Throughout the world, professional athletes serve as some of the biggest heroes that a person can look up to while growing up. They're constantly being covered by the media, and the decisions that they make are some of the hottest water cooler topics in offices everywhere. The athletes who reached the upper echelons of their respective sports are seen as beacons of excellence, and their achievements on the field, if amazing enough, can grant them immortality. With such coverage, athletes are constantly scrutinized over the tiniest things, and some have love-hate relationships with the media. Even the biggest sports darlings run into their share of controversies, and we, as spectators, can't get enough of the latest happenings in the world of sports.
Unfortunately, athletes are only human, and we've seen, on countless occasions, that these men and women indulge in lifestyles that can potentially ruin their careers. While some are able to bounce back and regain their forms, the athletes featured on this list went too far off the deep end, and their awful decision making in their personal lives completely shattered once-promising careers. Some of the names you'll find on this list are athletes who conquered their sport, while others are some who failed to reach the lofty heights of the expectations placed on them by the media. Let this list be a cautionary tale for those young athletes looking to become professionals one day. Despite the allure of fame and fortune, a few bad decisions can completely ruin your lives.
15 Tiger Woods - Adultery And Substance Abuse
Since Tiger Woods was an obvious choice to be included on this list, we went ahead and put him at our number 15 spot. Woods is easily the most recognizable face in golf in the last 25 years, and he dominated his sport unlike most athletes who came before him. He may not be considered the greatest golfer of all time, but you'd be hard-pressed to say that Woods isn't in the top 5 at least. In his prime, Woods was making an unfathomable amount of money from his winnings and from major endorsement deals with companies like Nike. But, the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and Woods's fall from grace was one of the most public displays of humiliation we've seen in a long time.
Everything started to unravel for the superstar after his struggles with s** addiction and infidelity came to the forefront. Countless women came forward to add their names to Woods' little black book, and he never regained the form that he once had. Toss in some recent problems with drugs and alcohol, and you have yourself an athlete who completely destroyed his life. We wish him the best of luck in getting everything together.
14 Pete Rose - Gambling
Let's be real: Pete Rose being excluded from the Hall of Fame is an absolute travesty. He's perhaps the greatest hitter in the history of baseball, and his accomplishments over the course of his career are nearly unparalleled by anyone who's ever swung a bat. Unfortunately for Rose, his poor decision-making is what has kept him out of the Hall of Fame. Rose, of course, was busted for gambling on a number of different baseball games while he was managing a team. Crimes never go unpunished, and Rose has dealt with a lifetime of regret since he was exposed.
After so many years, it certainly seems like the MLB is being petty, but they're trying to prove a point to anyone else looking to follow in Rose's footsteps. Even though most people are on Rose's side, his image has been forever tarnished thanks to making some really poor decisions. Perhaps, one day, he'll finally receive the recognition that he deserves.
13 Barret Robbins - Substance Abuse
Many people may not remember the name "Barret Robbins" for what he accomplished on the field, but those who do will remember him as one of the top offensive linemen in the NFL during his prime. Anchoring the offensive line that helped take the Oakland Raiders to the Super Bowl, Robbins was a tenacious player with a no-nonsense attitude. The Raiders had finally reclaimed their old glory, and expectations were high heading into their Super Bowl clash with the Buccaneers. And this is where everything would go terribly wrong for both Robbins and the organization that he played for.
Before the game, Robbins completely disappeared into Mexico, and everything would spiral out of control after this. After being kicked off of the team, Robins would see himself have several run-ins with the law, and he's since faded into obscurity. Substance abuse and mental instability destroyed what could've been a special career in the NFL.
12 Ricky Williams - Substance Abuse
If you've ever seen any highlights of Ricky Williams during his time at the University of Texas, you're no doubt aware that coming out of college, he was thought to be the next great running back in the NFL. Looking back at his career statistics, it's easy to see that Williams possessed a unique talent unlike most of his peers. This was a guy who hit the 1000-yard rushing mark five separate times in his career. Unfortunately, Ricky Williams was never one to abide by the rules of the NFL, and his decision to do drugs ultimately stunted what was intended to be a stellar career.
Throughout his career, Ricky Williams had several failed drug tests that landed him in hot water with the league. He's a massive advocate for cannabis use, and many people think that he stayed away from the NFL to indulge in this type of lifestyle. Unfortunately, this former Heisman winner will always be a "what if" story instead of going down as one of the greatest running backs of his generation.
