Big Lead Sports Bar



Legacies. They're a fascinating thing. A person's legacy is the very definition of how they will be remembered. And they're constantly evolving. For instance, the Manning family's legacy just a few years ago would have been that they can't win the big game (or that the only Bowl game Peyton or Eli would ever win was the Pro Bowl). And here we are, coming off of back-to-back Manning family Super Bowl wins, both times beating Tom Brady and the Patriots at some point along the way.

But legacies can go the opposite direction as well. After Isiah Thomas' latest bizarre incident, people started casually throwing around comparisons of Thomas to O.J. Simpson for their falls from grace. That was enough for me. It was list time. What are the top 10 most memorable altered legacies in sports, I wondered?

My thoughts are below. I put a great deal of weight on the subject's past on-field accomplishments, which is why you won't find someone like Rae Carruth on the list. If one incident instantly comes to mind when mentioning these players and coaches, you will likely find them below. And this is not a lifetime achievement award either, so you won't see any Terrell Owenses or Randy Mosses for their collective buffoonery.

And since 10 is a relatively small number, I listed a few after the list that merit some level of consideration. Consider it a mix of a "watch list" and "others receiving votes". So without further adieu, I present...



Oh, Ricky Williams. Such promise. Such talent. Such a weed problem.

The one-time NCAA all-time rushing king still holds or shares a whopping 20 NCAA records. His pro career got off to an interesting start in 1999 when Mike Ditka went temporarily insane and traded the Saints' entire draft (as well as a 1st and a 3rd in 2000) to get him, followed up nicely by a Master P-negotiated contract and the infamous "Wedding Dress" ESPN: the Magazine cover.

Following a bizarre rookie season in which he gave interviews with his helmet on, Williams was later diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and actually became a spokesperson for the drug Paxil. He finally hit his stride after a 2002 trade to Miami, gaining 1,853 yards to go along with 16 touchdowns. But by 2004, he found himself out of the game of football, retiring due to marijuana-related issues. His abrupt retirement set off a chain reaction in Miami which eventually led (in part) to Dave Wannstedt showing up on the doorstep of the Pitt Panthers.

The story could go on forever, but let's shorten it to the Cliffs Notes version: return to the NFL, 2nd drug suspension, Canadian Football league, broken arm, yoga, holistic medicine, Australia, 2nd return, and torn chest muscle. Not exactly the path we expected for the soft-spoken college superstar.


Contrary to popular belief, Bill Buckner was not a bum. In fact, he played 22 seasons in the bigs, with a .289 career average, over 2,700 hits, and a .992 fielding percentage.

Of course, the only thing people will ever remember about him is his error in the 1986 World Series, which is brilliantly re-created the form of RBI Baseball.


Jim Mora was a very good NFL coach. Not Hall of Fame-good, but he won 125 career games, gave the New Orleans Saints their first-ever winning season, and turned a rookie named Peyton Manning into a 13-3 record by season two. But all that pales in comparison to your legacy dissolving into fodder for a beer commercial:

Dennis Green was only the second African-American coach in college history when he landed the Northwestern gig in 1981. He later coached at Stanford before graduating to the NFL, where he also became the second African-American coach in their history.

As coach of the Minnesota Vikings, his team landed in the playoffs in eight of 10 seasons. He coached the likes of Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss, and Cris Carter in their prime. And what is he remembered for? A blowup following a (rookie) Matt Leinart-led collapse as coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2006.

As for Hall of Fame linebacker-turned-49ers coach Mike Singletary, his legacy could come crumbling down fast with more tirades like the one he gave after, oh, his first game as coach:


Artest will always be remembered as a talented guy with oodles of screws loose. He's averaged 16 and 5 for his career, which started by being chosen 16th overall in the 1999 NBA draft. He'll also be remembered for asking to take time off from the game to promote his CD, and this little video clip, which pretty much killed the Indiana Pacers organization for the foreseeable future and rocked the world of pro sports in a way that few events ever had.


How the mighty have fallen. I'll never forget watching a young Vick win a 2003 playoff game at Lambeau Field and thinking how the torch had symbolically been passed from Brett Favre.

