The Craziest Freakouts, Tantrums, and Rants in Sports History
Losing your cool is one thing, but having a full-blown meltdown is a different story. For these players and coaches, getting ejected from the contest was the least of their concerns. Hefty fines, lengthy suspensions, and potential legal action were just some of the potential consequences stemming from these catastrophic temper tantrums. Here are 30 of the biggest freakouts, tantrums, and rants in sports history.
Malice at the Palace
One of the most shocking events in NBA history occurred on Nov. 19, 2004, at the Palace of Auburn Hills. With 45 seconds left in the game, the Pistons were well on their way to victory over the Indiana Pacers when an on-court scuffle between players broke out. The scuffle devolved into pure chaos when a fan threw a beer at the fight’s instigator, Ron Artest.
At that point, all hell broke loose as players and fans began brawling with one another. Suffice it to say, numerous arrests were made and suspensions handed down, including what turned out to be an 86-game ban for Artest, the longest in NBA history.
World Cup Headbutt
The headbutt heard around the world was felt by Italy’s Marco Materazzi, pictured here on the ground writhing in pain. In extra time of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final, France’s Zinedine Zidane, fed up with Materazzi’s incessant jersey tugging, told the Italian he could have the jersey after the game.
Materazzi replied that he rather have Zidane’s sister. That quip earned Materazzi a perfectly-executed headbutt to the chest. Zidane was handed a red card and escorted off the field. Without their best player on the field, France struggled to generate offense, eventually losing to Italy on penalty kicks 5-3.
Buckeye Black Eye
Rule No.1 of coaching: Never, under any circumstance, punch a player. To clarify, that means on either team. Near the end of the 1978 Gator Bowl, Clemson defensive lineman Charlie Bauman intercepted an Ohio State pass, virtually sealing the win for Clemson. Bauman, who was tackled out of bounds in Hayes’ vicinity, popped up and began celebrating.
Hayes, in no mood to watch the opponent showboat, grabbed Bauman by the jersey and threw an ill-advised punch at Bauman’s neck. The incident was captured on camera and led to Hayes’ immediate dismissal from the team. Hayes’ reputation was tarnished beyond repair and he would never coach again.
Tyson Takes a Bite
Quite possibly the single most famous bite in world history, Mike Tyson’s unholy nibble of opponent Evander Holyfield’s ear was both gruesome and unprecedented. Holyfield and Tyson were squaring off in their highly-anticipated rematch for the WBA Championship. In what later became known as “The Bite Fight,” Tyson grew increasingly frustrated by Holyfield’s tactics and subtle headbutts.
In the third round, Tyson grabbed Holyfield’s noggin and took a bite out of his ear. A shrieking Holyfield stepped back to discover a portion of his ear on the canvas. The fight resumed until Tyson bit a second time. At that point, the fight was called with Holyfield and his two bitten ears being crowned champion. Tyson received a $3 million fine and was banned from boxing for a little over one year.
Big Bad Bruins
Similar to the Malice at the Palace, what transpired on December 23, 1979, was one of the ugliest moments in NHL history. The Boston Bruins were visiting the New York Rangers when an unruly and utterly senseless fan slapped a Bruins player with a rolled up magazine and snatched his stick. Well, as the saying goes, don’t poke the bear.
The Bruins rallied as a team, jumped the glass, and pursued the assailant. Needless to say, that fan, along with every other fan that tried to brawl, received a satisfying beatdown. Three Bruins were handed fines and suspensions while the NHL modified the rinks to improve player safety.
Subway Series Bat Throw
Roid rage? In the 2000 World Series, aka the Subway Series, Mets catcher Mike Piazza’s bat broke on a foul ball, sending a portion of the bat spiraling at Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens. Clemens, notorious for being a hothead, snagged the broken bat and hurled it in Piazza’s direction. Benches cleared but cooler heads prevailed as no ejections were made.
After the game, Clemens tried to defend his actions by saying he was throwing the bat towards the dugout, completely unaware that Piazza was running to first. Cameras also appeared to capture Clemens mouthing to Piazza that he “thought it was the ball.” Sure you did.
Kicking the Camera
In 1997, Dennis “The Worm” Rodman lost his cool during a Bulls game versus the Minnesota Timberwolves. Rodman, visibly upset from a foul and the hazardous placement of the cameraman, took his rage out in one smooth kick to the cameraman’s groin. Eugene Amos, the recipient of the kick, briefly saw stars before seeing green.
