People think that star athletes have an easy life. But the reality is that they have to work incredibly hard to maintain their physical and mental levels. They also have to endure an incredible amount of travel away from their families. Furthermore, bitter fallouts between players and teams are another stressful reality of the professional sports world.
These fallouts occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s because two athletes simply don’t see eye-to-eye. On other occasions, it’s about money. Elite players often become frustrated because their teams aren’t good enough to compete or don’t show ambition. As a result, they often demand trades. So today we’re going to take a look at 30 bitter fallouts between teams and athletes. Check out the list below via Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report.
30. Brett Favre
The Green Bay Packers have enjoyed some incredible quarterbacks throughout their history. Before Aaron Rodgers entered the scene, Favre was the man in Title Town. One of the best of his generation, fans adored the signal-caller. However, his relationship with the franchise became bitter after they replaced him with Rodgers following his departure from Lambeau.
The problem was that Favre decided to return from retirement after hanging up his cleats. It wasn’t the first time that he pulled this stunt. But the Packers were already settled on starting Rodgers and told him that they were happy to trade him elsewhere. Favre ended up with the Jets and held a grudge against Green Bay for the remainder of his career.
O’Neal was the Lakers’ star player for almost 10 years before he moved on to the Miami Heat. A four-time NBA Champion and former MVP, he was one of the best of his generation. However, Shaq also possessed a huge ego and this brought him into direct conflict with his teammate Kobe Bryant. The rise of the ‘Black Mamba’ threatened O’Neal and he did his utmost to keep him beneath him.
However, age began to catch up with O’Neal, and finally, his tenure in L.A. came to an end. But sadly, it ended in bitter circumstances because he had a volatile relationship with the franchise’s GM at this point. His contract demands were outrageous and it was impossible for the team to meet them. They eventually traded him to Miami where he won another NBA Championship.
We know technically, the UFC isn’t a team, but the promotion does hold its athletes under contract. This creates issues for many MMA fighters, including former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. After Francis Ngannou won the heavyweight strap in 2021, everybody wanted him to fight Jones. Everybody that is, except for UFC President Dana White. Not surprisingly it all came down to money.
According to some sources including MMA Fighting’s Luke Thomas, Jones demanded up to $30 million for the fight. In short, the UFC laughed in his face. The former champ demanded that the promotion release him from his contract because they had no respect for him. However, there is zero chance of this happening because he remains a major asset. This bitter dispute continues to intensify as of today.
After four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Ngakoue decided that he finally had enough of a franchise that had been going nowhere. They offered him significant money on the franchise tag, but he didn’t want it and pushed for a trade. For a while, it looked like nobody was going to blink. But finally, the Jaguars allowed him to leave and instigated a wild 2020 for the defensive end.
Ngakoue played for both the Minnesota Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens in a bizarre year for the pass rush specialist. However, he was happy just to escape from Jacksonville after a bitter departure. After 11 games for Baltimore, including two postseason performances, he left as a free agent again. This time he signed a two-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders so it secured stability.
A six-time NBA All-Star, Davis outgrew the New Orleans Pelicans. He remains their greatest-ever player but forced them to allow him to leave after seven years. Then, he went to the Lakers, where he won an NBA Championship in his first attempt. However, the manner in which he forced a trade didn’t endear him to New Orleans fans whatsoever.
He made his intentions public in January 2019 and received a fine. Meanwhile, this also forced the Pelicans to play him because if they didn’t, the NBA would have fined them for protecting their asset. It was an awkward set of circumstances and in the end, they were happy to see the back of him. Luckily, Zion Williamson came along to help ease the bitter fallout of Davis’s departure.
Brown enjoyed one of the great redemption stories in 2021 after he won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay. However, this came after a lot of drama in his life. He endured one of the worst team fallouts on this list after a bitter clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went into decline.
