Athletes can sometimes seem larger than life. They frequently appear to be impossibly cool celebrities whose daily job is a lot of individuals’ childhood dream. They sign multi-million dollar contracts, live in gorgeous houses which they spare no expense customizing, and often attend high profile events with beautiful women on their arms. It seems like athletes would work to make sure they are the whole package, on and off the court. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, not even athletes can escape the curse of awkwardness.
There are a few athletes who are just awkward, full stop – they simply never got that swagger in their step that a lot of professional athletes have. They’re polite, kind, but maybe just a little bit uncool in social situations. This type of awkwardness is generally addressed by the various PR people that help the athletes – they get a bit of a makeover, they get a few lessons in whatever areas they need to work on, and they’re suddenly a lot more smooth and suave.
Some athletes are awkward physically – though they may get the job done, the way they do it elicits a few cringes. Especially with the height and muscle required for most sports, it can seem strange that these well-oiled machines are jerking around erratically.
Perhaps the one type of awkwardness that can’t always be fixed is also the one most common in the world of professional sports. While athletes show their skills on the court, they’re also required to do a lot of interviews, whether it be post-game media calls or interviews with various sportscasters. They’re expected to be able to speak well, and some athletes just can’t. While some just hate talking to the press and give monotone answers, other athletes say things that are downright weird and often offensive. They just don’t know how to act when the ball isn’t in their hands.
Here are 15 athletes who are pretty damn awkward.
15 Eli Manning
Is quarterback Eli Manning awkward? To answer that question, you just need to look at nearly any photo of him that’s ever been taken. For whatever reason, he’s always making some kind of strange face or awkward pose. In a position dominated by guys like Tom Brady, Eli’s awkwardness stands out even more. There’s also the question of his penchant for awkward rapping – however, he shares that with brother Peyton, so he can’t be fully blamed.
14 Bode Miller
Many will remember the infamous interview between Bode Miller and Christin Cooper, where discussions about Miller’s deceased brother led to on-air tears. However, even ignoring that incident, Miller is infamously strange and awkward in interviews. While most athletes during the 2006 Winter Olympics discussed how proud they were to be there, how lucky they felt, and how hard they’d been working, Miller repeatedly talked about how he really didn’t care about skiing or being there, and even discussed skiing drunk. It was awkward for all involved, from the media to his sponsors.
13 Metta World Peace
First of all, he voluntarily changed his name to Metta World Peace. Second, he was quite literally known as the Los Angeles Lakers’ very own lunatic during his time playing for them. He is generally not aggressive or angry in his interviews, but World Peace just says and does things that are weird and awkward. He played for awhile in the Chinese Basketball Association with the Sichuan Blue Whales before a knee injury took him out, another decision that’s fairly strange given the very few American athletes who choose to play there.
12 Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The sport of boxing is manly – it’s testosterone driven, about intimidation as much as it is about skill. Fighters are warned not to let the opponent get into their head, a common occurrence. Knowing this, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. decided to show up to a fight on the arm of perhaps the least intimidating celebrity in Hollywood - Justin Bieber. A decision like that can only be made by someone who is unquestionably awkward socially. He’s also carried a weird grudge against fellow athlete Manny Pacquiao for awhile, and showed up on HBO’s 24/7 with rapper 50 Cent for a strange game of telephone. He may know what he’s doing inside the ring, but outside of it… his decisions are a little strange.
11 Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco made football fans everywhere cringe when, during an interview with Baltimore’s WNST 1570, he claimed to be the best quarterback in the NFL. It’s something that certain quarterbacks may perhaps believe, or try to convince themselves of, but it’s a pretty universally acknowledged fact that you don’t say that kind of stuff aloud, in public. Awkward. He’s also the co-star in a commercial for Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Bank, in which he spouts a few city names and a short phrase, looking hopelessly awkward the entire time. While quarterbacks generally get the reputation of being pretty smooth, that may not always be the case, as Flacco demonstrates.
10 Marshawn Lynch
Lynch made things awkward for everyone involved when he decided to give the media the silent treatment. Eventually, when he was threatened with a $50,000 fine, he participated for the minimum of seven minutes before just up and leaving. However, instead of leaving, he stuck around and eventually got tracked down by Deion Sanders, who conducted another interview that left Lynch answering in monotone statements. Not everyone is media savvy, and there are many athletes who dislike the press junket, but Lynch really takes it to an extreme.
