Some athletes are more intimidating than others. Intimidation comes in many forms. Sometimes, it’s a barometer of their greatness because their skills cause opponents to accept defeat before they even face off. But then there are less-skilled athletes who have an aura about them that puts their rivals on edge. There is something about their eyes and the sudden feeling that they could do something unhinged.
Today we’re going to take a look at 30 athletes who different sports fans found intimidating. This isn’t a comprehensive list of the most intimidating ever, but rather a guide to why these fans were intimidated by these sports stars. Also, there are brilliant stars who don’t make this list because they simply weren’t scary enough. Check out the list below via Reddit and Ranker.
30. The Milk Man
There is no doubt that J.J Watt is one of the NFL’s most intimidating players. Despite spending the bulk of his career with the Houston Texans, he won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award three times in his first five seasons. “You can game plan around a good QB/RB, but stopping someone like that on a regular basis is downright scary,” darwinn_69 wrote on Reddit.
Watt is a brilliant defensive end because he is such a great athlete. This makes him a nightmare for quarterbacks to deal with. “Since I’ve been watching, JJ Watt is the most intimidating,” Fruit_loops_jesus wrote. “The dude is ruthless. I swear he gets a roughing the passer every other game. The amount of QB hits he gets is absurd. As a QB you know he will be coming after you all day.”
“I feel like Ivan Johnson has actually killed people,” Flatduo88 wrote on Reddit. While this might be a bit of an exaggeration, he was definitely a wild man. A native of the Bahamas, Johnson was a tough customer. He burnt bridges in every league he played in. First of all, the Korean basketball league banned him for life after he raised the middle finger to a referee.
The Atlanta Hawks fined him on multiple occasions after he displayed poor behavior. Meanwhile, the Philippines basketball league kicked him out after his role in a brawl. Johnson wasn’t the best player but he was intimidating because he played on the edge. He also simply didn’t care what anybody thought about him so he wasn’t afraid to cross the line.
“Usyk right now looks like a serial killer, even when he’s smiling he looks like he’s thinking about killing you,” LuvDumplings observed. Oleksander Usyk is one of heavyweight boxing’s biggest problems. The Ukrainian was the undisputed, unified cruiserweight champion before his move up a weight class. With his technical prowess and crushing power, he’s an intimidating fighter.
He also has an evil smile and appears to love violence. In 2018, he crushed Tony Bellew before the English boxer retired. “Makes the matchmaking of Usyk/Bellew even stranger. A man just wanting to get home safe to his wife and kids, facing a man who has likely washed them down the plughole with acid already,” AllTorque reflected. In sum, there is something unhinged about the Ukrainian.
“Mark Herzlich looks like he stepped off the set of Mad Max,” VTFD wrote on Reddit. Sometimes athletes try too hard with their appearance. They cover their bodies with tattoos and shave their hair into wild styles. Some NFL players even wore contact lenses in strange colors to unsettle their opponents. But it can come off badly. However, Herzlich had a different intimidating aura.
The former New York Giants linebacker wore a distinctive mohawk and messy eye paint. The Mad Max is definitely appropriate because he looks appropriately unhinged. Also, as a cancer survivor, Herlich is a true fighter. His career wasn’t the longest in NFL history but he gave it everything he had because he understood the meaning of what it is to be alive.
“I always thought Gattuso had rabies or something,” Tactical_Medium mused about the former AC Milan midfielder. He refers to Gennaro Gattuso, one of the most tenacious defensive players of his era. A serial winner with the Rossoneri, he was one of the first names on Milan’s teamsheet through their most successful era. However, he was also a wild presence on the field.
Gattuso was a very confrontational figure and a hard-tackler. He went head-to-head with many opponents and never took a step back. Fans nicknamed him the pitbull but perhaps the Jack Russell is a more appropriate comparison. He was naturally aggressive and tenacious as a player. When he retired he became a manager but unsurprisingly his temperament remained the same.
“Michael Jordan, “Corrozz wrote on Reddit. “I’d say his presence made teams scared of him. I wouldn’t reduce intimidating only as a physical skill. Jordan could dunk on you or make you feel worthless as a team.” To sum up, Jordan was the greatest player of his generation and alongside LeBron James, the greatest of all-time. His brilliance made him one of the most intimidating opponents in the world of sports.
