Clutch performances often define the careers of superstar athletes. These sports stars carry pressure like a Karen carries rage into her local grocery store. However, it’s also true that they don’t always live up to expectations. Even the best have faded badly when it mattered most.
Today we’re going to take a look at 25 times athletes faded and cost their teams or themselves at key moments. It could be the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals, but they failed to deliver. Some of these stars won throughout their careers and this was a rare isolated incident. However, others had this one opportunity to reach for greatness. Check out the list below via Bola VIP and Flurry Sports.
25. Kobe Bryant (2008)
The Black Mamba endured a lot of doubt about his playoff reliability throughout his career. Obviously, he had some magnificent clutch performances but he also played very badly at times. One of his main issues was that he tended to over-shoot when things were going wrong. Bryant was terrible in Game Six of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.
He went just 7-for-22 as he missed more shots than a Star Wars stormtrooper. The Celtics had tremendous defense and won the game by 39 points. This was a humiliating defeat for Bryant because he played so badly. It became one of the most notorious results of his glittering career. The five-time NBA champion would have equaled Michael Jordan’s personal record if he won.
Roethlisberger suffered one of the most bizarre meltdowns in recent NFL history in 2021. First of all, the Pittsburgh Steelers went on a bizarre unbeaten run. Somehow they extended their winning streak for 11 games despite having no meaningful running game. Many critics said that they would eventually run out of luck and that’s exactly what happened.
After they lost four of their final five regular-season games, they limped into the playoffs. Then, long-serving QB Roethlisberger put in one of the worst games of his career. ‘Big Ben’ was horrendous against the Cleveland Browns. He threw three picks in the first 20 minutes of the game as the Browns forced him into a pass-heavy game. It was cringeworthy.
Some American sports franchises appear to exist just to inflict pain upon their fans. The New York Knicks are one of these. However, there was a time when they were actually good. In Johnson, they had one of the league’s most interesting and effective players. In fact, Knicks fans firmly believed that Johnson was the difference in them winning a championship.
This proved to be correct but not for any positive reasons. In 1999, the Knicks met the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Johnson totally failed to make any meaningful impression upon the series. Willis Reed retired in 1974 but could probably have had a more positive impact. Game Two saw Johnson put just five points on the scoreboard. “Grandmama” just didn’t have it in him.
The American Gangster talked his way into one of MMA’s most captivating rivalries. Sonnen became a figure of notoriety in Brazil because he trashed Anderson Silva. Silva was a superstar at the time because he was incredible as the UFC’s undisputed middleweight champion. His striking was sublime and he crushed most of his opponents, but Sonnen believed that he could beat him with a wrestling-heavy gameplan.
He almost did too. The pair fought in Oakland and Sonnen won four-and-a-half rounds of their five-round fight. He used his wrestling to superb effect and totally shut Silva down but faded badly in the last minute and it cost him. Silva came to life and sunk in a brilliant triangle choke. To sum it up, Sonnen tapped out and lost the fight. He came close but in the end, he was further away than before.
It’s easy to forget about how good Johnson was for the Lakers. People have short memories and of course, the NBA wants everybody to focus on the present. But he was a phenomenal point guard and won the MVP award in 1989. This came after an amazing regular season where he set all kinds of records. However, it didn’t translate into postseason success because of the Detroit Pistons.
This was the era of the ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons. They earned notoriety because of their physicality and defensive prowess. In short, they were too much for the Lakers. Dennis Rodman was staunch at the back for Detroit as Isiah Thomas ran the point. Johnson had no magic in this series and his Lakers suffered a miserable defeat. Even the greatest players perform badly at times.
The Giants shouldn’t have won Super Bowl XLII. Firstly, they were a Wild Card team. Furthermore, they were up against Brady’s Patriots. But this wasn’t any regular edition of the Pats. No, they went 16-0 during the regular season and became just the second team to finish unbeaten. They were on course to have a totally undefeated year but then they ran into Eli Manning’s G-men.
We all know what happened next. But what’s more interesting for the sake of this discussion is how badly Brady faded. Remember, he was the reigning the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. He went 29-for-48 in completed passes which isn’t terrible. But he wasn’t able to inspire his team to greater glory. This was a massive opportunity for the Patriots to stake their team as the greatest team in history. Finally, they blew it.
