Sports
1.8k voters

The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History

Updated August 31, 2020 14.6k votes 1.8k voters 36.0k 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!
Photo:
...more
  • O. J. Simpson1
    716
    104

    TeamsSan Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills

    More O. J. Simpson 

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

  • Aaron Hernandez2
    412
    126

    TeamsNew England Patriots, Florida Gators football

  • Mike Tyson3
    486
    206

    Mike Tyson

    Age: 54

    More Mike Tyson 

    #6 of 178 The Best Boxers of All Time#68 of 69 Celebrities with the Weirdest Middle Names

  • Lance Armstrong4
    464
    195

    More Lance Armstrong 

    The Dark Story Behind Why No One Wears Livestrong Bracelets Anymore#1289 of 1,355 The Greatest Minds of All Time

  • Tonya Harding5
    355
    142

    More Tonya Harding 

    Tonya Harding's Real Life Was Even More Messed Up Than You Thought#490 of 568 American Public Figures Who Are National Treasures

  • Michael Vick6
    365
    171

    TeamsPhiladelphia Eagles, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Virginia Tech Hokies football

    More Michael Vick 

    #20 of 119 The Greatest College Football Quarterbacks of All Time#11 of 106 The Fastest NFL Players of All Time

  • Caitlyn Jenner7
    325
    165

    More Caitlyn Jenner 

    What Every Single Member Of The Kardashian Family Thinks Of Caitlyn Jenner These Days#30 of 69 People We Want to See on a Comedy Central Roast

  • Dennis Rodman8
    331
    179

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

    More Dennis Rodman 

    #3 of 73 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time#97 of 99 The Best WCW Wrestlers of All Time

  • Barry Bonds9
    289
    150

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

    More Barry Bonds 

    #27 of 39 Longest Hitting Streaks in Baseball#551 of 583 The Greatest Entertainers of All Time

  • Colin Kaepernick10
    293
    142

    TeamsSan Francisco 49ers, Nevada Wolf Pack football

    More Colin Kaepernick 

    #163 of 252 The Best Quarterbacks Of All Time#72 of 160 The Most Ridiculous Political Pundits

  • Pete Rose11
    232
    121

    Pete Rose

    Age: 79

    TeamsPhiladelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos

    More Pete Rose 

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

  • Tiger Woods12
    286
    197

    More Tiger Woods 

    All Of Tiger Woods' Major Championship Victories#1139 of 2,443 The Most Influential People of All Time

  • John McEnroe13
    134
    68

    More John McEnroe 

    How Superstar John McEnroe Became The Most Hated Tennis Champion of All Time#863 of 1,427 The Best Athletes Of All Time

  • Terrell Owens14
    153
    86

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

    More Terrell Owens 

    #23 of 214 The Best Wide Receivers of All Time#52 of 115 The Funniest Professional Athletes

  • Floyd Mayweather Jr.15

    More Floyd Mayweather Jr. 

    The Best Floyd Mayweather Burns By Conor McGregor#35 of 72 The Best Middleweight Boxers of All Time

  • Ray Rice16
    232
    119

    Ray Rice

    Age: 33

    TeamsBaltimore Ravens, Rutgers Scarlet Knights football

    More Ray Rice 

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

  • Jose Canseco17
    131
    71

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

    More Jose Canseco 

    #204 of 511 The Best Baseball Players NOT in the Hall of Fame#10 of 10 People Initially Called Crazy Who Were Right All Along

  • Alex Rodriguez18
    195
    134

    More Alex Rodriguez 

    A Complete Timeline Of J. Lo And A. Rod's Relationship#230 of 242 The Hottest Men Of 2019, Ranked

  • Johnny Manziel19
    199
    125

    More Johnny Manziel 

    #65 of 83 The Best Heisman Trophy Winners of All Time#12 of 329 The Most Obnoxious Athletes

  • Ray Lewis20
    187
    129

    Ray Lewis

    Age: 45

    TeamsBaltimore Ravens

    More Ray Lewis 

    #2 of 64 The Best Miami Football Players of All Time#3 of 154 The Greatest Linebackers of All Time

  • Mark McGwire21
    132
    81

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

    More Mark McGwire 

    #180 of 582 The Greatest Baseball Players Of All Time#83 of 708 The Best Hitters in Baseball History

  • Tom Brady22
    169
    116

    Tom Brady

    Age: 43

    TeamsTampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots, Michigan Wolverines football

    More Tom Brady 

    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

    More Lawrence Taylor 

    #1 of 1,323 The Best Football Players Ever#19 of 80 The Best NFL Player Nicknames

  • Kobe Bryant24
    153
    127

    Kobe Bryant

    Dec. at 41 (1978-2020)

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers

    More Kobe Bryant 

    The 100 Best Songs That Reference Kobe Bryant#7 of 786 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

  • Muhammad Ali25
    181
    166

    More Muhammad Ali 

    #129 of 269 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World#205 of 403 Famous Role Models We'd Like to Meet In Person