M.J was a ferocious competitor. He injected fear into the hearts of his opponents with his sheer brilliance. Meanwhile, his own teammates were afraid of him too because he refused to accept a slackening of standards. Jordan’s personal mystique earns him a place on this list because he wasn’t the most physically imposing athlete. But he was absolutely brilliant.
“Anderson Silva. Mocks you, lets you try to hit him, then beats on you. All while looking like a UPS driver,” Ufcbound313 wrote. Silva remains the greatest middleweight fighter in UFC history. The Brazilian came to the United States in 2006 where he dissected Chris Leben with ease. Then, he went on a title run and eventually defended the belt 10 times, a divisional record.
Silva’s striking was otherworldly. The Spider became one of the promotion’s biggest stars because he was so mesmerizing to watch. In his prime, nobody was able to keep up with his shot selection. There is nothing like winning to create an intimidating aura and that’s exactly what happened. He became one of the most feared opponents in the UFC because he was so ruthlessly efficient.
“Kermit Washington made some poor mop dude wipe Rudy T’s brain fluid off the court. Like what the f**k. That one’s a no-brainer to me and no don’t say a word about the pun,” Sorendiz wryly wrote on Reddit. Washington played for five NBA teams but never set the world on fire. However, he did produce the most devasting punch in league history and that’s no hyperbole.
In 1977, he almost killed Rudy Tomjanovich with a punch straight out of a heavyweight title fight. This earned him the rightful reputation as the most intimidating psycho in the world of sport. Tomjanovich suffered a fractured skull as well as a broken jaw. Washington’s power actually forced Tomjanovich to taste his own spinal fluid. Later, he ruthlessly embezzled African charities and received a six-year prison sentence.
“For me, it’s always going to be Fedor, Matterhorn9 wrote. “He looks like your neighborhood plumber and had a stoic face, but when it was time he destroyed pretty much everybody (I’m talking prime Fedor in the 2000s.)” Fedor Emelianenko never fought for the UFC but built his reputation as the best heavyweight in the world during his days with Japanese promotion PRIDE.
“He and his brother both had this “God I am so bored, but it’s better than watching the new painting on my wall dry” look which made them so terrifying,” the fan continued. This is exactly correct. Fedor was intimidating because he was so ruthlessly effective. Arguably the fact that he never fought in the UFC only added to his mystique. Definitely one of the greatest of all-time.
“I feel sorry for any Quarter Back that had to see LT charging at them at full speed, with nothing but coke-fueled rage in his eyes,” DaggerStone wrote. As a two-time Super Bowl champion, Lawrence Taylor was one of the greatest players of his generation. Opponents found him incredibly intimidating because he was a relentless player with amazing physical gifts.
“I could watch footage of Lawrence Taylor eating ice cream on YouTube and I’d be scared the phone I was using to view it would knock me the f**k out. The man was an absolute force of nature and he loved to be so,” DoctorDoctorRamsey wrote. Taylor’s personal problems are well-documented, but when it came to his on-field mystique, they arguably contributed to his opponent’s fear.
“Stipe Miocic literally walks into burning buildings and puts out fires,” @MMAHistoryToday wrote. “He doesn’t do it because he needs to. He does it because he enjoys it.” In short, Miocic is a unique human being. The former two-time UFC heavyweight champion only began fighting as a sideline. His main profession was working as a member of Cleveland’s fire department.
Even when he became a successful champion he continued working as a first responder. As a result, Miocic has seen some crazy things. This only enhanced his winning mindset because he understands how tenuous life really is. Miocic’s four UFC heavyweight title defenses were record-setting and he was also an incredibly effective fighter. Comedian Joey Diaz referred to his ‘immigrant mentality’ and this is absolutely correct.
“How has nobody mentioned the Gravedigger?” JordanCosgrove23 wrote about this topic on Reddit. “Literally sacking QBs and digging graves right next to them. Dude was what 6-8 380? I would be scared s***less.” The player he refers to is Gilbert Brown. A larger-than-life figure on-and-off the field, he is one of the most popular Packers stars in recent memory.
