Hero To Zero: Athletes Who Ruined Their Stardom With Partying

Darren - April 4, 2023

Hero To Zero: Athletes Who Ruined Their Stardom With Partying

Darren - April 4, 2023

Many sports fans believe elite athletes are finely tuned machines. In today’s era, they have access to incredible technology and tests that measure every aspect of physiology. But there’s no changing the reality that they’re also people and that makes them flawed. Many of them love indulgent substances like drugs and alcohol. For these athletes, partying ruined their careers and held them back.

So today we’ll look at some superstars who lacked self-control or suffered from addiction. Some of these athletes made dumb decisions while others sank into the depths of despair. These examples are a warning to every budding sports star because partying has ruined many an otherwise talented athlete. Check out the stars whose partying did just that right here.


Adam Jones

Pacman” was one of the wildest players in NFL history. He arguably underachieved on the field because he didn’t show his full potential. The talent was there as he showed with a Pro Bowl selection in 2015. But Jones is more famous because he has more arrests than anybody else in the modern NFL (via Yardbreaker).

Bleacher Report

Jones the type of player who can find a party on a Tuesday night and create havoc for himself and also everyone involved. There were multiple strip club incidents including one where he slammed a stripper’s head against the stage. Meanwhile, he was involved in one of the messiest “gentleman’s club” shooting cases ever. There’s no doubt that his party antics negatively affected his career.


Johnny Manziel

The Cleveland Browns set themselves back for almost a decade because they selected Manziel. He had a successful career with Texas A&M but the NFL is a different level. Many scouts doubted his temperament and questioned if he had the right mindset to be a starting quarterback. His partying was the stuff of infamy but he didn’t change when he got to the pro ranks.


Manziel’s immaturity damaged his standing in the sport. Meanwhile, he used drugs as if the world were ending. There was also a messy domestic violence incident with his girlfriend that brought him into disrepute. In the end, the quarterback fell out of the NFL after two seasons before failing to make the grade in Canada (via Sportskeeda).


Jon Jones

Many people believe that Jones is the greatest MMA fighter of all time. Incredibly, he remains in the conversation because he’s undermined his career with high amounts of partying. Yes, he’s a two-division UFC champion but he will never be the mainstream star that he could have been. Cocaine and alcohol damaged Jones’s commercial marketability.


He infamously crashed his vehicle into a pregnant woman’s car before fleeing the scene. Then there was also the time he drank a bottle of mezcal, went for a drive, and fired his pistol into the air. The Albuquerque police rolled their eyes when they arrived at the scene because they knew Jones’s reputation (via New York Post).


John Daly

Daly was one of the most exciting golf players of the early 1990s and had incredible success. He broke the mold because he didn’t come from the same background as most of golf’s stars. His career highlights include a 1991 PGA Championship win as well as his Open victory in 1995. However, the wins became few and far between as time moved on.

Palm Beach Post

Daly’s partying habits are legendary. He infamously woke up in a pool of his urine outside of a Hooters. Daly had serious drinking and gambling problems that affected his career progression. It’s fair to say that he never reached the levels that he could have because of his issues (via Essentially Sports).

Bleacher Report

Ryan Lochte

Swimmer Lochte was one of America’s darlings before the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. But then his partying destroyed his reputation because they showed the type of person he is. Lochte and some of his fellow swimmers got into trouble at a gas station in Rio. They claimed that gangsters robbed them at gunpoint but it wasn’t true.

Jack Spitzer

Instead, the swimmer and his crew drank too much before committing acts of vandalism. Then the Brazilian police arrived at the scene and delivered an emphatic response. In the end, Lochte received a 10-month suspension from swimming after bringing it into disrepute. He also faced criminal charges but escaped these after the statute of limitations passed (via USA Today Sports).


BJ Penn

Penn’s partying derailed his MMA career. He was one of the best fighters in the world as a rare two-division UFC champion. The Hawaiian fan-favorite produced exciting matches and many great rivalries. But then he went on a dismal losing streak that affected his legacy in the sport.

Phoenix New Times

He was partying too hard and had multiple embarrassing street fights. One of these saw him give a man a free shot to hit him on the chin. He woke up after discovering that his rival knocked him out. This also affected his future because his erratic behavior made it too risky to give him TV work like other veteran fighters (via GiveMeSport).

