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Criminal Minds: The Most Notorious Criminals in Sports History

Criminal Minds: The Most Notorious Criminals in Sports History


athlete criminals

Some people just don’t get the memo, like the professional athletes who rather sell drugs even while making millions. Or the ones that drive drunk despite having ample funds to take an Uber. Maybe the celebrity status got to their heads, or maybe they just never understood how to exercise good judgement. Whatever it may be, here are some of the most famous criminals in sports history and the shocking arrests that landed them on this dreadful list.

Rae Carruth

Rae Carruth, a former first round pick by the Carolina Panthers, is one of the most notorious figures on this list. During the 1999 season, Carruth, who was dating Cherica Adams, was determined not to have another child. In college, he fathered his first child and begrudgingly paid for child support. He wasn’t ready for round two.

Rather than taking a sensible approach and discussing what options he and Cherica Adams had to avoid becoming parents together, Carruth hired a hitman, Van Brett Watkins, to murder Cherica and their unborn baby.

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Van Brett Watkins shot Cherica four times in a late-night drive by shooting. While bleeding profusely from her car, Cherica managed to call 911. Miraculously, the baby wasn’t hit, and later that night at the hospital, the baby was born 10 weeks prematurely. Adams, sadly, died one month after that fateful night.

Carruth spent 19 years behind bars for conspiracy to murder while Watkins was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison.

Tonya Harding

If you can’t beat ’em, beat ’em. Although Harding didn’t commit the crime herself, she is inextricably linked to it. Prior to the 1994 Winter Olympics, Harding and Nancy Kerrigan were considered the top two U.S. figure skaters, with Kerrigan being the slight favorite. Harding wanted to change that, so she and her ex-husband hired Shine Stant, a convict willing to do just about anything for money, to break Kerrigan’s leg.

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The incident took place on January 6, 1994, one day before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Kerrigan was forced to withdraw due to injury and Harding, without the top competition, took first place. However, Stant failed to break Kerrigan’s leg, and the injured skater made an almost improbable recovery and was back skating in weeks.

One month later, in the sweetest form revenge, Kerrigan took silver at the Olympics while Harding, at this point a national pariah, fell to eight place. Guess revenge is best served cold.

Michael Vick

He was super fast on the field, but he could not outrun the law. Michael Vick was living a double life. He was the franchise quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons and was surging towards becoming the best rushing quarterback in NFL history. Off the field, he was leading a large-scale dogfighting ring in his hometown of Newport News, Virginia.

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The kennel, called the Bad Newz Kennels, housed pitbulls that lived in horrible conditions and were bred to fight, kill, or be killed. In 2007, Vick was suspended from the NFL without pay. One year later, Vick went bankrupt after the majority of his sponsors dropped him.

In total, he served 23 months in prison. After being released, Vick had a second stint in the NFL, playing for the Eagles, Jets, and Steelers.

Mike Tyson

“Iron” Mike Tyson was a ferocious puncher in the boxing ring. The problem was he couldn’t contain his rage and confine it just to boxing. In 1991, Tyson was accused and found guilty of raping Desiree Washington, the Miss Black Rhode Island winner. Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison but ended up serving less than three years.

athlete criminals

Following his release from jail, Tyson returned to the ring and continued to dominate. In 2006, Tyson was arrested on suspicion of DUI and felony drug possession. He entered a rehab program and was given three years probation. Since then, Tyson has avoided run ins with the law and has become an actor, notably appearing in the Hangover movie series.

Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley had done a great job of avoiding arrests throughout his career despite numerous off-court incidents. He’d fight drunk fans in back alleys, he’d go at it in clubs, and he’d throw down on the courts. But no arrest. Until Jorge Lugo came along.

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Lugo, a 5-foot-1-inch undocumented immigrant who had already been arrested 10 times, wanted, for god knows what reason, to tussle with the 6-foot-6 Barkley. Lugo instigated the fight by throwing a cup of ice at Barkley. Barkley responded by picking up Lugo and throwing him through a glass window.

Barkley got a misdemeanor, paid a $320 fine, and had to do community service. Lugo hasn’t been heard from since.

