Athletes who have character issues often times do not get to choose when they want to retire, but instead the professional sports leagues that have employed them choose these athletes fates earlier than these athletes would have hoped. Character issues can be construed as a number of different things. Some athletes choose to get in trouble with the law, and because of this legal irresponsibility can no longer participate in the best professional sports leagues. Others have personality issues and flaws that cause a dramatic scene to follow them wherever they go.
Most athletes who are seen as model citizens live a drama free life on and off the field. Some athletes miss out on achieving great accomplishment because of their unchangeable mistakes. The use of drugs can certainly drag down a once promising career, but attitude problems can also be a deterrent of longevity in the best professional sports leagues. A bad teammate can also lead to teams having to disassociate that bad teammate with their team no matter how much talent that bad teammate possesses . It is ashamed that so many great talents have gone to waste because of their own egos.
Here are 15 athletes whose character issues ruined their careers.
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15 Ray Rice
Ray Rice has not retired quite yet, but he has not played in the NFL since the 2013 season. The former Baltimore Ravens running back was having an above average career before he ever had legal issues. When a video surfaced of Rice physically abusing his fiancée, Ray Rice’s career seemed to be in doubt. The NFL handed him a two-game suspension, which was changed to an indefinite suspension when raw footage of the incident surfaced. Following this, the Ravens released him.
Ray Rice still holds out hope that he will get another shot in the NFL, and is a strong advocate against domestic violence now that he is no longer playing. During his six seasons in the NFL, Ray Rice Rushed for 6,180 yards and scored 37 touchdowns. At 29 years old and being a running back, it's very unlikely that any team is going to sign him as he carries far too much baggage.
14 Chad Johnson
Chad Johnson seemed like he would be a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer due to the compilation of 1,000 yard receiving seasons he was piling up. He had an extremely diva like attitude, and his touchdown celebrations normally got him in trouble either with the league or with opposing teams fans. He spent 10 years with the Cincinnati Bengals. Johnson joined the Patriots in 2011 but failed to be productive due to Bill Belichick not properly using him.
Legal issues occurred while he was in training camp with the Dolphins in 2012. He was arrested following a dispute with his wife at the time that ended with a headbutt. He never played a down for the Dolphins, and no other team was willing to give Chad Johnson a chance. He's never officially retired, but it's safe to say his football career is over.
13 Terrell Owens
Terrell Owens is one of the all-time greatest wide receivers to ever play in the NFL. He never had legal issues off the field, but often times Owens was looked at as a team cancer. He once was doing sit-ups in his front yard and fielding questions from reporters because he was upset with his contract. Owens was a freak of nature from a fitness aspect, and although he played 16 seasons in the NFL he would have loved to play at least a couple more seasons. Despite being a terrible teammate his play on the field was outstanding. For Owens' career, he recorded nearly 16,000 receiving yards and 153 touchdowns.
There were rumblings this offseason that the Rams were interested in signing Owens, but those reports have since been unfounded. T.O. still hasn't retired, so the door is open for him to keep pursuing his football career.
12 Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez seemed to have a blossoming career ahead of him in the NFL. He seemed like he was becoming one of the best tight ends in the NFL in his three years in the league paired up with Rob Gronkowski. His off the field issues caught up to him. Hernandez went from making nasty plays on the field, to committing a disgusting crime off it. He was found guilty of murder and now finds himself locked in a cell on Sundays instead of playing on the gridiron. During his short three year career, Aaron Hernandez accumulated 1,956 receiving yards and 18 receiving touchdowns.
Hernandez had some character issues coming into the NFL, as he was connected with several shooting incidents, but the Patriots overlooked the red flags. Hernandez has forfeited his salary and has basically ruined his life through his own decisions.
11 Ryan Leaf
Back in 1998, there was a serious debate as to who would have a better career in the NFL. Experts jabbed back and forth between Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning being the better quarterback. Unfortunately the San Diego Chargers found out that Ryan Leaf would not be the better of the two quarterbacks, and his anger issues off the field led to Leaf not lasting long in the NFL. During his short four year career, Leaf threw 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. His anger issues and demeanor ended his career, along with his poor play, and later in life, he would be sentenced to jail time on drug charges.
It's crazy to think that looking back, there was ever even a debate as to who would be better. This contrast in careers started having scouts take deeper looks at a player's character.
10 Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson was one of the most beloved athletes in Philadelphia during his playing days as a 76er. He got in trouble on multiple occasions off the court, whether it was a hardcore rap album or domestic disputes on his own property. After his drama-filled stint with the Detroit Pistons, Iverson struggled to find work. The Memphis Grizzlies gave Iverson a chance but did not guarantee him a starter’s job. He returned to the 76ers for a handful of games, and then did not play another game during the 2009-10 NBA season. He could not find another team to pick him up after 2010, and he ended his career averaging nearly 27 points and 6 assists per game.
As great as Iverson was, you have to wonder how much better he could have been if he had his head on straight throughout his career. He seems to have matured now, but he could have used that maturity 10 years ago.
9 Gilbert Arenas
Gilbert Arenas averaged over 20 points a game for his career, so it is an oddity that he could not find an employer after the age of 30. Arenas suffered from a couple major injuries during his time in the NBA. He also got involved in a scuffle with a teammate while he was a member of the Washington Wizards, and guns were involved in this brawl. Arenas eventually was handed a lengthy suspension. This incident certainly gave the impression that Arenas had character flaws, and despite being a potent scorer for many years no NBA team was willing to Sign Gilbert Arenas after the 2011-12 season.
