All sports enthusiasts follow their favorite athletes through every game and every life change. The fortune, fame and all of that is fine, but when an athlete actually disappoints their fans, it can be the hardest thing to deal with for both parties. The fall from grace can be a lonely road for the athlete. From legal disputes to PR issues, athletes have a lot to handle. The athlete’s game is sometimes what heralds them to greatness. However, no matter how many memorable plays that fans watch, they will still feel a sense of disappointment at the letdown when an athlete commits a crime or is caught in an uncompromising situation. Of course, most athletes try to do the right thing and some will keep their private lives away from the public as much as possible.
Many athletes, however, who fell from grace, had the opportunity and potential to be great players had they stayed in the game. They did not live up their fan’s expectations. Whether it was peer pressure, drugs or other violations, each athlete listed below left the game in shame, remorse and dissatisfaction. One such example is American, Lance Armstrong who many viewed as a hero. He overcame cancer and used his iconic status to raise money in the hope of saving other people’s lives. Therefore, he became a visible figure and had a public life, but not by choice. He was admittedly shunned from his sport as a result of enhancement drugs used while participating in his sport. He had to distance himself from the charity that he loved so much. Tiger Woods is another example. He was at the top of his game in golf when it was discovered that he had numerous extra-marital affairs. Both his wife and fans felt cheated since Woods portrayed such an innocent profile. The public also felt cheated by Lance Armstrong and all other athletes on this list. Take a look now at the top 20 athletes who have fallen from grace.
Ronaldo was one of the most high-volume soccer scorers in the history of the game. His career was one that other soccer players dreamed about. In 2002, Ronaldo lifted the World Cup trophy after helping his team to win in the finals. During the soccer tournament, he led his Brazil team with eight goals and only failed to score in one game. In 2006, he tried to make a return to the game he loved. However, his fans did not support his return. In fact, they made fun of how overweight he was and thought that his performance was too slow. This was not the Ronaldo that fans had come to admire. In 2008, he hit his all-time low when he was allegedly discovered with three prostitutes who were transvestites. His defense was the prostitutes were trying to extort him. He never regained the fans' trust.
19 Vitor Belfort
Vitor Belfort had an encouraging start and potential to be one of the best in his MMA career. He fought legendary warriors like Randy Couture, Tito Oritz and Chuck Lidell. However, soon after he underwent the mandatory drug testing performed by the MMA, Belfort was tossed in the public spotlight. His test came back positive for PEDs. Subsequent to this, there were multiple fight delays before he was able to compete with Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight title in 2011. However, he lost the fight with a knock-out punch. This was his first knockout loss in his career.
18 Jennifer Capriati
Jennifer Capriati was a young tennis athlete who probably went into the game too early in her life. She was a cheerful teenage girl on the junior tennis tour. However, her father suffocated her and because of this, she ended up hating the game she once loved. She initially turned to drugs and shoplifting. However, she was able to return and win Grand Slams, reaching the Number 1 spot in 2001. Her play, though, wasn’t consistent enough to keep her in the game. She silently retreated and many fans today wonder whatever would have happened had she stayed in the game.
17 Leon Spinks
If anyone can remember, Leon Spinks won the heavyweight world title in 1978, defeating Muhammed Ali. This earned him a spot as one of the best boxers in the world at an extremely quick pace. He won the title after only eight professional fights. The world felt that Spinks had promise for a rewarding career in boxing. After a rematch, however, with the great Muhammed Ali, Spinks lost his bearing and Ali won back the title. He also lost to Larry Holmes in 1981. He tried to retire in 1988 and worked as a restaurant greeter in Chicago, but down on hard times, he tried to make another run for a boxing title, returning to the ring in 1991. However, fans saw him as a shell of the boxer who had beaten the greatest of all time. By 1995, the weather-beaten Spinks had to hang up his gloves. His career came to an end when he also lost a fight in 1995 to someone who had not boxed in 17 years - Fred Houpe.