One of their worst came when Roethlisberger wanted to run a hot read over again during a walkthrough and Brown stormed off in protest. ‘Big Ben’ allegedly antagonized Brown and didn’t help the situation as trouble developed on the practice field. Brown claimed that there was a lack of mutual respect between the Steelers and this prompted him to leave the franchise.
Many Montreal Canadiens fans believe that their franchise still hasn’t recovered from trading Roy. One of the most notorious deals in hockey history occurred in 1995. Roy conceded nine goals in an 11-5 defeat versus the Detroit Red Wings. Disgusted, he told the team president that he was never going to play for the team again. The Canadiens suspended their captain the next day.
The situation became untenable and Montreal traded Roy to the newly rebranded Colorado Avalanche. He duly helped them to win their first Stanley Cup in their first year of existence. Meanwhile, the Canadiens trudged in the mud and declined as an NHL powerhouse. Many see this as one of the worst trades in hockey and the legacy of this deal continues to hang over the franchise.
Welker was very productive for the New England Patriots after he arrived from the Miami Dolphins in 2007. He led the league in receptions three times and was also a five-time Pro Bowler. However, many believed that he was the beneficiary of Tom Brady’s miraculous efficiency rather than being a gamechanger in his own right. In 2012, he entered prolonged negotiations with the Patriots over a new contract.
However, they simply weren’t into him and refused to meet his contract demands. Welker snubbed them with a bitter move as he went to Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos. However, his time in Denver wasn’t happy as he suffered multiple concussions and lost a Super Bowl. It’s unfortunate that the break-up between the Patriots and Welker was so cold, but that’s the harsh reality of pro football.
French World Cup star Griezmann built his reputation as one of Europe’s top forwards with Atletico Madrid. He became the Spanish team’s main star during his long stay at the Vincente Calderon stadium. However, when Barcelona declared its interest in Griezmann, it turned the player’s head. He wanted to leave and become a true superstar with the Catalan giants.
It’s incredible how quickly a player’s standing can change. Atleti fans worshipped him before this but turned on him quickly with bitter resentment because he refused to play for them. Furthermore, he failed to report for preseason training in an attempt to force through the transfer. It was an unfortunate ending to his time with the club because he represented them so well before this.
Fiercely talented but a nightmare teammate, “T.O.” was a true enigma. The wide receiver was an excellent athlete but his relationships with his quarterbacks were dire. Amongst several high-profile incidents, he alluded that Jeff Garcia was gay. Needless to say, this didn’t endear him to his former Niners’ teammate. But this was just one of several feuds that Owens became embroiled in.
Meanwhile, he had a massive conflict with Donovan McNabb during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles. To sum up, McNabb accused Owens of being a distraction and effectively behaving in an unprofessional manner during his time in Philly. He believed that the receiver was one of the main reasons why an NFC Championship-winning team broke up. Their relationship remains bitter today because they haven’t forgiven each other.
Pippen was the Robin to Michael Jordan’s Batman during the Chicago Bulls’ heyday. The pair won six NBA Championships together and Pippen was a six-time All-Star. Meanwhile, he won the Olympics and the NBA Championship in the same year on two occasions. This is a unique achievement. Pippen was an all-time great but the Bulls didn’t pay him like one.
Jerry Krause lured Pippen into a notorious deal where the franchise grossly underpaid him. Pippen was desperate to ensure security for his family and foolishly signed up. However, as he developed and saw inferior athletes enjoying much bigger salaries, he felt bitter resentment toward the Bulls and Krause in particular. As soon as he was able to escape, he did.
MLB stars lack the player power of NBA and NFL athletes. Even when their franchise agrees to trade them, they usually end up playing for a poorer team. However, Yelich’s situation is definitely an interesting one. He was sick of life in Miami and demanded a trade. The Marlins didn’t want to lose one of their most exciting young players, but in the end, he left them no choice.
