Everyone loves a good storyline, but what exactly makes a sports movie so much better than the rest? Is it the underdog in the story like the US National team in Miracle? Or is it the camaraderie from two unlikely sources like we saw in Remember The Titans? Whatever the case, it seems that Hollywood has our numbers when it comes to sports movies. In fact, according to BoxOfficeMOJO.com, the top 100 grossing sports movies of all time have raked in $3,333,316,699 over their lifetimes.
With that much money, it’s no wonder why every season it seems that there is a new blockbuster hitting the screens that will tug at our hearts. While I can’t tell you which ones are coming out in the future, I can tell you 10 athletes who can offer a damn good story line to any movie.
10. Aaron Hernandez — When Good Athletes Go Bad
After Aaron Hernandez and the Florida Gators won the 2009 National Championship, Hernandez went on to become an All-American the following year, putting him on every NFL exec’s big board. Hernandez was drafted in 2010 by the Patriots and was an instant success, along with teammate Rob Grownkowski. On June 18, 2013, Hernandez’s world came crashing down as police raided his house in connection to the murder of Odin Lloyd, a former semi-pro football player. After mounting enough evidence, Hernandez was taken into custody on June 26th. Even after he went to jail, trouble still came knocking at his door. In May 2014 while being held in prison, Hernandez was indicted for his part in a 2012 double homicide in Boston. He is currently being held without bail and awaiting trial.
9. Ronda Rousey — Breaking Barriers
Love her or hate her, Ronda Rousey has made a historic impact on the history of MMA. After a successful Judo career, including a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics, Rousey became the first female fighter to sign with the UFC in November 2012. Known for her arm-bar, Rousey is not only an animal in the ring, but she is also pretty easy on the eyes. She is currently undefeated and has gone on to coach on the “Ultimate Fighter”, in addition to starring in movies such as Expendables 3 and Fast & Furious 7. Her no BS attitude and rise to the top would make for a great feel good movie.
8. Josh Hamilton — A Star’s Fall From Grace
Out of all the current professional athletes in the major four sports, there aren’t very many that have had as tough of a road to recovery as Josh Hamilton. Hamilton was a blue chip prospect that was initially drafted in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and made quite a name for himself. Despite batting a whopping .300, Hamilton was a full blown addict and the Devil Rays had to step in and send him to rehab. Hamilton went on to fail several drug tests in 2003 and took some time off before he was eventually suspended for an entire season in 2004. After relapsing several times, MLB banned him for the 2006 season and his life was in shambles. It wasn’t until he resurfaced with the Cincinnati Reds and became a standout on the team that injuries started to set in. Through all of this, Hamilton has had a respectable career with the Texas Rangers and as of now, the Los Angeles Angels.
7. Pat Tillman — When Duty Calls
As a linebacker for Arizona State in the mid 1990s, Tillman was the poster boy for hard work. After earning the final scholarship on the team, he went on to help the Sun Devils make it to the Rose Bowl as the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Tillman was eventually drafted 226th overall by the Arizona Cardinals and excelled on the field due to his grit and determination. In fact, Tillman was so loyal to the team that he turned down a 5-year/$9 million contract to play for the St. Louis Rams. Eight months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tillman turned down millions of dollars and enlisted in the army with his brother, Kevin. After becoming an Army Ranger, Tillman served several tours in Iraq before he was killed by friendly fire, an incident that the Army initially covered up. Tillman became the first NFL player to be killed in the line of duty since the Vietnam war and he was inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame in 2011.
6. Tiger Woods — Mid-Career Meltdown
As the highest paid athlete for several years, Tiger Woods had numerous accolades under his belt since becoming a pro in 1996. Woods spent 264 weeks atop the rankings and was the PGA Player of the Year nine times before he took a leave of absence from the game. After appearing in the tabloids for a minor accident at 2:30 a.m., Woods took a leave from the game citing “personal reasons”. It didn’t take long for US Weekly to get a hold of a voicemail Tiger had left for his mistress. Over the next few weeks, dozens of women from all over the country (including “adult entertainment” stars) came out and admitted their relationships with Woods. The fallout included lost sponsorships, endorsement deals, and his golf game, which has yet to be as good as it was before Tiger’s demise.
