Athletes who, at one point or another, are believed to be near or at the top of their games become instant superstars and celebrities in the public eye. Such individuals make headlines whenever they take vacations or go out to dinner with family members and/or significant others, and press conferences that feature those athletes behind a podium are considered to be significant media events. In a world in which professional athletes are capable of making millions of dollars via contracts handed out by clubs and also endorsement deals, it is understandable why so many are interested in the lives of these performers.
It would be harsh and even a bit unfair to suggest that the 15 individuals mentioned in this piece were always terrible in their field. The public would never have been introduced to them in the first place were that to be the case. Some have been cases of players failing to live up to what may or may not have been unrealistic expectations, while others were either their own worst enemies or were downright jerks, so much so that fans and supporters seemingly reveled in watching those athletes fall from grace.
15 Wayne Bridge
You almost have to feel at least a little sorry for Wayne Bridge. His name will forever be linked with the controversy involving former teammate John Terry allegedly having an affair with Bridge's significant other, a sex scandal that had numerous twists and turns over the years. What is not up for debate is that Terry has gone on to become a legend in the eyes of Chelsea supporters and among some who follow English football, despite his numerous reported transgressions. Bridge, meanwhile, will merely be the “other guy” in one of Terry's supposed scandals.
14 Delonte West
Fair or not, history and the Internet will, decades down the road, remember Delonte West for many things. What he accomplished as a National Basketball Association player will be low on that list. Rumors have existed for years that West had a relationship with the mother of LeBron James, something that West has vehemently denied. He did his reputation few favors back in 2009 when he was pulled over and then subsequently arrested on weapons charges. It appears, as of the posting of this piece, that West may never again feature for a NBA team.
13 Bruce Seldon
You may find yourself struggling to remember this name. Bruce Seldon was fed to Mike Tyson in 1996 during Tyson's comeback to professional boxing following a prison stint and few analysts at the time gave the little-known Seldon much of a chance. Fans in attendance were left yelling “FIX!” less than two minutes into the supposed fight after Seldon was downed by punches that did not seem to land at full force. “I didn't train 12 weeks to come in here and take a dive,” Seldon said after the contest. That Seldon walked away from the sport for years after this fight is surely a coincidence.
12 Chris Simon
Perhaps Chris Simon was merely a National Hockey League player who belonged in a different era. Simon is widely regarded as one of the dirtiest players in the history of the league and in all of North American professional sports, an athlete who did not possess a level of talent that excused his multiple despicable antics out on the ice. His reputation for injuring opposing players only grew throughout his career, and Simon nearly faced criminal charges for a disgusting hit on New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg. The NHL is better off with players such as Simon no longer allowed to feature in the league.
11 Stephen Garcia
Before the days of Johnny Manziel creating highlight-reel plays on the field and making noise off of the field, quarterback Stephen Garcia was apparently an emerging star coming out of the University of South Carolina. Garcia was suspended numerous times during his collegiate career, and he was ultimately dismissed from the University in the fall of 2011 after failing one final drug test. He was not selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, and the “hefty” right-handed QB has not since come close to sniffing a contract in the league. Garcia is, according to some reports, looking at making a comeback this coming summer. Best of luck.
10 Ashley Cole
Falls from grace can be swift and they can be painful. There was once a time when Ashley Cole was regarded as one of the best left backs in all of the world, but his reputation was forever tarnished among some fans when his wage demands earned him the nickname “Cashley.” Cole would eventually get his desired move from Arsenal to Chelsea, where he slowly but surely fell down the list of players until he was shipped out of London and out of the Premier League. No longer seen to be a player worthy of European football, Cole may struggle to get a nibble from Major League Soccer this summer. Ouch.
9 John Daly
John Daly was never going to be Tiger Woods. He hit the ball long, he hit it hard, he said whatever it was that was on his mind, and thus fans gravitated to Daly. They still do to a point. Daly has checked off just about every box on a bingo card of controversial moments. Issues with alcohol dependency and gambling? Check. Allegations of spousal abuse and multiple marriages? Check. Suspensions that have kept him from competing in certain tournaments? Check. Daly has always been his own man, PGA be damned, for better or for worse.
