Everyone who has experience holding a job knows there will be some bad days. It’s normal to have ups and downs, although consistently doing this will eventually put a person’s job at risk. Even professional athletes can’t avoid consequences when they disappoint the pubic after many poor performances, or when they repeatedly participate in illegal activities. These things can negativity impact their financial earnings, celebrity status, brand, and public opinion. In some cases, athletes even experience getting cut by the team they’re on when they can’t step up and contribute.
While some of these recognizable stars are able to bounce back after losing fame and fortune, that’s often not the case. A few go into hiding never to be heard of again, transition into a different career path, or simply fail at trying to make a comeback. Here’s a list of 10 of the most disappointing athletes.
10. Anna Kournikova
Anna Kournikova was one of the most recognizable athletes in 2000 when she ranked number eight in the world of female tennis players. However, many people don’t know that the beauty never won a WTA singles title. She was defeated by Venus Williams in her first WTA Tour singles final at the Miami Open. Then, Anna lost to Martina Hingis in her second WTA tour final at the Tier I Family Circle Cup. Although the Russian tennis player was the top searched athlete in the world on Google for years, she never achieved that level of success on the court. At the age of 21, Anna surprised millions and retired due to many health issues dealing with her back and spine. In the end, her singles record was 209-129. She had a much better record as a doubles player. Since retiring, Anna has played tennis mainly for charity events and also joined NBC’s The Biggest Loser as a regular celebrity trainer.
9. Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was an outstanding college basketball player, which was clear after being selected as a sophomore to the 1992 USA Basketball Developmental Team that practiced daily against the 1992 Olympic Team. In his third year at Memphis State, Deon chose to skip his senior year to enter the 1993 NBA Draft where he was the third pick in the first round, going to the Golden State Warriors. He ended up playing his rookie year on the Orlando Magic, and took over the main point guard role by mid-season. Deon lead his team to its first playoff appearance and 50-win season. During the 1994-1995 season, he made an appearance in the Finals with Shaquille O’Neal and averaged over 20 points per game in the series.
Then, Deon suffered a terrible left knee injury in the 1997-98 NBA season that required surgery and caused him to miss the entire season. In 1999, he was traded to the Phoenix Suns where he had to deal with more injuries relating to his foot and knee. Although he played well in the 2001-2001 season, the All-Star was benched for the first time in his career. He was eventually traded to the New York Knicks after his performance declined, and then back to Orlando Magic. But, they wanted to save money and sent him over to the Miami Heat where he was eventually released less than a year later. He was never able to win a championship.
8. Marion Jones
Many people predicted track and field athlete Marion Jones would win even more gold medals after her performance at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Australia. It was there that she won 3 gold and two bronze medals, and instantly became an inspiration to millions of people. Before her Olympic debut, Marion received a full ride to the University of North Carolina in basketball before deciding to solely focus on track.
Ever since she was in high school, the star athlete was accused of taking performance enhancing drugs. In 2007, she admitted to lying under oath about using steroids before the 2000 Olympics and pleaded guilty at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency also required the “forfeiture of all medals, results, points and prizes.” She was also forced to give back her Olympic medals by the U.S. Olympic Committee. In 2008, Marion was sentenced to six months in jail as part of her plea bargain, which also included her involvement in a check fraud case in which she received money that was illegally gained by her ex-boyfriend. Only five years after breaking records in the 2000 Olympics and receiving multi-million dollar endorsement deals, she announced having no money. After that, Marion played in the WNBA where she signed a multi-year deal.
7. Greg Oden
Former NBA player Steve Kerr once described basketball player Greg Oden as a “once-in-a-decade player” after he made his college debut in 2006. At the age of nineteen, he was voted First Team All-Big Ten and named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. In the Sweet Sixteen, Oden was instrumental in getting Ohio state to advance to the 2007 National Championship. So, when Greg went to the Portland Trail Blazers as the number 1 overall pick, expectations were very high in the 2007-2008 NBA season. He wasn’t able to appear in any games that year due to the surgery that took place on his ailing right knee. In 2009, he injured his knee several times and had to ultimately miss the rest of that season after having surgery on his patella. Then, he had to miss the next season when the Trail Blazers announced he needed to have knee surgery again. Finally, in 2012 he was released by the team and decided to stay out of the NBA for a year to deal with his injuries.
Eventually, he signed a one-year deal with Miami Heat and scored six points in his first game with the team in 2014. The now free agent was also recently charged with “battery resulting in serious bodily injury and two misdemeanor battery counts” according to ESPN. This year, Greg said to his former Ohio State teammate: “I know I’m one of the biggest busts in NBA history, and I know it will only get worse as Kevin Durant continues doing big things. It’s frustrating that my body can’t do what my mind wants it to do sometimes. But worrying or complaining about it isn’t going to fix anything.”
6. Tracy McGrady
Tracy McGrady was named High School Player of the Year by USA Today. Shortly after, he was selected by the Torono Raptors in the 1997 NBA Draft as the ninth overall pick. His first year was terrible, but Tracy eventually signed a multi-million dollar deal with the Orlando Magic. He quickly emerged as one of the best players in the NBA and made his first All-Star Game appearance that year. The following season, his points per game went up and Orlando Magic made another playoff appearance.