San Diego Union-Tribune

Oscar De La Hoya

De La Hoya was one of the best boxers of his era, becoming a six-weight world champion. Some people will think that it’s laughable to include him on this list because he achieved so much. He also made a lot of money from his boxing success. But there’s no denying that his party antics curtailed his career and affected his relationships.

L.A. Times

Everybody knows that the ‘Golden Boy’ had a serious cocaine problem. He abused the drug like there was a limited supply and this had an affect on his legacy. One infamous incident saw him adorn tabloid covers after he dressed up in women’s lingerie while entertaining a woman. His otherwise great career finished with a whimper (via The Sun).

New York Post

Plaxico Burress

Burress was on course to become one of the most exciting NFL players of his generation. The wide receiver became a favorite for Big Blue with his inspiring performances. The highlight of his career saw him catch a Super Bowl-winning touchdown for the Giants. But the end came with the pull of a trigger after he made a massive mistake (via Sportscasting).


He was inside a nightclub in New York City when he accidentally shot himself. Believe it or not, the worst part wasn’t the injury and there was a bigger problem. Burress carried an unlicensed firearm in one of the strictest states in the nation. He received jail time and missed two football seasons. Finally, after 20 months, he returned to the gridiron but wasn’t the same athlete.

CBS Sports

Aldon Smith

Smith was a fabulous player during his prime but alcohol abuse destroyed his career. He had brilliant moments for the 49ers and became the quickest NFL star to reach 30 career sacks. But his dysfunctional life off the field and his partying created trouble that he could have avoided. Smith failed to maintain discipline and couldn’t balance his lifestyle.

Dallas Cowboys

There were multiple DUIs as well as a nasty drunken domestic violence incident. Meanwhile, he suffered a stab wound after trying to stop a fight at a party. Many athletes should stay at home and watch Netflix but Smith had no chill. Instead, he put himself in stupid positions and paid the price. He also received jail time and a bar ban after a 2018 hit-and-run (via Sportsnaut).


Tyson Fury

There are many reasons why Fury’s career blew up in his face. First, he failed drug tests, something that many people conveniently forget. But he also developed serious drug and alcohol problems. He consumed cocaine like a child eats candy. He also admitted that he drank 12 pints of beer per day.

Sky Sports

Fury blew up to 400 pounds and his partying lifestyle took its toll on his body. It’s remarkable that he turned his career around and returned to boxing after this traumatic experience. He had some great fights with Deontay Wilder after this but has recently ducked clashes with Anthony Joshua and Oleksander Usyk (via Planet Sport).


Lamar Odom

Odom’s party antics almost killed him because he went too far. The former Lakers star made more headlines for his relationship with Khloe Kardashian than for his work on the court. That’s a shame because the two-time NBA champion had a lot of talent but didn’t show it enough throughout his career.

The Nation

Meanwhile, he took copious amounts of drugs and drank like a fish. The most notorious incident saw him pass out unconscious in a Nevada brothel after he went too crazy. This brought him to the brink of death and signaled the end of his relationship. It’s a shame that he endured so much trauma as a results of drugs and alcohol but he had no self-control (via Hollywood Life).


Todd Marinovich

Nobody thought Marinovich would emerge as one of the NFL’s biggest party animals. However, the test tube quarterback resented his father after a rigid upbringing. His dad wanted him to become the perfect QB and brought him up accordingly. But Marinovich began partying hard in high school and college before he made it to the pro game.

The Desert Sun

Remember, the Raiders selected Marinovich ahead of Brett Favre in 1991. They installed him as the starter after they lost the first couple of games that season but Marinovich’s indiscipline cost him. He took cocaine, amphetamines, and other drugs. Finally, he went to rehab and became an artist (via Pro Football History).

Sky Sports

Mario Balotelli

Balotelli once wore an iconic shirt with the slogan “Why Always Me?.” Sometimes people need to look in the mirror and think about their own life decisions. The Italian star once received a fine because he flung darts at underage players. Somehow, he crashed his car into a women’s prison. He also accidentally lit his house on fire after letting off fireworks indoors.

AP News

The former Manchester City is a very entertaining character but he infuriated his coaches. His legendary party antics curtailed his career because he never developed into the superstar they envisaged. Balotelli lacked discipline and only wanted to have a good time. But this meant that he never reached his full potential (via Sky Sports).


Spencer Gallagher

Gallagher is a skilled Nascar driver but his partying ruined his career. The Talladega winner celebrated the highest point of his career in 2019. Many critics thought that he was a rich kid with no place in the sport. They claimed that he bought a spot and didn’t deserve to compete against the best. But Gallagher shut them up with an exceptional win.


