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The Biggest Betrayals in Sports History

David LevinSenior Writer IINovember 23, 2012

The Biggest Betrayals in Sports History

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    Even the most avid sports lover can find something to argue about, such as a home run that looked foul,  a receiver who did not keep his feet in bounds or a goal that looked like it never lit the light.

    Then there are more pressing issues for the sports fan to debate, such as whether moving teams from city to city is a good idea, whether a baseball player should be voted into the Hall of Fame in the "Steroid Era" and whether or not these 18 topics are the biggest Sports Betrayals of all time.

    Sports have stood the test of time, whether it was a league-wide strike, players jumping teams or moves made by owners that drove us nuts. And let's not forget we live in an era of uncertainty, because we really don't know who is cheating the system or trying to get away with it.

    Here's a look at events that have left fans in shock at one time or another.

18. Albert Pujols Leaves St. Louis for Baseball's West Coast

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    His awards speak for themselves.

    Pujols is three-time National League MVP, 2001 National League Rookie of the Year and one of the best pure hitters in the game for his size and strength. He is a once-in-a-lifetime power hitter and was the love of St. Louis, joining other great Cardinals like Stan Musial.

    Albert Pujols had it pretty good in Missouri. He tried to be the good guy and when his contract was about to expire, he did not allow it to become a distraction. But as the offseason proved to wear on both the Cardinals and Pujols, the first baseman took his power, popularity and fine hitting to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

    St. Louis looked like it had just been punched in the stomach. It also seemed that without Pujols, this team could not win or get to the postseason.

    In the end, St. Louis played in this year's NLCS. Looks like they got over his leaving just fine.

17. Terrell Owens and His Many Teams

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    Where do we start? Few players who have played in the NFL are as controversial as Terrell Owens. While the receiver is ultra-talented and can still play in this league, it is obvious nobody wants him in the locker room.

    Does the term "cancer" seem applicable here?

    Owens started his career in San Francisco and left after he called his starting quarterback Jeff Garcia, "gay." Not a smart move if you want to remain in the Bay area.

    He then moved on to Philadelphia where he helped his Eagles get to the Super Bowl in Jacksonville. He even played on a broken ankle. But when the team lost to the Patriots, he called out yet another quarterback in Donovan McNabb.

    Dallas was his next destination, a place he had once danced on the Dallas Star, which we all know is one of the biggest forms of disrespect. After a few playoff loses and him demanding the ball all the time from quarterback Tony Romo (whom he defended when Romo botched the hold for a field goal in the playoffs against Seattle), he left the state of Texas.

    You get the picture and so do other teams. This guy is just bad news.

16. Hulk Hogan Turns His Back on the Fans and Becomes a Heel

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    In the grand scheme of professional "sports" this is not one you might think of. However, in the 1980s and early 1990s there may not have been a more iconic figure in terms of sports entertainment than Hulk Hogan.

    As a champion in the World Wrestling Federation, Hogan helped (with Vince McMahon) to bridge the gap between sports, sports entertainment and main stream America. He was the first wrestler to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

    Hogan's appeal to the masses and especially children was evident with the mantra of "saying your prayers and taking your vitamins."

    In 1996, after signing with rival WCW to wrestle for Ted Turner's outfit in Florida, Hogan stunned the wrestling world by turning his back on his fans at Back to the Beach, solidifying him as one of professional wrestling's all time greatest heels.

15. Seattle Sonics Move to OKC

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    What in the name of Jack Sikma just happened? There is no more basketball in Seattle.

    In 2008, NBA owners approved the Sonics' relocation bid to Oklahoma City by a 28-2 vote of the league's Board of Governors. The move took what was a longstanding franchise and moved it out of a city where fans loved its basketball.

    The move by the NBA and the ownership of the Sonics (I miss the green uniforms) led to the city of Seattle filing a lawsuit to keep the Sonics at KeyArena through the end of its lease in 2010. The legal action failed.

