While the game is almost everything for a star athlete, it isn't the only thing. Wins and losses, individual accomplishments—they are a measure of an athlete's success, but how accurate are they if the man or woman is broke, in jail, or worse.
A precious few sports stars have it all: success in their careers as well as in life. They have won championships and broken records, all while being awesome outside the court, ring, field or rink.
Others haven't, or haven't yet, achieved greatness in their sport, but have won in life. Maybe they have a successful business and/or a beautiful family. Fortune smiles upon them and they do their best to make it happen.
These are the athletes who can't stop winning at life.
- Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is so fast that his performance at any given race usually makes his opponents look like they're running in flip-flops.
- Not surprisingly, Bolt has dominated the competition at the recent Olympic Summer Games, winning three golds in Beijing and three in London.
- World record holder in the 100m (9.58), 200m (19.19) and 4x100m (36.84).
- Bolt knows how to celebrate.
- His everything.
- This fan.
- He adopted an abandoned cheetah cub named Lightning Bolt.
- Bolt's world record 100m dash time was crushed by a whopping four seconds...by a cheetah...named Sarah!
- I don't have a cheetah cub...
Usain Bolt rarely faces defeat, which is a reality that often transforms a normal, nice person into a raging lunatic—eventually. However, Bolt acts like a man who's having fun...and could totally destroy most of the animal kingdom in a footrace.
- Four seasons of what could be labeled "smug confidence" about his play as a pro quarterback validated. The Joe Flacco School of "Whatevs" broke the curse of wretched passers under center for the Baltimore Ravens.
- In college, Joe Flacco parlayed an uncertain path as a backup behind fan-beloved Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko into a transfer to the Delaware Blue Hens, and eventually into the 18th overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft.
- Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and the game's MVP. Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and Tyler Palko, all from Pittsburgh, PA, are not.
- Joe Flacco is a Raven; Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Bernar
- Joe Flacco married adorable Dana Flacco and has knocked her up twice.
- Look at that picture. He did that. You know, winning.
- Flacco has transformed from a good but inconsistent starter into the guy who uncorked down-field passes—seemingly at will—on the way to one of the most exciting/weird Super Bowl wins ever. Now he has to defend the title in the salary cap era. It's a wretched task.
Joe Flacco somehow willed the universe to bend history into an arc that gives him the last laugh—a clutch, spectacular effort in the playoffs erasing memories of critical postseason turnovers of the past, his "elite" self-evaluation is now prescient instead of smarmy and the franchise's defining leader and player is gone from the locker room.
Now Flacco has the opportunity to operate without the ghosts of a skeptical defense traumatized by Elvis Grbac and Kyle Boller (among others).
- Clippers point guard Chris Paul is 27 and playing the best basketball of his career. He's handsome, telegenic, trouble-free and the consummate worker bee.
- His jersey was retired this year at his collegiate Alma Mater, Wake Forest University, during a special halftime ceremony.
- He holds an annual event in his hometown of Winston-Salem, NC called the "CP3 Day of Service" where people volunteer to give back to the community.
- Doc Rivers was just hired to coach the Clippers, and Paul was integral to the move. Rivers, a former NBA point guard, should help Paul light up the scoreboard.
- He's a perfect spokesman and has the national endorsement deals (along with the cash that comes with them) to prove it.
- Together with his wife, Jada, and their child, they create an image almost too adorable to be real.
- No NBA Championship.
- Plays for the team owned by Donald Sterling.
Paul's the best player on his team by far and arguably the best in the world at his position. When it comes to basketball, all the six-time All-Star (and reigning All-Star Game MVP) lacks is an NBA championship.
He shouldn't fret; Paul has a beautiful family, respect and a huge new deal with the Clippers.
- Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner was a nearly unstoppable force on Baylor's women's basketball team, leading the Lady Bears to a national championship in 2012 and coming just short of a repeat this year.
