Fans often hold elite athletes to a higher standard and to a certain degree that’s understandable, but at the end of the day, they’re only human. Many of them possess incredible physical gifts yet lack the mentality to handle their success stay calm. With former Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Antonio Brown recently having an infamous meltdown, many cases where sports stars freaked out and ruined their careers come to mind.
So today we took a look back at 25 athletes whose life choices and impulsive decisions wrecked their lives. It’s a shame because they had a lot more to offer but created chaos instead. Check out the list below via The Sportster.
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports
25. Isaiah Wilson
Wilson is one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history. The Tennessee Titans selected him in 2020 with their first-round pick. However, it proved to be a disastrous decision because he had no discipline. The offensive tackle had more arrests than actual game appearances for the Titans. In 2020, police attempted to pull him over for speeding. However, Wilson freaked out and led them on a dangerous chase.
Then he broke multiple team regulations and was unable to play. Finally, the franchise gave up and traded him to the Dolphins. Miami wasn’t a good fit for Wilson and he was out after just two weeks. The New York Giants were desperate for a decent offensive lineman. They thought that it was worth the risk because he hailed from Brooklyn. But he slept through team meetings and showed up overweight (via New York Post).
Arenas was one of the Washington Wizards’ biggest stars. But he ruined everything for himself by playing in the world’s most foolish card game. He was on a team flight when the players began the game. Then, he became involved in a dispute with Javaris Crittenton. It escalated and Crittenton threatened to shoot his teammate. Arenas freaked out and told him he’d bring the gun himself.
He did exactly that. Arenas whipped out an unloaded handgun in the team locker room and taunted his teammate. Then, Crittenton took out a pair of loaded weapons from his locker. It was a Mexican standoff. Luckily, the situation fizzled out but they suffered suspensions for their actions. This also signaled a downturn in Arenas’ career (via CBS Sports).
Hernandez’s situation was possibly the most tragic on this list. The former New England Patriots tight end had the potential to be a superstar. Rob Gronkowski doesn’t like talking about him. But the pair were a devastating outlet for Tom Brady through 2011. Sadly, it came to an end because of Hernandez’s dysfunctional nature outside of football (via Fansided).
The tight end murdered his friend Odin Lloyd in 2012. Police believed that Hernandez freaked out after Lloyd discovered the NFL star’s bisexuality. Then he gunned down his victim. Meanwhile, Hernandez had links to multiple other murders. He committed suicide in prison in 2017 after a court acquitted him of two killings. It was a dark end to a grim life.
In 2000, the Bruins played the Vancouver Canucks. Nobody expected this to be one of the most shocking games in NHL history. But that’s what it turned out to be. McSorley was a tough enforcer with a big reputation for fighting in hockey. He even played in the Stanley Cup against the Canadiens one year. However, his career came to an end after a terrible decision (via ESPN).
Donald Brasher successfully beat McSorley in a fight early in the game and taunted the Bruins’ bench. This enraged McSorley and he freaked out. He continuously attempted to fight Brasher again. Finally, he whacked his foe across the head with his stick. Brashear collapsed and had a seizure on the ice. In the end, McSorley received 18 months of probation following a criminal investigation.
Urbina is the first of two Venezuelan baseball players who did prison time for murder-related charges. He enjoyed a few seasons with the Montreal Expos before they traded him to the Red Sox. Ultimately, his career went downhill from here. Finally, he wound up with the Detroit Tigers. However, he didn’t have much of a chance to make an impact. That’s because of his trial for attempted murder.
He was at home in his native Venezuela when he freaked out. Urbina believed that some farmworkers stole a gun from his house. His natural reaction was to grab a machete and attempt to butcher them. He also tried to pour gasoline on them and light them on fire. Unsurprisingly, the Venezuelan court thought that this was a little disproportionate. They threw him in jail for seven years (via SB Nation).
Lochte was one of Team USA’s most prominent figures in Rio 2016. The 12-time medalist attracted headlines for negative reasons after a night out went wrong. Lochte and some of his fellow swimmers claimed that a gang targeted them at gunpoint at a gas station. The former claimed that one thug held a gun to his face and threatened his life.
