The Most Likable Bad Boys in Sports History
They go to jail and return more popular. They juice up and still draw the crowd. They can’t dance, but no one seems to mind.
The mystique of the bad boy athlete somehow converts poor judgment into popularity. From wife beaters to cheaters and ear eaters, here are the most likable bad boys in sports history.
15. Ron Artest, aka Metta World Peace, L.A. Lakers
Captain of the biggest brawl in NBA history, Artest punched a fan or two after getting hit with a beer cup.
Incredibly, his insanity has been harnessed to do good and not evil as a star for the L.A. Lakers.
Recently, he legally changed his name (after a delay for unpaid parking tickets) to Metta World Peace. Not sure if this makes him more likable or laughable, but time will tell.
14. Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
Once a bad boy boozer, Hamilton got clean and has stayed that way, apart from a regrettable nightclub encounter in 2009.
While he’s not shy around the ladies, Josh Hamilton admits his slips like a man and then brings a fury like no other to the plate.
His 2010 MVP trophy shows how being sober can bring this Texas Ranger to the ultimate high.
13. Dennis Rodman
The Lady Gaga of basketball, Dennis Rodman did not disappoint with his freakish looks and antics on the court. Head-butt a ref, kick a cameraman in the balls and you are guaranteed to become a hero.
The ultimate Bull, Dennis the Menace was loved by everyone from Hulk Hogan to Madonna. Even more memorable than his blond Afro was how he tore up the court, taking home five NBA rings.
Those should go nicely with the five rings that are coming out of his face.
12. Plaxico Burress, New York Jets
The most popular guy who’s ever shot himself in the leg also had another gun at home (in case there was any doubt of his bad boy status).
Having done his time, he’s back on the field leading the New York Jets to the start of a great season.
Let’s hope from now on he stays away from the troublesome elastic waistband and other crimes against humanity.
11. Chuck Liddell
Anyone who can go from fighting in a cage to Dancing with the Stars is the definition of lovable bad boy.
A retired MMA champ, Chuck Liddell was feared and revered for his stone-cold knockouts. Beat out on DWTS by opponents including Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin, Liddell lost points from judges for “looking upset when he was concentrating."
Give Chuck a break—the country two-step requires far more focus than asphyxiating your partner.
10. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Now a volunteer for the Humane Society, Michael Vick aims to make more positive recreational choices.
On the field, this speedy quarterback gets results for the Eagles, and the fans love every minute of it.
And if you ever run into him at an airport when you are over the baggage limit, ask to borrow his water bottle. It has a handy, secret storage compartment—ignore the slight herbal aroma.
9. Manny Ramirez
He shows up to training camp a week late, riding an oversized tricycle, in the midst of a contract dispute—what’s not to love? Roid rage aside, Manny’s a fan favorite, scandals, scuffles and all.
Recently in the news for a domestic disturbance, this retired baseball great will never stop being Manny.
8. George Best
Georgie could show Charlie Sheen a thing or two about how to go on a bender. This late Manchester United star was world-famous for his brilliant soccer skill, domestic drama and battle with the bottle.
He may have had a few too many lady friends and told the world he loved to “screw” on national TV, but at least he was honest. Legend has it that when his bitter wife tried to hire a gangster to teach him a lesson, not a hit man in town would turn against him.
7. John Daly, PGA
Paving the way for Britney Spears was John Daly—not your typical alcoholic golfer in Hawaiian print pants. The guy has done more gambling and divorcing than most of us will see in a lifetime.
After years of overindulgence, this lovable lug has overcome his demons and is still a crowd favorite. Whether he’s coming undone or eagling a par five, he’s got our attention.
6. Zinedine Zidane
This notorious head-butter is soccer royalty and loved by fans and sponsors alike. His refusal to apologize for his unsportsmanlike behavior in the 2006 World Cup (he “would rather die” than do so) makes him all the more of a tough guy of the people.
When he’s not modeling for Adidas or Louis Vuitton, he’s teaching his brood of four sons the art of the game. They are sure to breathe new life back into the bad boy No. 10 jersey—with no apologies.
5. Charles Barkley
The ambassador of trash talk, Charles Barkley was in the limelight on the court and in court. After throwing a man out a window, he told the judge his only regret was that they weren’t on a higher floor.
Luckily, his attitude went to work as a fierce rebounder with unrivaled strength—even if some said he was too fat. Forever in a seemingly drunken slur, fans can’t get enough of Charles, who now brings it with his tell-it-like-it-is commentary.
Halftime without him would be just "turrible."
4. Sean Avery, New York Rangers
He’s the likable ladies man who packs a punch, even at the police.
This New York Ranger somehow stays in our good books despite his postgame ranting, sloppy seconds taunting and on-ice trash talk. He cleans up, puts on a designer suit and looks just nice enough for us to forget that he hates the French.
Oh, but at least he does support gay marriage.
3. Mike Tyson
Only in America can you eat an earlobe for dinner, get found guilty for rape and still be likable. This world champion may be impossible to understand, but you gotta admit you loved him singing in The Hangover Part II.
2. John McEnroe
The brat constantly in need of a timeout had tennis fans hoping for a tantrum in every match. The Mac Attack was just what the world of tennis needed to shake up its white skirts.
It’s kind of depressing to see the gray-haired McEnroe today as a politically correct sports announcer. We only wish he would throw something at Bob Costas and drop an F-bomb for old times' sake.
1. Muhammad Ali
Ali, the most likable trash-talker in history, was known to leave his opponents either unconscious or speechless. This heavyweight bumblebee inspired a generation with his physical, mental and poetic gifts.
His quotes, like this gem, never seem to get old: “You know I’m bad. Just last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.” Ali Boomaye!