O.J. Simpson

If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit. The glove, at least at the time of the trial, didn’t fit. You’ve already heard and read about it thousands of times, but this list would be considered incomplete without O.J. Simpson gracing it.

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Without retelling the well-documented, highly-publicized story yet again, the nuts and bolts of it are this: Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife and her friend. In an internationally televised trial, Simpson was found not guilty and was acquitted on all charges.

Later in life, O.J. released a book titled “If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer.” Besides his bizarre and disturbing book release, O.J. was arrested in Las Vegas on armed robbery and kidnapping charges. Suffice it to say, O.J. was and still is a troubled man who got away with murder, literally.

Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones

More interceptions and tackles or arrests and controversial incidents? Tough to tell here, with both numbers being so high. Adam “Pacman” Jones is one to gobble up footballs and problems. He has a huge rap sheet for various incidents, most of which are assault based. He’s fought everything from strippers to airport employees. He’s been arrested and sent to jail numerous times and has a nasty propensity to spit on people, especially females.

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In 2007, Jones was involved with a Las Vegas nightclub brawl turned shooting and was suspended for the entire season 2007 season. The incident left a former professional wrestler paralyzed from the waist down. Jones, for his role in the melee, was ordered to pay $12.4 million to the victims.

Lawrence Taylor

Another man who simply cannot avoid trouble, former Giants legend Lawrence Taylor was an all-time great linebacker whose post-football career has been anything but great. In his early playing days, Taylor admitted to using cocaine frequently and had a vicious drinking problem. But suspensions would be the least of his concerns.

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After football, Taylor picked up his drug habit and was arrested numerous times for buying and possessing cocaine and crack cocaine.

Taylor’s worst incident, however, came in 2010 when he had sex with a 16-year-old girl in a New York hotel. Taylor pleaded guilty to multiple misdemeanor charges. By pleading guilty, he avoided jail time but was required to register as a sex offender.

Shaun White

He didn’t pull a sick trick here. Nope, he pulled a fire alarm. That’s right, while partying in Nashville, White got a bit too intoxicated and thought it would be funny to pull a fire alarm in the hotel he was staying at.

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The hotel was then evacuated and White, who had been spotted by a guest, tried to flee the scene. But what he isn’t is an Olympic sprinter. He’s a snowboarder, and naturally he was caught trying to escape.

Besides the embarrassment of being caught, White sustained injuries to his head — something that hasn’t happened to him while snowboarding —  and was transported to a local hospital for treatment.

Darren Sharper

He had a 14-year NFL career. Now he has a 20-year prison sentence. At one time, Darren Sharper was one of the NFL’s best safeties. But now, the former Super Bowl champion will be sitting safely in a cell. Following retirement, Sharper went on a horrible spree of sexually assaulting multiple women in multiple states. In 2011, the first accusations against Sharper were revealed, and over the next three years, multiple sexual assault victims began to file complaints against him.

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In 2014, Sharper was arrested in Los Angeles on two separate counts of sexual assault. Time will tell if this serial rapist will have a reduced sentence, but at least for the foreseeable future, this monster will remain behind bars wearing a different kind of uniform- the orange jumpsuit.

Maurice Clarett

Talk about a downward spiral. One moment, Maurice Clarett is the most talented freshman running back in America. He’s the man that scored the winning touchdown in the 2002 National Championship Game, boosting underdog Ohio State over the heavily favored University of Miami squad replete with NFL talent.

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The next moment, Clarett is out of school and football entirely. Initially, he’s arrested on aggravated robbery charges. About one month following his initial arrest, Clarett is arrested again, this time on felony gun charges and avoiding arrest.

For the two crimes he committed, Clarett received a three and a half year jail sentence. One could say he simply ran out of luck.

Plaxico Burress

He had a leg up on the competition. That is until he shot himself in the quad with an unregistered gun. Former star wide receiver Plaxico Burress of the New York Giants made one of the dumbest, most infamous mistakes in pro football history. New York state has some of the nation’s most stringent gun laws. Apparently, Plaxico Burress was either unaware of them or unafraid of the consequences.

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Or maybe he didn’t anticipate shooting himself in the leg while partying at an upscale New York night club.

Burress, after accidentally shooting himself in the leg in 2008, was transported to a local hospital. At the hospital, it was revealed Burress did not have a concealed carry permit or any permitting at all to possess a handgun in the state of New York.

