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The Worst Career Moves in Sports History

Jeff ChaseSenior Analyst IIJanuary 9, 2017

The Worst Career Moves in Sports History

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    Everybody makes mistakes. There's no way of getting around it.

    Unfortunately for those involved in the world of professional sports, the moves they make over the course of their careers have a much bigger dent on how we view them.

    Some have them made mistakes that have taken them out of their sport, while others have just taken too long to leave the game and in result hurt their legacy.

    Others have done things that have helped ruin the joy of the sport they play, leaving fans distressed in what they had once thought was great.

    These moves are the worst in history of sports.

25. David Beckham Goes Stateside

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    David Beckham was regarded as one of the best soccer players in the world.

    He had played for Manchester United from 1993-2003 and then with Real Madrid from 2003-2007. Both clubs are known to be two of the elite soccer teams in the world, but Beckham had his eyes on the United States.

    In 2007, he packed his bags and headed stateside. He joined the Los Angeles Galaxy, a move in which many will argue was not smart.

    Beckham was given a five year, $32.5 million deal. His signing was actually covered by all 14 teams, as they were hoping that he would increase the image of the MLS.

    It hasn't seemed to help, and it looks like Beckham left behind a much more promising career overseas.

24. Zinedine Zidane Closes Career with Lasting Image

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    The 2006 World Cup was French midfielder Zinedine Zidane's last game playing in professional soccer.

    France was in the finals against Italy, and he had a nice little return for Italian centre Marco Materazzi. Supposedly, Materazzi was insulting Zidane's sister during the game, which resulted in the Frenchman driving his head into the chest of Materazzi.

    Zidane actually had a history of headbutting players, as he had done so against Hamburger SV's Jochen Kientz back in 2001.

    Zidane will still go down as one of the greatest players to ever play the game, but this incident will always be a blemish on his career.

23. Tonya Harding Attempts to Break a Leg

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    Tonya Harding was one of the premier women figure skaters during the 1990s. She represented the United States on many different levels, but she was constantly a problem.

    She appeared late for many runs at huge events, and she was constantly looking for ways to get out of a bad run.

    Her biggest career mistake came in 1994, when her husband Jeff Gillooly hired a man by the name of Shane Stant to break her biggest competitor Nancy Kerrigan's leg. They didn't succeed in the attempt, but they did hurt Kerrigan.

    Harding eventually pleaded guilty for conspiring the attack, which resulted in three years of probation from professional figure skating.

    In 1994, the United Stats Figure Skating Association banned her for life.

22. Latrell Sprewell Chokes His Coach and Can't Feed His Kids

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    Latrell Sprewell has made quite a few mistakes over his career.

    First of all, in 1997, while with the Golden State Warriors, he choked his coach—P.J. Calesimo. That incident alone has been an issue that he will never be able to get off his back, and it resulted in many teams to have cause for concern of signing him.

    The result of that incident had Sprewell looking for a job, as well as losing a three-year, $23.7 million deal.

    The New York Knicks took a risk with him, and he actually did quite well. During the 1999-200 season, he averaged 18.6 PPG and got paid. He received a five-year, $62 million deal, but was later traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2003.

    The T-Wolves wanted to keep him around once his contract expired, so they offered him a three-year, $21 million deal.

    This wasn't what Spewell was looking to get, and it was when he famously said, "I have a family to feed."

    Sprewell never got another contract after that final season. I hope he found a way to feed his family.

21. Bjorn Borg Gives Tennis One Last Shot

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    During his time, Bjorn Borg was the world's greatest tennis player.

    He ruled Wimbledon, winning the title five times in a row. He won a total of 11 Grand Slam titles over the course of his career, but he stepped away from the game once he couldn't get past a young American named John McEnroe.

    His career started to spiral out of control, especially dealing with the fact that he was never able to capture a US Open title as he lost to Jimmy Connors and McEnroe two times each.

    In 1983 at just the age of 26, he walked away from the game.

    Many had thought they had seen the last of Borg, but they would be proven wrong when he returned to the game in the early 1990's.

    With his comeback, Borg didn't fare much better. He failed to win even a set in his first nine matches—partially due to the wooden racquet he decided to play with (which was far behind the current technology).

    He bowed out once again in 1992, but eventually joined the senior tour.

20. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ditches the Family

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    Dale Earnhardt Jr. left his family owned racing team—Dale Earnhardt, Inc— in 2008, and perhaps his failure to put past issues behind him has cost him his career.

    His goal in the switch to Hendrick Motor Sports was to increase his chances of winning a Sprint Cup Championship, but he has only fallen back in the pack since the move.

