20 Ugliest Breakups in Sports
When the Dolphins recently parted ways with general manager Jeff Ireland, most reporters seemed to go out of their way to stress the decision had been “mutual.” Yet for some reason, every time the word “mutual” was repeated, the less believable the claim felt.
That’s because we all know that precious few breakups are actually mutual. In reality, that’s just something reasonably decent people agree to say in order to spare the person being dumped further embarrassment. It’s literally the least you, as the dumper, can do.
Of course, not all breakups are that civilized—some are downright nasty. In the sports world, particularly, breakups are rarely a mutually beneficial decision agreed upon by both parties. There is almost always a clear hero and villain. Or...the lesser of two evils and just plain evil.
Here are 20 of the ugliest breakups in sports.
Kordell Stewart and Porsha Williams
Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart recently finalized his nasty divorce from Real Housewives of Atlanta reality star Porsha Williams, proving once again that you should never get involved with a person whose ambition in life is to be followed around by television cameras.
The situation heated up in November when Williams, who was obviously still stinging from learning about the divorce via Twitter, made a point to question his sexuality on the fall premiere of her show—bringing up rumors that have dogged Stewart for decades.
And, as he has done for decades, Stewart publicly denied that he was gay on an Atlanta radio station. He then went on to paint Williams as a lazy, vindictive gold digger who doesn't pull her own weight in life. He pretty much described every woman who has ever been on one of those housewives shows.
Ray Allen and the Boston Celtics
Considering the widespread bitterness and resentment that Ray Allen’s decision to sign with the Heat in 2012 resulted in, you’d have thought that he played his entire career with the Celtics. But he had played just five seasons of his 16-year career in Boston.
Then again, sports fans in Beantown aren’t known for being the most reasonable people. Fans weren’t the only ones angry at Allen; former teammates Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were both reportedly displeased about his departure.
He was probably the only one who didn’t expect that.
Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian
When Khloe Kardashian and former Laker Lamar Odom got married a month into their relationship back in September 2009, the general consensus seemed to be that the relationship would likely fizzle out by Christmas. But the couple surprised many by making a go of it for almost three years.
It's depressing that three years is actually an impressive stretch for celebs to stay married these days.
Last fall, things began to fall apart, with Odom’s habit of cheating on Kardashian not even being close to the worst of his habits. Last August, he was arrested on DUI charges and is reportedly struggling with a serious drug addiction. They separated last October, and Kardashian filed for divorce in December.
Deion Sanders and Pilar Biggers
The divorce drama of NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders and his now ex-wife Pilar Biggers was especially ugly and particularly drawn out. The saga stretched almost two full years before the couple finally reached a settlement in July 2013.
Sanders and Biggers slugged it out in court for custody of their children, who made no secret they were on dad’s side, with Sanders ultimately winning out. But just because the divorce is finalized doesn’t mean these two are done in court.
Biggers filed a separate suit against Sanders last summer, alleging “fraud and breach of fiduciary duty to mental distress and physical abuse,” per The Dallas Morning News. That should be fun!
Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers
For Brett Favre and the Packers, the beginning of the end can be traced back to the team’s decision to draft Aaron Rodgers in 2005. The aging gunslinger had no interest in training or mentoring the man who was there for the purpose of eventually taking his job.
Favre was done in Green Bay after the 2007 season and was traded to the Jets, despite showing obvious preference to play for the Vikings. He didn’t get his way, which made the following fall's rumors that he was providing intel to teams playing the Packers all the more believable.
After one season in New York, Favre made his way to Minnesota and played for another two seasons, purely out of spite.
Honorable Mention: Brett Favre and Brad Childress
Tiki Barber and Ginny Barber
When former Giants running back Tiki Barber retired at the peak of his career after the 2006 season and went on to publicly criticize his former teammates while working as a correspondent for NBC, he was not an especially popular figure in the sports world.
In April 2010, it was announced that Ginny Barber, his wife of 11 years who was eight months pregnant with twins, had filed for divorce amid reports that Tiki had been having an affair with Traci Lynn Johnson, a 23-year-old former intern at NBC.
By that point Barber was pretty much as loathsome a character as you could find. Which is why he didn’t attract so much as a sniff while attempting a comeback in 2011 and why he didn’t bother to wait more than eight days before marrying his mistress after his divorce was finalized in July 2012.
Honorable Mentions: Tiki Barber and the New York Giants; Tiki Barber and NBC
John Lackey and Krista Clark
Although he finally started pulling his weight and earning his bloated paycheck with the Red Sox in 2013, pitcher John Lackey was not a popular figure in Boston sports back in September 2011. That season, he had the highest ERA in team history for a starter with 150-plus innings pitched.
And that’s when news of his impending divorce from Krista Clark became public, which blindsided Lackey 30 minutes before a game. What he hoped to keep private was that he filed for divorce while Clark was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, just months after a double mastectomy.