    The Sonics ownership group, which was led by Clay Bennett, said in the article that he regretted moving the team from its loyal fans but also talked out of the other side of his mouth by stating, "I'm thrilled for Oklahoma."

    The Thunder are now one of the top attractions in the NBA with Kevin Durant as its ring leader.

14. Bobby Petrino Leaves Resignation Letter for the Falcons

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    He has never been one who claimed to have tact. Let's take a coach who was a hot commodity from the University of Louisville and make him the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

    It sounds like a pretty good gig. He had a nice set of offensive and defensive weapons to work with and an owner in Arthur Blank, who was more than willing to help him with needs on both sides of the ball.

    His record wasn't as great as he would have liked, and he preferred the college game because it wasn't as demanding, so he decided to leave the lovely confines of Atlanta and go to Arkansas to coach the Razorbacks.

    It was a strange thing though, when he left his team with a handful of games left in the season and told his players by letter.

    This wasn't a love affair and no grown athlete deserves a "Dear John" letter about why its head coach just quit on them.

    Petrino's actions show his really poor judgement.

13. Paul Hornung Bets on Football

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    It's hard to believe but Paul Hornung, of college football's greatest players of all time, was suspended in 1963 from the NFL for one year for his part in a gambling probe.

    The former Green Bay Packer and Notre Dame graduate was suspended along with Alex Karras for his part in gambling on professional football games.

    According to a story in the New Orleans Times Picyune, "Hornung, then a halfback with the Packers, along with Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras, were banished by Commissioner Pete Rozelle on April 17, 1963, for the upcoming season for betting on NFL games and associating with undesirable persons."

    Both players were reinstated and returned to the NFL in 1964.

12. Dwight Howard Pulls a "Shaq" and Winds Up in Los Angeles

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    He didn't have anyone fooled. He was going somewhere else from the moment he mentioned he wanted to win a championship.

    Dwight Howard has all the skills and determination to be a Bill Russell-type player in this league. When it comes to contract negotiation, let's just say he allows the media to help him make his decision.

    Howard was a media darling with the Orlando Magic when he was drafted out of Atlanta fresh out of high school. Somewhere along the way, his ego became huge, his focus became limited and his mouth had him fed up with the local media and fans.

    He did not want to stay in Florida, wanted to go to Brooklyn, toyed with Atlanta and Houston and wound up in Los Angeles. He had a coach and general manager fired in Orlando and may have had a hand in the firing of Mike Brown in Los Angeles.

    This actually may not have been a Shaq move—it may have been worse.

11. Urban Meyer Leaves Florida, Retires and Is Now at Ohio State

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    It appears Meyer has happy feet. Whether it was Bowling Green, Utah or the University of Florida, Meyer has been a success. At Florida, he was the second coming of Steve Spurrier and took the football program a step further than the former Heisman great. He won two national titles in three seasons.

    Having Tim Tebow on those teams helped the Gators become the premier football program at the time.

    But the thing about Meyer is he gets complacent. When Tebow left the program it appeared Meyer and the Gators were nothing more than ordinary. He suddenly retired from the program citing health reasons. The program looked in disarray and upon thinking it over, Meyer returned to his job on the sidelines.

    One year later, Meyer did the same thing and retired and became an analyst on television.

    Funny thing happened along the way for the Ohio native—Jim Tressel left the Ohio State program and it all but became a formality that Meyer would replace him in Columbus.

    Meyer has the Buckeyes undefeated this season, and Meyer is still thought of as vain in the Sunshine State.

10. Shaquille O'Neal Leaving Orlando for Los Angeles

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    When the Orlando Magic "won" the right to draft Shaquille O'Neal with the first pick of the 1992 draft, the struggling team quickly became one of the best attractions in the NBA.

