Top 15 Athletes Who Were Out of Shape

There have been many terrific athletes who have carried excess weight or have gone out of their way to ensure that their bodies were not in the best of shape. Many of these athletes were able to be st

There have been many terrific athletes who have carried excess weight or have gone out of their way to ensure that their bodies were not in the best of shape. Many of these athletes were able to be stars in their particular sports, while others failed to realize their true potential, often culminating with careers that were cut short by injury or declining skills. As Americans and others countries across the world struggle with obesity, diabetes, and being able to stay in shape, it is only fitting that many athletes have had their struggles too.

Weight issues are nothing new to the world of sports, but football linemen went from averaging 235 pounds to the 300 plus pounds they routinely average today. Many of these players are big, but there is no doubt that they are carrying excess weight. Babe Ruth was such a good baseball player that many ball players who have followed him have used his legacy as a reason why they shouldn't bother being in good shape. Basketball is full of many lengthy road trips and too many opportunities to eat fast food, drink or even stay out too late. Many of these professional athletes were recognized for their talent at an early age, often making them feel like this talent would still be there even if they put their body through a litany of abuse. In many ways the windfall of that first big contract has been the biggest culprit when it comes to failing to keep in shape. Bad habits can become easy to afford and extra time in the gym can start to take a back seat to fun.

The following 15 athletes were far from being in tip top shape. They were all known to carry excess weight, party too much or care less about being physically fit. Despite how they might look in their particular sports, they all had the skills and talent to succeed. They all could have probably been even better if they were in better shape.

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15 Emmanuel Yarbrough

Photo Credit: Will Hart

Emanuel "Tiny" Yarbrough made his way into the Guinness World Records for being the heaviest athlete around. At one point, even weighing over 880 pounds, Yarbrough competed in sumo wrestling, MMA, judo and even football. He was the 1995 World Amateur Sumo Champion, an NCAA All-American heavyweight wrestler, a second place finisher in the U.S. Nationals for judo, and an All-American offensive tackle at Morgan State. Yarbrough had one win and two losses in his MMA career, never being able to avoid getting hit by his opponents' punches. His weight kept him from being able to ever compete with speed, but he was certainly one of the most athletic horizontally challenged athletes of all time.

14 Cecil Fielder


Cecil Fielder was an enormous man who stood at 6-foot-3, but weighed in excess of 280 pounds. He had tremendous power and a big swing, but certainly wasn't a player who could blaze trails in the field or on the base paths. Fielder had 319 home runs and 1,008 RBIs, but was only able to steal two bases in his entire 13-year MLB career. He had 51 home runs and 132 RBI in 1990, while also leading the league with 182 strikeouts that same year. Fielder was solid as a rock, but still had his battles with the bulge. He had great strength but in many ways his excess weight likely prevented him from hitting for average, making it more difficult to get the head of the bat through the zone. He was still a quite formidable power hitter during his time when he was able to make contact with the ball.

13 Craig Heyward

AP Photo/Al Golub

Craig Heyward was a tremendous athlete who had an 11-year career as one of the biggest running backs to ever play in the NFL. He gained 1,083 yards in 1995, while having enough dexterity to catch 37 passes in the same season. He finished his career with 4,301 yards on the ground, but struggled to be a consistent threat. He did make it to the Pro Bowl in 1995, but only rushed for a total of 420 yards in his next three seasons.

Heyward had the nickname "Iron Head", but his body could also do its share of damage. Amazingly, he also had deft moves with his hips and feet, but it was hard for him to realize his potential when he constantly battled to stay under 300 pounds. He had his problems with weight, but it was bone cancer in his skull that ultimately led to an early death. Heyward passed away at the age of 39 after his cancer recurred.

