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Top 20 Athletes That Didn't Live Up to the Hype

In the world of sports, each event, league and game has its set of stars, legends and icons. Pick any sporting event and you can likely think of several athletes who have become associated with that sport over the past decades. Serena Williams, Sidney Crosby, Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods and LeBron James – are all examples of great and iconic athletes in their respective sporting field. These athletes have become symbols of their sports because they are so good at what they do. Yes, they win a lot but they have also done it consistently over their careers, whether part of a team or individually. Importantly, such athletes are success stories because they lived up to the fan and media hype surrounding them.

For most professional athletes, it’s not their fault that their abilities and the expectations made of them are significantly hyped, both before their professional debut and during their subsequent career. Just look at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby. The North American media was so desperate for a new Wayne Gretzky that they were willing to slap the label of “the next Great One” on a teenager from Nova Scotia, Canada, who was still playing minor league hockey. When Crosby went professional, to say big things were expected from him would be a massive understatement. Fortunately, a Stanley Cup win, three national gold medals and numerous personal awards and records mean Sid-the-Kid has, so far, lived up to the hype. But, for every athlete who has lived up to the hype, there is an army of those who fell short.

This list looks at 20 professional athletes who never lived up to the hype concerning their abilities and expectations. This is not to say that all of the following athletes are flops or duds. No, there are several professional athletes here who had very good careers - it’s just that they never reached that next level which we all thought they would. The bar these athletes had to meet was often set by the media but could also be related to a massive transfer fee or promising early performances in college or at the professional level. As a result, failure to meet these high standards often means we tend to remember them as athletes who were over-hyped.

20 Kimbo Slice

via mmanuts.com

19 Patrik Stefan

via rantsports.com

18 Tony Mandarich

via jsonline.com

17  17. Kevin Maas

via newyorknatives.com

16 Rick DiPietro

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

15 Kleberson

via goal.com

14 Drew Henson

via zimbio.com

13 Michael Olowokandi

via sportingnews.com

12 Daisuke Matsuzaka

H.Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports

11 Ryan Leaf

via nbcsandiego.com

10 Adriano

via rap.genius.com

9 Michelle Wie

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

8 Alexandre Daigle

via metronews.ca

7 Tim Tebow

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

6 Greg Oden

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

5 Anna Kournikova

via wallerz.net

4 Darko Milicic

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

3 JaMarcus Russell

via espn.go.com

2 Eric Lindros

via thehockeywriters.com

1 Freddy Adu

via soccersouls.com

If hockey has Gretzky, then World football has Pele. Every potential great player is compared to the legendary Brazilian and American Freddy Adu was no exception. Even before Adu was a teenager, the media was reporting that the United States had ’the next Pele.’ Early on, the Ghanaian-born midfielder-forward appeared to be living up to the hype by signing a professional MLS contract in 2004 at the age of 14. Early success in the MLS translated into a much publicized transfer to Portuguese side Benfica in 2007. While he had some moments of promise, Adu’s career never took off after his move to Europe. Four loan moves, a return to the MLS and a couple of transfers later, the player once hyped to be the next Pele now finds himself playing for Serbian team Jagodina.

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Top 20 Athletes That Didn't Live Up to the Hype