50 Incredibly Random Facts About Sports Stars
What we know about the biggest stars in sports is largely determined by what they do in a game—by wins, losses and the hardware in their trophy case.
The reality is that the men and women we love to watch on the field, court, track or in whatever place they have in sports, are much more than their jobs.
Granted, they get paid handsomely to do something most people consider recreation, but they grew up idolizing the sports stars who came before them, have goofy hobbies and interests, and personal histories that pull back the curtain.
When we learn more about the person, rather than the athlete, it can be endearing and sometimes disconcerting. Just peruse the virtual TMI playground known as Twitter if you need examples.
The bottom line is that there are plenty of random facts about the biggest sports stars that you don't need to know, but are kind of fun to learn about.
These are 50 incredibly random facts about sports stars.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck may have been the No. 1 prospect coming out of Stanford, but coming out of high school he was ranked No. 4 among prep quarterbacks.
That was probably the last time "the next John Elway" was ranked fourth at anything.
James Harden, Houston Rockets
The Rockets' impressively bearded guard James Harden has got a serious knack for hitting the three.
As a rookie he hit 37.5 percent from beyond the arc, which was the third highest ever for a player under the age of 21.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler doesn't always get a lot of respect, thanks in no small part to his face. He's got that dopey, distant stare that screams "I'd rather be anywhere but here."
But don't let that fool you, Cutler is no dope. He was a member of the National Honor Society in high school and attended Vanderbilt—not exactly a party school.
So he isn't dumb, by any means. But he certainly isn't particularly pleasant, personality-wise.
Phil Mickelson, PGA
Aside from Tiger Woods, the PGA doesn't have any bigger American superstar on tour than Phil Mickelson.
In just over 20 years Mickelson has risen from ranks of a promising young amateur to the second-highest earning athlete in the U.S.
He earned just under $4 million on the course in 2012, but raked in an additional $57 million in endorsements.
Jeez, who knew the psoriatic arthritis game could be so lucrative!
Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
The Jets' oft-injured cornerback, Darrelle Revis, is said to be so dominant at his position that opposing wide receivers find themselves stranded and relegated to obscurity on "Revis Island."
Unfortunately, his recent injury issues and penchant for holding out have greatly limited tourism on that island over the last three seasons.
No surprise given that Revis' rookie holdout in 2007 was the longest since Keyshawn Johnson in 1996. Less than impressive company.
Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers
Blake Griffin is almost as well known for his sense of humor as his in-your-face dunks.
In 2011 he famously interned for Funny or Die, comedian Will Ferrell's comedy website/production company. Griffin is particularly fond of sketch comedy and would love to host Saturday Night Live.
Which, personally, I think he'd be amazing at.
Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu has been one of the most intimidating physical forces in the NFL over the last decade, but his gentle demeanor off the field has made him one of the most likable players in the league.
He's known to be a practical joker with his teammates and holds rock paper scissors tournaments in the locker room. Polamalu was a master woodcarver in high school and his hobbies today include fly fishing and orchid cultivation.
If only you could bottle that kind of adorableness and force-feed it to the NFL's many troublemakers. I bet it's impossible to get arrested while cultivating orchids.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Mavericks big man Dirk Nowitzki was named the German Basketballer of the Year in 1998.
It wasn't until a full decade later that he recorded his first triple-double in a game against the Bucks in 2008—Nowitzki was 30 years old at the time.
Talk about taking your sweet time.
Jaromir Jagr, Dallas Stars
Stars forward Jaromir Jagr has been one of the standout superstars in the NHL for over two decades.
But his popularity in the U.S. is nothing compared to the rockstar status he enjoys back home in the Czech Republic.
Jagr was responsible for opening the very first sports bar in Prague. Additionally, when he chopped off his mullet in 1999, it was an extremely big deal overseas.
Then again, when isn't a mullet an extremely big deal?
