They say that you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. That rings true for sports stars as well as the rest of us mortals. Your parents are the most important people in your lives when you’re growing up. The way you think and the way you act will, in a lot of ways, reflect them too.
But some parents rip up the manual and bend the rules. So today, we’re going to take a look at 25 of the worst sports parents ever. Many of them swindled their own children, put them under brutal training regimes, or just weren’t there for them at all. Of course, this can lead to morally grey areas.
Is it fair to sacrifice your son or daughter’s childhood if it means establishing them as a sporting legend and earning riches in the process? It’s a tough one.
25. Tiger Woods
Woods is one of the greatest golfers ever. His 82 wins on the PGA Tour is a joint record. He was also the youngest player to win a career Grand Slam and only the second to achieve it three times. But Woods didn’t always have the best relationship with his father Earl.
Earl was extremely tough on his son. He pushed him hard and even implemented a rule of silence during his practices. He’d walk his line of sight when Tiger was about to swing and drop his clubs in Tiger’s backswing. It definitely worked out well for them both in the end, but it wasn’t easy for the young Eldrick growing up.
Capriati could have been a legendary tennis champion. Instead, she became a walking ATM for her father, Stefano, who used her until she ran out of money. Like a few other athletes on this list, he essentially bullied and conditioned her into becoming an elite athlete.
She turned pro at the tender age of 13. This wasn’t such a good idea because it attracted a crazy amount of media attention. Furthermore, this only escalated the pressure she was under to succeed. As a result, she ended up using drugs. Multiple arrests and rehab visits have followed.
When you’re young, it’s natural for your mother to try and fight your battles. But as you get older, that’s not so helpful. Unfortunately for two-time NBA champion Javale, his mom Pamela didn’t get the memo. In sum, she had no control at all over her maternal instincts.
A former NCAA women’s basketball champion herself, she was definitely in a position to talk about the sport. But she did so in a way that definitely didn’t help Javale. She humiliated him by verbally abusing everybody who criticized Javale. That included telling Shaq to stop bullying her son.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Kiel. That’s not a good thing and he can blame his mother for that. Back in 2012, he was the consensus No. 1 quarterback recruit in the country. In short, his future looked like it was shining bright. But then his interfering mother, Aleta, ruined his prospects.
He committed to Indiana before she used emotional blackmail to play for Notre Dame. Things didn’t work out there and a year later he transferred to Cincinnati. That was the beginning of the end of his NFL dream. Injuries overcame him until he became Cincinnati’s third-string quarterback. Now he doesn’t play at all.
Venus and Serena didn’t really have a childhood. Sure, that’s paid off handsomely for them both because they’re both multiple Grand Slam champions and millionaires. However, it definitely can’t have been easy at the time. That’s thanks to their drill sergeant father Richard.
It was the prize money that captured his attention after he watched a tennis match on TV for the first time. So, this middle-aged black man decided to teach himself the game. Then he wrote a 78-page plan and taught his daughters as well. He’s been their coach ever since.
There are several hockey players on this list, but Ryan has one of the craziest stories. The Ottawa Senators star is also a Winter Olympic silver medalist with Team USA. However, his father committed an incredibly violent act to make his life needlessly complicated.
Obsessed with making his son the best, Bob Sr. was a wildman. One night in a drunken rage, he almost beat his wife to death. After a court charged him with attempted murder, he jumped bail. Bobby and his mother Melody eventually forgave him and joined him in secrecy in Canada. That was fine until the US Marshals caught him.
Bell played for half a decade in the NFL. But he never played high school football or even intended to play when he went to college. You’d think a basketball hero like Karl Malone would be excited to find out that his son is also a great athlete. But Bell’s mother Gloria was just 13 when Malone got her pregnant.
As you might expect, he did his best to deny all knowledge before passing the blame onto his brothers. However, the truth was impossible to ignore. Gloria’s family didn’t want to press charges because then he wouldn’t be able to pay child support. In later years, Bell and Malone have connected. This is still a twisted story though.
A very decent hockey player, Johnson currently plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins after lengthy spells with both the LA Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets. He also represented Team USA at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. But thanks to his family, his life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses.
