As sports fans we want athletes to constantly amaze us, do things we mere mortals are incapable of. We want them to be the biggest, fastest, strongest people we’ve ever seen, all while having a bit of a wild side that makes us either love them or hate them. They need to be cooler than us because these are the people we spend our lives talking about.
This might seem like a lot to ask for, but they make a lot of money doing fun stuff, so it all sort of evens out.
But for every electrifying Deion Sanders, there’s an equally uninspiring athlete. And some of those uninspiring athletes are really, really good – legends even. With Sanders elected to the Hall of Fame, it got us thinking about the opposites of Deion Sanders – that is the most boring superstar athletes ever.
But hey, there’s hope for these guys. Just three years ago, Tiger Woods would have made this list. Here are 10 legendary athletes who were (and some still are) legendarily boring to watch…
1. Tim Duncan
We nearly fell asleep just typing this name. Can you think of a blander, more uninspiring name than Tim Duncan? He is one of the greatest power forward/centers/whatever he wants to be called of all time. He’s won two MVPs and four rings in an era when dynasties are hard to achieve with free agency. He’s been a consistent scorer and defffffffffffffeea;dsLSKD;agags……..
Sorry, really did fall asleep that time.
But seriously, can you think of anything cool Tim Duncan has ever done? We can’t even think of a time when he dunked in a game. It’s as if he thinks he has to ask the rim for permission before he could touch it (as a side note, his website is slamduncan.com, which we find hilarious).
Are those balls interesting, “Slam” Duncan?
Basketball is made for big personalities. Michael Jordan, one of the people most cautious about protecting his image, at least had the stick-out-the-tongue thing, did a lot of cool dunks, and saved the world from aliens in a movie. Tim Duncan seems perfectly content to do none of the above and just win.
It’s not that Duncan is unlikable. It’s that it’s just hard to care one way or the other about him. With players like Shaq or LeBron, you either love or hate them. Indifference is just not cool in sports. And that’s Tim Duncan.
2. John Stockton
Let’s face it. It’s hard being a cool white guy in the NBA. And it’s even harder when you play in Salt Lake City. And really to make things worse, you also wear comically short shorts.
Pictured: Something Completely Unnecessary
But he is the NBA’s all-time assist leader, a great point guard by any measure. Assists are generally not something people get too excited about unless they’re alley oops or some crazy white Jason Williams behind the back business. John Stockton would not be caught dead disrespecting Mr. Naismith’s game like that though, not after they roomed together in college.
“He liked to play with my balls.”
We honestly Googled whether or not John Stockton had ever dunked. The results were inconclusive. He played fundamental basketball with Karl Malone, co-leading his Utah Jazz to a very un-dynasty like zero NBA Championships. On the rare occasion that the Jazz (who seemed to put the exact same starting lineup on the court from 1976-2011) did make it to the NBA Finals, they were usually steamrolled by the Chicago Bulls, who actually knew how to finish a season in the 1990s. And somehow, this failure to win anything of any importance earned Stockton and Malone a couple of gigantic statues in Utah.
Can a statue honoring Scott Norwood in Buffalo be far behind after this?
3. Pete Sampras
Tennis is not generally an exciting sport. It does have a couple things working for it, namely that the ball moves really fast and some of the girls are hot.
In the ‘90s, tennis was legitimately exciting though. Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras were huge rivals and both were really awesome at tennis. One was a drug using wild child who made abstract art for camera commercials and had a ridiculous mullet wig Scotch-taped to his head, the other was one of the least interesting personalities in sports ever.
Sampras was great. So great that he won 14 Grand Slams (that’s a lot). But still,there’s no way you can look at him and not think, “I could definitely beat this man up.” Just look at him up there!
And now look at this!
Granted, a lot of this has to do with the fact that he played in the same era as the completely wild Andre Agassi. But he did himself no favors by not doing anything notable other than win. If you don’t believe us, get the attention of an entire room and ask them to shout out their favorite Pete Sampras moment. Unless Pete Sampras is in the room, not a single person will be able to do it.
4. Emmitt Smith
Running backs are synonymous with fast athletic dudes doing crazy things with the football in their hands. When you gave the ball to Barry Sanders, anything was possible. When you gave the ball to Walter Payton, it could change an entire game. When you gave the ball to Emmitt Smith, on the other hand, you were going to get a consistent three or four yards every time. That was about it. And he did that all the way to the top of the NFL’s career rushing leader list (because Sanders didn’t hang around to play six years past his prime with the Arizona Cardinals).
