When it comes to athletes, coaches and general managers routinely state that they are not looking for choir boys. They just want players who can perform. That being said, nobody on a team likes dealing with a knucklehead. In some instances, teams tolerate these individuals because they are supremely talented players. But there is always a limit to this tolerance. As soon as a team starts to decline, they start to wonder why they persist in keeping a player who is so high maintenance.
This article lists ten athletes that are a pain to deal with for their teams. In some instances, it is because of their off field antics and the attention it garners. In other cases, some of these individuals are just not fun to be around. The players on this list are from a variety of sports such as soccer and all the major North American sports. Some of these individuals have had great success with their teams and others have contributed to the constant loosing of their teams. What is beyond doubt is they are regularly in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
10. Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
Kicking of the list is New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Gronk, as he is affectionately called, has repeatedly annoyed teammates and Patriots officials with his off the field antics. These antics mostly consist of him taking his shirt off and dancing, which he did after the Patriots last Super Bowl loss, much to the chagrin of his teammates and Patriots fans. These infractions do not seem like much but in the ultra-conservative world of the NFL they can lead to the proverbial distraction.
Gronk was also seen in a photo with an adult actress who was wearing his jersey. This action drew headlines and garnered criticism from Patriots owner Robert Kraft. All these minor distractions are tolerated because the Gronk is one of the best tight ends in football and the Patriots second most important offensive player behind Tom Brady. However the Gronk has found it hard to stay healthy and his deliberate recovery from injury drew criticism from teammates as well. If he can’t play close to a full season in the near future he may not be in New England for long.
9. Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals
Like Gronkowski, Alex Ovechkin is a very talented player. He has been named the MVP of the NHL on three occasions and is one of the most talented goal scorers in the history of the game. But the Washington Capitals have not enjoyed playoff success under Ovechkin and he has had to bear the brunt of criticism. Ovechkin is mostly criticized for his effort on the ice. Head coach Adam Oates is the third head coach who has criticized the effort of the Capitals captain after Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter. Ovechkin can routinely be seen not hustling back and supporting his teammates when the Capitals do not have the puck.
8. Dwight Howard – Houston Rockets
For the first two months of 2014 the Houston Rockets had the best record in the NBA. They had signature victories over the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers to show for their mid-season dominance. Their play had many thinking about whether they could emerge as Western Conference Champions. Since then they have faltered and Dwight Howard is to blame. In big games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls that ended up being chippy affairs, Howard played as if it was the preseason. This is nothing new for Howard who spends more time smiling and tweeting than concentrating on his performance. He alienated teammates in Orlando and got on Kobe Bryant‘s bad side immediately upon joining the Los Angeles Lakers last season.
7. Tim Thomas -Dallas Stars
For a stretch between 2006-2011, Tim Thomas was one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. He was a driving force behind the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup in 2011. After winning the cup, many believed success changed Thomas for the worse. He invited a firestorm of criticism when he declined to attend the customary White House visit of the Stanley Cup Champions and was publicly critical of the US government. The Bruins lost in the first round of the playoffs that season and Thomas announced that he would be taking a break from hockey. Nobody on the Bruins shed a tear and the team traded him to the New York Islanders in 2013. Thomas never played for the Islanders and is now a backup goaltender for the Dallas Stars.
6. Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
You would think a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback would be easy to get along with in the locker room. This is not the case with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. For starters, Roethlisberger got in a motorcycle accident earlier in his career that jeopardized his ability to play and hence help the team win. He subsequently has been accused twice for sexual assault. After the second accusation he was suspended for four games by the NFL and took a publicity hit with his teammates and the people of Pittsburgh. Ever since the Steelers fired offensive coordinator Bruce Aryans after the 2011 season, Roethlisberger has clashed with the staff and publicly praised his former coordinator. Then there is the fact that Roethlisberger is considered a bit of a drama queen. Every time he gets injured or hurt, he makes it look like he is on the verge of death. He over exaggerates the injuries he plays with much to the chagrin of his teammates.
