When an athlete finds success in the world of sports, they're thrown into the glamorous world of celebrity with big paychecks, fans, companionship, parties, and more. Whether they were recruited from college, or picked up because of natural talent, they are thrown into a foreign world of fame and fortune. Typically diving into this brave new world young, with little life experience, they may find themselves hitting many speed bumps over the span of their careers. Many of us bystanders believe that the life of an athlete is enviable - they can make a living doing what they love, training, playing the game, earning huge paychecks from sponsorships and more. But in reality, sometimes these sports stars' lives are turbulent and even tragic.
So, when an athlete hits rock bottom - whether it’s in their careers or their personal lives - they may find themselves back in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, as an unforgiving world witnesses their demise. The higher an athlete rises to fame, the harder the fall should they ever experience the ever-present possibility of dreaded failure.
The following ten athletes were some of the most widely-publicised incidents of sports stars who truly hit rock bottom at some point in their careers: Whether it’s a lull in their game playing time, getting caught in a lie, drug abuse, or marriages falling apart by their own hand, these athletes had a long way to go to build their careers back up, and some still haven't recovered from their time at the bottom.
10 Tiger Woods
9 Ray Williams
The story of Ray Williams is both tragic and inspiring as it shows that anyone can bounce back after a setback. After his NBA career ended, Williams found himself struggling financially to the point where he filed for bankruptcy in 1994. By 2010, Williams found himself homeless and living in his car. Once the Boston Globe picked up on his story, his former teammates banded together to help him get back on his feet. With that help, Williams was able to return to his hometown, find a place to live, and a job. Sadly, Williams passed away in March of 2013.
8 Antoine Walker
7 Michael Vick
6 Darryl Strawberry
5 Manny Ramirez
4 Matt Leinart
3 Dwight Gooden
2 Vin Baker
Vin Baker’s career started out fast and furious, as a much sought after athlete post-college. While playing for the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1998-1999 season, Baker admitted that he started binge drinking, which began to affect his game. Players admitted to smelling alcohol on his breath at practice. Baker gained weight and eventually weighed over 300 pounds, which affected the way he played the game. He fell out of the media spotlight, and was no longer an all-star player. He was eventually traded to Boston, but was later released. He would play for several more teams before he eventually retired.
1 Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong may have had the roughest descent ever to rock bottom. He was once the symbol of perseverance, strength, humility, and courage, inspiring millions of people around the world. Between 1999 and 2005, Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times in a row. He also dealt with testicular cancer in 1996, which spread to his brain, abdomen, and lungs but was beaten with chemotherapy and surgery. As a survivor, he started the Livestrong Foundation, which provides support for cancer patients. Armstrong was plagued by rumours of his drug use throughout his career - rumours which he consistently denied - but in 2011, it came to light that Armstrong was indeed using performance enhancing drugs at the time of his wins, and in 2012, all of his wins and titles were stripped from him, which he did not contest against. Armstrong was also given a lifetime ban from competition.