But he mostly accomplished all of this because he had the greatest assembly of big fat athletic dudes pushing the other team out of the way for him. His offensive line was stuff of legends, and the help didn’t stop there. Along with an O-line that could dominate nearly any defense in the league at the time, he also had this guy blocking for him out of the backfield.
They call him Moose. If you’re looking to move large bodies, having him around was ridiculously beneficial, so much so that it could bring tears to a man’s eyes. If Barry Sanders ever had a chance to play behind that kind of talent, he would have scored a touchdown on every carry. This is a fact.
But instead someday our kids will ask us about Emmitt Smith, the greatest running back who statistically ever lived, and we’ll point 10-12 feet in front of us and tell them there was no one better at going from here to there than him.
5. Nick Lidstrom
He’s been the cornerstone of the best NHL franchise over the last two decades. He’s won the Norris Trophy six times. To win six of anything you clearly have to be good.
Or just painfully maddeningly consistently great. And for a defenseman this doesn’t mean putting up lots of goals or doing triple dekes. This means applying pressure, moving the puck, and anchoring the power play. Lidstrom, however, does none of these things. He’s never been known for being physical. He doesn’t even have a cool Swedish accent, he speak perfect Midwest English.
It’s possible for defenseman to be exciting, if they have a big slapshot like Ray Bourque, throw their bodies around like Scott Stevens, or happen to be seven feet tall like Zdeno Chara.
Nick Lidstrom is a leader and plays the game right and all that stuff white people tell their kids to do but don’t actually like watching. Awesome.
6. Cal Ripken
Cal Ripken will always be remembered for being the Iron Man, the guy who played in more consecutive games than any other baseball player.
Unfortunately, when you think about it, this is a completely meaningless record. He did a great job constantly showing up, some weird piece of trivia that shows nothing about the caliber of player he was. He’s kind of like that jerk at your job who doesn’t do a single thing of importance while he’s at work, but he shows up even when he’s sick, so people think he’s the best.
Granted, Cal Ripken was also a great player, so having him in the lineup for those thousands of consecutive games was a big help. But forever he’ll be pretty much only be known as the Guy Who Broke Lou Gehrig’s Pointless Record. And if you think that means he was a better player than Lou Gehrig, you’re out of your mind. He just wasn’t ambitious enough to create his own disease.
Ripken was a great guy, I got his autograph on two occasions, once when I was 8, and once when he did a book signing and he got up from behind the table to pose for a picture with everyone who waited in line. This is great. But nice isn’t really cool.
He also suffers greatly from old man syndrome. Many fans will remember Ripken when he broke the record taking a lap around the field, doffing his cap to the fans, revealing his balding, graying hair. This is not how we want to remember our heroes. We want them to constantly do things that amaze us.
Cal Ripken just constantly did things. And that’s not enough.
7. Greg Maddux
Right after Hurricane Katrina, the Cubs hosted a charity drive for the victims where if you donated some money to one of the Cubs players collecting the cash, you could get your picture with them. So I wandered through the dark concourses of Wrigley looking for my chance to meet a legend.
And then I saw him, standing with very few people around him over by the Waveland entrance to the park.
I went up, put a dollar in the can, and stood next to one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball.
And it was at that moment that my perception of Greg Maddux changed drastically. Maddux was about my height but with a beer gut and droopy skin. This was the best pitcher of my lifetime. And he looked like he was about to go mow the lawn, not win 355 games.
But that’s always how he’s been. He’s the least exciting of pitchers: a soft-tossing control pitcher. Strikeouts were never his thing even though he amassed over 3,000 in his career. Painting the corner and moving the ball around to induce ground balls and pop-ups were. And on top of that he wore glasses in the dugout that made him look like a sci-fi writer.
I used to go see as many of his starts as I could before he retired, probably seeing around 15. I hardly remember anything about them. They just sort of happened. And he just sort of happened to be one of the best pitchers ever.
8. Mariano Rivera
Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer ever. He comes in and shuts the door, completely unfazed by pressure.
But that’s so boring. The most exciting thing abut a Rivera appearance is when they play “Enter Sandman,” a song that was cool over 20 years ago.
He comes in and throws basically one pitch, the cut fastball, over and over again. Every. Time. And hitters can’t hit it. He gets his share of strikeouts, but the typical Rivera appearance features him jamming someone and getting them to weakly tap out to an infielder. Boring.
He even seems bored on the mound. He looks like he’s just been injected with Botox before every appearance. He’s never made a facial expression in his life. On top of that, he’s a balding guy who doesn’t talk a lot.
Yet he’s so good. And it sucks.
