The '90s: what a time to be alive! The 1990s were a great time for a sports fan as it produced some of the most iconic moments, teams and athletes in history. Muhammad Ali lighting the torch at the 1996 Summer Olympics and Michael Jordan’s final shot with the Chicago Bulls are indelible moments that come to mind. The dynasties of the Bulls, the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys provided a combined 12 championships and lasting effects to fans of those teams. As for athletes, the walls of many a kid were decorated with posters of Jordan, Shaq, Brett Favre, Barry Sanders, Cal Ripken Jr., Mike Tyson, and so on and so forth.
But those are the athletes that everyone remembers even some 20 years later. There were many more athletes who peaked during the '90s and then had their star power fade over time for whatever reasons. Their skills may have just eroded, their games didn’t hold up over time or they simply decided to hide from the spotlight. Either way, these athletes still deserve mention and recognition.
We will revisit some of these athletes who made their names during the '90s due to their abilities and accomplishments. It’s amazing how people so popular at a given time can become afterthoughts but that’s the society we live in and it’s sure to happen to current popular athletes. Who knows? Maybe Bryce Harper or Conor McGregor will make this list 20 years from now! Here are 15 forgotten athletes from the 1990s and what they look like today.
15 Albert Belle
Albert “Joey” Belle was one of the most menacing sluggers of his time both on and off the field. He remains the only player in MLB history with 50 home runs and 50 doubles in a season and was a five-time All-Star. He was also a trendsetter of sorts, as he was the first MLB player to earn a salary of $10 million a year. But Belle was also a hothead who routinely destroyed clubhouses and dugouts. The Cleveland Indians billed him $10,000 annually because of the destruction he caused and only tolerated it because he was a great hitter.
He also refused to speak to the media and allegedly once hit some trick-or-treaters with his car after they threw eggs at his home. Time seemed to heal some of the wounds between Belle and the Indians when he showed up to spring training in 2012, but that proved to be short-lived as Belle skipped out on his induction into the Indians’ Hall of Fame in 2016.
14 Eric Lindros
Whereas Wayne Gretzky was “The Great One,” Eric Lindros was billed as “The Next One.” He was expected to be the next transcendent NHL player and even had a book published about his childhood when he was 18. Lindros made his NHL debut in 1992 and while he turned out to be a very good player, he never reached the heights that many expected. Still, he made seven All-Star teams and was named NHL MVP in 1995. Lindros suffered with numerous injuries through his career, namely concussions. Those contributed to his early retirement at the age of 34 in 2007, and had Lindros not suffered from concussions, he very well may still be playing today (Jaromir Jagr is still active and is one year older than Lindros).
In 2016, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and today he works with various organizations that contribute to the study and treatment of concussions and other brain injuries.
13 Penny Hardaway
Penny Hardaway (and of course Shaquille O'Neal) helped put the Orlando Magic on the map and made the city known for something other than Disney World. As a 6’7” point guard, Penny evoked memories of Magic Johnson and was one-half of maybe the most exciting young duo over the last 25 years. Penny became such a superstar that even the puppet version of him, Lil’ Penny, was a star in his own right. Unfortunately, Penny caught the injury bug during the middle of his prime and was never the same player by the time he reached his late 20s. He managed to play 14 NBA seasons, but never achieved the same level of play as those early years in Orlando.
Now in his mid-40s, Penny owns many businesses in his native Memphis and also owns a small percentage of the Grizzlies. It would be nice to see Penny return for the Big3, but with his injury history it’s probably best if he stays on the sideline.
12 Andre Rison
How talented was Rison? In the 1990s he was one of six wide receivers who made at least five Pro Bowls. How much of a head case was Rison? Of those six receivers, he is the only one NOT in the Hall of Fame. He played for seven different teams but is best remembered for his time with the Atlanta Falcons in the early 1990s. He also won a Super Bowl with the Packers in 1996 and scored a 54-yard touchdown in the big game. After last playing in the NFL in 2000, Rison then joined the CFL in 2004 where he won a Grey Cup.
