50 Fascinating Facts About Famous Athletes
Trivia is one of those things that can always come in handy. It's fantastic whether you use it to impress your friends and family or simply employ it as a tactic to liven up a painfully dull or awkward conversation.
Which is why you can never know too much about anything. Well, except for really creepy things, like porcelain dolls or the mating habits of insects. But you certainly can never know too much about sports.
Which is why I've put together this list of 50 fascinating facts about 50 (mostly) fascinating athletes. Of course, everyone has a different idea about what "fascinating" actually means, so there are no guarantees here.
Let's do this.
50. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
Here's a fact that will make you feel old—at least that's how it made me feel—Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was the very first starting QB in the NFL to be born in the 1990s.
Even Colts starter Andrew Luck, who was selected one place ahead of RG3 in the draft, caught the tail end of the 80s—he was born in mid-December 1989.
Being old is just the worst...
49. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
If the whole hockey thing didn't work out for Lightning star Steven Stamkos, he could have always fallen back on what he knows. As a kid growing up in Ontario, Stamkos' first job was selling steaks at the St. Lawrence Market in Markham.
From hocking beef to playing hockey.
48. Ray Allen, Miami Heat
Heat guard Ray Allen's interests and talents extend well beyond the basketball court. Everyone knows he starred in Spike Lee's He Got Game early in his career, but did you know he also plays piano and collects art?
Well he does…I wouldn't lie to you. I would also never refer to Allen as a "Ray-naissance Man," which the Seattle Times did back in September 2007. That's just not right.
47. Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders may have taken kicker Sebastian Janikowski in the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft (kickers go fast, so grab one early!), but even Al Davis, the master of bad decisions, must have had some reservations about it.
Janikowski's rookie contract included a clause which stated he had to return $25,000 to the team for any game time missed due to suspension—basically for any reasons unrelated to an injury sustained in uniform. He also had to submit to routine drug testing.
If only Davis had thought to do the same thing with…everyone else he drafted from that point on.
46. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers
Believe it or not, one of Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith's favorite television shows growing up was I Love Lucy. Smith didn't actually have a color television until he was a teenager and was surprised to learn the show was actually in black in white.
45. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
Although things reportedly spiraled out of control toward the end of former Red Sox manager Terry Francona's tenure in Boston, it wasn't all fried chicken wings and beer.
44. Jaromir Jagr, New Jersey Devils
Famed right winger Jaromir Jagr was such a big deal while playing with the Penguins in the early 90s that the sounds from his 21st birthday party at a Pittsburgh nightclub were actually broadcast live on a local radio station.
That's around the time someone with too much time on their hands realized Jagr's first name was an anagram for Mario Jr. I remember the time well—it was full on hysteria.
43. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After only two seasons with the Buccaneers, quarterback Josh Freeman was already ranked No. 6 on the list of Tampa's all-time passers. Currently he's ranked No. 2, sandwiched in between Vinny Testaverde and Trent Dilfer.
Which, it looks like, is where he'll stay—less than 1,000 yards behind Testaverde. Freeman recently lost his starting position with the Bucs and he hasn't been taking the news very well.
42. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels first strikeout in the majors came against a player that nearly every baseball player of his generation looked up to: Ken Griffey Jr.
The gravity of the moment was not lost on Hamels, who said the experience was "almost like a video game." Yeah…the best video game ever.
41. Tracy McGrady, San Antonio Spurs
Spurs guard Tracy McGrady wore braces during his first three seasons in the NBA.
Talk about extending those awkward years.
40. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
A devout Catholic, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers doesn't believe in the evils of birth control. Says Rivers, " self control doesn’t end when you get married. Chastity is still part of your marriage.”
Apparently that abstinence only stuff is for life. That marriage sounds like a hoot.
39. Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
While playing for the minor league Chattanooga Lookouts, Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig was pulled over for speeding when he was clocked doing nearly double the 50 mph limit. He ended up being arrested for speeding, reckless driving and driving without proof of insurance.
The best part? Puig was serving as a designated driver at the time! Obviously someone failed to explain the full responsibilities of that position to him.
38. Champ Bailey, Denver Broncos
37. Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies
As a college athlete at the University of Tennessee, Rockies infielder Todd Helton had someone very capable waiting in the wings to take his starting job. That person was Peyton Manning.
