Being a sports fan can elicit a lot of emotions – joy, excitement, anxiety, sadness – but the one I’ve always found the most surprising is fear. I wouldn’t really consider myself a fearful person, I’m not too keen of obscene heights or clowns, but who is really? I’ll ride the biggest roller coasters, I’ll kill any bug, I’ll even babysit multiple children at the same time. Put me in mostly any situation and fear is not a feeling I’m likely to experience.
But if I turn on a TV and I see my team lining up against Tom Brady in the 4th quarter? I’m instantly terrified.
I don’t care if we’re winning or by how much – I’m squirming in my seat, heart racing, and borderline nauseous until the clock hits zero. Sports are the only thing that can make me feel that level of scared. I am absolutely afraid of Tom Brady and every other player that’s on this list. In true Halloween fashion, let’s look at the athletes that make us all hide under the covers.
13. Lawrence Taylor
A recurring nightmare for most of the NFL’s quarterbacks during Taylor’s tenure was number 56 in the blue and white rushing off the edge. Taylor was the original pass rushing specialist. His job was quite literally to ruin the day of the opposing offense. At 6’3″, 237 pounds, Taylor was a physical specimen equipped with freakish speed and strength. He helped lead the Giants to two Super Bowl victories, captured three Defensive Player of the Year awards, and even has an MVP trophy to his name.
12. Randy Johnson
Standing at 6’10’’, The Big Unit was already a pretty imposing and scary person. Putting him on top of a mound and letting him hurl baseballs at you over 100mph just made it worse. Randy possessed one of the most dominant fastballs ever and a wicked slider to back it up. Those pitches helped him climb up to second on the all-time strikeout leaders list with 4,875. The only thing more afraid of facing Johnson than a major league batter is every single bird in the world.
11. Alex Ovechkin
One of the most dangerous goal scorers to ever enter the NHL has been causing trouble for opposing defenses and fans his whole career. His Washington Capitals are never out of a game with him on the ice. The winger’s speed and stick skills make him a constant threat to put points on the board and completely alter a game. Even at 32 years of age, Ovechkin opened up this season with back to back hat tricks in his first two games – showing that he is still someone to be feared.
10. Russell Westbrook
I suppose it’s fitting that the triple-double king comes in at #10 since that’s what his points, rebounds, and assists stats all stayed above during the 2016-2017 season. The 2017 MVP became only the second player ever to average a triple-double for an entire season. He also set the record for single season triple doubles with 42. Westbrook is a nightmare for every team as he is able to affect the game in a multitude of ways on both ends of the floor.
9. Barry Bonds
Steroid allegations notwithstanding, Barry Bonds is the greatest hitter in baseball history as well as the most feared. Every time he came to the plate you knew there was a chance that the home run king was going to smash it out of the stadium. After his unreal 73-home run season, it became an acceptable strategy to intentionally walk Bonds even when no one was on base. Pitchers and managers were terrified to throw to him. It’s the reason why he holds the records for most career home runs (762) and intentional walks (688).
8. Jerry Rice
If you’re just an everyday average NFL cornerback, lining up across from a superstar level wide receiver has to be the worst feeling in the world. You know that you’re most likely about to get shredded to pieces and the best you can hope for is that the quarterback doesn’t notice. I have to imagine being across from Rice was like that to the “Nth” degree. Jerry made a living carving up defenses like Halloween pumpkins. The greatest WR ever holds nearly every NFL receiving record and most of them will never be touched.
7. Steph Curry
Curry is the greatest shooter the sport of basketball has ever seen. He is the truest embodiment of the term “limitless range”, and there is nowhere on the court that he should be left open. He is undoubtedly the nicest looking person that I am absolutely terrified of. In terms of stature, Curry is not someone that would be considered as imposing or scary like the statuesque LeBron would be, but give the Warriors guard a basketball and a sliver of daylight and he’s 100-percent cutting your head off. He’s deadly anywhere on the court and when he gets hot, it’s hard to think of anyone scarier.
6. Lionel Messi
Considered by some to be the greatest player of all time, Messi is a player that strikes fear in his opponents. He has scored over 500 goals in his career making him one of the most lethal scorers in the world. The Argentinian can singlehandedly win games for whichever team he’s suiting up for. He is the last person any defender wants to see weaving his way towards the goal because it most likely won’t end well for the keeper.
5. Reggie Bush (USC)
Although showing glimpses of greatness, Bush’s NFL career was largely forgettable. While at USC though, the lightning quick running back was out of this world. I’m just going to ignore that technically his stats (and 2005 Heisman Trophy) were vacated for taking impartial benefits. It doesn’t change the fact that he was an absolute terror on the football field. In his three years at USC, Bush amassed 6,551 all-purpose yards – ranking tenth in NCAA history. No matter if he was running, catching, or returning kicks, as an opponent, you were always scared when he touched the ball.
4. LeBron James (specifically Playoff-LeBron James)
James is unquestionably one of the greatest basketball players of all time and I wouldn’t ever want to see him on the opposing team in any game. James in the playoffs is even more terrifying. He can dominate in any facet of the game whenever he wants, but in the playoffs, James seems to turn it up a notch. The King was the first player in NBA history to lead both teams in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals in a Finals series. A game is never safe when he is on the court – he will figure out and do whatever he needs to do to beat you. Just ask the historically great 2015 Warriors about their 3-1 lead. Andre Iguodala still probably has nightmares of LeBron chasing him down everywhere he goes.
3. Kobe Bryant
Kobe didn’t always stuff the stat sheet like LeBron, but offensively there’s nobody more terrifying. During his peak, he could score from anywhere on the court and there was no shot he couldn’t make (or take). The fear of knowing that he could go off for anything between 30-to-81 points on any given night is enough to keep opposing teams up at night.
2. Tom Brady
You can basically just read what I said about Kobe and apply it to Brady. This dude clearly has a deal with the devil. Since 2001 he has 40 fourth quarter comebacks (!) and 51 game-winning drives (!!) – that’s seriously the most ridiculous stat I’ve ever looked up and both numbers honestly feel kind of low. I still have nightmares of Brady leading his Patriots down the field in the 2002 Super Bowl for the last second win against my beloved Rams. What’s even scarier is that this guy is 40 years old this season and doesn’t even look like he’s slowing down yet. I hate you Tom Brady. Please retire and leave us all alone.
1. Michael Jordan
How can this list not be topped by the G.O.A.T? Jordan terrorized the NBA basically his entire career – most specifically throughout the 90s when he won six NBA championships. Not only did he strike fear in opponents and fans alike – he seemed to relish in the role of the spoiler. Having to play against Jordan after anyone made a comment against his game was undoubtedly the worst. He can’t shoot 3s? Here’s six in one half of the NBA Finals (¯\_(ツ)_/¯). He won’t be the same after two years off? Here’s three straight championships for you. Can’t beat the Monstars? Get the f*** outta here. There was never a game or moment that Jordan couldn’t take over. Even now, if the game was on the line with Jordan coming out of the owner’s box for the final shot – I’d still have to watch through my fingers with fear.
Sources: Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports, David Banks/USA TODAY Sports, Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports, Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports