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The Most Intimidating Athletes in Recent Memory

Updated February 13, 2020 2.9k votes 523 voters 15.5k views20 items

List RulesIntimidating and dominant athletes and sports stars who have been active since at least the year 2000.

How intimidating would it be to go up to bat against a 6'10" pitcher who could throw a baseball 90+ miles per hour? Probably pretty scary, but that was exactly what intimidating MLB pitcher Randy Johnson did. This list of the most intimidating athletes in recent memory ranks the top sports stars and players from any sport who simply scared the pants off their opponents. Whether it was their fastball, penchant for trash-talk, hard-hitting tackles, or ferocity on the ice, these athletes were truly intimidating, even startling fans and viewers at home with their fire.

Which professional players struck fear into their opponents the most? Ray Lewis, Eric Lindros, and Mike Tyson (remember that ear incident?), all scared their sports foes and rivals in different ways. While some athletes play clean, they certainly aren't listed here. These are the guys who fight with angry passion and an intimidation factor that just won't quit.

So, whether it was physical features, mad skills, or a combination of both, here are the toughest athletes in recent sports memory. No one wanted to face these guys, and for good reason.

  • Photo: Navin Rajagopalan / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 2.0

    Just look at the guy and tell me you're not freaked out. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison looks like the leader of a pack of wolves who is hungry, as he takes no prisoners and plays by his own rules when on the gridiron.

    Hard hits, costly fines, and a straight-up mentality to play as nasty as possible, Harrison knows what it takes to jack up another player.

    More James Harrison 

    #143 of 1,323 The Best Football Players Ever#14 of 154 The Greatest Linebackers of All Time#228 of 329 The Most Obnoxious Athletes

  • Photo: Googie Man / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    With over 300 career wins and tons of strikeouts, the Big Unit used a high-90s fastball and a wicked slider to throw off opposing batters.

    Not only did he scare them with his pitches, at 6'10" the lefty looked the part of a mad man when on the mound, too.

    More Randy Johnson 

    #21 of 25 Longest Pitching Streaks in Baseball #359 of 583 The Greatest Entertainers Of All Time#51 of 255 The Best Players in the Baseball Hall of Fame

  • Photo: Jeffrey Beall / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    Hands-down, the best defender in the NFL right now, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt can seemingly do it all.

    Showing a rare ability to jump and swat passes, bulldoze through blocks to get to the passer, or get to the outside with tremendous speed, Watt is a throwback to when players were all about one thing, playing football with no excuses.
  • Photo: Jeffrey Beall / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    Ndamukong Suh might often be regarded as a dirty player, but the Detroit Lions defender also happens to be one of the most talented. A massive body in the middle of the line, Suh has stomped on an opponent's head (twice) and plays with a nasty streak that other guys just don't want to deal with.

    One of the nicest guys off the field, it's when he's in pads that he turns into a man possessed - which isn't something other teams are eager to see.