The Worst Post-Career Meltdowns in Sports History
When athletes are in their prime, their abilities make them feel invincible. They are told that they are the best in the world, and the word "no" doesn’t come around too often. On top of that, they are making millions of dollars in salary and endorsements.
Then, it all ends. The money, the popularity and the attention dry up faster than they knew was possible.
Lack of activities leads to laziness, and laziness leads to trouble. Not every story is the same, but they generally revolve around a culture shock in lifestyle that leads to bad decisions.
These are the top 20 post-career meltdowns in sports history.
20. Billy Cannon
He was a Heisman Trophy winner, an AFL legend and one of the most celebrated athletes of his era.
Like most players of his era, he needed to get a real job after his playing days were over and went into orthodontics. Imagine if Ray Lewis came into your orthodontist appointment today, screaming and dancing over how excited he is to fix your teeth.
After he went broke from bad investments and gambling, Cannon began counterfeiting (a foolproof idea), which landed him in prison for two-and-a-half years.
19. Eugene "Mercury" Morris
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Morris is the unofficial spokesman for the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins. He loves to talk about the fact that nobody has ever had a truly perfect season besides that team and throws parties every year once the last undefeated team has lost.
He was also a great player during his day and contributed a great deal to the Dolphins' championship teams.
However, he couldn’t stay clean. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking and served three years in prison. He is out now and still preaching about those '72 Dolphins, though for a while there we thought we might have lost him.
18. Nate Newton
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Newton was one of the key linemen on the elite 1990s Dallas Cowboys teams that protected Troy Aikman and opened gaping holes for Emmitt Smith.
After his career ended, police found 213 and 175 pounds of marijuana in his car on two separate occasions. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and 250 hours of community service.
17. Lawrence Phillips
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He went from college star to top NFL draft pick and then to NFL bust. This is the road that too many athletes take during their careers.
Unfortunately for Phillips, he did not have much to fall back on and got himself into serious trouble. He is now serving 31 years in prison for attacking his girlfriend and hitting three teens with his car.
It is a sad and unfortunate state of events for a player who had all the potential in the world.
16. Peter Storey
After a long and successful soccer career, Storey began to ride on the wrong side of the road. In 1979 he was fined for running a brothel, but he did not stop there.
Over the next few years, he went to prison for crimes ranging from coin counterfeiting to car theft and even dabbled in the importation of pornographic movies.
Like all good criminals, he wrote a book about his story and faded into relative obscurity.
15. Willie Mays Aikens
He was a first baseman and a DH for three different AL teams during his eight-year career. Despite a baseball life of relative obscurity, he found himself in the news often after his playing days were over.
He found trouble at the end of his career with cocaine and continued the habit when he retired. He was busted as part of a sting operation in 1994 and sentenced to 20 years and eight months in prison. He was released in 2008 and now works in the Royals' minor league system.
14. Orlando Cepeda
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Cepeda was a great baseball player in his time and was a well-respected member of the baseball community, but upon his retirement he made a very poor choice that cost him his legacy as a baseball good guy.
He was arrested for trying to pick up 150 pounds of marijuana from the San Juan airport in Puerto Rico. He served 10 months for his crime. He was eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
13. Dwight Gooden
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It seems like everyone on the New York Mets during the 1980s indulged in a little white powder, and I do not mean the baseline chalk.
For Gooden, he could not keep himself straight long enough for people to remember him as one of the best young pitchers the game has ever seen. Between his drunken driving, traffic incidents and cocaine use, he spent almost seven months in prison.
This snazzy picture of him is from Yankees Old-Timers' Day. It's good to see that it looks like he traded in contraband for hamburgers.
12. Mel Hall
After a mediocre career that included six teams (two Japanese), Hall was charged and then convicted on three counts of sexual aggravated assault. In 2009, he was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
11. Darryl Strawberry
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He was one of the best New York Mets of all time and a key member of the 1986 World Series championship team.
But his career accolades do not necessarily outweigh the legal troubles he got himself into through his post-career life.
