Michael Vick and 10 Guys Who Made the Most of a Second Chance
As fans of sports, we either love a player and make every attempt to defend them, or on the other side of the spectrum, make every attempt to condemn them. Writing off a player after a career setback, whether it be legal issues, injuries or old age is something every fan does, to include myself (sniff...Wand).
Sometimes though, we are all wrong, and a player comes back to prove just that. The following list is comprised of guys who refused to give up just because the sports world had turned their back on them, or they had turned their backs on the sports world.
Honorable Mention: Michael Vick
Whether it was flipping the bird to fans at the Georgia Dome, having the stigma of mary jane hanging over his head or being the proprietor of Bad Newz Kennels, Mike was in the news for all the wrong reasons.
He also gave the world (but not NFL custom-made jersey customers) Ron Mexico.
After serving 19 months in prison for his dog-fighting penchant, the sports world had written Vick off as a waste of talent and late-night television joke. Vick, however, had other plans.
After being reinstated by the NFL, Vick played 2009 for the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite being a back up, the trade of Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins allowed Vick to prove to the sports world, that not only was he a reborn man, but also a rejuvenated athlete.
His 2010 season was one of the best in recent memory, as he passed for 3,018 yards, with 21 touchdowns and had a passer rating of 100.2. Oh yeah, he also rushed for 676 yards.
Vick is the catalyst that sets this list off.
10. Ron Artest
A first-round pick of the Chicago Bulls in 1999, Ron was traded to the Pacers during the 2001-02 season. His career skyrocketed as a member of the Pacers;he was an All-Star and the NBA Defensive Player of the year in 2003-04...and then came crashing down to earth in a fiery blaze.
Ron Ron was the central figure (after John Green) of the infamous "Pacers-Pistons Brawl," where he charged into the stands and attacked the wrong guy following Green's diet coke missile mishap. Artest was suspended for the remainder of the 2004-05 season, and lost nearly $5 million in salary.
Ron Artest was traded to Sacramento in 2005-06, and breathed life into a Kings team in desperate need of....anything. Artest was an NBA Champion with the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2009-2010 season.
Artest gets a bad rap, but the man has loyalty (he offered to donate his salary to keep coach Rick Adelman in Sac-town), has become a philanthropist, and is headed towards television stardom with his reality show: "They Call Me Crazy" and as a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars".
Oh yeah, he's also not Ron Artest anymore. He changed his name to Metta World Peace. Eat your heart out, Lloyd Free.
9. Bill Walton
Walton was one of the greatest collegiate players ever to step on the hardwood. The Walton-led UCLA Bruins amassed an 88-game winning streak which included two consecutive 30-0 seasons.
He was the first overall draft pick of the Portland Trail Blazers in 1974. Despite battling injuries for most of his career, Walton led the 1976-77 Trail Blazers to an NBA title, and was named NBA finals Most Valuable Player. He was also the 1977-78 NBA Most Valuable Player.
After spending several more injury-plagued seasons, Walton ended up in San Diego, which was his hometown. Desiring to play for a contender, Walton called the Celtics and was given the opportunity to back up Robert Parish.
Walton rewarded the Celtics by playing a career-high 80 games and won the 1985-86 NBA Sixth Man Award that season. The Celtics were the NBA Champions that year as well.
Walton is the only player in NBA history to have won won an NBA Finals MVP, Sixth Man Award, and be named an NBA MVP.
8. Ricky Williams
The 1998 NCAA Heisman Trophy winner, Williams ended his college career as the NCAA (Division 1-A) career rushing leader. He was also named the AP College Player of the Year.
Williams was drafted fifth overall in the 1999 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. After a pair of 1,000-yard seasons in New Orleans, Williams was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2002; where he exploded rushing for a league leading 1,853 yards.
Rick, like Vick, was a fan of the Chronic, and multiple positive drug tests had him out of the league in 2004. He came back in the 2005 season, and tested positive for a fourth time. The NFL suspended him the entirety of the 2006 season.
After playing the 2006 season in the CFL for the Toronto Argonauts, Williams returned to the Dolphins. In 2009, he was the Dolphins' leading rusher with 1,121 yards.
7. James J. Braddock
A light heavyweight, the Cinderella Man fought for the championship but lost a decision to Tommy Loughran in a very close fight. Braddock broke his right hand during the fight, which greatly affected his career.
In 1934, he found his slipper, and knocked out the heavily favored John Griffin. After two more victories, including one against future Light Heavyweight Champion John Henry Lewis, Braddock got a title shot against Heavyweight Champion Max Baer.
A 10-1 underdog, Braddock beat Jethro Bodine's daddy in one of the greatest upsets in boxing history.
6. Frank Mir
Frank Mir was invited to the UFC at UFC 34, after only two professional fights. Frank would go to win six of his next seven fights, to include UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia, whom Mir beat to win UFC gold.
Mir never got a chance to defend his belt, losing to a car while on his motorcycle, breaking his femur and destroying his knee in the process. After being unable to defend his title over a year, the UFC made interim champ Andre Arlovski the UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Despite talks that Mir would never fight again, he returned to the UFC. Mir lost to Marcio Cruz in his return fight at UFC 57, and then again to Brandon Vera two fights later at UFC 65. In spite of the setbacks, Mir wasn't done yet.
