Sharks are both cunning and ruthless, with uncommon guile and intelligence that exceeds some mammals and even most other fish. And while professional athletes may not have gills, these players can be compared to these vicious predators because they will do almost anything to win.
Modern sharks began to appear about 100 million years ago, but we won't go quite that far back with this slideshow. Instead, we'll focus on current athletes who have demonstrated behavior that is consistent with shark-like tendencies.
Sharks belong to the super-order Selachimorpha in the subclass Elasmobranchii in the class Chondrichthyes (according to Wikipedia here). But these "sharks" belong to the NBA, NFL, MLB and other professional sports bodies.
Meanwhile, though there are approximately 400 described species of sharks in existence, we will focus on just 20 with this article. But, like their fishy counterparts, these "sharks" are both impressive and feared by others.
The Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" hasn't yet started, but you don't have to wait. All you have to do is to check out the following.
There may be no bigger "shark" in professional sports than Kobe Bryant. But while researchers believe that sharks are most active in mid-day, when the feeding frenzies begin and the sharks start hunting, this "shark" can be devastating at any time of day.
The "Black Mamba" wills himself and his teammates to greatness. As the years have gone on, whatever he's lost in terms of pure athleticism seemingly has been supplemented by intensity and focus.
Like a shark in a feeding frenzy, Kobe won't let anything slow him down. He doesn't hit the wall, he runs right through it.
The Celtics' Garnett is one of the most intense competitors in all of sports. He is passionate and even a tad crazy sometimes. He's the kind of player that every team wants on their side, yet annoys you when he's playing your team.
He certainly displays those shark-like tendencies when barking at a referee. When his career is over, he will walk into the NBA Hall of Fame, but for now he's more interested in beating the Heat.
Busch's intensity for racing leads to aggressive driving and equally aggressive behavior. In 2010, he threatened his own teammate, Denny Hamlin, when the latter crashed into Busch and knocked him out of the race (from ESPN).
Busch's driving style and outspoken ways have earned him few friends among his peers and many fans who follow the sport.
There is no NFL player with a higher motor than the Vikings defensive end Allen, who goes after quarterbacks like a shark diving into prey. Opposing QBs must feel like shark bait when he clamps down on them.
Last year, Allen finished the season with 22 sacks, a half-sack away from Michael Strahan's single-season record. He now has recorded 105 sacks in his 125 career games, so you can count on him to swarm the QB in almost every game, like a hungry shark at feeding time.
When this guy smells blood, watch out.
If sharks played sports, odds are they would play rugby. It's a tough, violent sport and John Philip "Bakkies" Botha is a South African rugby player who plays locks for the Springboks. If you're not sure what that means, join the club. All I do know is that this is one fierce competitor in a very demanding sport.
Just like the occasional shark attack, Botha has been banned for striking an opponent. He has also been accused of biting and eye-gouging opponents according to ESPN. He is nicknamed "The Enforcer" for his physical play.
His Hall of Fame career may be winding down, but over the course of his NFL days, Lewis has always been one of the most feared and respected football players in the league. He simply torments NFL offenses.
Lewis is violent and takes no prisoners. He is a true leader and a throwback to the early days of pro football. He has the speed and veracity of a shark, with the intensity to match.
Lewis doesn't just want to hit you, he wants to put you out of the game.
I could actually think of a few choice words to describe this hockey player other than "shark," but since this is a family-oriented slideshow, I will keep those to myself. He is not only a prolific goal scorer, but he plays with an edge that some might say borders on dirty.
But then again, sharks aren't considered nice guys when they accidentally think you are part of their food chain. Meanwhile, the great white shark can be found in southern Russia, and this Russian hockey player is one of them.
Messi just may be the best soccer player in the world right now. What he lacks for in stature he makes up for in intensity. He was the first player to score five goals in a match and he set the world record for most goals scored in a season (73).
Another sack machine in the mold of a Jared Allen, this Green Bay Packer football player has the raw athleticism, speed, strength, and agility of a shark.
The pose he uses after sacks is called the "Predator Pose," as in the movie featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, so a comparison to the great predator in the water is inevitable.
Matthews goes hard and intense on every play and you can see him shouting and screaming throughout the course of a game, showing that he is fired up and always comes ready to play.