Amos made the business decision to crumple to the ground and request a stretcher. He was transported to a hospital and released that same night. The NBA levied on Rodman an 11-game suspension, then the second largest in history, and a $25,000 fine. Rodman also settled with Amos out of court for $200,000.
You Cannot Be Serious
“You cannot be serious…It was clearly in…You guys are the absolute pits of the world, you know that?” Those were the famous words uttered by a disgusted, disgruntled, and depleted John McEnroe at the 1981 Wimbledon Championships. McEnroe served up what appeared to be a clean, unreturnable hit, right down the line.
But the umpire saw things differently and ruled the serve out of bounds. That erroneous call struck a nerve with the already temperamental McEnroe who launched an aggressive diatribe at the esteemed Wimbledon refs. All was for naught as McEnroe would win the match and the tournament, the first of his career.
In April 2018, Connor McGregor, the fiery UFC superstar, acted a bit out of line when he threw a dolly at a UFC bus loaded with fighters ready for a big night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. And when we say a bit out of line, we mean really, extremely, absurdly out of line.
The infamous dolly toss cracked a bus window, injuring multiple fighters including Michae Chiesa, who suffered facial lacerations, and Ray Borg, who had glass lodged in his eye. Both fighters withdrew from their fights. McGregor was arrested, held on $50,000 bail, and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. He did, however, avoid two potential felony charges.
Kung Fu Cantona
Fiery, confident, and prolific. Eric Cantona was one of the deftest players of his generations. He was also one of the most prolific kung fu practitioners, and this little-known fact revealed itself on January 25, 1995. Cantona’s Manchester United squad was facing Crystal Palace when, late in the game, Cantona was handed a red card.
As he walked towards the tunnel, a fan shouted profanities at the Frenchman. Naturally, Cantona didn’t receive these well and charged the fan, launching a flying kick straight into the trash talker’s abdomen. Cantona was suspended for the remainder of the season, fined $39,000, and sentenced to 120 hours of community service.
Pine Tar Game
The infamous Pine Tar Game between the Royals and Yankees took place on July 24, 1983, at Yankee Stadium. With two outs in the ninth and trailing by one, Royals star George Brett stepped to the plate and launched a go-ahead home run. However, Yankees manager Billy Martin noticed what he believed to be an illegal amount of pine tar on Brett’s bat.
Martin notified the umpires who, after a discussion, ruled the bat to be in violation of the rules. Brett was signaled out, ending the game, but the enraged Royal wasn’t done yet. Brett charged out of the dugout, nearly attacking the umpire in one of the most heated exchanges the MLB has ever seen. To read more about the fascinating aftermath and the eventual reversal of the call, visit the MLB’s story here.
On March 29, 2001, Tie Domi was, unsurprisingly, in the penalty box when a Philadelphia Flyers fan began to taunt the notorious enforcer. Initially, the fan tried to grab a water bottle from Domi’s hand. However, the glass partition separating the two broke, causing the fan to crash into the penalty box.
Like a visitor at a zoo falling into a lion’s den, this was a disaster waiting to happen. Domi landed a few good shots on the helpless intruder before the refs finally separated them. The NHL fined Domi $1,000 while the two combatants took their feud off the ice and settled out of court.
Cooler heads did not prevail after Khabib Nurmagomedov submitted Connor McGregor at UFC 229 in Las Vegas. Chaos erupted and the post-fight fireworks were ignited. What was said still remains unclear, but something was uttered, potentially a racial epithet directed at Khabib, that deeply affected the victorious fighter and his team following the epic bout.
Rather than retreating to the locker room, Khabib and his team attacked McGregor and his team in a shocking, unscheduled mele. Khabib was fined $500,000 and suspended nine months. Similarly, McGregor was suspended for six months and fined $50,000. A rematch between the two has not yet been scheduled.
Vernon Maxwell Fights a Fan
Again, going into the stands and punching a fan, however obnoxious they may be, just isn’t a smart play. But Mad Max didn’t abide by the rules; he didn’t care about the repercussions. At least that’s what it looked like from the outside. In a 1995 game against the Trail Blazers, Maxwell entered the stands to confront a fan who he believed was chirping offensive, racist remarks.
Before the two could engage in any dialogue, Maxwell sucker punched the fan square in the face. That punch cost him $20,000 and a 10-game suspension, the second largest in the league at that point in time. Don’t cross Mad Max.
Mikhail Youzhny Bloodies Himself
How to make a name for yourself in one step when your tennis game isn’t noteworthy enough: repeatedly bash your head with the racket’s metal frame until blood is drawn. At the 2008 Sony Ericsson Open, Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny was playing some sloppy tennis when the constant underachiever decided to quickly release some pent-up aggression.