    From 1999-2007, Earnhardt won 17 races with DEI. Since the move in 2008, he has only won a single race, which was his inaugural season with Hendrick's.

    His top five finishes have decreased as well, falling within that range only 19 times compared to the 75 he had with his previous team.

    Clearly, things are not going as planned.

19. José Canseco Blows the Whistle

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    While we were all pretty sure that Jose Canseco was taking steroids during his time in the MLB, there was no reason for him to write a book—Juiced—on ratting out a ton of his peers.

    His career was already a step towards the trash, but there was no reason for the captain of the steroid team to take down the entire ship.

    While he thought he was doing something good, he actually was arguably ruining the game and adding controversy. The whole result made his career a joke, and he has really not been able to recover his image like former PED using star Mark McGwire.

    Canseco's career was pretty much done when he started juicing, but he ruined any chance he had with his tell-all book.

18. Joe Dumars Passes on Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chis Bosh

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    Joe Dumars has done a lot of things right as the general manager of the Detroit Pistons.

    He did make one huge mistake back in 2003 NBA Draft, and that was selecting Serbian big man Darko Milicic with the No. 2 overall pick over guys like Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

    The Pistons have been in a steady decline since winning the NBA title in 2003-04 season, and a repeat appearance that resulted in a loss during the 2004-05 season.

    The team was aging, but they would have been set for the future if they would have selected one of the three superstar players that followed their pick in the draft.

17. Ricky Williams Doesn't Learn His Lesson

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    Ricky Williams, when drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 1999, was considered to be one of the best running backs to ever come out of college football.

    Williams had a lot of success with the Saints from 1999-2001. During the 2000 season, he ran for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in just 10 games. In 2001, he then ran for 1,245 yards.

    They moved him to the Miami Dolphins the following season, and boy did he go off. He ran for 1,853 yards with 16 touchdowns in 2002. He didn't do quite as well in 2003, but 1,372 yards and nine touchdowns is not too shabby.

    After that season, things were not looking good though. Williams was dealing with depression and social anxiety disorder, and he had tested positive twice for marijuana use.

    He retired before the 2004 season—with a third positive test looming—but would later return to the team in 2005. He played in 12 games after serving his four game suspension for his drug usage.

    Before the 2006 season, he tested positive for the drug once again and was suspended for the entire coming season.

    With a planned return to the game in 2007, it was reported that Williams had tested positive yet again. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell eventually reinstated Williams, but put him on strict drug testing policy.

    He has found success with the Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens since then, but he definitely threw away the years of his prime.

16. Roger Clemens Gets Caught Lying

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    Roger Clemens' name has been in and out of the whole steroid ordeal. While he still hasn't finished his on-going trial over the issue, he has ran into many problems with the situation.

    After former trainer Brian McNamee broke the silence on admitting to know that Clemens used steroids, the former shoo-in Hall of Fame pitcher has been fighting for his innocence ever since.

    After continuing to deny the allegations, the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. decided that Clemens would be indicted on six felony charges. Those included giving false statements, perjury and obstruction of Congress. 

    Standing strong on the issue, Clemens pleaded not guilty. The re-trial resulted in a mistrial in the summer of 2011. While this legal battle isn't likely over, Clemens' future with the MLB in any shape or form is pretty much out the window.

15. Michael Jordan Retires for the First Time

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    Coming off of the Chicago Bulls first three-peat over the 1990-1993 NBA seasons, Michael Jordan decided it was time to call it a career—at least in terms of basketball.

    Following his father's murder, Jordan felt the need to take a shot at the sport of baseball. His father always wanted him to be a baseball player growing up, and this just felt like the time to do it.

    Jordan, through his connections with Bulls and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, signed with the White Sox affiliate the Birmingham Barons.

    The Bulls still had a fine season without Jordan, going 55-27. They lost in the second round of the playoffs to the New York Knicks, an amazing accomplishment considering they were without their star.

    Jordan ultimately returned to the NBA in the middle of the 1994-95 season with a fax that said, "I'm back."

    The Bulls were at 31-31 with his return, and he helped elevate them into the playoffs. They lost to Orlando Magic in the the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

    When the 1995-96 season came around, Jordan and the Bulls were ready to dominate once again. The team went on to pull off another three-peat over the 1995-98 season.

    One has to wonder. Could Jordan and the Bulls have won eight in a row if he didn't retire so early?

14. JaMarcus Russell Puts on a Lot of Weight

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    The Oakland Raiders took LSU Tigers' quarterback JaMarcus Russell with the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

    Well, lets just say they ended up getting a lot more than they expected.

    While Russell was healthy for his first two seasons, he just never really showed the potential that the team had hoped for.

