The extent to which athletes are revered, hated or shamed by fans is not just dictated by their performance on the field, but also by who they are as people, inside and out.
An athlete can be at the top of his or her game, but draw absolute venom in blogs and on message boards because of something as significant as a past crime, or as arbitrary as a perceived lack of desire.
So it's not surprising that an athlete's looks aren't insulated from scrutiny—little quirks like NBA rookie Anthony Davis' unibrow can become a pop culture fixtures, while Tom Brady's well-coiffed hair draws snickers from anyone outside of Boston.
This is why it's time to take a lighthearted look at who in sports kind of looks like a member of the animal kingdom.
These are 20 athletes that look like animals:
Like the mola mola glides effortlessly through tropical waters, New York Yankees "slugger" Alex Rodriguez has coasted through the MLB postseason on the bench.
The mola mola is the heaviest bony fish in the world and A-Rod is one of the biggest and most expensive benchwarmers in baseball.
Miami Heat big man Chris Bosh is a tall dude who finally won an NBA Championship in 2012. Appropriately, struthio camelus is the "big man" of the bird world.
While I would assume Bosh would destroy an ostrich in a game of one-on-one on the court, I'd place my bet on the ostrich straight up if the game were played in Africa's savanna.
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is on track for one of the best seasons of his career, but despite a winning record and strong performance, the guy still gets nailed as the paradoxical "stoic jerk."
It's only fitting that he kind of resembles the stoic jerk of the natural world, the bullfrog.
After struggling mightily during the 2012 NHL Playoffs, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-André Fleury will have to wait until the current lockout is resolved to show his poor play was an aberration.
Regardless of what happens when hockey returns, Fleury can always count on having a big, beautiful set of chompers that would impress Ralfaca.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden seems perfectly designed to be the "fan favorite." Not only does he come off the bench with the ability to score points and seize momentum, he also looks like a time traveler from the future.
The umbrella cockatoo has the moves and 'do to match and gives Harden a run for his money in the eccentricity department.
It took NBA superstar Lebron James just two seasons to put the Miami Heat over the top and win a championship in 2012. King James added Olympic Gold to his NBA hardware just a few months later.
So beyond the adorable smile, both James and the hyena can claim to be right there with the lions at the top of the food chain.
Er...or something like that.
Jason Kidd is an outstanding point guard for the New York Knicks who is squarely within the twilight of his career.
If Jason Kidd and a monitor lizard hung out together poolside at a beach resort, I bet the waiter would continuous mix up who ordered what drink—because they're practically twins—while they sun their hairless hides.
U.S. Women's Gymnast McKayla Maroney's "I'm. so. over. it." sneer at the Olympic medal ceremony sparked a thousand memes.
While many people would be thrilled just to have qualified for a spot on the U.S. team, you have to admire the girl's passion and competitiveness.
Like the bald eagle, she's a @#$! winner, and anything less than gold (or the biggest fish in the river) is just a loser's consolation prize.
The absence of Peyton Manning on the field during the 2011-2012 NFL season was strange for fans of the game and an absolute disaster for the Indianapolis Colts.
Now that Manning's neck is healed and he's back to work as a Denver Bronco, his familiar bark at the line of scrimmage is echoing across the field once again.
The only question is: Who does more legitimate barking, Manning or his meaty doppelganger, the sea lion?
Irish golfing phenom Rory McIlroy has been outstanding in 2012, winning four tournaments, including the PGA Championship, as well as helping the European team win the Ryder Cup in historic fashion.
I'm fairly sure that McIlroy can follow the flight of the ball with his eyes and not just by moving his head, but side-by-side, it's nearly impossible to determine who is the golfer and who is the Great Horned Owl.
At least, I hope that was an owl I saw swoop out of a tree and capture a field mouse one chilly autumn morning a few years ago.
Rafael Nadal is to tennis what the soft shell turtle is to brackish water, a quiet, but deadly predator that moonlights as an underwear model.
Unpack that statement, because a moment before it appeared in this slide, I lost consciousness, only to awake shortly thereafter with those words in front of me.
Tell me that when you saw the title of this slideshow the image of long and lanky Dallas Mavericks center Dirk Nowitzki juxtaposed on a giraffe didn't immediately appear in your noggin.
The man himself made this comparison too easy. He's got a tree prunin' tongue.
Considering his up and down—emphasis on down—NFL career, it's not hard to imagine Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback Kyle Orton as an English Bulldog with that permanent "down on my luck" face.
Unfortunately for Orton, the look is adorable on a bulldog, but just creepy when captured on his mug.
If I had to choose between being stuck in a broken elevator with either Washington Capitals star left winger Alexander Ovechkin, or with an angry marmoset, it would probably come down to who is less likely to start throwing down lyrics.
Actually, I take that back—if the marmoset could rap, it's a no-brainer.
Hmmm, I wonder if it has a manager...
No homo sapien on Earth can swim like Michael Phelps.
Well, you know what?
No great ape can walk upright like the rangy, Phelpsian bonobo.
Recently retired American tennis player Andy Roddick may have struggled to win more than a single major, but he's a champion when it comes to getting ticked off about what happens on the court.
Though I've never heard of Roddick spitting on anyone—as the llama is so fond of doing—I bet that when he yells at people, a little spit makes contact.
While I think it's a bunch of malarkey, I've been told that lemurs make bad pets and it would behoove me not to keep one.
I'll let that one go, but no one ever told me New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker wont be a great companion.
Unfortunately, he appears to be microchipped and under the close watch of his current owner, Bill Belichick. Those eyes are simultaneously as entrancing and ominous as an unexpected solar eclipse.
Tyrann Mathieu may be the "Honey Badger," but the tenacious, sass-mouthed Hope Solo is the "American Badger," an underrated, streamlined badass.
Between her performance in net during the London Olympic Games and her willingness to belittle U.S. Women's Soccer legend Brandi Chastain, is there any doubt which animal is her spirit guide?
This is what a girl needs: Shaun Suisham and a little blue-eyed husky puppy sitting by a roaring fireplace and waiting to cuddle.
If this fantasy ever came true, I'd have to keep my wits about me to make sure that I didn't put Shaun in the puppy pen and bring the puppy to bed.
Philadelphia Flyers left winger Scott Hartnell is a grinder on the ice, which explains his fantastic nickname, "The Bearded Dragon."
Okay, so that's not his nickname, but it would make sense on all accounts—style of play, appearance, Genus.
And that's that! Follow me on Twitter and let me know which animal I resemble: Follow @blamberr