However, the reality was that the police came to the scene. That’s because Lochte and his posse were drunk and disorderly. Allegedly one of them even urinated on the wall. When the truth emerged, Lochte apologized. “I’m not making me being intoxicated like an excuse, I’m not doing that at all,” Lochte said (via NBC Sports). “It was my fault and I shouldn’t have said it.”
Daley was one of the UK’s most popular MMA fighters. He competed under the UFC banner and came within striking distance of a title shot. ‘Semtex’ had ludicrous knockout power in his punches. He routinely finished opponents via knockout. In 2010, he fought Josh Koscheck in Canada. The pair knew that the winner would fight champion Georges St-Pierre.
This was a controversial bout for several reasons. Firstly, Koscheck appeared to pretend that Daley hit him with an illegal knee. The Englishman lost a point because of this. In the end, Koscheck won the unanimous decision. After the fight, Daley lost his cool and freaked out. He tried to punch Koscheck after the bell. Because of this, the UFC banned him for life (via Sportskeeda).
Odom genuinely had a lot of talent. He spent a significant chunk of his NBA career with the Los Angeles Clippers. Then he moved to Miami before joining the Lakers. In 2009, he married Khloe Kardashian. Suddenly, he received more fame and attention than ever before. Unfortunately, Odom had a lot of problems behind the scenes (via Yahoo).
He used illegal drugs like they were going out of fashion. In 2015, he went to a Las Vegas brothel and spent a weekend using cocaine. He collapsed and went into a coma. Odom and Kardashian were going through a divorce at the time. But the latter put off the legal proceedings until his recovery. Odom returned to basketball but he never had the same influence again.
Richardson had the world at her feet in 2021. The Texan sprinter qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games after a sensational campaign. She was a genuine medal hope before the prestigious event. However, she never even boarded the plane. Richardson tested positive for marijuana less than a month before the tournament. As a result, she suffered an automatic suspension.
She claimed that she freaked out after the death of her biological mother (via Essentially Sports). Many people believed that she deserved an exemption because of her tragedy. Others empathized but believed that she knew the rules. In the end, her decision cost her a dream. Richardson still has the chance to revitalize her career but it’s a long road back to the top.
Johnson was an electrifying wide receiver and a Cincinnati Bengals’ fan favorite. He had a complicated personality but he was a very effective player. Johnson spent most of his 11 NFL seasons with Cincinnati. Then he had an unproductive year with the Patriots before a move to Miami. However, he never played a minute for the Dolphins because of his stupidity.
During a fight with his wife, Johnson freaked out and head-butted her. Video footage emerged and the police arrested him. Miami released him immediately and he became untouchable in the NFL. Johnson had a brief spell in the CFL with Montreal but that was it. He still found ways to make money after he retired from football but he tarnished his reputation (via CNN).
Bertuzzi’s sucker punch against Steve Moore hung over him for his entire career. Fights are very common in the sport of hockey. Indeed, many fans admit that it’s part of the reason why they love the sport. But sometimes it turns nastier than it should. That was exactly the case when the Canucks played the Colorado Avalanche. There’s no excuse for Bertuzzi’s action.
Moore wasn’t an angel because he left his mark on Bertuzzi’s teammate in a previous game. But Bertuzzi grabbed his rival’s jersey before smashing him in the head with a right hand. Moore didn’t see it coming and face planted the ice. It didn’t help that there was an immediate pile-on of players either (via New York Times). However, the referees also deserved criticism because they lost control of the game.
McGregor is one of the most famous athletes in the world. He’s ridiculously wealthy so his inclusion here may appear strange. However, the Irishman’s career suffered a major downturn since 2017. He struggled to cope with the pressures of riches and celebrity. This came to a head in 2020 when he freaked out and punched an older man in a Dublin pub.
This incident alone wasn’t why McGregor’s career plummeted. But it was emblematic of his mindset. The Irishman’s lack of focus resulted in three defeats in four fights (via The Mirror). Meanwhile, he continued to have problems outside the cage. In 2021 he went head-to-head with Machine Gun Kelly at the VMAs. He also allegedly punched a DJ after his daughter’s Christening party.
