Dennis Rodman is a five-time NBA champion, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, one of the best rebounders and defenders of all-time, and also the NBA’s greatest heel. Known as “The Worm,” Rodman played for the ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons and the dynastic Chicago Bulls.
In addition to terrorizing opposing players, Rodman had villainous moments with non-players — including headbutting a referee and kicking a photographer in the groin. And off the court, Rodman flew to Las Vegas during the NBA Finals and infuriated the entire Bulls’ organization.
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The Hall of Fame is often reserved for the best players of all-time, only sustained excellence results in immortality. When it comes to Pete Rose, his on-field performance more than justifies a spot in Cooperstown. Rose is baseball’s all-time hit leader, won an MVP, three World Series titles, and was selected to 17 All-Star Games.
However, Rose has a lifetime ban from baseball. Rose was banned from baseball after he allegedly bet on MLB games — including games which he managed for the Reds. On the field, Rose was ruthless in his greatness. In the 1970 All-Star Game, Rose famously bulldozed catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run — separating and fracturing Fosse’s shoulder in the process.
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Rumor has it that when John McEnroe started getting angry, his flow turned into flames and his headband snapped off his head. One of the greatest tennis players of all-time, McEnroe won seven Grand Slam titles (four US Open, three Wimbledon) and nine Grand Slams in doubles.
McEnroe earned the nickname ‘Superbrat’ by the press in the 1980s as a result of his on-court temper. The star often berated the chair umpire and yelled more than a howler monkey. Famously, McEnroe went off on an umpire at Wimbledon following a terrible call and uttered tennis’ most famed phrase — “You cannot be serious!”
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WOOOO!!!!! The stlyin’, profilin’, limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ and dealin’ son of a gun — Ric Flair. “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” “I’m every woman’s dream and every man’s nightmare.”
“The Nature Boy” was in a category of his own during his wrestling career. A 16-time champ, Flair was not only one of the most skilled wrestlers of all-time, but also one of the best heels the business has ever seen. Flair used dirty tactics in the ring and would annihilate competitors on the mic. Wooo!
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Roger Clemens was easy to hate during his playing career. He was dominant, hot-headed, and played for two of baseball’s most loved/hated teams — the Red Sox and Yankees. Clemens had a flamethrower for an arm, and wasn’t shy to throw in or at hitters.
Famously, after a piece of Mike Piazza’s broken bat landed near Clemens, the aggressive pitcher chucked the bat shard at Piazza. In addition to being an intimidator on the mound, Clemens’ status as a villain was cemented by steroid allegations.
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Unless you rooted for the team he was on, Terrell Owens was likely towards the top of your list of NFL villains. Hell, even fans and teammates of T.O. grew tired of his act. Owens is one of the greatest receivers of all-time, but also one of the biggest divas in sports history.
In 2006, Owens spat in the face of DeAngelo Hall during a game. While playing for the Niners, T.O. twice raced to Dallas’ star logo in an act of showmanship. Despite being an all-time player, Owens made many enemies around the league through his actions and words.
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What do Mike Tyson and Luis Suarez have in common? They’ve bit their opponents. Yes, that is the truth. Suarez, one of the best soccer players in the world over the past 15 years, has bitten opponents on three occasions.
First, the Uruguayan star bit a PSV player on the shoulder in 2010 — resulting in a two-game suspension. While playing for Liverpool three years later, Suarez bit yet another player — this time he was banned for 10 games. Finally, against Italy in the 2014 World Cup, Suarez bit Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder — leaving clear bite marks. Suarez was banned from Uruguay’s next nine international matches.
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When you are the best in the world at something, there is a good chance a lot of people are going to dislike you. That is certainly the case with Floyd Mayweather, and he doesn’t care if you hate him one bit. With a perfect 50-0 boxing record, Mayweather has entrenched himself as an all-time great.
But his antics in and out of the ring have rubbed people the wrong way. The boxer has faced multiple counts of battery. Mayweather spent two months in jail for domestic abuse, only to return to the ring and continue to win huge fights. He famously unleashed a tirade on then 80-year-old Larry Merchant following a win over Victor Ortiz in which Mayweather called for HBO to fire Merchant.
