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The 20 Greatest Athlete Meltdowns

Amber LeeSports Lists Lead WriterJanuary 10, 2017

The 20 Greatest Athlete Meltdowns

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    Yes, they're paid millions of dollars to do the kind of job a vast majority of regular peeps like you and me perceive as less employment than recreation, but athletes are subject to an array of pressures. 

    The greatest, most widely known athletes are expected to win, while both exuding the character of a role model and cool demeanor of a fighter pilot on a suicide mission. So, sometimes even the coolest of cucumbers can transform into a pulsating ball of rage or exhausted frustration.

    While many of us can storm out of our wretched cubicles and frantically squeeze a stress ball in the breakroom, the greatest competitors don't have that luxury. They're on the world stage with millions of viewers tuned into their performance, and the weight of wanting to win for their coaches, teammates, fans, family and friends is pressing.

    It's no surprise that when these forces converge, sometimes a full-blown meltdown ensuesfor some athletes more than others.

    Here are the 20 greatest athlete meltdowns...

20. Rajon Rondo Postgame Grumpies

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    In May 2012, the Celtics lost a heartbreaker to the Hawks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. In the final seconds of the game, the Celtics had the ball in the hands of their star point guard Rajon Rondo and a chance to win the game. 

    Unfortunately, things didn't play out as Rondo would have hoped—instead of taking a shot, he bounced the ball off his foot and it rolled away as time expired. After the game, he was understandably upset and in absolutely no mood to be filmed. 

19. Serena Williams: "I Never Complain"

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    Tennis great Serena Williams is without a doubt one of the greatest female tennis players of all time. That being said, she has been known to lose her cool every now and again.

    Williams famously threatened to kill a line judge at the U.S. Open in 2009. 

    The U.S. Open seems to be where she feels most comfortable losing it, because in 2011 she had another incident with an umpire. Williams went off on the official for being a "hater" and went on a complaining rant about how she never complains. 

    All evidence to the contrary, Serena. 

18. Devin Ebanks Game 1 Garbage Time Meltdown

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    When teams are down late in a playoff game, it's a pretty common occurrence for them to engage in unsavory behavior out of frustration.

    That's exactly what Lakers forward Devin Ebanks did when his team was down to the Thunder in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals in 2012. 

    With just over two minutes left on the clock, Ebanks entered the game. It was obvious he only had one thing on his mind from the moment he stepped onto the court.

    Ebanks threw the Thunder's Royal Ivey to the ground, completely unprovoked—unless you count the Thunder kicking the Lakers' collective you-know-what a provocation (which is a valid argument if you're in Los Angeles). 

17. Brian Wilson Bullies a Gatorade Jug

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    San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Brian Wilson is better known for his wacky antics, spandex tuxedos and just generally hysterical shenanigans—which is why it's a little jarring to see him flip the switch and go into full-on "Fear The Beard" mode with little warning. 

    That's exactly what he did in July 2011 during a game against the Tigers. Wilson was less than thrilled with his performance against Detroit and decided to take out his frustration with the use of a bat and a Gatorade jug. 

    It does seem rather cathartic. 

16. Dennis Rodman Boots a Cameraman

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15. Ryan Leaf Loses It

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    The 1998 NFL draft is a prime example, and in many ways a parable, of the very real risk NFL franchises take when they invest millions of dollars in a player who has never taken a snap as a pro.

    Quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf were the original Andrew Luck and RG3; both were considered tremendous talents, splitting analyst opinions and sparking heated debate about their potential.

    Fourteen years later Peyton Manning is merely padding his already Hall of Fame career as the newly acquired, and best, Denver quarterback since John Elway. Meanwhile, Ryan Leaf is enjoying an extended stay in a Montana prison. Leaf played four seasons, never living up to the high expectations, and alienating players, coaches and reporters.

    In an incident that perfectly encapsulates the failure of character that doomed his career, a rookie Leaf exploded at a San Diego Union Tribune reporter in this infamous locker-room incident.

14. Andy Roddick Does What He Does Best: Smash Things

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    At the 2011 Madrid Open, American tennis player Andy Roddick did what American tennis player Andy Roddick does best: He smashed tennis rackets and lost tennis matches. 

    Roddick is no stranger to the world of racket abuse, but this is one of his finest moments. 

13. Pedro Martinez Makes Short Work of Don Zimmer

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    In a move that I'm sure he immediately regretted, Yankees coach Don Zimmer made the ill-advised decision to attack (then) Red Sox pitching ace Pedro Martinez back in the 2003 American League Championship Series. 

    Obviously tensions were running extremely high in the series between two of the biggest archrivals in sports history, but adrenaline failed to help him in the altercation.

    Martinez absolutely leveled him and a ruckus ensued.

12. Tony Stewart's Patented Helmet Chuck

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    NASCAR driver Tony Stewart isn't one to hold back when something is eating at him; that's just not his style.

    There has been bad blood between Stewart and fellow driver Matt Kenseth dating back to 2006, so when the two were involved in a crash in August 2012, it was no surprise that Stewart didn't take it well. 

    Stewart and Kenseth were involved in a wreck at the Bristol Motor Speedway that ended up knocking Stewart out of the race. He responded by forcefully chucking his helmet at Kenseth's car after the incident. 

11. David Nalbandian Kicks Linesman

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    In June 2012, tennis player David Nalbandian kicked a Nike advertisement out of frustration, which is not a normal occurrence at the Queens Club, I assure you. Unfortunately for Nalbandian, the sign was located about six inches from the linesman. 

    Actually, it was also pretty unfortunate for the linesman, as he was left bloodied and injured from the incident.