Many people believe that Messi is the greatest soccer player of all time. The Argentinian superstar is a Barcelona icon. He spent the entirety of his career with the Catalan side and also captained them. His skills are sublime and he is their most important player. But this can be problematic because when he plays badly, the whole team falls apart. This occurred on numerous occasions, especially in the Champion’s League.
One such example happened in 2017. Barcelona traveled to Turin to play Juventus. The Italian giants totally negated Messi’s impact and he faded from the game. They shut him down and Barcelona was effectively toothless without their star’s influence. In the end, Juventus won 3-0 as they blew the Spanish giants apart. It was a terrible night for Messi because he couldn’t do anything about it.
The Milwaukee Bucks were outstanding throughout the 2020 regular season. ‘The Greek Freak’ was pivotal as his franchise made the postseason with a phenomenal winning record. Before the global health crisis came along, a 60-win season appeared possible. Meanwhile, Giannis won his second NBA MVP award after blasting his franchise into the playoffs.
However, the team faded when it mattered most. They performed badly against the Miami Heat because Giannis faded away. Nothing went right for the Greek star because he committed bad fouls and missed games. Injuries prevented him from bringing his MVP form into the postseason. In sum, he joined the ranks of MVPs who failed to make it count in the big games.
Anderson had an excellent year in 1998. The South African placekicker was perfect for the Minnesota Vikings in his first season with the franchise. He was a model of consistency as he completed every kick during the regular season. It appeared as though he couldn’t miss. But fate can be cruel sometimes and Anderson discovered this in the most painful manner of all.
The Vikings faced the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game. Anderson had the opportunity to score and send his franchise to the Super Bowl. But somehow he missed the 39-yard kick. It was the one blemish on his perfect season but things ended badly for the Vikings. Instead of extending their lead, he allowed Atlanta back into the game. In the end, they won and Anderson became a figure of infamy.
McGregor expected to fight Rafael dos Anjos for the UFc lightweight title in March 2016 but ended up facing Nate Diaz instead. Furthermore, the bout moved up a division to welterweight. The Irishman boasted of eating steaks in preparation for the fight. It looked like he would cruise to an easy victory as he picked Diaz apart in the first round. Fans expected more of the same but then he faded badly.
“The Notorious” ran out of gas at the worst possible time. He carried more muscle into the fight because he didn’t cut as much weight. But this sapped his energy and all of a sudden Diaz clipped him with a punch. A rattled McGregor shot for a takedown but Diaz reversed it easily. Finally, the American fighter forced McGregor to tap out. He inflicted the first defeat of the Irish star’s UFC career.
The Denver Broncos’ legend was one of the best quarterbacks of his day. He left a shadow hanging over the position because he was so effective for so long. It took the Broncos a long while to replace him. However, even superheroes play badly sometimes. Super Bowl XXIV went down in New Orleans in 1990. The San Francisco 49ers destroyed Elway’s Broncos in brutal fashion.
It’s worth mentioning that the Niners had one of the best defenses in the league all season, but this was no excuse for how badly Elway and his team played. The game ended 55-10 in favor of San Francisco. This lopsided result was the worst beating in the history of the final. Meanwhile, the two-time Super Bowl champion was dire with a 19.4 quarterback rating.
Some people believe that Abdul-Jabbar was the greatest NBA star ever over the likes of Michael Jordan and LeBron James. The Bucks and Lakers legend enjoyed a distinguished career but even the best players have poor performances. Most people remember him as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer but he didn’t look like it in this series against Portland.
He was the reigning NBA MVP at the time but couldn’t make it count in the conference final. The Trail Blazers swept the Lakers in dominant fashion. Bill Walton’s men overwhelmed Abdul-Jabbar’s team. To be fair, Abdul-Jabbar scored the most points in three of the four games but his team faded badly. In the end, Portland progressed and left the Lakers watching from the sideline.
England came into the 2010 World Cup with Green as their starting goalkeeper. Nobody considered him elite but he played consistently for West Ham throughout the season. Most people considered him a safe pair of hands because he had a world-class defense in front of him. But this proved not to be the case. They played the USA in a group game in South Africa.