- After her freshman season, the Lady Bears lost just one conference game over the next three years.
- At 6'8" and with an imposing, physical presence on the court, Griner's unique skill set and talents have the potential to make her a transformative figure in women's pro basketball.
- She opened up about her sexuality and, as star athlete who isn't afraid to come out, sent a strong message to young people.
- Lady Dunk-Faces! Well, dunk spectators.
- She was offered a spot on the Harlem Globetrotters...and turned it down.
- She turned down an offer to play with the Harlem Globetrotters.
- In the WNBA, Griner probably won't get the attention she deserves.
There's really been no one like Griner in terms of size and overall skill in women's basketball at any level. So far, she's done more than looked the part. She's been dominant. And she hasn't run from questions about her experience as a gay athlete, showing she has what it takes to be a legit superstar.
- Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is the best active footballer in the world by any measure, and may be the greatest ever to play.
- He's so inherently gifted that FC Barcelona moved a 13-year-old Messi and his father to Spain and paid for medical care related to a hormonal deficiency.
- While you and I were falling asleep in Algebra class, Messi was receiving world-class coaching and training at La Masia, FC Barcelona's youth academy.
- Hardware: Six La Liga Championships, three Champions League titles, two Spanish Cups, two UEFA Cups, five Spanish Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.
- Adidas—the company—is basically at his disposal.
- Messi and his father allegedly used "shell companies" to illegally avoid paying about $5.5 million in taxes, and it's reported that in addition to paying what he owes, the final settlement could exceed $20 million. He's not going to jail, so it's not a complete loss.
- He seems to be kind of greedy.
Lionel Messi has ruled the sport of soccer since making his international debut in 2005. He's a prodigal talent who's had the fortune of living as a rare, extremely valuable asset for most of his life.
- In an era of pro football where the running back position is more superfluous than super, one guy is head-and-shoulders above the rest: the Minnesota Viking's Adrian Peterson.
- Apparently AP has superhuman healing powers, because the timeline from his gruesome 2011 knee injury to coming just short of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season record for rushing yards to being named NFL MVP is...well...hard to fathom.
- The perpetually smiling, uber-courteous Peterson is a coach/in-law's dream.
- He goes to bed every night knowing that tens of millions of people are clamoring to draft Peterson onto their fantasy team.
- Considering the tragic events he endured as a child, his smile carries twofold value.
- Eventually his super-healing powers are going to be foiled by exhaustion and frustration if Christian Ponder, or someone else, doesn't give opposing defenses a legitimate reason not to assume the offensive game plan is Give AP the Ball.
Peterson is a beast in the backfield and at 28, he has ample opportunity to shatter individual records and help the Vikings win a franchise-first Super Bowl. Whether he gets that elusive championship or not, he's a great role model and ambassador for the NFL—no doubt he'll remain a part of it in one form or another long after leaving the game.
- At minimum, New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur's name is part of the conversation when discussing who is the greatest ever in net—but for many, his place at the top is a foregone conclusion.
- Brodeur has played on the same team for every one of his 20 years in the NHL.
- One of his nicknames is "Satan's Wallpaper."
- Despite a mostly forgettable (shortened) 2013 NHL season, when Brodeur missed four weeks recovering from a back/neck injury, the powers of social media orchestrated his appearance as the next cover boy of NHL '14.
- He announced the Devil's seventh-round pick, the 208th-selection overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft: his son, Anthony Brodeur.
- The New Jersey State Senate and the General Assembly passed a resolution naming Thursday, June 18, 2009 "Martin Brodeur Day" and held a special ceremony honoring his NHL record 552 career wins.
- Shrugged off a sordid divorce and married the woman he had an affair with: the attractive sister-in-law of his ex-wife.
- Brodeur was served divorce papers during the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs—ouch.
- He was needled by crease-weasel Sean Avery about the divorce—yargh!
