Athletes Whose Personalities Overshadow Their Talent
Sometimes, it's fine when athletes use their larger-than-life personalities to make names for themselves, especially when they don't have the talent to do their talking on the court or on the field.
Other times—namely, when those personalities suck—it's just annoying.
Professional sports are filled with Good Guy types who make us laugh, sometimes make us cry (in a good way) and give us moments that we'll never forget.
But professional sports are also filled with suspect characters who will forever be known for something entirely unrelated to their jobs—like, for instance, bringing a gun to the locker room, or just being really, really dumb. And because of those indiscreet identifiers, nobody really remembers much of anything that has to do with their talent.
Here's a look at the guys who will forever be known for their personalities rather than their skills—the good, the bad and the ugly.
20. Rasheed Wallace
Rasheed Wallace had some very good moments earlier in his career. But toward the end, he became much more well-known for his displeasure with officiating and his outspoken tendencies than he did for his dominance on the court.
To his credit, Sheed did help the Detroit Pistons win a championship in 2004, and it was a championship they were, by no means, supposed to win over the mighty Lakers. He was a part of several Pistons teams that posted stellar records and established themselves as true threats in the East.
But later in his career, he became far more well known for mouthing off than for helping to bring a title to Detroit. He got thrown out of critical matchups for arguing with the officials. He routinely questioned them in postgame interviews, which resulted in numerous fines. And he let himself show up to preseason activities out of shape, especially in 2009, which limited his effectiveness throughout the season.
Harmless? Most of the time. But over the top? Absolutely.
19. Jonny Gomes
Jonny Gomes is the type of guy most GMs would love to have on their team, but it's not because he's a beast at the plate or anything.
He's a character guy—maybe the biggest character guy in baseball at the moment. GMs bring him in to bring the team together. He can transform a clubhouse from a negativity-infused hideaway into a safe haven for a bunch of guys who love to be there and who love each other.
It worked with the Rays: He helped transform them from a laughingstock to a World Series contender. It worked with the A's. Hopefully, it will work with the Red Sox. He gives his team a lovable personality. It's a skill.
We all know people aren't signing him because of his ferocious career .243 batting average.
18. Barry Zito
There was once a time when Barry Zito was better known for his vicious curveball and his Cy Young award than for being a kooky personality.
Those days are gone. And weirdly, he was better known for being good at baseball prior to helping the San Francisco Giants win two World Series than he was after they won.
Most people started noticing Zito when he beat out Pedro Martinez for the Cy Young in 2002 and then proceeded to look like a homeless person (intentionally) during Oakland's playoff run the following season. It was all kind of downhill from there. In fact, since winning pitching's most prestigious award, Zito has compiled a 116-116 record and is generally regarded as a colossal waste of money.
But we still love him for being the guy who brings his own pillows and candles on the road, being super zen and delivering my all-time favorite athlete quotation: "When you know, you know. You know?"
17. Caroline Wozniacki
Let us all ask ourselves, why is Caroline Wozniacki a borderline-household name?
The first thing that may have come to mind is the fact that she is very vocally dating Rory McIlroy. If you don't follow them on Twitter and Instagram—don't. Thank me later.
The second thing that makes her a headline-grabber is that she does things like the above at tournaments: stuffing her bra and skirt with towels in order to increase the size of her...assets in order to impersonate Serena Williams.
But at least we know Serena's name because she's won a major at some point. Or, you know, 15.
16. Nick Swisher
First things first, he has a catchy name. Everyone has to like a baseball player named Swisher.
But it would be a lot easier to like him if he was a superstar switch-hitting first baseman instead of a slightly-below-average, switch-hitting first baseman slash outfielder.
It seems as though Nick Swisher buys into the fact that he is good at making himself well-known with his personality rather than his stats. He's not bad—he wouldn't have gotten a four-year, $56 million contract from the Indians last offseason if he was bad—but his skill level relative to the amount of people who know his name isn't exactly proportional.
