You always hear about the ones spewing profanity, getting arrested or cheating on their spouses.
But the respectful athletes, the humble ones, tend to get ignored. It's become too easy to be cynical about athletes like Manny Pacquiao. You want to appreciate their gentle, soft-spoken nature, but then there's part of you that knows better than to put them on a pedestal, too. Tiger Woods showed everyone that even the greatest champions, the ones who appear to be great role models, are still very human and imperfect.
That's why I admire Josh Hamilton so much: He took responsibility for his issues, has talked publicly about them but also has been even more forthright about where his priorities are.
While you'll probably not see anything like this elsewhere in the media (because it's not shocking or alarming enough), I figured why not stop and celebrate athletes like Pacquiao and Hamilton.
So here it is. It's in no specific order or ranking. Feel free to comment and leave your suggestions, too.
Here's a look at the 25 classiest athletes in sports:
In an age when spouses and children are an afterthought to some athletes, Lehman makes them a priority. He even explained in one story how he structures his his golf tournaments around his family's schedule.
"I have to say no to a lot of requests for my time," he told Dan White. "I do not let anything come between my family time and me. Nothing."
He was ridiculed and criticized in college, and then again heading into the pros, but you never saw him lash out or say anything inappropriate.
Whether you agree with his faith or not, Tebow is the antithesis to the look-at-me, I'm-above-the-law, it's-all-about-the-bling mentality that's so prevalent among many athletes today.
The first time I met Cotto was early on in his professional career. As the boxing writer for my newspaper, I walked into the smoky arena inside an Indian casino and shook hands with the quiet, reserved man from Puerto Rico.
Cotto's never been loud, arrogant or excessively proud, but I was impressed when he stood up last week to Ricardo Mayorga. The two will be fighting, and like previous opponents, Mayorga has a knack for getting under the skin of those he faces.
"I am a gentleman, you are a joker and a clown," Cotto said to Mayorga. "All your career you have run off at the mouth and in all the big fights you've failed. Just so you know who I am, I am a three-time world champion.''
Did he follow LeBron James' lead last summer, and block out time on TV to announce he re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder? Nope. He kept it simple, went on Twitter and posted the following:
"Extension for 5 more years wit the #thunder....God Is Great, me and my family came a long way...I love yall man forreal, this a blessing!"
The greats always think there's still room for improvement, and that they've never really made it.
"I'm not a complete player—there are always things I can improve," Nadal said in this article late last summer. "(But) I'm so happy with everything that happened and can't ask for anything more."
Nadal also knows his biggest rival remains the benchmark.
"I would love to have the success of Federer," Nadal said. "In nine years, he's achieved things that are practically impossible to repeat. It's difficult to be 100 percent each year, but he's managed to do it and it's normal to have a little drop."
The Clippers rookie forward and former No.1 pick is quickly becoming one of the most dynamic, exciting players in the NBA, but Griffin won't be getting caught up in the hysteria.
Ever since his college days at Oklahoma, he's been more of the reserved type. Recently, Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers had a comical exchange with Griffin and told him how boring he comes across. Griffin cracked back that he didn't know that until someone told him.
He also apologized for not making eye contact.
"It's just who I am,'' he said in Simers' column. "It's a part of my personality. I'm shy, and it takes me time to feel comfortable. But I think I can do what's needed without completely changing who I am.''
The future Hall of Famer has always been gracious in victory and defeat. Even if you hate the Yankees, there's no way not to like a guy who goes out, does his job, tips his cap and just tries to help his team win.
He gets tons of praise heaped on him for what he's accomplished, but Johnson will always quickly credit his team and talk about the hard work everyone put in and how fortunate he is to have been successful.
It's a rarity to hear these days, especially when so many athletes feel entitled and love to talk about themselves.
What may surprise many who don't follow UFC closely is how many humble, hard-working fighters are in the sport. St.-Pierre is among them.
It would be awfully easy to slack off, and let other fighters get under your skin (which Josh Koscheck tried to do before their last fight), but GSP keeps grinding along, staying focused, humble and grinding along.
Wells, who was just traded to Anaheim, runs a great foundation with his wife that supports and helps children in need. The Vernon Wells Foundation, founded in 2008, works with other non-profits that assist with the welfare of children.
According to their website, its mission says, "We will serve the Lord by protecting, encouraging, respecting, fostering, embracing, cheering, treasuring each child, while devoting spiritual, emotional and financial support."
