8 Athletes with Unique Hobbies

Sean HojnackiFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2014

8 Athletes with Unique Hobbies

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    Current Angels and former Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson shows the claw at a NASCAR event.
    Current Angels and former Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson shows the claw at a NASCAR event.Associated Press

    Many professional athletes collect hundreds of pairs of sneakers, while others can bring a solid hip-hop flow on the mic. Those habits are not particularly crazy or unique, but other athletes go to greater lengths in their spare time. These eight currently active athletes conduct themselves slightly off-center, and they're not afraid to let the world know about it.

    This list tackles the outliers, extremists, oddballs and nerds who make their money by being professional athletes, but who, when the final whistle sounds, turn their attentions to stranger pursuits like pro wrestling, comic books, magic, tattooing, Dungeons & Dragons and Connect Four.

Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs: Fantasy and Dungeons & Dragons

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Tim Duncan is a magician. He has won NBA championships in three different decades, giving him five titles in all. His impressive resume places him among the greatest power forwards of all time, if not at  the very top of the list. 

    Known as "The Big Fundamental," in his 17 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, Duncan has never posted a player efficiency rating under 21, via Basketball Reference (league average is 15, 20 is excellent). He averaged 15.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game this past season, during which he turned 38 years old.

    Duncan is also a massive nerd obsessed with fantasy games. He's got a tattoo of a jester skull and another one of fabled magician Merlin. In fact, Duncan tried to make his NBA nickname "Merlin," but it never caught on with his teammates. Duncan also loves the time-consuming board game Dungeons & Dragons, and he's possibly a regular at the Texas Renaissance Fair, as imagined in this photoshopped image.

    However, Duncan can also lay down some cold-blooded spoken word when called to the task, as shown in an old commercial for the supermarket chain HEB, where Timmy waxes lyrical about brisket with some help from Bruce Bowen and the incessant drumming of Brent Barry.

C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels: Auto Racing

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    Tim Sharp/Associated Press

    When C.J. Wilson served as a reliever for the Texas Rangers, the team didn't mind him racing cars. Once he became a starting pitcher, however, they told him to cut it out. Then Wilson signed a free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Angels, and they wanted nothing to do with Wilson's racing hobby. They even dispatched a private investigator to follow him until they determined he was not actually racing the cars himself.

    As Wilson told Vice Sports, he actually decided to play baseball specifically to fund his passion for cars. He claims that by the age of three, he would go up the stairs in his house making car noises.

    As he matured, Wilson specifically coveted the Ferrari Testarossa driven by Don Johnson in Miami Vice. After determining that he would not be able to raise the money for such an awesome car simply by doing extra chores at home, he figured he could make enough cash to buy his dream car if he became a pro baseball player.

    Somehow, Wilson even landed an endorsement with Head & Shoulders, despite his tresses coming nowhere close to the prowess of Troy Polamalu, and that should help him buy an extra roadster or two for his sizable garage and the racing team that bears his name.

Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics: Roller Skating and Connect Four

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Rajon Rondo deftly dishes dimes when he's on the court, but his hobbies extend far beyond the hardwood. When he's not embarrassing defenders with ball fakes, Rondo enjoys both roller skating and destroying any challengers in the game Connect Four.

    ESPN's Jemele Hill can confirm that Rondo is very, very good at Connect Four.

    VIDEO: Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo schools two ESPN hosts in Connect Four. http://t.co/xplZa8Cshn pic.twitter.com/TOnVb6Ggnt

    — theScore (@theScore) June 21, 2014

    According to Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins, via SB Nation, Rondo routinely takes on anyone who wants to challenge him at the kid's game, and he can play two or three games simultaneously while winning them all handily. No wonder the cerebral point guard can see two or three moves ahead when he's playing five-on-five on the court.

    In December 2012, Boston Celtics director of community relations Matt Meyersohn advised that over the previous six years, Rondo had "played hundreds of Connect Four games, maybe a thousand. And he's never lost."

    Of course, in that visit to the Blue Hill Boys & Girls Club in Massachusetts, a 12-year-old bested Rondo. And the competitive point guard naturally responded by challenging the pre-teen to four more games, beating the kid each time for a small measure of revenge.  

    Rondo also loves roller skating and had to seek out referrals from his skating peers in order to convince the Celtics he actually knew how to skate well and wouldn't injure himself with some bumbling movements.

Josh Reddick, Oakland Athletics: Pro Wrestling Buff

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Following pro wrestling can be something of an obsession for true fans. Somehow, Oakland A's outfielder Josh Reddick finds time to play baseball along the way.

    In April 2013, the Ultimate Warrior, a.k.a. James Brian Hellwig, got inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Shortly afterward, he passed away at age 54. Reddick used his appearance on MLB Network's Intentional Talk with Kevin Millar and Chris Rose to pay tribute to the fallen legend.

    Reddick is a massive fan of pro wrestling, and he not only donned the costume and makeup, he made a full sprint in from the bullpen to the site of his satellite interview near third base.