Part of that is due to the fact that he played for the Yankees for four years. Another part of that is that he played for the Yankees when they won the World Series in 2009. And he's certainly enhanced his profile by guest-spotting on every TV show that gives him an opportunity, marrying an actress, having an awesome name and being (former) BFFs with the Bleachers Creatures.
15. Tim Tebow
Never has there been someone who has coasted as a result of his college career and his squeaky-clean reputation quite like Tim Tebow.
What has Tim Tebow done as a professional? Virtually nothing. He led the Denver Broncos to a playoff spot in 2011 by going 7-4 down the stretch, but people love to ignore the fact that a) he lost the final three games of that season and b) that is an incredibly small sample size.
The truth is, Tebow is one of the most famous players in the NFL because he was a legend at Florida and because he milks his religion for all it's worth. Plenty of players have been spectacular in college only to fizzle in the pros, and they haven't become household names. Why? Because they didn't know how to turn themselves into one of the most polarizing personalities in the league.
He's done pretty well for a guy who couldn't even learn the playbook.
14. Brian Scalabrine
Everywhere Brian Scalabrine goes, he is beloved. Whether it's Boston or Chicago, and whether he gets on the court or sits on the bench in a suit, it doesn't matter.
Everyone loves a giant redhead who barely plays but gets hot from beyond the arc every once in a while.
Most big dudes who are a combination of soft defensively and underwhelming offensively are loathed by NBA fans. Not Scal. Never has there been a guy who has tried harder or cheered louder than Scal. With the Celtics, he was basically the team's mascot. The fans loved him because he was an incredible student of the game, because he could hit a clutch three on occasion and because he was a great teammate.
And because he tweets things like this.
Tired of people challenging me 1on1. Let me be direct. If ur white & not N the NBA u have No chance. If ur a brother, maybe...but i doubt it— Brian Scalabrine (@Scalabrine) April 5, 2013
It didn't so much matter that he averaged 1.1 points and 0.8 rebounds over the course of his 11-year career.
13. David Wright
David Wright is one of those good guys. He has the total package: He's a good-looking dude who can reel in the female fans, he gives a good interview and he always seems to be smiling.
When he first came up, he was one of the most promising third basemen in baseball, too. Those days seem to be long gone, and yet Wright is still regarded as one of those guys you have no choice but to love.
He plays the PR game well—you have to give him credit for that. He's kind of like baseball's Tom Brady; he's the perfect combination of laid-back and fiery, and he always says the right thing to reporters, even in the wake of devastating losses or record-breaking failures.
Wright is still a great player. Injuries seemed to have derailed him at one point, but he's still solid. He's just not the same guy who was touted as one of the best young prospects, like, ever. And judging by their success (or lack thereof) in recent seasons, he's certainly not the Mets' savior.
12. Jay Feely
Who was Jay Feely, the NFL player? An OK placekicker who originally went undrafted and had to struggle for most of his career to remain employed.
Who is Jay Feely, the Twitter presence? He is a revelation.
Feely has sort of revitalized his entire career via Twitter. Unless you're one of those can't-miss, ice-in-their-veins types like Adam Vinatieri, it's hard to turn yourself into a household name when you're a kicker. Feely may not be at household name-status yet, but as those who follow him know, he is secretly legendary.
Never has there been someone more willing to engage NFL fans in senseless debates about his own self-worth, or someone more willing to espouse his thoughts on politics and world crises, as though anyone actually cares.
Plus, when you are a now-retired, once-decent kicker, the fact that people still remember who you are is an accomplishment.
11. Kevin Garnett
KG is one of the best ever, at least if you're talking to me. Nobody will ever have to convince me of that. He is a 15-time All Star, a nine-time member of the All-Defensive First Team and, of course, an NBA champion.
I am a card-carrying KG apologist, but it would be remiss if we didn't acknowledge the way he has made most of his headlines recently: with his trash-talking and generally atrocious behavior on the court.
Everyone knows at least one or two KG stories about the terrible things he has said to his opponents for the sole purpose of getting under their skin so he can win. There was the hilarious Carmelo Anthony debacle earlier this year. There was the Charlie Villanueva thing a couple years back. There was this rumored event that took place between him and Tim Duncan in 1999 (note: it's just a rumor, and beware of language).