    The huge center immediately made the impact that was expected, becoming a dominant center and force on defense. Magic fans had hope and were treated to an NBA Finals appearance. The road to Mickey Mouse looked like it would be paved in Larry O'Brien Trophies.

    Then, amid a contract dispute and the fact the NBA's "biggest" attraction wanted to win an NBA title, O'Neal took his act out west and signed a free-agent contract with the Lakers, crushing the hearts of Magic fans and the NBA's Eastern Conference.

    While in Los Angeles, O'Neal teamed with Kobe Bryant and won three consecutive championships from 2000-2002.

    Ironically, O'Neal's relationship with Bryant soured and in 2004, he was back on the east coast of the country, where he won another NBA Title with the Miami Heat in 2006.

    People in Orlando still talk about how O'Neal left the franchise and left the town for dead.

9. Wayne Gretzky Is Traded from the Edmonton Oilers

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    It's one of those trades that still make you stand and think for a bit.

    When you think of Edmonton, you think of two things: Football and hockey. After the trade of the greatest player in NHL history to Los Angeles, football was the only thing to concentrate on.

    It was such a big deal, as reported in a story by Brian Stubits on cbssportsline.com, because "Gretzky asked that Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski be traded with him."

    The story reported that, "In the end the three went to California in exchange for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, three first-round draft picks and $15 million."

    It also proved the greatest ever also had clout to make that kind of deal, no matter how lopsided it seemed.

    Edmonton still may be reeling from this 24 years later.

8. The Colts Leave Baltimore for Indianapolis

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    Already burned by the fact that John Elway had announced that he would not play for the Colts, the team that had drafted him first overall in the 1983 NFL Draft, Baltimore owner Robert Irsay made headlines when he moved his team to Indianapolis.

    Did I mention that it was in the middle of the night when this happened? The Mayflower vans moved the team and its operation like someone trying to avoid paying rent. It has been 29 seasons since that took place and the pain is still a part of Baltimore and its NFL connection.

    Because of the move, legal matters between the NFL and Indianapolis persisted. All parties reached a settlement in March 1986, in which all lawsuits regarding the relocation were dismissed, and the Colts would endorse a new NFL team for Baltimore.

7. Art Modell Takes the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore

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    What was Modell thinking? He was probably thinking of all the money that he stood to make by taking one of the NFL's storied franchises and moving them to Baltimore—a city that had been craving football since the Colts left town.

    What Modell did was ruin a good thing and tear apart tradition in the NFL: The Browns, Otto Graham, Brian Sipe, Jim Brown and The Dawg Pound.

    In 1995, Modell announced that the team would move to Baltimore. The team was 4-5 and coached at the time by Bill Belichick. The fan reaction proved how steeped in tradition the city was for its team, and the NFL soon approved the creation of an expansion team that would begin play again in 1999.

    Even though he is passed away and the Browns are still one of the worst teams in the NFL, Browns fans cannot help but get irate when they speak of Modell's name.

6. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa Prove to Be Frauds

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    They made the home run as exciting as any play in baseball during the 1998 season. Actually, they helped bring baseball back to the American conscience.

    Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa (and Ken Griffey Jr. to some extent) proved baseball was alive and well. They tore covers off the ball, hit monster shots into bleachers and brought droves of fans back to the ballparks.

    Only problem was that after they hit 60 and 70 home runs in season after season, they were found to be fraudulent in the fact that steroids and foreign objects were found to have helped them get an edge. Sosa's help was a corked bat and a body that looked like he had become a robot.

    McGwire, who had become the new Babe Ruth of professional baseball, admitted he used supplements to stay strong. We all learned what Androstenedione was and for the first time, major league baseball really had a problem on its hands.

5. LeBron James Takes His Talents to South Beach

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    It was the worst orchestrated move in NBA history as another icon in Cleveland crushed the hearts of Ohio sports fans.

    The Cleveland Cavaliers could not wait to bring native son LeBron James into the fold and see if the best player in the game, since some guy named Michael Jordan, could bring a championship to Cleveland—and he almost did it when he got the Cavs to the NBA Finals.

