From SI. Who else makes your list?
The 10 SpotA unique take on sports news, updated several times throughout the day.More SI Blogs Athletes who've wasted the most talent
3 days ago :: 36240 Views
John Daly's opening-round 67 at the PGA Championship on Thursday -- without the benefit of a practice round and while downing Diet Cokes and chain-smoking Marlboros in the 100-degree heat -- is a new reminder that the 423rd-ranked golfer in the world is still among the most naturally talented. Alas, it also calls attention to the fact that even with two majors in his bag, Big John has done among the least with the most (ability-wise) of any athlete in history.
Here are some others who make the dubious list of those who squandered immense talent through bad decisions or just bad luck:
1. Dwight Gooden -- Doc burst into the majors with an exploding fastball and off-the-table curve, winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award at age 19 and the Cy Young at 20 (with a 24-4 record and 1.53 ERA). By the age of 21, he was 58-19; at 25, 119-46. But his apparent road to Cooperstown was blocked by drugs and alcohol. He finished his career with fewer than 200 wins (194) and more arrests that All-Star appearances (four).
2. Len Bias -- The No. 2 selection in the doomed 1986 draft (which included Roy Tarpley, Chris Washburn and William Bedford) might be the most tragic figure on this list. The Maryland star who was compared to Michael Jordan never got the chance to show the Celtics (the team that picked him) or the NBA what he could do after he died from a cocaine overdose two days following the draft.
3. Darryl Strawberry -- Doc and Straw were supposed to be linked as legends rather than cautionary tales, but that's not the way things worked out. Blessed with a sweet and powerful lefthanded stroke that had led some scouts to dub him the "Black Ted Williams," he hit 280 home runs before his 30th birthday but finished with just 335 as he battled problems ranging from drug addiction to colon cancer.
4. Maurice Clarett -- He's become such a punchline that it's easy to forget how dazzling he was as a true freshman in leading Ohio State to a surprising national championship in 2002. It hasn't just been downhill since then, it's been an Everest-sized landslide.
5. Ricky Williams -- The Heisman winner has had his NFL moments -- he compiled four straight 1,000-yard seasons and led the league in rushing as recently as 2002 -- but his need for the weed has helped make him an NFL pariah.
6. Art Schlichter -- Another Ohio State star, the quarterback was the fourth pick of the 1982 draft (by the Baltimore Colts, a year before they were dissed by John Elway) and suspended by the league for gambling just a year later. Compulsive gambling has landed him in more than 10 times as many prisons (more than 30 by his own count) than his career total of TD passes (3, vs. 11 INTs).
7. Brien Taylor -- The hard-throwing lefty out of a North Carolina high school was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1991 baseball draft by the Yankees. His first two minor league seasons only seemed to confirm his future greatness, but in the offseason after the second he dislocated his pitching shoulder and tore his labrum while jumping into a fight to defend his brother. He was never the same again and retired for good in 2000 without ever reaching the majors.
8. Steve Howe -- Like Mickey Mantle, the 1980 NL Rookie of the Year is most associated with the No. 7. Unfortunately for Howe, that wasn't on his jersey but rather the amount of times that the lefty reliever was suspended by baseball for drug or alcohol abuse.
9. Anna Kournikova -- Remember when she was actually a tennis player? Anna K. reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open at 15 and the semis at Wimbledon at 16, and was ranked as the world's No. 1 doubles player on several occasions. Soon, though, she discovered that she could be just as famous, if not more so, for being hot and coquettish as for being a tennis champion. That's likely a big reason she was never the latter, failing to win a single WTA singles title.
10. Cecil Collins -- A personal pick, the former LSU tailback was the most talented runner I have ever seen in person. He reeled off 583 yards in three remarkable games as a Tiger in 1997 before breaking his leg in the fourth and then getting tossed from the team in the offseason when he was twice arrested for illegally entering women's apartments. Jimmy Johnson and the Dolphins took a chance on "The Diesel" in the fifth round of the '99 draft, but he quickly returned to his old tricks and broke into a woman's bedroom -- while she slept with her husband. That latter charge put him in prison with a 15-year sentence; he's due to be released in 2014.
Honorable Mention -- Ryan Leaf, Leon Spinks, Marvin "Bad News" Barnes, Todd Marinovich, Micheal Ray Richardson