Baseball is one of the most popular sports in Venezuela. Machado became a major star in his home country after he broke out in MLB. He started his career with the New York Mets before a spell with the Milwaukee Brewers. However, he never achieved his full potential. That’s because he freaked out and ruined his life in one of the craziest incidents on this list.
Machado was involved in a car crash in Caracas in 1991 (via AP News). A woman jumped out of the car to confront him and the MLB star shot her. Finally, he went to jail after evading the authorities for a few weeks. They sentenced him to 12 years behind bars. After his release, Machado became a youth baseball coach in Venezuela. It was a shameful waste of life and talent.
Burress was a talented wide receiver in the NFL. His career-defining moment came when he caught the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLII. However, a lot of people remember him for another reason as he became a figure of fun after a ridiculous incident in 2008. Burress shot himself in the leg and killed off his football career (via Sportscasting).
The wideout was in a nightclub when a handgun he was carrying on his waistband slipped. Burress freaked out and tried to catch it. Then the gun went off and he accidentally shot himself in the leg. The main issue wasn’t the injury but the legal consequences. Law enforcement charged him because he didn’t have a license for the weapon. In the end, he served 20 months in a New York jail.
Balotelli was one of Italy’s most exciting prospects. The striker starred for Inter Milan and attracted the attention of Europe’s giants. However, there were questions about his mentality. These proved to be justified because he’s a lunatic. He once crashed his car into the side of a women’s prison. On another occasion, emergency services raced to his home after he let off fireworks indoors.
After flopping at Liverpool, he moved to Nice. Balotelli revitalized his career in the south of France. He achieved a decent goalscoring record and even had ambitions of playing for Italy again. But then he freaked out and his relationship with coach Patrick Viera broke down (via Sky Sports). This proved damaging for his future because he left the team. Later, he played for increasingly obscure sides across Europe.
Most people hadn’t heard of Matos before the Beijing Games in 2008. However, he entered Olympic folklore after he dramatically freaked out. Matos competed in the 80kg Taekwondo division. He fought a Kazakhstani opponent when he hurt his toe. Taekwondo athletes have one minute to recover. When Matos didn’t stand up, the referee awarded the win to his rival.
Then Matos reacted stunningly. He blasted the official in the head with a roundhouse kick. Incredibly, it was also with his broken toe. Of course, this was a terrible act but it was also special in a strange way (via Havana Times). Matos received a lifetime ban from international competition after the incident. However, Fidel Castro defended his fellow countryman.
Hardy had a decent career in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers. The defensive end had a great 2013 and even made the Pro Bowl. He wasn’t a world-beater but he was consistent. Of course, he wouldn’t be on this list for any good reasons. In 2014, he freaked out and battered his partner. Allegedly, he attempted to strangle her and also threw her onto a pile of guns.
The Panthers released him after a judge found him guilty. However, he didn’t receive any legal punishment because the victim dropped the charges. Finally, after a brief spell with the Dallas Cowboys, he fell out of the NFL. Then he became an MMA fighter and joined the UFC. The promotion attempted to push him but their fans loathed him (via Bleacher Report).
The first significant controversy came when he crashed his vehicle into a pregnant woman (via N.Y. Post). Then he ran away from the scene. But there have been many more incidents. One of the most recent occurred on the same day of his Hall of Fame induction. Later, he freaked out and attacked his wife. Jones has also committed several doping violations and DUIs.
Paralympic athletes rarely experience mainstream fame. However, the brilliance of Oscar Pistorius transcended his sport. He even competed against non-disabled sprinters because he was so fast. The South African was a superstar in his native country. But the world came crashing down around him after he shot his wife. Pistorius’s trial seized global attention.
He killed Reeva Steenkamp when she emerged from the bathroom of their home. Pistorius claimed that he freaked out because he thought there was an intruder. After multiple trials, Pistorius finally went to jail for 15 years. Originally, a judge convicted him of culpable homicide. Then it went to retrial and they upgraded it to murder (via Reuters).
