When someone uses the term “professional athlete” in 2016, most of our minds will jump to an image of a smartly dressed, bling-wearing Adonis, walking through airports followed by an entourage of security and managers. Of course, that wasn’t—and isn’t– always the case.
Athletes throughout the modern age of American sport have come from all backgrounds. They have been the sons and daughters of miners and factory workers as well as the spoiled offspring of millionaires and heiresses. They have also come in all shapes, sizes and, shall we say, levels of physical pleasantness in the eyes of their beholders.
OK, let’s just say it; some athletes are overtly hot and some are butt-ugly. What is ugly? Is ugly a look which moves toward but does not pass Marty Feldman? Does it count when an athlete has an ugly demeanor or a heart as black as Bill Belichick? For our purposes here, ugly will be defined as a natural look that the particular athlete could not help but bring everywhere he went. Therefore, athletes who have taken a famously ugly photograph or two but look otherwise normal when cleaned up are not included.
10. Bobby Holik: Mug Shot
And the winner of the “Most Likely to become a Serial Killer” award is…Bobby Holik! Seriously, if you put Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and Holik in a police lineup and told someone to pick out the deranged murderer, you’d have to cuff Holik nine out of ten times.
He was a talented center for Hartford, New Jersey, the New York Rangers and Atlanta from 1990 to 2009, winning two Stanley Cups with the Devils. A two-time All Star with a quick shot and good vision, he was much sought after when he became a free agent and signed a lucrative deal in New York.
Unfortunately, no one told him that eyebrows should be like Will Rogers and a man he didn’t like. His piercing eyes set deep under that ridge of hair would make Chuck Norris cry like a little girl. It’s too bad he didn’t take a few more pucks to the face over his career. It couldn’t have done any harm.
9. Marshawn Lynch: Looking and playing like a beast.
It tends to be more difficult, somehow, to disparage an athlete’s appearance when he’s truly great at what he does. Marshawn Lynch is a great running back. He has been among the most respected and, more to the point, feared runners in the NFL for nine solid seasons. Lynch has rushed for over 1,000 yards six times and led his Seahawks to two NFC Championships and one Super Bowl victory. His “Beast Mode” persona has earned a place in football lore as the definition of a tough runner who never gives up on a play.
All that duly noted, Marshawn will never be confused with Gale Sayers. Somehow, his head looks like someone crossed a bulldog with an asp and sewed some black yarn they bought at Big Lots on the back. And his nose is the shape of a traffic cone that was run over by a cement truck. Thank goodness, most of the time his visage is tucked nicely under a helmet.
8. Willie McGee: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Sometimes the most attractive people in the world are horrible human beings. And sometimes, as in the case of Willie McGee, the opposite is true. If you’re familiar with the way St. Louis adores its Cardinals and the team’s history you’ll know what a significant thing it is when it can be said that a player is revered by the fans there as much as anyone shy of Stan the Man.
He was shy and polite and the team never had to wonder if he was giving his best effort. A gold-glove centerfielder, McGee won two batting titles and an MVP award in St. Louis while helping them to three NL pennants and a World Series win in 1982. But he wasn’t pretty.
Willie was called “Mongoose” early in his career because he was so fast. Or at least that’s what his teammates told him. Later, some began referring to him as “E.T.” and there was no disguising that one. His features were pressed too tightly together and his jaw and chin were diminutive, giving his head the overall shape of an alien who wanted to phone home. No Cardinal fan cared. To this day, Willie McGee could getting a standing O in the Lou for jaywalking.
7. Yannick Noah: Bob Marley with a racket.
Although Yannick Noah was not a bad looking fellow in his younger years, the 1983 French Open winner did not age gracefully. Looking a little too much like the villain from Predator, Noah had a fairly successful career spanning the late 70s to the early 90s. He won 23 singles titles along with his one Grand Slam event and was also a prolific doubles player.
Now, it must be said that all athletes with dreadlocks are not ugly. Larry Fitzgerald is a good looking guy. Troy Polamalu darn near made an industry of it. But the ones who do dreads poorly do them really poorly. You can’t put that kind of hairstyle on bony, angular face and expect mirrors not to break. It’s like putting a new windshield in a rusty Pinto. Luckily for tennis fans, Noah retired from the pro circuit and now only must be endured occasionally in a special event .
6. Randy Johnson: Tall and thin and built to win.
Ah, the mullet. What else elicits images of homemade gin stills, dirty t-shirts and guys named “Earl” like this woeful hair style? We thought once Billy Ray Cyrus exited the public view that we’d be saved from the recurrence of the great long and greasy coiffure in popular culture. But nay. Some clearly missed the memo.
