Sports
1.8k voters

The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History

Updated August 31, 2020 14.6k votes 1.8k voters 36.1k views66 items

List RulesAthletes 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!
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  • O. J. Simpson1
    722
    104

    TeamsSan Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills

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    Facts About OJ Simpson That Will Make Your Skin Crawl#23 of 206 The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time

  • Aaron Hernandez2
    415
    126

    TeamsNew England Patriots, Florida Gators football

  • Mike Tyson3
    487
    208

    Mike Tyson

    Age: 54

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    #6 of 178 The Best Boxers of All Time#292 of 568 American Public Figures Who Are National Treasures

  • Lance Armstrong4
    464
    196

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    The Dark Story Behind Why No One Wears Livestrong Bracelets Anymore#1288 of 1,355 The Greatest Minds of All Time

  • Tonya Harding5
    355
    142

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    Tonya Harding's Real Life Was Even More Messed Up Than You Thought#6 of 15 From Debauchery To Federal Crimes: Outrageous Tales Of Bad Behavior From History's Greatest Athletes

  • Michael Vick6
    367
    172

    TeamsAtlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    #41 of 120 The Best Quarterbacks Of All Time#11 of 53 The Best No. 1 Overall NFL Draft Picks Of All Time, Ranked

  • Caitlyn Jenner7
    325
    165

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  • Dennis Rodman8
    331
    179

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks

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    #3 of 73 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time#31 of 107 The Greatest Lakers of All Time

  • Barry Bonds9
    289
    150

    TeamsSan Francisco Giants, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    #27 of 39 Longest Hitting Streaks in Baseball#550 of 583 The Greatest Entertainers of All Time

  • Colin Kaepernick10
    294
    142

    TeamsSan Francisco 49ers, Nevada Wolf Pack football

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    #74 of 160 The Most Ridiculous Political Pundits#653 of 660 The Scariest Threats to the United States

  • Pete Rose11
    232
    121

    Pete Rose

    Age: 79

    TeamsPhiladelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos

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    #293 of 904 Celebrity Death Pool 2021#152 of 157 Ranking The Greatest WWE Hall of Fame Inductees

  • Tiger Woods12
    287
    197

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    All Of Tiger Woods' Major Championship Victories#1152 of 2,443 The Most Influential People of All Time

  • John McEnroe13
    134
    68

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    How Superstar John McEnroe Became The Most Hated Tennis Champion of All Time#113 of 216 The Greatest Men's Tennis Players of All Time

  • Floyd Mayweather Jr.14

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    The Best Floyd Mayweather Burns By Conor McGregor#34 of 72 The Best Middleweight Boxers of All Time

  • Jose Canseco15
    131
    71

    TeamsNew York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics

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    #136 of 146 The Best Boston Red Sox Of All Time#10 of 10 People Initially Called Crazy Who Were Right All Along

  • Terrell Owens16
    153
    86

    TeamsSan Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills

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    #23 of 214 The Best Wide Receivers of All Time#20 of 58 The Best College Football Wide Receivers of All Time

  • Ray Rice17
    232
    119

    Ray Rice

    Age: 33

    TeamsBaltimore Ravens, Rutgers Scarlet Knights football

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    #19 of 95 The Best Baltimore Ravens of All Time#83 of 84 Celebrities Who Have Been Charged With Domestic Abuse

  • Alex Rodriguez18
    195
    134

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  • Ray Lewis19
    187
    129

    Ray Lewis

    Age: 45

    TeamsBaltimore Ravens

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    #3 of 64 The Best Miami Football Players of All Time#7 of 432 The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

  • Johnny Manziel20
    201
    125

    More Johnny Manziel 

    #66 of 83 The Best Heisman Trophy Winners of All Time#4 of 69 The Best Texas A&M Football Players of All Time

  • Mark McGwire21
    132
    81

    TeamsSt. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics, Oakland Athletics

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    #180 of 582 The Greatest Baseball Players Of All Time#84 of 708 The Best Hitters in Baseball History

  • Tom Brady22
    169
    118

    Tom Brady

    Age: 43

    TeamsTampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots, Michigan Wolverines football

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    The Funniest Tom Brady Memes For Football Fans#3 of 150 Athletes You Didn't Know Were Conservative

  • Lawrence Taylor23
    112
    74

    TeamsNew York Giants, North Carolina Tar Heels football

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    #1148 of 1,427 The Best Athletes Of All Time#1 of 1,323 The Best Football Players Ever

  • Kobe Bryant24
    153
    128

    Kobe Bryant

    Dec. at 41 (1978-2020)

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers

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    The 100 Best Songs That Reference Kobe Bryant#7 of 256 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

  • Sammy Sosa25
    121
    72

    Sammy Sosa

    Age: 52

    TeamsChicago Cubs, Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers

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    #47 of 69 Celebrities with the Weirdest Middle Names#71 of 142 The Greatest Right-Fielders of All Time