Comeback Kids: Athletes Who Rose Up From The Depths Of Hell

Darren - July 20, 2023

Comeback Kids: Athletes Who Rose Up From The Depths Of Hell

Darren - July 20, 2023

Sky Sports

Alexandre Pantoja

Pantoja became the UFC flyweight champion in 2023 after he defeated fan-favorite Brandon Moreno. But he instantly captured the hearts of the audience when he called out his father. The Brazilian’s dad abandoned him and his family when Pantoja was a child and this traumatized him. But he rose from the depths of hell to become the best version of himself.

BT Sport

The new champion told the MMA Hour: “What I say in the cage is something like I just want the love of my dad, you know. I just want like feel him. In the week of the fight, I think about the call to my dad and to cover all the scares because when I go to the fight, I want to make like a beautiful moment and I don’t have more bad times (via Sportskeeda).”


Mike Tyson

Tyson has one of the most dramatic stories on this list because he rose from the depths of Hell several times in his life. The former heavyweight champion had a rough childhood and endured bullying. However, he became a relentless machine after someone tore the head off his favorite pigeon.

NBC 29

Later, he endured Don King’s manipulation but the worst was yet to come. He went to prison after a rape conviction that still polarizes the masses today. Some people think he’s inhuman but others believe it was a setup. Nonetheless, Tyson bounced back in astonishing style and remains a massive star today (via The Ring).


Andy Murray

Murray is a UK tennis legend but he has had his fair share of problems over the years. The Scottish star won Wimbledon twice and also has a U.S. Open title to his name. But arguably, he never reached his full potential because of problems with his body. He had an ongoing hip issue that almost caused him to retire several times.

Sky News

Finally, in 2018, he emerged from the depths of Hell when he had a life-changing operation. This prolonged his career by several years when he expected to quit. Murray opened up about living with pain and struggling to perform at a high level. Amazingly, he achieved what he did despite everything (via American Hip Institute).

Sporting News

Drew Brees

Brees was one of the best pure passers that the NFL ever saw. The former Saints quarterback enjoyed the bulk of his career in New Orleans and set many records. However, life wasn’t always easy for the Dallas native because he endured cruel bullying as a child. Brees had a birthmark on his face and it made him an easy target.

NBC Sports

Some children would wilt but Brees was made of sterner stuff and turned it into something positive. He channeled the negative energy into his football and became a massive star. Meanwhile, Brees also returned from the depths of Hell when he suffered a near career-ending injury in San Diego (via The Sporting News).


DeShaun Watson

Not every athlete deserves to return from the depths of Hell. Watson emerged from a dark pit when he signed for the Cleveland Browns. The polarizing quarterback became an instant hate figure after he molested dozens of masseuses. He settled civil suits with his victims and received a heavy NFL suspension.


But this didn’t stop the Browns from going down the Philly-Michael Vick route. NFL franchises don’t care if their stars commit genocide as long as they’re walking free. Watson didn’t perform well when he stepped onto the field after months away. But they’ll give him the chance to be their starting QB (via New York Post).

Sporting News

Peyton Manning

Everybody thought that Manning was finished when he missed the entire 2011 injury with a neck injury. First, the Colts tanked before they drafted future franchise QB Andrew Luck. They decided to move on from Manning because they didn’t think he’d reach the same levels. In the end, their loss was Denver’s game as Manning produced a fairytale.

AP News

The Broncos knew that they were a top quarterback away from Super Bowl contention. Manning wasn’t at the peak of his powers but he did enough to help them win the Vince Lombardi Trophy. He didn’t play well in that game but it didn’t matter because he sealed his legacy with a second ring (via CBS News).


Chris Bosh

It’s amazing to think of anybody bullying Bosh because the giant NBA star was so good. But children can be incredibly cruel as he discovered as a youngster. His classmates verbally abused him because of his height and this had a profound impact on him. In the end, he had the last laugh because he became a sporting icon.


They told them that he would never achieve his dreams of playing in the NBA. He proved them wrong because he didn’t just make it through the Draft. No, he went on and became a two-time NBA Champion. Now he’s in the Hall of Fame because he had such a brilliant career and spectacular legacy (via Basketball Network).

Denver Post

Andres Galarraga

This MLB star’s story is one of the most inspiring and inexplicable in sports history. The Venezuelan won the MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award after he beat cancer. But he also produced All-Star form as he showed that the brutal disease didn’t rattle him. It was magnificent as he made a mockery of the illness.

Denver Post

He went from fighting for his life to being one of the top players in the league. It’s easy to criticize baseball because there are so many dark stories. But this one is impossible to hate and Galarraga deserves the utmost respect. He emerged from the depths of Hell with a chip on his shoulder and a bat in one hand (via

Detroit Free Press

Marvin Jones

Jones is a popular wide receiver with a decent NFL track record. The veteran rejoined the Detroit Lions in 2023 after a short spell in Jacksonville. Many football players think that life will be easy after they make it to the pro level. But Jones will tell them that heartbreak can be around the corner.

Detroit Free Press

The father-of-six lost his youngest son Marlo when the baby was just six months old. Naturally, this tragedy had a profound impact on Jones. No parent thinks that they’ll outlive their children and losing an infant was heartbreaking. He rebounded from this cataclysmic event but he’ll never forget it (via NBC Sports).

