Injuries and Scandals That Tragically Cut These Athletes' Careers Short
Athletes are modern gladiators, revered by mere mortals and sometimes mistakenly believed to be immune to serious injuries, mental meltdowns and scandals. Turn on the tube, and the news will remind you that athletes are just as susceptible as the rest of us to tragic events, and those events sometimes end their careers.
Sometimes, it’s an unpredictable injury; sometimes, it’s an overinflated ego that falsely makes them believe they are above the law. Let’s take a look at some of the injuries and scandals that blew up some very promising athletic careers.
Has there ever been a more shocking public fall from grace than that of Tiger Woods? The child golf prodigy has been on TV sinking putts since the age of two, and he stole America’s heart along the way. By the time he was in his golfing prime, the world had never seen such dominance on the links.
No man was more feared in the boxing ring than Mike Tyson. The Knockout Kid seemed to explode with a single ignition of fury, taking down massive, muscle-bound goliaths with a single punch. (Seriously, some of his fights were too short to even be boring.) Ultimately, the world discovered Mike's persona outside the ring was almost as dangerous.
If you're young or not a baseball fan, you may only know Alex Rodriguez as the pearly white-smiled husband of Jennifer Lopez. He is a media darling again, which just proves his charm is undeniable. Those familiar with baseball, remember him as a once-golden child who fell from grace — hard.
Grant Hill is one of the most likable guys in sports. The former Duke basketball star is one of the best NBA analysts around, so many people forget just how great he was as a player back in the day. His career would have been awesome — if not for injuries.
Bo Jackson is considered by many to be the greatest athlete of all time. He was both a dominant college running back and a talented outfielder at Auburn. (That’s right, two different sports.) He went on to play in the NFL as a running back for the Oakland Raiders and also played in the outfield for the Kansas City Royals.
Yao Ming revolutionized the center position in the NBA. At 7.5 feet tall, he makes the tallest men in the league today look comically small. The fact that he was from China made him a global megastar and an extremely rare anomaly. The Chinese average height is closer to 5.5 feet tall.
Will we ever forget the man who is possibly the most scandalous athlete of all time? The Lance Armstrong downfall was particularly polarizing because of the cancer factor. Not only did Armstrong overcome testicular cancer — becoming an icon for cancer survivors and their supporters in the process — but he also raised an ungodly amount of money for cancer research.
Tonya Harding became synonymous with one of the most mind-boggling, tragically comical (in a really dark way) sports scandals of all time. Her boyfriend and his henchman attacked her primary figure skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan, injuring her to give Harding a competitive advantage (to say the least).
Chad Ochocinco, also known as Chad Johnson, is one of the most electric, gregarious wide receivers the NFL has ever known. In an era where player personalities were illuminated on TV shows like Hard Knocks, Ochocinco came through with Pro Bowl-numbers every year while showcasing a vibrant personality.
Ken Griffey Jr.
Ken Griffey Jr., what can you say? Not only did "The Kid" have the sweetest swing baseball had ever seen, but he was undoubtedly one of the best all-around players in the game's history. He was the face of the game who made the backwards hat cool and re-popularized the game among the African American community.
If you’re a sports fan in the Millennial or Gen-Z generations, you may know Bill Walton as the unabashed Deadhead who also happens to be one of the most off-the-cuff, rambling basketball analysts ever. (Okay, he’s definitely the most off-the-cuff, rambling basketball analyst ever.)
Marion Jones was one of the most celebrated American track athletes of all time. Like so many track athletes from her generation, her career was cut short after it was discovered she had used performance enhancing drugs and lied about it.
Brandon Roy was a do-it-all guard with the Portland Trailblazers, and by do-it-all, we mean defend, shoot, drive, pass, sign autographs for the fans, serve as a great teammate and willingly play the role of Face of the Franchise. What Roy couldn’t do was overcome a pair of balky knees that let him down time and again.
You could probably say Penny approached his NBA career the "Hard-a-Way." But seriously, he seemed to be on pace to win countless All-Star team nods, achieve a Hall of Fame career and win at least one championship as the second punch in a duo with Shaq.
