Athlete Stories You Wouldn't Believe
Fame, fortune and success are all things that most athletes have, in varying amounts, throughout their careers. And many maintain that celebrity status well after retiring from their respective games.
With those three things comes so much else. Access to other prominent celebrities, the ability to travel on a whim, a permanently reserved seat at exclusive clubs and restaurants, and a line around the block of people dying to get close to them.
It's the perfect recipe for ending up in situations which result in some pretty interesting stories. Here are a few you won't believe are true. Of course, that's assuming that they are—all we have is their word.
Charles Oakley & Charles Barkley
In an August 2012 interview with ESPN, former NBA big man Charles Oakley wasn't shy about discussing his longstanding beef with the legendary Charles Barkley, who he has slapped at least once, but probably twice.
On allegedly slapping Barkley during a players' association meeting in 1999
"We were trying to get a deal done. Things happen. It just happened. There was no playing or plodding. It just happened."
On definitely slapping Barkley in a preseason game in 1996
"If something goes down, we're not going to talk about it a week later. Some guys say, 'I'll meet you after the game.' No. It's in the game. Just like different restaurants have different menus, it's a different era. I don't know what type of players there are now. In my time, that was just the way we played the game."'
There's truly no love lost between these two. Oakley went on to elaborate on the various reasons he had—and continues to have—for disliking Sir Charles.
In September 2013, Showtime premiered LT: The Life & Times, a documentary that chronicled the highest highs and the lowest lows of the Giants Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
LT didn't hold anything back in detailing the difficulties he faced with drugs, women and maintaining relationships with his family. Honestly, the whole thing is a story you wouldn't believe if you didn't know it was true.
One of the more light-hearted anecdotes shared by Taylor dealt with his attempt to beat the system in order to avoid failing a second NFL drug test in August 1988.
LT said of the incident, "I switched urine, but I switched with the wrong person I guess." D'oh!
Charles Barkley may have been great at basketball, but he's a notoriously terrible golfer. A simple YouTube search will turn up countless hilarious videos of the Hall-of-Famer embarrassing himself with that ugly swing of his.
Barkley is devastatingly bad at golf and he knows it, but he loves it enough to keep trying. Like really trying. Awhile back he talked about his game with Rick Reilly, one of ESPN's resident terrible people who they pay to talk on television.
Said Barkley, "I've tried everything. Tiger can't help me 'cause the hitch is there no matter what. I even tried getting hypnotized for 45 minutes and still woke up with the same crappy swing. … Hey, I know I suck, but I got nice equipment."
Hypnosis to improve a golf swing? Now that's dedication. Tragically misguided dedication.
Okay, so technically Steve Spurrier is currently a coach, not an athlete. But considering the guy won the Heisman while playing quarterback for the University of Florida in the '60s, I think it's fair to say he qualifies as both. Moving on.
After Spurrier's foray into the NFL was cut mercifully short in 2003, there was speculation for years as to why his tenure had been so unsuccessful. Then, in 2011, former 'Skins offensive lineman Ross Tucker shed some light on the subject.
During an interview with 106.7 The Fan in Washington, Tucker shared, among other things, the head ball coach's philosophy on training camp. And it goes a little something like this:
"You know men, I played 12 years in the NFL and went to 12 of these here training camps and I can’t remember one darn good thing I ever got out of it. But you know what, Mr. Snyder wants us to be here, so let’s try to get something done."
That kind of responsibility shirking and overall "FU" message the HBC had for his boss would almost be surprising if I didn't know anything else about him. But I do. And it's not. It is, however, kind of awesome. Spurrier is obviously more comfortable doing things his way in college.
Legend has it that a few harsh words from Bull legend Michael Jordan was all it took to end the career of the diminutive dynamo Muggsy Bogues. Albeit, they were very harsh words.
The year was 1995 and the Bulls and Hornets were locked up 2-2 in a playoff series that was headed back to Chicago. On a critical late game possession, MJ chided Bogues, telling him: "Shoot it you f***ing midget."
Bogues did take the shot, but it was a total brick and he never recovered. According to the story, as told on TheScore blog: "A year later Muggsy actually told Johnny Bach that he believes that single play ruined his career."
Dag. That's just too brutal for words.
