The Top Ten Most Misunderstood People in Sports
There are athletes that mostly everybody loves (Landon Donovan, Albert Pujols, Drew Brees, Kevin Durant) and there are those that everybody hates (Barry Bonds, A-Rod, Roger Clemens, Terrell Owens)...and then there are the misunderstood athletes.
The misunderstood athletes are the ones who are ignored or hated for reasons that are, more or less, out of their control.
They're the athletes who are really good guys, who are just guys who want to play the game, they are guys who want to have (legal) fun, but for some reason, they are criticized in the media and give out the presence that they are horrible, selfish and arrogant people.
10) Ricky Williams
Ricky Williams is a smoker and a drinker, but in a league where running backs are lucky to be starters for only a couple years, Williams has been a very good running back for the last decade. He has played far beyond the careers of Edgerrin James and Jamal Anderson. As Brian Westbrook and LaDainian Tomlinson break down, Williams keeps going.
Last year he topped 1,000 yards and had 11 touchdowns. How many running backs are still playing at that high of a level at an well past 30?
9) John Calipari
One of the sleaziest guys I've ever seen on the basketball court; while watching him on television you want to run a napkin over the screen. His actual coaching ability can be questioned, but his recruiting cannot. Over the past three seasons, he's sent Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins into the NBA.
Calipari might be sleazy, but he plays a role in the sleaziest business in sports: college coaching. Words like "honest," "noble," and "good samaritan" are thrown out in favor of one thing: Winning.
Calipari recruits and he wins. He will never win a title because his players are one-and-done guys, but he will always have a good team.
And let's be honest, the top recruits that going to college are only doing so because of the new age limit rule in the NBA. Let's not pretend that college basketball is there because these kids want education. Kids are going to go to Calipari because they want to go to the NBA, not for any other reason.
He isn't taking advantage of anything, he's simply doing his job.
8) Allen Iverson
He gets killed in the media for his tattoos and his "gangsta" style of life, but nobody got more out of his talent then Iverson. A little guy in the NBA for years, AI killed himself every night for the 76ers. He was a constant scoring threat and a tenacious defender.
He never won a title, but he will go down as one of the more famous athletes of all time. He was a trendsetter (jewelry, baggy clothing, corn rows, tattoos covering the body) and a family man. He feuded with his coaches and teammates, but nobody could contain him when he was on the floor.
7) Ozzie Guillen
Most find Guillen annoying, but his success with the White Sox can not be ignored. He is one of the better managers in the game, he's an honest guy and that should be respected in sports, not vilified. He has a world series, and despite having a low payroll and a small fan base, the White Sox are constantly in playoff contention.
Guillen's support for the Latino players is very important in today's baseball climate, especially since most managers could care less about the problems of Latinos. Although his comments perhaps may have been off based, depending on who you ask, his heart is with the Latino community. The more dialogue that major league baseball has with Latinos (especially in dealing with the immigration problem in Arizona) the better off they will be.
6) Ron Artest
He's a nut. He's crazy. He's violently insane.
But Artest is also a rock solid defender, and one of the main reasons why the Lakers won the title this year: the winning basket against Phoenix in the conference finals and the big fourth quarter against Boston when Kobe Bryant went cold.
Artest has proved to be one of the craziest guys. But he is also someone who cares about his team and his teammates. He took early pressure off his teammates when he, on the record, said that it would be his fault if the Lakers didn't repeat.
People call him the Tyson of the NBA; he's more like the Manny: arrogant, clueless at most times, but a damn good player.
5) Manny Ramirez
Manny, another athlete taken over by super agent Scott Boras, and forced like a puppet to go where the puppeteer wants. Boston fans hate him for some reason, even though he won two titles there. Manny was never a popular player, even though he was twice as good as David Ortiz.
His revenge came in Los Angeles where he pulled a "Babe Ruth in 1927" with godly numbers during the second half of the season. If only Los Angeles could've played Boston in the World Series that season (It was Tampa Bay and Philly).
Manny isn't a bad guy. He's a good player who seems constantly unaware and confused about where he is. He's a Hall of Fame hitter who plays extremely well when it matters.
4) Jay Cutler
Cutler is hated by most fans. His face looks like a frat boy douchebag, his hair cut is cheesy, he is irritating to watch on the sidelines and he had that stupid feud with Philip Rivers. He doesn't win a lot of games and he whined his way out of Denver...
I'm a Bears fan and even I hate him a little bit.
But the fact of the matter is that Cutler never bad mouths his own teammates or coaches, he always plays hard (remember that OT game against Minnesota last season? Four touchdowns a win), he is a constant victim of bad luck and unfortunately his teams never have too much defensive talent.
The situation in Denver was blown out of proportion. Time has told us that McDaniels is a complete dirtbag but driving away both Cutler and Brandon Marshall in favor of low-grade talent that he can manipulate into losing seasons.
3) Lane Kiffin
Hated to the extreme in Tennessee for screwing over the Volunteers and the Titans, Kiffin rarely plays by the rules and talks as brashly as Muhammad Ali when getting ready to fight Frazier.
Still, this is college football—there aren't any rules.
Kiffin left a Tennessee program that constantly got good recruits to go to USC, where fines and scholarship loses were nearly guaranteed after Pete Carroll (now that's a real dirt bag) ditched the school for the NFL.
Can we really blame Kiffin for leaving Tennessee? Is he the only person who would leave one job to go to another one in better weather, with more money where he already has ties (he coached as an assistant at USC for six seasons). Anybody would do that.
2) Tiger Woods
Besides being the worst adulterer on the planet, Tiger isn't really that bad of a guy. He never cheated on the golf course. He stays focused on his game, stays healthy, and has dominated a sport like very few others (Roger Federer, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali being the very few others).
Before the scandal, Woods was considered a pretty boring guy. He didn't have the charisma of Jordan, he wasn't exciting to watch like Ali, he wasn't very funny like Peyton Manning. He was just a guy who was a very good golfer.
If Tiger did anything, it proved that all athletes have some sleeziness in them. We'll see it again when LeBron is eventually caught up in a six-way orgy with a couple of Cuban porn stars/strippers/models this winter during All-Star weekend.
1) Lebron James
How often to see you a star athlete essentially take less money so he could go win a championship(s) and have people still vilify him for it?
Of course LeBron has been given some of the worst advise a star athlete has every gotten, but the man did choose to win titles over making ridiculous amounts of money. He wasn't pressured into the stardom that comes with being a New York Knick and he didn't try to relive Michael Jordan's career by going to Chicago.
Think about all those athletes who took huge contracts with bad teams just so they could get paid: Joe Johnson spurned Phoenix and went to Atlanta, A-Rod with Texas, Albert Haynesworth, Shawn Marion...LeBron forgets the money, takes the route with the most titles, and people kill him anyways.
I write a weekly mailbag (similar to what Bill Simmons does on ESPN). You can email me anything sports or pop culture related.
It is published every Friday.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org