40 Sports Stars Whose Vices Ruined Their Careers
Drugs, alcohol and gambling are all vices that have ruined the lives of athletes. Even the greatest and most talented players in the world have succumbed to these vices, which inhibit their ability to play and drain them financially.
The vices may be different, but the outcome is generally the same: Athletes that get caught up in these worlds ruin their careers and never live up to their potential.
Here are the athletes that had their playing and coaching days cut short and ruined perfectly good careers.
40. Paul Hornung
He was adored by every single fan in Green Bay and by most others throughout the league. Despite a relatively perfect résumé, Hornung joined Alex Karras and was suspended for gambling for the 1963 season.
Upon further review, he was reinstated and able to go back to dominating the league.
39. Bryant McKinnie
Talented as he was, McKinnie was a headache for everyone in the Vikings organization.
First, there was the sex boat scandal that involved a few of his teammates, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
The big left tackle could not keep himself out of the news, as he ran up a $100,000 bar tab and was kicked off the Pro Bowl team in 2009.
He is now without a job.
38. Len Bias
Bias died of a cocaine overdose before he was ever able to take the court for the Boston Celtics.
It was a freak accident and is the epitome of a player’s career and life going to waste.
It was an unfortunate event that rocked the basketball world.
37. Gilbert Arenas
Gilbert Arenas was a sharpshooting point guard for the Wizards—but he took the description a bit too far.
An All-Star career turned into an injury-plagued and, more importantly, gun-happy one after a run-in with teammate Javaris Crittenton over an apparent gambling debt.
Two knee surgeries and an almost yearlong suspension later, and Arenas is in Orlando chilling with Mickey Mouse.
36. Allen Iverson
Despite overcoming a high school brawl and making a successful career for himself, Allen Iverson was not able to achieve the happy ending he had hoped for.
He did not want to take a bench role, which is understandable, but then went to Turkey to play professional basketball. Though only in his mid 30s, Iverson was facing alleged alcohol and gambling issues, which were serious enough to take him away from the game.
35. Art Schlichter
Schlichter was allegedly a horrible drug addict and a gambler who stole in order to support his habit.
He spent time in jail, and although he had a great amount of talent, he was never able to turn it into anything significant because of his addictive ways.
34. Rae Carruth
Carruth wasn’t much of a player by the time he was sent to jail for conspiracy to commit murder. That being said, he is the epitome of an athlete who threw it all away by getting into trouble.
He is now sitting in jail, and after squandering an NFL career, he is going to have to figure out a new life by the time he gets out.
33. Tank Johnson
Another talented yet troubled man, Johnson loved his guns and couldn’t help but carry them around.
In this particular instance, Johnson told a cop, "You ain't the only one with a Glock. If it wasn't for your gun and your badge, I'd kick your ass."
It got so bad for him that he needed to get special permission to leave the state in order to play in the Super Bowl.
32. Oliver Miller
Miller couldn’t find a home during his 18-year career, jumping back and forth overseas and even taking a shot with the Globetrotters.
The hefty big man might have been able to stay in the NBA longer if he didn't eat everything but the basketball.
There were times when he ballooned to well over 300 pounds and made it look like the Michelin man was running up and down the court.
31. Stephon Marbury
He feuded with several of his coaches, and while only 34 years old, he cannot find a job in the NBA.
The former NBA star allegedly had sex with an intern, fell out of good graces with two different NBA coaches and has been known broadcast his life 24/7 on a live stream.
If this is not self-destruction, then I don’t know what is.
30. Vin Baker
Binge drinking is for college students, not professional basketball players.
Baker revealed that he drank heavily following bad games, and Celtics coach Jim O’Brien allegedly once smelled alcohol on Baker’s breath during practice.
He gained a tremendous amount of weight (up to almost 300 pounds) and lost his quickness and abilities.
Sounds like a great formula for an underachieving big man.
29. Darryl Strawberry
Strawberry was a basket case during his career. His skills were certainly apparent, but so was his proneness to getting in trouble.
He didn’t pay his child support on time, he took cocaine and one time he solicited a prostitute that was actually an undercover cop.
He missed significant chunks of time for these drug and personal issues, resulting in a good but highly underachieving career.
Strawberry for father of the century!
28. Mike Tyson
Tyson was the most feared man in the world before Buster Douglas shocked the world in Tokyo.
He admittedly did not train as hard as he should have and did not take the bout seriously. Tyson then went to jail for rape. After the incident, his career never got back on track.
Everyone knows about the infamous Evander Holyfield biting incident and then the eventual petering out of his career.
He was the best for quite a while, and then life happened.
