15 Athletes Who Are More Trouble Than They're Worth
One of the most rewarding elements of the fan experience is the sense of connection you feel with the team; with the players who help bring you the joy of victory and likewise share in the sorrow of defeat. The players not only create the narrative for each game, for each season, but give our favorite team it's character and our hated rivals a face and a name.
A team is made up of individuals; people with their own lives, beliefs and dreams. These are professionals, but it would be disingenuous to pretend that walking out onto a football field on Sunday, or skating out on the ice under dancing spotlights, is like punching a clock or sitting in a cubicle.
While the vast majority of players are as workman-like as could be expected, there are a few who inevitably stand out...for good and bad. Some players are heavily involved in charities or other endeavors any parent would aspire for their children. Similarly, others tend to stray from the expectations of their team and sometimes the law itself.
This is simply a byproduct of being human.
However, the point at which the world of professional sports diverges from the reality you and I know is how much a team is willing to tolerate if a player can help them win. There are countless examples of players whose bad behavior is overlooked as long as they produce.
Once the points start to decline; when the 40 time starts to tick up...that's when bad behavior shifts from "disappointing" to "unacceptable."
These are 15 Athletes Who Are More Trouble Than They're Worth.
Sean Avery, Probably Maybe Retired NHL
When you're an obnoxious, loudmouthed niche hockey player, there is no faster path to irrelevance than being ineffective on the ice. Though it appeared the New York Rangers just couldn't quit winger/agitator Sean Avery, they did just that during 2011-2012 NHL season.
In the final year of his $15.5 million contract, Avery was waived twice, demoted to Rangers AHL affiliate Connecticut Whale, before being released in March 2012 just before the Rangers' unsuccessful playoff run.
In a sport defined by its almost utilitarian ethos, there is little margin for error with a player like Avery. So it's no surprise that he announced his "retirement" after generating little interest as a free agent.
The 32 year-old "Most Hated Man in Hockey" may end up filling a roster spot somewhere, but it's clear that at this point he will most likely have much more time to dedicate to his fashion career.
Andray Blatche, Brooklyn Nets
The Washington Wizards haven't done much right during the last decade and if you want a great example of their futility as an organization, look no further than Andray Blatche.
Taken by the Wizards in the second round of the 2005 NBA draft, Blatche's pro career nearly ended tragically before it had really started. The then 19-year-old rookie was shot in the chest during an attempted car jacking just a few months after the draft.
This terrifying, terribly unlucky event would portend a tumultuous career as a Wizard.
Fair or not, he's linked to the poisonous environment Gilbert Arenas fostered in the locker room and as the team tried to move on, it seemed inevitable that Blatche would be a casualty.
He certainly made it an easier decision for the Wizards when he followed up an outstanding 2009-2010 season and three-year, $28 million contract extension, by ballooning to 280 pounds and getting benched for poor play the next season.
The team waived Blatche in July using the NBA's Amnesty Clause, freeing the organization from his bloated contract and body.
Now he's Brooklyn's problem. Perhaps the team sees real potential for a career renaissance, but it's not like the Nets have a history of making the most fortuitous personnel decisions, either.
Matt Barnes, Los Angeles Lakers
NBA journeyman/tough guy Matt Barnes found himself unemployed in July after a lackluster 2011-2012 season with the Los Angeles Lakers. While most of us would dust off the ol' resume, get our best suit properly cleaned and pressed, and pound the pavement looking for a new job; Barnes took a slightly different approach.
He got arrested for an outstanding warrant and allegedly threatening a police officer.
Considering his prior arrest on suspicion of felony domestic violence (a charge later dropped) and reputation as a role player who fouls hard and starts fights, the incident will surely make NBA teams wary of signing a borderline contributor with major baggage.
His mugshot certainly isn't closing the deal.
Kwame Brown, Philadelphia 76ers
Considered one of bigger busts in NBA history, center Kwame Brown must be feeling pretty good about the fact he just signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. And, the team has announced that he will be their starter.
It's not surprising that the sports media was perplexed by the move, because Brown has down little on the court, but a whole lot off of it (and I'm not referring to charity work).
Brown is another gift from the Washington Wizards that keeps on giving in the worst of sense. He's been awful at basketball, a terrible teammate, and accused of sexual assault as well as arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with a police investigation.
Oh, and did I mention that he threw a chocolate cake at a fan?
Since being drafted first overall by the hapless organization, he's pinballed around the league by virtue of the fact he is a very large man. Now he's in Philadelphia and no one is quite sure why.
Metta World Peace, Los Angeles Lakers
The very notion that I have to type "Metta World Peace" when discussing the man born as Ronald Artest perfectly encapsulates the kind of weirdness a team is going to get with Metta World Peace on their roster.
Undoubtedly, a tremendous defensive presence in his prime, Peace continues to have value on the court but it's becoming obvious that the cost-benefit curve is starting to bend the wrong direction.