In total, the receiver served 20 months in prison. After jail, Burress made it back to the NFL for a few seasons but failed to find his previous success.

Jon ‘Bones’ Jones

Jon “Bones” Jones sure knew how to hit people. What he didn’t know how to do was contain the hitting to the octagon. We’re not going to address his doping allegations or drug charges or the DUIs he’s had. Not even the drag racing charges he faced.

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We will talk about the hit and run that took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. An intoxicated Jones, who was high on marijuana, ran a red light and crashed his rental car into another vehicle. Rather than staying behind and waiting for the cops, Jones took off on foot, leaving behind an injured pregnant woman and two destroyed cars.

For his despicable actions, the former UFC champion was stripped of his title and was sentenced to 18 months probation and extensive community service.

Jayson Williams

In 2002, former Nets big man Jayson Williams made the most egregious mistake of his career. It was a shooting mistake, but it wasn’t on the court. While giving his limo driver, Gus Christofi, a tour of his mansion, Williams began to show off his 12-gauge shotgun. In a horrible turn of events, the gun accidentally discharged and struck Christofi in the chest, killing him on the spot.

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Williams, panicking uncontrollably, placed the gun in the dead man’s hands and went for a swim to get the blood off. Eventually, Williams was charged with aggravated assault and obstruction to justice but was acquitted of aggravated manslaughter.

He ended up serving 18 months in prison for this incident. Since being released from prison, Williams has dealt with substance abuse issues and has had numerous run-ins with the law.

Sam Hurd

He didn’t catch too many touchdowns, but he did catch a hefty jail sentence. A former Bears and Cowboys receiver, Hurd must have had an epiphany that selling drugs would have been a more profitable, stable way to make a living rather than playing professional football.  He thought dealing coke would be better than catching touchdowns, that selling pot would be more profitable than signing endorsement deals.

athlete criminals

On one fateful night, Hurd accidentally revealed to undercover cops that he intended to distribute large quantities of both cocaine and marijuana. The sting operation proved to be a success and charges were immediately brought against Hurd.

The former receiver received a 15-year prison sentence and the only thing he will be receiving any time soon are prison letters.

Cecil Collins

Cecil “The Deisel” Collins was a dominant running back with a promising future. However, his career was cut short because he ran into too many things, most notably the law and not opposing defenses. Once pegged to be LSU’s next star running back, Collins was kicked off the team after being arrested for breaking and entering on two separate occasions. He claimed he was sleep-walking and had no mal-intent. After being dismissed from LSU, Collins went to play for a Division I-AA school, but there he failed a drug test and was promptly dismissed.

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Third time’s the charm right? The Miami Dolphins selected Collins, despite his checkered past, in the fifth round and he showed flashes of talent. He also couldn’t resist breaking into people’s houses. He did it yet again while in Miami; this time, he claimed, to simply watch a girl sleep.

Very creepy, and the result of his actions was equally intense. Collins received a 15-year jail sentence, effectively ending his football career.

Aaron Hernandez

On June 17, 2013, one of the NFL’s youngest and brightest stars, Aaron Hernandez, shot and killed Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player and acquaintance of Hernandez. Hernandez was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Lloyd, although he wasn’t ever charged for the a double murder in Boston many believed he was also responsible for that took place in 2012.

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Hernandez, a paranoid man with a troubled past, was wary of Lloyd’s knowledge of his criminal past and the stockpile of firearms Hernandez had at his house. While serving out his life sentence, Aaron Hernandez hung himself in his cell from a bed sheet. Following his death, Hernandez’s family authorized Boston University to study his brain for signs of CTE, and they discovered that at the time of his death, Hernandez had stage three out of four CTE.

Javaris Crittenton

You don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. You bring a gun. If you’re Javaris Crittenton, you bring multiple actually. Back while playing for the Washington Wizards, Crittenton and then-teammate Gilbert Arenas got into one of the most highly publicized locker room disputes. The details surrounding the dispute aren’t fully clear, but both players became so embroiled with rage that they stormed into the locker room brandishing multiple weapons and threatening to kill one another.

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Both players were suspended indefinitely by the NBA, and Crittenton never played in the league again.

