On a personal level, there aren't a whole lot of professional athletes that stand out as particularly friendly or likable. Which is fine because we're not talking about a beauty pageant here and no one is giving out a Miss Congeniality award.
We like athletes because they're great at what they do. Or maybe they're just positively average, but play for our favorite team and we've become really invested over the years. Either way.
The point being that we don't expect athletes to be nice, which is why it's such a nice surprise when they are. Unfortunately, all the personality in the world doesn't ultimately matter one bit if the talent and ability aren't up to par.
Everyone wants to root for the good guy, but it's hard to get excited about just nice. Here are a few of sports' nicest individuals we wish were a little better at sports.
Widely considered one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history, you have to give Serbian big man Darko Miličić credit for committing. Busts of this proportion are generally run out of their respective sports after a few seasons, but this guy stuck around for a full decade.
Whether you wanted him to or not…and you probably didn't. Keep in mind the Pistons drafted Miličić No. 2 overall in 2003—ya know who was drafted first? LeBron James. Ya know who was drafted third? Carmelo Anthony. Yeeeeesh.
Miličić seemed to say goodbye to the NBA for good after being waived by the Celtics in November 2012. He logged exactly five minutes of playing time in Boston, contributed one rebound and zero points.
Despite becoming such an object of ridicule (largely due to the James, Anthony sandwich) Miličić has never lashed out about his situation and has always maintained a friendly and humble demeanor. He's also done plenty of good in his personal life—in 2010 he paid for the treatment of five children sick with Batten disease.
I can honestly say I wish him the very best back in Serbia.
Most people remember the Steelers former second-round draft pick Limas Sweed as the wide receiver who just couldn't catch. A standout starer at Texas, things went wrong for him in the NFL right from the start.
At training camp in 2008 Sweed learned he had an astigmatism, which would require him to wear contacts. And that's pretty much the best thing that happened to him while he was in Pittsburgh.
In the 2008 AFC Championship Game against the Ravens, Sweed made the play—or didn't make the play—that would define his career. With the Steelers up by just five approaching the half, Ben Roethlisberger sent a perfect pass his way downfield.
He missed it…badly…but instead of getting up and just dealing with it, Sweed laid in the end zone as if he had just been hit by a truck. In May 2010 he injured his Achilles and August 2011 he was mercifully released.
Steelers fans my think Sweed is the worst person in the world—but they're not known as the most objective bunch. He's always seemed very nice, if not emotionally fragile.
As someone who grew up a Pirates fan, I can say with certainty that free agent left fielder Jason Bay was one of the very few bright spots during their epic two decades of futility. So, naturally he was traded away to the Red Sox in 2008, because that's just how things used to be for the Buccos.
Bay's career actually peaked in Pittsburgh in '05, but he did hit a career-high 36 home runs for Boston in '09. Once a good—never great—producer, his career has been in a free fall for three years. The perennially lowly Mariners decided to give him a shot this season—it was a feel-good story with Bay having gone to nearby Gonzaga.
Well…it would've been a feel-good story if he had been signed about five years ago. Since 2010 Bay, who is now 35 years old, has "hit a combined .229 with a .688 OPS and 320 strikeouts in 356 games since 2010." The Mariners are well aware those numbers aren't likely to improve at his age, which is why they released him in late August.
It's just a bummer to see such a likable guy end his career like this. Bay has always been likable and down-to-earth, even during his best years. He deserves extra credit for maintaining a positive attitude after those three horrifying years with the Mets.
It's been quite awhile since Gina Carano, once the biggest star in MMA, decided to ditch the sport and take her talents to Hollywood. In August 2009 Showtime aired the live event Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg, which was the first time two women had headlined such a major event.
Unfortunately, her performance failed to live up to the hype. Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos—who has since been busted and suspended for steroids, which was the least surprising news ever—easily defeated Carano.
And it only took her four strikes and less than a minute to do so. It was a bad beat and, for whatever reason, Carano never fought again.
It has been a disappointing loss for MMA, but Carano remains very easy to root for in her new career. She starred in the underappreciated Steven Soderbergh action flick Haywire in 2011 and has a few projects in the works currently.
Hey...if Superman likes her...if only for a moment...who are we to argue?
Brian "The White Mamba" Scalabrine played 11 glorious years in the NBA before retiring after the 2012 season. Over that time he graced the benches of the Nets, Celtics and Bulls—and even won a championship in Boston in 2008.
It's safe to say this guy was nothing short of a phenomenon during his career, which is crazy because he was straight-up not that good at basketball. Scalabrine was just good enough to earn a professional roster spot, but not really good enough to play—he averaged a career 13 minutes and 3.1 points per game.
