20 Incredibly Badass Athlete Moments
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Tough. Ballsy. Earth-shatteringly gnarly.
Call these moments what you like, but at the end of the day they all fit under the description of “Completely Badass.”
So take off your floaties, strap on a cup and nail down your furniture.
It’s time for 20 incredibly badass athlete moments.
Ronnie Lott Amputates for the Team
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Ronnie Lott hit with the tackling force of five men and twelve bastards.
That is a fact.
The San Francisco 49ers defensive back also redefined what “taking one for the team” truly means after he decided to amputate the end of his left hand's pinky finger in 1986.
Lott’s finger had been crushed into pulp on the playing field, and faced with the decision of missing playtime to have a bone grafted onto his pinky, Lott told the doctor to just snip off the end of the digit so he could keep playing.
John Sattler Shatters Jaw, Wins Rugby League Grand Final
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A cheap shot at the beginning of the 1970 Grand Final shattered John Sattler’s jaw, but the South Sydney Bunny Rabbits captain and his pendulous, brass-plated guavas of fortitude would not be denied victory.
Sattler played the rest of the match with his jaw sagging off the side of his face and won the match. Sattler even gave an acceptance speech after the contest.
Level of Badassity: Jax from Mortal Kombat uppercutting you through the roof of the Playboy Mansion.
Jack Youngblood Laughs at Death, Plays on Broken Leg
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Jack Youngblood rises in the morning, presumably slams his face in the door to wake up and then falls down the stairs because it’s faster.
That’s how tough this guy is.
Youngblood played defensive end for the Los Angeles Rams during the '60s and '70s, and he racked up 151.5 sacks and seven Pro Bowl nominations over the course of his 14-year Hall of Fame career in the NFL.
But all the numbers and awards pale in comparison to this man’s giant, hulking potato pouch of moxie.
For example—in 1974, Youngblood ended up staring down the barrel of a cowboy’s revolver after trying to break up a fight at a Utah bar. The man pulled the trigger, but the gun clicked harmlessly. Youngblood throttled him and left the bar.
In 1979, Youngblood broke the tibia in his leg during an NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys, and instead of calling it quits, he put a cast on his leg and played in both the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl in the coming weeks.
Note: Playing in the Pro Bowl is cruel and unusual treatment for healthy players, much less defensive linemen with broken legs.
Level of Badassity: Polar bear breakdance fighting.
Garrett McNamara Makes Poseidon His Girlfriend
Because sometimes only riding 90 towering feet of water just isn’t enough.
I think it’s safe to say that most surfers think they’re “extreme,” but extreme surfer Garrett McNamara continues to ruin the cool-curve by taming waves that look as though they were CGI’d by the producers of The Day After Tomorrow (2004).
McNamara's most recent run involved this record-breaking 100-foot beauty off the coast of Portugal this January.
It’s purported to be the biggest wave ever ridden, and if looking at that wave doesn’t make your undercarriage twitch just a little, I don’t know what will.
Level of Badassity: Emilio Estevez.
Swedish Golfer Plays Through Black Widow Bite
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Swedish golfer Daniela Holmqvist was playing in a qualifying round of the Women’s Australian Open this past week when she experienced what I will call a minor, life-threatening setback during one of her games.
Holmqvist was setting up a shot from the rough when she felt a “sharp pain” in her ankle and looked down to see a black, oddly marked spider latched onto her leg above the sock line.
After knocking the spider off, people on the course told her it could have been a black widow spider, which sources say is completely, drop-dead poisonous for most human beings.
What did Holmqvist do? Start blubbering for medical attention and anti-venom like a crybaby/sensible person?
No, she went Bear Grylls, (Wo)man vs. Wild on the course and drove a golf tee into the bite and drained the poison herself.
Holmqvist went on to shoot a 74 on the round, and unfortunately didn’t qualify for the tournament.
But she did qualify to be a MacGyver-certified badass medic and/or Peter Parker’s sassy female sidekick who dispatches evildoers with her web-slinging and nine-iron of justice.
Level of Badassity: Zombie Steve Irwin.
Jack Johnson Pounds Vodka with Rasputin
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The story of the first black heavyweight champion of the world is a twisted and surreal tale.
Jack Johnson was a part-time pimp (not the lady magnet kind), a full-time maniac and one hell of a boxer who dominated the ring at the beginning of the 20th century.
Of all the many ridiculous tales that surround the legacy of Jack Johnson, the most mindbogglingly badass story involves a brief trip to Russia Johnson made in 1914 as a fugitive from American justice.
Long story short, Johnson ended up in St. Petersburg being introduced to members of Czar Nicholas II’s court, including a certain incredibly creepy mystic priest—Rasputin.
Yes, that Rasputin.
It’s been said that Johnson then went shot-for-shot with Rasputin at the Russian vodka tables until early in the morning.