The nose tackle’s nickname comes from his celebration after a successful tackle. Brown pretended to dig a grave after taking a player out with his ferocious power. It was highly performative but also made him one of the game’s cult icons. Meanwhile, his sheer size made him an intimidating foe. At his heaviest, he was over 350 lbs. That’s the same as a six-month-old calf.
“Luis Ortiz has the kind of build where you know you could hit him with a bat and he would laugh it off,” rolan56789 wrote. A monstrous heavyweight, Cuba’s Ortiz never received the attention he deserved. But he was a perennial title challenger, even though nobody was sure of his age. ‘King Kong’ has knockout power and is also a very slick counterpuncher.
He was intimidating because he had the ability to beat anybody on his day. When Deontay Wilder fought him in 2019 everybody thought he was crazy because it wasn’t necessary. Wilder won by knockout but only after Ortiz taught him a lesson in boxing first. Meanwhile, Ortiz is a very tough individual and came through the ruthless Cuban system. Definitely not a man to mess with.
Terrell Suggs looks like he came from Mordor That’s pretty scary,” MoreSteakLessFanta wrote on Reddit. He was absolutely correct. When Suggs wasn’t fighting for Sauron’s hordes, he was one of the NFL’s toughest linebackers. He spent 16 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and became their all-time leader in sacks. He was a colossus for the franchise and a key cog in their Super Bowl win.
Meanwhile, Suggs always played with a mean mug. That’s not to say that he was a bad person, but his whole persona was intimidating. He won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2011 and was also a seven-time Pro Bowler. Furthermore, he is a member of the 100 sacks club because he was so effective on the playing field. He wasn’t a man to mess with.
“Mike Singletary’s eyes were the single most intimidating trait of any defensive player of all time, Gugudan wrote. Dude looked like he’d murder his mother to get to the ball.” Once again it comes down to that glint in the eye. It’s not something that a player can fake. They either have it or they don’t but Singletary definitely did. Furthermore, it definitely lent him an intimidating aura during his playing days.
While he became a caricature of himself during his ill-fated time as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, he was a fearsome athlete. He won a Super Bowl ring with the Chicago Bears which probably makes him eligible for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A 10-time Pro Bowler, Singletary is a franchise icon in Chicago. But his intensity didn’t help him as a head coach.
One of Everton’s longest-serving figures, Duncan Ferguson first played for the club before becoming a coach. Nonetheless, he is an icon at Goodison Park because of his relentless nature and passion. Furthermore, he is notorious for being a hard man. “There’s that story about how 2 guys tried to break into his house, one was put in the hospital and the other had to flee the scene,” DannDannDannDann wrote.
“Legend has it than when he phoned 999 to report the break in the operator asked him whether they should send the police and he replied ‘Aye, you better send an ambulance too, “tee_dogg expanded on this story. Even if the details are stretched, the Scotland star’s intensity is beyond question. Unlike many soccer players, Ferguson was prepared to back up his words with a brutal tackle.
“Elway said when he was a rookie Jack Lambert hit him so hard he wanted to quit football altogether,” Nottoodrunk wrote on Reddit. As one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, John Elway was a winner. So this is a really eye-catching statement but it proves how tough and intimidating Lambert was. He was fearsome and relentless because he pulled no punches.
“He looks like those farmers that will shoot anything and anyone if they enter their property. One of those West Virginia hillbilly weed-growers,” broccolibush42 observed. There is no doubt that Lambert was a product of a different era. It’s impossible to imagine him tolerating TikTok videos and Instagram. But he was a tremendous and distinctive NFL star.
“Sonny Liston. There was something really horrific in him. His eyes, the way he walked, and the way he talked,” TwoFaceLord wrote on Reddit. “Dude was straight-up scary. Plus his arms were freakishly long.” At the end of the day, Liston was one of the most enigmatic and intimidating boxers of his era. He had longstanding connections to the mafia and underground crime groups which gave him a fearsome mystique.