11 Jon Jones - Hit And Run
How is it possible that such a dominant athlete can continue to ruin his career with one blunder after the next? For all intents and purposes, Jon Jones should be considered the greatest MMA fighter of all time, and it shouldn't even be close. Possessing the size, speed, and skill to wipe out the upper echelon of his division, John Jones has run roughshod through the UFC. Thanks to his lack of self-awareness outside of the UFC, however, Jon Jones will leave behind one of the most tarnished legacies to ever be a part of the sport.
Jones has been busted in the past for cocaine use, and this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his personal problems. Jones was also involved in an infamous hit-and-run accident, in which he fled the scene after smashing his car into another vehicle that was being driven by a pregnant woman. Jones would go on to serve time for his crime, and every time he was knocked down, he would dust himself off and dominate in the UFC once again. Recently, Jones tested positive for a banned substance and was once again stripped of his title.
10 Ray Rice - Domestic Abuse
It's rare to see many three-time Pro Bowl selectees destroy their career, but such is the case of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. The former second-round selection was a stalwart in the Ravens offense, and he was instrumental in the team's success en route to winning a Super Bowl. Ray Rice was reaching the prime of his career, and fans were eager to see what he would be bringing to the table. The two-time second-team All-Pro was considered one of the better running backs in the NFL, and one decision completely ruined his life.
In 2014, Rice was arrested after assaulting his wife in a hotel elevator. When the video surfaced, fans were able to see what unfolded, and Rice has been out of the NFL ever since. No team is willing to give him a chance in fear of the backlash that would come with having Rice on the team. During his brief career, Ray Rice hit the 1000-yard mark on four separate occasions, and he racked up a total of 37 rushing touchdowns in his career.
9 Chris Benoit - Brain Damage Caused Devastating Events
When someone is blacklisted by the WWE, the company seems to do everything in its power to make it seem like the person never existed in the first place. We get this to an extent, but the WWE's decision to try and forget what Chris Benoit accomplished in the ring is a travesty. When he was still performing as a professional wrestler, there were few people on the planet who were as talented in the ring as Chris Benoit. Whether he was performing in WCW or WWE, Benoit had a tenacious style that compensated for his lack of size. In an organization where big men are pushed to the top, Chris Benoit was a shining example of what hard work and determination can get you.
In 2007, the wrestling world was flipped upside down after news broke that Chris Benoit had murdered his wife and child in their home. After committing the murders, Benoit then committed suicide. The news spread like wildfire, and the wrestling world has never been the same since. Subsequent tests on his brain showed a massive amount of damage, and many people think that this could've caused Chris to behave in such a way. In most wrestling circles, Benoit is considered a great, but the WWE has tried wiping him and his accomplishments off of the face of the planet.
8 Darryl Strawberry - Substance Abuse
Though he's considered one of the better players of his era, Darryl Strawberry just couldn't seem to get it together throughout his career. We're talking about a guy who has 1000 career RBIs, and he also racked up 335 home runs in his career. Boasting eight All-Star selections and four World Series titles, Darryl Strawberry accomplished more than what 99% of other players in baseball history have. Despite putting up some incredible numbers and boasting some of the most impressive accomplishments in MLB history, Darryl Strawberry is perhaps best known for his antics off the field than his accomplishments on the field.
Conflicts with teammates, run-ins with the law, and failed drug tests were a recipe for disaster for Strawberry, and we can't help but wonder how his career would've been looked at now if he had avoided all of that trouble. It's true: regardless of what you accomplish on the field, if your personal life is a disaster, expect to pay a hefty price.
7 Len Bias - Overdose
Len Bias is perhaps the most tragic story of someone never reaching his potential due to poor decision-making. Coming out of college where he dominated at the University of Maryland, Len Bias was seen as a can't-miss prospect, and he was taken with the number 2 overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. The Boston Celtics were incredibly excited to have gotten Bias, and they had huge plans for the budding superstar. But, just two days after Bias was taken by the Boston Celtics, tragedy struck.
Len Bias tragically overdosed on coke, and he ultimately lost his life due to cardiac arrhythmia. The entire sports world was shaken after the news broke, and Len Bias became a cautionary tale for all of those looking to indulge in drugs. He was only 22 years old when he died, and he left behind a legacy that never reached its true potential. Bias had it all, and his decision to do drugs cost him and his family dearly.
6 Todd Marinovich - Substance Abuse
For most of their existence, the Oakland Raiders have carried around a negative stigma about the type of players they allow on the team. Many players who played for the Raiders in the 1970s and 1980s were considered renegades looking for a second chance in the NFL. Under Al Davis's banner, these hooligans would find a common purpose in bringing glory to the Silver and Black, and the Raiders decision to draft quarterback Todd Marinovich was fitting for the time. Marinovich had a reputation that preceded him during his time at USC, and many wondered how he would fare once he reached the NFL.