    Nalbandian was defaulted for the meltdown. 

10. Tim Belcher Goes on a Tirade

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    After giving up a game-winning home run to the Yankees in the 1995 ALCS, Mariners pitcher Tim Belcher completely lost it outside the locker room. 

    Blecher was sweaty, hostile and chewing gum—all of which should have served as warning signs to the media in the hallway. 

9. Serena Williams: I Will Freaking Kill You

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    Already struggling against Kim Clijsters during the 2009 U.S. Open, a visibly frustrated Serena Williams was called for a foot fault, which proved to be the spark needed to ignite her rage.  

    A disgusted Williams turned to the diminutive line judge and appeared to threaten her with some kind of harm; perhaps of the killing kind. The visibly shaken judge scrambled over to match officials, provoking even more ire from the reeling Williams.  

    As in most cases when dudes in suits make an appearance, things just went from awkward to legit. What followed was an exasperated yet menacing denial from Williams, as the line judge summarized the exchange, tossing around words like “threatened” and “kill me.”

8. Derek Anderson Freaks out

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    In Derek Anderson's defense, unless you're Kurt Warner, playing quarterback in Arizona is pretty much an impossible task. But he has a long history of failing at the position, so he should have been much better equipped to handle media questioning after a loss in 2010. 

    After an embarrassing blowout loss to the division-rival 49ers, Anderson was questioned by the media who had seen him laughing on the sideline with one of his teammates. Instead of calmly explaining himself or dismissing the question, Anderson lost his marbles and tried to deflect the question before he denied laughing altogether. 

    Apparently he forgot that football games are televised. 

7. Mikhail Youzhny: Your Classic Overreaction

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    Losing in anything is never easy, but as we age, most of us come up with some coping skills that allow us to handle the bitterness of defeat without hurting ourselves or others. 

    Apparently, Mikhail Youzhny was never taught such coping skills.

    Which is why in 2008 he took out the frustration of losing a point to challenger Nicolas Almagro at the Sony Ericsson Open by smashing himself in the face with his own racket…three times. 

    That's just balls-out crazy. 

6. Zinedine Zidane: The Headbutt Heard Round the World

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    Seriously, I watched this game at a bar in Pittsburgh and distinctly remember feeling the pain of that headbutt, despite being numbed by a full bucket of beers. 

    It’s the 2006 World Cup Final, your team is in the first period of extra time, with all the glory and prestige of a world championship on the line. This is the moment when the best dig deep, find that extra gear and help will their team to victory.

    What cannot happen is making the kind of inexplicable mistake that essentially gives your opponent a victory. 

    However, this is exactly how the final moments of the 2006 World Cup Final unfolded when French star Zinedine Zidane head-butted Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the chest after the two exchanged words.

    Zidane was given a red card and ejected, helping Italy secure the victory 5-4 in a penalty-kick shootout.

5. Marcos Baghdatis: Why Destroy One Racket When You Can Destroy Four

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    It's been long since established that many tennis players suffer from an absolute lack of self-control. Racket smashing is a common occurrence on the court, but most players stop after one or two rackets and get back to the business at hand. 

    In January 2012, Marcos Baghdatis was so infuriated during a break that he felt the need to engage in not just one, but four counts of racket abuse. Baghdatis sat on the bench and pulled out one racket after another from the plastic and smashed them to death with the whole world watching. 

    He looked pretty enraged, but perhaps he was just killing bugs as NBCSports suggested

4. T.O. Gets Emotional About His Quarterback

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    It's ironic that for all the D-bag antics of Terrell Owens, it's a weepy breakdown over media questioning of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo that seems to be the definitive crazy moment of his career. 

    The famous incident came one year after Romo's infamous, career-defining, botched snap in the playoffs against the Seahawks. The Cowboys were coming off a first-round playoff loss to the Giants, and T.O. got emotional over the insinuation that Romo's first-round bye vacation with singer Jessica Simpson was responsible. 

    Who knew T.O. had so many feelings? That's his quarterback, man. 

3. Ron Artest's Infamous Detroit Bawl

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    Long before Metta World Peace—who we thought was supposed to be the kinder, gentler version of Ron Artest—surfaced, the NBA's preeminent brawler incited one of the most famous brawls in sports history at the Palace in Detroit. 

    The Pacers were taking on the Pistons, and in the waning minutes of the game a fan chucked a drink at Artest. To say that he didn't take it well would be the understatement of the century. 

    Artest immediately charged the stands and starting punching the offending fan, eventually taking on other fans as well. Nine players were suspended without pay for a grand total of 146 games in charges stemming from the incident. 

2. Mike Tyson Goes Hannibal Lecter on Evander Holyfield

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    I never like rehashing this horrifying chapter in sports history, but there's no way you can have a list of athlete meltdowns without including the (once) great Mike Tyson's inexplicable decision to take a chunk out of Evander Holyfield's ear during their heavyweight championship bout in 1997. 

    Naturally, Tyson was disqualified for the stomach-turning incident. The match may have been ended on the spot, but the horrifying memories will haunt most of us forever—particularly Evander Holyfield!

1. John McEnroe—Some Things Never Change

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    Initially I was just going to include tennis legend John McEnroe's infamous "Are you serious?" rant, but it doesn't feel right narrowing down his countless tantrums to just one incident. 

    McEnroe has suffered more on-court meltdowns than any athlete in history. Some good Samaritan put together this compilation of Johnny Mac's most famous lose-in sequences. 

    It's absolutely worth a look. 

The End! Please Follow Me on Twitter

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