30 Controversial Stars Who Are No-Brainers for the Hall of Fame
For as many people who love Kobe Bryant, there are just as many who'd love to see him disappear. His on-the-court action is that of legend, but some of his off-the-court actions have his detractors frothing at the mouth.
But let's be honest: Anyone who says he's not a lock for the Hall of Fame should be fitted for a straitjacket.
The Black Mamba is a minor version of a controversial star whose contributions supersede any problems he's had in the past. Compared to some of the people on this list, however, he's a saint.
These guys have had some sort of scandal or found themselves in the news for no good reason, and for some critics that might be enough to keep them out of their respective Halls. But what these 30 have in common is that they both have the skills and the stats to earn their way in regardless.
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Bonds and steroids are practically synonymous at this point, but it wasn't always that way. Before he became the Inflatable Man, he was a five-tool beanpole for the Pirates and Giants.
Between 1987 and 1998, he never had fewer than 120 hits, led the league in OPS five times and stole more than 20 bases all but one year. And if you don't want to include his four MVPs in the steroid era, his other three trophies came from years when he was adding nearly 10 wins per season to his clubs.
Once you throw in the eight Gold Gloves, Bonds is as well rounded as they come—and that's not referring to his head.
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It all started in Eagle County, Colorado. Bryant admitted to an adulterous encounter with a 19-year-old hotel employee the night before a knee surgery, and from then on, the chasm between haters and lovers of the Lakers guard grew. The assault case was dropped, but that didn't stop people from piling on.
Unfortunately for his detractors, Bryant can't be stopped on his road to the Hall of Fame. With a handful of title rings, two NBA Finals MVPs and 13 All-Star selections, he could probably get in on that alone. But don't forget that he's sixth all-time in points, second in most points in a single game and fifth in playoff games played.
His list of accomplishments goes on, but we'd need another slideshow.
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When a Google search for "Most hated NASCAR driver" brings up your name almost immediately, you know you are in trouble. Busch has ruffled many a feather with his immaturity on the racetrack and his emotional blowups at other drivers and crew members.
The younger Busch has turned it around as of late, and if he continues on this path, he'll head straight for NASCAR's hallowed ground. He's competed in five different NASCAR series, winning in four of them, and holds a stellar 18.2 winning percentage.
That's all by age 26.
Reggie Bush (NCAA)
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Call Reggie Bush whatever you want, but cheater isn't one of them. His controversy comes from the many illegal benefits and gifts he received while at USC. After the Trojans were punished severely, all notices of Bush's existence at USC were removed, and Bush later voluntarily forfeited his Heisman.
However, those transgressions didn't make him any less of a on-field stud. Bush became one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting player in college football, accumulating a nation-leading 8.7 yards per carry and 2,218 yards from scrimmage in his junior year.
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The Rocket became one of the focal points of the Mitchell Report, which listed him as a steroid user in the golden years of his career. More and more allegations about Clemens came out, and it's not often that his name comes up without the word "perjury" or "court date" shortly following.
The issue for Clemens is that he was so successful before the age of 30 that he probably could have made the Hall then. In his first 10 years, he'd led the league in ERA four times, WHIP twice, shutouts five times and strikeout-to-walk ratio thrice, which led him to four Cy Youngs.
If he'd quit in 1993, he might have posed with his plaque a long time ago.
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Face facts: Favre has annoyed everyone. No one needed two un-retirements and a sexting scandal late in his career; he could've at least had the decency to spread them out. Oh, and learn how to spell Farve.
Fortunately, almost nothing could keep the quarterback from his spot in the Hall. He holds the NFL records for most completed passes, passing yards and touchdowns and is in the top 20 for passer rating and completion percentage.
Sure, he leads in sacks and interceptions too, but he'll make up for it by going into Canton as Brett Favre-Sterger.
The Flock family is well known in NASCAR lore, but Tim was the black sheep. Flock was banned from NASCAR due to his attempt to start a labor union amongst the drivers in 1961, but even with a shorter career, he still held his own.
With NASCAR's highest winning percentage (21 percent) in his 187 career races, Flock won two Grand Championships and set records at the time for most wins (18) and poles (18) in 1955. In that same year, he led for more than 55 percent of his laps, an absurd feat.
