Biggest Drama Queens in Sports
The world of professional sports is highly competitive and usually very emotionally driven. And because of the attention from countless fans and all the money on the line, people operating within that world often find themselves having to perform in the glare of an intense media spotlight.
Most athletes, coaches and owners find themselves in that position at one time or another. Depending on the size of their stage, some have only the occasional brush with the spotlight. There are others, however, who enter it early on and never find their way out—sometimes by design.
The truth is, the spotlight tends to find those who are doing right and those who are doing wrong—great successes, epic failures and other generalized spectacles. And much like public speaking requirements in high school, there are those who never quite get comfortable in front of an audience, while others might cease to exist without one.
You know the type—drama queens. They’re most comfortable when all eyes are on them, and they know how to deliver a show when the time comes. There's no shortage of drama queens in sports—the people who can generate headlines with a side-eyed glance.
Here are some of the biggest and the best.
American gymnast McKayla Maroney may not be a dedicated drama queen in her everyday life, but at the London Olympics, she had the most epically amazing drama queen moment of the entire event.
Maybe even the entire summer…or year…or ever.
A power gymnast to the core, Maroney was the definitive favorite to win individual gold on vault, her specialty. She must have considered herself the favorite as well, because she was less than overjoyed with her silver.
Maroney was in a word…well…two words: Not impressed.
For a hot little second there it looked like it may be Florida State and Ohio State facing off in the BCS National Championship. An ACC vs. Big Ten matchup meant that for the first time since 2005, an SEC team would not be represented.
To everyone outside the SEC and the conference’s vast amount of haters, it was very good news. To those within the SEC and the conference’s vast amount of excessively combative fans, it was pretty much the worst news ever.
Though it was Auburn’s athletic director, Jay Jacobs, who really upped the ante on drama-queen antics. His argument that excluding a one-loss SEC team from the championship would be “un-American,” well that was really something.
Something crazy and just a tad overdramatic.
Boxer Floyd Mayweather loves drama and attention almost as much as he loves blowing his money on stuff that is only going to depreciate in value. Almost.
Floyd Money loves public feuds, boasts about his crippling gambling addiction, hangs with Lindsay Lohan, treats Justin Bieber like a fashion accessory and publicly taunts his rivals.
Most everything Mayweather does seems designed to make him the center of a public spectacle—and it works. He’s the only star left in a dying sport.
Figure skater Ashley Wagner may not have medaled (or even have been particularly close) at the Sochi Olympics, but she was still one of the biggest American stars at the games—mostly due to her flair for the dramatics.
In the ladies team competition, Wagner was very pleased with her individual performance, although it didn’t get the result she had expected. When the score, which put her in fourth place at the time, was announced, Wagner didn’t even bother trying to hide her “I'm outraged" face.
Playing on the attention she received from that moment early on, Wagner didn’t disappoint the rest of the way—at least off the ice. She showed quite the knack for making the most of the moment every time a camera was aimed her direction.
Wagner continued the drama after the competition as well. Although she wasn't even really in the mix after the long program, she spoke openly about what she deemed unfair judging. Wagner said, "I'm speechless," and then went on to speak at length.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is a lot of things. He’s rich, business savvy, self-made, ambitious—sometimes overly so—and usually his own worst enemy. That’s where the drama queen thing comes into play.
Jones is the most overexposed, over-involved, over-his-head owner in the NFL—even worse than the Washington Redskins’ Daniel Snyder, who has at least stopped pretending he knows anything about football.
The issue with Jones is that he’s under the mistaken impression he’s a qualified GM. That, combined with his desperate need to be looked at and talked about, makes for a whole lot of drama in Big D.
Each year the Cowboys are nothing short of, or anything beyond, mediocre. Yet Jones insists on making his coaching staff worse each year—probably because it gives him more excuses to have press conferences.