Helton played both baseball and football for the Vols. Suck on that, Manning, you one-sport wonder.
36. Hope Solo, U.S. Women's Soccer
U.S. women's national soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo had, what just might be, the most perfunctory and non-titillating "lesbian" experience of any woman on earth. In her absurdly titled memoir Solo: A Memoir of Hope, she wrote:
"I'd had gay teammates throughout my career—I thought maybe I should see their side of things. So we made out. Interesting but not life-changing. I was straight."
Yep. She's all yours, fellas, Enjoy.
35. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson only played football during his junior and senior years of high school. But he really made up for lost time, rushing for 54 total touchdowns in just two years.
This guy some kind of cyborg sent from planet football.
34. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
Orioles slugger Chris Davis has been one of the most buzzed about athletes of the year, which is surprising for a guy who was the third-to-last pick of the 2004 MLB Draft—he was selected 1,496th overall by the Yankees.
Davis didn't sign with the Yanks though. And he didn't sign with the Angels when they drafted him a year later. He finally decided to sign with the Rangers in 2006, where he did next to nothing and was eventually traded to Baltimore.
Where he finally did something. Yay!
33. Usain Bolt, Jamaican Sprinter
Usain Bolt may be the fastest man in the world, but that doesn't mean he's immune from being sucked in by the joys of a more sedentary lifestyle. Bolt is a serious gamer who has been known to waste an afternoon or two (or three…) playing Call of Duty: Black Ops.
So if you run into someone with his name online, perhaps you should just give him the benefit of the doubt. Or not...whatever. I'm sure Bolt can handle his business.
32. Danica Patrick, NASCAR
Apparently engines are in the blood of the Patrick women—Danica's mother was a snowmobile mechanic. Legend has it that she was so good that racers referred to her as Captain Traction.
We should all be so lucky to have a nickname that suggestive and vague.
31. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
Rockets big man Dwight Howard has an interesting connection to recently retired Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. Paul Howard, his uncle, was the Georgia DA who prosecuted the case for which Lewis was initially arrested on suspension of double murder back in 2000.
Howard is just lucky you can't be prosecuted for being a damn fool in this country, otherwise he'd be facing some serious charges.
30. Phil Mickelson, PGA Golfer
When golf great Phil Mickelson was nine-years-old, he told his mother that he was going to win the Masters, just like Steve Ballesteros did that year in 1980.
Which he did it 24-years later, his parents probably decided to forgive him for all the years of skipping out on family gatherings and bribing people in the neighborhood to take him to the golf course.
Mickelson was sure one wild kid! (Nerd alert)
29. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
His father may have been NFL quarterback Archie Manning, but that doesn't mean Peyton Manning was a spoiled rich kid growing up—like Will Smith's kids.
Manning's first car was probably not the most impressive in the student parking lot. In high school he drove an old "Jeep Cherokee with wood paneling on the sides."
Not that anyone would ever pick on him...Peyton Manning is shockingly large in real-life situations.
28. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Basketball isn't the only game that Clippers superstar point guard Chris Paul likes to play. CP3 is actually very passionate about bowling.
Paul has competed in a number of celebrity bowling tournaments and is a spokesman for the U.S. Bowling Congress which, apparently, exists.
And in December 2012 CP3 became the proud celebrity owner of a team in the Professional Bowlers Association League. Seriously.
27. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
He may be a professional athlete, but Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera doesn't have to prove his manliness with a collection of large and intimidating dogs. He and his wife own a poodle named Princess and a Yorkie named La Cosita (which means "Little Thing).
La Cosita is said to have a very extensive wardrobe.
26. Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR
In 2006, NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson suffered a broken wrist while "horsing around" in a vehicle with decidedly less horse power than what he's used to. He was injured at a charity golf tournament when he fell out of a golf cart during a way too sharp turn.
At least that's how Johnson described the incident, but witnesses paint a much more interesting scene. Johnson was reportedly "surfing" on the roof of the golf cart at the time of the sharp turn, rather than riding in it, as his comments seemed to suggest.
25. Metta World Peace, New York Knicks
And just when you think Metta World Peace can't surprise you with anymore weird stuff…he does. It turns out that MWP's favorite foods are all beans! Because of course they are.