They agreed to a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers and sent him to Wisconsin. It turned out to be an incredible move for Yelich because he went on to have the season of his life. Yelich became the NL MVP after a stunning season with the Brewers. Furthermore, he became the face of the franchise. While he cut ties with everyone in Florida, he went on to enjoy his career up North.
Tevez was a fierce competitor but a volatile personality in the Premier League. The Argentinian striker played with passion for Manchester United but departed to their arch-rivals Manchester City. This left the Red Devils with a bitter taste in their mouths. But he burnt bridges on both sides of Manchester with his behavior. His most notorious moment came when he fled to Argentina and refused to return unless City sanctioned a transfer.
In the end, the team placed him on gardening leave and instructed him to stay away from the training ground. Finally, they agreed to a deal with Italian giants Juventus and he moved to Serie A. Tevez was an energetic and exciting player but definitely a fiery character. As a result, he was involved in two of the most notorious transfers of recent Premier League history.
Montana is one of the most iconic quarterbacks in NFL history. He epitomizes everything much of what is great about football. For much of a certain generation, he is the greatest QB in league history, not Tom Brady. Montana built his reputation with the San Francisco 49ers as he won four Super Bowls with the franchise. However, an elbow injury cost him two seasons and Steve Young emerged to usurp him.
The Niners were set to continue with Young as their starter after Montana returned but this infuriated. He refused to accept being a backup and demanded a trade. However, San Francisco was aware of the PR nightmare that was about to happen and tried to reinstate him. But it was too late because the divide was too bitter. Then, they sanctioned a trade to the Kansas City Chiefs.
It looked as though Leonard found his home in San Antonio but he had other ideas. After missing a full season from injury in 2017-18, the Spurs and Leonard had a disagreement about the seriousness of the nature of it. Furthermore, he spent significant time away from the team as he rehabbed it with his own doctors. This led to a bitter behind-the-scenes dispute between the player and the team.
In the end, Leonard felt as though his position with the franchise was untenable. He requested a trade and they obliged. It worked out well for him as he went North of the Border and won the NBA Championship in his single season with the Toronto Raptors. Then, he left Canada for the L. A Clippers where he became one of the franchise’s stars with Paul George.
One of the most famous athletes in global sports history, Messi is a phenomenal soccer player. He spent his entire career with Barcelona, effectively winning everything on offer in the game. However, all was not well behind the scenes and he became embroiled in a bitter dispute with the club’s leadership. Then, in 2020, he rocked the world by handing in a transfer request.
This was a massive story because nobody knew who could afford him and whether or not he was serious. Many believed it was a power-play from Messi and finally, he stayed at the club. But six months later, Barcelona had presidential elections and had a shake-up behind the scenes. Only time will tell if Messi stays in Spain or decides to pursue a new dream.
There aren’t many baseball trades on this list but Hamilton had a significant fallout with the Texas Rangers after he left for L.A. After many years of personal success in Texas, including an AL MVP year, Hamilton moved to the Angels. Then, he made some unfortunate comments about the structure of the franchise and his former teammates.
This didn’t please the fans who enjoyed some schadenfreude after Hamilton suffered personal issues in Anaheim. Finally, he returned to Texas with his tail between his legs. But he patched up his relationship with the team and he received a standing ovation from the fans. However, injuries marred his comeback in Texas, and finally, after three seasons, they released him.
MMA is an individual sport but fighters compete under the authority of promotions. Johnson is, on paper, one of the greatest fighters in UFC (and MMA overall) history. However, he never won fans’ adoration, and UFC President Dana White was lukewarm about the flyweight king. Johnson had an incredible 11 successful title defenses and produced stunning finishes but failed to attract box office pay-per-view numbers.
In the end, Johnson departed the UFC for ONE Championship in the first blockbuster trade in MMA history. The UFC received Ben Askren in return. Johnson felt somewhat bitter about the situation because it came after his first controversial loss via close decision against Henry Cejudo. However, he revealed that he was pleased to fight for a promotion that showed the true spirit of martial arts.