Almost six years later, Favre has 16 touchdown passes and is playing for first place tonight, and Vick is sitting in the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas for dogfighting-related charges. And honestly, the dogfighting was just the tip of the iceberg. Or did you all forget about "Ron Mexico"?


One word: Spygate. Rightly or wrongly, it called into question anything that Belichick ever accomplished, and it turned every Patriots-Jets postgame handshake into must-see TV. And it got some quality time from the federal government, too.


You say "crazy", the numbers say "champion". He's one of the 50 greatest players in league history, a 12-time All-Star, and a Playoff MVP. Yet he will be remembered as the human anchor that sank the New York Knicks, with debacles such as the acquisition of Stephon Marbury, $30 million given to 4.3 point per game-scoring Jerome James, the idea that Larry Brown would be a good fit as coach, and the cherry on top, a sexual harrassment lawsuit, on his watch. His latest bizarro incident involving sleeping pills certainly helped vault him up the list.


Ugh. The talk of steroids in baseball isn't good for anybody. It stained the players for life, it crushed the fans, it took away from the credibility of the game, it showed young ballplayers that (at least for a time) steroids led to huge paydays and swollen statistics, and it made taxpayers angry that the government was spending time on it. I think I've made my case here.


"Charlie Hustle" always played hard. You'd have to if your plan was to have more hits than anyone else who ever played Major League Baseball. Rose loved the game so much, he returned as a manager and won 412 games, with four consecutive second-place finishes. But despite all of his accomplishments, Rose is on the outside looking in when it comes to the Baseball Hall of Fame due to his involvement in gambling on baseball.

Since discussion of Rose's legacy always leads to this question, what do you think: should Pete Rose be in the Baseball Hall of Fame?


His on-field accomplishments could fill pages. College superstar. Pro superstar. College Hall of Famer. Pro Hall of Famer.

Off the field, there was a filmography 31 titles deep, including The Towering Inferno and three Naked Guns. Monday Night Football. The NFL on NBC. His own production company. Tons of endorsements.

But his 1994 trial for the murder of wife Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman, changed the way we will forever look at O.J. His 2007 Las Vegas robbery case surprised some, but paled in comparison to the controversy that still grips people today when discussing the first man to rush for 2,000 yards in an NFL season. Unfortunately, when his name comes up in the news, it's usually not about football.

and for good measure...

Take an iconic, Hall of Fame quarterback, stand him on the sidelines, give him some alcohol, force him to watch the Jets fumble their way through another season, then plop Suzy Kolber in his face with a microphone. Watch as a legend's legacy evaporates into a brief YouTube clip:

This list could go on forever, but here are a few who nearly made it, for singular incidents, game screwups, inappropriate comments, or in some cases, their "body of work". I've provided some points of reference as well:

The '70s Steelers (steroids and subsequent deaths), Ed Hochuli (blown call & apologetic emails to angry fans), Scott Norwood, Allen Iverson (Practice?), Najeh Davenport, Onterrio Smith, Shawn Kemp, Travis Henry, Dennis Rodman, Lawrence Phillips, PacMan Jones, Todd Bertuzzi (for ending Steve Moore's career), Nate Newton, Jamal Lewis, Latrell Sprewell (Got a family to feed), Kobe Bryant, Jayson Williams (the Net), Larry Johnson (the Chief), Cedric Benson, Chris Henry, Fred Smoot and Bryant McKinnie (Vikings Love Boat), Koren Robinson, Len Bias, Kellen Winslow (the solider), Ray Lewis, Floyd Landis, Josh Howard, Vince Young (6 on the Wonderlic, shirtless bar photos, bizarre 2008 season), Chris Webber (championship timeout), The Portland Jailblazers, Derek Bell (Operation Shutdown), Albert Haynesworth (stomping on Andre Gurode), Brady Quinn (countless less-than-flattering internet photos) ...

And please, add any obvious oversights in the comments section.

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Pittsburgh Pirates: The Movie (2006)
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Movie II (2007)
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Movie III (2008)

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The Sports Hernia said...

