The 25 Biggest Hotheads in Sports
For this list, we’re looking for firecrackers, the guys who might go off with only the slightest provocation.
I myself have come up with 20 (I’m sure there are others) and then an additional five for whom I found one singular incident that was too funny (and/or hotheaded) to leave out.
Honorable mentions to three: Kevin Garnett and Alonzo Mourning (who both miss the list because while they were always running on warm, they’d not often be the guy who to boiling over) and Dan Gilbert (who almost made the singular incident category but was ultimately deemed an inferior transgressor.)
First up, “They of the Singular Incidents”
25. Grant Hill, SF, Phoenix Suns
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
25. Zinedine Zidane, MF, France
I forgot what exactly prompted this, but I remember my exact response.
“Who says soccer isn’t interesting?”
24. Izzy Alcantara, OF, Boston Red Sox
This is what Izzy Alcantara did when he was pitched inside:
It is, to this day, the preeminent retaliatory karate kick in the history of Major League Baseball.
23. Mason Holland, SF (I think), DeSoto High School
Above was the Mason Holland submission for list accreditation.
(Funny side note: 0:26 seconds into the video, look at the kid in the red jersey crossing from the far right of the screen.)
22. Latrell Sprewell, SG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Before you jump to conclusions, just know this:
Rumor has it that P.J. Carlesimo talked back.
21. Jim Everett, QB, New Orleans Saints
By far the funniest thing on this list.
The following video shows Jim Rome provoking former Saints QB Jim Everett to assault him on live television, essentially by repeatedly calling him a girl.
They of Considerable Reputation
Julian Finney/Getty Images
OK, the following guys are the repeat offenders—they of whose hotheadnesses is the stuff of legend.
20. Dennis Rodman, PF, Chicago Bulls
It’s funny, when the going got tough, I’d have put my money on Rodman to keep his cool over honorable mentions Mourning and Garnett, which I suppose speaks to Dennis possessing some semblance of an underlying stability.
But that said, Rodman sneaks onto the list because of the sheer unpredictability with which he played literally every other game (as noted by the cameraman in this slide's accompanying video).
19. Bo Pelini, Coach, Nebraska
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
I confess to not knowing so much about Bo Pelini…which may or may not be a good thing.
Let’s take this briefing from lostlettermen.com:
Pelini is the Frank Martin of college football. During his time in Lincoln, he has been caught calling a player a “f****** moron” on television, almost got into a fight with a fan at the 2009 Big 12 Championship Game after a last-second loss to Texas and was seen screaming, “BCS! That’s why they make that call!,” gone ballistic on star quarterback Taylor Martinez on national TV last year against Texas A&M and finished the game by chasing the referees off the field. And practice with Pelini seems like a real joy.
If the Huskers ever look afraid to make mistakes, you know why.
18. Bill Romanowski, LB, Denver Broncos
Potentially, Romanowski is list-ineligible as his rage was aided by performance enhancing drugs.
Nevertheless, here is the Bronco linebacker swapping spit with J.J. Stokes, proving that—at least rhetorically—Bill Romanowski was a lover and not a fighter.
17. Lou Piniella, Manager, Chicago Cubs
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
When I think of the prototypical, “nation’s pastime” type baseball manager, I think of Lou Piniella.
With Lou, we harken back to a time when men could settle their differences face to face—just good ol’ fashioned yelling and some nice dust kicking—versus through the media and/or with corporate influence.
Also of note: I think Lou’s belly is great.
16. Ozzie Guillen, Manager, Chicago White Sox
David Banks/Getty Images
From Larry Dobrow, Maxim.com:
[Ozzie] doesn’t lose it in the conventional way; we never see him kicking dirt or tossing bases. Instead, his temper manifests itself in brutal, exacting honesty. About White Sox outfielder Carlos Lee, who slid into second as if trying to keep his pants unsoiled, Ozzie quipped, “We had a guy go into second base as if his wife was turning a double play.” About former Chicago newspaper columnist Jay Mariotti, renowned for taking his potshots from a safe distance, Ozzie said, “Why’s he so afraid to show up to the ballpark?...He’s garbage, still garbage, going to die as garbage. Period.”