16 Lamar Odom
Most athletes think they have it all and Lamar Odom was no exception. With a rewarding NBA career, a celebrity wife, Khloe Kardashian and two NBA rings with the Los Angeles Lakers, he seemed confident for an even better future. However, in 2011, everything came to a crashing halt. During the offseason, the Lakers shipped him to the Dallas Mavericks. He wished that he could have taken that decision back. He sulked around Dallas, showing up for practice late and terrible play. Subsequently, his marriage was affected and so was his tenure with the Dallas Mavericks. After a screaming altercation with the owner of the Mavericks, Mark Cuban, Odom was put on the inactive list and traded. Today, it is said that he plays overseas.
15 Mike Hampton
Mike Hampton had his share of great moments in the majors. In 2000, his game improved even more while he was playing for the New York Mets. He landed an eight year contract for $121 million after pitching 16 shutout innings and a couple of wins, earning the 2000 NLCS MVP award. At that time, such a contact was the highest paid for a pitcher in the history of the MLB. However, Hampton did not live up to the Rockies' astronomical expectations. He had two terrible seasons. He was subsequently traded to another team for pennies on the dollar. He came back to play well with the Atlanta Braves, but no one can ignore the disastrous letdown he had in Colorado.
14 Isaiah Rider
In 1994, Isaiah Rider seemed to have a very promising career start when he earned first place in the Slam Dunk contest and was able to land the coveted spot as All-Rookie First Team. Soon after these accomplishments, Rider saw himself plagued with legal troubles. He was charged with illegal possession of marijuana and cell phone. After that, he was traded to Portland from Minnesota. Soon after, he got arrested for public gambling. His scoring abilities continued to go on the decline as his criminal record grew. In 2001, he made his fifth NBA stop in Denver and after only 10 games, the franchise released him and he never played another game in the NBA.
13 Gilbert Arenas
By the time the NBA Playoffs ended in 2005, the basketball world and Washington D.C. in particular loved Gilbert Arenas. He showcased his heroic basketball play for the Wizards. With his play and help from a strong supporting cast, the Wizards were able to win their first playoff series in 23 years. Despite injuries to his knees, the Wizards still signed him to a six year contract extension for $111 million after the 2007-08 season. He had a good start to the following season. However, having a gambling debt owed to him by another teammate, Arenas thought that he would settle it by bringing a gun into the locker room. After a police investigation in the matter, Arenas lost his public image and his game. He never recovered.
12 Michael Vick
If you lived anywhere on planet earth, you should have heard about Michael Vick’s fall from grace. It was one of the most dramatic and publicized events in sports history. In NFL history, Michael Vick was known as the first quarterback to have a season of 1,000 yards rushing. He almost single-handedly led his team to the NFL playoffs. Then, he was seen in handcuffs for operating a dog fighting ring from his own mansion. He was arrested for it in 2007 and convicted, later sent to federal prison. This one situation robbed him of two years of athletic prime, television endorsements and a whole lot of money from his $100 million contract.
11 Terrell Owens
Terrell Owens and drama fall into the same category. It appeared as if this famous wide receiver loved the attention of the media. Why? There were always little incidents that seemed to follow him everywhere. He is known for his amazing receiving totals and for constant Pro Bowls, but when he was not on the football field, he was getting into all sorts of trouble. He is said to have tried overdosing on pain killers. Now, it is said that he is broke after making failed efforts at returning to the game.
10 Lawrence Taylor
Lawrence Taylor was known for his terrorizing play as a linebacker in the NFL, contributing to his team’s two Super Bowl wins. However, he was also known to have taken drugs and lived loosely according to the memoir he wrote and published. It was public news, however, that he was arrested for third-degree statutory rape for having sex with a 16-year-old girl. He was also charged with third-degree patronization for allegedly paying her $300 to have sex with him.
His defense was that he thought the young lady was 19. At one point or another, he was arrested for drug possession and DUIs. His actions forced the NFL to suspend him on numerous occasions. Even with such a past, he still made it to the Hall of Fame and people still love him.
9 Marion Jones
Marion Jones, many thought, was an Olympic hero who knew how to run. In fact, she seemed unstoppable. Then, she was accused of taking PEDs to improve her performance. She denied it the entire time until she could no longer run from the facts. Soon, she had to face up to her actions. However, it took her too long for the confession and fans were unforgiving. She eventually was arrested and served six months for misleading investigators.