However, things took an even worse turn for the former Georgia Tech star when he accidentally shot and killed a mother of four during a drive by shooting in Atlanta. Crittenton, after being robbed at gunpoint, wanted to take revenge, but just like in the NBA, he wasn’t a great shot and missed the target.

For his role in the killing, he was given a 23-year jail sentence.

Lawrence Phillips

He was drafted sixth overall in 1996 by the St. Louis Rams. He was supposed to be the star running back, the same man who helped Nebraska dominate at the college level. But Lawrence Phillips was deeply troubled and had a propensity towards violence.

athlete criminals

He choked his girlfriend unconscious then stole her car. While in Los Angeles, Phillips attempted to run over a group of teenagers following a pickup football game. He thought they robbed him and stole his wallet. Those charges landed Phillips in jail for at least 31 years. While in jail, Phillips murdered his cellmate. That landed him potentially on death row, and if not a permanent spot in prison. A life sentence.

However, Phillips would not live out his sentence. In 2016, Phillips was found dead in his cell in an apparent suicide.

Lenny Dykstra

They call him “Nails,” but the only thing nailing him is the law. Former All-Star center fielder Lenny Dykstra was a hard-nosed player who had an even harder time avoiding the law, both as a player and post retirement. He’s been accused of stealing money from an adult entertainment actress.

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He threatened to kill his Uber driver and, during the investigation, officers found MDMA and cocaine in Dykstra’s belongings. He’s been arrested for indecent exposure and grand theft auto. Yet remarkably, Dykstra’s life hasn’t been confined to prison cells.

For his involvement in the grand theft auto scheme, Dykstra was sentenced to three years in prison but only served six and a half months.

Mel Hall

Mel Hall played 13 years in the Majors as a very average outfielder with an over-inflated ego. He was flashy and outgoing, and now he’ll presumably spend the majority of his life behind bars. That’s because Mel Hall raped a 12-year-old girl on the youth basketball team he coached.

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And this indecency wasn’t his only one. He was also infatuated with a 15-year-old girl during his playing days in New York. The two became romantically linked and Hall moved in with the girl and slept on the living room floor of her parents’ house. While he was playing in MLB, she was getting read for the prom and the SATs. The relationship eventually came to an end, but it was the first sign of just how evil and questionable a character Mel Hall had.

In 2009, Hall was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Keon Clark

He went to UNLV and was the 13th overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. That pick was a gamble, but not as much as Clark illegally owning multiple guns and driving under the influence. Neither of those risks had much reward and landed Clark behind bars.

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Sentenced to eight years for DUI and the weapons charges, Clark has never been able to fully overcome his alcohol addiction. In multiple interviews, Clark claimed he was never sober for basketball games and would drink gin before and during games.

To date, Clark still hold the Toronto Raptors’ single-game record for blocks with 12.

Barret Robbins

He’s a total head case. Barret Robbins was a former center for the Oakland Raiders. The night before Super Bowl XXXVII, Robbins disappeared and went to Tijuana, Mexico, to celebrate what he thought was a Raiders victory. The next day, the Raiders actually squared off against the Bucs and were demolished. Robbins was left off the roster.

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Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Robbins has not been able to keep his emotions in check or stay out of trouble. He’s been arrested for bar fights, crack cocaine usage, and fighting women. His biggest scandal came when he took on three policeman in Miami. After knocking out two cops, Robbins went after a third. The third cop, after taking a few brutal hits from the much larger Robins, was able to shoot him twice in the chest. Robbins, somehow, didn’t collapse. Nor did he die. He simply uttered to the remaining cop, “I’ll kill you.”

Robbins, thanks to his numerous arrests and incidents, has spent time in prison and in halfway houses trying to battle addiction and mental health issues.

Oscar Pistorius

He’s well-known for being the first double-leg amputee athlete to run in the Olympic games. He also ran in the Paralympics. What he’s also known for is much less inspiring. In 2013, Pistorius fatally shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his South African home.

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To this day, it remains unclear whether Pistorius told the truth regarding that fateful night. He claims he was shooting in self-defense, fearing robbers had snuck into his house. After all, he was a famous and wealthy South African living in a nation with high crime rates. Others claim he shot her in a fit of rage and knew very well what he was doing and who he was shooting.