KG has worked very hard at solidifying his reputation as one of the meanest guys in the NBA, and to his credit, it has worked.
10. John McEnroe
It isn't every day that you can turn your biggest personality quirk into a career, but John McEnroe did.
These days, the surly former World No. 1 makes his living as a commentator, and whenever you hear his slightly monotone, slightly annoyed voice on your TV, you know you're in for a good match.
But even when he was still playing, McEnroe could be described as surly and annoyed. He argued with the officials and he threw temper tantrums so intense that they got him barred from the 1990 Australian Open, becoming the first player to ever be ejected from the tournament on account of misconduct.
Sure, some people probably remember him for his superb volley and his seven major wins—and those aren't to be diminished—but many more remember him for the entertainment he brought to the game with his...emotional style of play.
9. Rickie Fowler
Most first-time golf watchers notice Rickie Fowler right off the bat for reasons completely unrelated to his game: his clothing.
Amidst a sea of goofy pants and plain old polos, Fowler is a revelation. He enjoys the art of dressing for a tournament, and he puts some effort into it. You don't have to wear a uniform, so why not have fun with it? More PGA Tour members should adopt that perspective.
Fowler certainly has a bandwagon, partly because of his flashy style and partly because he seems like he could be The Next Big Thing—but he hasn't panned out yet. People love to support young golfers in the hopes that they're the next Tiger Woods, but the truth is, Fowler has finished in the top five of a major just once, and aside from that, he hasn't even been close.
But at least he gets people talking somehow.
8. Jason Terry
You have to give credit where credit's due: The guy knows how to make a headline.
What happens when you get a tattoo of the NBA Finals trophy before the season even begins? People are going to obsess over it. And when it turns out that your team does actually win the NBA title that year, people are going to obsess even more.
Jason Terry is a valuable commodity, but he's not the most important player on his team. He never has been. He brings the intangibles, whether it's inking himself in solidarity with his team or chirping enough to send his opponent into a tailspin. He knows how to make himself valuable with what he has.
Even when he's victimized by a dunk so vicious, it is described as the cause of his Wikipedia death, Terry finds a way to milk it for all the attention it's worth: He tries to instigate another war of words with the perpetrator.
Terry leaves no stone unturned. He's a pro.
7. Clinton Portis
Clinton Portis had a great professional career. In nine seasons with the Broncos and the Redskins, he was selected to two Pro Bowls and rushed for over 1,500 yards in six of those nine seasons. In Redskins lore, he'll go down as one of the best ever.
But it's unfortunate that instead of focusing on that, many of us have no choice but to focus on the ignorant commentary to which he dedicated himself in the twilight of his career.
For a couple of minutes back in 2010, the topic of female reporters being allowed in the locker room became a big thing (thanks, Jets!). Portis made it an even bigger thing when he suggested that there was no way those female reporters could avoid being attracted to the players, considering "you get to go and look at 53 men's packages."
A you-know-what storm ensued, and rightfully so. Portis apologized, but it didn't really matter. Once you go there, there's no going back. But hey—at least people were talking, right?
And no, we didn't forget these moments...
6. Metta World Peace
When you change your name to "Metta World Peace," you have to know that as a result, people will be talking about you for the wrong reasons.
Ron Artest has long been one of the most colorful personalities in the NBA. That's what happens when you engage fans—yes, fans—in one of the biggest brawls in the history of the sport, then proceed to get suspended for virtually the entire season because of your involvement in the incident. He's also made plenty of headlines for a domestic violence arrest, which resulted in a short stay in jail and another suspension.
Then, of course, there was the name change. Artest became Metta World Peace in September 2011 in an effort to focus on the positive rather than the negative, so at least his intentions were good. Still, it blows my mind that any commentator—even two years later—can call him World Peace with a straight face, but props to them.
And as a result, he will always be known better for that than for being one of the league's premiere defenders.