Then there is his body of work inside the ring. Yes, Cassius Clay defeated him but before this, he seemed unbeatable. 39 of his 50 wins came by way of knockout. Meanwhile, he also served a six-month prison sentence after brutally beating up a police officer in 1956. Liston was as hardcore and intense as they came but also a brilliant boxer in his heyday.
“That I’ve seen, Ben Wallace. Huge, jacked, and he just had this look about him like he might murder someone at any moment,” GalileoWasDownvoted observed. Sometimes actions speak for themselves and this was exactly the case in Wallace’s situation. The former Pistons star was an unbelievable hit in Detroit, where he became a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
As a result, he became one of the league’s most intimidating players. His intensity and winning mentality contributed to Detroit’s Championship win in 2004. Furthermore, he led the league in blocks in 2002 cementing his reputation as an unpassable obstacle. A four-time All-Star, Detroit even retired his jersey number because of his brilliance for the franchise.
Oliver Kahn was one of the best goalkeepers in the world during his time with Bayern Munich. “He looks like a scary, angry blond gorilla,” Reddripper wrote on Reddit. This aptly sums up the German international because he continuously had a ferocious experience on his face. Meanwhile, he was the main reason why Germany made it to the World Cup final in 2002 against Brazil.
“Admittedly, I was very young at the time, but he scared me when I watching the Germany games on TV. Hundreds/thousands of miles away,” CandleJakk mused. The soccer fan was not the only person to feel this way because Kahn was one of the most intimidating figures in the sport during his competitive prime. His unhinged look terrified opponents and also gave him a special aura.
“Amanda Nunes is so scary I’d cook and clean for her,” @BillyXVI tweeted. This is definitely an appropriate response because ‘The Lioness’ is one of the most terrifying athletes in the world. A two-weight UFC world champion, Nunes is a knockout artist. Nobody has touched her since she developed into an elite titleholder. Furthermore, her intimidating aura continues to blossom.
Her list of scalps is remarkable. She has defeated every former titleholder in both of her weight classes. These include the likes of Holly Holm, Ronda Rousey, and Cris Cyborg. In the words of Joe Rogan, Nunes hits like a man. “Amanda Nunes is scary. If you get offered a fight with her, run away. People might call you a coward but at least you’re alive,” @Sam_F_Heaton tweeted.
“Wilder. That moment when he stares down Stiverne after the first time he falls is incredibly chilling,” Palamite observed. He was referring to Deontay Wilder’s brutal KO win over Bermane Stiverne. The Bronze Bomber possesses eerie power because he punches without loading up. However, when he disconnects his opponent’s relationship with reality.
“There’s something off about Wilder in the ring. I think he really knows how to box properly, but absolutely flips his s**t when he gets in the ring. I honestly think he wants to murder someone.” Chairman__Netero wrote. While Tyson Fury exposed Wilder’s technical limitations, there’s no doubt that Wilder’s ability to separate consciousness from a body makes him one of boxing’s most intimidating fighters.
“He wasn’t a footballer, but Pierluigi Collina was; in my opinion, the scariest person on a football pitch. One of the greatest refs since I’ve started watching football, Derphighbury wrote. Collina is one of world soccer’s greatest referees. While he never played the game, he established a high profile in his own right because of his intimidating and distinctive presence on the field.
He suffered from alopecia which actually benefited his career because it made him one of the most visible figures on the soccer pitch. Meanwhile, Collina had an extremely strong character. One incident from Euro 2000 sums him up because he went head-to-head with the Czech Republic’s Tomas Repka. In sum, Collina didn’t blink and pushed the angry defender away.
It’s definitely Ron Artest or that guy from the old days that almost killed someone by punching him in a game. But Artest is legit not 100% in the brain like he really acts like a dude with screws loose,” Redrexmyers1 wrote on Reddit. In short, he isn’t wrong. The man who became Metta World Peace was one of the wildest characters in NBA history, as his actions at the Malice at the Palace showed.
“Man he was crazy,” plaid_cloud wrote. “Like probably mentally ill. Whose shorts did he pull down? My buddy still has a signed jersey from his DPOY season.” Artest was genuinely a superb talent and won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2004. But opponents found him intimidating because he was so unhinged. They had no idea what he was going to do.