12 Robert Traylor


Robert "Tractor" Traylor was towering at 6-foot-8, however, his 300 plus pounds of weight made him quite huge. Traylor was always quite large growing up, but he was an exceptional athlete as well. He led Michigan to the NIT title in 1997, earning the NIT Most Valuable Player award for his efforts. He never quite lived up to his potential in the NBA, but did manage to score 2,085 points and 1,640 rebounds in his relatively brief career. He lasted seven seasons in the NBA, battling weight problems and constant criticism throughout his career.

His condition caused him to fail a physical in 2005, ultimately ending his career in the NBA. Traylor ended up dying of a heart attack at the tender age of 34, sadly putting an end to his life-long battle with his weight.

11 David Wells

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

David Wells was certainly not one of the most overweight baseball players in the history of the sport, but his battle to stay in shape coupled with his partying and late nights surely had to have an effect on his performance on the mound. He was a pretty solid pitcher, with a 239-157 record and 4.13 ERA, while also being a 3-time All-Star, a 20 game winner, and a member of two World Series championship teams. He had some memorable seasons, but only pitched over 220 innings in three of his 21 years in the MLB. He might have fared much better if he made more of a dedication to be more committed to better health. Wells liked the nightlife, enjoyed drinking beer and felt that doing both would never have a profound effect on the way he pitched.

10 Rulon Gardner


Rulon Gardner was one of the best Greco-Roman wrestlers to ever compete for the United States. He was a 265 pound heavyweight who shocked the world by winning the gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Gardner was strong and athletic, but he was far from being in perfect shape. He was pudgy and had more of a barrel chest, yet he could move like a cat when he was on the wrestling mat. Gardner followed his gold medal performance up with a bronze medal in 2004 at the Athens Olympics, but what followed was a prime example of how he battled with his weight.

Gardner gained 210 pounds following the Athens Olympics, ballooning to 474 pounds to become rather obese. He went from being an American hero to being a contestant on The Biggest Loser television show.

9 Bryant Reeves


Bryant Reeves was a large man who was nicknamed "Big Country" by one of his teammates in college. The nickname seemed suitable for him when he entered the NBA, but Reeves could do so much more than eat up space in the paint. Reeves averaged over 16 points per game in two of his first three seasons, while also averaging just under eight rebounds per game during this same time. He could be pretty dominant in the paint, but he was far from being in the best of shape

. His size and weight likely contributed to his chronic back pain that eventually forced him to retire from the NBA. He was not an athletic marvel and his play and productivity suffered when he hit the full court game of the NBA. His size and excess weight might have helped him dominate, but his shape led to his demise.

8 Albert Haynesworth


Albert Haynesworth was considered to be the best defensive tackle in the game at one point of his career. He was massive, at 6-foo-6 and 350 plus pounds, and was athletic from the start, running a 4.82 40-yard dash and doing 39 reps of bench press at the NFL Combine. He was the the interior defensive lineman that every team coveted, with his strength, speed, and size.

It was his size and lack of staying in shape that ultimately ended his career, preventing him from fulfilling his true potential. He finished his career with 347 tackles and 30.5 sacks, but only made it to the Pro Bowl two times while his first season in the league was the only season in which he played in every game. His potential was great, but his battle with his temper and weight was greater.

7 Eric Esch

Lisa Bernheim/Staff

Eric "Butterbean" Esch was a courageous tough man who simply liked to fight in any type of ring. Whether it was boxing, K-1, or Pride, Esch was willing to throw his considerable weight around in any combative sport. He was huge, with cartoon-like proportions, and yet he could move around the ring as long as his fights were predominantly four round affairs. Esch was 77-10-4 as a boxer, and 17-10-1 in MMA.

He was pretty successful for a man who looked like he would have problems actually walking, let alone throwing a punch or two. Esch weighed over 400 pounds, with a frame that was less than six feet tall. Despite his obvious problems with weight, "Butterbean" was quite successful in the ring and rather athletic for a man carrying so much extra weight around.