- Brodeur spent the duration of his career playing behind a team that used an infuriating defensive system that kept pucks out of the defensive zone, but also kept theirs out of the opponent's net.
Martin Brodeur has spent 20 years playing one of the most unforgivable positions in sports—the combination of longevity, undeniable talent and good health paved the way. Many guys achieve great things on bad teams, or leave an outstanding career only to drown in long-standing personal problems.
Nasty divorce aside, Brodeur has enjoyed the life of a future Hall of Famer with a consistently solid NHL franchise and has been a good citizen.
- Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen is, in a narrow sense, the savior of a franchise that hasn't finished the season above .500 since 1992. He is what you could describe as...well-regarded...by the city.
- He met with Roberto Clemente Jr. and earned his praise.
- Unlike the churlish Barry Bonds, "Cutch" is engaging and warm with media and fans alike. Add that together with his all-around ability as a hitter and fielder, and you've got yourself a star whose popularity isn't confined to PNC Park.
- Signed a six-year, $51 million-dollar contract with the historically stingy club last year—even if the Pirates endure a third consecutive second-half collapse and the improvement is an illusion, the team has eagerly shipped great players to better clubs.
- Needing a bigger trophy case.
- A great name and an even better nickname.
- Bad-ass dreadlocks.
- The dreaded "where are the home runs?"
- On good Pirates traded to other teams: Jason Bay.
It's nearly impossible for a single player to reverse the fortunes of a MLB Club that last made the playoffs when George H.W. Bush was still president. But there's no question that having a legitimate star and undeniable talent like Andrew McCutchen—drafted and developed by the Pirates—has reinvigorated the team.
For a player like "Cutch" who has embraced the superstar role, paid dividends as an investment and immersed himself in the city and various charitable activities, it's the perfect fit (until he's traded for cash and a 43-year-old closer with a bad shoulder).
- Status as arguably the greatest tennis player of all time; Federer has won a record 17 Grand Slams over the last decade.
- His wife—former tennis pro Mirka Vavrinec—is not only raising twin four-year-old daughters together with Federer, she managed his early career and helped him rise to the top of men’s tennis.
- His popularity transcends tennis; Federer has hob-knobbed with celebrities and power-brokers at A-list events.
- Despite 10 years of dominance, rival Rafael Nadal remains the one foe he cannot vanquish, losing 20 of their 30 head-to-head matches.
- Clearly not the same player he use to be.
Even though the mileage of his decade-long career has resulted in some very un-Federer-like moments, including his shocking first-round upset loss to 176th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky at Wimbledon last week, it serves to underscore his aura of invincibility. He’s not just a legend of the sport, but one of those rare talents who seems ready-made for success anywhere (outside of Nadal’s clay court).
- As an Olympic teammate of human/dolphin hybrid and gold medal-hoarder Michael Phelps, Lochte was still talented enough to win five gold, three silver and three bronze medals at the Summer Games in Athens, Beijing and London.
- Citizen of a country that's not only charmed and entertained by handsome dimwits, but filled with television executives eager to put them on the air.
- He can cultivate various interests without being able to articulate why he's motivated or how he does it.
- His cartoonish personality hasn't hurt his sex appeal; in fact, it may help him.
- Everything evens out: Lochte's girlfriend of four years dumped him on his reality show, What Would Lochte Do?, and shortly thereafter he competed and won two golds at the world championship trials.
- And, of course, his mother.
- For the dumb shtick to work, it must be combined with good looks and a nonthreatening, child-like personality.
- Lochte can't beat Father Time in the 200-meter freestyle.
- It's not out of the realm of possibility he could die in a "freak gasoline fight accident."
Despite revealing to the entire world he's got the enthusiasm and curiosity of a hyperactive puppy but the intellectual capacity of a pile of rocks at the 2012 London Summer Games, Ryan Lochte has only gotten more attention. Few existential victories are as frustrating for the rest of us than one bestowed by nature and buoyed by pop culture. You can't blame a guy for capitalizing on it.