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Having capped their 20th consecutive losing season in 2012, Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen has become a rare ray of hope for baseball in Pittsburgh.
During his rookie season he became the first Pirates rookie to hit three home runs in a single game.
In 2012 McCutchen was named the NL Player of the month in two consecutive months—the first Pirate to achieve that feat since Bobby Bonilla in 1988.
All the better to break your hearts with, my dears. Eventually they'll trade him away for a few doubloons and a pile of dirty socks.
Metta World Peace, L.A. Lakers
Noted Lakers madman Metta World Peace has the level of manufactured crazy and desperate need for attention that screams out for a reality television show.
That's exactly what it received in April 2010. It was widely reported that MWP was developing and producing a reality series called They Call Me Crazy.
The project must have died at some point, because the show never made it to air. Perhaps it was a little too crazy?
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
Chargers tight end Antonio Gates may have redefined his position in the NFL, but football wasn't isn't first choice.
He actually committed to Michigan State, but ultimately transferred because then-coach Nick Saban wouldn't let him play basketball too.
Gates was Michigan's runner-up Mr. Basketball his senior year in high school, but ultimately was undersized for the NBA.
Undersized for the NBA, but absolute perfection for an NFL tight end.
Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
Nets point guard Deron Williams had a pretty impressive rookie season in 2005-06, just not quite as good as Chris Paul.
In Rookie of the Year voting, Williams received the only first-place vote that didn't go to CP3.
Second to Chris Paul? Probably doesn't feel like second place at all.
Matt Kemp, L.A. Dodgers
It took Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp exactly two games in the majors to earn himself a nickname.
In a game against the Braves in 2006, announcer Don Sutton observed that he resembled a "big buffalo rounding the bases," Kemp was then dubbed "The Bison."
That doesn't sound particularly flattering, but if it doesn't bother Kemp, it doesn't bother me.
Thierry Henry, N.Y. Red Bulls
Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry signed with the MLS club in 2010 after 16 years of playing overseas for teams like Arsenal and Barcelona.
He followed the proud tradition started by former Galaxy star David Beckham, by signing with a MLS team after he wasn't good enough to play anywhere else anymore.
Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses looking for one last payday to play for soccer fans who don't know any better. That's what the Statue of Liberty says, right?
Jeff Gordon, NASCAR
NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon has had a lot of success over the last five years driving, but he had enough early success to last a lifetime.
In 1998 Gordon finished in the top five 17 consecutive times, the longest streak of the modern Winston Cup era.
In 2007 he finished in the top ten 30 times, surpassed a record with 59 career poles, and eclipsed Dale Earnhardt's career win total with a victory at Talladega.
If you ain't first, you're last.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans
Texans running back Arian Foster is basically everything that Tim Tebow claims to be—in the underdog department.
He's got a tattoo that says "Against All Odds," which is basically the story of his career in the NFL so far.
Foster went undrafted out of college, but was signed by the Texans in 2010 and made the Pro Bowl in his second season.
An impressive story, for sure, but sometimes the underdog card is overplayed.
Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Eccentric Bulls center Joakim Noah is known as someone who marches to the beat of his own drummer.
His father was a professional tennis player and his mother was a former Miss Sweden. Noah majored in Anthropology at the University of Florida and is extremely active in a number of charitable causes in Chicago.
He may also be the only player in NBA history to rock a messy bun as his signature 'do.
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
Phillies ace Roy Halladay has definitely found a welcoming home in the City of Brotherly Love, but he won't soon be forgotten in his previous home: Toronto.
He and Roger Clemens are the only two Blue Jays pitchers with two 20-win seasons. When Halladay was traded to Philly, he took out an ad thanking Toronto fans for their support.
Something tells me Phillies fans won't be quite as supportive if Halladay ever signs somewhere else.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning forward Steven Stamkos was born and raised in Markham, Ontario, which is where he found his very first job selling steaks.
He grew up rooting for the Sabres and actually scored his first NHL goal against Buffalo netminder Ryan Miller in his rookie season.