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You might be asking yourself, “who the hell is John Rocker?” Rocker was a pitcher from 1998-2003, most famously with the Atlanta Braves from ’98-01. In an interview with Sports Illustrated in ’99, Rocker made racist and homophobic comments while talking about his distaste for New York City.
As a result of that interview and further comments, Rocker was suspended for 14 games to start the ’00 season. The fiery pitcher continued to make headlines after his career came to an end by admitting to past steroid use. Then, appearing on CBS’ Survivor, Rocker told a female competitor “if you were a man, I’d knock your teeth out.”
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As the Commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell is one of the most powerful individuals in sports. And with that power comes great disdain. All you have to do is watch one NFL function that includes Goodell’s presence to understand how the fans feel about him. When Goodell takes the stage at the NFL Draft, he is greeted with some of the loudest boos you will ever hear.
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Formerly known as Ron Artest and later Metta World Peace, Metta Sandiford-Artest will forever be known for his involvement in the Malice at the Palace. As a member of the Indiana Pacers, Artest was involved in a scuffle with Detroit’s Ben Wallace — a scuffle that ultimately ended up in the stands after a fan threw his beverage at Artest.
Aside from being involved in one of the NBA’s darkest moments, Artest was known for his physical play on the floor. Artest has admitted to drinking alcohol at halftime as a young player, was suspended 86 games for his role in the brawl, and missed seven games after throwing an intentional elbow at James Harden’s head.
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‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper
When the bagpipes hit, you knew you were about to witness something great. One of the greatest villains in wrestling history, Roddy Piper used his quick wit, humor, and intensity to simultaneously win over fans and draw the ire of his opponents.
“Rowdy” had a quick temper and sharp tongue, often delivering verbal assaults that were more impactful than some of his hits. While hosting Piper’s Pit, Piper would cut his rivals down with strong statements — memorably bashing Jimmy Snuka’s Polynesian roots and finishing his rant by hitting him with a coconut.
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Tough look, Tonya. Before becoming an all-time villain, Tonya Harding was on the verge of superstardom. She was the U.S. Figure Skating champion from 1991-94, won a silver medal at the World Championships, and became the first American woman to land a triple Axel during a competition.
Unfortunately, Tonya’s name became synonymous with a terrible event. One day before the 1994 U.S. Championship, Tonya’s ex-husband orchestrated an attack on Nancy Kerrigan — Tonya’s chief rival — which forced her to withdraw from the Championship. Despite winning the Championship, Tonya was stripped of the title after the Kerrigan investigation was completed.
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It wasn’t too long ago that Donald Sterling was the most talked about person in sports. The owner of the Los Angeles Clippers from 1981-2014, Sterling was banned from the NBA for life — and fined $2.5 million — after he was exposed for being a bad person. In 2014, TMZ published a report including a recorded conversation between Sterling and V. Stiviano (his mistress) in which Sterling can be heard uttering racist statements.
Specifically, Sterling attacked Magic Johnson and told his mistress that it “bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people.” Thankfully, swift action was taken to ban Sterling from the league.
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Conor McGregor is one of the world’s biggest stars and ultimate trash talkers. The former UFC double champ (Featherweight, Lightweight) knows how to get in his opponents head and sell a fight at the same time. Without a doubt, he is the biggest villain in UFC history — though Jon Jones isn’t far behind.
McGregor not only goes after his opponents with endless profanity and personal attacks, but he has gone as far as throwing a dolly at a bus. At media day for UFC 223, McGregor shattered a bus window with the dolly and two fighters were sent to the hospital to treat their injuries. Outside of the ring, the star has found himself in hot water multiple times including a guilty plea for punching an old man in a pub.
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Long before getting knocked out by a guy named Billy Football at Barstool Sports’ Rough N’ Rowdy, Jose Canseco was an American League MVP and two-time World Series champion. However, he also became one of the most hated men in baseball following his retirement.
In 2005, Canseco released a tell-all book titled Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big. In his tell-all, Canseco levied allegations against stars such as Mark McGwire, Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens, and Rafael Palmeiro. Needless to say, Canseco is viewed as quite the villain.
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Coming out of Alabama, Latrell Sprewell was expected to be a good NBA player — and he ended up being one. Playing for the Warriors, Knicks and Timberwolves, Sprewell developed into a four-time All-Star and an All-NBA First Team player with the Warriors in 1994.
