On the whole, athletes aren’t particularly notorious for their intelligence. Of course, as in anything, there are exceptions. Some athletes take full advantage of their college years and value academia as much as athletics. They emerge with degrees and grades that will ensure their success outside of the world of sports, preparing them for their retirement or for the possibility of taking an alternate career route. However, on the whole, student athletes place a lot more focus on their designation as athletes. They decide to enter drafts early, failing to complete their degrees or they spend all their time focusing on improving their athletic skill rather than their brains.
There are some ways that the sports world attempts to measure intelligence on paper, most notably the NFL’s practice of administering the Wonderlic test to all incoming athletes. Some athletes score so abysmally low on the Wonderlic that they deserve a spot on the list for that alone. However, there’s another type of stupidity that’s even more prevalent in the sports world – just plain stupid decisions. Athletes often have millions of dollars at their disposal and, consequently, a whole lot of freedom to do whatever they want. Despite having the potential to achieve success that will set themselves up for a lifetime and ensure their financial stability, many athletes squander their money or make stupid and illegal choices. Guns, illegal substances, crime, or just plain arrogance, there are some athletes that cause fans to shake their heads and comment “what an idiot.”
Whether they’re stupid on paper or in real life, here is a list of 20 of the dumbest athletes.
20 Ndamukong Suh
Football is a tough sport, and a little aggression is definitely necessary, but the Detroit Lions’ Ndamukong Suh takes it to a whole new level. In the first four years of his career, the league fined Suh a whopping $216,875 for four violations. He’s a skilled player, but it takes a certain amount of stupidity to rack up over $50,000 in fines a year doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Dial it down a notch, Suh. In a sport that's about tackling other guys to the ground, there's surely some middle ground between a legitimate tackle and stomping someone's face.
19 Michael Bishop
Bishop, who played for the New England Patriots for a mere two seasons, scored a measly 10 on the Wonderlic. Compared to the average quarterback Wonderlic of 24, the score seems even more pathetic. This seventh round pick didn’t perform in the NFL and was eventually let go and spent time playing in leagues outside of the NFL.
18 Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson was an amazing fighter back in the day. He also made a lot of really stupid decisions. Illegal substances, DUIs, rape, carnivorous nibbling – none of these decisions are the smartest. However, the big one is his financial incompetence. He managed to spend all of the $300 million he was paid over the course of his career. Imagine how many tigers he must have bought. In the ring, his talent was undeniable. Outside of the ring… he was a bit of a mess.
17 Ben Roethlisberger
Ah, Big Ben. He has two Super Bowl Championships to his name. He also has a few more things that people think of when they hear his name, which are not quite as favorable as a fancy ring. Drunken immature behaviour, sexual assault charges, and riding a motorcycle with no helmet and deciding to lead with his head when slamming into a truck, to name a few.
16 Ricky Williams
Williams has his fair share of awards, and was even a Pro Bowl MVP in 2000, the only year he was a Pro Bowl selection. AP College Player of the Year, Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award… 1998 was Williams’ year, and it seemed he would get drafted into the NFL and skyrocket. However, there was apparently one thing he liked a whole lot more than football. He missed two NFL seasons because of his affinity for pot and eventually had to move up north to play in the CFL. The various arrests and minor suspensions demonstrate that Williams isn’t alone in his love of smoking a few joints to unwind, but his decisions were definitely stupid and he lost a LOT of money because of it.
15 Vince Young
He had a Wonderlic score so bad he had to retake it, and still did significantly worse than most players. Vince Young got a frighteningly low single-digit score of 6 on the Wonderlic his first time around, and only improved to 14 in his re-take. Expectations were high for this quarterback after his impressive college years, but he’s been average at best so far. The Wonderlic doesn’t guarantee success or failure, but in the case of this third overall pick, perhaps scouts should have focused on it. Another thing they should have been wary of was his apparently endless desire for cheesecake, as at one point he was said to spend about $5,000 a week at The Cheesecake Factory.
14 Plaxico Burress
The man who accidentally shot himself in the leg in a New York City nightclub deserves a spot on the list. It’s foolish to carry a concealed weapon without a license. It’s foolish to bring a concealed, loaded weapon into a busy nightclub. It’s foolish to mix guns and alcohol. To shoot yourself in the leg is just plain dumb.
13 Ron Artest / Metta World Peace
First of all, the idiotic name changes. Let’s just call him Artest, because Metta World Peace… no. Add the fact that he, a basketball player, once asked for time off during the basketball season in order to promote his rap album. He started a legendarily horrendous brawl in Detroit. He publicly asked to be traded. It’s almost impressive to rack up so much suspension time without a serious illegal substance offense or something of the sort.
12 Frank Gore
Frank Gore is a bit of a surprising case. He scored a Wonderlic of 6, one of the lowest among players, ever. Generally, with players who bomb the Wonderlic, if they don’t become complete busts, they end up being average at best. Gore has defied it and become an amazing running back with over 10,000 yards to his name and five Pro Bowl selections. While he might not be the sharpest on paper, Gore demonstrates every week that his football knowledge is on point. The San Francisco 49ers weren't concerned about his scores, as they were too busy watching how he did on the field - and it seems to have paid off.