8 Shawn Kemp
No one can deny Shawn Kemp’s acrobatic abilities. It was his trademark in the NBA. During his time, his defensive abilities were far above many NBA players. In fact, in 1996, Shawn Kemp and the Seattle SuperSonics were able to take the Chicago Bulls to six games in the finals. Even though they lost to the Bulls, everyone remembers Kemp’s amazing contribution. He was later traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, after which nothing seemed the same. After the lockout in 1998, he returned to training camp weighing 315 pounds. He had an avalanche of alcoholic and cocaine problems after that, which kept him away from the NBA and any other basketball game for that matter.
7 Alex Rodriguez
Many considered Alex Rodriguez to have had the potential to be the most superior baseball player of all time. Even though his team was last place in the division, he still won the MVP award for his remarkable 2003 season. However, in 2009, he admitted in a public announcement that he used steroids, after which his performance began to decline. He sat on the bench more than he played. Soon, Rodriguez slid off the bench and was suspended all of last season. He's currently attempting to get back in the good graces of fans and the media. Good luck with that A-Rod.
6 Darryl Strawberry
Darryl Strawberry was a talented baseball player in the MLB. He was one of the most menacing hitters in a batter’s box. By the age of 29, Strawberry had 280 home runs. Many people used to wonder if he would break the MLB's historical record of 755 home runs. However, he had many injuries that careened him into a seated position on the bench. Then he got mixed up with cocaine use. He had many down years in the game before finishing on a high note with the Yankees, earning a few World Series rings.
5 Vin Baker
Vin Baker was known for his basketball prowess between 1995 and 1998. In fact, he made it to the All Star games in all of those years. At the time, he seemed to have a promising future in the NBA. While in Boston and Seattle, he started to drink excessively, impairing his game. He then gained weight and was more than 300 pounds after the lockout in 1998. He did lose some of the weight, but his play was never restored. After being released by the Celtics in 2004 for showing up to basketball practice with liquor on his breath, Baker went from one team to another. He retired in 2006.
4 Lance Armstrong
Everyone remembers Lance Armstrong for his seven consecutive wins at the Tour de France. He overcame cancer and was looked at as perhaps the greatest story in sports. He started a charity to raise money for cancer research. He even played a small part in the film Dodgeball. Even with all those accomplishments, his titles were taken from him because of alleged blood doping. He resigned from his charity and lost all his endorsements. He reached rock bottom and is still trying to find his way back even today, but fans truly doubt him.
3 Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson biting the ears of Evander Holyfield during a boxing match cannot be forgotten. However, so too is the fact that Tyson was one of the greatest boxers of all time. Instead of saving the sport of boxing, though, Mike Tyson took a different path. He was a troubled man, it seemed. He was linked to domestic violence, sexual assault, depression and drug abuse. In 2003, Tyson filed for bankruptcy, reporting a debt of $30 million despite his career earnings of $300 million. He was arrested in Las Vegas for hitting a paparazzi photographer at the airport. He endured tragedy when his seven year old daughter suffered strangulation to death due to a bizarre accident in his home.
2 Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods was at the prime of his golf game. It seemed he was inevitably going to pass Jack Nicklaus for most majors won. He had the ideal wife and a bank account of $1 billion. It seemed that he had the perfect life until he was reportedly having extra-marital affairs with more than 120 women. While it took his wife sometime to make a decision, she did divorce him. Since then, he has had a hard time returning to his old form. Then he suffered a back injury, which forced him to pull out of important golf games. It might not be too late for Tiger, but we'll see if this sabbatical he's taking from the game helps him when he comes back.
1 O.J. Simpson
The broadcast of O.J. Simpson and the white Ford Bronco on television will forever be etched into history. O.J. can also be remembered for racking up 2,000 rushing yards within a single season during his tenure in the NFL as a running back. However, in the same breath, people are mindful of the murder of Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole and her companion. Even though Simpson was acquitted, he did pay civil liabilities to the victim’s family. Years later, Simpson got into trouble with the law again and was arrested for armed robbery and kidnapping charges. He is still imprisoned.