Heat superstar LeBron James is always battling back against his drama-queen tendencies. On one level, he is a genuinely nice guy, doting dad, loving husband and an athlete who seems to genuinely appreciate all that he’s been blessed with in life. He’s much more comfortable playing the hero than the villain.
That being said, he’s not too uncomfortable playing the villain anymore. James is done apologizing for “The Decision,” both the insensitive nature of the spectacle and the actual decision to leave Cleveland. He’s done with the Michael Jordan comparisons, plainly stating their games are different and that LJ would be right next to MJ on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore.
The Mount Rushmore statement alone qualifies one for drama-queen status. After the creatively bold declaration, James had people in the media talking about their Mount Rushmore for the next week. This is a guy who is always being talked about, for one reason or another, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
LeBron’s headband is a big deal. LeBron’s shoes are a big deal. LeBron’s mom is a big deal. LeBron’s broken nose is a big deal—and the mask he wears to protect it is an even bigger deal. LeBron’s free-agent status is a big deal now, and it was with years left on his contract. Drama…drama…drama…and even more drama.
On one hand, the idea of Patriots coach Bill Belichick being a drama queen doesn’t quite compute. He’s known for being cold and calculating—not prone to the type of emotional outbursts common on the sideline of…say…the 49ers.
On the other hand, Belichick is absolutely a drama queen. He gloats when he wins. He pouts big time when he loses. His weird feud with Wes Welker is totally ridiculous. And, although he’s known as a man of few words, the words he does use are often biting and dramatic.
Oh…and how about his Halloween costume?
Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel really does like the drama, doesn’t he? Actually, he seems to love the drama. Honestly, if anything, he doesn’t just love the drama—he lives for the drama.
Since bursting into the public consciousness in 2012, Manziel has found himself in the center of uproar after uproar, all of his own creation. And not once has he ever truly backed out or offered up explanations or hollow apologies.
Last season Manziel was suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s first game because the NCAA couldn’t prove allegations that he profited from the sale of autographs, but it would’ve felt stupid doing nothing.
Still though, Manziel could’ve played it cool when he started the second half. Instead, he did this. He could have played it cool and ignored the Twitter taunt of some nobody. Instead, he did this. And he could’ve played it cool and not spoken publicly about his draft stock, as is standard. Instead, he did this.
That’s just his style, and it’s equal parts refreshing and annoying—not to mention 100 percent drama.
American figure skater Johnny Weir was one of the most talked about athletes at the Sochi Olympics—impressive for someone who wasn’t even competing! He announced his retirement last October and was in Sochi as an analyst for NBC.
Although Weir may have been sitting next to a looker in Tara Lipinski, another retired skater, he stole the spotlight from her—and everyone else, for that matter—in grand, drama-queen fashion. And in this case, “fashion” is used in the most literal sense of the word.
Weir documented his flashy wardrobe each day of the Olympics on Instagram. Between his increasingly dramatic looks and daily television exposure, it didn’t take long for the media to get worked up into a frenzy over it. His fashion journey in Sochi was meticulously chronicled.
And you know Weir loved every minute of it. His fashionista shenanigans actually proved beneficial, not just to himself, but to his cohort as well. Weir and Lipinski will be working the red carpet for Access Hollywood at the Oscars this year.
Where to even begin with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh? He’s the manliest, macho-ist, angriest, yelly-ist, most overly passionate, confrontational drama-queen coach in the NFL. Probably in the history of the NFL, if not the entire history of sports.
If asked about his penchant for stoking the dramatics, Harbaugh would probably flat out deny it. Then he’d give terse, one-word answers throughout the rest of the interview and make everyone in the room feel uncomfortable. Pete Carroll once asked him, “What’s your deal?” Well, that’s his deal.
Aggressively backslapping an opposing coach after a road win is his deal. Having all nine of his players who were invited to the Pro Bowl decline the invitation after losing the NFC Championship is his deal. Constantly generating headlines because he never changes his clothes is his deal.
