Sports fans have the romantic notion that all of their athletic heroes love what they do. However, the opposite is often the truth. Some genuinely do want to build a legacy but many just want to make as much money as possible. At the end of the day, money makes the world go around.
Furthermore, some stars are more honest than others about their relationship with their trade. They have outside passions that they love more than their day-to-day job. Others just do it because they’re good at it and it’s worth it in the short term. Overall, an elite career is short so they want to maximize the profit. Check out the list of 25 athletes who had no love for their sport via the Sportster below.
35. Andrew Luck
Football broke Luck’s love for football by inflicting savage abuse on his body. The former Colts star retired at the age of 29 because he suffered so many injuries. One of the best quarterbacks in the league, Luck fell out of love with the NFL because he wanted to avoid taking insurmountable damage. The 2018 NFL Comeback Player of the Year posted the best numbers of his career in 2018 after missing all of 2017.
Born into a wealthy family, football was never all about the money for Luck. But in the end, he had to make a choice. He decided to put his health before the game and left it before it irrevocably changed his life for the worse. He had enough money to live a happy life and planned to travel the world. Nobody can blame him for that because he only has one chance.
A five-time Pro Bowler, Martin spent his career with the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. After a stunning career, the former running back entered the Hall of Fame in 2011. His speech was one of the most thoughtful and pragmatic in the ceremony’s history. First of all, he claimed to feel awkward at these types of occasions because he didn’t love the sport like many of his fellow inductees.
“Most of these guys have lived for the game of football, and eat, breathe, sleep football. And I was someone who was somewhat forced to play football,” said Martin. However, he said that his mother recognized his gift and pushed him to play for the betterment of his district. In short, he played for other people and not for himself, which was a massive sacrifice considering the physical toll.
Jeter’s relationship with the New York Yankees was one of ruthless efficiency. He spent 20 years in the Bronx, where he won five World Series titles. A 14-time All-Star, he also won five Silver Slugger Awards as well as five Gold Glove awards. In short, Jeter was very good. Shockingly though, he didn’t love baseball as a sport but took it very seriously as a job.
This obviously paid dividends for him because he earned a lot of success and made a lot of money. When he retired, he openly admitted that he never watched the game and couldn’t care less who was winning the AL. This changed when he became a part-owner of the Miami Marlins, but it still shows how his relationship with the sport was purely about financial gain rather than the love of the game.
A four-time NFL Pro Bowler, Foster was a superb running back. He played most of his career with the Houston Texans before moving to the Miami Dolphins at the end of his career. However, he fell out of love with the sport over the course of his time in the NFL. It was his dream to make it on the biggest stage, but the actuality of it all wasn’t as glamorous as he thought it would be.
He told Michael Rapaport: “I watch zero football. I swear. Of course, I used to be a super fan growing up. Once you see the business side, you see it differently.” It’s sad the way the professional aspect of sports often affects their athletes in a negative way and removes the joy. But unfortunately, that is the reality for many pros. In the end, money makes the world go around.
Bale became the most expensive soccer player of all-time when he moved to Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspurs in 2013. Spectacularly talented, the Welsh attacker has had unbelievable success in the game. However, his love for golf is notorious because he admits that he prefers it to soccer. “I don’t watch much football (soccer),” he told BBC Sport. “I’d sooner watch the golf, to be honest.”
Furthermore, he plays a lot of golf in his free time. This led to his teammates labeling him ‘the golfer.’ Many Real Madrid fans criticized him because he loved the game so much. This led to Welsh fans creating a flag with the slogan, “Wales-Golf-Madrid… In That Order.” Needless to say, this did not amuse the Madrid fans. Bale shrugged his shoulders because it was true.
Pendred was a part of the Irish wave that surged through MMA during the rise of Conor McGregor. The former Cage Warriors welterweight champion fought six times in the UFC but lost his last two fights. These back-to-back defeats prompted him to change his lifestyle. He decided to retire from the sport because it was no longer his driving motivation in life.
“I now find that my passion is no longer what it was and I feel that it is time for me to move on. I have other interests that I want to pursue,” Pendred told assembled media in 2015. Since his retirement at the age of 28, Pendred has moved into acting. He also has an MBA and is a successful entrepreneur. It’s difficult to do something without any love for it.
In Rendon’s own words, “I don’t watch baseball. It’s too long and boring.” The now-former Washington Nationals star won the World Series in 2019. He’s also made the All-Star and All-MLB team the same year. But despite his successes in the game, Rendon still doesn’t love the sport. There’s a major difference between playing it and watching it.
When he plays, he is fully immersed in what is happening. Rendon doesn’t watch the game because he doesn’t have any personal investment in it. Most people expect elite athletes to be totally obsessed with their sport in all capacities. However, this simply isn’t true. In Rendon’s world, it’s a job that he is very good at and enjoys. But he doesn’t bring work home.