That's gotta be a confusing moment, right? Scoring your first goal, but against the team you've rooted for your entire life.
Kurt Busch, NASCAR
Racing just runs in the veins of the Busch family. Kurt is the son of Tom Busch and the older brother of Kyle Busch, both noted NASCAR drivers.
Racing may be in the blood, but being a nice guy sure isn't. In 2006 Busch finished just behind Barry Bonds and Terrell Owens on GQ's list of the most-hated athletes.
Kurt has butted heads with almost every driver in NASCAR, including younger brother Kyle.
Wow, he sounds really unpleasant.
JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets JaVale McGee is one of the more colorful characters in the NBA—a league well known for its characters. He also reveals a lot about himself on Twitter.
- When rappers rhyme on Twitter, it "irks" him.
- He knows that Zachary Taylor is on a coin, but not that he was a president.
- He enjoys microwaved cups of Velveeta cheese.
You had me at JaVale McGee. Love him.
Albert Pujols, L.A. Angels of Anaheim
Angels slugger Albert Pujols has come a long way from his meager beginnings in the Dominican Republic.
He was raised by his grandmother, alongside his 10 aunts and uncles, in a communal setting that was basically a glorified campground.
That must seem like an entirely different life to Pujols, who signed a 10-year contract worth $250 million with the Angels in December, 2011.
Can't imagine the Pujols family is doing much camping these days.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Thunder superstar Kevin "K-Smoove" Durant is said to be the best rapper on the team and hopes to embark on a career in the music industry after retiring from basketball.
He's already got a studio in his house—so we probably won't even have to wait that long.
You know it's probably eating Russell Westbrook alive.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Few NHL players are as electrifying as the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin at his best. Since joining the team in '05, the physical winger has led the league in shots on goal in all but one season.
Though the Eastern Conference rival Penguins have been a thorn in Ovechkin and the Caps' side, he idolized Pens owner and legendary player Mario Lemiuex growing up.
Tiger Woods, PGA
We all know that PGA legend Tiger Woods had a colossal rise to superstardom, breaking countless records—not to mention stereotypes—along the way.
But did you know that Tiger is an avid fisherman? He owns almost two dozen rods/reels and his favorite fishing spots are in Alaska and Ireland.
He also enjoys spearfishing!
David Beckham, Paris Saint-Germain
Since making his debut for Manchester United in 1995, David Beckham has become one of the most recognizable sports superstars on the planet.
But that wasn't Becks' first job with the team. In 1986 he suited up as the team's mascot after being spotted at a talent competition at the age of 11.
At least he has a fallback career for when this soccer thing comes to a merciful conclusion.
I kid, Becks is the best.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Heat guard Dwyane Wade was a demonstrated superstar in high school, but it took a while for him to earn some serious respect.
In the balloting for Mr. Basketball (IL) he finished a distant seventh place—notoriously overweight dud Eddy Curry garnered more votes. As a freshman at Marquette, Wade didn't even dress for games, let alone start.
Seems like a lot of people really dropped the ball (see what I did there?) on spotting this Hall-of-Fame talent.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
During his rookie season, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III showed he was as dynamic a passer at the pro level as he was during his Heisman-winning junior campaign at Baylor. He earned NFL Rookie of the Year honors after throwing for 3,200 yards and running for another 815.
In more evidence that RG3 is some kind of superhuman, he held the office of class president during his senior year at Copperas Cove High School. That was while playing football, basketball and running track and field—spectacularly.
Ironically, the only force strong enough to stop this seemingly unstoppable baller is one, slighty orange-faced man with an apparent skepticism of a knee ligament's value.
Ilya Kovalchuck, New Jersey Devils
An undeniable scoring talent who can both take over a period or disappear in a game, Devils' winger Ilya Kovalchuck's NHL career has been defined by inconsistency and tantalizing brilliance.