Let's take it way back to when cigarettes weren't deemed unhealthy and enlisting in the military was little more than a rite of passage. That’s when a young Sandy Koufax made his name as the sweetest throwing lefty in the game of baseball, blazing a path for Jewish athletes to play the game.
The story of Monica Seles is one of the most bizarre and tragic in sports history. As an up and coming contender on the women's tennis circuit, Seles was a talented rising star. The lefty had grace, tenacity and a forehand and backhand that were quite formidable.
Gale Sayers was a revolutionary figure in football, making his name as one of the first true star running backs. More graceful than a gazelle, he remains one of the most influential Hall of Famers in Canton. So, it stings to know he could have been even greater than he was if he hadn’t suffered a career altering knee injury.
Joe Theismann was one of the coolest athletes of his generation. He had a successful Hall of Fame career, but his gruesome, career-ending knee injury is what fans remember most. The fact that legendary player Lawrence Taylor caused the injury makes it even more memorable.
It was ironic that Floyd Landis became a vocal critic of Lance Armstrong and the new face of USA Cycling in the wake of Armstrong's professional demise. Why was it ironic? Maybe because he was eventually embroiled in a virtually identical scandal that cut his career short.
2000 Spanish Paralympic Basketball Team
On the topic of the most shameless scandals in sports history, the casual sports fan may not be aware of the crimes of the 2000 Spanish Paralympic Basketball team. The games have special rules regarding mental disability. The Spanish Paralympic team won the Gold medal in 2000, and you can probably guess how the rest of the story goes.
This Broncos running back played alongside John Elway and became one of the most beloved players in Broncos history. The former Pro Bowl player took an absolute pounding as the bell-cow back for the Broncos, and he eventually became synonymous with injury.
Oscar Pistorius was one of the most intriguing, inspiring athletes of our time. Known as the Blade Runner, he overcame the loss of his legs as a child and learned to leave his able-bodied competition in the dust while maintaining a rosy outlook on life. A tragic event changed everything.
Being the number one pick in any draft comes with a lot of pressure to perform. When you can't perform because your body won’t let you, then the mental strain can be too much to bear. Greg Oden is the tragic embodiment of this reality.
Daunte Culpepper had one hell of a career with the Minnesota Vikings, but he was supposed to play even longer as the big, strong-armed quarterback of the Miami Dolphins. He was even signed to the team over Drew Brees, which tells you everything you need to know about Culpepper's talent.
One of the greatest hockey players to ever strap on skates, Bobby Orr is revered as one of the godfathers of modern hockey. His deft agility, unmatched puck handling and ability to slam it into the back of the net made him a perennial All-Star and an obvious Hall of Famer.
The Playmaker is one of the hardest working, dominating wide receivers in the history of the NFL. If you didn’t want Michael Irvin to play, you had to drag him off the field. So, it was tragically upsetting when an injury forced Irvin off the field long before his time.
Kerry Wood and Mark Prior once formed the most dominant duo in Major League Baseball playing for the Chicago Cubs, but the more-than-promising youngsters were both plagued by injuries. Wood was arguably the more dominant of the two pitchers. His career spanned more than a decade, but injuries ultimately derailed his projected success.
Anybody who was an NFL fan during the Priest Holmes era remembers just how electrifying it was to watch the Kansas City Chiefs playmaker. As one of the rare running backs to possess the speed and agility of a small man, the strength of a much larger man and the vision of a Hall of Famer, Holmes couldn't be contained.
There was no doubt among informed viewers: Sean Taylor was going to be a Hall of Famer, a perennial Pro Bowler and one of the best pure football players of all time. He could run. He could hit. He could force turnovers and confuse even the best quarterbacks as one of the best safeties — maybe even the best overall defender — in football.
The Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors star was one of the most cerebral, misunderstood players in the NBA. He received lots of undue hatred as part of Miami's Big Three, along with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Bosh put up All-Star numbers every year, and most experts believe he is a fringe Hall of Fame candidate.