But aggression wasn’t the only thing that Youzhny released. After a few violent slams of the racket, blood began to trickle out of a pronounced gash in his head. Following medical attention, Youzhny went onto win the match. Youzhny retired in 2018 without winning any Majors.
Jim Everett Meets Jim Rome
Jim Everett was a productive NFL quarterback for 12 seasons. However, in the 1989 NFC Championship Game, Everett, along with his Rams, was severely pummeled and punished by the eventual Super Bowl champion 49ers. Late in the game, after constant battering, Everett collapsed to the ground in anticipation of a big hit despite no one being around him.
Dubbed the phantom sack, media personality Jim Rome pounced on the opportunity to lampoon Everett, calling him Chris, as in the female tennis star Chris Evert. In 1994, Everett went on the Jim Rome’s show and warned Rome not to call him Chris again. Rome wasn’t able to bite his tongue, provoking Everett to flip the table and tackle the smug host.
Not My Chair, Not My Problem
Quite possibly the most famed disciplinarian in basketball history, legendary Indiana coach Bobby Knight had a history of letting his emotions get the best of him. One moment that punctuated Knight’s inability to keep his emotions in check came during a 1985 rivalry week matchup against Purdue.
Early in the game, the Hoosiers were called for a slew of bogus fouls, at least according to Knight. Knight argued the calls and was given consecutive technicals, prompting him to grab a chair and fling it across the stadium floor. Knight received his third technical and was ejected immediately. Indiana hung onto win 72-63 while Knight received a one-game ban.
Amare Extinguishes Himself
Punching the glass casing that houses a fire extinguisher is not the right way to take out your anger, but if you must punch something out of frustration, don’t do it before your team’s playoff game. Sadly for the Knicks, Amare Stoudemire didn’t receive the memo in time.
After a crushing Game 2 loss in the 2012 playoffs against the Miami Heat, Stoudemire retreated to the locker room where he came across the innocent fire extinguisher. Stoudemire’s forceful blow gashed his hand and created a gruesome scene for the paramedics. Surgery was narrowly avoided and Stoudemire somehow only missed one game.
I’m a Man, I’m 40
“I’m a man, I’m 40!” In September 2007, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy tore into a local reporter after he discovered disparaging lines in a newspaper regarding one of his players, oft-injured and disgruntled quarterback Bobby Reid. The rant lasted for a total of three intense minutes with Gundy delivering one memorable zinger after the next.
While some critics applauded Gundy’s speech as an impassionate defense of his players, others people, including Reid, believed the speech was a front, a disingenuous attempt at covering his own tracks. To date, Gundy’s spontaneous combustion speech is considered one of the most memorable outbursts in sports.
Minor League Manager, Major League Meltdown
No one cares about minor league baseball like Phillip Wellman, a manager and minor-leaguer for life. Back in 2007, Wellman went on the greatest tirade in baseball history. Seriously, Wellman’s meltdown has been voted the greatest tantrum in sports history. Wellman started off his antics by uprooting the bases from the paths before making his way to the plate to cover it with dirt.
But Wellman’s signature move didn’t really start until he crawled through the infield like a soldier, eventually grabbing the pitcher’s rosin bag and throwing it like a grenade at the umpire. As Wellman left the stadium, he made sure to take a bow and blow a kiss. Wellman was suspended three games for his antics.
Kicking Net Strikes Back
God this man is a headcase, an emotional disaster, a trainwreck waiting to happen. Odell Beckham Jr. is a talented receiver and an even bigger diva. In 2016, Beckham was engaged in a prime-time matchup with Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, who he was dominating. Then Eli Manning, naturally, ruined the drive, and Beckham’s inner rage began to boil.
Rather than bottling his emotions deep inside, Beckham Jr. aired them out, attacking a kicking net with his helmet. The net, however, fought back and recoiled into Beckham’s face. Beckham Jr. tried to right the situation weeks later by hugging a kicking net, making him look all the more foolish.
Seattle Seahawks fans can be a pretty ruthless bunch, and their stadium, Century Link Field, is regarded as one of the toughest places to play in football. Add in some rain or snow, and going up to Seattle becomes an absolute nightmare for players, and in 2008, that nightmare became a reality when Seahawks fans began pelting the lowly Jets with snowballs.
Shaun Ellis wasn’t a fan of the friendly fire and went into a snowbank to grab some ammunition of his own. What he produced was a massive chunk of ice/snow that he hurled at an obnoxious fan. Ellis was fined $10,000 and the fan sued him.