27. Latrell Sprewell
He needed to feed his family, and he ended up broke. The former star guard and forward wanted Minnesota to ante up and pay him more money instead of taking the more modest $7 million a year!
Besides choking his coach, which we all got past, Sprewell was a head case whose personal life forced him to act irrationally.
This will forever be one of the best excuses ever used by a player in contract negotiations.
26. Roy Tarpley
We have all heard the story before. Talented guy starts taking drugs and throws his career away.
Tarpley was suspended, returned and then brilliantly broke the rules of his drug and alcohol program. He found himself bouncing around Europe, which we know is an NBA player’s dream.
25. Donte' Stallworth
Few would consider Stallworth an NFL superstar, but he was as solid as they came. Then, he ruined all chances of a Pro Bowl career when he pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter in 2009.
He was suspended for an entire season and has since not been able to stay on the field due to injury. He hopes to start over in Washington, where he just signed a contract with the Redskins.
24. George Best
Best was known for his incredible soccer skills and his even greater ability to drink.
After his long career with Manchester United, Best was loaned out to several other teams in order to draw fans. He would consistently miss practices and did not have the same passion for the game.
His alcoholism eventually led to an early and unfortunate death.
23. J.R. Rider
There are some guys that just can’t seem to get it together. Isaiah Rider Jr. is one of those guys.
He has been arrested for a litany of different crimes, from marijuana to gambling, but none are more serious than kidnapping.
Some of these athletes never cease to amaze us.
22. Micheal Ray Richardson
Micheal Ray was one of the poster children for the NBA era of bugger sugar. Deemed the next Walt Frazier, Richardson was never able to live up to the expectation. Commandant David Stern banned the point guard for life in 1986, and though Richardson was allowed to return in 1988, he never made a serious impact on the league.
He is still regarded as one of the best players to never pan out, despite showing flashes of brilliance.
21. Shawn Kemp
We are really nice to our fat athletes in America. We call them overweight, out of shape and in poor condition.
In Shawn Kemp’s case, I don’t think there is anybody who is afraid to call it as they saw it. After poor relations with Seattle management, Kemp went to Cleveland, where we saw early signs of ballooning athlete syndrome (getting fat).
By the time he joined the Trail Blazers, his life was spiraling out of control with drugs and guns.
20. David Thompson
Many consider Thompson one of the most talented basketball players of all time, but drug abuse derailed his career.
How is it that no coach or owner back in the day stopped their players from doing blow all the time? I am not saying the game is 100 percent clean today, but incredible talent was squandered throughout the 1970s and '80s.
19. Bobby Knight
Knight is the only non-player on this list, but his inclusion was necessary.
He was a no-nonsense type of coach that was revered for running a clean program. That being said, he was a major hothead, which got him in trouble off the court.
He was dismissed from Indiana for reportedly reprimanding a student who said, "Hey, Knight, what's up?"
This was part of a long list of issues the university had with the coach and proved to be the final straw.
18. Shawne Merriman
For a period of time, Merriman was one of the most feared and revered linebackers in the game. He took the "lights out" mentality to every play, and when his game was on, few could stop him.
Believe it or not, one person who was able to put a halt to his career was a small little reality TV star, Tila Tequila, who accused him of choking her. This put his career in an eventual tailspin, and he has not recovered.
Merriman’s spot in the headlines of news stories was nothing new. In 2006, he tested positive for a banned substance and was suspended for four games, not to mention all of the controversy surrounding his celebration style.
Now he plays in Buffalo...downgrade.
17. Vince Young
Like a dog that got out the back door, the Tennessee Titans called the police looking for Vince Young, who went missing.
This led to more uneasiness with Jeff Fisher and Titans ownership, leading to Young's eventual release. The jury is still out on the outcome of his career, but right now, he is riding the bench behind one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in Philadelphia.
16. Theo Fleury
Fleury’s attacking style got him into many fights during his playing days, and what got him into more trouble and shortened his career were drug and alcohol problems.
His off-ice problems led to on-ice altercations and misconduct. He was forced to retire from the game in 2003 despite probably having a few more good years left in him.
15. Manny Ramirez
There are many players that took steroids and other PEDs during Ramirez’s era, but none of the high-profile names got caught twice.
This ruined what was left of his career and made him the laughingstock of baseball.
14. Maurice Clarett
Clarett ruined his career before it started. By trying to break a rule that nobody had interest in changing, Clarett was out of school and without a job. That can only mean that someone is about to do something stupid.
He was arrested for a multitude of crimes, including guns and robbery, and has never revived his dream of playing professional football.