Regardless of the motive or intent, Pistorius received a six-year jail sentence which was then increased to 13 years.

Ugeth Urbina

He was a two-time All-Star and World Series champion. He also had one of the coolest names in baseball: Ugeth Urtain Urbina Villarreal, known as UUU. What many people don’t know is that although he had the poise of a closer on the diamond, he was a loose cannon off it.

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In 2005, Urbina was involved in a violent altercation in his hometown of Caracas, Venezuela. In the attack, Urbina attempted to set multiple men on fire and attack others with a machete. He was arrested by the Venezuelan authorities and was handed a 14-year prison sentence. However, he only served seven years in prison was released in 2012.

Mookie Blaylock

When it came to point guards who could lock it down on defense, few did it better than Mookie Blaylock, the former University of Oklahoma standout and All-Star on the Atlanta Hawks. But, like everyone else on this list, it would be Blaylock who would himself be getting the lockdown treatment.

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He had a drinking problem. He had numerous DUIs and couldn’t keep a clean driving record. Blaylock also suffered seizures and wasn’t even supposed to be driving. In fact, he signed a form that prohibited him from driving altogether. And while he was driving, he was fully sober, but he had a withdrawal. That caused him to drive his car erratically and ram his Cadillac Escalade into a minivan, killing a mother.

Blaylock received a 15-year sentence but will likely only serve a fraction of that time in actual jail. His license will also be permanently revoked for a big chunk of time.

Mike Danton

Hockey players are a tough bunch. Maybe even a bit crazy. In the curious case of Mike Danton, crazy would be an understatement. Danton started out playing in the NHL but then found himself scraping on by playing for teams in Kazakhstan and Poland. So how did this former NHL player get there?

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A little thing called conspiracy to commit murder. Mike Danton wasn’t going to be doing the killing, but he sure wanted someone dead. That someone isn’t fully known, but it was either his agent or his estranged father. Either way, Danton wanted to ice someone and hired a hitman to do the dirty work.

Although no one was ever killed, Danton ended up serving five years in prison, both in Canada and in the U.S. Post-prison, Danton revitalized his career by playing for a variety of teams in Asia and Europe.

Travis Henry

At one time, Travis Henry was a featured back in the NFL. In 2002, he was a Pro Bowler for the Buffalo Bills. But troubled followed Henry at every turn, juke, or spin move. He couldn’t avoid it or out run it. He was suspended multiple times by the league for violating its substance abuse policy. Getting suspended by the NFL would turn out to be the least of his concerns.

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About one month after he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL, Henry was arrested in Colorado on drug trafficking charges. He was purportedly involved in a cocaine distribution ring and was the money guy.

Henry was sentenced to three years in prison and is currently out of money after fathering 11 children with 10 different women.

Darryl Henley

He wasn’t the biggest hitter, but he sure wanted to execute a big hit. Former Rams cornerback Darryl Henley was a promising talent for the Los Angeles Rams but went down the wrong path. Instead of intercepting passes, Henley and his career was intercepted by the DEA.

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In 1993, Henley, along with multiple other people, was arrested for trafficking large amounts of cocaine. To make his already spiraling-out-of-control life worse, Henley attempted to hire a hitman to kill the judge that sentenced him to prison. That landed him a hefty 41 years behind bars.

In 2031, Henley will be eligible for release from prison.

Ray Lewis

Let’s start of by stating that Ray Lewis did not murder anyone, a common misconception. What he was found guilty of was obstruction of justice. Back in 2000, Lewis and a few friends were at a Super Bowl after-party in Atlanta. The St. Louis Rams had just defeated the Tennessee Titans in a thrilling game.

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As Lewis and his friends’ night began to wind down, chaos erupted. A bottle was broken over the head of a friend and physical violence ensued. The exact details of what happened next remain hazy, but two people were stabbed to death in the street. Lewis was not one of the people who stabbed anyone, but he did have blood on his suit and in his limo. This raised a lot of questions. He also instructed his friends to not speak of the incident, resulting in the obstruction of justice charge.

Eventually, Lewis was fined by the NFL but not suspended. His name was cleared. His friends were acquitted after the jury found them to be acting in self defense.