However, Sprewell is famously known for something more sinister. In ’97, Sprewell was suspended by the NBA for 68 games. Why? Because, at a practice, he choked then-Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo. Sprewell had previously fought with at least two teammates while with Golden State, but choking his coach was the final straw — he would never play another game for the team.
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As Zlatan approaches his 40th birthday in October 2021, he remains an elite player in Italy and is making a return to Sweden’s National Team after a five-year absence. But if you’ve ever heard Zlatan speak, you won’t be surprised to hear that he is disliked by many.
The soccer star often refers to himself as ‘God’ and consistently refers to himself in the third-person. On the field and during training, Zlatan has been involved with multiple fights with both teammates and opponents. Recently, Zlatan made the news for saying that LeBron James should stay out of politics and stick to playing basketball.
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Nothing good can come from someone looking so lovingly at a sledgehammer. If Triple H has one in his hands, it is time to run. HHH is known for being one of the most ruthless wrestlers of all-time. He will stop at nothing to get what he wants — whether it means hurting his friends or enemies.
As a result, he has always been a top villain. Whether he is operating alone or leading a group such as D-Generation X or Evolution, HHH is a dangerous, mean individual. His persona has led to nicknames like ‘King of Kings’ and ‘The Cerebral Assassin’.
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696 home runs. 3,115 hits. 2,086 RBI. Three-time AL MVP. All of those numbers and accolades tell us something about A-Rod — he is one of the greatest baseball players of all-time. However, they don’t tell us why he is one of the most hated players of the past 30 years.
A-Rod was suspended for the entire 162-game 2014 season for his use of and involvement with PEDs. A-Rod was often targeted by other fanbases throughout his career for his talent, but his suspension turned him into an even more controversial figure in the game.
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Turning 69 in 2021, Bill Belichick remains the premier coach in the NFL. However, with success comes disdain. And when you’ve been caught cheating on more than one occasion like Belichick’s Patriots, that disdain becomes very strong.
The six-time Super Bowl-winning coach has been in charge of one of sport’s greatest dynasty’s since 2000, but it hasn’t all been pretty. In 2007, the Spygate scandal — in which the Pats were caught stealing signs from the Jets — rocked football. In 2014, Deflategate became a thing and the organization was fined $1 million. Oh, and there are rumors of visiting teams having their communication systems sabotaged by the Pats — all under Belichick’s watch.
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And riding right alongside Belichick from 2000-2019, Tom Brady. No player has been a bigger villain than Brady. Unless you live in the Boston area (or now Tampa Bay), you rooted for Brady to lose. Brady haters finally got their moment in the sun in ’14, as Brady was suspended four games for his role in deflating footballs before games.
The NFL cited that it had “credible and substantial evidence” that Brady knew what was happening, and also claimed that his unwillingness to cooperate and the destruction of his cell phone led to Commissioner Goodell upholding the suspension.
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The man, the myth, the legend — Vincent Kennedy McMahon. The chairman and CEO of WWE, Vince relishes in being a villain. Over the years, Vince has appeared on WWE programming as Mr. McMahon. Wielding his power, Mr. McMahon consistently tried to undermine Stone Cold Steve Austin throughout the Attitude Era.
And in one of wrestling’s biggest moments of all-time, Vince helped devise the Montreal Screwjob — a move that resulted in Bret Hart spitting in McMahon’s face and knocking him to the ground with one punch, leaving the CEO with a black eye.
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Known as ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’ at his peak, Mike Tyson was a terrifying human. In the ring, Tyson was known for his devastating knockouts and immense power. But while his athletic achievements were sensational, his actions in and away from the ring turned him into a villain. From April 1992 to March 1995, Tyson was in prison for raping an 18-year-old woman.
Upon his release, Tyson once again became a boxing champion. Tyson furthered his status as a villain in a second fight against Evander Holyfield when he bit both of Holyfield’s ears — resulting in a DQ.
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The greatest baseball player of all-time is not in the Hall of Fame. That is absurd, but not unexpected due to Bonds’ reputation around the sport. Bonds was as dominant as a baseball player can possibly be, and many were suspect of his performance.
Bonds has long been tied to steroid use, and yet has never tested positive for any PEDs. Some teammates didn’t like him, opposing fans loved to boo him, and Bonds only played better the louder the jeers became. Bonds is the ultimate sports villain.
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