Part of the fun of watching athletics is that we see others embodying our childhood dreams. We all grew up imagining hitting the last second jumper to win the NBA Finals, or sinking the putt to win the Masters. This dream-like quality makes sports invigorating, as we imagine ourselves filling the roles that these superhumans have. Usually, it is difficult to place yourself as an Adonis-like athlete; rippling muscles, 2 percent body fat, and the ability to jump out of the gym. Recently, Tom Brady’s nutritionist revealed that he and Gisele eat a diet consisting of 80 percent vegetables. Millions of warm blooded Americans audibly groaned. While eating healthy is great, and probably good for a career in athletics, steaks and McDonald’s are decidedly more fun.
These 15 athletes were the everyman of their sports. They had tremendous talent, but struggled to stay in shape, and carried a few (usually many more than a few) pounds extra throughout their playing career.
These athletes were exceptional at their field, while also being fat. Obviously this list could be comprised of all NFL Linemen, but instead it looks at players at other positions and in other sports that had tremendous success despite tremendous waistlines. The internet almost broke last year when video came out of Jared Lorenzen, aka “Pillsbury Throwboy,” rocking out in minor league football, while carrying easily 350 lbs. While he never made it big in the pros, many other notorious eaters and heavy men did. When you see the stats and careers that each of these individuals had, it makes it no wonder that ‘dad-bod’ became a trend in 2015.
15 Oliver Miller
"The Big O," as he was known throughout his playing career, actually had a fairly productive playing career. He struggled with weight issues from his early days at Arkansas right up to through his overseas experiments. While originally listed at 6-foot-9 and 280 pounds, his weight soon ballooned to over 320 pounds, his last recorded playing weight. Despite his hefty nature, Miller still averaged 7 points and 6 rebounds a game. Even at his largest, he played a full season with the Timberwolves and was able to waddle his way to 10 minutes a game. No list of heavyset professionals would be complete without "The Big O."
14 Glen Davis
"Big Baby," is another basketball player renowned for his large stature. Davis is still active with the Clippers, and has had a quietly productive career. Davis was wildly successful at LSU where he followed the footsteps of another famed center, Shaquille O'Neal. He was drafted by the Supersonics, but was traded to the Celtics before ever playing a game. With the Celtics, Baby hit several big shots in the playoffs, including a buzzer-beater, on his way to a championship and another finals appearance; this endeared him to Garnett, Allen, and the rest of the veteran leadership. After his hitting his game winning shot, the large Davis went rumbling down the sideline and bumped into a child, for which Davis apologized, citing his size as a reason for his clumsiness.
Since being traded to the Magic and then the Clippers, Davis has seen his playing time diminish. Similar to Miller, Davis has career averages of 8 points and 5 rebounds per game.
13 David Wells
David 'Boomer' Wells had a lengthy career with several different professional teams. Wells was a late bloomer, and a late weight gainer. The relatively slim Wells had a mediocre stint with the Blue Jays to start his career, and didn't even become a full time starter until the age of 30. His career reached his pinnacle when he signed with the Yankees. He was a stalwart on their staff, and became the 15th pitcher ever to throw a perfect game. When it was all said and done, Wells pitched 19 seasons and won almost 250 games. Much of his success came later in his life, ironically, after he had put on significant weight.
12 B.J. Raji
The 340 pound Raji is still relatively young in his NFL career, but has already reached great heights. Five years in, and Raji already has a Super Bowl title, a Pro Bowl appearance, and is a one time All-Pro. Raji was unknown as a recruit, being rated as only a 2-star DT, yet had a stellar 4-year career at Boston College. This helped him to be drafted 9th overall by the Green Bay Packers, with whom has played his whole career. In addition to being a dominant run stopper, Raji has popularized the "Raji Dance," his post sack celebration. While the list of fat athletes has many contenders from defensive tackles, Raji stands a cut above the rest because of his ongoing success in the NFL.
11 Craig Stadler
"The Walrus" as he is lovingly known, has had a fantastic golf career. Stadler became immensely popular with fans because of his distinctive mustache and his portly nature. Stadler was a four year All-American while golfing at USC and this propelled him to a very solid, long career on the PGA. His career was highlighted by winning the 1982 Masters, and he went on to win 13 times in total on the PGA. While he no longer actively golfs on the PGA tour, Stadler can still be seen playing on the Champions Tour, where he has several other wins under his belt. Stadler still carries the extra weight and notable facial hair that once fueled his popularity.
10 Bartolo Colon
Colon is one of the shortest fat men on this list. He stands at only 5-foot-11 but weighs in at close to 300 pounds. Much like Wells, he has had long career, with much of his success coming later in in life. Colon started his career with the Cleveland Indians, where he had several successful seasons. He went on to play with the A's, Mets, and White Sox. He is a one time All Star (with Cleveland) and won a Cy Young award with the Angels in 2005. Most recently, he was seen pitching with the New York Mets in the World Series, where he finally had the opportunity to swing the bat, often with comical results.
9 Prince Fielder
Prince Fielder is similar in stature to Bartolo Colon, though many scoff at his listed weight of 275 pounds. Fielder was drafted by the Brewers in 2002, and debuted in 2005. He became the youngest player to hit 50 home runs in a season, and he has hit over .300 in his career. Fielder is a six time All-Star in is career, which has spanned stints in Milwaukee, Detroit, and Texas. Despite his extra weight, Fielder has managed to hit .287 on his career, and gets on base at clip well above expectations for a grossly overweight player. Most recently, he had a resurgence as the DH in Texas, and seems primed for a big year.