13. Milton Bradley
No, this is not the friendly Milton Bradley who made all of your favorite childhood board games.
This is the Milton Bradley who has snapped bats over his leg, was suspended by his team for not being able to shut his mouth and has needed to be restrained by every manager in his life for one reason or another.
At this point, his anger has made him unusable for any team. Nobody is willing to take a chance on a player who cannot show up without causing problems.
12. Ugueth Urbina
Instead of currently serving as a veteran relief pitcher in the end of his career, Urbina is sitting in a jail cell for attempted murder.
Talk about a change in fortune.
The pitcher ruined his career and his life by getting caught up in something that appears to have not been necessary.
11. Larry Johnson
You have to be a really bad person for your own fans to ask ownership to bench you in order to stop you from becoming the franchise’s all-time rushing leader.
He was one of the NFL's most talented running backs for a period of time, but between holding out, using anti-gay slurs when talking to the media and tweeting about his coach’s lack of credentials, he was made out to be a villain and waived from the Kansas City Chiefs.
If he had been a standup guy, he would have had a chance at the Hall of Fame; now he is just a bum.
10. Dwight Gooden
The 1980s New York Mets would have snorted the chalk between the first base line if you would have told them they could get a buzz.
This is where it started for Gooden. He went to rehab, but between injuries and excessive drug use, the pitching great never got significantly better.
He battled the illness his whole career and ruined what many consider to be one of the best arms in major league history.
9. Alex Karras
Karras was one of the best interior linemen of all time and an even better gambler. Owning a portion of a bar in Atlantic City is not going to get you on the commissioner’s good side. Making NFL bets at that same bar is just going to get you into trouble.
He was forced to sit out the entire 1963 season, and upon returning to action, he refused to give his answer for a pregame coin toss, commenting, “I'm sorry sir, I'm not permitted to gamble.”
8. John Daly
You know that you’re an alcoholic when people name a drink after you. John Daly has done everything wrong known to man.
He squandered every iota of talent that he had and washed it down with alcohol. He gambled his money away, had embarrassing tirades on and off the golf course and was suspended enough to question if he even played on the tour.
The only way he stays relevant these days is to look like this.
7. Adam Jones
He was and still is a talented cornerback, yet he cannot seem to stay out of trouble. An altercation at a Las Vegas strip club resulted in a one-year suspension from the NFL.
Jones would subsequently get into other altercations and has never lived up to his potential.
6. Mickey Mantle
Mantle’s drinking and abuse of his body may come as a surprise to statisticians. He hit 536 home runs and accumulated 1,509 RBI in his career despite never taking care of himself.
Some argue that he could have been considered the best of all time had he not gone out and partied like he did. Most attribute his attitude on life to the early deaths of his father and uncle, who both died of Hodgkin’s disease early in life.
Regardless, the Mick may not have “ruined” his career, but he may have also never reached his full potential.
5. Ricky Williams
I will never forget hearing the news that Ricky Williams suddenly retired and was going to California to study holistic medicine.
Thereafter, Williams was then suspended for the entire 2006 season for violating the NFL drug policy.
At one time, Williams was the best running back in the league and beloved by the fans in Miami. Now, he is a free agent who is moving on from the team and maybe from the game altogether.
4. Steve Howe
Though a talented pitcher, Steve Howe was more interested in getting high than getting outs. Between stints in rehab and suspension from the commissioner's office, Howe could not stay on the field long enough to stay out of trouble.
After a long list of off-the-field issues, Howe walked away from the game in 1996.
He tragically died in 2006 after his truck flipped over; there were drugs in his system.
3. Magic Johnson
Most everyone is well aware that Earvin “Magic” Johnson has been successfully fighting HIV since he announced the news in 1991.
This disease cut his career significantly shorter than he would have liked and brought to light an issue that few people really wanted to talk about.
Johnson had such an incredible career that little is made of his early retirement. Though a few short comebacks were made, he never made the same impact that he did during his prime
2. Barret Robbins
Robbins infamously disappeared the day before the Raiders were in the Super Bowl and resurfaced that night incoherent.
He went on to get help for his bipolar condition, unbeknown to anyone at the time, and returned the next season.
As fate would have it, he tested positive for steroids, and the Raiders released the former star lineman. He shattered his career in an instant after having trouble getting his mental health under control.
1. Tiger Woods
There is still a lot of golf to be played for Tiger Woods, but after what he went through with his cheating scandal, it looks for the time being that the one-time great golfer will never return to the form that he once possessed.
There was a time when Woods’ skills could not be touched. Now, as he recovers from injury, he is looking to find the stroke that made him the No. 1 golfer in the world.