When he decided to finally hang up the cleats, Rison went into high school coaching in his native Michigan. He may never reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he’s still a legend back home as he’s been inducted into both the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and MSU’s Hall of Fame where he left the school as the all-time leader in receptions.
11 David Wells
The 15th pitcher to ever throw a perfect game and the only one to do it while hung over…David Wells! Wells is best known for his time with the Yankees but he also played for eight other MLB teams. He was a three-time All-Star, won two World Series rings and was traded for Roger Clemens for the cherry on top. After retiring in 2008, Wells became an analyst for the MLB on TBS and was supposed to be the baseball version of Charles Barkley but couldn’t quite pull the role off. He still shows up at Yankee Stadium whenever the Bronx Bombers hold Old-Timers Day and Wells' physique isn’t much different than during his heyday. Today, David Wells lives in San Diego and is the head coach of his alma mater, Point Loma High School.
10 Buster Douglas
The victor in boxing’s biggest upset ever, James “Buster” Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in the Tokyo Dome in 1990. Most casinos refused to even offer odds on the fight as they thought Tyson would mop the floor with Douglas, but a devastating uppercut in the tenth round KO’d the champ and put the WBA, WBC and IBF titles around the waist of the underdog. However, eight months later, Douglas lost all of the belts to Evander Holyfield and he would never win another championship.
Douglas retired after the Holyfield loss, but then unretired six years later after reaching nearly 400 pounds and nearly dying due to a diabetic coma. He would fight a bunch of journeymen, and never reached the heights of his fights with Tyson and Holyfield. His last fight came at the age of 38 in 1999.
9 Mia Hamm
She was the most popular female soccer player in the world until Brandi Chastain disrobed at the World Cup, but is still considered one of the greatest players in history. She won four NCAA championships while at the University of North Carolina, won three Olympic medals and won two FIFA World Cups. As a testament to just how great a player Hamm was, she was just one of two women to be named to Pele’s list of the 125 greatest living soccer players. When Hamm retired, she then got into the front office side of soccer, as she is on the Board of Directors for Roma in the Serie A, and is a co-owner of Los Angeles FC which will debut in MLS in 2018. She is also married to former MLB All-Star Nomar Garciaparra and is the mother to three young kids.
8 Mo Vaughn
The MVP first baseman was one of the most feared sluggers of his time and was a fan favorite in Boston. The big man was built more like an offensive lineman than a baseball player but he moved pretty well for his size, at least early in his career. He won the AL MVP award in 1995 after smacking 39 home runs and leading the league in RBI. Once Vaughn left Boston in 1999, his production went down while his weight went up. He was listed at 275 lbs, but looked closer to 300 lbs by the time he reached the Mets. He retired at the age of 35 following the 2003 season but stayed involved in the cities he played in, namely Boston and New York.
Vaughn has been involved in refurbishing and upgrading housing complexes by reinvesting in the cities than invested in him during his playing career. Today he looks to be about the size he was when his career ended, and is a dead-ringer for (fat) Rick Ross.
7 Kordell Stewart
There have been many “Slashes” to come through the NFL over the last few years, but none are as good as the original Slash, Kordell Stewart. He lined up at quarterback, running back, receiver and even punter. Stewart is the only player in NFL history with 5,000 passing yards and 600 receiving yards. Oh yeah, he also punted six times in his career. To show you how versatile Stewart was, he didn’t throw a single pass over his last two seasons in the NFL but was still kept on the Baltimore Ravens roster because they knew he could fill in any role when called upon. Overall, Stewart played 11 seasons in the NFL and made one Pro Bowl.
It should come as no surprise that he was a great athlete off the gridiron as well, and was a nine handicap on the links. He is currently a motivational speaker, a podcast host and recently published his autobiography.
