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The 30 Most Unforgivable Betrayals in Sports

Jeff ChaseSenior Analyst IIJanuary 14, 2017

The 30 Most Unforgivable Betrayals in Sports

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    When you think about it, nobody in sports is really that loyal. It is a completely selfish world.

    And why shouldn't it be? No one is as dedicated to the team as a fan, so it is no surprise that people like players, coaches, owners and general managers have been so fluid over the years.

    What they sometimes fail to understand is, their betrayal hurts the fans more than they could even imagine.

    When someone that provided hope to a franchise just gets up and leaves, that can result in everlasting hatred.

    There have been plenty of betrayals in sports over the years, so let's now break down the 30 most unforgivable ones that we have seen.

30. Jason Taylor

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    Jason Taylor sits at No. 30 on this list because he actually returned to the Miami Dolphins to finish out his career.

    Still, it cannot go unsaid that the star linebacker left his longtime team for the second time in 2010 to pursue a Super Bowl with their division rivals the New York Jets.

    Taylor failed to win a championship with his transition, and returned home for the third time in his career. While he left the fanbase in the dust twice, his return was always happily accepted.

29. Karl Malone

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    After playing 18 seasons with the Utah Jazz, power forward Karl Malone decided that is was finally time for a change of scenery.

    He left the team that he failed to ever bring a championship to, in favor of joining the Los Angeles Lakers for one last season to get a ring.

    To the relief of Jazz fans, the Lakers failed and Malone never got the ring that he desired for his entire career.

28. Tiger Woods

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    Many of you may be wondering what former world No. 1 golfer Tiger Woods is doing on a betrayal list.

    Well, for those of you who don't know, after Tiger returned to golf following his hiatus, he decided to part ways with longtime caddy Steve Williams.

    Williams was the only guy who stuck by his side, especially after swing coach Hank Haney left him in 2010.

    Tiger has been trying to rediscover himself and change his game, but one piece he will regret dumping is his most important sidekick.

27. Stan Van Gundy

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    From 2003-05, Stan Van Gundy was the head coach of the Miami Heat. During his time, he led the team to an overall record of 112-73.

    After 21 games into his third season, Van Gundy abruptly resigned as head coach, leaving general manager Pat Riley to take over.

    While many won't complain, as the team went on to win the NBA Championship that season, many were bothered when Van Gundy decided to take the job opening with the Orlando Magic.

    The Heat have been dominating the division since last season, but Van Gundy's Magic were giving them a run for their money for quite some time. 

26. Lane Kiffin

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    Lane Kiffin has already been the head coach of three different teams, and he is still only 36 years old.

    While he didn't see a whole lot of success as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Kiffin's next stop as the Tennessee Volunteers head coach had a lot of promise.

    Unfortunately for them, he bolted the university immediately once the USC Trojans job opened up. He had opened up many doors at Tennessee, only to close them soon after entering.

    Kiffin's one-year stint with Tennessee just shows the kind of person he is. Fortunately for him, he is lined up to have a lot of success with the Trojans for years to come.

25. Bill Belichick

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    Oh Bill Belichick, you are one bad man.

    While he has managed to win three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, fans of the New York Jets are still hung up on being left at the alter.

    Belichick was in line to replace Bill Parcells as head coach, to only resign after one day to join the Patriots and start what is now one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time.

    The Jets did get the Patriots' first-round draft pick due to Bill's indecisiveness.

    Hey, at least the they got Shaun Ellis out of it. Oh, and if you were wondering, he is with the Patriots now.

    Bill, you are sly.

24. Marian Hossa

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    Even though he only played one season with the Detroit Red Wings, Marian Hossa's departure to the Chicago Blackhawks was not acceptable due to the rivalry.

    Hossa was the Red Wings' leading scorer that season, knocking in 40 goals. He spurned the team in favor of a 12-year, $62.8 million contract.

    Can you blame him?

23. Johnny Damon

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    Don't even bother mentioning Johnny Damon if you find yourself in the Boston area, as Red Sox fans just do not like the guy.

    After helping the team win a World Series in 2004, Damon fled town to join the arch-rival New York Yankees. The Evil Empire was offering one more year than the Red Sox, and instead of taking a hometown discount, the bearded man opted for more cash.

    Damon won another title as a Yankee, but has been bouncing around the league ever since.

