We think of them as being at the top of their games, but professional athletes endure great amounts of stress. Sometimes, the coping techniques they discover aren’t quite healthy. Here is a list of professional athletes who developed a tragic taste for alcohol.
This Girl is on Fire: Abby Wombach
Wombach appeared in four World Cups with the women’s soccer national team, and was named the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2012. Wambach scored 184 goals, making her the leading career scorer — male or female — in international soccer. Her success didn’t stop her from over-indulging in alcohol as well as pills.
Her marriage to fellow soccer player Sarah Huffman ended in divorce, and Wombach was faced numerous times with relatives and friends pleading with her to get help for her hard drinking and addictive behaviors. It was only after Wombach was arrested for driving under the influence did she “wake up” as she said, and realize she had a problem.
The Refrigerator Holds All The Alcohol: William Perry
William Perry is the NFL legend whose enormous size, (6’2″, 330 pounds) athletic accomplishment and cartoonish public image earned him much coin from promotions and advertising. He also unfortunately developed a serious drinking problem during his time as a Chicago Bears defense tackle.
Suffering from Guillain-Barré syndrome, an immune system disorder, Perry at one point had to sell his XX championship Super Bowl ring to make ends meet, and yet continued drinking up to what was said to be a liter of vodka a day. William Perry’s brother, Michael Dean Perry, has said that his brother probably has “traces of CTE,” a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated head trauma.
His Name His Peaceful, His Drinking is Not: Metta World Peace
Formerly known as Ron Artest, Metta World Peace made his name playing for six teams in the NBA, including playing forward for the Los Angeles Lakers. He has been suspended by the NBA numerous times times over his continued physical misconduct toward both opposing players and fans.
Stuck with the unfortunate nickname, “Malice in the Palace,” Metta World Peace was well-known for drinking Hennessy at halftime routines, loading up when he should be sharpening up. World Peace told the Los Angeles Times, “The alcohol played with my performance.I should’ve been at 22, 25 [points per game] for more than one year. … I was young, I used to drink and sometimes come to practice intoxicated.”
Just a Hard Drinking Joe: Joe Namath
“Don’t get the wrong idea,” Namath wrote in his autobiography, “I’m not an alcoholic. I only drink on two occasions: when I’m with people, and when I’m alone.” The former New York Jets quarterback, Super Bowl winning football player had a serious liking for booze.
According to myth, Namath prepared for games with a bottle of scotch in a hotel room. He was well-known for not only his prowess on the field, but his hard drinking and partying life: lots of sex, booze, and showmanship. Wearing fur coats and spending money on partying, Namath kept his career intact, but his reputation suffered from his arrests and an infamous on air interview where he was obviously drunk, slurring and incoherent, and hitting on the reporter.
All-Star Drinker: Alex Ovechkin
“If I find out I will die tomorrow, I would most likely go to this liquor store and start drinking everything, to forget everything, fall asleep and not wake up. What else would I do?” That was Alex Ovechkin, in the Russian edition of Esquire, answering the question of what would he do if he had one day to live.
Ovechkin is an all-star and MVP in the National Hockey League, who is too well-known for his wild behavior off the rink, posting photos of himself partying, and being visibly drunk at the NHL’s all-star draft. Signing photos for fans at Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant in Toronto, Canada, Ovechkin was notably drunk.
The Rise and Fall: John Daly
In an interview with USA TODAY, pro golfer John Daly said that announcing he’d never drink alcohol again was the dumbest thing he’s ever said. In an interview with The Guardian, he said “I was young and dumb back in the 90s but I had a lot of fun. I didn’t think it would end. I kick myself in the ass every day for not trying a little harder or working on my game a little harder.”
Daly, a five-time PGA Tour winner, has also won two major Championships, but strained his career with alcoholic drinking. A manager once quit, saying that getting drunk was the only important thing to Daly. Daly has wracked up a long series of bad behavior episodes, from harassing a flight attendant while drunk, to getting arrested outside a Hooters – you guessed it – while drunk.
Low to High: Daryl Strawberry
Daryl Strawberry sealed his reputation in baseball with eight times an All-Star, and four times a World Series Champion. Unfortunately, his reputation also included alcohol and drug abuse.