9. Eli Manning
Quarterbacks are inherently cool. When they win, they’re heroes. And Eli Manning even won a Super Bowl in arguably the most exciting city in the world (not the Meadowlands) in the most exciting way imaginable. What could be cooler than that?
Apparently pretty much anything if you are Eli Manning. His Giants have always been a model of boring, old school football. Nothing too flashy or exciting, just pound the ball, short passes, good defense football. David Tyree’s catch wasn’t just memorable because he caught it with his head, it was memorable because it was the only exciting play to ever happen in Giants history, unless you count the play where Michael Strahan “broke” the single season sack record, which you absolutely should not.
Another part of the problem is Manning’s pasty white older brother is not only better than him, but also significantly funnier than him. When he hosted Saturday Night Live, it was great. Remember this?
That’s some funny stuff. Peyton even makes some solid commercials (Cut that meat! Cut that meat!). But when you put Peyton and Eli together, it just gets boring. Peyton has the awkward nice white guy quarterback down, leaving Eli to fill the family void of the just awkward, not very good white guy quarterback. And he’s not even as good at that as his dad was.
10. Derek Jeter
3,000 hits. Five World Series rings. That time he dated Mariah Carey.
Derek Jeter, on paper, is a very exciting player. People want you to think he’s exciting. But you know what people talk about when they talk about Derek Jeter?
The Yankee Captain. Class act. Good guy.
He does have 3,000 hits. But you know how he got most of them? Hitting opposite field singles. He wasn’t even manly enough to pull the ball.
Think about the signature moments of his career. Sure, his home run to get 3,000 hits was pretty dramatic, he does have a flair for being put in a lot of situations to excel on a big stage. But you know what his next most known play is? When he was a cutoff man and flipped the ball to the catcher to get a slow runner out. And then there’s that other time when he caught the ball down the third baseline and decided to jump into the stands and land on his head.
These are Jeter’s greatest moments.
But my real problem with Derek Jeter is he is painfully uncharismatic. He takes Michael Jordan’s “protect your image” to the point where you have no image to protect because you’ve never done or said anything interesting. His interviews always thank the Yankees or Mr. Steinbrenner or Mr. Torre and he always mentions how happy he was to get the win and that’s all that matters.
You want to think he’s this wild boy of New York dating all these hot women. Have you ever heard of Jeter doing anything wild off the diamond? I’m not putting it past him that he’s had upwards of two caffeinated beverages in a night. But I’m not convinced.
You want to be impressed by Jeter, to leave the ballpark saying you saw the DiMaggio, Mantle or Ruth of today. But you’ll end up seeing Jeter and hardly anything he did during the game will make you say you saw Jeter do something amazing. He’s arguably never even been the best player on his own team.
If Jeter played in a smaller market, he’d be Tony Gwynn or Wade Boggs. This is not exactly cool company.
11. Floyd Mayweather
It shouldn’t be this way. There’s no reason why a person like Floyd Mayweather should make a list of the most boring athletes ever.
Just look at that picture. That is not the photo of an average man. Indeed, Floyd Mayweather is an action packed thrill ride outside the ring. He gets arrested from time to time, which always makes for fun news. He has the gambling skills of a person with insider knowledge of how every game will end, once winning over $90,000 on a bet he placed on just the first half of a Duke vs. Arizona basketball game. Not to mention the fact that he talks shit about his opponents like no boxer ever has or ever will again. Floyd Mayweather is literally the gold standard when it comes to how athletes should behave in public. But then, he gets in the ring and it all falls apart.
As flamboyant as Floyd Mayweather is outside the ring, you’d expect that inside it he’d be delivering movie-worthy fights with thrilling finishes and dramatic knockouts and whatever the boxing equivalent of the Flying Squirrel is. What you get instead is an epic display of smart defense, intermingled with the occasional Mayweather jab.
That Floyd Mayweather is one of the greatest boxers of all-time is not open for debate, but anyone who has ever shelled out the $59.95 pay-per-view fee can attest to the fact that watching him fight is a lot like watching hair grow. Floyd Mayweather doesn’t knock people out. Instead, he moves around and employs impenetrable defense until his opponent is tired enough to get hit in the face a few times and lose the round. Repeat this process 11 more times. That’s a Floyd Mayweather fight. He doesn’t float like a butterfly or sting like a bee, he just stands there like a wall.
From a purely value-based standpoint, watching Floyd Mayweather play solid defense for 12 rounds is a lot better than spending your cash on a fight that’s over in three minutes. But damn if we didn’t have a lot more fun watching Mike Tyson destroy Michael Spinks life before most of the audience had a chance to sit than we ever will watching Floyd block jabs for an hour.
Also, quit being a pussy and fight Pacquiao already.