I like to write about egotism (probably because I do it better than anyone else in the world).
But that’s enough about me (as if…), let’s talk about this list (that I wrote).
The 50 most out of control egos in sports.
I’ve taken some characters from the past and some from the present, and tried to weigh their individual success vs. their level of individual egotism.
Basically, if you’re Muhammad Ali, you can afford to brag, but if you’re Michael Beasley, you probably shouldn’t be mushing people in the stands at your pickup game (although I am grateful to have been made aware of the term, “mush.”).
(Honorable mention: Stephon Marbury, who I’m pretty sure has crashed back to Earth.)
Perhaps no athlete’s aura has ever been more substantially defined by his bravado, and thus, even though Ali is as cocky as any guy on this list, he’s also the most revered.
His worst moment? Probably Hancock.
Babe Ruth pointed toward the stands once before he hit a home run, but a lesser known fact* is that he used to walk into bars and do the same thing to women.
It worked too.
Probably because he was still holding the bat.
(*None of the bat/women stuff is true. I’m legally required to inform you now.)
I grew up obsessed with Michael Jordan, quick to romanticize everything that he did.
I’ve since come to grips with two things—one positive, one not.
The positive realization was that Michael Jordan was every bit as good and every bit as dominant as I thought he was. In no way was I delusional in my assessment of him as a basketball god.
The second realization? That while he’d found a way to harness it for 15 years of immaculately executed professional basketball, Michael Jordan was/is certifiably insane—both egotistical and competitive to the point that it would almost certainly classify as a mental disorder.
There won’t be another Michael Jordan, and part of the reason is that the next Michael Jordan will use up his good will publicly trashing his teammates on Twitter.
If he’s as competitive as MJ, he won’t be able to hold back.
So devastatingly subtle.
My favorite snippet from this past season was Phil responding to a question about the Lakers ability to win 70 games only one week into the season.
No way, but "I think this Miami team could.”
The Heat were 5-3 and infighting at the time.
I wanted to start off this list with some heavy hitters, and really I may have started with the greatest coach, basketball player, boxer, and MLB’er of all time. So I’d say the initial thesis would have to be that ego can be put to good use.
Here’s some classic Jackson quotes (courtesy of prosportsblogging.com):
“If I was playing in New York, they’d name a candy bar after me.”
Post/During-New York (aka the candy bar era):
“I didn’t come to New York to be a star, I brought my star with me.”
“The only reason I don’t like playing in the World Series is I can’t watch myself play.”
“It all flows from me, I’m the straw that stirs the drink."
[Also, a few more great ones from lucywho.com, courtesy of my editor (the real one, not the one I quote all the time):
“Hitting is better than sex.”
“The greatest manager has a knack for making ballplayers think they are better than they think they are.”
“I have a hard time believing athletes are overpriced. If an owner is losing money, give it up. It`s a business. I have trouble figuring out why owners would stay in if they`re losing money.”
“You don`t face Nolan Ryan without your rest. He`s the only guy I go against that makes me go to bed before midnight.”
“Please God, let me hit one. I`ll tell everybody you did it.”
“Babe Ruth was great. I`m just lucky.”
“The only way I`m going to win a Gold Glove is with a can of spray paint.”
“You know, this game`s not very much fun when you`re only hitting .247.”
“Fans don`t boo nobodies.”
“I was reminded that when we lose and I strike out, a billion people in China don`t care.”
“After Jackie Robinson the most important black in baseball history is Reggie Jackson, I really mean that.”]
As with all on the top of this list, the rule of thumb/addition to the thesis seems to be that if you back it up, we (the fans) will probably still like you.
Not everyone to follow backs it up.
Developing trend: If your last name is “Jackson,” you’re probably an arrogant mother.
One day into his stay in Milwaukee (his latest home), S-Jax asked for an extension commensurate with his value to the organization (not realizing, I assume, that he’d been of no value to the organization yet).
Now the Bucks are in a bind.