Monzon was a tremendous boxer who became a folk hero in Argentina. He was an undisputed middleweight champion and had an incredible nine successful defenses. But Monzon was a complex individual. The Argentine public loved him despite his intense flaws. Monzon had two wives and many affairs. However, the boxer battered every woman he was involved with.
He even freaked out and attacked the media on multiple occasions. His most controversial moment came in 1988. That’s when he pushed his wife Alicia over the side of a balcony. She died from her injuries and Monzon went to prison for 11 years (via The Independent). Monzon died in a car crash while on temporary release. He was a brilliant boxer but a difficult human being.
Rice was one of the best running backs in the NFL during his heyday. The Ravens star had electric feet and the ability to dance past opponents. He was a three-time Pro Bowler with the franchise and also won a Super Bowl. However, he contrived to ruin his career in the most disgraceful way. In short, Rice freaked out and battered his wife in an Atlantic City casino.
Video footage captured the NFL star dragging her unconscious body from an elevator. He punched her head and slammed her against the side of the elevator. Naturally, this was a major scandal and the NFL made it worse. Roger Goodell failed to punish him properly (via Baltimore Sun). Finally, the Ravens cut him during his suspension. Nobody wanted to touch him after that.
Few figures stirred up as much controversy on the court as Artest. It’s easy to forget that he was genuinely talented. He was a former NBA Defensive Player of the Year as well as a Finals winner. However, his career went downhill after the Malice at the Palace. This brawl between the Pacers and the Pistons was one of the most dramatic in sporting history.
Artest received an 86-game ban for his central role in the chaos (via Business Insider). However, he infuriated his teammates by requesting a trade after it ended. They stood by him throughout the scandal after he freaked out and wreaked havoc. While he had some success after his return, he never made the same impact as before. He became something like a caricature of himself.
There was a time when Woods was one of the most clean-cut athletes on the planet. However, everything changed in 2009. Firstly, he crashed his Cadillac outside his mansion after a night of pills. Then his world spiraled out of control. Dozens of women, including strippers and adult film stars, emerged within a couple of weeks. They claimed to have had affairs with the golfer (via People).
Woods freaked out after this and entered rehab. The scandal came at the worst time because he was also suffering from injuries. He struggled to recapture his brilliance and didn’t win another Major until 2019. Woods should have enjoyed much more success over the years. But he wasn’t in a position to compete for a few years because of his mental and physical conditions.
Sometimes the best thing to do is to stop talking. Unfortunately, nobody told Solo because of her inability to stay quiet. The USWNT goalkeeper was one of the team’s most recognizable faces. She was also extremely vocal and had no problem giving her opinion. In 2016, the USA played Sweden in the Olympic semifinals. Finally, the Nordic nation defeated the defending champions on penalties.
After the game, Solo freaked out and called the Swedes ‘cowards’ because of their defensive performance (via The Guardian). The Swedish coach laughed it off because of the emotion of the occasion. However, the American soccer federation suspended her from playing for the team. This infuriated Solo and her teammates because she was a vocal advocate for equal pay. They wanted to remove her from the public eye.
Brown was already an extremely controversial figure before his wild incident in 2021. That’s because the wide receiver had a history of off-the-field problems. These even included sexual assault allegations and ultimately cost him his Patriots’ career. However, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers recognized his talents and brought him in from the cold. It was a case of the last-chance saloon for the temperamental wideout.
Things went well in his first season as the Bucs won the Super Bowl. But his second year in Florida ended on a sour note. Tampa played the Jets in Week 17 when Brown freaked out. He took off his pads, helmet, and jersey in the third quarter and stormed off. Later, Bruce Arians said that Brown was no longer on the team. However, Brown accused the organization of plotting against him (via Sky Sports) by forcing him to play on an ankle that an MRI proved he needed serious surgery on. The team of course denied that, setting up a potential legal battle between the two sides. Brown’s football future remains in limbo, but it’s difficult to envision him getting more chances.