To say that Keice hates football is wrong. There are elements of the game that he loves. First and foremost, the camaraderie with his teammates in the locker room is the best part. Then there is the actual experience of winning, although he hasn’t felt that very often recently as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. But like many other players, there is a part of the game that he hates.
He told reporters, ‘this job sucks.’ As a four-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion, it may be surprising for him to say this. However, the reality is that football takes a brutal physical toll upon its athletes, and centers like Keice feel like they’re playing in a meat grinder every game. It’s not fun when they are permanently in pain.
Fleming belongs to a special group of NFL stars who won four or more Super Bowl rings. The former University of Utah standout was a spectacular success during his time with the Miami Dolphins and the Green Bay Packers. The linebacker spent 12 seasons in the league and won two rings apiece with both franchises. However, he fell out of love with the game after retirement.
In Fleming’s opinion, there is more to life than football. He refuses to speak about his Super Bowl wins because people define him by those successes. Fleming told Deseret News: “once you get out in life, and start seeing what life is about, helping other people … things like that are a big thing to me.” Now he tries to help bankrupt former players and sees that as more important than the game.
Ter Stegen is Barcelona’s first-choice goalkeeper and a regular German international. However, he admits that he doesn’t love soccer. That’s not to say that he doesn’t enjoy playing, because he definitely does. But, the immensely talented goaltender says that soccer isn’t the be-all to end-all. In fact, aside from being an excellent athlete, he says he doesn’t know anything about the sport.
If he has a friend playing or the game is a major occasion then he will watch it. However, he usually doesn’t bother. In 2020, he told El Pais: “People laugh when I tell them I don’t know anything football. I don’t really watch much football, other than games that look good or when I’ve got a personal interest because someone I know is playing.”
One of the most recognizable combat sports and entertainment figures on the planet, Lesnar draws massive viewing figures wherever he is. Firstly, most people associate him with the WWE where he has spent the majority of his career. However, he was also the UFC heavyweight champion.
But Lesnar doesn’t love MMA or professional wrestling. As you can tell from his negotiations during periods of free agency, he’s all about the money. Of course, he is a professional and does his job well. While he enjoys violence, he didn’t love people punching him in the face.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Mathis is one of many NFL stars past and present who maintain a love-hate relationship with their sport. First of all, they are grateful for the financial opportunities it provides them. However, it definitely takes its toll in other ways, primarily on their bodies.
For this reason, Mathis is one of many footballers who says that he never wants his child to play the game.“I don’t want him to,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “He doesn’t have to play any sport, as far as I’m concerned, but if he does get into it, football will be the last thing I introduce him to.”
Bynum was the youngest-ever player in the NBA and also won back-to-back rings with the LA Lakers. However, he definitely didn’t love basketball. First, the sport wrecked his knees so he always resented it after that. His injuries meant that he never played during his single season with the 76ers.
Then he moved to Cleveland. But the team dropped him after a ludicrous practice session. Every time a teammate passed to him, Bynum shot. It didn’t matter how far away from the basket he was, Bynum let fly. The Cavaliers called this conduct detrimental to the team.
Kluwe in high school was the anthesis of the stereotypical football jock. But he became one of the best kickers in the sport and spent eight seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. However, Kluwe had no passion for football outside of being a great professional. He had love for his other interests.
As an activist, his open support for gay rights led him into conflict with the Vikings. Meanwhile, Kluwe adores gaming and is a dedicated World of Warcraft fan. Furthermore, he also plays in a heavy metal garage rock band. In short, he’s the guy the football jocks would have bullied.
Look up Bentley’s 40-yard goal for Tottenham Hotspurs against Arsenal in 2008 and you can see how much talent this man had. Many pundits considered him David Beckham’s heir-apparent. However, Bentley’s career ended very early because he fell out of love with the sport.
He was just 29 when he quit soccer. He blamed the rigid nature of the modern game as the basis for his retirement. It just wasn’t fun for Bentley anymore. Bentley no longer had the motivation to train and travel. Today he owns several businesses around the world and has also appeared on television.
St-Pierre’s inclusion on this list may appear ludicrous considering his incredible success. Many UFC fans and MMA analysts regard him as the greatest of all-time. The former welterweight and middleweight champion was a brilliant fighter. But somewhat shockingly, he didn’t actually enjoy the violence of the sport.
In short, ‘GSP’ enjoyed learning new skills and developing as an athlete. But he didn’t love MMA’s savagery and the pressure of being in the octagon. However, he came to terms with his and never held back in the cage. ‘Rush’ was all about showing his martial prowess rather than acting like a brutal thug.