His downfall was one of the more rapid ones in NBA history. Since his career ended, Arenas has been arrested for possession of illegal fireworks and got slammed on social media after some sexist comments he made regarding the WNBA.
8 Antoine Walker
Antoine Walker was an extremely reliable second or third option on the few teams he played for during his career. He did not have much of an attitude problem off the court, but he was fiscally irresponsible. He made millions of dollars during his 12 years in the NBA, but he stupidly wasted his fortunes away in various casinos. The financial issues may have led to Walker's inability to keep in shape to play NBA basketball. Walker was a reliable scorer, averaging 17 points a game, but during his final two seasons, he only managed to score 8 points a game.
Today, Walker works with young athletes, trying to help them avoid the same fate as him. Walker expresses a lot of regret over his financial decisions. "I thought I was set for the rest of my life," Walker said. "My story is sad. It's sad to see other guys work so hard throughout their life -- and then they just lose it in two or three years."
7 Larry Sanders
Larry Sanders seemed to be growing into one of the premier rim protectors in the league. Blocking shots were not the only positive to his game, and his athleticism allowed him to finish at the rim and play defense on guards on the perimeter when called upon. His off the court issues correlated with his recreational drug use. His use of drugs led to him being suspended on multiple occasions by the league, and his psychological issues also played a role in him no longer being in the NBA. Larry Sanders averaged 6 points and nearly 2 blocks a game during his time in the association.
Sanders reflected on his personal problems in a piece by Complex: “I couldn’t be around my family; I couldn’t be around anybody else. I was creating from a place of anxiety and fear, suffering. I wasn’t creating from a place of joy or happiness or freedom. Everything I did was pure avoidance.”
6 O.J. Mayo
His highest scoring totals came in his rookie year, and then his career seemingly went downhill. During the 2016 NBA offseason, the NBA banned Mayo from playing in the league. Mayo will not be able to suit up for an NBA teams for at least two years, and he essentially chose marijuana over a paycheck that would be seven figures. Mayo could still salvage his career. It will be interesting to see if he chooses to play professionally abroad, and gives up the drug habit that has possibly closed the door on his NBA livelihood. During his eight years in the league, O.J. Mayo averaged 14 points per game.
Mayo can only be reinstated if both the NBA and the Players Association agree to reinstate him. There's still some hope for his career to be salvaged, but as of right now, it's in shambles.
5 Ugueth Urbina
Ugueth Urbina was most effective during his 10-year career as a closer for all the teams he pitched for. He last pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2000, and even won a world series with the Florida Marlins in 2003. His off the field issues occurred in 2005 when he attempted to murder several people, swinging a machete around at several people at his family ranch in Venezuela. Urbina was sentenced to 14 years in prison after the aforementioned incident and his MLB career was over. He still had a lot of prime years of playing baseball left, and for his career, Ugueth Urbina tallied 237 saves.
Urbina was released from prison in 2012 after serving just seven years. He has since resumed playing baseball in Venezuela, but he's never coming back to the majors.
4 Denny McLain
During the 1968 MLB season, Denny McLain accomplished a feat that may never happen again at the major league level. He posted a record of 31 wins and 6 losses and took home the AL CY Young and AL MVP award for that season. By 1973, McLain was entirely out of baseball. Denny McLain during his baseball career was associated with the mob and was deeply involved in gambling. After baseball in 1984, he was arrested for cocaine trafficking, racketeering, and extortion, and sentenced to 23 years in prison. His off the field issues ended his career prematurely, and he could have been one of the all-time greatest pitchers of all time if not for these issues.
It really is a shame that such a promising career had to end due to McLain's inability to stay out of trouble.
3 Julio Machado
Julio Machado only lasted three years in the MLB, and his numbers were not too shabby. For his career Machado accumulated 7 wins and 5 losses, 3.12 ERA and 151 strikeouts, over 147 innings pitched. The year of 1991 would forever change the life of Machado, and he soon would commit a crime that would end his MLB playing days. The shooting of a woman in Venezuela led to Machado being sentenced to 12 years in prison in 1996. Machado could have played many more years as a relief pitcher, but his off the field crime deterred him from being able to play baseball at the highest level.
Following his release from prison, Machado continued playing his career in Venezuela, playing in their winter league. He currently coaches in that same league at 50 years old. Perhaps he could have been coaching in the majors had he not ruined his career.
2 Nyjer Morgan
Nyjer Morgan had one of the most vibrant personalities in baseball during his 6 seasons in the majors. His attitude did get him in trouble on numerous occasions beginning in 2009 when he was suspended for seven games for throwing a baseball at a fan in Philadelphia while playing for the Nationals and later suspended eight games for his part in a bench clearing brawl against the Marlins. He moved on to the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He played well for the Brewers but was not given a contract for 2013. He played half of 2014 before being released by the Cleveland Indians.
Nyjer Morgan for his career batted .282 and stole 120 bases, and if not for his odd personality, may have been able to stick around in the MLB longer than six seasons.
Morgan last played in the South Korean league in the 2014 season.
1 Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano enjoyed a lengthy 11-year career in the big leagues, but there is no doubt his career could have been prolonged if not for his attitude problems. Zambrano threw temper tantrums that were comparable to a 5-year-old child, and as a result of these rage-filled tirades he was suspended on multiple occasions by the teams he played for and by the MLB itself. When Zambrano was having a bad outing he would often accuse others of his wrong doings. The umpires and teammates would take the brunt of the blame for these wrongdoings. His MLB career was over at the age of 31, and for his career, he recorded 132 wins, a 3.66 era, and 1,637 strikeouts.
Zambrano still had a very successful career overall, but you can't help but wonder if his play would have improved if he took more responsibility for his actions.
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