They’d try and pressure him out of Milwaukee if they didn’t think he’d make love to it.
He’s on this list because he declared that the Nets would win a title within five years of his taking ownership (
5, 4, 3, 2, 1, I know nothing about basketball), but that’s all I’m getting on him for.
I don’t want to poke too much fun at a Russian billionaire, lest he take my ability to type.
He is, totally legitimately, the second-best player in the NBA according to Monta Ellis.
Continuing on in the mold of thin and arrogant…
Brandon Jennings picked up a little edge in Italy, and I gotta admit…I kind of like it! (Especially when it’s directed toward Miami.)
That said, his game regressed in his second-year, but his opinion of his game did not. If he doesn’t take a step-forward in the upcoming season, we’re looking at trouble in Milwaukee.
Sir Charles is a perfect example of the rare, but oh-so-nice-to-see “affable ego.”
Yes, Chuck is living proof that it’s possible to think highly of yourself and still maintain a shred of self-consciousness.
It’s why Charles Barkley isn’t an a**hole—he’s in on the joke.
(PS -Shameless promotion: I drew the Barkley picture for the CFAAP.com blog. I see your egotism and raise you self-aggrandizement.)
It’s funny how sporting allegiance can shift your perception of a player.
I used to loathe Paul Pierce while LeBron was with the Cavs.
The guy spit at the Cavs' bench, spoke down to their leader (!), and ultimately knocked them out of the playoffs single-handedly in 2008.
Now, I could not like the guy more.
His light’s been recast—ego now fearlessness, arrogance now chutzpa—and tweets like these (“It’s been a pleasure taking my talents to South Beach now on to Memphis”)…well, they kind of make my day.
Get healthy Boston. No Finals for LeBron this year.
From (who else could do this slide) Nolan Nawrocki:
“Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law — does not command respect from teammates and will always struggle to win a locker room . . . Lacks accountability, focus and trustworthiness — is not punctual, seeks shortcuts and sets a bad example. Immature and has had issues with authority. Not dependable.”
What did Cam Newton do to Nolan Nawrocki?
It’s not that he isn’t a good coach, it’s just that he has a little bit of an inflated perception of his own worth to a team. So much so that he had to lose his hair to accommodate the size of his head (there wasn’t enough blood to supply nutrients to such a large surface area).
Adrian Dantley did us no favors by tanking the Nuggets in Karl’s absence.
(Just a note: I actually really like George Karl, think he's a tremendous coach, and don't want to shortchange and/or ill-wish the guy after surviving (I believe) three bouts with cancer. That's incredible, and I hope the faux-egotism charge doesn't get mixed up with his real life dealing. I'm on team Karl. You go, George.)
Subtle; almost a humblebragger-type of guy.
Curt Schilling has both (allegedly?) used ketchup to punch-up his plotlines (but hey, who hasn’t?), and started a blog/perch (38pitches—which really, isn’t very many…) from which he can launch fastballs at others while half-heartedly maintaining some sort of pseudo-superior-journalistic purview.
(I think I got lost within that sentence a little bit—“Holier than thou” is what I was looking for.)
He was much higher up this list until he got Elin’ed.
(Side note: “Elin’ed” should be applicable to boxing. It should come right after the KO. So let’s coin a phrase: An “Elin” is a knockout so brutal and/or public that it legitimately affects the rest of your career. Trying to think of a few off the top of my head. If we extend it to other sports, maybe Carson Palmer got Elin'ed by Kimo Von Oelhoffen? This needs to be refined.)
His inability to coach the grey area—to LB, there’s the “right way” and the “wrong way” of playing basketball, and nothing in between (the "grey area," in which the vast majority of young NBAers reside)—was made even worse by his inability not to trade literally every one of the latter guys (a condition made worse by his inability to stay in one place for more than a couple of years).
Larry Brown is a phenomenal coach, but I just typed the word “inability” three times in one (admittedly long) sentence on his coaching prowess.
