Athletes Who Lost It In Public

For your average Joe or Josephine, the pressures that must come with being a professional athlete are unimaginable. First, there's the job itself: Endless hours of training in preparation for periodically performing near-impossible feats of skill in front of tens of thousands of screaming people. Then, especially for the real standouts, there's the notoriety: Star-struck, often very weird fans, cameras everywhere all the time, always seeing your name all up one side and down the other of social media platforms and the internet in general. It sure seems like it'd be enough to make some of these people just publicly snap every once in a while, perhaps in the middle of a grueling training camp during a bad week with your head coach, or on an airplane after a fellow passenger yammers in your ear for an interminable length of time and will not stop. Well, hey ... guess what?

This kind of thing happens often enough that if one were so inclined, one could easily put together an article, perhaps in list form, that would illustrate no fewer than a dozen bizarre and/or hilarious examples. And, you know what? What's that? Yes, you're absolutely right, you're reading it right now.

Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown's personality can be described as "mercurial," which is shorthand for "prone to doing weird things out of nowhere for no clear reason." This might be why despite the wide receiver's prodigious talent, he is not employed in the NFL as of 2022. 

During his first nine seasons in Pittsburgh, Brown racked up receiving yards but failed to win a championship. He was known to be a bit argumentative, and after tiring of catching passes from legendary QB Ben Roethlisberger, Brown's stints with the Raiders and Patriots were cut short due to altercations with coaches and/or teammates. Finally, in 2020, Brown landed with the Bucs, who happened to have acquired even-more-legendary QB Tom Brady, and got his Lombardi Trophy. In 2021, though, things went totally pear-shaped.

Brown played very sparingly while missing several games due to Covid, a situation which was complicated when it emerged that he had fudged his vaccination status. After a season of frustration, Brown had finally had enough during a week 17 game against the Jets. As reported by Rolling Stone, in the middle of the game, the receiver stripped off his pads and jersey, danced briefly in the end zone, and trotted off the field, waving jovially to fans. It was, of course, Brown's final appearance as a Buccaneer — and he had little to say on the matter until the following April, when he explained himself by way of a couple tracks on his hot new rap album, according to Clutch Points. Unfortunately, not many fans heard him wax poetic about the incident, since nobody wants to listen to athletes rap.

Kamila Valieva

At only 15, Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva could be forgiven for having a case of the shakes at the 2022 Winter Olympics. But aside from her youth, and her impending performance in one of the world's most demanding sports on the biggest stage imaginable, Valieva just might have had an extra-strong case of nerves due to her failed drug test prior to said performance, as reported by The Bridge. Although she was allowed to compete, she may very well wish she had not been — for from the moment she hit the ice, it was clear that those nerves had completely gotten the best of her.

The poor girl bumbled, stumbled, and butt-plopped her way through her routine, and perhaps the only thing more shocking than the total breakdown of a very talented athlete on the Olympic stage was the reaction of her coach, Eteri Tutberidze. Instead of offering a hug and words of comfort to Valieva (whom we should reiterate was a bawling teenage girl who had almost certainly just suffered the biggest embarrassment of her life in a very public fashion), Tutberidze demanded to know why Valieva had "stopped fighting" after the initial error which led to her meltdown. Gee, coach ... it looked to us like Valieva fought valiantly to retain her composure while under the kind of extreme mental, physical, and emotional stress that few of us can even imagine. Maybe it's just us.

Nick Young

Shooting guard Nick Young was a reliable role player for a half-dozen NBA teams during his career, and in 2015, he was in the middle of a fruitful stretch with the Lakers. Now, living in L.A. affords young, famous, wealthy people plenty of opportunities to get into high-profile trouble, and Young was no exception. Of course, not all such celebrities find themselves in "I Got a Police Helicopter Called On Me"-type trouble, but just call Young an overachiever.

While out with a group of friends at an area Dave and Buster's, Young's buddies got into an altercation with a few fellow patrons, as reported by the Free Press Journal. This altercation then spilled out onto the street, where it swelled in size to the point that it threatened to engulf an entire city block like the Blob. Video shot by bystanders revealed Young shouting at his friends, chucking water bottles at them, and generally acting a fool until the whirlybird showed up, at which point everyone promptly chilled out. Amazingly, nobody was arrested as a result of the incident, after which Young presumably needed to find himself some new friends.

Allen Iverson

When it comes to talented star athletes losing their stuff all over the press, there are few incidents more famous — or infamous — than Philadelphia 76ers great Allen Iverson's "practice" rant.

Following a first-round playoff exit in 2002, Iverson's relationship with coach Larry Brown was shaky, according to ESPN. The following season got off to an awesome start with a highly-publicized shouting match between the two, which ended when Brown assured Iverson he would not be traded.