His already tarnished reputation as a potential locker room nightmare took quite the hit. He discussed the struggle to rebuild his image with The Boston Globe in February 2013.
Andrew Bynum and the Cleveland Cavaliers
In December 2013, the Cavaliers suspended Andrew Bynum, whom they acquired over the offseason, indefinitely for “conduct detrimental to the team.” There were some juicy rumors floating around about the actual offense committed, but no other information was officially offered before Bynum was shipped off to the Bulls weeks later.
The headline regarding Bynum’s latest failure in the Los Angeles Times was, “Andrew Bynum wears out welcome in another city,” pointing out what has obviously become a trend. He was not particularly beloved by fans in Los Angeles when he was traded to the 76ers in August 2012, and he later took a shot at Lakers fans and blamed Kobe Bryant for stunting his growth.
All he did in Philadelphia was sit on the bench and think of weird things to do with his hair during his entire season with the Sixers. He at least got on the court for the Cavaliers, but anything he contributed with his play was negated by the “negative influence” he had become within the organization.
The Bulls only made the trade for Bynum in order to dump Luol Deng’s salary on the Cavaliers. Chicago waived him one day after acquiring him from Cleveland.
Honorable Mentions: Andrew Bynum and the Los Angeles Lakers; Andrew Bynum and the Philadelphia 76ers
Chris Humphries and Kim Kardashian
Considering theirs was a fake relationship that led to a fake marriage that all played out on a fake reality show, the breakup of Kris Humphries and amateur porn star Kim Kardashian was surprisingly messy.
It’s almost as if he didn’t appreciate being exploited to boost E!’s ratings and sell countless terrible magazines, all of which seems to be the solar system that orbit Kardashian’s sizable hindquarters.
She infamously filed for divorce just 72 days after their lavish, televised wedding. The papers were filed in November 2011, and the divorce was finalized in June 2013. That means their divorce was almost twice as long as their relationship.
Jim Zorn and the Washington Redskins
If you weren’t living in the DC area during the 2009 NFL season, you may not realize just how ugly things got for Jim Zorn in his second season with the Redskins. Things started going downhill fast in mid-October when Zorn was informed he would no longer be calling the offensive plays.
With each passing week, he seemed to have less to do during games and became increasingly despondent with the media, who insisted on berating him with questions that he had no answers to. By December he was just wandering the sidelines without a headset, looking confused.
Mercifully, Washington fired Zorn after the final game of the season. It was probably the best day of his life.
Honorable Mention: Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins
Tony Parker and Eva Longoria
Thankfully, Spurs star Tony Parker and Eva Longoria didn’t have any children during their relationship; otherwise their already ugly split could have been much uglier. The couple first faced infidelity rumors in December 2007, when Parker was accused of having an affair with French model Alexandra Paressant.
Longoria let that one slide, but two years later, the allegations would hit much closer to home and involve more than just one marriage. In November 2010, Longoria filed for divorce amid reports that Parker had been engaged in some kind of relationship with Erin Barry, the wife of former teammate Brent Barry.
It’s not clear if Parker and Barry had a physical relationship or just exchanged intimate texts, but there was no question that a line had been crossed. In fact, Barry filed for divorce from his wife a full month before Longoria acted.
Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren
This one doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation, given the ridiculously high-profile serial mistresses sex scandal that Tiger Woods became embroiled in after a late night car accident—and the circumstances that caused it—triggered a media firestorm in late 2009.
It seemed for a couple of months into the new year that Woods and wife Elin Nordegren were attempting to salvage the wreckage of their marriage, but a reconciliation seemed unlikely as each of the golfer’s sexual playthings stepped up to claim her 15 minutes of fame.
Within months or even weeks of the story breaking, Nordegren pulled the plug and filed for divorce. In October 2010, they finalized the divorce, which left Woods $110 million poorer.
Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic
For almost two full years before Dwight Howard was traded to the Lakers in August 2012, the basketball world was gripped in his never-ending (impending) free-agent saga with the Magic. It was more than apparent he was desperate to leave but even more desperate to avoid a LeBron-like public relations disaster.
First he was going to stay. Then he demanded a trade. Then he signed a waiver to delay free agency a year to remain in Orlando. Then he pretty much got everyone in the organization fired. Then he had absolutely no interest in discussing his future with the Magic. And finally he was traded to the Lakers to begin the whole thing all over again in Los Angeles.
He went from being one of the most popular athletes in sports to one of the most universally loathed players in the NBA in just three years. Howard should write a book.
Honorable Mention: Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers
Chad Ochocinco-Johnson and Evelyn Lozada
Former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson and professional athlete dater Evelyn Lozada were set to marry in early 2012, but five days into the new year, the couple announced their wedding had been postponed amid the latest flurry of infidelity rumors to plague their relationship.