In 2012 the Russian sniper appeared to be returning to his 2008-09 form, finishing with 48 goals and 61 assists.
If you ever wondered what a person like Kovalchuck does in his spare time, it seems he loves to go bowling; no doubt dominating the first nine frames before eating gutter in the 10th.
Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
Rangers pitcher Yu (the man!) Darvish ending up in Texas may have been fate—his father was a huge Cowboys fan while he was attending school in the United States.
Apparently Darvish was that terrible kid you didn't want to play dodgeball with in grade school—kids refused to play with him because of how hard he could throw the ball.
That actually sounds like the plot of a really amazing teen movie. But Darvish's character would have to be a nerd who dominates in dodgeball and eventually gets the girl.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Spurs superstar Tim Duncan once invited his teammates to play paintball, having never played himself.
He stacked his team full of ringers, provided his teammates with faulty equipment and basically unleashed a world of hell on them.
Because he's that amazing.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
Real Madrid overly bronzed and plucked superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, is one of Europe's preeminent fashionistos—which is kind of like a fashionista, but male.
He and his two sisters own a Portugal boutique called CR7. Ronaldo's bronzed, buff bod also gets him a lot of modeling work on the side.
He actually met his current girlfriend, Irina Shayk, a stunning Russian model who has appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, at a photo shoot for Emporio Armani in 2010.
Of course Ronaldo met his future wife at an underwear shoot. It was either going to be that or purse shopping.
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Bulls standout point guard Derrick Rose made history in 2009 by becoming the first rookie to win the Skills Challenge at the NBA All-Star Weekend.
No surprise, considering he was the first Bulls rookie since Michael Jordan to score double-digits in his NBA debut.
You know, just some dude from Chicago you may have heard of, no pressure at all there.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez has long been considered one of the greatest to ever play the position.
He and the Chargers' Antonio Gates have been the two most dominating tight ends in the NFL for over a decade. Yet for all of his many accomplishments in what is assuredly a Hall-of-Fame career, Gonzalez didn't win a single playoff game until 2013—when his Falcons came up just short of the Super Bowl.
Almost 16 years without a playoff win!
Great googly moogly! I'm glad I'm not a Chiefs fan. No offense, Chiefs fans.
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane was chosen No. 1 overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He was just the sixth American player in history to be chosen first, joining the ranks of players such as Mike Modano and Rick DiPietro.
Kane is a study in contradictions. His favorite color is black and his father used to spray paint his hockey gear black as a child. Yet he often played dolls with his sisters in an effort to convince them to play sports with him.
I probably wouldn't bring up that dolls thing if you ever have the opportunity to meet him though.
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
The Celtics' agitator, Kevin Garnett, has the impressive distinction of being hated by the NBA's most notable nice guy, Tim Duncan of the Spurs.
In a 2012 Sports Illustrated profile of Duncan, he could barely disguise his disdain when the subject of KG was broached.
Garnett, to his credit, has that effect on half of the NBA.
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
In 2012 Cabrera won the first Triple Crown in 45 years—the last winner was Red Sox left fielder Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
Thank goodness the Sox finally broke that curse and won a World Series, otherwise that would've been much harder to swallow in Boston.
Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona
Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi played his first game in La Liga in 2004. At the time he was just 17 years old, making him the youngest player ever to start a game in the league.
But the career of the world's greatest footballer almost didn't happen. Messi was diagnosed with a hormone deficiency at the age of 11 and his family was unable to afford the full extent of the required treatment.
If his father would've been unable to get his employers and local businesses to sponsor the cost of the treatment, it is speculated that Messi would've stood just 4'7 (approximately).
Literal tragedy averted. Football without Messi isn't football at all. Sorry, Cristiano.
Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers
As a teenager in the summer of 2004, Clippers superstar point guard Chris Paul worked as a counselor at the the legendary Michael Jordan basketball camp.