9 Brian Wilson
Playing a fake piano atop a teammates head, while sporting vampy nail polish. Going the exact opposite from many athletes’ short and sweet interview responses by deciding to challenge the interviewer with mind-numbingly long responses. A strange rambling speech in a documentary where he talks about basically everything except baseball. His favorite hobbies – puzzles and carpet laying. And that beard – oh, that beard. It doesn’t even need to be stated that pitcher Brian Wilson is super awkward – the evidence is pretty clear.
8 Randy Moss
Moss is unquestionably a talented player, yet he pretty obviously lacks the ability to conduct himself appropriately. If he offends someone, he doesn’t particularly like to apologize. He’s the king of awkward press conferences, even going so far as to take his opinions on his contract public, an act so weird and inappropriate that it got him sent to another team. There was also a press conference where he decided reporters were entirely unnecessary, as he would be taking questions only from himself. Awkward.
7 Rajon Rondo
Rondo is known across the NBA as a bit of a weird guy. Some of his quirks are on the negative side – the most obvious being his inability to get along with team mates. He caused enough discord that, despite his immense talent, the Celtics discussed trading him for a long time before they finally did. There’s also his amusing quirks – he’s known for his love of math and is apparently a fiend for Connect Four, a game that many adults don’t think about once they pass childhood. Finally, there’s his quirks on the court. He’s known to have a fairly elaborate pre-game routine that he goes through, every game, without fail. Simply put, Rondo is a little bit strange and awkward.
6 Ilya Bryzgalov
Bryzgalov has one factor that a few professional athletes have when it comes to awkwardness – a slightly shaky grasp on the English language. While many professional athletes who play in the NBA, NFL, and NHL are American or Canadian, there are a few transplants from foreign nations – particularly in the NHL. Bryzgalov, however, stands apart. While other players who struggle to find the right words in a language that isn’t their native tongue opt to speak less, Bryzgalov whole-heartedly embraces his awkwardness and lets loose gems like “I’m only afraid of bear.”
5 Nyjer Morgan
Let’s just say it – anyone who creates an alter ego is just plain weird. Nyjer Morgan likes to take up the identity of Tony Plush, a somewhat mischievous alter ego. The resulting Morgan/Plush divide must be incredibly awkward for everyone around him to deal with, from fans to fellow team mates, from management to the media. Morgan is an example of awkwardness that’s less quirky and more weirdly aggressive and inexplicable.
4 Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson is basically a swirling tornado of awkward. Whatever he does, whether positive or negative, is pretty awkward for anyone who comes across him. He’s had a fair share of incredibly negative situations in his life, including a stint in prison. However, some of his awkward moments are a little less serious and a lot more strange. First is his bizarre face tattoo. Second is his decision to keep a pet tiger. Third is the infamous decision to bite an opponent’s ear. Finally, and perhaps most astounding, is his inexplicable love of pigeons. Tyson may be retired now, and he may be getting older, but he’s certainly not getting any less weird.
3 Dennis Rodman
Rodman’s appearance is strange to say the least – he went from a fairly typical looking basketball player to a man with multi colored hair with a penchant for cross dressing. He showed up to a book signing for his autobiography wearing a wedding dress. He crashed ex-wife Carmen Electra’s party, in a situation that was awkward for all involved except perhaps Rodman. He sang happy birthday to Kim Jong-un as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Rodman’s antics are entirely unpredictable and weird.
2 Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose isn’t awkward in any way that’s negative – he just really, really, really hates attention. On the plus side, this has garnered him a lot of respect from fans, as his focus always remains on basketball, the sport he loves. However, it’s raised a few eyebrows and questions as to why he’s so reluctant to be in the public eye, with some even speculating he suffers from Asperger’s. We won't speculate that here, but we just know that he's incredibly reclusive.
1 Phil Kessel
Phil Kessel is a talented hockey player who knows what he’s doing on the ice. However, off the ice, it’s as if a certain part of him entirely shuts down. The man who skated so smoothly minutes before becomes a bumbling mess. Kessel doesn’t say anything offensive, he doesn’t make the situation awkward because of particular comments or combativeness. He merely doesn’t know what to do when he’s interviewed, or even just on camera. He pulls strange faces, he’s jerky and twitchy, and he’s just the living definition of awkwardness.