England took the lead through Steven Gerrard. It looked like they were going to win but the USA came back. Clint Dempsey’s speculative drive was straight at Green. But it bounced in front of the stricken keeper and floated into the net. This moment ended Green’s England career because it was so traumatic. Then England faded badly and barely hung on for a boring draw.
Miller was a lethal sharpshooter in his day. In fact, he could have been the star of “American Sniper” because he was so accurate. Meanwhile, he was also the Indiana Pacers’ key player and brought them to the next level. They even made it to the NBA Finals in 2000. They met Shaquille O’Neal’s Lakers who carried the tag of hot favorites. Everybody knew that the Pacers needed Miller to deliver in every game of the series.
But he didn’t. In fact, Game One saw him put in one of the most disappointing displays of his career. He shot so badly that it looked like Indiana started his doppelganger instead. Miller went one-for-16 in a horrifying performance. Remember, this is Miller we’re talking about. He was only the fourth player in basketball history to join the 50-40-90 club, but couldn’t do it in this game.
Gerrard was Liverpool’s captain fantastic. Born and bred in the city, Gerrard dreamed of leading his team to an elusive Premier League title. In 2014, it appeared as though they were on course to finally achieve their goal. But it all came to a cruel end against Chelsea as the season came to a close. Liverpool knew that anything less than a win could cost them the trophy. This was because Manchester City was level on points.
Chelsea spoiled Liverpool’s party. In short, Gerrard tripped at the worst possible moment. His teammate passed the ball back to him and the captain slipped. Then, he watched in agonizing helplessness as Demba Ba scored. In the end, Chelsea won the game 2-0 and killed off Liverpool’s title ambitions. Gerrard’s dream faded in front of his eyes and it was because of his mistake.
‘Big Ben’ is an all-time great in Pittsburgh but he has had some shocking performances down through the years. Unfortunately, one of these came in Super Bowl XL against the Seattle Seahawks. There are some games where a player just can’t do anything right. In short, Roethlisberger had one of these and it’s a blemish upon his career. They needed him when it counted, but he couldn’t live up to the hype.
Roethlisberger was almost anonymous throughout the game. When he did receive the ball, he didn’t do much with it. He went nine-for-21 for just 123 yards. Meanwhile, his QB rating was abysmal. It was just 22.6 which is one of the worst ever in NFL history. Of course, Roethlisberger did become a two-time Super Bowl champion. But he played so badly in this game, it’s not even funny.
The Chicago Bulls reigned supreme throughout the ’90s but they had some great challenges. These included the Seattle Supersonics. In 1996, Kemp and Gary Payton were genuine superstars. Seattle made their way to the championship Finals, where they met the Bulls. The media saw them as real contenders but they were unable to live up to expectations.
Kemp had a great season but he played badly on the biggest stage of his career. He went four-for-seven for just 14 points in Game Three. This proved pivotal in the series as they lost by four games to two. The momentum was with the Bulls and although Seattle battled back, it was too much to do. Kemp’s role was key because he had the ability to be a game-changer. Unfortunately for the Supersonics, it wasn’t meant to be.
The Broncos suffered a crushing loss to the Seahawks in a prior Super Bowl. But arguably, Manning played even worse against the Carolina Panthers in 2016. The legendary quarterback put in one of the worst displays by a starting QB in the showpiece event. In fact, he even kept the Panthers in the game at one point. The Broncos scored two touchdowns but Manning had nothing to do with either of them.
Denver’s defense was responsible for both scores. Furthermore, Manning had a shocking passer rating as he played badly. It was 56.6 when the average before this game was above 88, a terrible discrepancy. It’s not that Manning played well all season either because his interception rate was very poor. Fortunately, the Broncos’ defense was phenomenal and shut down Cam Newton.
In 2021, Jokic joined the ranks of regular-season MVPs who made no impact in the playoffs. Jokic was the lowest-drafted player in history to win the award but this didn’t help him in the postseason. The Denver Nuggets met the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals. After they defeated Portland, there were high hopes for the Nuggets as potential dark horses.