    Coming into the 2009 season, Russell weighed a ridiculous 290 pounds. The team eventually dropped Russell in favor of Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell.

    Russell has never been able to find another gig in the NFL since.

13. Manny Being Manny

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    Manny Ramirez has always been the talk of the MLB, as his antics, personality, and play constantly kept him in the spot light.

    Things have been rough though for the former Boston Red Sox star as of late.

    In 2009, one of the greatest sluggers in the game tested positive for performance enhancing drugs while with the Los Angeles Dodgers, tarnishing his entire legacy. That resulted in a 50-game suspension, and the downfall of his career.

    After continuing to play with the Dodgers, Chicago White Sox and most recently the Tampa Bay Rays, Ramirez's name finally popped up again in testing during the 2011 season. This resulted in a 100-game suspension, and pretty much the end of his career.

12. Michael Vick Gets Caught Running a Dog Fighting Ring

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    When quarterback Michael Vick was with the Atlanta Falcons, he was considered one of the premier playmakers in the NFL.

    From 2001-06, he was the face of the Falcons and was one of the most popular athletes in the country.

    In 2007, things took a turn for the worst as Vick was found guilty for running an illegal dog fighting ring. He pleaded guilty to the charges, which resulted in nearly two years in prison.

    The Falcons moved on from Vick, and they wanted no part of him once he retired—that is if he would even be reinstated.

    While he has become a force in the league once again with the Philadelphia Eagles, there is no doubt that this dark cloud will overshadow his career and life.

11. Tim Donaghy Makes His Call

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    While cheating has likely been going on forever, NBA referee Tim Donaghy was betting on basketball games that he was officiating.

    Who knows how long or how many games he was betting on, but he was an official in the NBA from 1994-2007.

    In 2007, the FBI became aware that Donaghy was making bets on games, which they brought to the attention of the NBA.

    Donaghy retired from the NBA before they were able to fire him, but he has since been tried by the US court system.

    He was sentenced to 15 months in jail in 2008, but has been a free man since 2009.

10. Tiger Woods Dumps Everybody

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    It will remain to be seen how Tiger Woods' career will turn out, but following the affair that resulted in his wife divorcing him, his entire career has taken a hit.

    To make matters worse, Woods went on and dumped everything about his past. He let go of hitting coach Hank Haney, and in a surprise move fired his caddy Steve Williams.

    Clearly he wanted to start things out on a clean slate, but his house cleaning was perhaps not too smart.

    With those two people by his side, Woods saw the most success that he had seen over his career. To get back on the right track, one should usually fall back to what has worked.

    He can only hope that he will find some new success with this new chapter in his career. Otherwise, he may later regret getting rid of everything he had.

9. Plaxico Buress Shoots Himself

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    Plaxico Buress and the New York Giants were on top of the world coming off of their Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl.

    The Giants were expected to do big things the following year, but they likely didn't factor in the possible loss of one their star players shooting themselves in the leg.

    Yep, Buress shot himself by accident in the leg with his own gun at a New York night club. The result of the shooting kept him out for the entire season, but that was because he was now dealing with a whole mess of legal troubles.

    Buress was sent to prison for two years in 2009, and was finally released in the summer of 2011. 

    He has since joined the New York Jets. Buress was on track to becoming one of the premier wide outs in the NFL, but this incident derailed his progress to glory.

8. Eric Mangini Betrays the New England Patriots

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    Eric Mangini may go down as one of the biggest rats in sports history.

    Once a former assistant coach to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, Mangini was finally given his shot to lead a team. That team was fellow AFC East team the New York Jets.

    Once he took over the reins there, he eventually called out Belichick on a allegedly having coaches spying on team's practices.

    While Mangini was doing the right thing, he was essentially blowing the whistle and ruining any opportunity for him in the future.

    Following his poor run with the Jets, he was given the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns.

    He was later relieved of his duties in 2010. After what he did to Belichick and the Patriots, it is hard to imagine anyone ever giving him another chance to join their coaching staff.

7. Ron Artest Goes off in the Palace

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    Ron Artest was regarded as one of the most aggressive defenders in the game. He had many great seasons with the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers, but things didn't always go as planned.

    In 2004, during a Pacers game against the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills, things got out of hand.

    During the game, a fight broke out on the floor between players of each team. There was only about a minute left in the game, but things were getting heated between these two rivaling clubs.

    At the end of the fight, somebody from the crowd threw a drink at Artest as he tried to calm down on the scorer's desk.

    Soon after, he got up and climbed into the stands to punch the supposed fan.

    This resulted in a huge fight between the Pacers players and the fans.