‘The Decision’ is one of the most notorious moments in U.S sports history. It resulted in a bitter fallout between James and the Cleveland Cavaliers because he announced his decision to move to Miami. King James wanted to pursue an NBA Championship ring and didn’t believe that he would succeed in Ohio. However, fans didn’t see it this way and many burnt his jerseys.
Eventually, James returned with two NBA rings and won another with Cleveland to ease the fan pain. Then, he departed again for Los Angeles in less bitter circumstances after securing redemption. Meanwhile, former Cavs GM Dave Griffin shredded James after he departed and said that he hated building a team around the star. To sum up, his relationship with Cleveland is definitely love-hate.
Van Dijk is one of the best defenders in the world and a significant presence at the heart of Liverpool’s defense. Fans and analysts regard him as a true professional. However, Southampton supporters have a different perspective because of the manner in which he forced his exit from the team. Liverpool wanted to sign him but Southampton accused them of tapping him up so they abruptly ended talks.
But six months later they came back for him and this time Van Dijk was determined to leave. He effectively went on strike because he wanted to leave and this caused his relationship with the Southampton support to turn bitter. Finally, the two teams reached an agreement and Van Dijk became the most expensive defender in the world. After impressing for the Saints, he never looked back.
The Houston Texans were a basketcase of a franchise as their 2020 trade of Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins displayed. But things became worse for them in 2021 when J.J Watt left. Finally, their franchise quarterback Watson decided that he was sick of life in Texas and wanted to leave for a fresh start. This came after the best individual quarterback season in the history of the franchise.
Watson was open to a move to the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins amongst other teams. But then a series of sexual assault allegations broke and immediately tarnished Watson’s reputation. This put his dream of a trade on hold because nobody wanted to risk it. But it was a bitter mess that left nobody happy. This is one of the most toxic disputes in years.
Arguably England’s greatest-ever left-back, Cole was phenomenal for Chelsea. However, it’s easy to forget that he initially starred for Arsenal and was a key cog in their defense. But he departed in bitter circumstances after Chelsea signed him in 2005. Chelsea received a hefty fine after tapping up Cole because they broke regulations. Meanwhile, Cole unleashed his fury in his autobiography.
He shredded Arsenal in the book but tarnished his public image in the process. Cole carried an unfair reputation of being greedy after this but in hindsight, his demands were not outrageous. Arsenal received William Gallas and cash in compensation for losing Cole but Chelsea believed that they had the better side of the deal. This was a massive story at the time and a defining moment in his career.
Howard was a brilliant player for the Orlando Magic, but his relationship with the franchise became toxic by the end. After making a name for himself in Florida, he demanded a trade to the Nets. But the Magic weren’t pleased and refused to approve this request. Finally, after a bitter fallout, he ended up with the Los Angeles Lakers after Orlando accepted they couldn’t keep him.
An eight-time NBA All-Star, Howard became a nomad after he left Orlando. He bounced around from franchise to franchise, lasting for just a year in most places. However, he did spend three seasons with the Houston Rockets as he formed a deadly partnership with James Harden. But the manner in which he departed Orlando left a bitter taste in the mouths of many fans.
Technically, Lindros never played for the Quebec Nordiques after they drafted him in 1991. But he went down the Eli Manning route of refusing to play for the franchise because he wanted to be with an English-speaking team. He thought that this would make him more marketable. Finally, the Philadelphia Flyers successfully traded for the rising star and he moved South of the border.
It was a bitter fallout but arguably the Nordiques and their fans had the last laugh. Just four years later, they moved to Colorado and became the Avalanche. Within a couple of seasons, the franchise won two Stanley Cups while Lindros never won the coveted prize. However, he did win an MVP award in 1995 so there was some joy for the volatile Canadian star.