- Skater/entrepreneur/philanthropist Tony Hawk is the Michael Jordan (sans the surliness and poor business decisions) of skateboarding—beyond MJ, he actually invented much of the insane tricks/stunts skaters attempt to pull off today.
- In fact, he found a way to turn something he loves, and a significant portion of adults hate, into a pretty great career and life.
- The man is synonymous with the sport, and his eponymous Pro Skater video game series is the definitive skating game.
- His foundation (also eponymous) helps teens in disadvantaged communities.
- Tony Hawk is cool and hangs out with baller celebrities, including Johnny Knoxville (among others.)
- He started dating his best friend's estranged wife, and after learning about the affair, the friend merely said, "I'm totally cool with it."
Tony Hawk couldn't really ask for more when it comes to the life he's lived—he turned a childhood hobby into a career and has used his career to pursue other projects and give back to the community. And if his best friend is okay with Hawk hooking up with his (separated) wife, then we should be, too.
- MMA fighter/actress Gina Carano is hot and can kick your ass. The beauty began her martial arts career as a kickboxer and eventually became the face of women's MMA.
- She was featured as "Crush" on the awesome NBC cheese-fest American Gladiators.
- In 2012, Carano made her feature-film debut, starring in Stephen Soderburgh's Haywire, becoming a breakout star.
- Also in Haywire: Channing Tatum. Being on set with Channing Tatum is a win for anyone.
- Dated Superman star Henry Cavill.
- Her body.
- Carano was dumped by Henry Cavill.
Many athletes have forayed into the Hollywood waters seeking to start a second, or new, career as a movie star—few successfully. Acting isn't something most people can jump into and be good at. For an athlete, they may even be passable, but that doesn't mean they have crossover appeal. Gina Carano is one of those rare specimens who has it all.
Sure, she may have taken a beating at the hands of "Cyborg" and been dropped by Henry Cavill, but there's no shame in either.
- Real Madrid star forward Cristiano Ronaldo is essentially the second-best footballer in the world, falling just short in accolades and accomplishments to La Liga rival Lionel Messi—and there's absolutely no shame in that.
- Among his big wins: three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a FIFA Club World Cup, a UEFA Champions League championship and one La Liga title.
- He's in the final year of a $122 million contract he signed in 2009 with Real Madrid and will enjoy beginning the first year of another huge contract...with Real Madrid or another club (perhaps reunited with Manchester United).
- A not-insignificant portion of the the lady population (not including me) seems to find the whole Seaside-Club-it-Up super-bronzed pomade look appealing...and Ronaldo has nailed it.
- Exhibit A: Irina Shayk.
- Call it "MJ Syndrome" where great players are overshadowed by an all-time great contemporary—Ronaldo happens to be one of the most outstanding footballers in the era of Lionel Messi. He's played the best football of his career while a legend did the same.
Most of us should be so lucky to have Ronaldo's problems. At a crossroads where his next big contract could very well be his final big contract, he finds himself rich, in demand and shacking up with a smokin' hot Russian model/bombshell.
- Tom Brady continually fought for his starting job at the University of Michigan, did nothing remarkable at the 2000 NFL Scouting Combine and was drafted late in the sixth round, but still managed to become the New England Patriots' Super Bowl-winning quarterback and the NFL's new breakout star.
- Added two more Super Bowl victories and two other appearances in the big game
- Too many honors and accolades to list here.
- Attained nearly infallible status as a pro—every good, active quarterback is compared to Brady.
- Infuriatingly handsome.
- Married the Tom Brady of super models: Gisele Bündchen.
- Hosted a fairly solid entry into the canon of SNL episodes featuring an athlete.
- Is a daily reminder to all of us that Tom Brady exists in a different universe; one likely furnished in coastal-style wicker furniture.
- Involved in all kinds of lucrative businesses, including Under Armour.
