What is it exactly that turns so many professional sportsmen into jerks? The question has been posed for decades, perhaps even centuries now, and no one is yet to come up with a perfectly straight answer.
Perhaps it's the money. These guys, particularly those at the top, are being paid very good coin to do what they love, be it throw a football, hit a baseball, kick a soccer ball, punch the guy opposite you in the ring, and so on. The money they earn is astronomical, and often leads to superficial lifestyles and a tendency to behave above the law.
Perhaps it's the fame. These guys are revered, even worshiped, by supporters across the globe. Manchester United for example claim to have more than a billion supporters worldwide. That kind of fame is usually reserved for the Pope or the royal family. This notoriety means a lot of these sports stars can't lead normal lives, because they can't walk down a street without being mobbed. After a while this kind of thing gets tiring, and many of these sports stars can't handle the extra attention. This can lead to anger and sometimes even aggression.
Maybe it's the egos they nurse. If you're at the top of your game, one of the best in the world, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking you're a superior human being. People love you purely because of your talents. You're earning a stack of money because of your skill, and let's face it, you just love showing it off when you get the chance. Far too many sports stars are jerks for any or all of the above reasons. Unfortunately, they're not all Roger Federers.
Here's the top 15 beloved athletes who are jerks in real life.
15 15. Pedro Martinez
14 14. Buddy Franklin
13 13. Manny Pacquiao
The superstar Filipino boxer was thrust into the headlines just recently for homophobic comments made at his training base. He was forced to apologize after saying animals were better than gay people because "They can distinguish male from female." His apology lost all credibility when the following Bible quote appeared on his Instagram page, before being swiftly deleted.
12 12. Michael Phelps
11 11. Babe Ruth
A revered icon in American sport and believed by many to be the greatest baseballer of all time. He was one of the first inductees into the National Baseball Hall Of Fame and set many MLB records, some of which still stand today. Away from the diamond, Ruth was just as prolific when it came to extra marital affairs with women. He married young and adopted a daughter, Dorothy, with his first wife. Dorothy revealed many years later that she was in fact Ruth's biological daughter, and her mother was one of Ruth's many mistresses.
10 10. Tiger Woods
9 9. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
8 8. Brett Favre
Favre is a Green Bay Packers legend and one of the most enduring quarterbacks the NFL has seen. He started roughly a million games in a row and even played alongside Vince Lombardi. Well not quite, but it did seem like he'd been playing forever when he eventually retired. Unfortunately his reputation was badly tarnished towards the end of his career. Never mind what seemed to be an unwillingness on his part to hand the reins over to Aaron Rodgers when he was getting a bit long in the tooth. He finally left, went to the Jets, and Rodgers blossomed.
7 7. Ty Cobb
6 6. Ray Lewis
What do you think of when you read the name Ray Lewis? Probably something along the lines of linebacker, awesome tackler, Super Bowl winner, Baltimore Ravens legend, and so on and so forth. What you should really think of is a white suit. Some of you will know exactly what I'm talking about. Others will have spent the last years either blissfully ignorant, or a victim of the superstar athlete phenomena where someone's sporting achievement seems to override serious indiscretion of their personal life.
In early 2000, Lewis and his friends were involved in a fight that led to two stabbing deaths. Lewis and his friends were charged with murder but the evidence wasn't there to build a complete case. Curiously, the white suit Lewis was wearing on the night has never been found. Investigators did manage to find blood from one of the victims in Lewis' car.
5 5. Diego Maradona
We've all heard of Maradona, soccer's second greatest ever product behind Pele, the Hand Of God, the best dribbler we've ever seen and so on and so forth. But he's a bit of a menace off the field. That's an understatement actually. Maradona was driving to a press conference in Buenos Aires back in 2010 ahead of that year's World Cup. He was surrounded by cameramen and one of these unfortunate souls was knocked to the ground. Maradona then ran over the cameraman's leg, before shouting "What an asshole you are!" "How can you you put your leg there where it can get run over, man!"
4 4. Michael Jordan
3 3. Kobe Bryant
Retiring Lakers great Kobe Bryant has enjoyed an outstanding career in L.A. where he's spent the past 20 years. His legacy will be substantial and he'll long be remembered as a true Lakers and NBA great by fans in the city and across the country. But his reputation was forever tarnished in 2003 when Bryant was accused of the sexual assault of a 19 year old hotel worker in Colorado. The incident allegedly took place the night before he was due knee surgery. Bryant maintained his innocence throughout claiming his actions were consensual, and apologizing profusely to his wife. The case was dropped the following year and an out of court settlement with the victim reached.
2 2. Ryan Giggs
1 1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
One of the world's most celebrated soccer players, but you would be hard pressed to find a bigger jerk in world sport. Zlatan's main problem seems to be that it always has to be about him. Quite often to the detriment of his own teammates. Perhaps a quick list would be best to collate some of his indiscretions over the years: kicking a teammate in the face, threatening to break a teammate's legs, threatening to publicly beat up his manager, beating up teammates at training, kicking and stamping opposition players, abusing officials and outrageous sexism.
In all seriousness, some of the behavior he's displayed over the years is beyond belief.
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