It’s therefore too bad that he liked cocaine more than he enjoyed racing. A drug test failure proved costly as NASCAR hit him with a suspension. Gallagher’s career never recovered from this moment and he hasn’t enjoyed the same success again. He continues to compete but it doesn’t look like he’ll reach the pinnacle of the sport (via Fansided).

Bleacher Report

Kyle Orton

Some people think Orton is one of the unluckiest quarterbacks in NFL history. First, he showed promising signs during his time in Chicago and thought he would be their long-term starter. Then Jay Cutler became available and the Bears traded him to Denver. Meanwhile, one Tim Tebow meant that he didn’t get his full chance with the Broncos.


But his partying didn’t help matters either. There are many pictures on the Internet of Orton slurping Jack Daniels from the bottle. He loves dive bars and sleazy settings but probably should have spent more time improving his game. Instead, he had a disappointing NFL career and never reached his ceiling (via CBS News).

Sky Sports

Ricky Hatton

Hatton became something of a folk hero in his native Manchester after a string of successes. The boxer had everyman qualities and fought some of the best in the business. But he suffered deflating losses to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. These severely dented his confidence and he resorted to substance abuse.

Sky Sports

‘The Hitman’ always enjoyed a few beers and a kebab but this went too far. Hatton sank into depression and considered ending his life before he turned back from the darkness. He credits his daughter with changing his perspective. His partying remains legendary but they were also nearly his downfall (via TalkSport).

USC Athletics

Matt Leinart

Leinart arrived in the NFL with a lot of promise but never delivered on the hype. The Cardinals hoped that he would be the man to replace Kurt Warner but filling the Hall of Famer’s shoes proved to be too much for the USC product. It wasn’t that he lacked talent because he had a great college career. That’s why Arizona made the Heisman Trophy winner the 10th overall pick.

Orange County Register

But his partying didn’t help matters because he was a social animal. The media also picked up on this and gave him a difficult time. Unfortunately, Leinart fed the beast and didn’t learn to put his head down. He bounced around the NFL as a backup before he retired in 2013 following a disappointing career (via Fansided).

Sports Illustrated

Darryl Strawberry

Strawberry’s achievements are crazy because his career collapsed when he was in his prime. The cocaine addict took more drugs than a racehorse and hardly lived to tell the tale. He abused alcohol and binged on drugs with dramatic consequences. The World Series winner solicited undercover policewomen and created trouble for himself.

Sports Illustrated

Somehow he won three rings with the Mets and the Yankees while maintaining a high output. But the eight-time All-Star received suspensions and infuriated his teammates before colon cancer cut his career short. Strawberry is in the Mets Hall of Fame but his antics mean he won’t make it into Cooperstown (via WAPT).


Andy Ruiz

Ruiz stunned the world in 2019 when he became the first Mexican heavyweight champion ever. Anthony Joshua chose him as a last-minute replacement after Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller failed a drug test. The pair fought in Madison Square Garden where Ruiz shocked everybody with his incredible knockout win (via The Sun).


This ranked up there with Buster Douglas’s KO of Mike Tyson as one of the biggest shocks in boxing history. Joshua activated his rematch clause and Ruiz didn’t take the rematch seriously. His lack of discipline cost him dearly before the second fight. Joshua outpointed him to recapture his titles as Ruiz blew the biggest opportunity of his life.

CBS Sports

Henry Ruggs III

The Raiders treaded water as one of the NFL’s mediocre franchises for a couple of decades. Then Ruggs burst out as one of their most exciting weapons, combining with passer Derek Carr to provide optimism. But this fell flat after he killed a woman in a drunken car crash after he drove an unreal 156 mph.

CBS Sports

Police arrested him after he lost control of his Corvette Stingray and smashed into the other vehicle. Tina Tintor and her dog died in the ensuing blaze and Ruggs faced years in jail. The loss of life was the biggest tragedy but it’s also a massive waste of potential. Sadly his partying destroyed his future and ruined many lives (via CBS Sports).

Bleacher Report

Dennis Rodman

It’s probably more accurate to say that Rodman’s partying destroyed his post-career than his actual career. He was one of the best defenders and rebounders ever when he starred for the Pistons and the Bulls. But he always enjoyed letting his hair down as star teammate Michael Jordan would attest. Rodman once went partying in Las Vegas with Carmen Electra. It took Jordan’s intervention to drag him back to action.