No, you’re not a soldier. You’re a football player, a talented one at that. But freaking out on the media after a game, telling the world you’re a “[explitive] soldier,” and exposing yourself as a hothead with a short fuse is no way to make a name for yourself. Scratch that, it’s a way, but not a good way.
Back in 2003, Winslow and the Hurricanes defeated Tennessee 10-6 in a slugfest. Winslow felt that the Tennessee players targeted him the entire game, and during the post-game press conference, Winslow went berserk on the media, lashing out and comparing his job of catching balls and throwing blocks to that of a soldier going to war.
It’s not a good look when the mics catch you screaming at a judge, “I’m going to shove this [explitive] ball down your [expletive] throat.” Verbally berating referees usually ends in disaster, and Serena Williams, however legendary she may be, was no exception to the rule.
Back at the 2009 US Open, Serena Williams was called for a foot fault, one of the rarer and more infuriating calls in the game. Livid beyond belief, Serena approached the ref and went on an epic tirade that ended with a loss to Kim Clijsters, a $10,500 fine, and a spot on probation.
Latrell Sprewell is not known for making great decisions, but the nadir of Sprewell’s stupidity came in 1997 when the emerging star choked his head coach, P.J. Carlesimo. The incident stemmed from a heated exchange between the two at practice. Sprewell took offense to Carlisimo’s words and thought choking him would resolve the matter.
After being separated and escorted to the showers, Sprewell returned and punched the coach in the head before being removed from the facility. The NBA suspended him for a total of 68 games, costing him over $6 million in wages. Later, Sprewell infamously denied a $21 million contract extension. Boneheaded business decisions were another part of Sprewell’s offensive arsenal.
Another Year, Another Bite
This isn’t so much as a single, isolated freakout but rather a continued, mind-boggling temper tantrum that Luis Suarez throws seemingly every year. Luis Suarez may be one of the most gifted scorers in soccer, but his propensity toward biting people negates the ability to like or respect the Argentinian striker.
Suarez has three documented biting incidents, all of which are completely unacceptable. In 2013, Suarez was suspended for 10 games after biting a Chelsea player on the arm. A year later, Suarez chomped on the neck of an Italian at the World Cup. Ultimately, Suarez was suspended for nine games and sent home from soccer’s most important tournament.
This epic diatribe belongs to the one and only “Iron” Mike Tyson. Despite his lisp, Tyson had an incredibly quick tongue and an even faster set of hands. In June 2002, Tyson and Lennox Lewis were scheduled for a megafight, but the two fighters didn’t have to wait until then to exchange pleasantries.
At a press conference in April, Tyson and Lewis came to blows as the pre-fight theatrics were set off in dramatic fashion, and amidst the chaos, a reporter yelled that the unhinged Tyson should be put in a straight jacket. Tyson heard the remark and launched into a nasty, profanity-laced rant that struck genuine fear into the hearts of every audience member. After that, the reporter was, understandably, very quiet.
Pippen and the Chair
Because there isn’t a proper photo of Scottie Pippen’s bizarre outburst, we’ll provide you with a link to the clip. Back on Jan. 25, 1995, Pippen and the Bulls played the Spurs in a matchup of premier teams. Pippen, frustrated by the referees, began to vehemently argue a call and was given a technical foul.
A steaming Pippen, needing to be restrained by teammates, earned a second T and an automatic ejection. On his way to the tunnel, Pippen hurled a chair across the floor, narrowly missing a group of kids. Scottie was fined $1,000, suspended one game, and forfeited his $26,000 game check.
Well, Ryan Leaf was a colossal bust. That much you already knew. But did you know he was also a colossal hothead whose interactions with the media were worse than his on-field play? Yep, Leaf and the media clashed from the start, and one of his ugliest media battles happened in 1998 with a local San Diego reporter.
Leaf began screaming profanities at a reporter who asked him an innocent question. Then, to make matters worse, Leaf was pressured into reading off an apology from a piece of paper, one he promptly crumpled and tossed on the ground when he was done “apologizing.”
Baseball managers have a plethora of tactics they use after getting ejected from games. Crawling, stealing bases, screaming, kicking dirt, spitting. You name it, they’ve done it. But out of all the memorable meltdowns on the diamond, Pirates’ Lloyd McClendon’s back in 2001 stands out from the rest.
His parade around the bases, sprinkled in with kicks, screams, and twirls, was both hilarious and sad. The Pirates were a miserable team that season and McClendon punctuated the effort by stealing a base and bringing it to the dugout. Needless to say, the base was returned and McClendon got to shower early.