5. Alex Rodriguez – New York Yankees
No surprise to find Alex Rodriguez on the list of annoying teammates. There has probably never been an athlete who has less self awareness than Rodriguez. He seems to want to be liked by everyone but constantly alienates his teammates, the media and the fans. Rodriguez is an admitted steroid user which did not help his public image. This past season, Rodriguez was involved in another steroid scandal which he vehemently denied. At that point everyone associated with baseball wanted Rodriguez to go away and almost got their wish when MLB commissioner Bud Selig considered instituting a lifetime ban. Rodriguez was suspended for over 200 games, but he continued to play after appealing the decision. An arbitrator reviewed the decision and suspended Rodriguez for the entire 2014 season. Rodriguez further alienated his contemporaries when he accused the Yankees of trying to get him suspended and when he decided to sue the players union. He wisely dropped his suit.
4. Mario Balotelli – AC Milan
While Mario Balotelli is an undoubtedly talented player, he has been a constant nuisance to his teammates and supporters for three different teams. Balotelli started his career with Inter Milan and he often clashed with manager Jose Mourinho. Apart from Mourinho, it appeared the entire team hated the young striker and he was a peripheral figure in their treble winning season of 2010. Mourinho often tells a story of a game where he only had one striker in Balotelli due to injuries and Balotelli had a yellow card going into halftime. He explained the situation and told him to employ calm. Balotelli got onto the field for the second half and quickly got a yellow card for a rash, unnecessary tackle.
Balotelli then joined Manchester City where he was constantly in the headlines for off the field antics. Then manager Roberto Mancini was accused of favoring the young striker. Balotelli was fined by Manchester City for his poor disciplinary record. He almost took the team to court over their decision before relenting. In January 2013, he was sold to AC Milan and his performances have been subject to criticism from fans and members of the Italian national team.
3. Yasiel Puig – Los Angeles Dodgers
The early part of the 2014 MLB season has been dominated by headlines surrounding Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. Puig burst on the scene as a rookie midway through the 2013 season and jump started the Dodgers season. His great play and energy were credited with turning the Dodgers’ season around last year. Puig made headlines for the wrong reasons as well as he made several comical errors on the field constantly throughout the season. This off season was eventful as he was in several incidents and he came into the season well over last year’s playing weight. He was then benched for a game as he arrived late to the ballpark. It seems Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is at his wits end when it comes to Puig and his antics. The obvious language barrier that exists between Puig and most of his teammates does not help the situation either.
2. DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento Kings
There is no bigger headache in the NBA than DeMarcus Cousins. Watch any Sacramento Kings game and the young center is seen constantly bickering with the officials and opponents. He seems to excel at yelling at his own teammates and complaining loudly throughout the game. Cousins was the fifth pick in the 2010 NBA draft and is only 23 years old. Despite his youth, he has emerged as the premier problem child of the NBA. He has already gotten a coach fired and been suspended by the Kings on multiple occasions. In 2012, Cousins was sent home by USA basketball as he did not mesh with the various players who were getting prepared for the London Olympics. While Cousins is obviously very talented, his talent has not translated into any wins for the Kings. They have not approached mediocrity in his tenure with the team which begs the question of whether he is worth the headache.
1. Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys
With the amount of attention given to Dez Bryant, you would think he was the next Jerry Rice. Bryant has spent four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and has never been on a playoff team. The last three seasons the Cowboys have finished 8-8. Bryant is touted as one of the best receivers in the NFL, but he has only had two 1,000 yard seasons. What is more troubling is his penchant for dropping the ball or making a critical mistake at a crucial time of the game. Early in his career he had some off the field issues, but Bryant seems to have cleaned up that part of his act and moved that immaturity to the field. He is a ticking time bomb who routinely lashes out if he does not receive the ball. He has been seen screaming at teammates and walking off the field during Cowboy collapses. His excuses are always the same, he is just showing passion. Cowboys fans would prefer he just caught the ball in the clutch and stopped acting like a baby on the field when things don’t go his way.