8 William Perry
William 'Refrigerator' Perry had a successful 10 year career, all with the Chicago Bears. Perry struggled with his weight his whole life, weighing in at 200 pounds as a middle schooler. When Ditka drafted Perry, he became immediately popular with the fanbase because of his extra pounds and his jovial nature. Another defensive tackle, Perry actually began his career with the Bears playing mostly at fullback and as a lead blocker. He scored three touchdowns his rookie season, even scoring in the Super Bowl. He had 30 sacks in his pro career and retired with the Bears after a few down years, and ongoing struggles with controlling his weight.
7 C.C. Sabathia
Carsten Charles Sabathia is another behemoth who got his start pitching with the Cleveland Indians. Sabathia debuted in 2001 and had immediate success, finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting. Fans have given him numerous monikers playing off of his initials and his weight from Cheese Cake to Cream Cheese. Despite his largesse, he has been a seven time All-Star, and won a Cy Young. His career has included stints with the Indians, Brewers and Yankees, where he is still actively. Sadly, Sabathia had to take leave before the most recent playoffs because of off the field issues, though it is hoped he will return to begin adding to his 200 plus career victories.
6 Shawn Kemp
Kemp began his career with the Supersonics as a wildly athletic teenager. He earned the moniker "Reign Man," and by his second year was one of the most popular players in the league. In 1995-96, he and Gary Payton led the Sonics to a high profile matchup with the 72 win Bulls, led by Michael Jordan, and Kemp averaged 23.5 points per game throughout the finals. Shortly after this peak, Kemp began to struggle with off court issues. He is known to have fathered at least seven different children with at least six different women, and his body weight began to balloon.
By the time he signed with the Cavaliers, he was getting heavier by the day, and was a shell of his former self. Despite numerous comeback attempts, Kemp never again reclaimed the greatness he once experienced, and his weight and diet contributed to the rapid decline of his career.
5 John Daly
The boisterous John Daly is another fat guy turned fan favorite. He rocketed onto the scene by winning the PGA Championship in 1991, his first year on the tour. Fans immediately fell in love with his crass nature, outrageous outfits, and long hitting antics. He ended up winning five times on the PGA, including the PGA Championship and a win at the British Open. In 1997, he became the first player to average more than 300 yards off the tee, a streak he continued for the next several years. In recent years, he has gained notoriety for involvement with a Hooters Airline, drinking on the course, and a comically bad musical career. Daly has had a wonderfully successful career, but is more popular and better known for his size and antics than anything he has done on the course.
4 Charles Barkley
Known as "The Round Mound of Rebound," Charles Barkley had a stellar NBA career. He averaged 22 points per game, and almost 12 rebounds. Barkley started his career with the 76ers but went on to play with the Suns and Rockets as well. Barkley was famous for his innate rebounding ability, grittiness, and general size. Trainers and employees of the 76ers have recounted bribing pizza delivery men to limit the amount of pizza they would bring to the heavy set Barkley. Barkley was a part of the famous Dream Team gold medal squad in the 1992 Olympics, and has since gained fame as a broadcaster for TNT. His weight has grown since his playing career, and continues to be a point of ridicule for the larger than life Barkley.
3 Jerome Bettis
"The Bus" as he is affectionately known, is a recently elected Hall of Fame football player. He played in college at Notre Dame, and spent his professional time with the Rams, and the Steelers, with whom he played the bulk of his career. He finished his career 6th on the all time rushing list, and entered the hall in 2015. Bettis was famously heavy, weighing in at 260 pounds, while being less than six feet tall. Despite his frame, Bettis was known to have great footwork, and highlights of him tiptoeing in the backfield have become legendary. Bettis is a great example of a fat player that could still only be described as incredibly athletic.
2 Tony Gwynn
This is where rarified air begins among heavy-set athletes. Gwynn was a 15 time All-Star and hit an incredible .338 for his career. He played all 19 seasons with the San Diego Padres and holds the distinction of being a First Ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 2007. Though Gwynn started his career at around 180 pounds, his weight ballooned to 230 by the mid 1990s. Despite the poundage, he continued to be one of the most consistent hitters in the game. Fans often teased Gwynn about the extra weight, but little could be said as he continued to get on base. Sadly, Gwynn passed away in 2014.
1 Shaquille O'Neal
Like many of the other athletes on this list, O'Neal garnered numerous nicknames throughout his career: "The Big Cactus", "Shaq", and the "The Big Aristotle," just to name a few. Despite the silliness of his names, there was nothing funny about the way Shaq played. He averaged almost 24 points a game for his career, and had several seasons where he almost averaged 30. He won four NBA titles and is widely considered one of the most dominant players to ever play the game. Shaq weighed in at an official 325 pounds, though most suspect his real weight was much higher than that.
He was criticized frequently throughout his career for not committing to better fitness, but his excellent on court production shot down most of those naysayers. Shaq was nominated for the 2016 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and is widely considered a lock to get in. These days, his weight continues to be a struggle and he can be seen on TNT's NBA coverage.