Not every sports star who lives in the limelight was meant to become a celebrity. Some prefer to live reclusive, cloistered lives, such as golf’s Rory McIlroy and the NFL’s Marshawn Lynch. Others seem born to become crossover sports-pop culture celebrities, like the NBA’s Michael Jordan or the UK Premier League’s David Beckham.
An even slimmer margin of star athletes was meant to be downright weird. Some sports stars seem born this way, incorporating odd habits into their routines from day one. Others seem to change the longer they live in the spotlight, letting their freak flag fly at press conferences and beyond as the years pass.
Let’s take a look at some of the weirdest sports stars from top leagues.
Basketball: Dennis Rodman
Those looking to learn more about the world’s most eccentric sports stars will inevitably find the former Chicago Bulls center, Dennis Rodman, mentioned. Not only was he one of the strangest athletes in the last decades, but also one of the most talented.
Like Greinke, this talent mixed with oddity fascinated many. In fact, Rodman’s fingernail painting, high-profile dating, and friendship with a certain dictator helped catapult him to global fame. Two decades later, no one has forgotten Rodman.
Baseball: Zack Greinke
Some types of weird surprise and excite fans, while other types of weird can make people uncomfortable. Zack Greinke, pitcher for the Houston Astros, is a baffling type of weird. Aside from being one of the best pitchers of his generation, Greinke is also known for doing some odd things.
He’s been filmed sitting in the grass next to the mound while it was being raked. He’s been recorded saying some really weird things; from purposefully hitting one of his players with a pitch to get to other hitters, to rehashing his fantasy football team during warmups against top teams.
One reason Greinke has become a favorite amongst fans is that his weirdness is entirely unintentional. Other names on this list became known for their wild antics or their off-the-cuff relationship with the public, but Greinke’s weirdness is the calm, inborn variety.
Soccer: Diego Maradona
In the world of soccer, most odd characters can be chalked up to violent behavior (looking at you, Balotelli and Barton). Argentinian legend Diego Maradona wasn’t totally off the hook for his antics, which included an outburst against Athletic Bilbao that featured kung-fu in 1983.
Other antics, such as the ‘hand of god’ goal from the 1986 World Cup, have made Maradona a much-respected trickster on the field. Couple this with his world-class talent, and there’s the perfect recipe for an unforgettable athlete.
Football: Chad ‘Ochocinco’ Johnson
In addition to being known as a talent on the gridiron, “Ochocinco” was known for legally changing his name to the (incorrect) Spanish translation of his jersey number (85). Unfortunately for Johnson, this wasn’t his only notable act as one of the NFL’s oddest players in the 2000s.
Over the course of his career, he tried out for an MLS team during an NFL lockout, ran a race against a horse on national television, attempted to Tweet live during NFL games, and launched a failed partnership with Motorola to launch his own news network.
Unfortunately for Ochocinco, the antics that made him popular with the public also compromised his talent on the field. With his attention split between social media moves and his career in the NFL, Johnson eventually lost most of his fortune and visibility—not to mention, his NFL contract.
Golf: John Daly
From the outside, golf is a slow and potentially boring sport. But fans of the PGA know that golfers are, hands down, the weirdest athletes. First, they face incredible pressure without any teammates to lean on. Second, they’re more likely to pay attention to minute details, which makes for unique quirks.
In the case of pro John Daly, he uses his unique health quirks to help deal with the stress of the job. Nicknamed ‘The Camel’ for his smoking habits, Daly doesn’t sweat the health regimes other pros follow. In fact, he doesn’t even stick to basics like water. Instead, Daly drinks Diet Cokes—up to 15 a day.