“Marshawn Lynch. The spooky black visor, the bouncing dreads, watching him sprint at you with his shoulder lowered… you might as well get out of the way. Make a “business decision,” as Mike Rob puts it,” Intensebreathing wrote on Reddit. Lynch was a marauding presence on the football field. The Seahawks icon was a juggernaut when he charged forward and was one of the NFL’s most intimidating athletes.
“I miss Marshawn Lynch. Beast Quake still gives me chills when I watch it,” @NFLMidwest tweeted. The fan refers to one of the greatest individual plays in playoff history. He broke nine tackles en route to a 67-yard touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. Some moments define a player’s entire career because they are so dramatic. In Lynch’s case, this was something special.
“Roy Keane. Plenty of players can pull off the psycho look – but go and ask Alf Haaland if Keane will follow through on his glare or not,” Sicks3144 wrote on Reddit. The incident he referred to was when Keane deliberately attempted to break Alf-Inge Haaland’s leg in 2001. This was an act of vengeance after Haaland mocked the injured Manchester United captain as he lay in agony on the field in 1997.
Keane waited four years to get his revenge. In short, the former Ireland international is one of the most intimating soccer players ever. He infamously walked out on his country in 2002 after a feud with coach Mick McCarthy in Saipan. Furthermore, many of his former teammates admit that he terrified them. A relentless midfielder, Keane was a quality player but also played on the edge.
“Calm Francis is the scariest fighter I’ve seen,” @ZimoMoyo tweeted after UFC 260. Francis Ngannou became the UFC heavyweight champion of the world after knocking Stipe Miocic into oblivion. The gigantic Cameroonian crushed his foe in a rematch with terrifying ease. There is no doubt that this made him the most intimidating mixed martial artist on the planet.
@NoBrainerMMA wrote, “Francis is the scariestfighter I’ve ever seen in MMA by a good amount second closest was 205 Rumble Johnson.” Both of these men possessed massive knockout power, but Ngannou’s size gives him the edge. His fists possess the touch of death because all it takes is a single punch. Meanwhile, his calm, quiet demeanor only lends to his mystique.
Shaquille O’Neal was physically gifted in a way the NBA had never seen before. The former Lakers superstar was the best player of his generation and also a beast on the court. His stature didn’t help him as he aged because he gained weight and lost fitness. But in his prime he was unstoppable and a nightmare for opposition teams to play against. Furthermore, this made him an incredibly intimidating foe.
There were even murmurs of opposing players getting the Shaq-flu or Shaq-itis and conveniently missing games against Shaq,” Poorchris wrote. “No other player is intimidating enough to even start rumors like that, regardless of their validity.” While the likes of Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James are all amazing athletes with great skills, they never had the same physical presence as Shaq.
“I’ve never been one to be intimidated by muscles or tattoos or anything like that,” Fsphoenix wrote on Reddit. “To me, intimidation is all in the eyes. You can look in a man’s eyes and see what he’s all about. James Harrison and Adrian Peterson have the two craziest looks in their eyes in the NFL in my opinion. ” Harrison is also the type of man who warms up shirtless in the frigid Pittsburgh winter.
“James Harrison, and it’s not even close,” another fan agreed. “I don’t care how ripped other players are, just look at that glare.” There is no doubt that Harrison possesses one of the most intense gazes in the NFL. A two-time Super Bowl champion, Harrison was a brilliant linebacker. But as well as his playing ability, Harrison possessed a natural intimidating aura that few footballers dream of.
“Mike Tyson is the most ruthless, unforgiving, untouchable, scariestfighter of all time in any form of professional fighting,” @Jvom07 tweeted. In sum, there is no doubt that Tyson was one of the most intimidating athletes in sports history. The New York native was a fearsome knockout artist but also a volatile personality. He served time for rape and once bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear.
Meanwhile, he was a terrifying personality in the ring. He came out in his black shorts with little fanfare and a menacing look in his eyes. “The way Tyson was eyeballing McNeeley in their fight was scary as hell,” LuvDumplings wrote. “Don’t think I ever saw such a menacing look in the ring like that before.” This came after Tyson’s release from prison in 1994 and reflects his fearsome aura.