If he ends up in Minnesota, there’s a 99 percent chance that half the roster is gone before January.
Lane Kiffin is to Jerry Sloan was going to be an analogy on the new SAT exams, but it isn’t now because it made the computer explode.
(Also, because none of the kids knew who Jerry Sloan was.)
I got Gallas’ name while perusing another Bleacher Reporter’s article (“The Top 15 Egos in World Football,” by Callum D’Souza—which is an awesome name).
I went with William both because he was French and I liked this D’Souza tidbit: “At Chelsea it was rumoured Gallas would get so sulky the France international threatened to score own goals.”
But then I kept reading—“At Arsenal, Gallas admitted to having no friends and was seen as an ‘outcast’ by most of the Gunners,”—and now I feel kind of bad for him!
So if you’re reading William Gallas, I will be your friend. So long as you don’t score an “own goal” on me, in which case, I will cut you.
Here’s some nice tidbits from SwanFungus.com, perhaps the only baseball-related website whose namesake conjures images of bacteria on swans.
During the World Baseball Classic (a sort-of World Cup for baseball that enables countries to compete against one another in the spirit of the game), Sheffield stated that he didn’t much care for the event, saying, “[his] season is when [he's] getting paid.” He’s said that when he was looking to get traded early in his career, he would play poorly or purposely not try his best to win. About his teammate Bobby Abreu, Sheff once said, “He’s a good player, but like I say, you can draw it up any kind of way: he aint’ me. And that’s the bottom line.”
Kind of sweet. I think he's calling Bobby Abreu nice.
It’s remarkable that someone who speaks with so little substance has taken so many of them.
He’s a surefire Hall of Famer, but of late James Toney has become most notable for calling out opponents he won’t get a chance to fight because he hasn’t beaten anyone of substance in (give or take) 15 years.
On a related note: I think James Toney is a sissy, and that I’m both stronger and a better boxing technician than him.
It takes a certain kind of a**hole to be both an egotist and a cricket player, and Kevin Pieterson is a certain kind of a**hole.
Full disclosure: In actuality, I have no idea what Kevin Pietersen has done to deserve such animus (who watches cricket?), and he’s only on here because I found him in an article by The Telegraph (a newspaper from either Britain or the 1800’s) in which his contemporary Shane Warne describes Pietersen as a “walking ego.”
These cricket players are bonkers!
Here’s a Yuvraj quote from, again, The Telegraph:
"I'm just like any other guy", [Singh] says. "I guess the only difference is that every day I go to work I am watched by 1.2 billion people who are always expecting excellence from me."
The genetic code of a human is to the genetic code of a chimpanzee, as the afore-referenced quote is to a line of dialogue in the movie Anchorman.
It’s really, really close.
Imagine how cocky this guy would be if his name wasn’t Yuvraj…
There’s something in the water in Oakland, where one guy seems crazier than the next.
That’s often good for football players.
For those in managerial positions? Not so much.
(Editor’s note: As per Raider regulations, this entry was typed in 4.2 seconds.)
Real Clear Sports, who themselves made an egotism entry nice enough to influence this one, tells the tale of Jerry Jones, Jimmy Johnson, and the fall of the Cowboy empire below:
“Jones and Johnson's problems started with simple things, like Jones bringing celebrities onto sidelines and into the locker room, an example of his "this is my team, I can do what I want" attitude. Jones would often take credit for personnel moves that were not his idea and even at one point told reporters that he could coach the Cowboys.
Jones and his ego wore on Johnson (and vice versa) until the owner took Rick Gosselin and Ed Werder aside at a bar and told them it was time to fire Johnson (after consecutive Super Bowl wins) and bring in Barry Switzer, pointing out that 500 people could have coached the team to a Super Bowl (himself included). Eventually Jones did just what he said he would, firing Jimmy Johnson and hiring Switzer.
