The term “mailing it in” has been overused in the history of sports, but still applies to many athletes, both superstar and journeyman. Some days, like any other employee, athletes just aren’t into it and “take a day off.”
For a handful of star athletes, the “lazy” tag just doesn’t seem to go away.
Exhibit A might be a guy like former major leaguer Adam Dunn. He wasn’t named “Big Donkey” because he could carry a team on his back, in case you were wondering. The man with the home run swing clouted 462 bombs over 14 big league seasons, including six seasons of 40 or more. Yet, he won’t get many votes for the Hall of Fame, mainly due to perception about his lack of preparation. One year, the Yankees were considering him as a free agent, but one New York executive put that rumor to rest with his thoughts.
“He’s not a New York kind of guy,” the executive said, adding Dunn is a “good guy,” but “lazy.”
“He is one of those guys that takes pride in the fact that he doesn’t work out that much,” the executive said.
Dunn narrowly missed making this list, but here are 10 other athletes (in no particular order) who, despite their elite level talent, are or were just plain lazy.
10. Lamar Odom – NBA
Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda. Lamar Odom would have become an NBA star had he committed to conditioning. The 2010 NBA Sixth Man of the Year could have stayed a member of the Lakers and maybe won more championships had he lived up to his hefty contract. He should have had a longer career, but injuries (which he didn’t properly rehab from) and drug policy violations took their toll.
Odom’s story isn’t unique to the NBA. A solid power forward from a small school (Rhode Island), he enjoyed some solid seasons with the Clippers and Lakers, but fame (he married Khloe Kardashian — they later divorced) and fortune spoiled him. Of his terrible conditioning, former Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said, “I wish he was in a little bit better condition, he wishes he was too, but he has to continually work every day and I’m sure he’ll get there eventually.” He never did.
Sadly, Odom almost died in 2015 after being found unconscious in a Nevada brothel (seriously). He was placed in a medically induced coma, and was suffering from kidney failure and the aftermath of several strokes. He is still recovering.
9. Matt Leinart – NFL
By all accounts, Matt Leinart should still be in the NFL. He was an absolute stud at USC in the early part of the last decade, winning a Heisman (2004), two NCAA QB of the Year awards (2004-05) and two national championships (2003-04). Unfortunately, you can take the man out of college, but in Leinart’s case, you can’t take the college out of the man.
Selected 10th overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2006, the southpaw was considered to be something of a savior in the desert. Only problem was, he continued his frat boy, partying ways while being paid a hefty NFL salary. Put it this way, Leinart once kept the company of eternal party boy Wilmer Valderrama (yes, that 70s guy) and never really got around to a regular conditioning routine that could have saved his NFL career. He played just 33 games in seven abbreviated seasons. Enough said.
8. Alexander Semin – NHL
Sadly, for the immensely talented Alex Semin, it has come to this. In 2015, one day before the much-hyped “free agent frenzy” of July 1, Semin was waived by the Carolina Hurricanes for the purpose of being bought out of his contract. And what a contract it was — a five-year, $35 million whopper he signed with the ‘Canes in March of 2013. It cost Carolina dearly in cap space(even the Canadiens picked him up a month later, easing the burden) but it cost the at-times indifferent star even more.
The man who put up 40 goals and 84 points in 73 games with the Washington Capitals in 2009-10 hasn’t been the same since. Why? If the following statements made by former teammates even have a half-grain of truth, no team will touch him. “He doesn’t have the best work ethic,” was one. “Some nights, you didn’t even know if he was going to show up to the rink,” was yet another. He returned to the KHL in 2015 after playing just 15 games for the Habs.
7. John Daly – PGA Tour
The image of an overweight John Daly smoking a cigarette and walking a tour-level golf course is indelible. While some athletes skirt the issue of poor conditioning habits, Daly embraced it. Take this nugget about his routine that he once tossed out, “I’m flexible enough, there are probably some things I could do to keep my flexibility up, but I’d rather smoke, drink diet Cokes and eat. I get enough exercise walking five or six miles a day.”
The two-time major championship winner (PGA Championship 1991 and British Open in 1995) is still grinding it out on the tour, mostly on sponsorship exemptions. The stories of his excesses are legendary and have no doubt kept the big hitter from winning like he did in the 90s. A run-down of his hard-partying ways includes being arrested after passing out at a Hooters, dancing with a topless woman at a party, and frittering away anywhere from 50 to 60 million dollars gambling.
6. J.D. Drew – MLB
Like Matt Leinart above, Drew was a major league scout’s dream while patrolling the outfield for Florida State in the mid-90s. He was Collegiate Player of the Year in 1997, a member of Team USA in 1996, and was the first college player to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in the same season. But, he and agent Scott Boras soured everyone on his immense talents, refusing to sign with Philadelphia, who wouldn’t pay him a $10 million signing bonus (they drafted him second overall in 1997).
He was then drafted fifth overall in 1998 by St. Louis after a year in an independent league, and save for a couple of decent years, a championship with Boston in 2007, and an All-Star nod, he never lived up to his promise. In fact, he was a noted cancer in the dressing room, if what former all-star Jeff Kent said about him during is brief stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers was true. “The guy was just lazy, unmotivated, and selfish. It infected the whole team last year, and clearly nothing’s changed. I’m just glad he left when he did.”