Level of Badassity: “Stairway to Heaven” guitar solo played by velociraptor.
Bob Gibson Pitches ‘Til the Leg Breaks
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On July 15, 1967, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson was beamed in the right leg with a Robert Clemente line drive.
It hurt Gibson like hell, and he hobbled off the mound for a quick fix-up, which involved the team trainer spraying ehtyl chloride on the dent the ball had left, taping the joint up. He might as well literally just rubbed some dirt on it, considering the joint was fractured.
Not one to sit out with a case of the fractured bones, however, Gibson hopped back in and pitched to three more batters before throwing a fastball that snapped his fibula.
Gibson couldn’t go on at that point and was removed from the field, but the fact that he literally pitched until his ankle broke in half is certainly on par for sports badassery.
Level of Badassity: Peanut butter and napalm sandwich.
Kerri Strug Sticks Landing on Torn Ankle
Sources say that ankles are fairly important for, you know, landing jumps.
But Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug threw that knowledge and all caution to the wind on her second and final vault jump at the 1996 Olympics.
The U.S. had been locked in a death battle with the Russian gymnastic team, and Strug had already failed once on the vault. Her first jump had went well until the landing, where she heard a snap in left ankle and fell to the ground.
The sound, she would find out later, was that of two ligaments tearing.
But instead of laying down and giving up her team’s shot at the gold medal, Strug got up and took her second shot at the vault—running, jumping and landing on her destroyed ankle to win the gold.
It was one of the most beautiful and moving feats in Olympic history, and as badass as a moment an individual can have while wearing a leotard.
Level of Badassity: A phoenix rising from the ashes, with the face of Joaquin Phoenix.
Miguel Olivo Passes Kidney Stone During Game
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In what is certainly one of the most badass miserable occurrences I’ve ever heard of in sports, Colorado Rockies catcher Miguel stepped out of a 2010 game to handle some... personal business.
Olivo left the field in the 8th inning and ran into a bathroom adjacent to the dugout and passed a kidney stone, an occurrence painful enough to draw the description “as close as a man can come to giving birth.”
However, passing a calcium deposit out through his urethra is but a hitch in Olivo’s game, and the catcher trotted back on field and reclaimed his spot behind the mound.
Level of Badassity: Teddy Roosevelt knife-fighting with Mothra.
Steve Nash Breaks Nose Back into Place
Steve Nash had the bridge of his nose forcefully rearranged by the crown of Derrick Fisher’s skull during the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
No big problem for Nash, who just grabbed his honker and BANG! Popped that bad boy back into place.
And as you can see, Grant Hill thought it was delightful.
Level of Badassity: Harrier Jet flying through fast-food drivethru.
Duncan Keith’s Tooth Shattering Explosion
Hockey fans around the world cringed when Duncan Keith took a puck to the face during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoff game against the San Jose Sharks and lost seven of his teeth.
Keith left the game coughing up tooth-fragments in order to get juiced up with local anesthetics, but returned to the ice shortly thereafter and finished the contest.
Now I understand, players losing teeth in hockey in not a new thing, but Keith’s “toothsplosion” is one of the most recent and exquisitely gut-wrenching examples of men getting their incisors blasted into fine mist while playing on the ice. This slide is for all the other toothless wonders to play hockey.
Level of Badassity: Flaming monster truck jump.
Maurice Richard Get Knocked Out, Wins Game
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Small, but fast and scrappy as a pit bull, Maurice “The Rocket” Richard was that player who just wouldn’t go away.
The Montreal Canadiens’ 5'10", 170-pound forward would get bullied around the ice all day, but never backed down from bigger players (or officials) and rarely failed to score points despite his size.
Richard’s most famous exhibition of badassery came after he slammed head-on into a Boston Bruins defenseman during the 1952 Stanley Cup semifinals and was carried off the ice, limp and unconscious.
Not only did Richard return to the ice with six stitches and a concussion, he jumped back in with four minutes to go in the game, skated past three defenders and scored a series-winning goal.
Level of Badassity: Mighty Mouse powerbombing the moron from the new 5 Hour Energy commercials into an active volcano.
Nolan Ryan Takes Line Drive to Face, Doesn’t Care
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The Ryan Express would be damned if a little baseball-in-the-face ever slowed him down.
Texas Rangers great Nolan Ryan was hit by a Bo Jackson line-drive early in a game on Sept. 8, 1990.
The ball cracked off Jackson’s bat, took a hard skip off the infield and slammed Ryan square in the mouth. And when some men might have lost their head, Ryan calmly picked up the ball, threw Jackson out at first and continued pitching and spitting blood on his shirt until the 7th inning.
Level of Badassity: Nacho-flavored Altoids.
Michael Jordan Plays Through Flu
It’s a fairly obvious choice, but Michael Jordan playing with a stomach flu during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals was a badass moment in basketball history.