Because they both make terrible decisions, they decided to go through with the wedding over the Fourth of July holiday that summer. Six weeks later, Lozada filed for divorce, stating the marriage was “irretrievably broken” after Johnson allegedly assaulted her after a fight.
The fight was reportedly over a receipt for a box of condoms she found in his car, and Lozada walked away with some very nasty injuries. Their divorce was finalized in September 2012, and Lozada is already more than six months pregnant with the Dodgers’ Carl Crawford’s baby.
Lozada and Crawford will likely make a future version of this list.
Honorable Mentions: Chad Johnson and the Miami Dolphins, Evelyn Lozada and Antoine Walker
Bobby Petrino and the University of Arkansas
Considering the villainous yet cowardly way Bobby Petrino skipped out on the Falcons back in 2007, it’s quite impressive that he was able to leave Arkansas under substantially worse circumstances. Like seriously impressive.
In April 2012, he was fired by the university after four season as head coach, which came 10 days after he and his 25-year-old mistress Jessica Dorrell were involved in a motorcycle accident. The accident was just the beginning.
Petrino was alone on the scene when police arrived, but it was soon revealed that a passenger had fled. Dorrell ditched not only as an attempt to cover up their relationship but also that Petrino had abused his power by providing her with a job.
Honorable Mention: Bobby Petrino and the Atlanta Falcons
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were a bad fit from the start. Not necessarily on the court, where they played together on the Lakers for eight seasons and had a lot of success. But Kobe coming right out of high school didn’t sit well with Shaq, who said, “I’m not gonna be babysitting.”
Things might have worked out better had Kobe been the type who needed babysitting, but he was talented and cocky beyond his years and had no interest in playing nice with anyone, least of all someone who didn’t respect and/or like him.
Shaq and Kobe had been feuding on and off for years when things came to a head after the 2003-04 season. At that point, the Lakers had a “him or me” situation on their hands, and when forced to make the decision, they chose Kobe over Shaq.
Honorable Mentions: Shaquille O’Neal and Shaunie O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard
Lane Kiffin and USC
Lane Kiffin prefers to leave every scene with the horizon behind him in flames as he flees to the next destination on his national tour of misery. He got to do it on his own terms in Tennessee, but USC did it on its terms last September.
After a more miserable than it sounds 2-2 start, the decision to fire Kiffin was made about midway through a blowout loss to Arizona State. Upon arriving back in Los Angeles, Kiffin was pulled off the team bus, fired and literally left behind at Los Angeles Airport. He also lost his house in the deal.
Honorable Mentions: Lane Kiffin and Al Davis, Lane Kiffin and Tennessee
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers
Though the generalized hate and disdain aimed at LeBron James has slowly subsided, there’s no question that his 2010 “Decision” has become a blueprint for athletes on how not to handle free agency.
Unless they’re looking for a few years of bad publicity.
There are, quite simply, more delicate ways to convey a decision than via a nationally televised special.
That being said, the fact that Cleveland is often batted around as a destination for James when he becomes a free agent again in 2014 is evidence of some serious healing going on. He probably won’t return to the Cavaliers, but it’d be one heck of a happy ending.
Kris Benson and Anna Warren
Kris Benson and Anna Warren met at an Atlanta strip club; he was an up-and-coming ball player, and she was, of course, a stripper. Eventually they married, and later when he landed with the Mets, Warren told shock jock Howard Stern that she kept Benson faithful by threatening to sleep with his teammates.
Considering that solid foundation, it’s a damn wonder these two didn’t make it. In July 2012, Warren confirmed that they were divorcing over alleged infidelity. As per the New York Post, almost one year to the day later, she was arrested for storming Benson’s house, dressed like a ninja and “armed to the teeth.” She demanded $30,000.
Benson was unharmed, but he was even more lucky than he probably realized. Not long after the incident, it was revealed via the New York Daily News that Warren had once been implicated in a grisly murder and was even featured on America’s Most Wanted.
Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb/Philadelphia Eagles
- T.O. comes to town and is one of the most popular guys. He puts up big numbers and, despite a brash personality, actually wins most of his teammates over.
- After a period of time, he begins to feel slighted by his quarterback, whom he suspects is likely conspiring against him and purposefully undermining him.
- He turns on his quarterback, forcing his teammates, coaches and ownership to take sides in an imaginary battle being waged, for the most part, in T.O.’s head.
- After playing eight seasons with the 49ers, Owens became a journeyman of sorts, wearing his welcome out in various cities after one to three seasons. Nobody was ever sad to see him go.
In 15 years in the NFL, former wide receiver Terrell Owens developed a distinct pattern of behavior—one that will forever haunt him and diminish from an otherwise exemplary career on the field. It went a little something like this:
Then he just kinda...disappeared.
Honorable Mentions: Terrell Owens and Jeff Garcia/San Francisco 49ers; Terrell Owens and Tony Romo/Dallas Cowboys; Terrell Owens and Allen Wranglers