Sometimes I'm certain that Metta World Peace lives for the specific purpose of freaking me out.
24. Roger Federer, Tennis
Tennis great Roger Federer's favorite athlete is retired French footballer Zinedine Zidane, who is most famous for viciously headbutting an Italian opponent during the 2006 World Cup final.
Which makes me wonder if there's more to Federer than the unflappably friendly, but surprisingly distant demeanor he's well known for. Perhaps he's a bubbling pit of rage right below the surface.
23. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
Yankees star Robinson Cano caused conflict between his Dominican parents very early in life. His father, a baseball player, wanted to name his son after his hero: Jackie Robinson. His mother was against the idea, but eventually came around on the idea.
And it worked out pretty well. I do wish Cano would Ca-ool it with the gum though.
22. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers may not look like a future music mogul, but looks can be deceiving. According to an interview in early 2011, he started a record label called "Suspended Sunrise Recordings" with an old friend.
Rodgers also revealed that his favorite movie is The Princess Bride. Aww. Now I like him almost as much as I did before I learned that he started a record label with his friend. Almost.
21. Skylar Diggins, Tulsa Shock
Former Notre Dame basketball star Skylar Diggins didn't travel very far to attend college—one of the most prestigious universities in the country just so happened to be conveniently located in her hometown.
Obviously Diggins is no dummy. In early 2012 she told the New York Times that she was already making plans for a life after basketball, with an internship at espnW.
20. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
In April 2013 HipHop365 reported that an obese man named Matthew Thompson had filed a lawsuit against Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, alleging that the time Rose missed recovering from ACL surgery contributed to his…obesity situation.
The portly electrician claimed that Rose had been negligent by not returning during the 2012-13 season, when he had been cleared by doctors. Thompson said as a result he had suffered mental breakdowns and emotional distress, which led to him expanding in mass.
I wonder who Fat-man Thompson is going to sue when he realizes how much his nose has grown from all the lies he's telling about the source of his obesity.
19. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Following in the "proud" tradition of athletes trademarking their own ridiculous nonsense, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski trademarked the phrase "Yo soy fiesta," which Gronk said to ESPN Deportes during Super Bowl Media Day in January 2012.
If you're unsure of the exact translation, it's "I am party." Which, if you know anything about Gronk, is actually pretty accurate. Perhaps he'll have that phrase painted on his own custom limo bus, which he (seriously) dreams of owning someday.
18. Floyd Mayweather Jr., Boxing
Famously wealthy boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. routinely finds himself among the highest earners on Forbes annual list of the World's Highest Paid Athletes. He is generally the only athlete in the Top 50, if not the entire list, whose earnings come entirely from competition.
In an average year, Mayweather makes exactly zero dollars in endorsements. Crazy considering he's such a nice guy! Kidding. He's super mean...but a total sweetheart to gal pal Justin Bieber.
17. Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
Born and raised in Portugal, Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (dos Santos Aveiro) was actually named after a very well known American. His middle name was inspired by the late President Ronald Reagan, who the athlete says his mother was a great admirer of.
That's funny, because I would've guessed the Ronaldo family was more into George Hamilton. (Google them…they share a very distinctive look)
16. LeBron James, Miami Heat
We all know Heat superstar LeBron James was drafted by the Cavaliers right out of high school, which wasn't soon enough for him. He actually petitioned to be declared eligible for the NBA Draft as a junior, but was denied.
LeBron may have wanted to bail on his senior year, but his high school was more than happy to have "The Chosen One" stay for one more year. Tickets to see King James play that year routinely sold for over $100.
There are worse ways to spend your money than on a high school basketball game. But not much worse.
15. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Like nearly all players that come to the NHL from Eastern Europe, Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk didn't speak a word of English when he first arrived in the U.S. When he went out to dinner with his teammates early in his career, Datsyuk would close his eyes and point to something random on the menu to select his meal.
It's all fun and games until someone ends up eating brains and/or testicles. Which, if television has taught me anything, always happens when you order something off a menu in a language you don't understand.
14. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo didn't even start playing football until he was a freshman in high school, which is when he decided to quit playing soccer.