Not that fans in Boston—and later Chicago—cared a bit. The White Mamba earned cult-figure status at some point and was embraced as…well…a mascot of sorts. Perhaps it wasn't Scalabrine's dream for himself as a pro, but he was obviously in on the joke and seemed to enjoy it, at least to a degree.
After all, he gave himself that hilariously ridiculous nickname. The fact that Scalabrine embraced being the butt of the joke made the whole thing even more fun—and made him eminently more likable than any of those athletes who take themselves way too seriously.
Starting pitcher Jerome Williams plays for the Angels, so obviously he's not going to be very good. On the bright side, at least they're only paying him $2 million to underperform in 2013—they're paying free agent acquisition Josh Hamilton $15 million to do the same.
Williams' ERA career average is currently 4.39, with 19 starts per season—although it was 7.25 during his brief tenures with the Cubs and Nationals back in 2006-07. That being said, you can always count on him to lose more than he wins. Sometimes a lot more.
Earlier this season Williams had a stretch of nine starts in which he "lasted more than 17 outs" just once with an ERA of 8.34 over that time. It's a shame (especially for the Angels) because this reasonably paid dude seems like a pretty likable character.
In a January interview with HaloHangout, Williams discussed his very interesting background and how he got into baseball, given there isn't much of it going on in his native Hawaii. And he also dished out some love for Mike Trout, which baseball folks will go crazy over.
Jimmer Fredette, the former BYU standout, has only been in the NBA two seasons after being drafted by the Bucks (and later traded to the Kings) No. 10 overall in 2011. But really it feels like a lifetime ago since "Jimmermania" was in full force his senior year, when he was named the National Player of the Year by…well…just about everyone.
Fredette and his future wife (now his current wife) Whitney were two of the stars of the draft, thanks to an adorable PDA moment. Months later he was in Los Angeles for the ESPY Awards, where he won for Best Male College Athlete. It seemed everyone loved Jimmer…
And then the NBA season started. After a decent first week, it wasn't long before Fredette became an afterthought to Isaiah Thomas, who was drafted 50 spots later. His sophomore season saw marginal improvement, but not nearly enough to make Fredette a factor in the future plans for the Kings, who are under new ownership.
Officially he's still with the team, however, it's no secret they've been trying to unload him in Sacramento. But the Kings are going to have to lower their expectations for an offer or wait out for a team that is desperate for a really friendly, likable kid who is not even close to good enough to start for the Kings.
So...probably the first one. Aww, Jimmer—you're still adorable!
American tennis player James Blake is like the Andy Roddick you never heard of—if Blake had stumbled into a Grand Slam victory earlier in his career, he'd be exactly like Roddick…only infinitely more likable.
A former Top-5 player, Blake dropped out of Harvard as a sophomore in 1999 to pursue his tennis career. He was a very promising talent at the time, but eventually things just fizzled out for him.
In August 2013 Blake, now 33 years old, announced his intention to retire following the U.S. Open. He spoke to the media on Day 1 of his last tournament—his words were heartfelt and touching as he reflected on his own legacy.
Said Blake, "Despite the tears, I'm really happy about this—I can do it on my own terms…I don't kid myself. I know I have had a great career in my eyes, but it's not one that's going to go down in the history books…but it's one I'm proud of. "
If he's proud, then I'm proud. Jeez…I really just want to give him a hug right now.
There's no question that out-of-nowhere (wait…can you classify Harvard as nowhere?) point guard Jeremy Lin had a magical little stretch with the Knicks in the latter half of the 2011-12 season.
His interesting background (again…can you classify Harvard as interesting?), coupled with the fact Lin was the first American of Chinese descent to play in the NBA, made him one of the biggest stories of the year. Dubbed "Linsanity," it was born in Carmelo Anthony's absence and pretty much died upon his return.
Lin was able use all the hype as a springboard to a lucrative free agent contract with the Rockets that offseason, but a year later he says coaches in Houston "lost faith" in him last season. He struggled with injuries, missing two games against the Thunder in the playoffs, and averaged just 13.4 points and 6.1 assists a game.
Despite his struggles, Lin still remains very well liked by the general public. Recently the Los Angeles Times called the documentary Linsanity a "spine-tingling homage to Jeremy Lin." It continues to draw an audience and has received overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Whether you like him or not, recently released quarterback Tim Tebow is one of the nicest people in sports. He also happened to be one of the greatest college football players of all time while playing for the University of Florida.
Unfortunately, it's become abundantly clear that his particular skill set does not translate well at the pro level. Sorry, Tebow fanatics, but it's true. There's no conspiracy in place to keep him down—if Tebow were good enough to play in the NFL, he'd be playing.
That being said, for those of us not personally invested in building this kid up or tearing him down, it's really easy to root for him. Tebow is still a great athlete and I know—at least for me, personally—there's no joy had in seeing such a positive person unemployed.
He really just needs to consider playing another position.