    Reddick has borrowed some wrestling tactics in the past, including his "Stone Cold" Steve Austin double-beer chug to celebrate the A's clinching the division in 2012. He even got into a Twitter spat with wrestler Daniel Bryan, resulting in Reddick having to shave his beard on the basis of their beard-off competition.

    Whatever you do, be careful not to call their beard-off a "contest" within earshot of Bryan, because he is the self-proclaimed "King of Beards."

Daniel Agger, Liverpool: Tattoo Artist

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Daniel Agger plays football, although a small portion of the world calls his sport "soccer." Agger captains the Danish national team, and the defender also serves as vice-captain for his club, perennial Premiership contenders Liverpool.

    The 29-year-old has already built an impressive resume on the field, but the mural on his back is arguably even more impressive. 

    @DanielAgger your tattoo on your back is just the greatest tattoo I've ever seen! pic.twitter.com/G6qbm7QU8J

    — MURPHY (@DylanMurphyOG) July 16, 2013

    Agger has a massive artwork stretching from his coccyx to nearly the nape of his neck. It depicts a Viking graveyard with astounding detail, and it almost makes it a shame that he has to wear his team's kit to cover it during games, as the intimidation factor would be extreme.

    The proverb between his shoulders reads "Mors Certa, Hora Incerta," Latin for "Death is certain, its hour is not," per the Daily Mail.

    And Agger isn't just a fan of getting inked, he holds the qualification to tattoo other people, as well. In fact, according to FourFourTwo.com, Agger promised to tattoo all of his Liverpool teammates if they won the league in 2009.

    Fortunately, the soccer star would have been allowed to use his hands for such an activity, but he never inked the team since the Reds finished as runners-up to Manchester United that year.

Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears: Comic Books

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    Jim Prisching/Associated Press

    Lance Briggs has recorded over 1,000 tackles in his NFL career, made seven trips to the Pro Bowl and earned three All-Pro nods. He's also a huge comic-book geek. 

    Briggs used to collect trading cards as a kid and buy packs with the hope of finding an Al Toon or an Eric Dickerson. Then, at age seven, he visited a comic-book store and his life changed forever. He picked up the original series of X-Men and found his attention transfixed on the supernatural characters. Silver Surfer was his favorite. 

    Briggs' love affair with comics did not wither as he matured. The mythical characters with fascinating origin stories, the bombastic artwork and the myriad plot lines never loosed their hold on him. 

    As Briggs told Brian Truitt from USA Today, comics and football aren't actually all that different: "The comic-book world for me in the locker room is kind of a hidden world, but it's my favorite world. There are no limits — there is nothing you can't do. Creating comic books is like football: It's never work. It's something you love to do."

    Briggs even created his own comic series, Seraph, published by Image Comics' Top Cow Productions, which can be found on his website Lance's Comic World. Briggs also uses his fascination with comics as a medium for charity and outreach efforts with kids. 

Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari: Magic

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    "As you can see, I've got nothing up my sleeves."
    "As you can see, I've got nothing up my sleeves."Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

    Spanish Formula One driver Fernando Alonso has won a couple of world championships and began his obsession with autosports when he took up karting at the tender age of three.

    As a 17-year-old in 1999, Alonso had struggled with race strategy when he held the lead. A former F1 driver, Adrian Campos, gave him some advice about pushing the car throughout the entire race, and Alonso took it to heart. Holding a lead of over 40 seconds at Albacete, Alonso refused to slow down, via his official website: "I’m wearing my brake pads out, I can’t go any slower."

    After refusing to slow down, reaching racing glory and earning millions of euros, Alonso has expanded his interests to other fields to keep things stimulating.

    Now he's into magic.

    Alonso specifically gravitates to card tricks and sleight of hand. His favorite trick is the famous "invisible deck" maneuver, where an unsuspecting participant must shuffle a nonexistent deck, choose a card and then the magician produces a real deck with the previously invisible card shown. His three-card monte lesson for BBC Sport's Lee McKenzie was particularly entertaining.

Jason Terry: Collecting Opponents' Shorts

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    While Chris Bosh's penchant for videobombing has gained him notoriety during postgame interviews, Jason Terry's multitude of odd predilections constitute more of an actual hobby than merely goofing on teammates.

    Terry juggles many habits and superstitions. If he misses his first two shots in a game, he changes his sneakers at the break. He always wears five pairs of socks at a time hiked up really high, plus a headband. He has to eat a meal that somehow incorporates chicken before every game.

    But the oddest hobby involves Terry's vast collection of shorts from every opposing NBA team. As Terry told The New York Times' Andrew Keh in October 2013, his habit of wearing basketball shorts to bed began in college at Arizona.

    The night before the 1997 national championship game against Kentucky, Terry and roommate Mike Bibby felt too amped up to sleep. Logically, they both put their uniforms on to help get ready for the game. Since then, Terry always sleeps in basketball shorts the night before a game, but he says that he switched to wearing the opponents' gear to switch things up and amuse himself.

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