11 O.J. Simpson
Simpson is serving a 33 year jail sentence for his stupid and reckless life decisions. He played in the NFL for ten years and racked up countless awards and honors, so it’s a testament to the heinousness of his crimes that people generally remember him as a criminal on trial before they remember him as a running back. Even more ridiculous, but far less serious, than his famous trial is that he's currently in jail for armed robbery. Guess what he stole? Sports Memorabilia from his career... Come on man.
10 Titus Young
Young was a promising second round draft pick, but many shied away from him because of his notorious bad behavior off the field. Despite this, the Lions drafted him, and pretty much immediately began to regret their decision. As his rookie season progressed, his antics got so bad that someone close to Young asked the league for help. Young turned down counselling and continued shoving and sucker punching players, starting arguments with coaches, and not following orders regarding what he was supposed to be doing on the field. He followed his dismissal from the NFL up with a string of four arrests within the span of a month. Bad choice after bad choice led his potentially promising athletic career into the ground.
9 Latrell Sprewell
Sprewell is the basketball player who famously refused a $21 million dollar contract because $21 million dollars was not sufficient money to feed his family. Presumably, it was a diet that consisted entirely of caviar dusted with gold flakes. He has since had two homes foreclosed upon and been banned from seeing his children, so apparently one bad decision leads to a flurry of stupidity. There was also the yacht he purchased, begging the question - what kind of food costs more than a yacht?
8 Edward “Pig” Prather
Prather scored a 5 on the Wonderlic, which is so low it’s almost impressive. He was successful in his college career, but didn’t end up making it to the NFL because of all the mistakes he made on the field. He simply wasn’t consistent, and one wonders if his Wonderlic scared scouts off.
7 Bill Gramatica
The celebration is an icon in sports – every player attempts to come up with some sort of celebration ritual that revs themselves up and sends crowds cheering. Gramatica took it to another level, and not in a good way. This kicker managed to nail a field goal in one of his games – a nice triumph, but not quite a game-winning Super Bowl kick requiring an explosive celebration. However, Gramatica seemed to think it was a big deal, and celebrated so hard that he immediately tore his ACL. There’s a celebration, and there’s a stupidly hysterical celebration. His was the latter.
6 Fab Melo
College athletes don’t necessarily have to worry about maintaining a 4.0 GPA, since many of them have their eyes set on professional sports and hope to get drafted right out of college. Melo apparently figured the ‘student’ part of ‘student-athlete’ was just for show, and ended up unable to play in a 2012 NCAA Tournament because he was failing all his classes. His excuse was that he didn’t understand English, because why would you need to use it at an English language university? One wonders if he constantly went to teammates’ lockers because of an inability to read his name on the locker.
5 Darren Davis
Darren Davis peaked in high school and ushered himself into the NFL by scoring a 4 on the Wonderlic. He couldn’t hack it in the NFL, and after remaining undrafted he decided to head north to play in the CFL. Even there, his success wasn’t the greatest. He played briefly with Saskatchewan and Ottawa, but his career definitely wasn’t much of anything.
4 DeSean Jackson
There’s nothing wrong with a good celebration, as a lot of the best players in the NFL have signature things they do after a touchdown. The end zone celebration is practically a form of art, and few have botched it quite like Jackson. DeSean Jackson has some memorable ones, but not necessarily for good reasons. A tip – make sure you’ve actually gotten the point before you start celebrating and drop the ball.
3 Giorgos Katidis
Many players on the list received brief suspensions for their decisions, but Katidis made a choice so awful that he was banned from all Greek national teams forever. What did he do? Well, in possibly one of the most reprehensible celebrations in any international match, Katidis decided to celebrate a goal with a Nazi salute. He tried to explain the gesture by saying he was motioning to an injured team mate, and then by saying he didn’t know the gesture meant anything, but no one was buying his excuses.
2 Antonio Cromartie
The NFL has a lot of family men with a boatload of children – see Philip Rivers for one good example – but Cromartie perhaps needs to spend a bit more time studying the Cromartie family tree. The Cardinals quarterback has a lot of kids with a lot of women, and during an interview on HBO’s Hard Knocks, he struggled a bit with remembering exactly who was in the Cromartie clan. Perhaps best to leave out the family catalogue if you’re still not 100% solid on everyone’s name.
1 Morris Claiborne
Despite getting an abysmal Wonderlic score of 4, Claiborne was a first round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He attempted to excuse the score by saying he blew the test off after realizing it didn’t have anything directly football related on it. The test obviously isn’t the be all and end all when considering players, its just another factor to consider in the puzzle of figuring out who to draft. As Frank Gore demonstrates, a low Wonderlic doesn’t necessarily mean a low football IQ, so Claiborne may very well have a successful career ahead of him. However, so far, he's been a disappointment to Jerry Jones.