Note: Since the NASCAR Hall of Fame's first class was only in 2010, almost every classic driver deserves a spot. While Flock isn't recent, he should've already been in one of the first three classes.
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Harrison could be the NFL's top interview. No matter what the topic (ignoring President Barack Obama's invite to the White House, blasting Roger Goodell in Men's Journal, etc.), he's always got something to say.
Luckily for Pittsburgh fans, the linebacker more than walks the talk. Since 2007, only two players have more sacks than Harrison, and his 266 tackles are not too shabby. Even though he's become a huge target for blockers since his 2008 DPOY award, he's kept his numbers consistent, and a few more of those seasons will make him a great.
While brandishing guns in the Men's Journal article might make him intimidating, his presence on the field does it just as well.
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When he says he wants to be known as "The Executioner," it's hard to see Hopkins as a normal fella. Then when he tells you about his opinions on racial differences (why "slick" inner-city fighters would beat Manny Pacquiao, why Donovan McNabb felt betrayed for being traded from Philadelphia, etc.), it's impossible.
The 46-year-old juggernaut has the punch to match his talk. With a 52-5-2 career record, Hopkins has defended his USBA and IBF middleweight titles from countless challengers and took over George Foreman's title as the oldest fighter to win a belt when he won the light heavyweight crown in May.
Longevity plus talent should always equal a Hall of Fame spot, even if it's raised to the craziest of powers.
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One of the NBA's most colorful personalities for 14 years will always be remembered for his off-the-court issues, tattoos and press conferences first. But if you clear through that thicket, he was a small man among tall boys.
First off, he was (despite his NBA listings) shorter than six feet tall, yet as a shooting guard he often matched up against players with half a foot on him. That didn't stop him from claiming four scoring titles, leading the league in minutes seven times and being in the top 20 all-time in steal percentage (number of possessions ended with a steal).
He was one of the NBA's hardest workers, and he kept it up every game despite having the third-highest usage percentage ever.
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The NBA's newest villain made sure that leaving Cleveland would be a day that went down in infamy. Outside of Miami, he's as hated as any athlete around, and every time he screws up, fans are, at a minimum, cracking a grin.
Then again, he could do four more Decisions and still never miss the Hall of Fame. James is only 26 and already has a scoring title and two MVPs. Add that to his career 27.7/7.1/7.0 line and the physical presence the game has never seen, and he's a lock.
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Ripping legendary baseball announcer and icon Vin Scully would be enough to draw ire, but Kent made sure to find other ways. He feuded with Giants management and teammates while in San Francisco, supported a ban on gay marriage and claimed he hating watching the sport that signed his checks.
Regardless of his feeling about the sport, Kent certainly left his mark. The 2000 National League MVP has the most home runs and third-most RBI for a second baseman and managed to collect more than 118 hits in every season after the age of 25.
Plus, don't you want to hear him reluctantly thank baseball greats when he didn't seem to be a fan to begin with?
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Lewis has been one of the most feared linebackers in the NFL for a decade now and has given back to his community and religion tirelessly, making him a fan favorite. However, that doesn't erase the fact that the man once was indicted on murder and aggravated assault. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.
No matter what side you were on in the case, it had little to no effect on the Ravens All-Pro on the field. While middle linebackers don't fill up stat sheets, Lewis has recorded 1,452 tackles and 30 interceptions in his career.
Hopefully, his bust will have him screaming like he does in his pregame dance.
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"The Next One" had all the right stuff on the ice, but even before he was drafted, his manners needed some work. He refused to play for the team that drafted him (the Quebec Nordiques) and forced a trade to the Flyers, where he feuded with his GM. Many injuries kept him between the ice and trainer's room throughout his tenure.
Even with all that missed playing time, Lindros still managed to shine. He's 18th all-time in points per game (1.138), which would be higher had he not played his last three short seasons, and his MVP season (29 goals and 70 points in 46 games) was legendary.
Oh, that also doesn't include his two medals (gold in 2002, silver in 1992) for the Canadians in Olympic play and his two golds as a junior player. Just hang those medals on his statue.
