Sports

The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History 

Ranker Sports
Originally by
Updated April 23, 2020 14.9k votes 1.7k voters 33.6k views 63 items

List Rules Athletes in any sport that have been embroiled in controversy - domestic disputes, sex scandals, cheating accusations, anything really

Sports stars are one part celebrity, one part athlete. Like so many celebrities, some sports stars are prone to scandal. These sports stars are were involved some of the biggest controversies of all time, and many remain controversial figures to this day despite being retired.

O.J Simpson is perhaps the biggest controversial athlete of all time, for "not killing his ex-wife" in 1994. Remember when one of the best NBA players of all time, LeBron James, took his talents to South Beach? That was definitely a case of a sports star who caused controversy. And then, of course, there's Anna Kournikova, who has caused controversy simply for being beautiful.

Which athletes do you think are the most controversial of all time? What is your definition of controversy? Is it off-the-field antics like the domestic drama surrounding Tiger Woods, or is it on-the-court antics like John McEnroe's famous profane meltdowns?

Which is worse, steroids or biting off someone's ear? The choice is yours! Vote up the stars who've caused the most controversy and if we missed any scandalous athletes, add them to the controversial sport stars list!
list ordered by
1
O. J. Simpson is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
2
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
3
Lance Armstrong is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
4
Aaron Hernandez is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
ConnorRichardson added Age: 30

Teams: New England Patriots, Florida Gators football

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5
Michael Vick is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
Age: 39

Teams: Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Virginia Tech Hokies football

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6
Tonya Harding is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
7
Dennis Rodman is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
Age: 58

Teams: Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, + more

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8
Barry Bonds is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
Age: 55

Teams: San Francisco Giants, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Pirates

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9
Caitlyn Jenner is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
10
Tiger Woods is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
11
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
12
Colin Kaepernick is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
13
Pete Rose is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
Age: 78

Teams: Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos

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14
Alex Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
15
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
ConnorRichardson added Age: 44

Teams: Baltimore Ravens

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16
Ray Rice is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
ConnorRichardson added Age: 32

Teams: Baltimore Ravens, Rutgers Scarlet Knights football

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17
Johnny Manziel is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
18
Jose Canseco is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
RobLein added Age: 55

Teams: New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, + more

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19
John McEnroe is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
20
Mark McGwire is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
Age: 56

Teams: St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics, Oakland Athletics

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21
Terrell Owens is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
Age: 46

Teams: San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, + more

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22
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
23
Ben Johnson is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
24
Luis Suárez is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
james-bourne added Age: 32

Teams: FC Barcelona, Liverpool F.C., AFC Ajax, Uruguay national football team, Club Nacional de Football, + more

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25
Sammy Sosa is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History
Age: 51

Teams: Chicago Cubs, Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, + more

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