- Despite the aforementioned items, he still gets to pull the "underdog" and "disrespect" cards because he was picked 199th overall.
- Last Super Bowl win was more than eight years ago and is 0-2 against Eli Manning.
- Has been decidedly un-Brady-like in crucial losses over the last four years.
- After getting "Pollard-ed" in the knee during the 2008 opener, the Patriots went 11-5 with Matt frickin' Cassel at the helm.
Tom Brady is a "feel good" story wrapped in a package too shiny to garner the kind of boundless admiration afforded similar figures. However, for the man himself, he couldn't be in a better situation—he has nothing to prove in football and is just as successful outside of it.
- You know a guy is doing something right when he is usually seen stepping out of a limo with Hayden Panettiere at high profile events in between occasionally pummeling another guy's face for eight figures.
- He's the current World Heavyweight Champion with a record of 59-3-0 and a scary KO percentage of just under 82 percent.
- Fiance Hayden Panettiere.
- Klitschko is a star outside of the ring; the charismatic Ukrainian is a great boxer, but at 37 is obviously planning to retire with more than just his final purse.
- Fiance Hayden Panettiere.
- He's mastered the role of lovable oaf who disarms everyone by looking like a beast but behaving like some kind of towering renaissance man.
- Fiance Hayden Panettiere.
- He won an Olympic Gold at the 1996 Summer Games—which he sold for charity but kept anyway because the buyer respected Klitschko that much.
- Well, there are three actual losses in the ring.
In the years following Mike Tyson's downward spiral in the 1990s, it seemed that when professional boxing wasn't getting noticed for its fights, some boxer was in the news doing something horrible, insane or both. Klitschko has done the opposite by getting noticed for being both dominant and a big draw in the ring as well as out of it.
- The handsome and charismatic face of the legendary New York Yankees franchise for the last 20 years and certain first-ballot Hall of Famer.
- When someone who's not a Yankees fan gets ensnared in a conversation about the team with a friend who is a Yankee fan, the only faint praise they find themselves capable of uttering is, "I respect Derek Jeter, he's a great player."
- "The Jeet" seems designed for the New York media market and chaos of playing for a team owned by the late George Steinbrenner. He basks in the spotlight without generating unflattering headlines. Jeter is the polite playboy who knows how to balance celebrity with the business of the team.
- Somehow he's transcended the various scandals and drama that've come and gone over the years while remaining remarkably consistent as an elite all-around player.
- Starlets/Models—most recently, the sexy Princess of DirecTV and Victoria's Secret model, Hannah Davis. Greatest hits include: model Adriana Lima, actress Scarlett Johansson and pop star Mariah Carey.
-Having to be Mr. November alongside the likes of former teammate/bust Rubén Rivera, who stole one of Jeter's gloves and a bat and sold them as sports memorabilia; as well as an assortment of expensive, underachieving free agents of late.
Derek Jeter probably hasn't waited in line or been turned away at the door of any club, event or restaurant in New York City since the Yankees won the 1996 World Series. He is the most famous and revered active athlete in a city home to seven major sports franchises and a bevy of well-known celebrity athletes.
Jeter got there without PEDs and untouched by any serious off-the-field issues. It's good to be "The Jeet."
- Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. is 44-0 in the ring and the current World Boxing Council welterweight champion.
- He's the biggest star and biggest draw in a sport struggling to regain the popularity it once held.
- "Money" is the 14th wealthiest athlete in the world and gambles like it, reportedly losing more than six figures regularly, yet also raking in the cash on a winning $6 million-dollar bet on the Miami Heat taking Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
- Mayweather Jr. is leveraging the spotlight for all it's worth—emerging as one of the most powerful figures in sports and dictating the terms of his career. Opinions are dished.
- His evolving entourage is a grab-bag of awesomely strange bedfellows.
- He refuses to fight Manny Pacquiao, who he'd probably beat pretty convincingly anyway.