Over the span of his 17-year career with the Mets, Dodgers, Giants and Yankees, Major League Baseball suspended Strawberry three times for substance abuse. Strawberry’s career spiraled out of control as he eventually succumbed to the devastation of alcoholic drinking and drug use, with multiple arrests eventually leading to a prison term. His story ends on a high note: after getting sober and finding God, Strawberry remarried a woman in sobriety and they founded the Darryl Strawberry Foundation, dedicated to children and adults with autism.
Raising Cain: Patrick Kane
Becoming as well-known for his drinking as his hockey playing, the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion, 2010 First Team NHL All-Star Patrick Kane could ruin his career with alcohol if he doesn’t get help.
Some of Patrick’s known alcoholic misbehaviors include getting arrested with his cousin for assaulting a taxi-cab driver, a drunken night around town that ended with a police encounter which was documented with photos later released online–something Kane admitted was “embarrassing.” Kane was accused of drunken rape but the charges were later dismissed. The Blackhawks player has infuriated his team and management with his drinking and damaging behaviors, and it remains to be seen what he does or doesn’t do to address it.
A Fallen Young Star: Jennifer Capriati
Her meteoric rise to tennis fame landed her on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine at only 13 years old. Her alcohol and drug addictions took her permanently off court.
Capriati won three Grand Slams and became the world’s number one tennis player, but could not control her drug and alcohol problem. She gathered herself and was able to successfully play until a shoulder injury that was not able to fully heal sent Capriati spiraling. After a prescription drug overdose, she was admitted to a hospital where her family denied a suicide attempt. That same year, Capriati was elected to the Tennis Hall of Fame. She was later arrested on charges of stalking and battery, accused by a former boyfriend, and sentenced to anger management treatment.
Small Town Kid Big Alcohol Problems: Josh Hamilton
Josh Hamilton was the first pick of the 1999 MLB Draft, said by many to be the most talented young baseball player they’d ever seen. It took Hamilton eight years after that to make it to the Major Leagues, because of his drug and alcohol abuse.
After a car accident with his parents, Hamilton was left with lingering back issues and for the first time, was without the presence of one or both of his parents, as they flew home to heal. Hamilton began experimenting with drugs and drinking, and this led to a series of back and forth alcohol and drug abuse and periods of enforced sobriety through rehabilitation centers and therapy. Hamilton cites the moment his grandmother told him, “I’m tired of watching you hurt all these people who care about you.” as his turning point. Currently, Hamilton struggles with relapses.
The Comeback Kid :Jason Kidd
The NBA Champion with many accolades tears it up on the basketball floor, ranked second for all time assists. Kidd has long been a heavy drinker; according to his ex-wife. He was an alcoholic throughout the course of their marriage.
After a terrible wreck in the Hamptons in which he cheated death, Kidd was arrested for DWI, and then charged. He refused a breathalyzer after his car, going more than 60 miles per hour, crashed into a pole. Kidd eventually pleaded guilty to the DWI charges and was suspended by the NBA for two games, a punishment considered by many to be a slap on the wrist in the face of such a serious crime. Kidd was also required by court to do community service.
Make or Break: Vin Baker
Vin Baker is a four time NBA All-Star player whose career was mortally wounded by his alcoholism.
Baker has said that he binge drank at home and in hotels after playing poorly in games, and describes himself as an alcoholic. He went to a rehabilitation center in 2003 at the Silver Hill hospital in Connecticut. Unable to abstain, Baker continued relapsing, and his coach smelled alcohol on him. After repeatedly failing tests for alcohol in the blood, Baker was suspended from the NBA. Baker told Yahoo Sports, “The biggest mistake I made was trying to keep basketball as the priority. All the flags were around me. Life is bigger than the sport itself.”
The Downfall: Roy Tarpley
Roy James Tarpley was an NBA player who played power forward and center positions. After an arrest for DWI, Tarpley was suspended from the NBA.
The very next year, he was again suspended for yet another DWI, and then violated the drug and alcohol policy a third time, causing the National Basketball Association to supposedly permanently suspend Roy Tarpley. Even after this, he was allowed another chance, but could not maintain sobriety, and was suspended permanently from playing basketball in the United States. Eventually, Tarpley sued the NBA, claiming that his addiction was a disability, and that his suspension violated the Americans With Disabilities Act. The case was settled out of court. Tarpley died at age 50; no cause of death was released.
