Top 20 Biggest Falls From Grace in Sports History

Sports athletes are some of the most famous, well respected and followed celebrities on Earth. They have legions of fans who praise and follow their every move. This, along with the massive financial

Sports athletes are some of the most famous, well respected and followed celebrities on Earth. They have legions of fans who praise and follow their every move. This, along with the massive financial compensation that most superstar athletes make, can make being a professional athlete one of the most popular dreams a child can have.

One thing that isn’t so great about being a mega sports star is the fact that you are always in the spotlight, even when that spotlight is on you for something negative. When athletes screw up in life, in any way, that screw up is broadcast worldwide for everyone to see. Whether that screw up is cheating, troubles with the law or other embarrassing events, these players have nowhere to hide from the watchful eye of the public.

If the screw up is larger than normal, these athletes can sometimes completely crash and burn as a result of the negative PR that comes from the announcement. More often than not, these athletes fade into obscurity, when they had a chance to be the best in the world. This crash and burn is often called a “fall from grace,” and that is the topic of this list.

The following 20 athletes from numerous sports and backgrounds were at, or near, the top of their sports before stupid decisions, exposed lies or something else altogether, caused their shooting star to fall back to earth. Some of these athletes have made peace with their fall and some have completely faded away from the public eye in denial.

Read on and enjoy looking at the Top 20 Falls from Grace in Sports History.

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20 Antoine Walker


Antoine Walker was a star for the Boston Celtics and a scoring machine in the late 90s and early 2000s. During his time in the NBA, he was one of the highest paid players. In total, he earned more than $110 million during his career, more than most players in the league at that time. In a shocking announcement in 2010, it was revealed that Walker filed for bankruptcy with assets of just over $4 million and debts of over $10 million, according to Yahoo!. The guy managed to blow through over $100 million dollars in around a decade, which absolutely deserves a spot on this list.

19 Marion Jones


Marion Jones became America’s sweetheart after securing five medals at the 2000 Olympic Games, becoming the first ever female to accomplish the feat. This amazing performance got her magazine covers, lucrative sponsorship deals and more. She was on top of the track and field world and showed no signs of slowing down. Now fast forward to 2008 and she made a stunning revelation, as Jones admitted to using steroids to win all those medals at the 2000 Games, according to BBC, breaking the hearts of those who cheered for her. She was sentenced to six months in prison for lying to investigators on the topic.

18 Maurice Clarett


Maurice fell from grace before he evenly properly reached it. Clarett made national headlines as a freshman at Ohio State, where he led the team to an undefeated season and to a national championship win. However, behind the scenes, Clarett was having real issues with the staff and was ultimately dismissed from the team. This was the catalyst that led to numerous other problems throughout his career such as: a failed NFL attempt, numerous arrests and substance abuse problems. Clarett could have been something very special if he would have kept his head on straight.

17 John Rocker


Rocker was a passionate and outspoken relief pitcher for various MLB teams from 1998-2003. He was a star player in high school and was selected in the MLB draft straight out of high school. After finally making the majors, Rocker's career got off to a fairly rocky start and, in the end, he was never able to reach the potential that people believed he could have. His various issues throughout his career included: threatening reporters, multiple homophobic and racist comments and steroid use. He was without a doubt one of the most polarizing figures in baseball history.

16 Roger Clemens

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Clemens was a star pitcher for multiple teams and was arguably one of the best pitchers of all time. Throughout his career, Clemens was an eleven-time all-star and a seven-time Cy Young award winner. However, there were multiple individuals and reports that indicated that Clemens used steroids throughout his career. Despite the sheer amount of evidence against him, Clemens simply refuses to admit that he’s used steroids. Even after numerous legal battles, Clemens still can’t admit his wrongdoings and can’t come to grip with reality. If he would have admitted his use early on, he would’ve likely been forgiven by now and not seen as a delusional cheater.

15 Chad Johnson


Chad Johnson, or Chad Ochocinco, was among the best wide receivers in the NFL during his time with the Bengals in the mid-2000s. He was a fan favorite because of his creative touchdown dances, fun trash talk and overall nutty attitude. However, this love soon turned sour as Johnson was labeled selfish and a locker room cancer. He then bounced from team to team as his skill continued to decline and his fall from grace took a dark turn when he was arrested and charged with domestic violence, and fizzled out from the NFL.

14 Mark McGwire


Throughout the 90s, there was no better home run hitter than Mark McGwire. McGwire was not only the fastest player to reach 500 career home runs, but he also broke the MLB home run record in 1998 with a whopping 70 long balls. It turned out to be too good to be true, as McGwire came under suspicion for steroids in the mid 2000s, which ultimately culminated in McGwire admitting to steroid use in 2010, according to ESPN. This was heartbreaking for people who grew up watching the slugger, as it turns out their home run hitting hero was a fraud.

13 Albert Haynesworth


During the late 2000s, there was no better interior force in the NFL than Albert Haynesworth. As a result, Haynesworth got a juicy contract with the Washington Redskins worth $100 million in the 2009 offseason, and was expected to be the defensive savior of the franchise. Instead, Haynesworth presented problems for the coaching staff immediately as he was out of shape, uninspired and difficult to deal with. He found his way out of Washington two years later, and out of the league two years after that. He is often regarded as one of the worst free agent signings in NFL history.

12 Lenny Dykstra


Lenny Dykstra enjoyed a successful and fruitful MLB career as he made three all-star teams and even won a World Series. However, Dykstra’s greatest success same off of the field. After retiring from baseball, Dykstra managed a very successful stock portfolio and a number of companies. His net worth was estimated at $58 Million in 200, according to The New York Times. After being hit hard by the recession, Dyskra ended up filing for bankruptcy in 2009 and was living out of his car. His downward spiral continued with multiple arrests, assaults and other legal issues in the following years.