5. Ronaldhino – Soccer
For a while, Ronaldhino went by Gaucho Ronaldhino so as not to be confused with the famous Ronaldo of Brazilian soccer fame (who is now, of course, confused with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, so try to follow along). That is where the comparisons, end, however. Once an absolute star with a formidable Brazilian national side that saw him part of an attack troika that included Ronaldo and Rivaldo that won the 2002 World Cup, Ronaldhino has since vanished from view.
The man who scored 33 goals in 87 international matches and 70 in 145 matches for FC Barcelona (2003-08) is out of soccer because he just got fat. As early as 2008, some unflattering pictures surfaced of a bloated Ronaldhino rehabbing from tendinitis in his knee during his last year with Barca. The roll around his middle was due mainly to partying harder than he played. During one of his last stints with Mexican team Queretaro, Ronaldhino lived up to his playboy tag by being photographed dancing it up in a club, when the 35-year-old should have been in bed. Seven brief appearances with Brazilian club side Fluminense ended his career in 2015. He may have been lazy, but he was certainly one of the most exciting players to watch in his prime.
4. Eddy Curry – NBA
Most references to Eddy Curry have him listed at 7’0” (that he is) and 295 lbs. (that he definitely isn’t). A cruise through the interweb and any Google search invariably comes up with someone calling Curry “fat” and “overweight.” At one time a “Illinois Mr. Basketball” as a high school phenom, Curry was drafted fourth overall by his home state Chicago Bulls in 2001. He enjoyed a modicum of success as a teenager and 20-something with the Bulls, before detection of an irregular heartbeat derailed his career.
After refusing a DNA test to determine a congenital heart defect, he was traded to the New York Knicks, where he made it a habit of reporting to training camp out of shape. It was reported that during his years with the Knicks his weight had ballooned to over 350 lbs. and he never, ever got down to his reported weight of 295.
3. Phil Kessel – NHL
Once part of a consensus bad trade with the Boston Bruins — it cost the Toronto Maple Leafs two first round picks — Kessel found himself part of another blockbuster in 2015. He and his fat contract were shipped to Pittsburgh in a six-player swap. And the contract wasn’t the only thing fat about the gifted shooter. According to a story in the Toronto Sun, Kessel’s pre-game routine often involved afternoon hotdogs from a favorite street vendor.
Variously hailed as one of the best pure scorers in the game (five seasons of 30 goals or more) and an out-of-shape cancer in the dressing room, Kessel now finds himself with the Penguins. A lightning rod for criticism ever since the infamous trade with Boston, all of Kessel’s bad habits were put under the Toronto media microscope as this last Leafs’ season went off the rails. Of the things that he did to make management sour on him, there were: being first off the ice after every practice, having a hand in the awful Salute-gate mess and generally have a laissez-faire attitude to defence. Buh-bye, Phil.
With the Pens, though, Kessel was able to settle in as a role player behind the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, rather than being the face of the franchise. His contributions helped Pittsburgh win back-to-back cups in 2016 and 2017, proving that Kessell may be lazy, but he still has one of the quickest and most accurate shots in the league.
2. Hanley Ramirez – MLB
Once a “can’t miss” shortstop for the Florida (now Miami) Marlins, Hanley Ramirez held the baseball world in thrall with his gifts in the field and at the plate. The 2006 National League Rookie of the Year had some pop in his bat (134 homers in his first six seasons; 2006-11), as well as a cannon for an arm. He was an All-Star three straight seasons (2008-2010) and second in MVP voting in 2009.
All that success went to his head, though, leading to a benching for not hustling after a ground ball he booted in 2010, weight gain, and allegations from teammates for “not playing hard.” Before Ramirez and his monster contract were shipped to the Dodgers in 2012, one south Florida scribe had some very unflattering things to say about him, referencing another infamous Ramirez. “Ramirez has been coddled since Joe Girardi left the clubhouse. He feels entitled to act however he wants. He’s Hanley being Manny, as has been feared for a while.”
Despite the bad reputation, Ramirez inked a four-year, $88 deal with the Boston Red Sox in 2014, where he has played left field and first base, before basically taking over the DH spot from the retired David Ortiz.
1. JaMarcus Russell – NFL
Of all the dumb things the sad-sack Oakland Raiders have done over the years — and there have been plenty — consider the drafting of JaMarcus Russell first overall in 2007 as the dumbest. Okay, even dumber was agreeing to pay $68 million ($31.5 million guaranteed) for the giant (6’6″) QB out of LSU. What did they get for a return on their money? Three years, seven wins and 18 losses.
Teammates on some very bad Raiders teammates said his work ethic sucked, he routinely reported to camp overweight, and his conditioning left a lot to be desired. His final stats during his tenure as a Raider were; 52.1 percent completion rate, 18–23 TD to INT ratio, and a passer rating of 65.2. Some have said he was the biggest draft bust in NFL history and judging by his brief three-year sampling, they wouldn’t be wrong.