Former New Orleans Saints running back Bush stirred up the masses with a controversial tweet in 2011. In short, he revealed his delight because he didn’t have to train during the NFL lockout. This was in stark contrast to the likes of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, who organized practices for their teammates.
“Right about now we would be slaving in 100-degree heat, practicing twice a day, while putting our bodies at risk for nothing,” he tweeted. Many fans berated Bush for his apparent lack of dedication and ambition in the sport. However, it proves that for many players, football is just a job, albeit a very lucrative one.
O’Sullivan is one of the greatest snooker players ever if not the very best. The six-time world champion is also the only player in history to have achieved over 1,000 century-breaks. O’Sullivan is truly a phenomenal talent and we may never see the like of him play again when he retires.
However, O’Sullivan has an extremely tumultuous relationship with his craft. The British player suffers from clinical depression and on multiple occasions has signaled his intention to walk away from the sport. He cites the high pressure as the main basis for this.
In his own words, Leben said that he loves training but not actual competition. This might come as a surprise because he currently competes for the bare-knuckle boxing promotion BKFC. But the former UFC fighter says that fighting isn’t a lifestyle choice and that anyone who says otherwise can’t be telling the truth.
Way back in 2011, Leben spoke to assembled media. “I’ll be honest with you,” he said. “I don’t like fighting. I love the training.” He also thinks that nobody can honestly love the actual fight day itself because of all the nerves and mixed emotions. At the end of the day, money is a major motivation.
Former Tottenham Hotspurs left-back Assout-Ekotto is one of the most forthright athletes on this list. Blessed with incredible hair, the French-born Cameroonian international rattled cages with a statement in 2011. He revealed that he doesn’t hate soccer but it definitely isn’t his passion.
This infuriated some fans but others praised him for his honesty. “Yes, I play for the money but then doesn’t everybody who gets up in the morning and goes to work?” Assou-Ekotto told the Daily Mail. “They do it to provide for their family.” It’s difficult to argue with that.
Former WWE star Punk also spent time with the UFC. Fans mock the latter section of his career but he wanted to fight for a reason. He resented the sports entertainment industry because he couldn’t prove himself to be the best. It was all about the storyline and what would sell.
Then he moved to MMA because he wanted to truly test himself. However, both of his opponents in the UFC battered him yet you can appreciate the effort. We know that professional wrestling isn’t technically a sport, but his profile and lack of love for the industry make him a worthy addition to this list.
Brazilian soccer star Hulk earned cult status because of his muscular frame and nickname to match. After success with FC Porto, analysts predicted that he would have a great career in one of Europe’s top leagues. But he ended up moving to Russia with Zenit St. Petersburg. Why? Only because they offered him a massive salary.
From there, the Brazil international transferred to Chinese Super League team Shanghai SIPG. This may seem like a massive lack of ambition, but it’s difficult to say no to $400,000 a week. At the end of the day, the career of an elite athlete is very short. Some people will decry it, but Hulk is laughing all the way to the bank.
We’ll never know exactly what Michael Jordan said to Brown. However, common belief points to the basketball legend as the reason behind Brown’s inability to fulfill his potential. Witnesses allege that Jordan regularly verbally abused the teenage Brown in front of his teammates, even making him cry.
Brown became one of the worst draft busts in NBA history. But is it really that surprising considering the pressure a living legend put upon him? He drifted around the league without ever making an impact. Brown fell out of love with the sport but had no other option.
Randolph won Olympic gold at the 1976 Games in Montreal. Boxing fans saw the flyweight as a potential legend. His amateur career was up there with the very best. But then he switched to the professional side of the sport, and things started to go wrong.
First, he went 16-1, winning, losing, and reclaiming the WBA Super-Bantamweight strap. Then he took on Sergio Palma but the Argentine battered him until the stoppage in the fifth round. Randolph retired immediately after the crushing loss. The 22-year-old admitted that he lacked the killer instinct.
A former tight end for the Cleveland Browns and the Miami Dolphins, Cameron retired from football at the age of 28. He suffered four concussions and decided that playing on wasn’t worth the long-term health risk. Cameron made at least $20 million from his playing career and was happy with that.
However, Cameron rocked the football world when he came out with an uncomfortable truth. “There’s a few guys that love it,” said Cameron. “Ray Lewis loves football. Peyton Manning. They love it. But a lot of guys don’t really love this game, and there are players that will read this who will understand exactly what I’m talking about.” Not all fans accept this reality, but Cameron deserves respect for his honesty.
Former unified middleweight champion Pavlik was a blue-collar hero in his native Ohio. ‘The Ghost’ was an extremely effective boxer with three title defenses, but he got out of the sport at the right time. He made his millions and explained that he no longer had a love for the sport. This is brave because many boxers fight on for far too long.
