Well, perhaps being locked away in a mental hospital would be a bit too harsh for most of the athletes who appear on this list, though many are no more than an incident or two away from finding themselves trying to Houdini their way out of a straightjacket while in a room with padded walls. In every sport, there are always a number of characters who push the boundaries of normalcy and find a way to entertain fans with their inherent craziness.
That craziness often manifests itself during competition, though there are plenty of notable instances in which athletes are able to channel their insanity into endeavors outside of their respective sports. Whether it is violent outbursts, strange interests or a variety of simple eccentricities, this list compiles the most interesting and potentially bonkers athletes in all of sports today, along with a few athletes who, despite the fact that their careers ended many years ago, have found a way to stay relevant through the continual delivery of high-profile insanity.
Some sports attract a bit more insanity than others, and there are those that would argue that certain sports should be more heavily represented than others. In order to fairly represent the sanity-challenged in all sports, this list considers the level of insanity relative to other athletes in the same sport. For example, most hockey players would proudly declare a greater degree of insanity than the most insane tennis player, but it is only fair to represent all sports equally. What follows are the 15 athletes who should be in a mental hospital instead of participating in athletics.
15 Serena Williams
The hulking tennis star is already an intimidating figure based on her physical presence and her considerable talents as a tennis player. Williams has dominated women’s tennis throughout the entirety of her career, but she has certainly not softened with age and overwhelmingly success. The most obvious incident demonstrating her on-court insanity came during US Open play, when she violently threatened a lineswoman after a called foot fault, with Williams saying, "I swear to God, I'll f**king take the ball and shove it down your f**king throat."
14 Brian Wilson
The former San Francisco Giants closer and current free agent is known for his many eccentricities, which include his famous beard and ever-changing hairstyles. While playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Wilson tied his beard at its base a la Captain Lou Albano and wore a long-haired Mohawk. He also famously appeared on an episode of “Lopez Tonight,” dressing as a sailor and dying his beard grey, claiming that he was a seaman who was also afraid of the water. He is also known for his outstanding performance during an episode of “Jim Rome Is Burning,” in which he claimed to be a “certified ninja,” and a “mental assassin.”
13 Alex Rodriguez
Coming off of a ban that kept him out of baseball for all of the 2014 season, Rodriguez is entering his age-39 season as the most maligned player in baseball. There are very few in baseball that believe A-Rod can be an effective player in 2015 and beyond, but that won’t stop A-Rod from believing. He has said this offseason that he will try to win the starting third base job in Spring Training despite the presence of Chase Headley, whom the Yankees signed to specifically fill that role. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post perhaps described the relationship best between the Yankees and A-Rod, saying Rodriguez “created the funniest employer-employee dysfunction since George Costanza worked for Play Now in Seinfeld," and the Yanks are currently looking into how to avoid paying for A-Rod’s performance bonuses, in which he is supposed to receive $6 million each time he passes the career home run marks of Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. A-Rod not only believes that he will reach those milestones, but also that he is entitled to the bonuses, and that’s just plain crazy.
12 Lance Stephenson
Stephenson has had a couple of brushes with crazy during his relatively brief NBA career. In 2010, Stephenson was accused of pushing his girlfriend down the stairs during an argument, but the charges against him were ultimately dropped. Mark Boyle, a broadcaster with Stephenson’s former team, the Indiana Pacers, once described Stephenson’s relationship with teammates, saying, “we’ve had some guys here in the ’90s that were older-school guys who would have snapped him in half by now. I’m surprised that he’s still in one piece. He agitates his own teammates during practices. Not that it’s that bad. But day after day for six months, I imagine it gets on your nerves.”
Of course, Stephenson got reacquainted with his insanity during the NBA playoffs a year ago, when he was seen blowing in the ear of then-Miami Heat star LeBron James. Earlier in that same series, Stephenson had called LeBron’s participation in his trash-talking a “sign of weakness,” which apparently led him to deciding to blow in another man’s ear during a high-stakes professional basketball game.
11 Ndamukong Suh
Suh has cleaned up his act a bit recently, but he still has a penchant for taking advantage of any opportunity to inflict a little extra damage on an opponent. During the Detroit Lions’ playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, Suh backpedaled onto Aaron Rodgers’ legs. While he didn’t stomp on him or otherwise maliciously attempt to maim Rodgers, Suh definitely lingered, later claiming that he didn’t feel Rodgers beneath him because his feet were numb from the cold. Before his most recent indiscretion, Suh had stomped Evan Dietrich-Smith (also of Green Bay) and had kicked Matt Schaub in the groin.
10 Milan Lucic
The left-winger with the Boston Bruins has been gaining a reputation in the NHL as one of its craziest players as of late, and one of the clearest instances of this occurred during a game between the Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens. Lucic took exception to a hit delivered by Alexei Emelin, and offered up a disproportionate response by spearing Emelin in the groin from behind, forcing Emelin to immediately leave the ice. He has also garnered some attention for gesturing obscenely at the fans at the Bell Centre and for getting into late-night bar fights.
