NFL

Star Athletes Who Had Bitter Fallouts With Their Teams

Darren - May 4, 2021
NFL

Star Athletes Who Had Bitter Fallouts With Their Teams

Darren - May 4, 2021
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

17. Joe Montana

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.

Mandatory Credit: LA Times

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

16. Kahwi Leonard

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

15. Lionel Messi

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.

Mandatory Credit: The Hindu

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

14. Josh Hamilton

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

13. Demetrious Johnson

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

12. LeBron James

‘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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

11. Virgil Van Dijk

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

10. DeShaun Watson

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

9. Ashley Cole

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.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

8. Dwight Howard

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

7. Eric Lindros

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

6. Jamal Adams

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

5. Diego Sanchez

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

4. Tom Brady

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: Marca

3. Coutinho

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.

Mandatory Credit: AS Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

2. James Harden

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

1. Aaron Rodgers

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.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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.

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