Pavlik retired after a fight against Andre Ward fell through. Then he decided enough was enough because it just wasn’t worth it anymore. “When you’re done, you might have brain problems, you might be punchy, you might develop Parkinson’s,” he explained to ESPN in 2011. “Why push it? I don’t need it and my heart’s not in it anymore.”
One fact that fans fail to appreciate is the amount of travel that elite athletes must undertake. Furthermore, they don’t consider the mental strain that this can cause. In short, these fans believe that the players should suck it up because they are rich and famous.
However, even the very best have suffered from this scenario. Delle Donne is a WNBA legend but admitted her struggle with the sport. In 2009 she said, “I blamed basketball for taking me away from home. I hated the sport. Every time I played basketball I felt sick to my stomach.” The reality of professional sports is that they can be extremely lonely.
Zamora is a former Premier League striker and an England international. But he also proves that you can be very good at a sport but not hold much interest in it outside of your own bubble. While he enjoyed playing soccer, he didn’t have the burning passion to immerse himself in it as many other players have.
Some players plan on moving into coaching when they retire but Zamora doesn’t even watch games on his TV at home. He doesn’t hate soccer but nor does he love the game. In sum, it was an important stage of his life but it wasn’t his whole universe like many of his compatriots.
Former UFC fighter Ishihara had an inconsistent record before the MMA promotion dropped him. But he never loved fighting and only wanted to attract girls. Seriously, that’s what he said in a 2016 interview. Now competing for RIZIN in his native Japan, the fairer sex is his main motivation.
Ishihara told Yahoo Sports: “I think I’m most attractive to girls when I’m doing this (fighting). If I thought I was good at something else that would get the girls to pay attention to me, I’d do that.” In sum, it’s probably why he never developed into the fighter he could have been. But at least he’s having a good time.
Daly had a lot of fans in the early days of his career because he came from a blue-collar background and was about as real a man as you could find in golf. He won the PGA Championship and The Open Championship to real star status in the early ’90s but has fallen from grace.
But he fell out of love with the sport and into an addictive lifestyle. Daly drinks alcohol like a fish in water and as a result has suffered several messy incidents. Now instead of being a blue-collar hero, he’s a caricature of his former self. In sum, it’s a pity because he had massive talent.
DiMaggio is an American icon but the truth is that one of baseball’s biggest legends didn’t truly love his sport. However, he was extremely good at it as his record 56-game hitting streak attests. But his biographer, Richard Ben Cramer says that ‘Joltin’ Joe’ just saw it as a way to make money.
Furthermore, he wrote that DiMaggio even sold his medals and trophies before reporting them stolen so the New York Yankees would give him new ones. This book left the nation reeling when it first came out because it damaged the American hero’s myth. It’s easy to judge these athletes, but how many people stay in their regular jobs because of the money?
Definitely not the most famous name on this list, Supple is nevertheless a very interesting story. To all intents and purposes, it looked like the young Irishman was living the dream as an up-and-coming goalkeeper for the Championship soccer team Ipswich Town in the UK. Who wouldn’t want to play professional soccer at an elite level?
Coaches touted him as a future international and Premier League star. However, he missed his native Ireland and quit the sport despite his bright future. Instead, he returned home to play amateur Gaelic football. Supple was just 22 at the time so this was a unique move. He decided that family and happiness was more important than all of the riches in the world.
Jackson is a former UFC light heavyweight champion. He first earned popularity during his time with Japanese promotion PRIDE. His combination of violence and sheer brutality made him a fan favorite. However, the truth is that the former A-Team movie star never loved the sport.
His main love is gaming. He prefers to spend his days smoking marijuana and playing videogames rather than training and fighting. Competing helped him to earn the money to make a very comfortable life for himself. But it never felt like it was his purpose in life.
It’s rare that an athlete can be so successful yet maintain such contempt for their own sport. Yet that was exactly Eubanks’ situation as one of the best boxers on the planet. The British former WBO middleweight champion once went unbeaten for 43 fights but still claims that he ‘hates boxing.”
One of boxing’s most eccentric characters, Eubank described the sport as a “mug’s game” and also pointed to the fact that many fighters end up injured and disfigured. However, despite this, he supports his son in his endeavor to become a recognized world champion in the sport.
Did anybody have more of a love-hate relationship with their sport than Agassi? The American experienced extraordinary success in his sport. An eight-time Grand Slam winner, Agassi was also an Olympic gold medallist. But despite this, he claimed to have no love for the sport.
In his 2009 autobiography, he revealed his loathing for his life as a tennis player. “I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have,” he wrote. That’s a shocking thing for an elite athlete to openly admit. Many people hate their jobs but they expect athletes to feel as though they are living the dream.