In 2004, Tracy was surprisingly traded to the Houston Rockets but failed to find a solid rhythm with his teammates. Although his team made the 2005 Playoffs, Tracy was unable to sustain his great performances and they didn’t make it past the first round. The following few years he suffered from back spasms as well as knee and shoulder problems. He had surgery in 2008 and had to miss the 2009-2010 NBA season. He was eventually traded to the New York Knicks and also played for the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Qingdao Eagles, and the San Antonio Spurs. Tracy McGrady was criticized for not being more of a leader and often made controversial comments. He was never able to win championship to the shock of numerous sports experts, and announced his retirement on the show First Take.
5. Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson made his professional debut in 1985 as an 18-year-old by defeating Hector Mercedes with a first round knockout. After winning 26 out of 28 fights by KO or TKO, he soon became the leading contender to be the next heavyweight champion. He became the youngest heavyweight champion in history at the age of twenty years old. Mike Tyson continued winning numerous fights and even had his own video game. In 1990, he lost his title amidst personal problems, such as his chaotic marriage to actress Robin Givens.
Also, the boxer was convicted of raping Miss Black Rhode Island and served 3 years in prison. After his release, Mike was able to make a small comeback but eventually lost to Holyfield. When the two had a rematch, Mike bit part of Holyfield’s ear off in anger. His boxing license was rescinded and he was fined $3 million in addition to having to pay legal costs. In 2003, Mike filed for bankruptcy and returned to the ring in 2006 to pay off his debts. He’s also struggled with drug problems as well as depression, pleading guilty to the possession of cocaine and driving under the influence in 2007. Mike said the following during an interview: “My whole life has been a waste. I’ve been a failure.”
4. Michael Vick
Michael Vick was a standout football player in high school, college, and the NFL. He was drafted first overall in the NFL in 2001 to the Atlanta Falcons where he lead them to two playoff appearances. He also became the first quarterback to ever rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season. It seemed like Michael could do no wrong in the eyes of fans until he plead guilty to federal charges involving a dog fighting investigation. He admitted to killing many dogs and having involvement in the dog fights. Michael ended up serving time in jail, but managed to get signed to the Philadelphia Eagles after being released.
In 2008, he filed for bankruptcy and owed millions of dollars to numerous people and banks. He wasn’t able to get the Philadelphia Eagles to a competitive level, and joined the New York Jets in 2014 as a backup quarterback. Rumors had been spreading that he didn’t look good in practice, and that showed when he had a dismal performance in a recent NFL game. He still owes creditors money and has to follow a strict financial plan in order to avoid anymore lawsuits against him. The once highly competitive and top earning football player is now content with playing a backseat on the New York Jets, which he’s told numerous news outlets.
3. Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong inspired the world after beating cancer and going on to win the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times. When he retired in 2011, he was under investigation involving doping allegations, which he denied. The following year, the United States Anti-Doping Agency announced the cyclist had been given a lifetime ban from competition in all sports following the World Anti-Doping Agency. The report they wrote said Lance lead “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” He was also stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. Although he denied drug use throughout his career, Lance did not appeal the decision. He finally admitted to doping during an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2013. His use of performance-enhancing drugs came to the surprise of many people since Lance always mentioned never having any positive drug tests in his career. After the USADA’s report came out, all of his sponsor’s dropped him and he reportedly lost $75 million in a day.
2. Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods, arguably one of the greatest golfers ever to play the game, was always known to have a squeaky clean image. While attending Stanford, he achieved great success and went pro after two years at the prestigious university. He immediately received numerous endorsement deals and went on to receive an award for Sportsman of the Year from Sports Illustrated in 1996. He won his first major, The Masters, the following year becoming the youngest ever to do that. In 2004, Tiger married and started a family.
He was on the top professionally until an infidelity scandal came out and his wife attacked him with a golf club outside their home. The public soon found out the famous golfer had numerous affairs with women, many of them sharing their stories with news outlets. It wasn’t long before various sponsors pulled away from Tiger and ended their relationship with him, such as General Motors and AT&T. In 2010, Tiger and his wife decided to file for divorce. Since that time, he hasn’t achieved the success he had after leaving Standford. Tiger has had back and knee problems in addition to changing his swing coach. While most thought he would break the record for most major wins, now that doesn’t seem likely based on his inconsistent performances over the last four years.
1. Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow was a football star in college and won the Heisman trophy in 2007. He was known for his great leadership skills and positive attitude around teammates. When he joined the NFL, the Denver Broncos ended up taking him. Tim was a backup quarterback and received tons of criticism for not being able to throw very well. In fact, many football experts and sports figures predicted he wouldn’t do well in the NFL. Although he had a few promising moments in 2012, he still ended the season with the lowest passing completion rate in the NFL. Tim was eventually traded to the New York Jets where he never started and wasn’t used much in actual games. The New England Patriots took an interest in Tim and had him sign a contract with them only to be cut a few months later in 2013. In a statement after being released he said, “I will remain in relentless pursuit of continuing my lifelong dream of being an NFL quarterback.”
He now works for ESPN as a college analyst.
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