10 Incredible Athletes Who Ruined Their Careers

5 min read

Professional athletes are some of the highest paid members of our society, so it seems unfathomable that anyone could throw an opportunity like that down the drain. Many, however, find the life of partying – or crime – too alluring to avoid. It takes more than millions of dollars to keep these stars on the straight and narrow, making them the top 10 incredible athletes who ruined their careers!

10. Aaron Hernandez

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This young star had a bright future ahead when he was drafted to the New England Patriots to play alongside Tom Brady before even entering his final year of college. He even appeared in Super Bowl XLVI. Trouble for Hernandez began when a friend of his, Alexander Bradley, claimed he was shot in the face by the tight end. Soon after, he became the prime suspect in the murder of his fiance’s sister’s boyfriend Odin Lloyd. During the investigation, he also became the suspect in a 2012 double homicide when evidence was found linking him to the case. He was ultimately charged in the murder of Lloyd and committed suicide in prison.

9. OJ Simpson

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OJ Simpson was an immensely well liked athlete who set both College and NFL records before his rapid decline. After many claims of domestic abuse from his wife Nicole, she was found brutally murdered outside her home alongside the body of another man, Ron Goldman. Following this tragic double murder was a roller coaster of a trial that for which most of the nation tuned in. He was acquitted for the homicides, but eventually jailed for armed robbery and kidnapping years later. He was released from prison in 2017.

8. Tonya Harding

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Tonya Harding, hopeful to win Gold at the 1994 Olympic games, ultimately let jealousy ruin her career. Her biggest competition for the gold medal was fellow American Nancy Kerrigan. Six weeks before the games, Tonya’s then husband and a few others attacked Kerrigan with the goal of breaking her leg and taking her out of the competition. They failed, and she was only badly bruised. Kerrigan went on to win the silver medal, while Harding did not place. She was eventually ordered to pay a hefty fine, complete community service, serve probation, and was forever banned from the sport.

7. Michael Vick

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Michael Vick was a rising star who played quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons. It didn’t take long before his legal troubles began. First, a truck owned by Vick was involved in drug charges. He then was charged with infecting a woman with an STD. It was over for Vick when police uncovered the “Bad Newz Kennel” – a massive dog fighting operation at his house in Virginia. It was for this crime that Vick spent 21 months in federal prison. He did return to the NFL, but had far fewer fans and far less success.

6. Johnny Manziel

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Nicknamed “Johnny Football”, Manziel was an incredibly talented football player who let his partying habits ruin his career. He was the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy, and many think this led to his massive ego. He let hangovers make him miss mandatory meetings, was found to be lying about partying during “bye week”, and made obscene gestures at the Redskin’s bench. He had become a liability to the team, and was let go from the Brown’s after just two years.

5. Tiger Woods

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Once internationally known as the best name in golf, Tiger Woods came across as a clean cut and respectable guy. This image was shattered in 2010 when a fight involving a golf club and an Escalade broke out between he and his wife, Elin Nordegren. She had found evidence of his scandalous affairs with other women. Once the dust had settled, it became public knowledge that his mistresses included strippers, porn stars, and even one under-aged girl. He took some time away from the spotlight, including professional golf, and his career has never recovered.

4. Oscar Pistorius

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Pistorius, also known as the “Blade Runner”, was the first amputee to compete as a sprinter in the Olympic Games. Less than a year after he appeared in the 2012 games for South Africa, he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp four times through a closed door. It was Valentines Day. During his trial, he claimed he believed the noise coming from the bathroom was from an intruder. He was eventually charged with culpable homicide and sentenced to over 13 years behind bars.

3. Mike Tyson

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Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson was sentenced to ten years in prison after being convicted of the rape of 18 year old Desiree Washington. He was released after just three years, and has tried to reclaim some of his popularity since. He denies raping the girl, and claims his sentencing was unfair because of his celebrity status.

2. Lance Armstrong

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After beating testicular cancer and overcoming incredible odds, Lance Armstrong went on to earn seven Tour de France cycling titles. His face began to appear everywhere in Nike ads, and his yellow Livestrong bracelets adorned the wrists of his fans worldwide. That is, until rumors began swirling about his illegal doping usage from fellow cyclists. Although he never tested positive, he did end up admitting to Oprah Winfrey on her daytime show in 2013 that the rumors were indeed true. He promptly was stripped of his Nike sponsorship, all seven of his titles, and forever banned from cycling.

1. Lamar Odom

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Lamar Odom is most known for his seven outstanding seasons playing alongside Kobe Bryant for the LA Lakers. He eventually lost his spot with the Dallas Mavericks after being charged with a DUI. In 2015, he lost two of his closest friends, and quickly spiraled back into his drug addiction. He was found unconscious that October in a brothel outside of Las Vegas, and many maintain that he is lucky to have survived the event.

The ego’s that these elite athletes possess led them all down a dark road in one way or another. While it’s a shame that these super stars have wasted their talents, it’s the victims of their crimes and the fans that they’ve disappointed who deserved better than what they got.