After signing his first major contract, he gave his mother Tina power of attorney over all of his finances. Tina and his father John went wild spending money on cars, homes, and travel. When he inevitably went bankrupt he had to sue to get them out of one of his properties so that he could balance the books.
Imagine having to sue your own parents. Moceanu is a former world-champion gymnast, winning Olympic gold in 1996. As gymnasts are typically in their prime in their teens, she was under the control of her parents. You might think that this is a good thing, but trust us, it wasn’t.
Her father, Domitru, swindled millions she earned in endorsements. She ended up having to sue them for emancipation when she turned 17. That’s not even the end of the story. Dominique had to go back to court to get a restraining order against him because he kept harassing her.
Former hockey star O’Sullivan played for five different NHL teams. The Los Angeles Kings drafted him in the 2003 draft. He recorded 161 points in 334 games. However, the fact that he got that far was a miracle because of his brutal childhood, which was as bad as any on this list.
O’Sullivan’s father John used to wake him up in the middle of the night to do pushups. Furthermore, he’d lock him outside in his pajamas during winter. Sometimes he’d whip him with a leather blanket or an electrical cord and force him to eat his own vomit. Unsurprisingly, they’re not on speaking terms today.
Former Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers hitter Fielder played for over 10 years in the MLB. The six-time All-Star holds the Brewers’ record for most home runs in a season. Unfortunately, injuries forced his career to come to an early close. But we don’t think he’ll be spending much retirement time with his dad.
His father, Cecil, was also a Silver Slugger in the MLB. Prince described his father as ‘dead to me’ when he left his mother. It probably didn’t help that Cecil stole some of his signing bonus to fund his gambling addiction. Now that is a dysfunctional relationship.
When your father literally points a handgun at somebody because they’ve annoyed him, you know he’s intense. There’s one single reason why Agassi hates tennis and that’s his crazy father. You might think that’s a wacky thing to say considering his success. But his dad totally tarnished his view of the sport.
As a youngster, his Iranian father bullied him into becoming an elite athlete, putting him through a savage training regime as a child. Yes, there’s clear evidence it paid off because Agassi won eight Grand Slams. But he also admitted to taking crystal meth during his career.
Now retired, Dokic had a decent career as a professional tennis player. But you have to wonder just how much better things would have been without her insane father. Her highest ranking was 4th in the world and she never won a Grand Slam.
Her father Damir was a ridiculously overbearing figure. Officials ejected him from Wimbledon in 2000 for smashing a journalist’s phone. Then he threatened the Australian ambassador to Serbia with a grenade attack after the Australian Open kicked him out. That’s before we even talk about him abusing his daughter.
Wie could have been an all-time great. Unfortunately, her parents derailed her career. At the age of 10, she was the youngest ever player to qualify for a USGA Championship. Then, just before she turned 16, she went pro with an enormous amount of attention and endorsements.
But it didn’t turn out the way it could have. Her parents made the bizarre decision to force her into men’s tournaments. She only ever made the cut in one tournament despite attracting a lot of media interest. Since reentering the women’s game, Wie has won a single major.
Nothing about O’Hair’s pro golf career has been exceptional. That’s not for his father Marc’s want of trying. He totally dominated Sean’s childhood and put him through a brutal training regime that would make drill sergeants blush. Even worse, he forced him to sign a contract guaranteeing him 10% of all future earnings.
These crazy demands took their toll on O’Hair, who has never won a major. He once broke down in tears at a PGA Tour Q school event in 2002. Their relationship effectively ended three years later. In short, they’ve only spoken once since when they greeted each other at Sean’s wedding.
The British love their boxing heroes, so when Eubank Jr. came along, they got very excited. Unfortunately, he may have gotten too much exposure. That’s because of his famous boxing legend father Eubank Sr. He overhyped his son with ridiculous soundbites, describing how ‘Christopher’ would decimate his opponents.
However, it hasn’t exactly happened that way. For one thing, Junior’s personality is much more lowkey than his eccentric father. Secondly, he hasn’t managed to win one of the proper belts yet, losing his biggest middleweight fights to Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves. His dad did the right thing and stepped back.
They say that if you want to stay friends with somebody you should never go into business with them. So imagine doing that with your family? Enter Peter Graf who made life a nightmare for his daughter Steffi. The former World Number One won 22 Grand Slams. But her father definitely didn’t help her.