    When James' contract was about to expire, he did not fully embrace the idea of staying in Ohio, and subsequently, he postured about where he might play basketball in 2010-11. After a summer of doubt, teasing and all out whoring of the media, James orchestrated a live television program to announce he was "taking his talents to South Beach."

    The Heat won an NBA Title this past season. Again, Cleveland is still trying to recover.

4. Lance Armstrong Stripped of His Seven Tour De France Title for Doping

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    The French had been trying for years to prove Lance Armstrong had been using doping supplements to win cycling's greatest race.

    In the end, it was the United State Anti-Doping Agency that cracked down on Armstrong and found him guilty of cheating in a sport he helped to put on the map.

    In a New York Times story, Pat McQuaid, the president of the cycling union, known as U.C.I., said in a news conference in Switzerland, “Something like this must never happen again.”

    Armstrong wasn't just known for his time on the bike, but also his very public battle with testicular cancer and his fight for cancer research and cures through his Livestrong Foundation.

    McQuaid said as well that "Armstrong’s teams had a 'win at all costs' attitude fueled by deceit, intimidation, coercion and evasion,” and that all of the evidence was there to prove that Armstrong doped."

    Earlier this year, Armstrong removed himself from being involved in his foundation and its charitable work. He has also been banned from competing in competitive marathons as a result of these findings.

3. Babe Ruth Sold to the Yankees

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    It all started with this one move. The hatred between this rivalry has been through wars on the diamond and the globe, and it still stands the test of time.

    On December 26, 1919, Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees. Popular legend has it that he was sold along with other players so that the owner of the Red Sox at the time could finance the Broadway play, "No, No, Nanette."

    Ruth's leaving of Boston and emergence in New York coincided with the rise of the Yankees as one of professional sports all-time greatest teams. It also coincided with Ruth becoming one of the best power hitters of all time.

    When Ruth was sold, he was a pitcher for the Red Sox organization, but New York converted him to a right fielder full-time, where he remained until he retired in 1935.

    Because of his success in The Big Apple after the trade and the failures of the Red Sox organization in years past (1978 in the ALCS and 1986 in the World Series), the "Curse of the Bambino" has been a sticking point in many Red Sox fans' hearts.

    It wasn't until the last decade that Red Sox fans have been able to exact revenge on the Yankees by claiming two World Series Championships.

2. Barry Bonds' Pursuit of Hank Aaron's Home Run Record

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    When he first started playing in the major leagues, was there anyone more exciting than Barry Bonds? He could run, play defense, hit for power and just flat out impress anyone.

    Forget the ego and the cockiness—he was the best of his generation.

    Then the transformation took place: The bulking up, the questions, the change in demeanor and the witch hunt to prove he wasn't hitting 73 home runs in a season on his own.

    All of the questions and the media scrutiny got larger and larger, especially when he it his 600th and 700th home runs. It was a daily ritual. ESPN and other sports channels loved every minute of it—with the exception of maybe Chris Berman.

    In the end, Bonds is the home run king in baseball, and while we all still have questions, federal investigation proved he was dirty. Now he will never be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

1. Pete Rose Admits to Betting on Baseball

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    The truth finally came out.

    In 2007, the man who had more hits in his career than any other hitter in Major Baseball League history claimed, "I bet on my team every night. I didn't bet on my team four nights a week. I was wrong."

    The affirmation was done so when Rose spoke with Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann on ESPN Radio to discuss the new Pete Rose exhibit that was on display at the Great American Ballpark as part of the Reds Hall of Fame that same year.

    According to the story, Rose accepted a lifetime ban for gambling in 1989, but he denied for nearly 15 years that he bet on baseball. He finally acknowledged in his latest autobiography, published in January 2004, that he made baseball wagers while he managed the Cincinnati Reds.

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