As a senior he was named All-State First Team in Wisconsin, despite a very unimpressive 3-6 record that season—it was the team's first year in a more challenging conference.
Most of those losses probably came in December. Even though the high school football season ends in November.
13. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
As is common for many professional athletes, Spurs big man Tim Duncan has his very own website. Unfortunately for all those other athletes, none of their websites have a name in the same world of clever as SlamDuncan.com.
Pun perfection. Never expect anything less than the best from Duncan.
12. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish is pretty well known in the U.S., but his fame here doesn't even hold a candle to the fame he knows in his native Japan.
Darvish is basically The Beatles circus 1964 back home, where he's known not only as a world class athlete, but also a sex symbol.
11. Alex Morgan, U.S. Women's Soccer
Alex Morgan may be one of the youngest players on the U.S. women's national soccer team, but that doesn't mean she's all Justin Bieber this…and Miley Cyrus that. She prefers musicians of a more regal pedigree, like The King.
Morgan was fascinated with the legendary Elvis Presley while growing up. She even decorated her rooms with Elvis Presley, which I'm assuming she didn't get out of Teen Beat.
10. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
Colts wide receiver Reggie (DeVincey) Wayne was a four-year starter for the University of Miami football team—his roommate in college was Texans safety Ed Reed. Wayne also ran track for the Hurricanes and graduated with a degree in liberal arts from the university.
Whereas his former teammate Marvin Harrison graduated from the School of Hard Knocks with a Master's degree in getting away with murder.
9. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Capitals superstar forward Alex Ovechkin's favorite English phrase is "No problem," which is ironic considering all the problems he's created in Washington over the last few years.
Don't like the coach? "No problem…I get him fired."
8. Kevin Garnett, Brooklyn Nets
Nets big man Kevin Garnett has been playing in the NBA for nearly two decades. What's his secret to longevity? Yoga…apparently. In early 2013 a video of KG doing his yoga thing was published on YouTube, and has since attracted over 25,000 sets of curious eyeballs.
Including my curious set of eyeballs. There's something almost hypnotic about a giant doing yoga.
7. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
When Tigers ace Justin Verlander began pitching in youth level at the age of nine, he had the velocity of an athlete well beyond his years. Unfortunately he still had the control of a fourth grader, meaning there were a lot of batters who went home with baseball sized bruises on and around their upper bodies.
Verlander prepared early for a career that would be spent arbitrarily enforcing the unwritten rules of MLB. Which is main unwritten duty of all major league pitchers.
6. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was recruited by Nick Saban, who was then the coach of Michigan State. But Gates wasn't recruited as a tight end, Saban recruited him to play defensive end for the Spartans.
That Nick Saban…talk about a loser who doesn't know the first thing about college football. Obviously I'm kidding, don't freak out.
5. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Like many of the best professional athletes, Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson showed early promise in sports besides football. He played baseball in high school and was "good enough to draw attention from major-league scouts."
Thankfully for the Lions, Johnson chose football. Remember the sad state of affairs in Detroit pre-Megatron? Yeesh.
4. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
In James Duthie's book The Day I (Almost) Killed Two Gretzkys…And other Off-The-Wall Stories About Sports…And Life, included was some interesting information about Penguins superstar center Sidney Crosby.
Said Duthie of Crosby's "freakish lower body," "It is huge. Gigantic. Hugantic. His caboose would make J-Lo jealous. His thighs are bigger than my torso. All his pants have to be custom made. And the scary part is, his upper body is starting to catch up.”
That was graphic, wasn't it?
3. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Having spent eight years growing up in Italy as a child, Lakers star Kobe (Bean) Bryant actually speaks fluent Italian. He was the first NBA guard to be drafted straight out of high school.
Come si dice "Dwight Howard is a punk" en Italiano?
2. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
Yankees star Derek (Sanderson) Jeter may have hit a home run in his first at-bat with the club in his rookie season, but baseball doesn't seem to be the first love in the family. Jeter is actually named after Derek Sanderson, a former hockey player.
Maybe if The Jeet asked them, ESPN would finally acknowledge the NHL exists.
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has made a habit of calling his male teammates "babe." A former teammate once told ESPN said it must "be the California boy in him."
Or something like that...
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