Sports Figures Who Would Make Great Movie Villains
You hear the word “villain” thrown around a lot in sports.
He did performance-enhancing drugs; he’s a villain!
She is always mean to the fans; she’s a villain!
He’s super greedy; he’s a villain!
Frankly, I find this extremely insulting to the real villains of the world:
Lex Luthor. Darth Vader. That creepy little girl from Finding Nemo.
These people devote their entire lives to spreading evil across the planet. On the contrary, most sports “villains,” while highly unlikeable, are entirely harmless. And yet, a few names rise above the rest as villains who might be able to hold their own as true forces of evil.
This is not simply a list of the biggest villains in the sports world. This is a list of sports figures who would make great villains on the silver screen, where villains live the largest. These sports icons are so haunting, disturbing or detestable that it sometimes seems like a superhero is needed to take them down.
Transport yourself to the limitless world of your imagination, and picture the following men and women standing shoulder to shoulder with the most powerful forces of evil that Hollywood has to offer.
With a look as eccentric as The Joker and a temper as fierce as Mr. Hyde, Dennis Rodman would without question be a captivating movie villain. Throughout his career, it was hard to look away from Rodman's colorful hair and creative piercings, and his antics on the court were terrifying in the best possible way. He famously head-butted a referee during an in-game dispute, and topped that when he kicked a cameraman in the family jewels mid-tantrum.
Who wouldn’t pay good money to see Rodman—donned in red striped hair, a feather boa, and a bullring in his nose—give Ben Affleck a swift kick to the groin in the next Batman series?
Better yet, the movie already has a thrilling twist built in to the ending. Last year, Rodman penned a children’s book called Dennis the Wild Bull, celebrating children's individuality. That’s something we definitely never got to see The Joker do.
Once lauded as the face of American figure skating, Tonya Harding's true calling may lie in the role of horror movie villain. She does, after all, fit the billing perfectly-an unsuspecting innocent girl capable of more damage than you'd ever imagine.
On the surface: Perfection on ice. Beautiful, blonde, elegant and filled with passion and fire.
On the inside: Greedy, deceitful and willing to go to the most extreme measures to get what she wants.
Harding’s on-ice rivalry with fellow figure skater Nancy Kerrigan in the 1990s eventually revealed the villainy that lay buried in her heart.
As reported by Crime Museum:
During the 1994 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships, the Kerrigan- Harding rivalry was amplified as both women were set to compete for their spots on the Olympic team; however, Nancy Kerrigan would never make it to the competition. After a practice session, Nancy Kerrigan was whacked on the knee with a metal baton by a mysterious man, injuring her so bad that she was unable to compete. Tonya Harding went on to win the competition, solidifying her spot on the Olympic team.
A mysterious man with a metal baton? A violent, organized act of sabotage following a figure skating practice session? It’s as if Harding was auditioning for a spot on this list years before it even existed.
Put Alfred Hitchcock or M. Night Shyamalan at the helm and there’s no telling what Harding and her Masked Man would be capable of.
Picture the scene: Anakin Skywalker ignites his lightsaber and holds it out to defend himself. He cautiously walks toward the hooded figure standing in the distance. The figure whispers something. Anakin calls out in fear. The figure slowly turns around, and Bill Belichick stares from underneath a tattered New England Patriots hoodie.
In many ways, the sinister, enigmatic leader of the Patriots fits in better to a Star Wars movie than he does on a football field. After all, he’s a powerful being, winning three Super Bowls in the early 2000s and using questionable means to get there (see Spygate).
Belichick rarely shows any signs of emotion, and you’ll see nary a smile on his wrinkled face during postgame interviews. He’s almost as hated as he is feared, and its safe to say that moviegoers would gather by the millions to watch him take on the world’s greatest superheroes—Captain America, Iron Man, Peyton Manning—on the big screen.
Always the Hulk but never Bruce Banner, Ndamukong Suh is probably the most terrifying player in the NFL because of his ability to literally crush anyone who gets in his way.
Suh has gained the reputation as the dirtiest player in the NFL since joining the league and for good reason. He has kicked Matt Schaub, stomped Evan Dietrich-Smith and accumulated several fines for dirty hits and unsportsmanlike conduct.
As a kid, this was the sort of behavior that would get my siblings and me grounded for weeks. As an adult, I have learned that there are better ways of dealing with an issue than stomping on a guy’s face. Believe it or not, it probably hurts even more when Suh does it.
I imagine the movie-villain version of Suh as being a sort of cross between Godzilla and Jack Torrance from The Shining—monster enough to destroy entire cities with his bare hands, but human enough that he should probably know better.