    Most recently, he played for the Tampa Bay Rays. Why not? He loves to just annoy the crowds when he returns to Fenway.

22. Adam Vinatieri

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    A kicker, you ask?

    Why yes, that is the great Adam Vinatieri. This man has assisted in winning four Super Bowls with his foot, three of which were with the New England Patriots.

    While the team didn't make a real effort to re-sign the man with the big leg, he decided to take his talents to the Indianapolis Colts.

    These two teams are considered rivals as of late, more so because of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but still they are rivals.

    Vinatieri may have not been desired to come back, but him joining the Colts wasn't likely what the team had in mind when he had his foot out the door.

21. Carmelo Anthony

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    Carmelo Anthony didn't want to play with the Denver Nuggets anymore, so he forced his way out.

    For a team that had no other superstars, it was quite disheartening to see their biggest attraction being so vocal about wanting to leave town.

    It wasn't even like the Nuggets were bad.

    They made the playoffs in all seven years that he was with the team. He was really just being a baby.

    Still, Anthony got his wish, and eventually ended up with the New York Knicks.

    The Nuggets got a lot of pieces back, but nothing even remotely similar to Anthony.

20. Luis Figo

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    For six years, Luis Figo was the king of the Barcelona soccer club. He was one the most loved players amongst the fans, but he would lose them once he made the biggest decision of his life.

    Figo eventually transferred to Real Madrid, and the move did not sit well with Barca fans. The teams are huge rivals, and Figo wouldn't truly learn this until Real Madrid made their way to his former turf.

    In that game, Figo was harassed the entire game by the crowd, including having things thrown at him.

    Most famously, a fan managed to get a pig head thrown onto the field while Figo was lining up for a corner kick.

19. Alex Rodriguez

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    In baseball, it is extremely hard for small-market teams to keep around star players. There is just so much money that can be offered, so often teams are betrayed by the players that they brought to prosperity.

    One such man is star shortstop Alex Rodriguez.

    After coming up with the Seattle Mariners for five seasons, he decided that he would move on and play for the Texas Rangers. They offered A-Rod the most lucrative deal in the history of MLB at the time, giving him $252 million over 10 seasons.

    While Mariner fans should feel betrayed, it isn't like the three-time MVP hasn't hesitated to move to where the money is.

18. Bobby Petrino

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    There may be no "I" in team, but there certainly is one in quit. And that is exactly what coach Bobby Petrino did to the Atlanta Falcons.

    In 2007, the longtime college coach finally made the jump to the NFL ranks. To say the least, his career was rather short-lived.

    After only 13 games, Petrino resigned from his position, leaving the Falcons without their head coach for the final three games of the season.

    Sure, the Falcons were off to a 3-10 start, but you don't just quit on your team.

    He took the Arkansas Razorbacks job, and has seen some success there.

    Even if he is a better college coach, you just don't quit on your team like that. 

17. Ben Wallace

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    Who lost more in this situation? Ben Wallace and his relationship with the Detroit Pistons, or the Chicago Bulls by actually acquiring the man with absolutely no offensive skill?

    Tough call, but nonetheless Wallace left the Pistons in 2006 for one of their longest-standing rivals.

    His departure was only the beginning of the collapse that the Pistons organization went through.

    The Bulls and Wallace never really worked, and two departed after just one-and-a-half seasons.

    He has recently returned to the Pistons, but nowhere close to the same that he was when he left six years ago.

16. Wade Boggs

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    As we have covered, you don't leave the Boston Red Sox for the New York Yankees. It is just not allowed.

    Unfortunately for Johnny Damon, he didn't learn from the previous mistake that Wade Boggs had made when he opted to switch teams back in 1992.

    Boggs had spent 11 years in Boston, to only leave them after failing to win a World Series. With their rivals, he managed to help the team claim a title in 1996—a feat he never accomplished in Beantown.

    He did his best to make up for his decision by making the Hall of Fame have his plaque sport the Red Sox cap. Despite the kind gesture, he may never be able to do enough to fix what he did.

15. Theo Epstein

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    Speaking of the Boston Red Sox being betrayed, the recent departure of general manager Theo Epstein to the Chicago Cubs just puts the icing on the cake.

    The Red Sox were coming off of an epic collapse, one in which saw them miss the postseason after being considered a shoo-in.

    The club axed manager Terry Francona without consulting Epstein, and in turn he took a job offer from the Cubs.

