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.
15 Emmanuel Yarbrough
14 Cecil Fielder
13 Craig Heyward
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.
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.
11 David Wells
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.
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
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.
7 Eric Esch
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.
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.
5 Big Van Vader
4 John Daly
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.
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.
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.
1 Babe Ruth
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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