CP3 had the opportunity to scrimmage against MJ, his idol, an opportunity he has always cherished.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was chosen No. 1 overall by Carolina in the 2011 NFL Draft. That made him the first Heisman winner to be selected first since USC's Carson Palmer in 2003.
He was named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year for 2011.
Not a bad start, but Newton should enjoy it while it lasts—there's at least one young man out there who plans to become his mom's favorite player at some point.
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk passed the great Nikolas Lidstrom to become the franchise's all-time leading scorer in January, 2007. And in dramatic fashion too! He scored an impressive five points in a game against the Coyotes.
Datsyuk's (you can also call him Pavs, Dats or Moves) hobbies outside of hockey are mostly of the athletic variety. He enjoys a leisurely day of fishing and also likes to play tennis, soccer, billiards and golf.
He's probably amazing at all of them too. Never accept a "friendly" competitive wager from Pavel Datsyuk, he's probably just trying to scam you.
LeBron James, Miami Heat
Heat superstar LeBron James may not be Michael Jordan, but he's got pretty exclusive company in the NBA record books.
He and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the only two players to win two MVPs by the age of 25.
When LBJ recorded back-to-back triple-doubles in 2008, he became the first player to do so since Magic Johnson accomplished the feat two decades prior.
Who cares if he isn't MJ? Being LBJ is pretty freaking amazing.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
When Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was in high school in 2003, he was awarded the Hall Trophy, which honors the country's top football player.
Also while in high school, Peterson requested the No. 29 for his jersey, the number Eric Dickerson wore, but it was unavailable at the time. He opted for No. 28 instead and wears it to this day.
Now high school running backs all over the country are probably requesting No. 28. Funny how that works.
Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
It didn't take Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia long to make history in the major leagues. In 2007, he and teammate Jacoby Ellsbury were the first rookies in MLB history to bat 1-2 in a World Series lineup.
No wonder he batted at the top of the lineup—that season he set a record for rookie second baseman by batting .317 for the season. Pedroia bested the record set by the Pirates Jim Voix in 1913.
And the hits just keep coming for the Pirates, they are truly the Rodney Dangerfield of baseball.
Carmelo Anthony, N.Y. Knicks
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is a bit of a movie buff, particularly cinematic classics about the mob. His favorite movies include Scarface, The Godfather, Casino and Goodfellas.
Before being moved to New York, 'Melo's former home in Denver boasted a 10-seat movie theater.
What can I say—he's got pretty good taste in movies.
Derek Jeter, N.Y. Yankees
It's already been three years since Derek Jeter passed the legendary Lou Gehrig as the Yankees' all-time hit leader in September, 2009.
Not only is he good at baseball, The Jeet is also kind of psychic. In his high school yearbook he predicted he would be playing for the Yankees in 10 years.
It's like he has ESPN or something.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins superstar center Sidney Crosby was named a team captain in 2007. He was just 19 at the time, making him the youngest captain in NHL history.
If you've ever wondered why he wears the No. 87—it's an homage to Sidney Crosby. His jersey number is the year he was born.
He picked his jersey number like I picked the email address for that crappy Hotmail account I haven't touched in years.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Much like Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady grew up in California as a fan of the 49ers.
When he was a child he actually had the opportunity to meet Niners legend Joe Montana, who talked with him and signed an autograph.
Only Montana, Brady, Terry Bradshaw, Bart Starr and Eli Manning have won two or more Super Bowl MVPs.
Two consecutive championship losses be damned—that's some pretty exclusive company.
Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers
Lakers star Kobe Bryant owes his unique first name to a fateful dinner his parents once shared.
"Kobe" is a specific type of Japanese beef which was listed on the menu at a steakhouse in King of Prussia, Pa.
Oh, and he used to have a thing for high school girls. Kobe took R&B singer Brandy to her senior prom and he met his wife Vanessa when she was still in high school.
To be fair, he was only a couple years out of high school himself.
Speaking of exclusive company, you can follow me on Twitter! Follow @blamberr