The Descent Into Addiction: Todd Marinovich
Todd Marinovich was a USC and Los Angeles Raiders player who ESPN called “one of the biggest busts in NFL history.” Marinovich was a first draft pick of The Raiders, beginning his career as starting quarterback.
A short time later, he was forced into rehab after failing a urine test that contained four times the allowed amount of alcohol. He failed the next two drug tests as well, leading to the end of his NFL career before it had even truly begun. So promising was Marinovich and so startling was his rapid descent into alcoholism and drug use that his name still carries the weight of his story in sports circles today. ESPN made a documentary on the rise and fall of the young man, The Marinovich Project. Today, Marinovich has periods of sobriety and relapse.
To Hell and Back: Brett Favre
The NFL quarterback is known for his 20-year career on the field as well as his addiction to Vicodin, but he also drank heavily for years.
After surgery for bone spurs brought on a seizure, Favre’s liver was declared “toxic” and he entered drug rehabilitation. After his time in rehab ended, Favre worked to stay off the pills, but increased his drinking. His wife, Deanna Favre, watched as this “party animal” fueled by “liquid courage” acted a fool. Finally, she set her foot down and packed her bags and told her husband she was leaving with their child. They reconciled. Favre continued to struggle until finally maintaining full sobriety off both alcohol and pills.
Superstar Drinker: Charles Barkley
One of the most famous American sportsmen, Charles Barkley accumulated an amazing list of accomplishments during his time on the basketball court. He also drank heavily.
Charles Barkley was many times over an All-Star player, but he looked anything but one in his mug shot after being arrested for DWI with a .149 blood alcohol content. He publicly stated afterward he planned on continuing drinking, but not driving while drunk, and temporarily quit gambling. “I like to drink…. I haven’t missed the gambling to be honest with you. I needed to take a break from gambling because I was losing,” he told ESPN.
The Big Drink: Lawrence Taylor
Lawrence Taylor, or L.T., his nickname, played ferociously as linebacker for The New York Giants and has been called the greatest defensive player in the history of football. He drank ferociously, as well.
Taylor said after attending a rehabilitation center, “I just wanted to be able to make a decision again because drugs and alcohol get you to a point where you’re no longer in control.” Unfortunately, the years passed and he used drugs and drank heavily and rehab was a revolving door through which he passed many times. He was able to maintain an extended period of sobriety later in life. Most recently, Taylor was in the news for a charge of DUI after hitting a motor home.
The Spectacular Drunk: J.R. Smith
Called a spectacular basketball player, J.R. Smith, NBA star and heavy drinker has most recently made headlines after drunkenly pouring champagne on women during a party.
Stories about partying with Lil’ Wayne and 2 Chainz, stories about drinking straight from a bottle of Jack during a game. Even the one and only Rihanna said that he “partied too much.” Smith has been suspended no less than five times for failing NBA drug tests, the last one was a five game suspension. GQ said that he is “delightfully weird,” and seemed charmed by the young player–let’s hope he can control his drinking and drugging and not follow the path of so many promising but troubled athletes before him.
Slugger: Miguel Cabrera
The Detroit Tigers slugger and winner of the Triple Crown was hard hitting on and off the field.
After a fight with his wife, Carbera spent three months in a rehabilitation center for alcoholism. A few years later, he was arrested during a relapse where he had cursed at and threatened restaurant workers, and then drove off. After officers found him drinking a bottle of scotch sitting in his car after driving. He was arrested and also charged with resisting and officer without violence. Eventually Cabrera was able to stay sober, to become one of the greatest living baseball players. It was an amazing achievement.
A Cautionary Tale: Dontrelle Willis
A star of the early 2000s, Dontrelle Willis was expected to do big things, but his ongoing struggles with hard drinking and run-ins with the law ruined his plans.
In 2006, Willis was charged with DUI after being arrested in Miami Beach. Willis urinated in public and then entered his car to drive before being stopped and arrested. He then failed a sobriety test, and refused a breath test. He vowed to manage his drinking better after this incident, but like many who start drinking hard, it got away from him. Willis, a man considered to have one of the greatest wind-ups ever in baseball, retired in 2015 due to his alcoholic drinking.