Cockfighting, throwing old white men to the ground and a somewhat murky reputation as a headhunter sound like items on the résumé of a drug lord, not a Hall of Fame-worthy pitcher.
Martínez managed to overshadow his extracurriculars by dominating in the Steroid Era. With the fifth-best WHIP ever and a sub-3.00 ERA, the Red Sox ace mowed down 10 batters per nine innings en route to three Cy Young awards.
Even Don Zimmer would applaud.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
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No one knows who's on the right side of the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao argument over who is holding the fight of the decade back, so Money isn't in the clear yet. With a domestic violence charge hanging in the balance and his legendary mouth, Mayweather has found ways to draw haters out of the ring.
In it, however, is a different story. While his perfect 41-0 record with 25 KOs is enough to enshrine him once he retires, the fact he's had so much success across five weight classes should suggest that the statue makers could get a head start.
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It's hard to believe McGrady is only 32 years old, considering most people can't remember his Raptors days. He's been so injury prone that his numbers would have been absurd had he not missed so much time. Luckily, he still has a few years to polish his résumé.
What are his selling points? Other than two scoring titles, he has the most points per game in the playoffs (fourth all-time) and sits in the top 10 in PER (26th all-time) and top 20 in wins contributed by his offense amongst active players.
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Phil Mickelson spent the early part of his career as the best golfer who couldn't win a major, but even when he could turn it around, he became more scrutinized than ever. His peers coined the nickname FIGJAM (F*** I'm good, just ask me) for him and have alleged he's skirted the rules of golf with his clubs.
But that isn't to say he doesn't deserve the title somewhat. He's top-20 all-time in major championship wins (four) and top-10 in total PGA tour wins (39). If not for a guy named Tiger Woods, he'd be the winningest active player in the past decade.
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Reggie Miller may not seem controversial separated from the NBA, but in his playing days, he had a mouth he should not have kissed anyone with. His choke taunt against the Knicks is one of his most notable, but the Pacers legend will remain one of the NBA's top trash-talkers for a litany of reasons.
Which will make his acceptance speech even more exciting.
Miller ended his career as the NBA's leader in three-pointers made and one of five members of the 50-40-90 Club (50 percent from the field, 40 percent from deep and 90 percent from the line). He also was one of the best clutch players in NBA history, best exemplified by his eight points in 11 seconds in Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals.
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Yao's controversy isn't negative; it's injury-related. After his first three seasons in the NBA, Yao was plagued by injuries and found it hard to remain on the court, forcing his early retirement. With his overall contribution, however, he could've been a paraplegic and still made the Hall (as a contributor).
Sure, 19 points and 9.2 rebounds per game is good enough for some to get into Springfield without Yao's off-the-court effort. His mere presence in the league helped the NBA's presence in China skyrocket, allowing for greater merchandise sales and record television audiences.
He's eligible to get in as a player in 2017, but as a contributor in 2012. Methinks the international panel will grant him his wish.
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Moss took off plays and seasons to get what he wanted, so it's karma that he never got a Super Bowl ring. Of course, abandoning his team before the game ended and mooning incidents didn't help him build goodwill either.
The recently retired receiver, however, has the right stats to convince anyone he belongs in Canton. He's top-10 in receiving yards, catches, touchdowns and yards per game and top 20 in yards from scrimmage.
Hopefully his bust is of his clothed keister.
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It's hard to be a Terrell Eldorado Owens fan. If he's not throwing a teammate or coach under the bus, fans should fear they are next for a toss. Between that and his unnecessary celebrations and spitting in players' faces, he's not too likable of a guy.
If you separate the man from the paper, however, he's a shoo-in. All-time, Owens is tied for second in touchdown catches, second in receiving yards, fifth in receptions and 10th in receiving yards per game.
Without a fella named Jerry Rice, the five-time All-Pro would have a great argument for best receiver ever. So let's thank Jerry.
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Ramirez got busted twice for steroids in 2003 and 2009, so if you want to make his power numbers after 2003 invalid, that's fine. He's still got enough qualifications to fill up those baggy pants.