6 John Kruk


John Kruk was well known throughout the league for his hitting and making his own jokes about his weight. He was round, pudgy and humorously overweight, but he was a tough out at the plate. Kruk's humor about his weight was never more evident than the book he wrote just before retiring from baseball titled, "I Ain't an Athlete, Lady", that he published in 1994. Kruk finished his major league career with a .300 batting average, 100 home runs and a quite impressive 58 stolen bases.

He was selected to be an All-Star three times, always having enough bat speed to go along with his selectivity at the plate (649 career walks). Kruk might have been quite a character with his ability to party and drink, but his knees never enjoyed his struggles with his health and weight.

5 Big Van Vader


Big Van Vader was not the prototypical heavyweight wrestler. Billed at weighing over 400 pounds, Vader had a wrestling style that was better suited to men who entered the ring with half his weight. Vader could fly off the top rope or turnbuckle and transition into rocking opponents with Vader Bombs. His Moonsault maneuver was voted by readers of Wrestling Observer magazine to be the best wrestling move of 1993. He competed as a heel and face, winning the WCW title three times, while also competing against many of the greats throughout his career. He flew threw the air with great ease to launch his aerial attack, but despite his insane athleticism there was very little doubt that he could be even better if he didn't carry so much excess weight.

4 John Daly

AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Jim Weber

John Daly was an outspoken PGA golfer who could drive the ball off the tee with great ease. Called "Long John" by many of his contemporaries, Daly became the first PGA pro to average over 300 yards per drive over a full season in 1997. He continued his driving prowess by averaging over 300 yards per drive from 1999 to 2008. Daly was also quite successful, winning five PGA Tour events and three European Tour events as well.

It was quite amazing what he achieved in a sport that demands consistency as Daly had his problems struggling with both his weight and alcohol. Daly was known to drink quite often and was never confused with being svelte or fit. Fortunately for his career, he was able to use his weight to transfer great power to the ball.

3 Charles Barkley


Charles Barkley, "The Round Mound of Rebound", was certainly pudgy and rotund, but he sure could play basketball. Barkley used his excess weight to his advantage to get selected to 11 All-Star teams and average 22.1 points and 11.7 rebounds for his career. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and has had his number (34) retired by both the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns.

Barkely was 'only' about 6-foot-5, but carried around about 270 pounds of mixed mass that he used to create more space to compensate for his lack of height. He was strong on the block, but could spin and dribble like many guards. It was quite amazing what Charles Barkley could do with a good deal of excess weight. He even excelled at getting up and down the court.

2 William Perry


William "The Refrigerator" Perry was one of the league's first linemen who weighed substantially more than 300 pounds, paving the way for more men to follow in his footsteps. Perry might have been quite round, but he was such a good athlete that he ran an 11.0 second 100-yard dash in high school. In the NFL, he was treated like more of a curiosity when he played with the Chicago Bears. After determining Perry was quite athletic, the Bears often used him on offense, netting him two rushing touchdowns and one by catching a pass.

Perry was a solid football player who finished his NFL career with 29.5 sacks, but his career will forever be defined by his constant battles with weight. Perry was certainly a capable player, but he could have been even better if he were in better shape.

1 Babe Ruth

AP Photo/Tom Sande

Babe Ruth was one of the best, if not the greatest, baseball player of all time, however, he was also very well known for how much he smoked and drank. The "Sultan of Swat" finished his MLB career with ridiculous numbers, batting .342 with 714 home runs and 2,213 runs batted in, to go along with a 94-46 record and a 2.28 ERA on the mound. Ruth was quite competitive on the diamond, but was quite a party animal when the ball wasn't in play. He was easily the best player in any sport who was in less than ideal shape.

His amazing accomplishments at the plate and equally impressive work on the mound overshadowed his problems with boozing, womanizing and his weight. Unfortunately, Ruth set the precedence for many players to follow with similar bad habits and battles with weight.

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Top 15 Athletes Who Were Out of Shape