    Epstein is from Boston, and delivered two World Series to the team. His betrayal is one of the worst, as he was essentially a fan leaving his team behind.

14. Barry Sanders

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    When Barry Sanders retired from the game of football, many were left in disbelief.

    Nobody felt it more, though, than Detroit Lions fans.

    Sanders was by far one of the greatest running backs in the NFL, and just a season before he retired he ran for over 2,000 yards. It is not like he was having a bad run of luck.

    Not only that, he was fewer than 1,500 yards away from breaking Walter Peyton's all-time rushing yard record. While it can't be said if he would have been anywhere close to where Emmitt Smith now stands, it remains likely that Sanders would have at least be No. 2 all-time.

    The Lions did make the playoffs in their next season, but they failed to be anywhere close to mediocrity until this past season.

13. Rick Pitino

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    Rick Pitino had so much success with the Kentucky Wildcats that many were left scratching their heads when he decided to jump ship to the NBA.

    Before joining Kentucky, Pitino was the head coach of the New York Knicks, so he wasn't all that unfamiliar with the professional level.

    In his last six years as the head coach of the Wildcats, he had led the team to the NCAA tournament each year. He reached two Elite Eights, one Final Four and two championships—including winning it all during the 1995-96 season.

    Pitino left the team after losing in the championship game, and decided to take a job with the Boston Celtics. He stayed there for four seasons, only to eventually return to the college court to lead the Louisville Cardinals.

12. Carlos Boozer

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers got away with a steal in the 2002 NBA draft, as they nabbed power forward Carlos Boozer late in the second round. Unfortunately, there wasn't a whole lot of mutual respect towards them for giving him a chance.

    Boozer was turning into a dominant player in the NBA, and things were looking good for the Cavs as they were starting to get things going with their recent draft pick in LeBron James.

    The Cavs wanted to reward Boozer for his performance, so instead of keeping him on as a restricted free agent for $695,000 for one more season, they let him out of his contract so that they could give him a bigger deal.

    There was a mutual deal between the two parties, but Boozer spurned the Cavs for a much larger deal with the Utah Jazz—one that they just couldn't match.

    Boozer didn't keep his word, and in the end he potentially ruined the team's best chance at winning a title.

    Not to mention, he now plays for their division rivals the Chicago Bulls.

11. Pete Carroll

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    There have been a lot of great college football coaches over the years, but nobody can really top what Pete Carroll accomplished at USC.

    Not only was he a great coach, he was also a huge part of the community. He left everything behind, just to escape possible punishment from the NCAA.

    When Carroll left the team following allegations that would put the team on probation for his actions with the Reggie Bush scandal, his departure made Trojan Nation resemble a deer caught in headlights.

    Because of what he did, the Trojans had to give back their 2005 national title. 

    They have been fighting to get back to the top, but they will just be getting out of postseason sanctions this 2012 season.

    Carroll has been seeing some success with the Seattle Seahawks, but what he did to Trojan Nation is just unforgivable.

10. Nick Saban

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    Nick Saban has stuck it to the LSU Tigers multiple times, but he definitely has been torturing them ever since he took over the Alabama Crimson Tide.

    Saban was the head coach of the Tigers for five seasons, including bringing them a 2003 BCS title. He left the team in 2004 to take on the vacant coaching position with the Miami Dolphins. Fans felt betrayed, but it was nothing compared to him taking over the team of their SEC rivals.

    Since taking over the Tide, Saban has claimed two more national titles. Not to mention, he just recently ruined the Tigers' potentially perfect season by shutting them out in this year's title game in their hometown.

9. Clay Bennett

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    Some will blame the lack of public funding, but in the end many will target Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett for the departure of the Seattle SuperSonics.

    When he took over the Sonics, the future of the franchise remained in question. In the end, it seemed inevitable that he would move the franchise back to where he grew up.

    The team was starting to grow into what they were today, as they had drafted Kevin Durant and were ready to build around him.

    Unfortunately, their only hope now is to get an expansion team to bring a team back to the Northwest.

8. Urban Meyer

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    When Urban Meyer stepped down from the University of Florida in 2011, many were led to assume that he would never coach another game again. 

    At least, not anytime soon.

    Meyer left the Gators, citing health and family reasons. He took his knowledge to ESPN, where he joined on as a correspondent.