At a subsequent press conference intended to demonstrate that the ship had been righted, Iverson was asked about his dedication to practice, which Brown had previously publicly questioned. Then, as the assembled journos became increasingly uncomfortable, this came out of the star's mouth: "I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we're in here talking about practice. I mean, listen: We're talking about practice. Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We're talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it's my last. Not the game. We talking about practice, man. I mean, how silly is that? We're talking about practice ... I know it's important. I really do. But we're talking about practice, man. What are we talking about? Practice?! We're talking about practice, man." Believe it or not, that quote has been substantially edited for brevity. The rant managed to go viral before social media even existed, and became so associated with Iverson that his 2015 biography was titled ... "Not a Game." Gotcha!

Dennis Rodman

Defensive specialist Dennis Rodman, who played most of his career in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls, is a famously level-headed man — as evidenced by all of the gun-toting, mascot-headbutting, Pearl Jam performance-crashing antics that arguably made him more famous than his formidable skill on the court (via Vulture). 

In 2013, nearly a decade past retirement, Rodman apparently decided that he had not been in the news for an unacceptably long time. Rodman accompanied Vice to North Korea to host exhibition basketball games, and while there, he met murderous dictator Kim Jong-un — whom he would later, according to CBS News, call a "friend for life."

After a second, solo trip later that year, Rodman appeared on CNN to tell Chris Cuomo that his efforts to undertake peaceful relations with a country that clearly does not want peace were a "great idea for the world," according to the Los Angeles Times. When pressed on Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American tour guide who had been imprisoned in the country for over a year on nonsense charges, Rodman erupted. "Kenneth Bae did one thing ... If you understand what Kenneth Bae did. Do you understand what he did in this country?" No, Dennis, that was never made clear. Rodman then lobbed, "I don't give a rat's a** what the hell you think," at Cuomo, who had offered no opinion to that point. Rodman's vague, lame defense of a brutal strongman, while shocking, wasn't terribly surprising; he later admitted to being drunk during the interview, which was also not terribly surprising.

Mike Tyson

Legendary boxer Mike Tyson is known for two things: The ability to punch hard enough to shatter concrete, and being a very odd man with a quick temper. So in 2022, when a passenger on his flight repeatedly harassed and badgered Tyson despite repeated requests on the part of the former heavyweight champion to stop, the result was as predictable as it was hilarious.

As reported by Yahoo! Sports, a series of phone videos shot by a fellow passenger perfectly captures the story. First, we see the guy hectoring Tyson while the champ tries desperately to ignore him; the guy then, having noticed the cameraman, gushes about how pissed Tyson is getting while wearing a cheeseball grin. This is followed by the inevitable rain of blows, followed by the denouement: Our lamebrained "fan" sitting, dejected, with bruises all up and down one side of his face. Look, man: Even if you were Will Smith, it would have been a bad idea to step to Iron Mike. No, that isn't an Oscars reference, it is a Fresh Prince reference.

John McEnroe

Perhaps the only tennis player to ever be just as famous for his hot head as he was for being super-good at tennis, John McEnroe was riding high as the defending U.S. Open champion heading into Wimbledon in 1981. Having been the runner-up at the previous year's tournament, expectations were high for McEnroe, who was not expecting and did not receive terribly stiff competition from fellow American Tom Gullikson in the first round. Early in their match, though, McEnroe took issue with the chair umpire when what appeared to be a perfect serve was called out by said umpire, as reported by Tennis Majors. As a result, in the otherwise dead silent venue, McEnroe launched into one of the most notorious tirades in sports history.

"Chalk came up all over the place. You can't be serious, man!" McEnroe shouted. "You cannot be serious! That ball is on the line. Chalk flew up. It was clearly in. How can you possibly call that out? How many you can miss? Everybody knows it's in – the whole stadium – and you call it out? Explain that to me, will you?" The umpire declined to do so, instead issuing a warning — which McEnroe failed to heed, as he would refer to the ump as "the absolute pits of the world" and "an incompetent fool" later in the match, drawing a penalty point. In the end, it mattered little, as McEnroe easily handled Gullikson and went on to win the trophy. 

Despite many more on-court shenanigans during his career, his Wimbledon meltdown would stick to him the hardest — and his 2002 autobiography was even titled ... "You Cannot Be Serious."

Serena Williams

The legendary Serena Williams is in contention with John McEnroe for two different, but related, titles: Greatest Tennis Player of All Time, and Best Outburster to Ever Outburst. As reported by The Guardian, Williams' meltdown came during the 2009 U.S. Open Semifinal, where she found herself having a tough match against Belgian Kim Clijsters. After drawing a fine for breaking a racket earlier in the match, a little jawing was perhaps to be expected when she was called for a foot fault by a line judge, and indeed, a little took place. It wasn't the quantity of her words, though, but the words themselves — "I swear to God I'll f***ing take the ball and shove it down your f***ing throat" — that drew her an additional $10,500 fine for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Williams continued to shout that, no, even though she swore to God, she never intended to literally subject the judge to death by tennis ball down the gullet. She went on to lose the match, and then to narrowly avoid suspension while drawing an additional $82,000 in fines, according to ESPN. McEnroe himself opined that she should have been suspended — and when the man once known as "Superbrat" says that of you, you've probably gone a bit too far.

Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens played for 16 seasons in the NFL, and while he was a spectacular, dynamic wide receiver who feasted on opposing defenses as if they were made of really excellent hoagies, he's generally remembered for less-awesome reasons. Reasons like spitting in defenders' faces (via ESPN) and breaking out obviously planned, wildly inappropriate touchdown celebrations (Via USA Today), for example. So, when TO got into a screaming match with head coach Andy Reid during training camp with the Eagles in 2005 — one which resulted in a week-long suspension — fans held their collective breath waiting for the public weirdness that was sure to follow. They didn't have to wait long. 

That very day, Owens held a bizarre "press conference" in his driveway, where he appeared shirtless, doing just all of the sit-ups, and failing to answer any questions in any meaningful way. ("No comment" he replied when asked if the conference might set the record for sheer volume of "no comments.") While these certainly didn't appear to be the actions of a stable man, Owens would claim years later (via Sports Illustrated) that he was being talked through the whole thing via a hidden Bluetooth earpiece by his agent. Why exactly TO thought he needed someone in his ear to simply repeat "No comment" over and over again, he did not explain.

Dennis Scott

Swingman Dennis Scott spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Orlando Magic, and near the close of that stint, the team — which featured stars Anfernee Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal — came quite close to winning a championship. Despite a sterling regular season record and great seeding in the playoffs in 1996, though, the team was swept by the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals (via the New York Times). In the offseason, the team lost several key players including O'Neal — and by the time Scott hosted his annual children's basketball camp in the summer of 1997, his frustration had apparently bubbled over. Like, way over.

Scott would later say, according to the Washington Post, that he snapped after someone asked him about his drug use in front of his 10-year-old son, who was present at the camp. Determined to be a great role model, Scott popped his trunk and began blaring some non-family-friendly rap music before going on a tirade about all of the ways he'd been wronged, and suggested that rather than ask him about basketball, the young lads should instead inquire about "the rage inside [him]." He then said he had somewhere to be and peaced out, leaving a bunch of grade-schoolers with their jaws on the floor. Eventually, Scott was made to issue refunds and an apology to the parents of the 142 campers present (including, presumably, himself), and the Magic went ahead and traded him to the Mavericks that fall.

Mourad Aliev

Mourad Aliev is a promising French amateur boxer who had high hopes for his chances at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, which actually took place in 2021 for reasons we can't seem to remember. During his match against British pugilist Frazer Clarke, Aliev's ... over-enthusiastic use of his head resulted in cuts above both of Clarke's eyes, a situation which led to his disqualification in the second round. None too happy with this decision, Aliev began kicking at the canvas, punched a television camera, then retreated to the corner of the empty ring — where he sat, griping at his trainer, for half an hour (via BBC).

Aliev would later say that, despite the appearance that he was simply being a sore loser, he truly believed that the referee got it wrong. As reported by Insider, Aliev told the assembled press, "It's totally unfair, I was winning the match. I was just stopped without any warning and they just told me that 'you lost,' just like that. So I think it was an act of sabotage ... I prepared my whole life for this event, so getting mad for something like that is natural." Perhaps so, but dude, what did the camera ever do to you?

The Malice at the Palace

Perhaps the most infamous meltdown in sports history came on November 19, 2004, when the Indiana Pacers took on the Detroit Pistons at the Palace at Auburn Hills outside Detroit. With 45 seconds left in the game, Indiana Pacers legend Ron Artest fouled the Detroit Pistons' Ben Wallace, a foul egregious enough that the teams nearly got into a brawl right there on the court, according to History. Then, as Artest laid on the scorers' table (!) to calm himself, a fan threw a beer at him — and Artest lost all of his mind.

Artest charged into the stands, grabbing the fan he thought was responsible for the beer-chucking (he was wrong). In response, several fans stormed the court, some coming to blows with players, with said players reciprocating; then, all hell just broke loose, with the melee swiftly beginning to resemble a back-alley fight rather than a basketball game. At the end of the day (via ESPN), nine fans were injured, with two of those hospitalized; a slew of players from both teams received suspensions of varying lengths, with Artest nixed for the rest of the season; and the final 45 seconds of the game were not played, which (somewhat ironically) resulted in a 97-82 Pacers win. 

The game-turned-brawl, which came to be known as the "Malice at the Palace," is to this day perhaps the worst freakout in pro sports history. It also forever stained the reputation of Artest, who (even more ironically) would years later change his name to "Metta World Peace."