5. Kris Humphries
Everyone in the world knows who Kris Humphries is. Like, girls who have never watched an NBA game in their life and who probably couldn't point out the three-point line know the intricate details of Kris Humphries' existence.
That is not something to be proud of, Humphries.
What this Brooklyn Nets fool has shown us is that becoming a household name can have virtually nothing to do with talent, and the two can certainly have an inverse relationship. Humphries is an average-at-best player on a good team, but he's also one of the most recognizable faces on that team because he married an equally despicable reality TV star.
Of course, after Humprhies married and then split from Kim Kardashian in the span of 72 days, he milked his newfound fame for all it was worth. He used his celebrity to get into clubs and parties, and he appeared on more Us Weekly covers than any other athlete in the history of mankind. Again, not something to be proud of.
It is somewhat mind-blowing that a guy who averages 6.7 points sand 5.5 rebounds per game in his career is one of the most famous players in the league, but that's our world for you.
4. Ryan Lochte
There was a time when Ryan Lochte could have been one of the most famous athletes on the planet for completely respectable reasons. He could have been a superstar. He could have been the next Michael Phelps.
Then, a few things happened. One was that Lochte failed to beat the imminently-retiring Phelps in the much-hyped 200-meter IM at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The next was that the whole world quickly realized, after viewing a series of interviews featuring the swimming star, that he was one of the dumbest people on the planet. Because of this, he was rewarded with a reality show on the same network that birthed stars such as Kim Kardashian and Kendra Wilkinson.
That is fine company.
Now, instead of becoming a legend for his prowess in the pool, Lochte is quickly on his way to becoming a legend because his stupidity prevents news anchors from keeping it together while they interview him.
At the fork in the road, he chose the E! reality show over the Phelps path. But at least he's getting a lot of money out of his decision. #Jeah
3. Bruce Jenner
There are people out there—lots of people—who don't know that Bruce Jenner was ever an Olympian.
It's sad for him, really. They just know him as the guy with the weird face (due to a facelift gone awry) on Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
When he was winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, do you think he ever thought there was a chance he would forever be known as the guy who got a bad facelift? Poor Bruce.
At one point in life, he was an elite athlete. He set a world record at the Olympics. Then, as soon as he married Kris K, everything went downhill—well, that's subjective. His life probably looks pretty sweet, if you're into that kind of thing; he has a TV show and a really famous family.
But still. An Olympic record holder, known for a bad facelift. Sad.
2. Dennis Rodman
Once an NBA star, he is now a liaison between the United States and North Korea. Or so he wishes.
In actuality, he is an NBA star who went wrong somewhere around the time he started dating Carmen Electra and now is capitalizing on the fact that a fascist dictator is strangely obsessed with him.
Dennis Rodman, kind of like Bruce Jenner, could have been remembered as one of the greats—or, at the very least, one of the parts that comprised one of the greatest teams ever. He was one of the best defenders in the game and won five NBA championships with the Pistons and the Bulls.
But in the aftermath of his NBA career, he has had…issues. Rehab, arrests, cavorting with North Korean dictators, dyeing his hair green and piercing every piercable portion of his face—you name it, he has dabbled in it.
Little kids who didn't even exist when Dennis Rodman was in the NBA know all about him. And sadly, it's not because of those five titles.
1. Gilbert Arenas
Gilbert Arenas has actually been on three All-Star teams and was the recipient of the NBA's Most Improved Player award in 2003.
But when it comes out that you've been using your locker at the team's facility to store guns, nobody is going to remember you for anything other than that.
Prior to the whole gun episode, Arenas was enjoying a pretty successful career as a member of the Warriors then the Wizards, averaging 22.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game from 2002-2009. But his career quickly came to a standstill in December '09, when he admitted he stored guns in his locker, which was a violation of NBA rules and also the law. Further investigation of an argument between Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton revealed that Arenas was carrying his guns without a license, and for this, he was suspended for the remainder of the 2009-10 season.
Since then, Arenas' playing time and production have diminished, all because he didn't realize it was a bad idea to bring guns to the locker room. And let this be a lesson: A little common sense goes a long way.