5. Lou Gehrig — An Untimely Ending
Simply put, Lou Gehrig was a badass. Known for his bat and his durability, “The Iron Horse” played for the New York Yankees for 17 seasons, finishing with a .340 batting average and 493 home runs. Upon his retirement, Gehrig tallied 2,130 consecutive games played, a record that stood for 56 years. Gehrig was dealt a bad hand of cards and was forced to retire from the game in 1939 due to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). The disease came on quick and he succumbed to it two years later. His “Luckiest Man” speech is considered one of the greatest speeches of all time and he became the first MLB player to have his number retired. The records that he set may all be broken someday, but nobody will ever take away the love of the game Gehrig exhibited until he literally could not play anymore.
4. Junior Seau — A Violent Ending To A Gridiron Superstar
Seau played linebacker for USC and was the fifth overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. In 13 seasons with the Chargers, Seau was a 12-time Pro Bowler, Player of the Year, and named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team. Upon his retirement, Seau created the Junior Seau Foundation to help young adults with drug/alcohol prevention and juvenile delinquency. As time went on, Seau’s behavior changed and he became much more aggressive in his demeanor. On May 2, 2012, he was found dead from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the chest. While there was no note left, his favorite country song “Who I Ain’t” was scribbled on a piece of paper nearby. The suicide was also similar to former player Dave Duerson’s, who left a note for doctors to study his brain for traces of CTE from repeated hits to the head.
3. Barry Sanders — Going Out On Your Own Terms
Barry Sanders is one of the greatest running backs of all time; he also happens to be one of the greatest to retire while at the top of his game. As a member of the NCAA and NFL Hall of Fames, Sanders is the perfect example of going out on your own terms. He spent his entire 10-season career with the Detroit Lions and was a 10-time Pro Bowler, NFL MVP, and two-time Offensive Player of the Year. His impromptu retirement from the game left the Lions fanbase devastated that has yet to bounce back. Sanders would not discuss the move at first, but eventually he noted that he couldn’t handle the culture of losing within the Lions organization. There was no doubt that he had a lot left in the tank, but can you really get down on the guy for marching to the beat of his own drum?
2. Pete Rose — The Long Road Back
As a MLB player from 1963-1986, there wasn’t anybody who could out hustle Pete Rose. Among his list of accolades, Rose is the all-time leader in hits with 4,256 and games played with 3,562. However, along with his 17 All-Star Game appearances, MVP Award, and three World Series rings, Rose had a serious gambling problem. After managing the Reds for five seasons, Rose was questioned by outgoing commissioner Peter Ueberroth about his involvement with betting on baseball. After months of investigations, the “Dowd Report” documented at least 52 Reds games in which he had bet on and he had wagered at least $10,000 a day. While he is permanently banned from the Hall of Fame, Rose is not out yet. He has led several efforts for reinstatement to Bud Selig and he came clean in 2004 in his autobiography, citing he did bet on baseball, but never against the Reds.
1. Andre Agassi — The Greatest Love/Hate Relationship in Sports
If you’re not familiar with Andre Agassi, let me give you the short list of his accomplishments; eight Grand Slams, a gold medal, and four Australian Open titles. After becoming the first male to win all four Grand Slams on three different surfaces, he went on to play for several more years, eventually retiring from the game after 20 seasons. Perhaps one of his greatest accomplishments came as a result of his 2009 autobiography “Open”. Despite making over $30 million over his career, Agassi claimed, “I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion, and always have.” The hate he had for the game was apparent throughout the book, as he spoke of his time in a Florida tennis academy, his personal troubles in the 1990s, and the loneliness he felt on tour. Agassi also failed a drug test during his turbulent years for amphetamines, making his historic career even more impressive.