With Johnson gone, Jones had full control over personnel decisions, and despite one Super Bowl under Switzer (won mostly with talent accumulated under Johnson's regime) the Cowboys have not been close to the same with Jones refusing to give up control to a general manager or coach (the only coach he let have a large say on personnel after Johnson was Bill Parcells, and no surprise, Parcells is no longer in Dallas).
Jones may have helped to build a great NFL dynasty, but there is no doubt that his ego destroyed it.”
It takes the most nefarious-type of ego to do your egotism behind the scenes, and that’s what we’re looking at here.
Dan Snyder’s personnel moves are every bit as bullheaded as those of his Cowboy and Raider counterparts, but even worse, his media department resembles that of Communist China.
DS once lobbied a Washington paper to fire a reporter for his writing an unflattering article.
Hysterically (seriously, major kudos for this one), the paper responded by publishing a thank you letter to Snyder for his stewardship of the Redskins.
It was written by a Giants fan.
The following is from SwanFungus.com, the internet’s only site bringing to light the issue swans face due to an inability to dry themselves.
Perhaps the worst broadcaster in the history of baseball, Joe Morgan is also an under-spoken narcissist. He doesn’t make brash statements in the vein of a Gary Sheffield, but if you listen to even one of the games he announces on ESPN, you’ll see my point. Sure, he hates all white people, but he especially hates smart white people, supposed egotist Billy Beane. Morgan has said he has nothing to learn from a writer or statistician who has never played the sport as a professional, and that “…anytime you’re trying to make statistics tell you who’s gonna win the game, that’s a bunch of geeks trying to play video games.” He also sued the LAPD for detaining him at LAX on suspicion of drug charges and won nearly a one million dollar settlement.
I have no idea what the “hates smart white people” comment is really referring to (potentially the creators of SwanFungus.com?), but the rest of the review is pretty spot-on.
Joe Morgan’s ineptitude spawned one of the great sports sites in the history of the internet, and basically gave birth to the entire Parks and Rec writing team.
For the purposes of this article—identifying examples of egotism—let’s narrow Chad’s exploits down to the following:
He once celebrated a touchdown by donning a Hall of Fame inductee’s jacket that said (written in what appears to be tape), “Future H.O.F. 20..??”
Turns out, his jacket may have jumped the gun.
Keyshawn Johnsn once published a book entitled, Just Give Me The Damn Ball!
It was the most self-indulgent book title since Wilt Chamberlain’s, Each Page of this 20,000 page book is representative of a Woman I’ve Slept With.
(Editor's note: That Wilt Chamberlain book is totally fictional. Ryan made it up. Wilt's claim to have slept with 20,000 women, on the other hand, is totally legit.)
Coincidentally, Freddie Mitchell now works for UPS.
(Legal disclaimer: Freddie Mitchell doesn't actually work for UPS :) Ryan thinks he is funny.)
I’ve started a project called “Project Jeter,” for which I basically send handwritten letters to all of the girls he’s slept with in a to-date unsuccessful attempt to replicate his sex life.
On a related note: The United States Postal Service is on the verge of default.
This guy makes me want to be both a soccer player and a better person (than he seems to be*).
No one will ever touch Chamberlain’s 50.4, but Cristiano is going after Wilt’s 20,000.
(*That sounds more judgmental than I mean it to be. Basically, all I’m trying to say is that he goes through hookers like a politician, and sometimes, he seems to go through them at the expense of his girlfriend.)
There was a time when Dwyane Wade seemed like one of the most down to earth guys in the NBA. In the entire sports world, really.
So what the heck happened?
I’d say LeBron rubbed off on him, but this spiral had started well before last year.
More than anything, what’s annoying to me is the defiance he now exhibits in the face of any type of criticism—the whole “the world’s better now because the Heat are losing” act reeks of self-pity to me.
I don’t know. I’m biased.
You have to admit though, if you’re not in Miami… this is now the funniest video on the Internet.
Sad as it (kind of) is, Iverson’s ego eventually ended his career.