First of all, he regularly embarrassed her. He once got into a blazing argument with an umpire at the French Open and often abused officials. But ‘Papa Merciless’ was totally in charge of her life, including her money. In 1997, a judge convicted him of fraud after he failed to pay $7.3 million in taxes on her earnings.
Mothers are sacred people, right? If you want to really get a man crazy, then say something bad about his mom. However, LeBron’s mother Gloria really hasn’t made his life easy. She definitely hasn’t helped him become one of the greatest players of all-time. She’s slept with his teammate Devonte West, which is just ridiculous.
When he was in high school, she took out a $50,000 loan based on his future basketball earning potential. His career almost derailed before it even started because the state suspended him. As well as the above she’s been arrested for DUI and assaulting a car valet. To sum up, she’s a woman who likes to live.
Chavez is not bad in the conventional sense. However, the very fact of his existence makes his son’s life impossible. Even Chavez Jr’s nicknames allude to his father, ‘The Legend Continues’ and ‘The Son of the Legend’ shows that he can’t escape.
While the younger Chavez has had success as a boxer, most notably winning the WBO middleweight title, he’s definitely nowhere near his dad’s level. The worst moment came in 2019 when he retired on the stool against Daniel Jacobs. Chavez Sr. shook his head in disgust. That’s rough.
Collins is currently a free agent after the Baltimore Ravens released him following an arrest. Things haven’t always been smooth sailing for the 25-year-old in his career. What could be worse than getting the boot from Maryland? How about having to deal with a mother like his?
The running back might never have even got to the NFL if his mother had her way. Before the Seattle Seahawks drafted him, he played for the University of Arkansas. But his mother, Andrea McDonald, refused to sign his letter of consent because she wanted him to stay in Miami. She even tried to sue the school to stop him from joining.
The problem with having a pushy father is that there will be a lot of pressure. Very few athletes can deal with that kind of influence and not go crazy. Take the case of Tony Rasmus, who made life a nightmare for his son Colby and totally ruined baseball for him.
Tony laid into Colby’s coaches and teams which ruffled feathers everywhere he went. He wasn’t shy in speaking to the media either which made things even more uncomfortable for his son who eventually walked away from the sport. That sort of treatment just won’t help at all.
Sometimes you have to show your child a bit of tough love. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, perhaps stabbing, cooking and eating your son’s pet dog is a bit excessive. That’s exactly what ‘The Pacman’s’ father Rosalio did to him when he was angry.
Rosalio abandoned his family, leaving Manny in extreme poverty. He even lived in a one-room shack in an area controlled by Muslim extremists. But the younger Pacquaio was able to box his way to fame and glory. The pair reconciled in 2009 when Rosalio attended one of Manny’s fights.
Fathers have a profound influence on their sons, even if they’re not there for them. Maybe this is why Rodman is one of the most colorful NBA personalities out there. His wild dress sense, drug use and friendship with Kim Jong Un have seen him make a lot of headlines.
But he never had a father figure in his life. That’s because Philander, his biological dad, has lived in the Philippines for over 50 years. Philander has also got other kids to worry about; a lot of them. He fathered no less than 29 children with 16 different women. Somebody should have bought that man a Netflix subscription.
You’ve got to feel for Ball because it’s not his fault that his dad is a loudmouth. Currently playing for the New Orleans Pelicans, some are even calling him a bust after just three seasons in the NBA. The Lakers drafted him as the second overall pick in 2017.
But injuries and bad form haven’t helped him. Nor has his father LaVar, an addict for attention. He forced his sons to turn down lucrative contracts with the likes of Nike and Adidas to sign with his own company Big Baller Brand. Furthermore, he’s been openly critical on TV about his coaches. No wonder Lonzo has struggled in the NBA.
Poor Todd. His father Marv is the ultimate bad sports parent. In fact, he basically treated his son as an experiment. Marv started Todd’s conditioning to be an athlete when he was three months old. In sum that’s next level intensity. His training regime totally derailed his chances of a normal childhood.
Needless to say, Todd didn’t turn out the way his father wanted. While he did make it to the NFL, he also turned to drugs. Finally, after several arrests, he left his football career behind and became an artist. It’s no wonder that he went totally off the rails because his life was insane before that.