Whether an athlete plays on a team or in an individual sport, attitude is an important factor. No one wants to be around someone who is consistently throwing fits and attacking everyone from opponents to fellow teammates both on and off the field.
There are some players who act as a glue on their team and bring everyone together. They make good locker room speeches and they always have the right snippet to mutter in the down-trodden huddles when the scoreboard seems to predict an utterly hopeless outcome. They’re the kind of players that make a positive contribution to their team on a level beyond the statistics and the scoreboard.
There are other players, however, who seem to do their best to cause as much tension as they possibly can. They seem to feel no responsibility to control their impulses and are often a fire storm of friction, wreaking havoc on their team and – in the age of such heavy media scrutiny – ultimately, themselves.
Talent can, sometimes unfortunately, sweep a lot under the rug. A star athlete will get a lot more free passes than the third-stringer who is throwing tantrums. However, sometimes even all the talent in the world can’t help a bad attitude. Honorable mention to DeMarcus Cousins who will most likely be a fixture on this list if he continues in the vein that he has.
10 Johnny Manziel
It’s rare for someone to make such a splash before they’ve even made it into the pros, but Johnny “Football” Manziel certainly has. Brian Urlacher has called him out for acting like “a punk” in games. He’s been caught pretending to sign autographs as a victory taunt after a tackle. Related to that, he’s been in a scandal for violating NCAA rules by supposedly accepting money for signing autographs. He’s overslept for football camp, been kicked out of frat parties and generally just caused a lot of uproar for someone in his position. He’s got a lot of skill, but he’s also got a lot to learn when it comes to making good decisions when he’s in the spotlight. Perhaps it’s a youth thing and he’ll grow out of it. However, seeing the trajectory that a lot of players take when fame gets to their head, it seems far more likely that he’ll be learning increasingly obnoxious ways to sign his autograph wherever and whenever he can.
9 DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins, a young NBA player with the Sacramento Kings, certainly hasn't wasted any time. His focus, however, is not on improving himself on the court, but seemingly on testing how much bad behavior will be tolerated. The Kings suspended Cousins in 2012 "for unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team," as General Manager Geoff Petrie stated to the press. They're keeping Cousins around because of his skill - for now. However, though he seems to fit what the Kings need on their team, he's definitely not untouchable and will certainly get traded if he doesn't shape up. At this early stage in his career, though his talent is undeniable, he needs to be listening to his coaches and team mates rather than constantly starting conflict with them. He's young, fresh to the NBA, and definitely has a lot of maturing to do as he learns how to keep his attitude in check.
8 Randy Moss
Moss definitely has a fiery personality – the Minnesota Vikings booted him after too many little stunts, causing him to be traded to Oakland back in the day. He’s refused to talk to the media numerous times, which is essentially against league policy (he was once fined $25,000 for this behavior). Moss is undoubtedly talented. Any problems he’s had have not been a result of his skill, but rather a result of his mouth: either because of his comments and outspoken remarks, or because of his refusal to address the media (or rude, often obnoxious dismissal of them)
7 Michael Vick
Vick is a master of the blame game, and when things went wrong he was quick to point the finger at anyone else – his team mates, the media, anyone. Oh, yeah, and in case anyone forgot – he had an illegal dogfighting ring. The New York Jets recently signed Vick to a one year contract. Accompanying this news was a flurry of pieces from a variety of media outlet that sought to remind the public of the fact that, though it may have been a few years ago, Vick hurt a lot of innocent animals and that’s still not okay. However, it should be noted that he has sought to repair a lot of the damage he has done through charitable work.
6 John McEnroe
Tennis could not have invented a better villain if they had tried. When you think McEnroe, you definitely don’t think well behaved – he’s known as the bad boy of 1970s tennis for a reason. It would be easier to say what McEnroe didn't do than what he did – while on the court he’s cursed like a sailor, thrown his racket around, fought with umpires, and generally just caused huge and unnecessary scenes. While no one has a definitive number, a lot of his earnings during his prime are thought to have gone to paying back all the fines for his misconduct. Despite being ranked number one at one point in his prime, McEnroe’s attitude also cost him a lot of endorsement deals, as many companies didn’t want their products associated with him. If you ever see a frustrated young tennis player throw their racket to the ground, they’re not being immature – they’re just McEnroeing.
5 Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod gets a spot for his utter, unchecked arrogance. Athletes, with fans constantly cheering them on in packed stadiums, are likely more prone to ego inflation than most. However, Rodriguez takes the idea of a god complex to the extreme with his sense of entitlement and expectation of infinite admiration.
4 Claude Lemieux
Lemieux was known for his bad attitude both on and off the ice. On the ice, he was notorious for his cheap shots – while hockey is an aggressive sport and there is a fair bit of harsh checking, Lemieux would deny his opponents even the customary NHL respect by hitting them from behind. He was also notorious for his attitude off the ice. He did a lot of trash-talking and wore out his welcome on multiple teams.
3 Michael Jordan
Many say he’s one of the best to ever dunk. What he wasn't, it seems, is a nice guy. Jordan wasn't always the greatest to his team mates, with one incident in particular with Bill Cartwright often the most cited. Jordan made so many insulting and offensive comments to Cartwright – in front of all his team mates – that Cartwright later pulled him aside and basically had to let him know that wasn't acceptable behavior. Speaking of unacceptable behavior, he once punched Will Perdue in PRACTICE for screening him too hard. In practice. Straight up punched him in the face. He’s also had fairly serious issues with gambling and womanizing. This doesn't make him any less of an athlete, but people tend to paint him as a golden-haloed superstar, when in reality he’s just as flawed a human as anyone else.
2 Sean Avery
Sean Avery, a former NHL hockey player, had a reputation back in his prime of being a bit of a jerk. In hockey, there’s always a role for the catalyst, the agitator, who draws members of the opposing teams into fights; it’s an exciting part of the game when the gloves get thrown to the ice. But Avery took that to a new level when he was on the ice. He has purportedly bandied a racial slur at Georges Laraque (though he has always denied this), fought with coaches, and criticized the NHL – the organization that employed him – so vehemently that he was fined. He has yelled at fans and opposing players alike, and attacked other players on a dirty and personal level (such as his infamous comment to Dion Phaneuf about sloppy seconds, which insulted both Phaneuf and his then girlfriend, now wife, actress Elisha Cuthbert). He’s generally not a fan favorite, and it’s not because of his lack of skill.
1 Terrell Owens
Oh, T.O. In a trend that’s pretty prevalent on this list, he’s another player who is incredibly talented yet has had a lot of trouble in the league because of his attitude. No matter how good you are on the field, if you’re constantly stirring up trouble off the field, no one is going to want you on the team. Owens has celebrated touchdowns by disrespectfully posing on the opposing team’s logo and autographed the game ball in-game. He has mocked the celebration dances of other players (notably Ray Lewis), commented in interviews about the inadequacy of his multi-million dollar contract (so scarce he could hardly feed his family, apparently), been suspended for attitude in training camp, insulted his own franchise and team mates, and spit in DeAngelo Hall’s face. There’s not much he hasn’t done.