The eccentric left fielder made 12 All-Star appearances and finished in the top 10 of MVP voting eight times for a reason. He smashed more than 100 RBI 12 years in a 14-year span, led the league in OBP three times, sits in the all-time top 10 for OPS and, between 1995 and 2008, never dropped below 140 hits.
Sadly, if you take the drugs Manny gulped, you'll more likely end up as a fertile woman than a complete hitter. They might have helped with the steroids, but they didn't do the whole job.
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A-Rod admitted to Peter Gammons of ESPN that he popped some 'roids between 2001-2003 due to tremendous pressure to perform. Fortunately for the Cooperstown voters, the centaur of a man has continued to light up stat sheets, making his steroid use almost forgotten.
If we ignore his admitted years of usage, the numbers are still enormous: more than 100 RBI in all but his first two seasons (as a teenager), 470 home runs, the 20th-best OPS ever and two MVPs.
All the lipstick in the world won't cover up his skills at the plate.
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The Pittsburgh quarterback didn't make South Park's episode about sex addicts by accident. Despite not being charged, Roethlisberger has fended off multiple sexual assault accusations, which makes fans look at him with a skeptical eye for his behavior.
His numbers suggest a much more accepting view. Three Super Bowl visits (two victories) in his first seven seasons is impressive enough, but don't discredit his 63.1 completion percentage (12th all-time) and 92.5 passer rating (eighth).
Even if he did too much early, he's still on track to ride his motorcycle straight to Canton.
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Sheffield claims that his steroid use was unbeknown to him, as it was included in a cream to help heal his knee in 2002. MLB didn't punish him for this, and it may be because his numbers didn't suddenly inflate like so many other sluggers.
Instead, they just remained consistent to his high standard. No one keeps a career .292 batting average and makes nine All-Star games by accident. When you add in 14 seasons of more than 110 hits and a top-30 offensive WAR, it's clearly his skills did the talking throughout his career.
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Tyson couldn't get away from trouble, both in and out of the ring. When your résumé ranges from rape to biting a boxer's ear in a fight to having your boxing license revoked, it's hard to come out with a clean slate anywhere you go.
Iron Mike does have one thing in his corner: his impressive results. The fighter started his career 37-0, retaining the WBA, WBC and IBF heavyweight titles six times before losing to Buster Douglas. He ended with a stellar 50-6 record, and 44 of his victories came with KOs.
At his speech, hopefully he can sing his rendition of "One Night in Bangkok" again.
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Vick defines making the most of a second chance. In 2007 the Eagles quarterback pled guilty to felony dog fighting charges and served 21 months in prison. After bankruptcy claims and his sentence, he finally made it back to the NFL and lit up the field.
The former Hokie has not only held his own as a passer but also became one of the most successful hybrid quarterbacks in the NFL, opening the door for many more. He's second all-time in quarterback rushing yards, became the first quarterback with 1,000 rushing yards in a season and holds the highest single-season yards per carry mark in history.
He's got plenty more years under his belt, but now that he's a better passer, he should be on his way.
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Michigan's basketball scandal will hover over Webber's legacy forever. He and other players received illegal benefits and cash from a program booster, and Webber was indicted on obstruction of justice and lying to a federal grand jury. Not a story to tell his kids, needless to say.
The five-time All-NBA member should stick to telling them about his hoops prowess instead. Thanks to his top-25 all-time usage percentage, Webber lifted his teams as their focal point on offense, and during the prime of his career he did a marvelous job cleaning the glass, especially in 1999, when he led the league in rebounding.
Combine that with his tremendous passing from the post, and you can see his 20.7/9.8/4.2 line is no joke.
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Woods could've slept with the entire WNBA, and that still wouldn't have kept him out of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Even if we find out he founded the Lingerie Football League, Tiger can already start writing his acceptance speech.
Tiger captured 14 majors (second all-time), 71 tour wins (third), 10 PGA Player of the Year awards (first) and eight Vardon Trophies (PGA leader in scoring average, and first) on his way to 281 weeks on top of the world rankings.
Seriously, he'd have to bet Pete Rose under the table in a "Who can take more 'roids?" contest to miss his spot.