People in Sports We Used to Love/Hate

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2014

People in Sports We Used to Love/Hate

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    DENIS POROY/Associated Press

    We all have a favorite and least favorite person in sports, that's just a fact.

    Sometimes, the feelings we have toward a player or coach don't even have anything related to the way they perform, either. They just cause so much drama and headlines that it's impossible to root for them.

    But people can change, so here are a few sports figures who did just that, even if a lot of us did love or hate them before.

Rex Ryan

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Remember when New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan first took the reins of the storied franchise?

    He was sounding like legendary Jets quarterback Joe Namath, guaranteeing things like Super Bowl trips and such—though, unlike Broadway Joe, they never happened.

    Then there was that whole Mark Sanchez tattoo and a foot fetish that made Rex look even crazier.

    Since then, though? Well, he’s toned down the gab and toned up his physique, making him seem, well, actually a bit more normal among his coaching peers.

Manti Te'o

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    John Cordes/Associated Press

    When any guy gets catfished, it’s embarrassing.

    Now take that feeling of a few buddies knowing about it and turn it into a national story, with an entire legion of sports fans mocking you for it.

    That’s how former Notre Dame star and current San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te’o felt back in early 2013, as he was a victim of a harsh hoax that made people actually wonder about his football ability.

    Te’o didn’t go out and tear up the league in his rookie season, but the cameras surrounding him and attention he got in previous years have cooled thanks to him avoiding it as much as possible.

Brian Wilson

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    It’s not that Brian Wilson necessarily redeemed himself with anything too big, but following his Tommy John surgery and subsequent time away from baseball, the L.A. Dodgers reliever became a bit tamer.

    Rather than seeking out the spotlight and doing things that would help him become an Internet sensation, Wilson toned it down and would probably admit to humbling himself a bit more—even if he does still look like a party animal with his hair and beard.

Bobby Knight

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    One of the most foul-mouthed, straight-up rude guys that sports has seen, former men’s basketball coach Bobby Knight has stepped back quite a bit since walking away from the sidelines.

    Well, at least enough so that others want to actually work with him side-by-side, as Knight has maintained a job with ESPN as an analyst for the past few years.

    In a rare move, Knight actually praised a current coach—Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall—saying he loves the way his team’s play.

    That’s high praise coming from one of the greats, and proof that Bobby has changed.

Adam "Pacman" Jones

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    With a rap sheet like Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones had early in his career, I’m sure there are plenty of fans out there surprised to even see that he is still in the league.

    And while some of that credit can be charged to teams falling in love with his talent and thinking they could change him, much of Jones’ maturity has come of his own accord.

    Rather than getting busted himself, Pacman can be seen talking to NFL rookies at the league’s symposium each year, talking about his story and some of the lessons he learned.

    Still a good football player, Jones has grown up to be a better man.

Kobe Bryant

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Much like a few other athletes on this list, Kobe Bryant has been humbled a lot over the past few seasons, marking a change in his personality.

    While Kobe is and forever will be the Black Mamba—a fierce competitor who is deadly on the court—seeing players like Pau Gasol leave and fellow superstars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony decide to play elsewhere, Kobe seems to have lessened his demands on his front office.

    In fact, he even went as far as praising his bosses for the moves that they’ve made so far this offseason, which is very un-Kobe-like.

Ray Lewis

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    Fifteen years ago, sports fans’ opinions of former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis weren’t exactly positive.

    Associated with a murder following the Super Bowl in Atlanta, many wanted to accuse Lewis because of his intense, brash demeanor on the field, rather than let the cops gather info.

    Overcoming all of that would be hard enough, but Ray has even gone above that, becoming quite the symbol of inspiration for younger players and quick to offer advice where he can.

    A studio analyst for ESPN, Lewis has proven to be a different guy on TV than he was on the field.

Ndamukong Suh

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Stomping on opposing players is a good way to get a bad reputation among your peers, which is why Detroit Lions defender Ndamukong Suh was voted the dirtiest player in the league in a poll.

    Overcoming his aggression in recent years, though, Suh has maintained a certain discipline about him now, mostly avoiding stupid penalties during games.

    Off the field, the guy is as nice and generous as could be, so it’s good to see that he’s found the right balance between game days and the rest of his week.

Tiger Woods

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    We all knew that this was going to happen at some point, right?

    Even after all of the sexual endeavors that Tiger Woods admitted to back in 2009, causing a firestorm in the media and the sporting world, Woods still had his supporters.

    Working his way back from the decisions he made then, Tiger remains the tour's most popular player and, when in contention on a tourney's final day, is the crowd favorite.

Michael Irvin

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    Evan Agostini/Associated Press

    Those tears that former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin shed during his Hall of Fame speech a few years ago? Yeah, those were absolutely organic.

    It’s because Irvin himself probably knew how lucky he was to be in the situation he found himself in, standing with a bust in front of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    Once a rebel who found himself partying way too often and talking some of the biggest trash in the league, Irvin has since turned it around by doing what he actually does best—run his mouth—as he has maintained a steady studio analyst job for the past several years.

Maurice Clarett

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    There was a brief time when former Ohio State Buckeyes running back Maurice Clarett was the biggest star in college football.

    And boy did he get caught up in it.

    From challenging the NFL’s age restriction policy to being suspended from the team for improper benefits and, finally, going to prison for taking cops on a spree, Clarett has since cleaned up his act.

    Anyone who watched the 30 for 30 on his relationship with former head coach Jim Tressel knows that.

    Now a motivational speaker who helps kids stay out of trouble, Clarett has seemed to find his calling outside of football.

Mike Tyson

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    If there’s any player in sports who has redeemed himself more than former heavyweight fighter Mike Tyson, I would like to meet them.

    Tyson didn’t intimidate opponents in or out of the ring, he legit scared them, threatening them with crazy words and, seemingly, having no filter when it came to his anger.

    Once on the brink of some dark demons, Tyson has since turned to other things that have helped him turn his life around.

    Doing some comedy, acting and having a healthier diet have helped Iron Mike find a peaceful calm that has taken him from a tyrant to an approachable human being.