8 John Rocker
Remember the days when John Rocker was perceived to be one of the more dynamic closers in all of Major League Baseball? You are not alone if those memories have faded from your mind. Rocker became a symbol of hate and hatred when he made numerous controversial, racist and homophobic comments about individuals living in and around New York City. He has also willingly admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during his career because, in his words: “I mean who wasn’t? Let’s be honest here, who wasn’t?” That Rocker was unceremoniously bounced from the Big Leagues without ever resurrecting his career was karmic justice.
7 Greg Oden
The first overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft would prove to be one of the greatest comeback stories in all of professional sports if he manages to have even a halfway decent career in the league. Greg Oden has, more often than not, been known for dealing with a laundry list worth of injuries that have prevented him from doing much of merit on the court. Oden found himself in trouble with the law in the summer of 2014 when he was accused of punching his ex-girlfriend. Add in that Oden has long appeared to look much older than a young man in his 20s and he is worthy of making such a list.
6 Kevin Davies
A striker is, in theory, supposed to be too busy having eyes for goal to be concerned with committing crunching fouls that would be called “dirty” by his peers. It appears that Kevin Davies, now a veteran of English football, never got that memo. No player in the Premier League was cited for more fouls than Davies from 2004 through the 2007 campaign, and he famously injured Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverly with a sliding challenge back in 2011. Davies has, to his credit, defended his style of play over the years and he is now looking to extend his career anyway that he can.
5 Tonya Harding
One can envision other individuals showcased in this piece participating in competitions. Just seeing the name “Tonya Harding” conjures up images of Nancy Kerrigan screaming in pain and clutching at her thigh that was brutally attacked before the 1994 Winter Olympics. Harding's days as an active figure skating were long ago replaced in memories of her being involved in celebrity boxing matches and other incidents that earned her what could not be considered to be positive publicity. What Harding could have achieved two decades, if anything, will never be known.
4 Tim Tebow
How controversial you would view Tim Tebow could depend on several factors, including your views on his much-publicized Christian faith and his abilities – or lack thereof – as a professional quarterback. What cannot be questioned is that the Denver Broncos, New York Jets and New England Patriots were all left unimpressed with what Tebow could give them under center. The Philadelphia Eagles are the latest, maybe even the last, NFL team to provide Tebow with an opportunity to prove to his critics that he can, indeed, hang in pro football.
3 Michael Sam
Michael Sam coming out as gay in the months leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft was not all that controversial to those in the pro football world. It was how Sam made himself into a celebrity in the process that rubbed some scouts the wrong way. The defensive end did not impress in the NFL Scouting Combine and in private workouts, and he failed to make it on two rosters before he attempted to resurrect his career via the Canadian Football League. Any whispers that Sam may simply be “blackballed” by the NFL were silenced when it announced in June 2015 that he had landed on the suspended list of the Montreal Alouettes after he departed from the club, seemingly because he knew he would not make the final roster.
2 Joey Barton
You may love him. You may find yourself tired of his numerous antics. There is no denying that Joey Barton has become far more known for what he has done off of the pitch and behind a keyboard than what he has contributed to Premier League sides. Barton completed a jail stint back in 2008 that stemmed from the midfielder allegedly attacking two people in Liverpool. He has routinely feuded with anybody, from players to fans to sports networks, via social media. Queens Park Rangers recently decided to cut ties with Barton and his days in top-flight European football may be finished for good.
1 Sean Avery
The truth of the matter is that you can take your pick from your favorite stories regarding the National Hockey League player who has also served as a cover model. There were the incidents of Sean Avery having altercations with fans and with coaches. Avery once made headlines when he said the following about fellow hockey players getting involved with his exes: “I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about, but enjoy the game tonight.” Avery was a pest who was eventually not worth the headaches he caused.