On TNT's Inside the NBA in December 2013, Grant Hill reminisced about the good old days in Phoenix he spent playing with Shaquille O'Neal on the Suns. Then again, those days might not have been good for everyone.
Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic recapped the story:
The Heat Index filled the gaps in his anecdote. It was April 2008. Imagine the Suns environment after a crushing Game 1 loss at San Antonio when Tim Duncan made a game-tying overtime 3-pointer to spur his team to victory.
There was an awkward discomfort about the off days in San Antonio and a sense that an ashen Mike D’Antoni was coaching the team for a final time.
Who knew just how much he was handling?
It turns out O’Neal and Gordan Giricek, who had been with the Suns for all of six weeks, mixed it up verbally during a closed practice to the point that O’Neal auditioned for his WWE future. He put Giricek in a sleeper hold, except it was no fake. Giricek passed out.
Giricek played in the remainder of the season, but it was his last NBA season.
Yikes. A Shaq sleeper-hold? That is no joke.
During an interview on The Dan Patrick Show in June 2012, Steve Kerr told a very interesting story about an altercation he once had with former Bulls teammate, Michael Jordan.
"I disagreed with him one time … He punched me in the face. It was one of the best things that ever happened for me. I needed to stand up and go back at him. I think I earned some respect. But, we have a great relationship ever since. You gotta prove it and then once you prove it, you're fine."
Translation? "Michael Jordan punched me in the face once…and it was awesome!" Which actually sounds about right. Haven't we all been punched in the face by worse people?
In his book Journeyman: The Many Triumphs (And Even More Defeats) of a Guy Who's Seen Just About Everything in the Game of Hockey, retired NHL journeyman, Sean Pronger, shared the hilarious details of his biggest career FAIL.
The short version is that during his time with the Rangers, Pronger did more drinking than he did playing, and showed up to a lot of practices hungover as hell. But there's at least one night of boozing he'd really like to take back.
After pouring himself into bed around 5 a.m., Pronger dragged himself into practice two hours later. His plans to phone it in were immediately foiled when he learned the absence of a sick teammate meant he would be on a line with Wayne Gretzky.
Gretzky, as only The Great One could, proceeded to spend the next few hours completely screwing with Pronger's head, and still came away looking like the coolest person on Earth. Classic Gretzky.
That was the short version. The long version can be found on Deadspin and is absolutely worth a read.
Metta World Peace
In May 2009, the Knicks' Metta World Peace, who was then the Rockets' Ron Artest, was ejected for retaliating against future teammate, Kobe Bryant, during a playoff game against the Lakers. Although, he saw things a bit differently.
In his postgame interview, Artest explained that, while he may have lost his cool in the moment, the media should try harder to keep things in perspective.
The perspective he was referencing had to do with a particularly brutal game of pickup basketball he once played on a playground, in which a friend of his was killed after being stabbed in the heart with a table leg.
Uh…what!? I'm not sure if that story succeeded in changing their perspective, but it certainly succeeded in changing the subject.
Phil Simms & Lawrence Taylor
Former Giants teammates, Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor, could not possibly be any more different from each other. Which makes their friendship and genuine fondness for one another all the more entertaining.
Simms probably has hundreds of LT stories, but his favorite goes a little something like this.
It's 5:15 a.m. and Taylor decides he wants to go golfing. So naturally, he calls up the Simms household, chats up the missus for a moment, and then gets on the line with a very grumpy quarterback to see what can be done about getting him a tee time.
Taylor: MAN! What is it with you white people? You're always sleeping!
Simms hops out of bed to start making calls and LT hops in his car and eventually heads over to his house. Mrs. Simms is eager to make Taylor breakfast when he arrives around 7 a.m., decked out in black leather pants.
Taylor: You got a golf shirt that goes with these?
Simms: (Mentally slaps himself in the forehead, finds LT a golf shirt)
Taylor: (Starts swinging around Simms' clubs) Yeah…these will work. You got me set up with a tee time, right?
Not only did Simms get Taylor a tee time at his golf club, he even talked the manager out of enforcing the dress code, which presumably precluded leather pants. LT had a great day on the course and Simms never saw his shirt or bag of clubs again.
You can watch Simms tell the whole story by clicking here. It's the most likable this dude has ever been.