- Mayweather Jr., for all the fame and riches, can't seem to avoid brushes with the law, including a three-month stint in a Las Vegas jail for assaulting the mother of two of his four children.
- He probably...most likely...has a gambling problem and is one of the biggest stars of a sport with it's own history of gambling problems; and it's not going away when he can't step into the ring any longer.
- "Money" versus Fifty Cent.
- His entourage? WTF.
Boxer Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr. won't fight Manny Pacquiao—a match everyone wants to see—because he doesn't have to. Boxing is a sport struggling to regain its popularity and Mayweather holds all the cards.
He can afford to be fickle and unreasonable—actions made obvious in his attempt to delay and exploit a long-anticipated battle. That's what Mayweather Jr. can do because he's one of the highest paid athletes in the world and a great boxer. It's all part of his calculus...and who can argue it isn't paying off for the man?
- Racer Jeff Gordon has 87 career NASCAR Cup victories, is a four-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion, is a three-time Daytona 500 winner, is third on the all-time wins list and owns a plethora of other awards and accolades.
- He is one of the biggest stars to ever get behind the wheel and has maximized his success with a slew of endorsement deals to go along with his earnings.
- Gordon is a multi-multi-millionaire.
- Last year he sparked an awesome brawl between his DuPont racing team and Clint Bower and his 5-Hour Energy crew.
- He's decided to settle down and start doing more for those in need.
- He's alive.
- Gordon's second wife, Ingrid Vandebosch, is somewhat attractive.
- This hilarious viral video.
- His second wife came at a price.
- Hasn't really done anything of note on the track lately.
Jeff Gordon isn't much of a force in NASCAR these days, but I doubt he loses any sleep at night over it. After making a name for himself on the track during his early career, he's built up a small empire around his brand; Gordon is much more than a racer now...he's a cash cow.
- At just 25 years of age, Patrick Kane is an All-Star forward for the Chicago Blackhawks and a two-time Stanley Cup champion with a Conn Smythe Trophy, for good measure.
- A kid from Buffalo, NY gets to play pro hockey in an awesome city like Chicago.
- Parties like a brazen buffoon, and the only real consequence he's faced is a disorderly conduct charge after punching a cab driver in the face.
- Johnathan Toews is his teammate.
- Kane got to personally parade around the Stanley Cup for a day and gets to do it again. I'd use it as a martini glass—FILLED TO THE TOP.
- Kane is 25 in an era when his drunken antics, hook-ups and possibly culturally insensitive custom t-shirts will be digitally documented until the sun explodes.
- He seems like kind of a jerk.
Though a great NHL career on the ice and drunken mayhem off it could be construed by some segments of society as losing at life, those segments have never met a typical 25-year-old frat-tastic dude like Patrick Kane. The majority of men out there would love to live—or have lived—a life of championship hockey, interrupted by body shots and nights ending in misdemeanor assault.
- After a individual regular season performance for the ages, LeBron James led the Miami Heat to a second consecutive NBA Championship and was named Finals MVP. Oh, and there are those two Olympic Golds.
- The San Antonio Spurs' gutty showing aside, James and the rest of the Heat are (barring injuries) going to get bored with ticker-tape parades.
- I think most...as in all of us...would love to be compared to Michael Jordan.
- "The Decision" vs. Cleveland: an unfair fight.
- He knows who to thank for his success.
- "King" James is one of the biggest—if not the biggest—stars (inside and outside sports) in the world and a two-time NBA Champion/Gold Medalist...yet, he's strangely self-conscious about going bald.
- Money, fame and power can turn good people into total a-holes. "The Decision" was the worst of LeBron. Hopefully it's always known as that: his worst moment.
Love him, hate him, or something in between, James is a lightning rod for reasons undeserving of either extreme. He's mostly handled super-stardom gracefully. Now that his preternatural talent is pushing/breaking records and yielding championships, his biggest challenge will be to stay out of his own way.