So good for so long, AI was unable to accept anything other than a guaranteed starting role (really more than that; he wanted the ball in his hands), and thus, is now playing out his balling days in Turkey.
He wants to come back now. He won’t be able to.
Moss, as synopsized by ESPN analyst/annual company flag-football game ringer, Jerry Rice:
"To see a guy with that much talent not give it 100 percent, it was almost like a little slap in the face. But Randy was Randy."
You sing it brother.
Randy Moss was as talented a player as the NFL has ever seen, but he chose to skate by on that talent to the tune of both the fifth-most receptions (wow) in league history and near universal scorn (he probably could’ve doubled his total catches).
Off the field—be it taunting less-fiscally solvent reporters or moving police officers with the front of his car—he was even worse.
If anybody’s ever earned the right to be egotistical, it’s probably Terrell Owens, one of the hardest working, most productive receivers in NFL history.
But that said, boy has he used a lot of his real estate.
That, coupled with some complex permutation re: the current status of the housing market = Terrell Owens is currently more trouble than he’s worth.
San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Dallas all chose to part ways with Owens while he was as dominant as any WR in the league.
Who wants him while he’s not?
I honestly had no idea Ty Cobb was a jerk until writing this slideshow.
This (among his more printable transgressions) is from B/R’s Adrian Fedkiw:
“[Cobb] sharpened his cleats on a regular bases. Quite frankly, he stole a lot of those bases by gauging the legs of his opponents by jumping in, spikes way up high.”
Commenting on the accusation, Cobb said the following:
“The base paths belonged to me, the runner. The rules gave me the right. I always went into a bag full speed, feet first. I had sharp spikes on my shoes. If the baseman stood where he had no business to be and got hurt, that was his fault.”
Rule of thumb? Don’t play baseball with Ty Cobb.
Ladies and gentlemen, Sean Avery—as synopsized by Real Clear Sports:
During the NHL lockout season, Avery's former teammate, Chris Chelios, was nice enough to let Avery live in his house. It lasted all of three weeks before Chelios kicked him out, noting, "He turned my house upside down."
Near the end of Avery's 2006 season in L.A., he refused to participate in a practice drill and the team suspended him for the remainder of the season.
This would not be the last time Avery's team decided they had enough. This season, while on the Dallas Stars, Avery made his infamous "sloppy seconds" comments, supposedly directed at Calgary Flames D Dion Phaneuf. Avery's teammates and coach did not want the agitator back, who had been told specifically to not make any comments prior to the Flames game.
When it comes down to it, Avery knew it wasn't the right time to talk, but he can't help himself. He needs to be in the limelight and relishes his role as the most hated player in the NHL so much that he will do whatever is needed to keep it, even if it alienates his teammates and damages the team.
When the Magic Mirror on the wall said that Snow White was the fairest of them all, the only person more upset than the Queen was Floyd Mayweather.
Potentially more surly than arrogant, Kent retains a high standing for the following reason:
Jeff was so despised that the true depth of Barry Bonds' narcissism wasn’t entirely comprehensible until after JK had gone.
Kent made Bonds a better person by comparison.
The amount of pain this guy caused me as a child via my more athletic friends taunting me with high-steps in front of girls is still so great that I’m having trouble writing this slide.
*** you, Deion Sanders, for not acknowledging more nebbish, intellectuals on your way to the end zone.
Kobe’s one of my favorite case studies in all of sports.
He’s nearly as competitive as Jordan, but he’s not quite as good. Thus, he can be beat and so we’re sometimes granted the opportunity to see what it looks like for someone’s head to explode from the inside.
One of the great ironies of the Kobe-Shaq debate is that Shaq’s gregarious behavior often hides a side of him that’s very petty and downright insecure.
How would we react if Kobe had publicly bashed LeBron James from day one, as Shaq has done (with almost no provocation) to Dwight Howard?