Mir returned to win three straight, the last one at UFC 92 for Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's piece of the UFC Heavyweight belt.
Mir would lose to Brock Lesnar at UFC 100, giving up the piece in the process. Mir would lose to Shane Carwin for another UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship at UFC 111.
He is currently riding a two-fight win streak, and is once again in the hunt for a UFC title.
5. Wladimir Klitschko
Winner of the Super-Heavyweight Gold Medal at the 1996 Olympics, the kid that would go on to be known as Dr. Steelhammer compiled an impressive 134-6 record as an amateur.
The most intriguing prospect in the Heavyweight Division, Wlad would go on to win his first 24 fights (22 by KO) before suffering his first loss to journeyman Ross Purity.
After beating Chris Byrd for the WBO Heavyweight title, Klitschko defended the title five times before a Corey Sanders' left hand found its mark and he lost for the second time. Another knockout loss to Lamon Brewster had people saying Klitschko was damaged goods.
Klitschko proved the whole boxing world when he was able to survive power punching Samuel Peter's best to win the NABF and WBO titles. A fight later, he beat Chris Byrd in a rematch to win the IBF and IBO Heavyweight Titles.
The Doctor from the Ukraine is currently the seventh longest reigning heavyweight champion of all time, a future Hall of Famer, and (despite what some sports writers would have you believe) one of the greatest heavyweights in the history of the sport.
4. George Foreman
A devastating force in the heavyweight division of professional boxing, Big George won his first 40 fights, with 37 coming by way of knockout. He had TKO victories over both Joe Frazier (to win the WBA, WBC and The Ring Heavyweight titles) and future Hall of Famer Ken Norton during that run.
George lost by knockout to "The Greatest" Muhammad Ali at the "Rumble in the Jungle" in 1974. After suffering his second defeat at the hands of Jimmy Young, Foreman retired from boxing in 1977.
After retiring from boxing, Foreman became a Born-Again Christian. He mounted a comeback in 1987, and won his next 24 fights before losing in a title fight to Evander Holyfield in 1991. He lost again to Tommy "The Machine" Gunn, errr....Morrison for another shot at a title.
Luck changed for the Grill Master in his next fight against Michael Moorer for the WBA and IBF titles in 1994. Despite being behind on all the judges' scorecards, Foreman dug deep and knocked out Moorer in the 10th round.
The victory made Foreman the oldest fighter to ever win the Heavyweight title, a champion at the ripe old age of 45.
3. Josh Hamilton
The first overall pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999, Hamilton was considered a can't-miss prospect possessing all five tools. Unfortunately in 2001, Hamilton would be injured in a car accident which would bring his career to a halt. Drug and alcohol addiction soon followed, and Hamilton was out of baseball by 2004.
The Chicago Cubs drafted Hamilton third overall in the 2006 MLB Rule 5 Draft, and he was immediately traded to the Cincinnati Reds.
In 2007, he made his major league debut, finishing second to Ryan Braun for the Rookie of the Year Award. After being traded to the Texas Rangers, Josh Hamilton has become one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball. He broke the record for home runs in a single round (28) at the 2008 All-Star Game Home run Derby.
Hamilton is a four-time All-Star in only five big league seasons. In 2010, Hamilton won the AL Most Valuable Player Award.
2. Doug Flutie
Doug Flutie burst onto the scene at Boston College, where he made the most of his 5'10" frame. Flutie won the Heisman Trophy in 1984, and his Hail Mary pass to beat the Miami Hurricanes is considered one of the greatest college plays of all time.
Not considered much of an NFL prospect because of his size, Doug went instead to the USFL, where he played for the New Jersey Generals.
After the league folded in 1986, Flutie went to the NFL where he made his debut for the Chicago Bears. The Bears traded Flutie to the Patriots the following year, where Dougie boy made a big mistake and crossed the picket line to play during the 1987 NFL Players' Strike. The dislike this caused actually ran him out of the league following the 1989 season.
Following his NFL stint, Doug Flutie moved up to the cold confines of Canada, where he became a Canadian Football League folk hero. In his eight seasons in the CFL, Flutie Flakes won three Grey Cup Championships, was named Most Valuable Player for all three of them, and was a six-time CFL Most Outstanding Player. He is still considered the Greatest CFL Player of All Time.
Flutie returned to the NFL in 1998 where he earned a Pro Bowl berth as a member of the Buffalo Bills. He retired from football in 2005.
1. Mark Coleman
Coleman was a standout wrestler at the Miami University in Ohio. "The Hammer" was a two-time Mid-American Conference (MAC) wrestling champion. He became an NCAA Division-1 Champion following his transfer to Ohio State University.
Following his outstanding amateur wrestling career, Mark gave up a lucrative career as a WWF wrestler (joke) to try his hand at real fighting. He entered the Ultimate Fighting Championship at UFC 10, and won the tournament. He would win the UFC 11 Tournament, and then beat Dan Severn to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion.
After his utter domination of the sport, Coleman would lose his belt and three straight fights to get his UFC walking papers. He headed to Japan, where he would lose a fourth straight fight at PRIDE 5.
Coleman won his next bout at PRIDE 8, and entered the first Pride Grand Prix Tournament. Mark Coleman defeated Igor Vovchanchyn to become the tournament champion. He subsequently lost to the turnbuckle immediately after. At UFC 82, Mark Coleman was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.