Jordan stepped onto the court with a 103-degree temperature after spending the night in his hotel room shaking from fever. Team doctors told him not to play.
But play he did, lighting up the Utah Jazz with 38 points, including a game-saving three-pointer that secured the win for the Chicago Bulls.
Level of Badassity: Unicorn joust.
Adrian Peterson Nearly Breaks Record with Herniated Abs
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Vikings running back Adrian Peterson returned from an ACL tear and spent the entire 2012-13 season churning turf and eating defenses whole.
Peterson finished the season with 2,097 rushing yards—just nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s longstanding record for rushing yards in a season.
And he did a share of it with his intestines piercing through his abdominal wall.
After the season ended, Peterson scheduled a surgery to repair a sports hernia he suffered at an unspecified time earlier in the season (November or December, it seems).
So basically, Adrian Peterson came back from a career-ending injury and nearly broke the NFL rushing record while fighting through an agonizing muscle tear.
Put a bow on it and label this one “Grade-A, Ground Chuck Badass.”
Level of Badassity: Jesus in a tuxedo t-shirt, with giant eagle wings.
John Stockton Is Indestructible
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It’s not a particular moment, but John Stockton’s 19-year NBA career was rife with extreme shows of personal strength and mental toughness.
Stockton geared up for 1,506 of a possible 1,526 games during his career and even played with a stress fracture in his foot during the 1992 Olympics.
But perhaps his toughest feat was concealing an injury to his right elbow for almost an entire season, and dribbling mostly with his left hand in order to avoid missing games.
I wonder what his stance is on the Dwight Howard situation.
Level of Badassity: Bruce Lee Dragon Kick.
Minotauro Nogueira Won’t Tap out
Warning: Video features disfigurement that might freak you out.
He’s not the best out there, but MMA fighter Minotauro Nogueira’s toughness and unwillingness to give up have led his opponents to call him a “zombie,” and label him as a real life Rocky Balboa.
And true to form, when Frank Mir put Minotauro in a kimura lock that threatened to break his arm, Minotauro did not yield.
The Brazilian fighter refused to tap out until his arm was broken, and even then it was an almost lazy, half-hearted surrender. To this day Minotauro maintains that he didn't want to give up.
“I was thinking about winning,” Minotauro told reporters. “I really thought I was going to escape the submission.”
Level of Badassity: Actual minotaur headbutt.
Female MMA Fighter Wins Bout While Pregnant
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She might not win a “Mother of the Year” award for this one, but Cindy Dandois fought and won a 2011 MMA bout while carrying a child inside of her.
To be fair, Dandois says she didn’t know she was two months pregnant when the match took place, but still, holy crap, she fought with a kid in her womb.
Think about that.
While you’re thinking about it, also consider her nickname is “Battlecat.”
Level of Badassity: Siberian tiger driving the Lunar Rover.
Goalkeeper Plays with Broken Neck
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German goalie Bert Trautmann was a man’s man, but a particularly contentious reason kept him from being welcomed with open arms when he signed with Manchester City in 1949.
And that reason was Trautmann had fought for Germany during World War II.
Trautmann was a German paratrooper fighting on the Russian front, but was captured by the British and interned at a prison camp in Britain in 1945.
Trautmann began playing soccer to pass the time at the prison camp and wowed enough onlookers to pick up a contract with St. Helen’s Town, and eventually Man City.
Man City ended up making its way to the FA Cup final in 1956, a game in which Trautman would receive a crunching collision with a striker while going up to intercept a cross.
The pain of the hit turned Trautman’s world to fog, but the German keeper stayed on the pitch and Man City won the match 3-1. Several days later Trautmann saw a doctor who told him that one of the vertebrae in his neck was badly broken, and that he was lucky to be alive.
“People talk about bravery,” Trautmann said. “But if I’d known my neck was broken I’d have been off like a shot.”
But you didn’t know, and you champed it out. And that makes you a badass, Trautmann.
Level of Badassity: Winston Churchill karate chopping a panther.
Kurt Angle Wrestles, Wins Gold Medal with Broken Neck
Just look at the slide title: Kurt Angle won a gold medal with a broken neck.
So much broken neck badassery. You can't write this stuff.
Level of Badassity: Abraham Lincoln highfiving a bald eagle.
Ted Williams, Raging Inferno of Badassity
He was the last MLB player to bat over .400 for a season.
He sacrificed four years of his baseball career to volunteer for two tours of active field duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, one during World War II and the other during the Korean War.
He crash-landed a burning F-9 fighter plane on a runway during the Korean War, crawled out, spiked his helmet on the ground because he was “mad that he had to go through all this bull****.”
Legendary slugger Ted Williams did so much impossibly BA stuff over the course of his life that narrowing it down to one moment is something I cannot, and will not do.
Level of Badassity: Ted Williams. He’s on a level of badassity all his own.