From his days at Duke to early on in his career, Hill has been a consummate gentleman and one of the NBA's good guys.
It's hard not to respect him, too, after watching him persevere through years of injuries. Hill is still playing for the Phoenix Suns.
"He looks great," Cleveland coach Byron Scott told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "That's a big-time tribute to him, keeping himself in that type of condition and having that determination. He could have called it quits a long time ago with the injuries he's had in his career.
"But you can tell that he has a serious love of basketball by the way he plays, by the way he approaches the game....When he came in the league, he was a totally different player than he what he is now. He was a star, a superstar in this league. He's still a very good basketball player but he's more of a team player, which he's always been. It's not on his shoulders any more. He can be Robin instead of Batman."
He's been one of the league's best for years now, and it's no doubt he'll do whatever it takes to win, but the Colts quarterback has continued to carry himself well.
You've also got to enjoy a guy of his status who's got a sense of humor and doesn't mind displaying his light-hearted side.
The longtime Dallas Cowboys tight end is a beloved figure in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The Cowboys built their reputation on class players like Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Darryl Johnston and Jay Novacek. Witten definitely is on that list as well.
Cowboys fans can be a demanding sort, and expect players to be superhuman at times. But they especially admire those like Witten who know how to conduct themselves.
He came up from poverty in the Philippines and is now an eight-time world champion and congressman who wants to help improve the lives of his countrymen. You've never heard him once badmouth an opponent, or get ripped for his offensive behavior, which is quite the opposite from what you will often find in his sport.
Even when he was at Oklahoma he hated the spotlight and the attention and remained humble after winning the Heisman Trophy. Now the St. Louis Rams rookie quarterback is one of the league's brightest stars and has a great perspective, great work ethic and continues to be all about the team.
One of the most popular members of the Lakers, Fisher displayed plenty of dignity and grace when his young daughter Tatum was diagnosed in May, 2006, with retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer in her left eye.
Fisher's faith helped sustain him and his wife during that time when he was with the Utah Jazz.
"To me, the whole experience proved that as much as we think we're in control of our lives and what happens in our lives—we make decisions that impact it—it's a way higher power and bigger power," Fisher told the Long Beach Press-Enterprise. "I personally believe in God. I'm a Christian. I can't force that on anybody."
The Kid continues to carry himself well and seems to be handling the pressure of being the face of the NHL just fine. Some athletes would crumble under that weight and lash out, but Crosby's proven to be quite different.
Pujols will probably catch plenty of grief for insisting that the Cardinals get a deal done before spring training, but put aside contract talks, and there's no denying he's one of baseball's bright spots and a tremendous representative of the game.
Because of who he is and his character, Pujols was honored last year by well-known talk show host Glenn Beck at the "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington, D.C.
The Hornets point guard has been embraced ever since he was a rookie and was especially loved when the team temporarily relocated to Oklahoma City following Hurricane Katrina.
Some Thunder fans still wish he remained in town even after the team went back to New Orleans.
The Phillies ace remains low-key, hardworking and is easily the best pitcher in baseball.
A consummate team player ever since his days at San Diego, he's now a hero in New Orleans and won the hearts of many after leading the Saints to the Super Bowl last year then hoisting his young son on his shoulders during the celebration.
Brees' former Chargers teammate remains very involved back in Fort Worth where he played at TCU, and often hosts summer football camps. Tomlinson went unnoticed by many coming out of high school, but has kept working hard and become one of the best running backs in the NFL.
Lefty used to get ripped for being too much of a risk-taker, but he's become a tremendous fan favorite as his career has evolved. Mickelson's family has always been a priority, and when his wife Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer, there was no hesitation. Mickelson postponed his schedule and said he would return whenever it was best for his family.
His wife was the priority.
Hamilton is open about his faith, about his past struggles with drugs and alcohol and the toll they took on his career and life. Now he's become one of the game's biggest stars and is a hero in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Everyone likely remembers last year when the Detroit Tigers pitcher was robbed of a perfect game by umpire Jim Joyce, who later admitted he made the wrong call at first base.
Galarraga was furious, as was Tigers manager Jim Leyland at the time, but in one of the greatest acts of sportsmanship in recent memory, Galarraga went and talked with Joyce, accepted Joyce's apology and tried to help encourage him and remind him everyone makes mistakes.