When you take into account how many of the NBA's worst moments of the past decade are linked to Peace in some manner, it's a testament to what he is capable of as a player.
The list of Peace-related incidents is much too long and deserving of a close read to list in one slide.
But, now at age 32, the Lakers forward is entering a phase where his behavior will grow less tolerable as his play declines.
Delmon Young, Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers left fielder/designated hitter Delmon Young is in some hot water. And, I'm being quite charitable with that description. As if getting arrested in the early morning hours before a big series with the New York Yankees isn't bad enough, Young was charged with a hate crime.
A. hate. crime.
In a bizarre and ugly incident that took place outside the team's hotel, an intoxicated Young was involved in some sort of altercation with a group of tourists when he began yelling anti-Semitic epitaphs. Young was arrested and charged with aggravated harassment...a hate crime.
Keep in mind, this isn't the first time Young's temper got him into trouble. In 2006, he was suspended 50 games after hitting an umpire with a bat over a disputed call, and a year before he served a three-game suspension for making physical contact under similar circumstances.
With his contract up at the end of the season, a volatile history, and pending hate-crime case, Young may have a difficult time landing a new deal. Baseball may end up being the least of his worries.
Rey Maualuga, Cincinnati Bengals
Is there any NFL franchise that could have benefited more from a rookie wage scale than the Cincinnati Bengals?
After losing Super Bowl XXIII in heart-breaking fashion in 1989, Cincinnati spent the 90's as an AFC Central doormat. Paradoxically, the high draft picks awarded to compensate for their losing ways did little to upgrade the team.
Drafting historic busts like quarterbacks David Klingler and Akili Smith did more damage to the team than if they had done nothing at all.
While the franchise has vastly improved in the draft room and on the field, Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga is the latest scouting strikeout.
During the 2009 NFL draft, Maualuga slid out of the first round, while fellow Southern Cal linebackers Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews, heard their names called. Despite a reputation as potentially being the best pass-rusher of the three, questions about his character and ability to be a three-down linebacker caused his stock to drop.
However, the Bengals reliably scooped up Maualuga early in the second round, and the results are not pretty. Signed to a $4.59 million rookie contract, the troubled player has repaid the investment by getting arrested twice, including a DUI (with two teenage girls in tow) that resulted in two-year probation.
Perhaps most importantly (to the Bengals), he enters the final year of his contract with a paltry two sacks in 44 games.
Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings
You have to give Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson credit. For a second-round draft pick out of relative FCS newcomer Coastal Carolina, he sure knows how to make headlines.
Initially drafted in 2008 by (who else) the Cincinnati Bengals, Simpson finally got an opportunity to start in place of the injured T.Ocho. Simpson was a capable replacement and parlayed his play into a starting job in 2011. His numbers were solid (50 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns) but not spectacular.
What was spectacular was his insane, acrobatic flip into the end zone against the Arizona Cardinals in 2011.
Not a bad way to finish out the final year of your first contract, eh? Well, his career plans took a little detour when a police intercepted a package being delivered to his home and discovered it contained 2.5 pounds of weed.
When police searched Simpson's home, they found a bunch more weed and the kind of equipment typically used by people who want to sell it. Apparently, he had a contingency plan in place, just in case free agency was a bust.
Three years of probation, mandatory drug testing and a three-game suspension didn't deter Minnesota from signing Simpson to a one-year, $2 million deal in April. So, will it be worth it? Simpson has one amazing highlight and a thin, but promising resume.
The only certainty is that he's a bad decision away from doing hard time...and that was enough for Cincinnati to let Simpson walk away
Eddy Curry, NBA Free Agent
Former New York Knicks center Eddy Curry's NBA career has the virtue of being both hugely disappointing and remarkable.
He's one of the biggest draft busts in recent NBA history.
His trade from the Bulls to the Knicks, when he commanded a first-round pick as well as two second-round picks, is considered the living symbol of Isiah Thomas' disastrous tenure with the Knicks.
He's won a championship by virtue of being a member of the Miami Heat during the 2011-2012 season.
His personal life has been even more troubled and tragic than his failures on the court.
Considering how well documented his history as a player, teammate and person has been to this point, any team willing to sign the free agent know exactly what they're getting.
Caleb King, NFL Free Agent
NFL free agent running back Caleb King entered the 2011 supplemental draft as many participants do; with some major red flags.
The player's tenure at the University of Georgia was...troubled...to say it delicately. Suspended multiple times due to academic and disciplinary violations, with an arrest for good measure, King's collegiate career came to an unceremonious end when he was ruled academically ineligible for his senior season.
As is so often the case, his raw, physical talent outweighed his personal and legal problems, and the Minnesota Vikings deemed King acceptable risk when they selected him.