Or if Kobe spoke ill of Yao Ming, as Shaq did for months until Yao sent him a Christmas card (seriously, how is Yao not everyone’s all-time favorite athlete?)?
Shaq was as dominant a force as has ever entered the league, but his need to remind us of that, to me, takes away from his legacy.
It could also get old pretty quickly if he goes on TNT with an agenda.
David Cross, take it away. (first 15 second NSFW)
Fun fact: Brett Favre is Anthony Weiner’s favorite athlete.
"One of the preeminent talents in baseball history, Alex Rodriguez is now an inspiration/guiding light to both the city of New York and Dominicans around the world. The youngest player ever to hit 500 home runs, Rodriguez has used his Hollywood good looks to woo a variety of women, and is currently schtupping Cameron Diaz. Boo yah! Rodriguez makes his home in Los Angeles, California, and he buys art to make himself seem more substantive."
(Again, for legal reasons I am required to say: not actually by Alex Rodriguez. Oh, the law…)
I’m trying to think of how to say this without directing it at Roger Clemens’ kids…because I have no idea what they’re like and mean the following to come off much more as a critique of Clemens’ public persona than as an indictment of his child-rearing.
Okay, so here goes:
I’m 99% sure Roger Clemens’ kids end up fat and entitled.
How does Barry handle the media?
Let’s ask one-time teammate and resident 10th most egotistical guy in sports, Jeff Kent (via CBSSports.com):
"He doesn't answer questions. He palms everybody off on us, so we have to do his talking for him. But you get used to it. Barry does a lot of questionable things. But you get used to it. Sometimes it rubs the younger guys the wrong way, and sometimes it rubs the veterans the wrong way. You just hope he shows up for the game and performs. I've learned not to worry about it or think about it or analyze it. I was raised to be a team guy, and I am, but Barry's Barry. It took me two years to learn to live with it, but I learned."
"On the field, we're fine," says Kent, "but off the field, I don't care about Barry and Barry doesn't care about me. [Pause.] Or anybody else."
I’m a little biased (Cleveland card is on the table), and so I admit, LeBron is not the biggest egomaniac in sports.
However, that is what he’s come to represent.
In perception, he chose himself over a city, some All-Stars over his teammates, and his pride over admitting any semblance of wrongdoing ever, once, in the entirety of his life—the latter which crime I find to be the most reprehensible…and really, the most misguided.
I’m sure someone has told LBJ by now that America (really, the whole freaking world) can get on board with a guy who’s flawed, but trying.
But will they get on board with a guy who’s flawed and trying, yet hell-bent on presenting a persona with nary a crack in it?
Nope, that’s to be ridiculed.
People fail. We embrace them when they admit it.
Okay, so here’s what I’ve come up with…
Everyone on this list is pretty good, right? (With maybe the exception of Freddie Mitchell. Sorry Freddie.)
The point being, in sports, there’s a correlation between egotism and success. It’s a fine-line—as we learned in pre-school, you have to be able to share—but the ability to legitimately believe yourself the most superior athlete on the planet (and to lack the self-consciousness to realize when you’re not) is pretty close to a necessity in any top-of-the-line athlete.
There are a few exceptions to the rule—I’m thinking Duncan, Nash, and Nowitzki in the NBA, Manning, Brees, and Kurt Warner in the NFL—and I’ll be damned if those guys aren’t some of my favorite guys in sports.
I’m also be damned if those guys have ever won a series—these Finals aside, which were won as much by LeBron’s no-show as anything else—that they weren’t supposed to win. (The point here being, I think these latter examples have just as much ego, but far more self-consciousness.)
I fear I’ve drifted a bit, but the underlying sentiment remains the same:
In sports, you better believe in yourself. Just maybe don’t tell the world how much.
(You can follow me on Twitter should you so desire here: http://twitter.com/@rycotainc
…and you can follow B/R Swagger/my editor who deserves your following because I put him through a lot right here: http://twitter.com/BR_Swagger)