15. Nolan Ryan, P, Texas Rangers
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Want to know something funny? My parents came within minutes of naming me Nolan before ultimately deciding on Ryan.
The world doesn’t know this because I throw a 40 mph fastball.
14. Roger Clemens, P, New York Yankees
Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images
Roger Clemens is Nolan Ryan without the tact (plus or minus a significant amount of steroids).
13. Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
A touch Napoleonic, but I guess you need to be if you’re 5'9" (tops) and aim to be the best receiver in the NFL (which Smith at one time was).
12. Buzz Bissinger, Writer
Ah, the dark horse.
I defy any professional athlete to get into it with Bissinger in some kind of public forum. The guy is vicious, uber-opinionated, and is packing the requisite Pulitzer-caliber acid tongue needed for full-scale eviscerations.
The best move LeBron James made since The Decision?
Not responding to this.
11. Milton Bradley, OF, Free Agent
Milton Bradley may be certifiably insane.
He’s confronted commentators for unfavorable coverage, he’s torn his ACL whilst attacking an umpire, and he’s spit gum at others—the latter of which might’ve been disastrous had it landed in someone’s hair.
10. Carlos Zambrano, P, Chicago Cubs
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Maxim.com did a list of the worst tempers in baseball, in which they designated Zambrano as “the Sean Penn of baseball.”
“When he allows a big hit or doesn’t get a key call, he stalks around the mound like an undermedicated sociopath. When he strikes out, he snaps the bat over his knee and unleashes a torrent of expletives that’d make Quentin Tarantino blush.”
And you should see his Harvey Milk.
9. Gary Payton, PG, Seattle Supersonics
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
The preeminent trash talker ever to grace the National Basketball Association racked up the third-most technicals in league history while essentially translating his volatility into perhaps the greatest stretch of lockdown defense ever seen at the point guard position.
He also hurt people’s feelings.
8. Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers
He’s matured, but when things go awry, Kobe still has a tendency to react like a less-gracious version of the debutants in MTV’s Sweet Sixteen (which—should you not be part of the network’s 18-34 demographic—is a show that chronicles the inability of the super-rich to select the right type of Hummer for their scarily entitled children.).
Kobe doesn’t take failure well (and/or having his shot blocked).
7. Cortland Finnegan, CB, Tennessee Titans
Finnegan is probably the type of guy you love if he’s on your team but find insufferable if you’re anywhere other than Tennessee.
I myself am in Los Angeles.
Go get ‘em Andre.
6. Bobby Cox, Manager, Atlanta Braves
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
There’s something to be said for record holders.
In Cox’s case, it’s, “M*()#*)F***!!!”
5. Richie Incognito, OG, Miami Dolphins
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Incognito may be our most textbook version of hotheadedness, as I think he suffers (suffered?) from some pretty severe and life altering, anger issues.
On the bright side though, he’s a hell of a guard!
4. Mike Tyson, Boxer/Actor
There’s something incredibly innocent about Mike Tyson that makes him both incredibly endearing and legitimately horrifying at the same time.
There’s no vanity in the way he talks about himself, his insecurities (watch this documentary) and perhaps accordantly, there’s no filter on his aggression either.
When Mike Tyson sees red, there’s nothing there to counter-balance.
3. John McEnroe, Tennis
As legendary a hothead as anyone on this list, he’s been usurped for the top spot because he in my opinion lacked a certain sense of danger.
Vicious with his rhetoric, I never got the impression he was on the verge of physically embodying it.
The next two guys however…
2. Ron Artest, SF, Los Angeles Lakers
Before he was Metta World Peace, he was, well…the exact opposite.
1. Bobby Knight, Coach, Texas A&M
I thought I was going to end on some grand, slideshow-encompassing point on the relative anti-merits of anger in sports by asking if Bobby Knight could coach a team featuring five of the ballers on this list.
And then I typed the lineup.
PG – Gary Payton
SG – Kobe Bryant
SF – Ron Artest
PF – Dennis Rodman
C – Alonzo Mourning
There’s absolutely no point to be made—That team wins a title doesn’t it?
Who’s scoring on them?
Screw it all. Watch Bobby Knight throwing a chair.