Reed hasn't decided if he's coming back to play this season, but then again, retirement is something he talks about almost every offseason.
He is a hard-hitting free safety for the Ravens, has been selected to eight Pro Bowls, was the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year winner, and has the NFL record for the two longest interception returns.
He is more of a ball hawk than a shark, though he hits like a hammer-head.
Ben Cousins is an Australian Rules football player, best known for his successful 238-game career with the West Coast Eagles. He is also notorious for his one-year ban from the sport due to substance abuse and behavioral issues.
A young shark is called a "pup," so I guess that Rose would qualify as such. Yes, I know that he faces a long and arduous rehabilitation, but the Rose I'm thinking of certainly qualifies as shark-like.
And while many sharks live in the tropical and subtropical open ocean latitudes, this shark lives in the inclement weather of Chicago.
The shark’s streamlined body allows them to glide through the water. Likewise, Rose seemingly glides through on-court traffic like a hot knife through better (when healthy).
This one is easy—if Woods was a shark, he'd be a Tiger shark. And when he was at his best, he was very intense and intimidating. In a sport that normally requires participants to be even-keeled and calm, Woods was clearly the exception.
His outward displays of emotion were especially common when he was at the top of his game.
Heck, even his off-the-course activities were shark-like.
The first woman on this list, and what else but a real pool shark? Yes, that's what they call people who hustle others in billiards, except she is not hustling—she is a professional.
But similar to why Michael Phelps appears on this list, one must have a pool player (even though you won't find a real shark in your pool, thankfully).
Lee has added glamour and class to the sport, but don't let her looks deceive you—she's as cunning as any shark.
She never graduated from high school because of an infatuation with pool that began at the age of eight, which blossomed into a promising competitive amateur career in her teens before she turned pro in 1993.
She followed a strict daily regimen of focusing her mind by watching videos of top pool players each morning and spending her afternoons and evenings at the table. Within nine months, Lee was ranked among the world's top 10 women players.
Eli Manning is shark-like in the way he comes up big when you least expect it. QB of the reigning Super Bowl champ New York Giants, he has lived in the shadow of his more-famous brother, Peyton, for years. He is finally starting to get recognition as an elite QB.
In fact, with the latest title win, Eli has now bested his brother in terms of championships. However, the Mannings are a family of football legends. Their father, Archie, was an NFL QB and Peyton is generally regarded as one of the greatest, and most savvy QBs ever to play.
Peyton's free agency was the talk of the NFL this offseason. He will begin his first season with the Denver Broncos this year.
Luke O’Donnell is an Australian professional rugby player playing for the North Queensland Cowboys of the National Rugby League. This muscled-up rugby player is one of the toughest in the sport.
In 2003, he received an 11-week suspension for a late, high tackle that left an opponent with a broken jaw, making it the second-longest suspension in the NRL’s history. He received a seven-week suspension for two striking charges and for abusing an official.
Like people who fear and even loathe sharks, this NFL player is equally respected and despised by fans and players alike. So he stomped an opponent on national TV—that doesn't make him as vicious as a shark, does it?
Like a shark, Suh stops at nothing to attack his opponent. Unlike a shark, however, he has to tone down his act if he wants to continue roaming the NFL waters.
One simply cannot write an article comparing athletes to sharks without including at least one swimmer, right? And Michael Phelps is as good as anyone to begin the comparison.
In addition to being widely competitive and successful, Phelps navigates through water like a fish.
Sharks are believed to have been in existence before the dinosaurs. But professional women race car drivers haven't been around very long. In a sport dominated by men, Danica Patrick must be one tough racer.
While Patrick has been a sex-symbol in racing—appearing in GoDaddy.com commercials—she takes racing seriously.
While some may believe her looks far outweigh her results, Patrick is the only woman to win in the IndyCar Series and she holds the highest finish by a woman at the Indy 500 (third place).
Thornton is possibly the best player on a team that is called—you guessed it—the Sharks. This hockey player appeared in every game this season and was a positive force on both ends of the ice. He led San Jose in points (77), assists (59) and takeaways (96).
Let's face it, any article on athletes who are "sharks" has to include a San Jose Shark, right?