You know what else is Harbaugh’s deal? Being at the center of a story in which a team that he’s made wildly successful attempts to orchestrate a trade to a wildly unsuccessful team that is desperate for his services. Then at the end, he personally pulls the plug and is the only person who walks away looking even better than he did going into it.
When it comes to Harbaugh, two words come to mind: DRA! MA!
I don’t presume to speak for everyone, but the one thing I took away from the recent excessive rehashing of the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan incident, in documentaries on ESPN and NBC, is that Tonya Harding really needs to let it go. To hear her tell it, you’d think she was the one clubbed in the knee by a masked goon 20 years ago.
In an interview with NBC's Bob Costas during the Sochi Olympics, Kerrigan was impressively cool and surprisingly forgiving and understanding while looking back on what went down. Harding, on the other hand, continues to paint herself as the victim—not of Kerrigan, but of pretty much everyone else on Earth.
Because she seems to be allergic to the truth, it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not with Harding. We know her involvement in the attack is real, even if she refuses to acknowledge that reality. We know the $20 million lawsuit she threatened the USOC 20 years ago was real. We know her tearful breakdown over a skate lace was real. And we know her various celeb-reality moments aimed at capitalizing on her notoriety were real.
The only thing I trust about Harding is her own unending desire to be noticed will always rule everything she says and does. She shifts seamlessly between vulnerability and combativeness, always trying to publicly reconcile who she really is with who she wants the public to see her as.
Harding may be a drama queen, but at least she knows how to keep things interesting.
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is, unquestionably, a drama queen. The Super Bowl-winning superstar is a smart man who knows that talking a big game can pay off in a big way, as long as you’ve got the skills to back it up on the field. And, love him or hate him, you know he does.
One of the first times Sherman’s antics became a national story was back in October 2012. It was his second year in the league, and his Seahawks weren’t held in particularly high esteem at the time, which is probably why his antagonizing ways caught Patriots quarterback Tom Brady so off guard.
Sherman was jawing at him before the game, and Brady basically told him to come back and see him after the game, probably assuming he’d win. Well, he didn’t win, and Sherman was right there in his face as requested. When Brady didn’t take the bait, Sherman went fishing on Twitter instead.
“U Mad Bro?” is the story of Sherman’s career to date. He anointed himself the best corner in the game, taking down Darrelle Revis in the process. He’s publicly aired out his grievances with Jim Harbaugh, who coached Sherman at Stanford. And don’t even get this guy started on "mediocre" wideout Michael Crabtree.
It’s clear that Sherman has ripped a page out of the Deion Sanders book on making friends, foes and, above all, money. Where we see a drama queen, Sherman sees nothing but dollar signs.
There may be no one in professional sports who enjoys drama more than Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. It’s like oxygen to him. Who else enjoys being booed by 10s of thousands of people as much, if not more, than being cheered by them?
His aversion to business attire aside, Cuban is as shrewd and calculating as they come—he doesn’t make a move unless he’s almost certain of the outcome. Like when he casually suggested the Lakers amnesty Kobe Bryant to save on luxury tax last year.
Cuban had an explanation all queued up when the Lakers publicly admonished him for the “inappropriate” comments. That’s because he knew how they’d react, he knew how Bryant would react, and he knew how the press would react. You just can’t buy that kind of publicity—and Cuban would know because he can afford pretty much everything.
Cuban loves being loved. He also loves being hated. He loves ruffling feathers, making a scene, throwing his money around and doing anything that makes him the center of attention. More than anything, Cuban is at his best when all eyes are on him, and he’s a master at attracting our gaze.
The term “diva” is not one often used to describe straight males, particularly professional athletes who aren’t NFL wide receivers. Though if you asked everyone in the world to name a famous athlete who could accurately be described as a diva and a drama queen, about 80 percent of them would probably say Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real Madrid’s superstar forward may be an elite athlete—one of the best footballers of all time—but there’s no question the man is…high maintenance. He’s got a drama-queen hairstyle that always looks sticky. He’s got a drama-queen tan that also always looks sticky. It must take a lot of work to always look that sticky.