New York Post

Simone Biles

Biles was one of Team USA’s biggest stars ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Many analysts confidently predicted that she would be a gold medalist because she is arguably the greatest gymnast of her era. However, the pressure was incredible and Biles struggled to cope with the expectations.

The Hollywood Reporter

The horrific Larry Nassar case also profoundly affected her and she endured a case of the ‘twisties.’ Some people also criticized her and called her mentally weak. But the 19-time Champion won bronze and silver as she bounced back. It was inspiring because she stepped up when she was in her darkest place (via The Guardian).


Yaroslav Amosov

Many MMA fans don’t Amosov but he’s arguably the best welterweight fighter on the planet. The Ukrainian star possesses a devastating style that overwhelms his opponents. But he put his career on hold because he wanted to help defend his country. Bellator agreed and eventually, he returned to defend his title (via Daily Star).


He fought Logan Storley in Dublin in an inspiring performance. Initially, he wanted to stay with his unit but they encouraged him to fight. He said: “When I went to war I knew that my career might’ve been over. If it wasn’t for the Ukrainian people telling me to defend my belt then I might not be here at all. It’s been a long time without fighting and now I understand that it’s my duty.”


Jessica Breland

Breland is another athlete who emerged from the depths of Hell. But she did so at a younger age than many of the other stars on this list. The college star faced unbelievable adversity when doctors diagnosed her with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This put her career with the Tar Heels on hold because she had to undergo chemotherapy.

Chapel Boro

She was battling for her life, never mind her dreams. But she made a full recovery and became an inspiration for many other women across the world. Meanwhile, Breland even made it to the WNBA and enjoyed a successful career. She never could have imagined this from her hospital bed (via Sports Illustrated).

Sky Sports

Vasily Lomachenko

Lomachenko is one of the greatest technical boxers ever. The Ukrainian star made multiple opponents retire on their stools because he bamboozled them. He has outstanding footwork and an unbelievable understanding of the sport. But he also emerged from the depths of Hell because he helped to defend his country.


‘Loma’ is the third Ukrainian athlete on this list and he also enlisted in the country’s military. But he took time to box and inspire his countrymen on the front lines. Amazingly, he went from the front lines of a global conflict to fighting for titles in Las Vegas. However, he possesses a special mental strength and this helped him (via SBNation).


LeBron James

James is in a different situation from most of the athletes on this list. That’s because he endured intense psychological pressure during the final days of his first spell in Cleveland. The local icon became a hate figure in his city after he abandoned them for the Miami Heat. He wanted to win rings but didn’t think that the Cavaliers could do it.

Sky Sports

However, James earned redemption when he returned to Cleveland after he quit Miami. Then he achieved a fairytale ending to his time in Ohio when he helped them to their first NBA title. This was a massive turnaround because some fans burnt his jersey when he signed for the Heat (via Bleacher Report).

Sky Sports

Eric Abidal

Abidal has one of the most dramatic stories on this list because he recovered from cancer and won the Champions League in 2011. The French star even lifted the trophy first because his Barcelona teammates thought that he deserved it. But that wasn’t the end of Abidal’s problems because his health problems returned.

Sports Illustrated

Next, he required a liver transplant and nobody thought that he would play again. Nonetheless, Abidal showed his toughness and determination as he recovered again. He returned to Barcelona before playing in France with Monaco. It’s a legendary story because he rose from the depths of Hell (via Sky Sports).

The Guardian

Brittney Griner

It’s safe to say that Griner never expected to spend time in a Russian jail. The WNBA star has spent her career with the Phoenix Mercury. But she also played in China and Russia during the offseason. Then the Russian government turned her into a political pawn as they incarcerated her on drug charges (via The Athletic).

ABC News

Griner foolishly brought cannabis oil into the country for personal use. The Russians leaped at this and threw her into jail for four months. It became a major international incident but in the end, the U.S. government brought her home. They swapped her for a convicted arms dealer and she resumed her career with aplomb.

Ed Mulholland

Kassim Ouma

Nobody has a story like Ouma’s because he rose from the depths of Hell. The former boxer had a decent career but his rise to stardom was insane. He grew up in Uganda but then mercenaries kidnapped him before forcing him to become a child soldier. It was a horrific ordeal for a youngster and he admits that he killed people.


Ouma escaped the army and entered the boxing world. He won the IBF Light-Middleweight title while he also fought for WBC belts. Some people will disparagingly say that he had an average record but they’re missing the point. He overcame the odds to transform his life and become a functioning human being (via Medium).


Francis Ngannou

Ngannou has one of the most iconic stories in sports history. The Cameroonian MMA fighter worked in sand mines when he was young. But he wanted more from his life and decided to travel to France to become a boxer. He crossed the African continent and went to Morocco where he faced police brutality.


The future UFC champion risked his life as he crossed deserts and waterways. When he arrived in Europe he sheltered in car parks before Fernand Lopez welcomed him to his gym. Then he evolved into the most frightening heavyweight on the planet as he rose from the depths of Hell (via The Mirror).