Cocaine, painkillers and disobeying parole officers were all part of his downfall and have led him to where he is today. Now, he is working to recover and turn his life around with his third wife and help from others.
10. Diego Maradona
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He started off with the Hand of God and ended up with Satan’s gut. Nobody can take anything away from his career accomplishments, but the end of Maradona’s career was not pretty.
Cocaine consumed his being, and he quickly experienced many medical issues due to his lack of responsibility towards his health. He was consistently hospitalized for drug- and alcohol-related abuses, forcing him to eventually clean up his act.
9. Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson
After his NFL career ended, he was caught smoking cocaine with two teenage girls. After he was arrested, he pleaded no contest and spent eight months in a drug rehab center and two years in prison.
After he got out, he turned his life around, wrote a book and started a charity—all in a day's work.
Fun fact: He won the 2000 Texas lotto for $28 million.
8. Maurice Clarett
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Can we really call all of his shenanigans post-career? It was all in meltdown fashion, but his “career” got off the ground about as high as my Jewish hops.
In 2006, he robbed two people at gunpoint but got off relatively unscathed.
Later on, in August of 2006, police stopped him after a short chase. They found guns and alcohol in his car, netting him jail time, all but ending any chances he ever had of being the NFL’s comeback kid.
7. Joe Namath
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Broadway Joe got his name for being a flashy, larger than life quarterback who makes guarantees and wins Super Bowls.
After his playing days were over, he took up drinking to fill the void in his life where football used to be. That led to his infamous sideline interview with Suzy Kolber, when Namath was very drunk and embarrassed himself on national television.
He has now gotten over the incident and is trying to move on with his life.
6. Isaiah Rider
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He is the perfect example of a player who had all the talent in the world and wasted it away with a bad attitude and worse focus.
After almost no team would take his services anymore, he found himself lonely and without a direction. In 2006 he got in trouble for allegedly driving off with an ex-girlfriend against her will.
He then indulged in drugs, which netted him a three-and-a-half month sentence. He called this the lowest point of his life. He cleaned himself up and now lives a much better, lawful life.
5. Lenny Dykstra
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During his playing days they used to call him “Nails.” Now it looks like they are better off calling him “fraud.”
The former All-Star outfielder and World Series champion is now bankrupt due to poor investments, risky financial dealings and fraud.
This did not happen overnight due to a Ponzi scheme. Dykstra blames everyone but himself for his exorbitant purchases and huge business ventures that went south.
Most recently he was arrested for grand theft auto. He faces up to 12 years in prison.
4. Pete Rose
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Betting on sports is something many people like to dabble in from time to time. However, this is not a kosher practice when you have control over the game.
Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader and one of the most intense baseball players to every put on the uniform, indulged in betting during his time as manager of the Cincinnati Reds during the mid 1980s.
He swears to having never bet against his own team, but the constant distraction of betting for his team and on other major league games was hurtful to his team. He received a lifetime ban from baseball and remains arguably the best player in MLB history not in Cooperstown.
3. Art Schlichter
There are few people that have blown up their lives more than Schlichter. Extreme gambling, drugs and fraud were his modes of downfall, but it is the quantity of incidents that is amazing.
All the while, he stunk it up as an NFL quarterback and is one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
2. Lawrence Taylor
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He was one of the most feared football players of all time for his ferocious attacking style and the desire to rip his opponent's head off. Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between life on and off the field.
Cocaine, risky financial investments and paying an underage girl for sexual services were all incidents that Taylor was involved in that made us quickly forget about what he did on the field.
He is still in the news for all the wrong reasons and is making it seem more than likely that the hill to recovery will be steep.
1. O.J. Simpson
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He is one of the most vilified people in American history. His murder trial is by far the most famous in sports history, but beyond that, he has been involved in other scandals.
When you are involved in a high-profile murder trial, one would think that you would lie low for a while. Not O.J.
He was sentenced to 33 years in jail for obtaining sports memorabilia that he had taken at gunpoint from a room in Las Vegas.