6 Greg Norman
The Shark may have been the most popular golfer in the world until Tiger Woods came along and his accomplishments back that up. Only Woods has spent more weeks ranked as the No. 1 player in the world, and Norman was the money winner of the PGA Tour twice during the 1990s. Norman had 20 top-five finishes in the majors during his career and is now a successful businessman. Greg Norman Company has an annual revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and he is a part-owner of over 250 golf courses around the world. Norman is also known for his failed marriages, including one to tennis player Chris Evert that ended in divorce after just 15 months. However, his most infamous failed marriage was his first one to a flight attendant, Laura Andrassy. After 25 years of marriage, the two divorced and Andrassy was awarded $105 million in the divorce settlement, which is even more than what Woods had to give Elin Nordegren after their divorce.
5 Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Is Jackie Joyner-Kersee the female version of Michael Jordan? Sports Illustrated thinks so, as they named the former track and field athlete as the greatest female athlete of all-time. Joyner-Kersee first made her name at UCLA where she starred in track and field as well as women’s basketball. She redshirted the entire 1983-84 school year so she could prepare for the 1984 Summer Olympics. It would be in the 1990s where she would really make her mark as she won two gold medals at the World Championships and three medals at the Olympics. She currently holds the world record in the heptathlon along with the six all-time best results. That is despite not competing in the event in nearly 20 years. Joyner-Kersee helped found Athletes for Hope which is an organization which helps athletes get involved in charitable causes.
4 Detlef Schrempf
Schrempf was one of the first European NBA players, and the German forward helped influence the likes of Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic. His best years were spent with the Pacers and the Supersonics as was a back-to-back winner of the Sixth Man of the Year award and was an All-Star in 1993, 1995 and 1997. Schrempf’s game was ahead of its time as he was a 6’10” jump shooter who played off stars such as Reggie Miller, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton. Schrempf would have fit in perfectly in today’s game, which places an emphasis on floor-spacing.
When he retired in 2001, Schrempf led all European players in games played and he retired to his home in Washington where he runs several businesses. He is a business development officer for a wealth management firm and he runs the Detlef Schrempf Foundation, which provides care and assistance to families in the Pacific Northwest.
3 Mark Grace
The second-most famous player of the Chicago Cubs during the 1990s, Grace would have been inducted into the Hall of Very Good if such a thing existed. He was not without accomplishment as no baseball player had more hits during the 1990s than he had, but if all of those doubles were home runs, then Grace would likely be in Cooperstown. He won four Gold Gloves and made three All-Star teams and may have been even more productive off the field. Sportscaster Dan Patrick loves to tell a story about a female reporter who was feuding with Grace whenever she entered the clubhouse after a game. After the two talked for about 10 minutes, Grace then exited the clubhouse…with the reporter draped all over him. Maybe he should have been in the Hall of Fame!
2 Bill Romanowski
The original “Romo,” Bill Romanowski was considered one of the dirtiest players of his era, but was also one of the best. He played linebacker for 15 seasons, won four Super Bowls, and was a two-time Pro Bowler. Perhaps Romo’s greatest ability was his durability as he played in 243 straight games which was a record for linebackers by the time he retired. But even with all of that, Romanowski’s antics may have overshadowed his great career as he spit on players, purposely hit them in the groin, and even broke his own teammates eye socket with a punch.
After he retired, Romo admitted to taking steroids and HGH during his career which was maybe a reason why he was an iron man. Today, Romo lives in San Francisco and is the CEO of a sports nutrition company and also a part-owner of a NASCAR team.
1 Nancy Kerrigan
The name of Nancy Kerrigan will forever be linked with that of Tonya Harding after the attack before the 1994 Winter Olympics. Many people remember that attack (WHYYYYYY?) but they forget that Kerrigan did compete in the Olympics just weeks later. She won a silver medal at the event to add to the bronze she won at the 1992 Winter Olympics. Kerrigan would retire from competitive skating afterwards and dabbled a bit in acting and singing. She also wrote a book on skating techniques and served as a special correspondent during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
In 2017, Kerrigan appeared on the 24th season of Dancing with the Stars, where she was eliminated in the seventh week. Despite being nearly 50 years old, Kerrigan still looks good, while the same can’t be said of Tonya Harding.
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