After Rodman retired from the NBA, he continued to be a wild party animal. However, his behavior became increasingly erratic and he made strange decisions. These days, young NBA fans know him as the weirdo who hangs out with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Unfortunately, they don’t know how good he was during his heyday (via TalkSport).

NBC 29

Mike Tyson

Tyson is probably the scariest boxer of all time because of his terrifying aura and devastating KO power. But the American superstar also had a lot of problems outside of the ring. He admitted he had a serious cocaine problem and even fought some matches while high. Tyson said that he used a prosthetic penis – the ‘Whizzer’ – to pass tests.


This also affected his relationships in real life because he became increasingly dysfunctional. He notoriously spent time in jail after a rape conviction. Many crazy incidents saw him lose the respect and love of fans. However, Tyson rebounded throughout the 2000s and now people don’t mention his dark past much (via Sportscasting).

Golf Channel

Tiger Woods

Woods became the face of golf after a rapid rise that saw him emerge as one of the greatest of all time. He enjoyed incredible success on the PGA Tour and attracted massive endorsements. Nike, Gillette, and EA Sports made deals with the legendary player. But it all came crashing down because of his wild drug use and sex addiction.

Golf Digest

In 2010, a drunken Woods crashed his vehicle outside his Florida home. Then many women emerged and claimed that they had intimate relations with the superstar. These included porn actresses and strippers and it became a massive scandal. In the end, Woods’ wife left him and he went to rehab for sex addiction (via The Guardian).

The Guardian


It’s not entirely true to say that Ronaldo’s partying destroyed his career. However, they didn’t help and he fell further into indiscipline as his body began to let him down. The Brazilian was the most exciting soccer player on the planet and helped his country to World Cup glory. But his injury record became ridiculous and he failed to recapture his greatness.

Times of India

Ronaldo gained weight and developed a reputation for partying hard. This wasn’t ideal for his recovery and gradually, his coaches lost patience with him. Finally, the public began referring to him as ‘Fat Ronaldo’ to separate him from the Portuguese superstar, Cristiano. He achieved a lot but could have done so much more (via TalkSport).

Bleacher Report

Vince Young

There was a time when people thought Young was going to be an NFL Hall of Famer. The Titans selected him after a storied college career with the Texas Longhorns. Things started well for the quarterback as he broke the rookie yards records. He also made the Pro Bowl but it all went downhill from there.

Bleacher Report

Injuries affected his influence in his sophomore year and his time as an NFL starter came to an end. Yes, his body let him down but his partying didn’t help. Young spent outrageous sums of money on strippers for his parties and didn’t take his recovery seriously. He’s one of the NFL’s biggest what-ifs because he had so much talent and potential (via Bleacher Report).

Pro Football History

Isaiah Wilson

Everybody thought that it was a no-brainer when the Titans made Wilson a first-round pick in 2020. The offensive tackle was a fabulous player for the Georgia Bulldogs, one of the best college teams. However, NCAA success doesn’t always translate to the NFL as the Titans discovered their cost (via Sports Illustrated).


Wilson’s indiscipline meant that he had more arrests than games during his only season in the league. He partied hard, violated health regulations, and had a high-speed car chase. Finally, the Titans gave up and traded him to Miami. But he lasted for two weeks with the Dolphins before they released him. Now he’s trying to make a career as a rapper.

Fox News

Conor McGregor

It may feel dumb to say that McGregor destroyed his career. He’s one of the world’s wealthiest athletes in the world and won two titles with the UFC. Meanwhile, he earned a fortune through his whiskey business and other outlets. But his partying cost him dearly over the years. This is true in terms of his bank balance and his legacy.


The Irishman has had more nights in jail than fights over the past few years. He infamously creates havoc wherever he goes and has a few drinks or sniffs cocaine. McGregor destroys phones, hits old men, and allegedly has intimate relations with random women along the way (via The Mirror).



Ronaldinho is the epitome of an athlete who had fantastic talent but partied too much. Perhaps it’s too strong to say he ruined his career because he has a World Cup winner’s medal. Meanwhile, he won a bunch of other trophies with Barcelona and PSG. But it’s safe to say his career declined because of his party antics (via The 18).


The Brazilian’s love for a good time is the stuff of legend. Perhaps the most dramatic saw him serve time in a Paraguayan jail because he entered the country on a false passport. But Ronaldinho had an incredible time behind bars because it wasn’t a proper punishment. The jailers brought him women and invited celebrity guests to drink with him at wild parties.