9 Ernests Gulbis
Tennis pro Ernests Gulbis doesn’t seem to mind the perception among many that he is more than a bit wacky, but then again, this is the man who called a night spent in jail after allegedly soliciting a female escort “great fun.” Of his career, he has said, “I’ve done all the possible wrong things that you can do in a tennis career. But I’m very happy I made the mistakes that I did,” and one of those mistakes may have come during one of the best moments of his career, as Gulbis declared, “I s**t my pants,” when asked to explain several double faults on match point, though he did ultimately defeat Roger Federer.
8 Robert Allenby
Allenby made headlines recently after claiming he had been robbed and kidnapped after a golf tournament in Hawaii. His injuries were awful and certainly appeared to have been the result of a physical altercation, but many witnesses have called Allenby’s account into question. Allenby claims that he was kidnapped and thrown in the back of a trunk after leaving a wine bar in Honolulu, but witnesses claim to have seen a “beyond drunk” Allenby fall and hit his head on a rock. While there are certainly many questions about the evening, it has become apparent that Allenby ran up quite a bill at a local strip club totaling $3,400.
7 Rob Gronkowski
“Gronk” isn’t the kind of crazy that some of the players on this list are, but he is definitely a unique character who is prone to getting involved in some particularly wild incidents. The Patriots tight end was in the middle of the Super Bowl melee that closed out the Pats’ victory over the Seahawks (of the fight, Gronk said, “Screw it, I’m throwing some haymakers”) and remained in the news for his seemingly endless championship celebration. He was seen hanging out of Boston’s famous duck boats, drinking Fireball and whatever else Bostonians threw his way, all while wearing a number 69 Patriots jersey and a hat depicting one of the minions from “Despicable Me.”
6 Brent Burns
Burns is not exactly a household name, but there is no doubt that his household provides a clear view of his insanity. Burns, with his smile bereft of front teeth and surrounded by a shaggy beard, keeps what amounts to a reptile zoo in his home. While showing his Minnesota home off for Inside Hockey, a peek inside of Burns’ freezer revealed his pets’ various frozen meals, along with a chameleon that had recently passed away and was frozen so it could later be stuffed. In the sink was a rat that was thawing out for mealtime, and Burns’ basement served as home to what he estimates are about 40 snakes.
5 Marshawn Lynch
Lynch is beginning to become less known for his on-field production due to his recent uptick in odd behavior. Whether it is his wearing of a high-altitude training mask, his refusal to speak to the media or his penchant for Skittles, it seems like there is always something strange going on in the mind of Lynch. Give the Seattle Seahawks credit for embracing Lynch’s personality wholeheartedly: the Seahawks made sure that there was a container of Skittles available for Lynch during the Super Bowl.
4 J.R. Smith
Smith has a long history of insanity throughout his NBA career, including a stint in jail after a deadly SUV accident in 2007. After a reporter asked him how his summer was, Smith replied, “All right, got out of jail.” He has been involved in fights on and off the court, has been alleged to have associated with the infamous “Bloods,” and had a hilarious social media faux pas when he asked a female fan if she was “trying to get the pipe,” after she told him she would be in attendance at that night’s game. His most recent NBA transgression was a five-game suspension for a failed drug test.
3 Luis Suarez
While Mike Tyson is infamous for his biting incident with Evander Holyfield, Tyson is nowhere near as prolific as Uruguayan soccer player Luis Suarez. When Suarez bit Giorgio Chiellini during the 2014 World Cup, it was the third time that Suarez had chomped down on an opponent. The biting is not all for Suarez, who was also suspended for eight games and fined a substantial amount for racially abusing Patrice Evra of Manchester United.
2 Wade Boggs
Boggs is one of two former athletes to make this list, mostly due to the complete absurdity of the insanity attributed to the baseball legend. Boggs’ insanity inspired a recent episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia," in which the characters attempt to break Boggs' record for beer drinking during a cross-country flight, which is said to have stood at an astonishing 64 beers in a single day. Boggs appeared as himself during the episode, and actor Charlie Day said that not only was Boggs drinking beer during the shoot, he claimed that the actual number of beers was 107.
1 Dennis Rodman
Rodman will own the top spot always and forever simply because he has taken on a role as de-facto ambassador and diplomat to North Korea in his post-playing career. Rodman, who has visited North Korea on several occasions and befriended Kim Jong-Un, claims that his efforts aided in the release of Kenneth Bae, an American taken prisoner while visiting North Korea. Of course, Rodman was synonymous with crazy throughout his playing career as well, wearing outrageous outfits and featuring brightly colored and ever-changing hairstyles on some very successful teams. But there is nothing that can possibly top befriending the foreign dictator of an incredibly isolated country.