Marinovich had plenty of run-ins with the law, and he's even admitted to doing drugs before taking the field. His wild antics ultimately led to Marinovich having a disappointing career, and he was virtually exiled from the NFL. Sadly, Marinovich has continued to have a number of personal problems, but many are still hopeful that he can get his life together.
5 Greg Hardy - Domestic Abuse
When your nickname on the football field is "the Kraken," you have quite the reputation to live up to. When it came to performance on the field, few men in the NFL possessed the talent and the tenacity of Greg Hardy. He was a dominant force for the Carolina Panthers during his time with the team, and in 2013, Hardy was selected to the Pro Bowl and was a second-team All-Pro selection. He amassed 15 sacks that year, and many saw him as the new breed of pass rushers in the NFL. The next year, however, everything going right for Hardy would come to a screeching halt.
Greg Hardy was arrested for assaulting an ex-girlfriend and threatening to kill her. Because this was violence against a woman, the NFL was swift to deny Hardy the chance to play. Hardy would end up getting suspended for 10 games during the 2015 season. The following year, he was arrested for possession, and from the looks of things, this transgression will be the final nail in the coffin of a once-promising career.
4 Gilbert Arenas - Firing A Weapon
Back before the Golden State Warriors were the dominant force in the NBA that they are now, they were nothing more than a run-of-the-mill team. Despite their lack of success, the Warriors did have a lot of talent, and Gilbert Arenas may have been the most talented person on those Warriors teams. He would end up spending time on several squads during his time in the NBA, and Arenas was an incredibly talented player. He was a three-time NBA All-Star, and in 2003, Arenas picked up the award for Most Improved Player. Though he was never on the level of Tracy McGrady or Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas was a fantastic player, but once he made a boneheaded decision, his career never fully recovered.
After it had come to light that Arenas had unloaded a firearm in his locker, all hell broke loose in the NBA, and his career was severely stunted for the incident. Arenas was suspended for the better part of the season, and his career began to unravel at an alarming rate. He's been retired since 2013 after playing professionally in China, and he's since become an afterthought in the minds of NBA fans.
3 Mike Tyson - Prison Sentence
There was once a point in time when stepping into the ring with Mike Tyson was equivalent to signing your own death certificate, and Tyson's reputation preceded him each time he stepped into the ring. The former champion started off his career with 37 consecutive victories, and virtually no one made it out of these bouts without getting knocked out. Iron Mike was the king of the boxing world, and Tyson was tracking to be the most dominant boxer of his era, if not of all time.
During the prime of his career, Tyson was sentenced to serve six years behind bars, and his career was never the same. He was alleged to have committed crimes against a woman, and he instantly became a villain in the media. While he ultimately served less than 3 years, it was clear that Tyson wasn't the same fighter afterward. He rattled off a few successful fights before Evander Holyfield effectively put a swift end to Tyson's domination.
2 Plaxico Burress - Shot Himself
Let's preface this entry on our list by saying that Plaxico Burress was never considered one of the best receivers in the NFL. During his professional career, he was never selected to a single Pro Bowl, but he was a good receiver who had plenty of upside. On four separate occasions, Plaxico crossed the 1,000-yard receiving mark, and in 2007, he hauled in 12 touchdowns. The best years of his career were split between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants, and he eventually won a Super Bowl with the latter.
Plaxico is most famous for a 2008 incident wherein he accidentally shot himself in the thigh at a nightclub. Yes, he literally shot himself, and this affected the rest of his career. He served less than 2 years in prison, and he eventually made his way back into the NFL, finishing his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
1 Jamarcus Russell - Drug Abuse
The name "JaMarcus Russell" still sends shivers down the spines of Raiders fans a full decade after he was drafted by the team. Russell was selected with the number-one overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, and his disastrous career in the NFL has given him the stigma of being the biggest bust in NFL history. He only managed to be in the NFL for 3 years, and he threw more interceptions than touchdowns during his time with the Raiders. He was lazy and selfish, and he showed little desire to put in the necessary work to be a successful football player. Russell was more concerned with the amount of money he would be receiving, and he began his NFL career with the hold out for more money.
If this wasn't a poor enough start to his career, Russell also admitted to spending plenty of time doing drugs while suiting up for the Raiders, and combined with his poor attitude, Russell was quickly exiled from the NFL. He had spent several years trying to make a comeback, but teams weren't willing to give the biggest bust in NFL history a second shot.