Don't forget when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lost his shit on Joey while courageously piloting a flight:

Roger Murdoch flips his lid

The Sports Hernia said...

Oops, bad link:

is Crunch

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

Great list!

You could put Marion Jones with the beisbol mouth-breathers or you could give her a seperate entry.

Another stretch might be Marv Albert even though he doesn't play.

Woody Hayes for tackling someone.

Joe Paterno coaching from hospice care and the ole poop in the pants routine.

Michael Jordan for having a reverse midas touch with his post Chicago basketball life.

Brendon said...

How about Dany Heatley for ending Dan Snyder's career? Oh, and life.

Ethanator1088 said...

Great article, but I would love another option on the Pete Rose poll. I think he should be added after he dies.

This is awesome!

AJ said...

Nothing says career melt down like Iron Mike Tyson.

I'd also like to nominate the band The Fixx for lending their song to those f-ing Toyota "saved by zero" commercials.

Steve said...

Wow, I thought that saved by zero was just an annoying jingle! Someone actually intended that to be a real song? If so, everyone in that band needs punched in the ear.

I can't knock Joe for the drunken Kolber slip up. Especially now. Suzy finally ditched the Mom cut for real girl hair and with those irresistible eyes, she's the definition of cute. Joe just said what every other guy wants to.

Broke But Still Drinking said...

What about the guy who ate the 15lb burger and retired the same day? What a waste of talent.

tecmo said...

Do they have to be falls from grace? What about reversed altered legacies?

Aaron Boone. He never stacked up against his dad, grandad OR brother, but now will forever live in Yankees lore for that 2003 ALCS homer.

David said...

I've gotta say Jordan. He retired as the most beloved athlete in any sport by an entire generation of fans.

He then proceeded to actually make the Wizards worse as an executive (which is a pretty monumental feat), drafted Kwame Brown #1, played 2 godawful seasons, then got unceremoniously dumped by the club.

Eventually went to the Bobcats where he's drafted Adam Morrison (and given him a HUGE extenstion).

Josh said...

Great list! Good stuff indeed.

@ bebop
you can't have jordan on that list. when you think of jordan, you either think of the shot in cleveland or the shot in utah. no one remembers him wearing a wizards jersey. and while the kwami pick was a total bust, his legacy in the game of basketball is more than secure unless he goes "Isiah Thomas" on us.

- NJ

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Marve Albert! He wasn't an athelete, But he did have a legacy. Until it was found that he liked to sodomize woman in female underwear.

David said...

@ josh

I guess I'm a little biased -- I lived in DC during that whole episode and live in Charlotte now, so it seems that I can't escape Jordan's executive wrath. Generally speaking, DC fans in the early '00s and current Bobcats fans have forgotten all about Jordan's once proud legacy and focus only on his complete front office ineptitude.

Anonymous said...

NO HOF for Rose!

Anonymous said...

To go old school, Shoeless joe, a sure-fire HOFer. batted .400 in 1911, .356 lifetime. OBP of .423, could have had 2500 hits, easily. Eddie Cicotte, 29, 28 and 21 game winner. Lifetime ERA of 1.23. 1374 career K's. Potential HOFer. Both kicked out during Black Sox scandal

Dallas Mike said...

For local flavor, how about Johnny Majors after his 2nd stint at Pitt. Woody Hayes also made my list. Mike Tyson needs to be on the list, but what about Evander Holyfield. Now a low-on-cash journeyman that is a paternal lawsuit waiting to happen. You can throw Shawn Kemp in that category too. Once the Rain Man, now a punchline about gaining weight and fathering children. Honorable mention: Tim Hardaway.

nuthinhere said...

"Saved by Zero" by The Fixx is actually an ok song. You can find it on the album "Reach the Beach". It came out in the mid '80s. Yes I'm old, you wacky kids!

Pete Rose should be in the HoF. He'd be right at home with all the other sleazebags already in. Anyway, considering how MLB has dealt with the steroids scandal, it should be obvious they don't give a shit about honesty & integrity.