    Soon enough—literally less than a year—he took a job offer from the Ohio State University

    Unless his health problems disappeared this quickly, and he has already grown sick of his family, this turn of events is quite a shocker.

7. Eli Manning

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    So a team does really badly, and they are rewarded with the first pick in the NFL draft. Their gift for being the worst is to have their pick of the best of the best within their respective draft.

    In 2004, the San Diego Chargers felt that Eli Manning was their man. Little did they know, he was going to have the last laugh.

    Manning was quite vocal about his displeasure in joining the team, so on draft day they had no other choice than to deal him to the New York Giants.

    While it remains to be seen if Manning would have delivered a Super Bowl to the West Coast by now, his success with the Giants has made many Charger fans resentful of his name.

6. Albert Pujols

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    Figures—you win the World Series, and in return you lose your franchise player.

    Makes sense, right?

    The St. Louis Cardinals are still dazed and confused after three-time MVP slugger Albert Pujols left town following the team being named world champions.

    He decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, leaving the Cardinals with a huge void to fill.

    They settled on Carlos Beltran. Eh, no Pujols.

    Pujols may have been the heart and soul of St. Louis for 11 seasons, but in the end he will be nothing but their enemy.

5. Shaquille O'Neal

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    The Orlando Magic took Shaquille O'Neal with the first overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft, and they were ready to build this franchise around the dynamic big man.

    Shaq had his eyes set on bigger things though—money, fame—and once he became a free agent in 1996, he opted for the Los Angeles Lakers and later found success alongside Kobe Bryant and coach Phil Jackson.

    The Magic really needed him, as he drove in the fans and made the Magic a much more marketable team. For him to just leave them as he did there was no way the fans would ever find any respect for the player that once was the face of their franchise.

4. Art Modell

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    Art Modell follows in the footsteps of Robert Irsay. He took a team with great roots to its city and decided to uplift it and move it elsewhere—no matter what displeasure the loyal fanbase felt.

    The Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996, where they took over for the vacant spot left by the Indianapolis Colts' move back in 1984. The only difference is that this time around, the fans would get the last laugh.

    Modell sided with the fans, and decided to make his new team the Baltimore Ravens. While doing so, he gave all the records, colors and team name back to Cleveland.

    So while Modell was a pretty bad man for moving a long-standing franchise, in the end they got back their team. And that is all that really matters.

3. LeBron James

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    When the Cleveland Cavaliers landed the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA draft, there wasn't a doubt in one person's mind that they would take LeBron James.

    James was the high school prodigy that grew up in Akron, OH, and he looked to be the savior of the troubled franchise.

    Before James came to town, the Cavs had never won an NBA Championship. It was foreseen that the hometown hero was finally going to do just that, especially when he promised to never stop playing until he brought a title to Cleveland.

    Well, he broke that promise, when he opted to join the Miami Heat with fellow superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. 

    Cavs fan will dread the day that James and the Heat win a title. If they believe in karma, well, it just may not happen.

2. Brett Favre

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    Many of you will argue that Brett Favre joining the Minnesota Vikings wouldn't really make him out to be a traitor.

    After all, the Green Bay Packers did dump him for Aaron Rodgers (anyone complaining in Green Bay? I didn't think so). But still, the Vikings?

    That is like Derek Jeter going to the Boston Red Sox. No way—just doesn't happen. They know well enough what the outcome of that would be.

    Well, that didn't stop Favre. Good for him to keep doing what he loves, but he didn't have to go out and completely destroy any bit of fanbase he had left in Green Bay.

    People may decide to forgive him down the line, but for now the damage has been done. 

    Rodgers, you just may have nothing to worry about.

1. Robert Irsay

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    There is no bigger betrayal in the era of sports than when Robert Irsay moved the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis in the middle of the night.

    Look, it is one thing to move a team, but do it in such secrecy like this was done is just dirty. You know you are doing something wrong if you need to make your action like this.

    Nowadays, a move like this would be impossible. There are too many people in the know. Back then though, this was able to happen, and it was executed to perfection.

    Also, if it wasn't for this move, the Cleveland Browns would have never likely had to deal with the same situation.

    Baltimore is thankful after getting a new team, the Baltimore Ravens, in 1996. Still, the absence of a team for 12 years really hurt all those who lost their franchise in the blink of an eye.

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