After sitting out the 2011 NFL season, King was arrested in May 2012 in one of the most deranged off-the-field incidents in recent memory. During a house party that lasted long into the early morning hour, an acquaintance of King allegedly crossed a red line anyone else in the world would find absurd: he told King he looked kind of like Eddie Murphy.
The egregious offense made King snap and he brutally beat the man, leaving him with a fractured skull and 19 stitches.
Undoubtedly on a short leash, King was released shortly thereafter by the Vikings and is facing an assault charge. At this point, there is a whole lot of compelling evidence that he needs serious therapy, but little showing he is capable of being a pro football player.
Plaxico Burress, NFL Free Agent
You have to feel a little bad for NFL free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress. After an electrifying performance in Super Bowl XLII, helping to lead the New York Giants to a monumental upset victory over the vaunted Patriots, Burress had reached the pinnacle of his career.
At age 31, he had moved past a somewhat disappointing tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers and had established himself as one of the most dominant receivers in the game.
Then in November 2008, amidst a 10-1 Giants run, he accidentally shot himself in the leg at a New York nightclub. In many other cities, this would merely be a stupid and embarrassing incident (with few legal repercussions) but he managed to do it in a place with some of the strongest firearm laws in the country.
Burress served two years in prison and after his release, entered NFL free agency as a 34 year-old wide receiver who hadn't played a snap in over two years. Signed by the New York Jets before the 2011 season, Burress did little to show he could stay healthy or perform anywhere close to the level before his incarceration.
A free agent once again, he's a once-great player who believes he still has something to give, but does a team want sign someone whose career hiatus didn't stop the aging process?
Josh Beckett, Los Angeles Dodgers
Newly acquired Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett may have a new team and an opportunity to repair his sullied reputation, but if I were a Dodgers fan, I'd be wary.
Beckett isn't running from past transgressions that happened years ago but still haunt his career; his issues are both ongoing and deep. And while the "Beer-Gate" scandal last season looms large, Beckett has demonstrated little desire to change his ways.
Exhibit A: Beckett reportedly playing a round of golf in May after missing a start due to a back injury.
No question, an unmitigated disaster like this year's version of the Boston Red Sox, is bigger than any single player, but Beckett is key element of the team's shockingly fast descent into mayhem.
This is not to say he won't have an impact as a Dodger, or will engage in the kind of shenanigans that helped pave his way out of Boston, but Beckett really didn't pay very high of a price for bad behavior.
But, this is Major League Baseball; some teams will pony up the dough and players to land an upper-tier starting pitcher like Beckett.
Besides, it must be easy to look at the situation and declare, "Hey, at least he's not Manny!"
Terrell Owens, NFL Free Agent
It must be a real bummer for Terrell Owens to read the headlines about the Randy Moss rehabilitation project in San Francisco. Another supremely talented NFL wide receiver whose eccentricities have put a considerable drag on his career.
Now Owens, recently released by the Seattle Seahawks, can't seem to get the kind of opportunity afforded Moss.
The problem for TO, other than his age, is that Moss' issues have largely been chalked up to strangeness; his behavior is more distracting and confounding than detrimental to the team. When Moss has left town, he was capping off a quiet descent into resignation.
Throughout his entire career, TO's foibles have torn locker rooms apart and transformed the day-to-day media coverage of his team into a spectacle.
Teams tolerated him, because he could take over a game, but eventually his play soured in solidarity with his attitude. Second, third, fourth chances; these redemption opportunities typically only delayed the inevitable.
So, when Owens started dropping passes thrown to him during the preseason, the Seahawks had little reason to hang on and hope for improvement.
Chad Johnson, NFL Free Agent
For all the hullabaloo wide receiver Chad Johnson created in Cincinnati over the years, it never had the same tone as one-time teammate Terrell Owens. Johnson was definitely a character, but his antics rarely seemed to come from a place of malice.
Johnson's behavior was always a little over the top, but at least he performed on the field. At least he did perform on the field until he left the Bengals for the Patriots. Johnson was a quiet benchwarmer in New England before being signed by the Dolphins.
And it was in Miami that he likely ended his NFL career. Not only did he prove that he has a foul mouth and is unable to learn a playbook, he was also arrested for the alleged assault of his wife of just three months, Evelyn Lozada. Johnson is just too old and has too much baggage to take a chance on.
Santonio Holmes, New York Jets
As a Steelers fan, I can tell you with certainty that I was absolutely dumbfounded when they traded away wide receiver Santonio Holmes to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick in 2010. But then I learned to never doubt the wisdom of the Rooneys.
Holmes has been nothing short of a Terrell Owens-sized cancer for the Jets. Too bad he has half the talent and three times the arrests. Holmes has a non-existent relationship with his quarterback and is rarely allowed to talk to the media because he can't resist the urge to say something stupid.
Poor Jets fans are in for a season from hell and temperamental wideout from hell is going to be at the epicenter of their misery.