11 Mike Tyson

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tyson was without a doubt the biggest star in combat sports through the 80s and 90s. He was beloved for his powerful knockouts and aggressive fighting. His career, however, was marred with controversy. These controversies included everything from sexual abuse charges to issues with drugs and alcohol to filing for bankruptcy after making more than $400 million in his career, according to Early To Rise. If he would have stayed clean and controversy free, chances are he would be a consensus pick as one of the best boxers of all time. Sadly for Tyson, although he's come back from his issues recently, he's still one of the largest falls from grace in sports history.

10 Tonya Harding


Throughout the 80s and early 90s, Tonya Harding was an upcoming superstar in the figure skating world and was well on her way to possible Olympic gold medals and championships. In early 1994, Harding’s main competition, Nancy Kerrigan, was attacked following a practice skate. She was attacked by a man who attempted to break her leg with a police baton. Harding was a suspect in the case and eventually pled guilty to planning the attack on Kerrigan. This caused her to be banned for life from participating in USFSA events as a skater and a coach, effectively ending her career.

9 Aaron Hernandez

The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Unless you have been living under a rock, you're well aware of the catastrophic fall from grace of Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez was a star tight end for the New England Patriots and was well on his way to being one of the best receiving tight ends in the league. However, in the summer of 2013, his football career would end in an instant, as Hernandez was indicted for the murder of acquaintance Odin Lloyd. He was found guilty in April of 2015 and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

8 Adriano


At one point, Adriano was one of the best strikers in the world playing for Inter Milan. He enjoyed numerous good years with the squad, but was sent back to Sao Paolo in 2007 due to alcoholism and weight gain issues. From then on, his career was as inconsistent as can be, as he played with seven different clubs from 2008-2014, making less than five appearances with four separate teams.At the height of his powers, Adriano was thought to be the next big star in football, but ended up crashing and finishing his career unceremoniously at Atletico Paranaense.

7 Gilbert Arenas


Flashback to the 2005/06 NBA season and Gilbert Arenas was on top of the world. Arenas was one of the leading scorers in the NBA and was perhaps the most clutch player in the league at that time. His success continued for a few years and he looked poised to go down as one of the best scorers in modern NBA history. However, injuries started to derail Arenas' career, before stupidity put his career completely off track. AFter an argument pertaining to gambling debts, Arenas and one of his teammates, Javaris Crittenton, decided to bring guns into the equation. Arenas was suspended for the rest of the season and was out of the league two years later, despite being signed to a six-year, $110 million contract four year earlier.

6 Pete Rose

Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

It really is crazy that the all-time hits leader and the player who has played the most games in MLB history is not in the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose was a legendary player and manager for the better part of three decades. His fall to grace began when it was revealed that Rose gambled on baseball, including on games he managed. This is obviously a huge no-no and Rose was permanently banned from baseball, thus he will not ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame. This argument remains one of the hottest topics in baseball to this day.

5 Michael Vick

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Vick is likely the best mobile quarterback in the history of the NFL. Vick is the only QB to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season and has the most career rushing yards by any QB in NFL history. He was a superstar with the Atlanta Falcons and one of the faces of the league before it all came crashing down, when it was announced in 2007 that Vick was charged with various felony charges related to a dogfighting ring that he allegedly financed. Vick has since been released from jail and is back in the NFL, but has been unable to break the stigma is still hated by a large amount of the public.

4 Barry Bonds

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Barry Bonds is widely considered to be one of the best power hitters and overall players in baseball history. Bonds has the MLB record for most career homeruns with 762 and the most homeruns in a season with 73. Bonds also won seven NL MVP awards and made 14 All-Star teams. Bonds fall from grace stemmed from his central role in the steroid scandal. He was charged in 2007 for obstruction of justice and perjury for lying in court about his past steroid abuse. His fall from grace continues, as he still hasn’t been voted into the Hall of Fame, and likely never will be.

3 Tiger Woods

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

There's no more famous golfer in the world than Tiger Woods. Woods was the driving force for golf's popularity throughout the 90s and 2000s. Woods was named player of the year eleven times and has won 14 major tournaments. In 2009, it was revealed that the golf superstar was having extramarital affairs with numerous different women, which resulted in his divorce and many of his top sponsors dropping him as a client. This announcement also had a horrific impact on his playing career, as he never regained the form that made him a superstar.

2 Lance Armstrong


Lance Armstrong was one of the best “feel good” stories in sports history. The cancer survivor became one of the best cyclists on earth, as he won seven straight Tour de France races from 1999 to 2005. Armstrong faced a large number of doping allegations throughout his career, but denied them all. Then, in 2012, it was announced that not only was Armstrong lying all those years about his PED use, but that he was also the ringleader of what some call the biggest doping program in the sports history. Armstrong was also stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and was disgraced in the sports world.

1 O.J. Simpson


Now we have the biggest fall from grace in sports history. O.J. Simspon was a Heisman winning superstar at USC who went on to have a very successful NFL career, where he was the first player ever to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. Simpson made worldwide headlines in 1994 when he was charged in the double murder of his ex-wife and her friend. The infamous low speed chase that followed when Simpson wouldn’t turn himself in is one of the most surreal moments in television history. Although not found guilty of murder, Simpson was found liable for their deaths. He is currently serving jail time for numerous other felonies.

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Top 20 Biggest Falls From Grace in Sports History