed down" - which is why he's not higher, but there's no doubt the fire still burns inside of him, and sometimes it manages to get the best of him.
3 Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch had to "re-invent" himself - that's how bad it had gotten for the famed NASCAR driver. His attitude and temper has cost him jobs and gotten him into a number of altercations, such as the ones with Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson. In the spirit of this article, Kurt Busch might not necessarily be the one to try to knock you out with his fists, but he is likely to be the one to try and knock you out with his car (which sounds a lot more dangerous if you ask me).
Even the casual soccer fan knows that Pepe is a bit crazy, to put it nicely. His well documented attacks on Javier Balboa, Javier Casquero, Juan Ángel Albín, Dani Alves, Lionel Messi and most recently Thomas Müller have only furthered the mentality that Pepe has an issue with controlling his temper and deals with it by unleashing it on his opponents. If you need more proof, simply type "Pepe" on YouTube. While most soccer players have videos of their skills on display, Pepe has numerous depicting his most violent acts (the words animal, psycho and evil seem to come up a lot in the titles, too).
1 John Scott
Again, a bit of an easy road to take by choosing a guy who is paid to fight as the top athlete on this list - but there's a bit of a different mentality when it comes to John Scott. John Scott is one of the more "forward" enforcers out there, in that he does not abide by any sort of code the way enforcers of past years would. He will simply hop the bench and start throwing. If you tick him off, he'll attack wildy - see the Phil Kessel incident for further proof. Of course, all this helps when you're a mammoth of a man, but it's clear that John Scott has a short fuse and will take it out on his opponents without a second thought about it.
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