    Artest was then approached by fans back on the floor, one of which he punched.

    The result of this mess has always given Artest this "nutcase" label.

    With his recent name change to Metta World Peace, things may finally be heading for a change (yeah, right).

6. Sammy Sosa Corks His Bat

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    Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs has never been officially regarded as a steroid user. Nonetheless, his name will always be associated with it as many have assumed that he had done just that.

    Until he finally is proven guilty for that matter, many will point his situation back in 2003, during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. On June 3rd, Sosa's bat broke, and when the umpire approached the broken piece, he noticed cork inside the bat.

    This resulted in Sosa being ejected from the game, and many bringing into question how long he has been cheating for.

    He claimed to have accidentally grabbed the corked bat, but come on who really has one to begin with?

    It will remain to be seen what Sosa's result will be with the Hall of Fame when he can be inducted, but he has quite a few hurdles to get over before that time.

5. Brett Favre Punches the Packers in the Gut

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    Anybody know when Brett Favre is coming back to the NFL?

    It looks like he finally may be done after contemplating retirement several times over his career, but the headache he caused all of us during the offseasons were not even his biggest mistake.

    His worst decision came when he decided to sign with the Minnesota Vikings, who are rivals of his longtime Green Bay Packers.

    Even though he was the everlasting face of the franchise, No. 4 really damaged his legacy by essentially stabbing the team in the back by going to the Vikings.

    When the Packers traded him to the New York Jets in the 2008 season, they likely didn't envision this happening.

    It was hard enough for them to see him in another shade of green, but nothing was worse than the purple and gold (well the Chicago Bears blue and orange, but that never happened).

4. Marion Jones Runs into Trouble

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    The use of performance enhancing drugs have already been mentioned on this list before, and this won't be the last time either.

    U.S. Olympic track and field star Marion Jones became the subject of the matter back in 2004 when her name popped up on the BALCO investigation. This of course was the same case that was going against San Francisco Giants' slugger Barry Bonds.

    Jones continued to deny the reports, but finally in 2007 she came clean about her usage. She forfeited all her medals from the 2000 Sydney Games.

    Jones has still managed to hold onto all her awards from the previous years before 2000, but her usage took a huge hit on the United States Olympic team and what they stood for.

3. Mike Tyson Gets a Taste of Holyfield

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    If you weren't aware already, Mike Tyson is crazy.

    The former heavyweight boxing champion of the world has never been known to be a calm guy, and that is likely why he has found so much success over his career.

    Tyson proved just that when he fought Evander Holyfield for the second time in his career.

    On June 28, 1997, the two heavyweight forces were set to go at it.

    After three rounds of intense boxing, Tyson started to take bites at Holyfield's ears.

    The fight was quickly stopped and Tyson was disqualified, as he had bitten off a chunk of Holyfield's ear. 

    The fight put a huge damper on his career, but Tyson was still able to get fights. He was just never really ever able to recover from his crazy image ever since the incident.

2. Barry Bonds Taking Performance Enhancing Drugs

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    Barry Bonds, the all-time leader in home runs*, has been the center of attention for the issue of steroids and PEDs in the MLB.

    The former 14 time All-Star and seven time MLB MVP, Bonds has been out of the picture since 2007.

    Originally starting out his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1986-92, Bonds was a good player. He typically hit right around .300, but hardly did he ever eclipse 30 home runs during a season (did so twice during the 1990 and 1992 seasons).

    In 1993, he made the move to the San Francisco Giants. In his first season, he hit 46 home runs, and never saw a season below the 30 home run mark until 2005.

    More notably, he hit 73 home runs during the 2001 season—the most ever hit during an individual season.

    Bonds hit a total of 762 home runs over his career, many of which will be brought into question as things continue to be figured out.

    In April of 2011, he was convicted on obstruction of justice for lying about his steroids usage.

    Who knows if Bonds would have ever found the same success without the steroids, but his choice to take them has likely ruined any chance of him being recognized down the line.

1. Pete Rose Bets His Place in History

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    Even if he was betting on this team to win, Cincinnati Reds all-time great Pete Rose really messed things up when he decided to gamble on his future.

    Rose, the record holder for most career hits, has been deemed permanently ineligible from the MLB due to his betting on his team, while he was the player, and later, manager of the Reds.

    He should have been smarter than that and ultimately he has paid for his mistakes. It will remain to be seen if he will ever be allowed to make his way back into the MLB, especially the Hall of Fame.

    He did come out in 2004 and admit his mistakes, but it may just be a little too late for the MLB to recognize his acceptance.

    He certainly deserves a spot in the hall, but there is no doubt that he made the choice and ran the risk.  

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