It’s difficult to judge an athlete’s true worth, even if on paper it’s clear they’re either a mega-loser or a mega-winner. But once you go beyond the stats and sabermetrics, and really take a look at what they’ve done, you inch a little closer to uncovering their true value.
In the cases of these five, we found a whole lot of nothing. These are some of the most overrated performers we’ve ever seen, and they should probably pay back all the money they’ve earned and go work at a Walgreens or something. Or CVS, if they prefer. We’re not picky.
5. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain was both a superstar and a celebrity, equally at home on the court and in front of the movie camera. And his numbers were just plain impressive — has anybody else scored 100 points in a single game, or averaged 50 points a game in one season? Anybody? No? We thought not.
Unfortunately, outside of a plethora of women’s phone numbers, he rarely won anything significant. In basketball, the ultimate team sport, Wilt was seen as a bad teammate, somebody who cared more about HIS shots and HIS stats than helping his team win rings. He won two titles, though given his gaudy numbers, plus the fact that his teams made the playoffs every single year he played save one, he really should’ve won more.
But he cared only for his stats — if given the choice between shooting a layup and losing the game, or passing to somebody in three-point range so they could shoot and WIN, he’d almost certainly take the former. Rings rust and fade over time, but numbers stay shiny forever.
4. Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick is better at driving a car incredibly fast than any of us, but that doesn’t change how she’s more a cultural symbol than an accomplished athlete. As one of the few women drivers in history to achieve any kind of success, she’s naturally going to be put on an equality pedestal and pushed as one of the top talents, as a way to show girls that they too can succeed in whatever they want to do, even if it’s not a stereotypically “girly” field.
Here’s the issue: she’s never won. It’s not just that she’s never won a Sprint Cup — plenty of people have never done that. It’s more that, with the exception of ONE RACE back in 2008, she’s never won anything. She’s started over 230 races and won one. She rarely even finishes in the top ten. For somebody touted as a super-duper star, that’s pretty pathetic.
It’s sad to say, but people like Kyle Petty, who claim she’s almost completely a marketing tool, are right. She’s marketed as a feminist success story on one end, and a smoking hot sexpot on the other. She’s like Anna Kournikova in that respect, only Kournikova had the good sense to realize she was better off modeling full-time than pretending she was a sports champion in the making. Patrick hasn’t conceded that yet, so on this list she goes.
3. Deion Sanders
Neon Deion is obviously a really good athlete. But he’s also the epitome of “jack of all trades, master of none.” He made playing two sports at the same time his gimmick, effortlessly jumping from baseball to football, like Fred Flintstone simultaneously juggling a night out with Wilma with an ever-important Water Buffalo meeting.
Unfortunately, when it came to dual sports, Sanders was no Bo Jackson. He certainly pulled his weight in football, winning two rings, qualifying for multiple Pro Bowls, and ultimately being named the 34th best player of all-time by NFL.com (and the best player ever to both win a Super Bowl AND disgrace the name and history of hip-hop).
But he’s known primarily for being the two-sport guy, boasting at-first-glance-impressive headlines like “only guy to score a touchdown and hit a homer in the same week.” But overall, his baseball career sucked. He played nine years and only managed a few hundred hits, 39 homers, and a moderately acceptable .263 average. Yes, he played in a World Series, but that was more due to everybody around him than anything he did.
If he had just focused on football, he’d have been fine. But since he didn’t, Sanders getting hype and honor for his jock duality is like mommy rewarding her child with $500 for coming home with straight C’s.
2. Dennis Rodman
None of the crazy crap he pulled off the court factors in here. We’re only talking about in-game reasons people are overrated here. And Dennis Rodman was very much that.
The numbers really don’t support this, at first glance at least. He’s the all-time rebound king, after all, and just as he says in that awful movie he did with Jean-Claude Van Damme, “defense wins the game.” And since he has multiple rings (five, to be exact) what could possibly make him overrated?
How about the fact that, aside from rebounding, he wasn’t all that good at anything else? He scored 6600 points over a 20-year period, which means his goal when touching the ball was to rebound it, and not to run with it for an easy basket. It was more of a game to him than the actual game: “how many rebounds can I run up today, even if I don’t really need to?”
And then there was the attitude. Marrying yourself and tag-teaming with Hulk Hogan is all well and silly, but the problem came when he started acting like The Worm during a game. He amassed over 2800 personal fouls (plus 200 technical ones) in his career simply due to being himself, getting into arguments, shoving officials and even resorting to bizarre protests like removing his shoes and sitting on the floor after being benched.
Overall, Rodman might not have been ALL style over substance, but style clearly won the battle much of the time.
1. Alex Rodriguez
In many ways, Alex Rodriguez is baseball’s Wilt the Stilt, albeit with more drugs and way fewer women. But never mind the steroids for a bit, regardless of when he took them (though if you must know, the answer is almost certainly “from tee ball to last Tuesday.”) Let’s just look at his results. From 1994 to today, he’s certainly racked up impressive numbers — 650 homers, a .300 average, a crapload of All-Star games, yadda yadda yadda.
One World Series win. Hell, one World Series appearance. The man got hundreds of millions of dollars for THAT? Every other year, either his team sucked and he didn’t (meaning he only cared about his personal stats), or his team made it to the playoffs and he suddenly decided to suck, because shriveling up into a helpless ball at the worst possible time is exactly what defines a Hall of Fame athlete.
And even without the constant roid abuse, A-Rod is a clear fraud and cheater. Just ask the 2004 Red Sox, who had to deal with him swatting a baseball out of a Sox glove to make it seem like he had bobbled it. Luckily, the umpire didn’t buy it and called A-Rod out. So of course, what did he do? He protested. Because he really, REALLY wanted to cheat you guys, and you should’ve let him. He’s A-Rod dammit — the face of baseball!
The unnaturally pimply, curiously bloated face of baseball.
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