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The Most Intimidating Athletes in Recent Memory

Updated February 13, 2020 3.2k votes 497 voters 15.1k 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.

  • Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Intimidating Athletes in Recent Memory
    Photo: Birzer / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    Was former boxer Mike Tyson crazy? Quite possibly... and that's why he's on this list.

    With one of the hardest punches on the planet, Tyson feared no one and refused to filter himself at any time, figuring he would use his craziness as an advantage against everyone who dared test him. Afterall, who would want to challenge a dude who once bit an opponent's ear and told another one he would eat his children?
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  • Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Intimidating Athletes in Recent Memory
    Photo: D. Myles Cullen / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    When you're considered the greatest of all time, it usually means you had a certain way of carrying yourself and intimidating other players, and that's exactly what Michael Jordan did.

    While he wasn't a big man who banged bodies down low, Jordan was arguably the most competitive athlete ever, pushing both himself and others to get the best out of their abilities - and he nearly always came out on top because of it.
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  • Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Intimidating Athletes in Recent Memory
    Photo: Bobby Jones / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Ray Lewis might just be the best middle linebacker in the history of the NFL - and he used passion, grit, and skill to get there.

    Winning two Super Bowls during his career, Lewis made sure opposing players didn't try coming into his area, because he often knocked the snot out of them or made another big play.
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  • For all intents and purposes, former NBA center Shaquille O'Neal is considered to be the most dominating player in league history. Strangely agile for a man his size, Shaq used strength and tremendous quickness to do nearly anything he wanted during his playing days.

    With a size 22 shoe supporting his 7'1" frame, there weren't too many players who were able to stop him.
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