Perhaps the most hated man in sports, Skip Bayless is a frightening force because he seems to exist in a world in which he is literally never wrong. Makes it tough to talk any sense into the guy, which has movie villain written all over it.
Bayless has haunted sports fans for years with his misinformed opinions and legendary stubbornness. He seems to experience great maniacal joy in driving Steven A. Smith to madness during their debates on ESPN's First Take, which often seem less like intellectual dialogues and more like Bayless performing Chinese water torture on his counterpart. Indeed, disagreeing with him is suicide. But joining him would be so much worse.
With no children and a limited social life, Bayless devotes every ounce of his being to proving the rest of the world wrong. Like him or not, it’s movie magic—a man with no motivation but to watch the world, or at least Steven A. Smith, burn. Sound familiar?
Also, his name is Skip, which is just the epitome of evil.
The greatest villains of all are the ones who trick you into thinking they are good all along. Lance Armstrong was the pride of the country and an icon of courage, a cancer survivor who became literally unbeatable during his seven-year run as Tour de France champion.
Then came the truth: Armstrong is a liar, a cheater and a fraud.
Like Norman Osborn broke the hearts of Peter and Harry when he turned out to be the Green Goblin in Spider-man, Lance Armstrong had broken the hearts of an entire nation.
Following the unraveling of his career and his public image, Armstrong slowly faded out of the limelight. What a wasted opportunity. This would have been the perfect time to accept his role as a villain, announce to the nation that this was all part of his master plan, then laugh manically and race off to live in a cave somewhere to continue his work.
Oh, well. I guess that’s what imagination is for.
The Donald Sterling saga of the past few weeks has filled the sports world with enough drama for the big screen, and Sterling himself seems like the idyllic movie villain.
You can already see the story starting to fall in place. Hometown hero Magic Johnson, a noble man with a troubled past, sets out to take down criminal mastermind Donald Sterling before he buys out the entire city, makes billions of dollars and takes control of the world.
A modern-day, big-city version of Mr. Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life, Sterling has it all.
Racism. Sexism. Incessant greed. Young wife. Younger mistress.
Even before his most recent scandal, Sterling was the face of antagonism in the NBA. After the infamous phone call that cost him his team and his marriage, his very name is dripping with villainy.
Johnny Manziel represents a new breed of movie villains. Hardly intimidating and primarily powerless, he doesn’t quite have what it takes to battle Thor in a one-on-one cage match.
And yet, Johnny Football is elusive, both on and off the field. An autograph scandal couldn’t even shut him down for a whole game in 2013, and questions about his character couldn’t keep him out of the first round of the NFL draft. Once an innocent and awe-inspiring young football prodigy, Manziel has devolved—in the public eye, at least—into a spoiled, selfish, arrogant brat who has been handed everything he has ever wanted since the day he was born.
And yet, he simply can’t be stopped.
The movie would be fascinating—teams of the world’s greatest heroes come together and scheme a million different ways to catch their nemesis, but little Johnny Villain outsmarts them all, slipping around their traps and collecting all the fame, fortune and prestige that he has ever desired.
Now that I think of it, a version of this movie is set to premier in Cleveland this fall and could continue running for years to come.
Oh, he’s nice all right. Too nice.
But wouldn’t everyone just love to see a story break about Tim Tebow’s connection to some shocking scandal or horrifying crime? And wouldn’t that make Timmy the most captivating movie villain of all?
Like Regina George from Mean Girls or the Lots O’ Hugs Bear from Toy Story 3—two of the most feared villains from the canon of great American films—sometimes the friendliest people are the ones you need to fear the most.
While the rest of the world smiles and nods at Tebow’s devout faith and winning smile, I’ll be waiting for the day that he reveals that he’s been on the dark side all along.
In Memoriam, the First Villain HOF Inductee: Al Davis
The quintessential sports villain of the modern era, Al Davis made his mark as an NFL bad guy up to the very day that he died. I mean, his team’s logo consists of a skull and crossbones with an eye patch, and the team color is black. Not exactly sunshine and rainbows out there at the coliseum.
Davis reveled in his power, regularly stepping on the feet of the coaches he hired and never leaving a doubt that his was the only word that mattered. While he gathered a devoted cult following during his career, especially while he was having success, he was equally hated and feared by the majority of the world.
When considering his candidacy as a quality movie villain, it’s worth noting that Hollywood is all about image—and Davis’ rotting teeth and shiny hair can easily make viewers jump before he speaks a single word.