Ronaldo is a well-known diver, although that’s not much of a distinction in the sport he plays. His dating history is an extensive study in attention-seeking females—present lady love Irina Shayk excluded, as she just attracts attention naturally, rather than desperately groping after it in increasingly self-nullifying ways.
Ronaldo doesn’t always start the drama, but drama always seems to be unfolding around him wherever he goes. Whether he’s getting pelted with lighters on the pitch or beaming with with pride as a four-story billboard of him in his underwear is unveiled in downtown Madrid, you can always count on this diva to bring the drama.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier generates a headline almost every time he opens his mouth. Heck, HBC doesn’t even have to open his mouth for that. He can pick up a name tag, pin it to his lapel and simply smile for a photograph, and it can make national news.
Although, aside from any accomplishments on the football field, Spurrier is best known for his acerbic wit and painfully biting way with words. He can deliver an off-the-cuff verbal jab that has the power to absolutely destroy your sense of self worth—just ask Dabo Swinney.
HBC is paid well to coach football, but he makes a second job out of constantly stokes the coals. A job that he does for free, just because he takes so much damn joy in it. All that joy is more than apparent in that notorious smirk of his, which serves to both dampen and deepen the damage done by Spurrier’s indiscriminate dissing.
And Spurrier knows exactly what he’s doing. A cold, calculated killer on his best days, HBC loves nothing more than chucking a few verbal grenades and then kicking back with a couple of beers while watching the fallout. Spurrier is a true drama queen at his core—he just loves a good show and knows his is one of the best.
Lakers great Kobe Bryant has a way about him that always makes him seem like a championship fisherman and the rest of us are just sad little worms baited on his hook. Like the whole world is his stage, and we’re just sitting here, shotgunning popcorn and waiting for the show to start.
What makes it all the more dramatic is that Bryant knows he’s the star, he knows we’re all watching, and his favorite thing is watching us squirm. He’s positioned himself as one of the few professional athletes who can almost always be depended on to say something, rather than running his mouth and saying nothing.
Bryant never holds back because he’s the ultimate drama queen. He’s much better at making headlines than making nice. Former teammates Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and countless opponents over the years have all been on the receiving end of Bryant’s barbs.
And how’s this for dramatic? Bryant has been keeping himself entertained while battling an injury this season by implementing a new “follow system” on Twitter—a system that led to him unfollowing all of his Lakers teammates and generated plenty of new headlines.
It seems fair to say that the Brewers’ Ryan Braun and the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez have both had a pretty bad year. They definitely suffered the worst of all the players named in the Biogenesis scandal—probably because they’re the richest and most famous of that shamed group.
I think it’s also fair to say that, in dealing with the fallout from the scandal, they established themselves in two very different ways. Braun, the liar caught red-handed in a whopper, quietly slinked away and accepted his suspension. Rodriguez, the drama queen caught bare-assed with a man sticking a needle in it, dug in his heels and really made it a scandal worth following.
A-Rod didn’t go the route of an elaborate explanation or cover story to combat the accusations—he straight up denied it—a tactic he’s familiar with, having employed it emphatically in 2007. Rodriguez then cranked it up a notch by, essentially, declaring his intention to put MLB on trial.
His thought process was something along the lines of, “If I’m going down, I’m taking Bud Selig and all these other fools down with me.” Rodriguez committed to the bit, lamenting the “disgusting and abusive process” after dramatically storming out of his own grievance hearing last November.
For a while, it looked like A-Rod was prepared to go down with the ship he filled full of holes himself, as evidenced by his decision to sue Bud Selig and the MLBPA—his own union! But then, in true drama-queen fashion, Rodriguez dropped the suit and abandoned all legal proceedings against the league.