The New York Jets were a chaotic mess of a franchise throughout the 2010s. Their shocking results meant that they often landed highly talented players in the draft. But it was difficult for them to keep them beyond their rookie contracts because the franchise showed no signs of going anywhere. Adams forced his exit in 2020 after he fell out with GM Joe Douglas and became disillusioned with the project.
After playing for Adam Gase for two seasons, it’s not surprising that Adams had enough of the situation. He still managed to make two straight Pro Bowl appearances as a Jets player despite the team’s struggles. Finally, after a bitter dispute, he left New York for the west coast. Then, he made a third straight Pro Bowl following an excellent season for the Seahawks.
Sanchez won the first installment of The Ultimate Fighter series back in 2005. He became a massive fan favorite due to his all-action style and eccentric personality. Insanely, in 2021, he was still a member of the UFC roster and set to fight Donald Cerrone in May of that year. However, Sanchez’s “head coach” and spiritual advisor – yes, we’re serious – Joshua Fabia had other ideas.
Fabia is one of if not the biggest snake oil salesmen in the history of the sport. He became embroiled in a bizarre spat with the UFC commentary team before the event. As a result, the UFC cut Sanchez because they believed his condition was not suitable to fight. Sadly, Sanchez’s coach turned him against the promotion and this resulted in his meek exit. It was a bitter pill for fans of the legendary fighter to swallow.
The most successful player in NFL history, Brady is a New England Patriot icon. When he finally retires, there is no doubt that he will return to Foxborough to end it all as a Pat. But the reality is that he left the franchise for Tampa Bay under a cloud. His relationship with head coach Bill Belichick became bitter for a variety of reasons. In the end, Brady’s position became untenable.
The pair had a cold, functional working relationship but they were not on personal terms. Brady was also furious after Belichick banned the quarterback’s personal trainer from the team plane. Meanwhile, incidents like DeflateGate didn’t help the pair to rekindle their connection. Brady and Belichick are consummate pros, so they didn’t allow it to interfere on the field. But they didn’t like each other.
Brazilian midfielder Coutinho was Liverpool’s star player in 2017/18. However, he discovered that Barcelona wanted to sign him and this changed everything. He forced his exit by feigning an injury but infuriated bitter fans in the process. Liverpool fans adored him before this but he let them down with his antics. As a result, many of them felt like he was a mercenary who had let down the club.
Ironically, Liverpool used the massive $160 million transfer fee they received to fund their new squad. Then, they won the Champions League and the Premier League in back-to-back years. Meanwhile, Coutinho also won significant silverware but never managed to make his presence felt for Barcelona. They shipped him out on loan to Bayern Munich where he struggled before returning to Camp Nou.
Harden makes this list for a second time after his acrimonious departure from Houston. The former Rockets superstar was synonymous with the franchise but it all ended in tears. He was the team’s most important player and their biggest star, but that didn’t matter to him. His feud with the franchise became bitter and public, but he didn’t receive much fan sympathy.
Harden pushed for a trade but it took longer than he expected. Finally, they traded him to the Brooklyn Nets as part of a four-team deal. A nine-time All-Star and a former NBA MVP, Harden is one of the most consistent athletes in the league. Furthermore, he scored a triple-double in his debut game for the Nets, so at least he has their support. But he’s not popular in Houston and probably won’t be.
A Green Bay Packers stalwart, it’s impossible to envisage Rodgers playing for another franchise. However, the legendary quarterback arguably underachieved in Wisconsin. The fact that he only won a single Super Bowl with Green Bay is a bitter reality for the former MVP. As a nine-time Pro Bowler, Rodgers is one of the most recognizable and respected players in the NFL.
However, in 2021, he rocked the league when he demanded a trade. This came during the NFL Draft and was one of the most notorious moments of the weekend. The Denver Broncos immediately sat up and took notice while Green Bay desperately scrambled to appease their superstar. It was and is a messy situation for the franchise and a demonstration of player power from Rodgers.