I suppose when you’re 6’10”, 225 lbs., can throw a ball 98 MPH and win 5 Cy Young awards, your teammates kind of lay off the “nice hair” comments in the locker room. Still, come on, guys. A simple gift card to Great Clips could have been a nice hint around Christmas. Of course, even later in his career when The Big Unit finally cut off the faux mane, he did not become a finalist in People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive contest. Perhaps their ginger hair and beady eyes quota had been met.
5. “Duke” Harris: Old before his time.
Many hockey players spend a good portion of their lives with false teeth. It’s a rough sport. George “Duke” Harris couldn’t blame his comb-over on a flailing stick or vicious cross check, though. That thing is all natural.
Harris was a little-known winger for the North Stars and Maple Leafs in the late 60s. He spent some time in the World Hockey Association, bouncing between teams and was retired by 1975. Duke was never going to be voted into the Hall of Fame. But when your forehead has more wide open space than a scene from Dances with Wolves, you’re going to end up on someone’s list.
The truly remarkable aspect of Harris’ appearance is that he achieved it by age 30. That means even in his 20s he was already looking like a guy who could slap on some clown makeup and lure children into sewers.
4. Bill Walton: Short only on looks.
It should not be physically possible to be nearly seven feet tall and have a head too big for your body. Bill Walton accomplished it, however. Another excellent player who makes this list, Walton had a good professional career hampered by injuries. As a college player, though, he was legendary. Walton was a giant cog in the NCAA championship machine John Wooden assembled at UCLA from 1963 through 1975, winning titles in ’72 and ’73 with the Bruins.
Bill had an Easter Island-sized head, topped with shaggy orange hair that was sometimes in a ponytail and sometimes standing in a Mike Brady perm. Of course he made up for it with teeth that could have munched corn on the cob through a picket fence. After his retirement from playing, Walton moved to broadcasting where he was mostly unintelligible for many fan-confusing years.
3. Gheorghe Muresan: A face that wouldn’t quit.
That’s a lot of face. Gheorghe is a large man, but even he doesn’t need that much face. Muresan played in the NBA for a few years in the late 90s. He was listed as 7’7”. That’s not a typo. When you’re that tall, you’ll eventually be forced to play in the NBA. It might be a law.
It was said that pigeons would have roosted on his forehead if they didn’t have such high standards. Muresan singlehandedly put an end to Ladies Night at the Capital Centre. Babies cried, urban legends were created.
After some promising seasons with the Bullets and a couple of forgettable ones with the Nets, Muresan hung up the pontoons he liked to call his shoes. Gheorghe is reportedly a nice fellow even if he wasn’t a great basketball player. But that face…
2. Don Mossi: A face only his mother could love. Maybe.
He was born in 1929. A rumor had it that his nose was born in 1928. Don Mossi was a sturdy left handed pitcher who toiled mostly for the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians from 1954 through 1965. He was a forerunner to the lefty bullpen ‘specialist’ used by managers so commonly today, often working in relief 18-20 times per season. Don was an important piece on the pitching staffs of some very good teams, including as a rookie on the 1954 Indian team which won 111 games and the American League Pennant. He finished with earned run averages above his league’s average seven times. He was blessed with a good fastball and a sharp curve. He was not, however, blessed with an appearance which might decorate the cover of GQ.
Mossi was nicknamed “The Sphinx” by teammates and it wasn’t because he was good at riddles. His eyes would have looked quite normal had they not been covered by thick black eyebrows that one might be tempted to check for rabbits. His protruding nose was long and sloped, pointing toward thick lips and a rounded chin. Still, these features paled compared to Don’s most noticeable attributes. Looking like two radar domes peeking from behind his head, Mossi’s ears challenged the frame of every baseball card he ever appeared on.
1. Mike Ricci: Was there ever any question?
Hockey players probably ought to get some slack on this list. But they’re not going to. Honestly, Holik and Duke Harris have nothing on this guy, though. Ricci combined the worst of all visual worlds, lacking any redeeming qualities in the hairstyle, dental and facial damage categories. When your nose makes a right turn halfway down your face, you might want to look at the selection of burqas in the new Penney’s catalog.
He had a very nice NHL career, mostly with the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche, carrying Lord Stanley’s Cup with the Avs in 1996. He played Center which was a wise choice on his coaches’ parts since, when they would see that face bearing down on them, NHL defensemen would be apt to clear away from the middle. Although it is still disputed, Mike may hold the Guinness World Record for the “Shortest Interview with a Female Reporter.” Apparently, at the three second point, the young lady asked to be excused.