But Phoenix swept the Nuggets in four games. Jokic had one great display where he became the third player to achieve a 30/20/10 game in the playoffs. But then he had a meltdown in Game Four as Denver played very badly. He even suffered an ejection for a bad foul. It wasn’t the end to the season that he dreamed of after winning the MVP award. Sometimes, that’s just the way it goes.
Collins revived his career with the New York Giants after he became their starting quarterback in 2000. He endured a couple of poor seasons with other franchises but bounced back in the Big Apple. The Giants and Collins were solid before and after a midseason drop in form. They made their way to a Super Bowl appearance against the Baltimore Ravens.
However, Collins and his offense weren’t prepared for the Ravens’ defense. It’s not often that linebackers win the Super Bowl MVP award in the modern era. But Ray Lewis claimed the coveted award after a brilliant performance. Collins played badly and was unable to find his passing rhythm. He threw four interceptions in a miserable game for the Giants. This was a record at the time but luckily for him Rich Gannon broke it.
Malone is up there with the best players never to win an NBA title. The NBA star stayed loyal to the Utah Jazz for most of his career but couldn’t win a ring. Even when he moved to the Lakers for a season, he failed in his bid for glory. But his most disappointing game came in the Western Conference Semifinals in 1999. The Utah Jazz played the Portland Trail Blazers in a series fans expected them to win.
However, the Timberwolves tore up their expectations and beat the Jazz over the series. Meanwhile, Malone was the reigning NBA MVP. But he was especially poor in game six as he played as badly as he ever did. Malone went 3-for-16 with just eight points. The Jazz had a good chance to make a dent in the playoffs after the breakup of the Chicago Bulls dynasty. In the end, they failed to take advantage of this.
Mayweather fought Logan Paul in an exhibition match in Las Vegas. Fans expected the legendary boxer to knock out the YouTuber, despite a weight difference of over 30 lbs. Paul’s only professional boxing experience was a narrow defeat against his fellow YouTuber, KSI. Furthermore, his annoying personality stimulated casual interest. This was because everybody wanted to see ‘Money’ get the KO.
However, that’s not what happened. Mayweather started the bout slowly as he carried Paul for a couple of rounds. Then, he stepped it up and hunted for a knockout. But Paul stood firm as the bigger man and survived the beating. This frustrated Mayweather, who slowed down. The bout ended badly because ‘Money’ gave up on trying to beat the YouTuber down.
Ronaldo is one of the greatest soccer players of all time. A serial winner, he won trophies with Manchester United, Juventus, and Portugal. But the most interesting part of his career was his rivalry with Lionel Messi. The pair were the best players in the world and regularly faced off in La Liga. In 2010, Messi’s Barcelona crushed Real Madrid in a humiliating 5-0 victory.
Messi was the reigning world player of the year. Meanwhile, Ronaldo was desperate to oust him and claim this status for himself. However, Madrid faded badly at the worst possible time. Ronaldo was almost anonymous as he was unable to stamp his authority on the game. However, Messi was integral to his team’s success as they ran riot. This game humbled Ronaldo, a rare event.
Nowitzki had a tremendous career in the NBA. The German star was one of the first top European athletes in the league. He came into the 2007 season with question marks surrounding him. The Mavericks failed to win the NBA Finals and his poor performance didn’t help. But he rebounded to win the NBA MVP Award for his efforts throughout the next regular season.
Unfortunately, Nowitzki choked when it came to the playoffs again. This was the first season where the playoffs changed to the current seven-game system. He was horrendous in game six because the Warriors shut him down. The reigning MVP only scored eight points in the game. In sum, he played badly and it cost his team when it counted. Finally, Golden State progressed.
The Kansas City Chiefs made back-to-back Super Bowl appearances for the first time in their history. After winning the 2019 edition, they had the opportunity to make it two in a row. This was set up perfectly because they faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa. It was also depicted as a battle between the past and the present as Mahomes faced off against Tom Brady.
But Mahomes had one of the worst games of his career against Tampa. After an excellent season, Andy Reid’s men faded badly against the Buccaneers. Mahomes threw for 240 yards with two interceptions and three sacks. In the end, Tampa won 31-9 and became the first franchise to win the title in their own stadium. Meanwhile, Brady claimed an unprecedented seventh ring.