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Monday, May 10, 2010

Sport's Most All-Time Intimidating Athletes. Who ya got?

With Lawrence Taylor being in the news the last few days, it got me to pondering (big ponderer, me) - who are the all-time baddest, most intimidating athletes in sports? With this in mind, I put together a quick list of guys off the top of my head to be included in a “Most Intimidating Athlete in Sports History” poll. And please, spare me the wrestlers. Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan ain’t included, ya rednecks. And speaking of rednecks, I won’t consider Dale “The Intimidator” Earnhart either, because race car driving, like golf, is not a sport. We’re keeping this to the guys other athletes were or currently are physically afraid of, guys who make (or made) their opponents tremble if you will.

So, without further ado, here are the sixteen athletes I’ve chosen for the poll:

Bob Gibson, Baseball

Hank Aaron had this to say about Bob Gibson, “Don't dig in against Bob Gibson. He'll knock you down. Don't stare at him. He doesn't like it. If you happen to hit a home run, don't run too slow, don't run too fast. If you happen to want to celebrate, get in the tunnel first. And if he hits you, don't charge the mound, because he's a Gold Glove boxer.” There’s really nothing else to say except this – As a kid I once asked Bob Gibson for his autograph before a game at Crosley Field in The Natti. He wasn’t pitching that day so Dad said it was cool. I leaned over the railing and said, in my nicest southern Ohio twang, “Mr. Gibson, Mr. Gibson, may I have your autograph?” He stopped, then turned and looked at me. I swear to God I actually staggered back a few steps. His glare was that scary. It actually almost knocked me off my feet. He then said, and I remember this clearly, “Hmmpphgrrrr.” Then he walked away. Thanks Dad.

Ray Lewis, NFL

Ray's Senior Picture. I kid.
How Ray Lewis has turned into the unofficial NFL mentor for troubled players is beyond me. Because, you know, he more than likely killed a guy or two a few years ago. Allegedly. Not only that, the dude turned on his friends on his way to a plea bargain that got him off. I mean seriously. Still, this murderin’ snitch is a beast on the football field. He’s quick, relentless, and has a motor that just keeps going and going. Sort of like a 6’-4” Energizer Bunny, except with homicidal tendencies. Hence the whole intimidation thing.

Robin Ventura getting a beatdown.
Nolan Ryan, Baseball

Ryan’s Express was the most feared pitcher of his generation, with 7 no-hitters on his resume. Sure, he could throw 100+ miles an hour. Problem was, once in a while a he let one get away from him. Whether this was done intentionally or unintentionally, no one was sure. His image was only enhanced when, in 1993, Robin Ventura charged the mound and was promptly grabbed by Ryan, who proceeded to get him in a headlock and pop him on the top of the skull seven straight times before they were broken up. No backin’ down from this Texan.

Brock Lesnar, Mixed Martial Arts

Lesnar is the only guy I’ve ever seen who has a neck bigger than his head. He’s a former NCAA Heavyweight Wrestling Champion who turned to MMA when he became bored. He immediately took the sport by storm, scaring normally tough men witless on his way. He’s widely thought of as the most feared man in MMA as well as th rest of the universe and beyond.

He got a real pretty mouth, ain't he?
Jack Lambert, NFL

Jack Lambert was, quite simply, one mean son-of-a-bitch. As leader of the Pittsburgh Steeler’s notorious Steel Curtain, the man with no teeth would jump, twitch, and chomp at the bit before the snap as opposing QB’s would look nervously in his direction. And oh yeah, his nickname? Jack the Ripper. Perfect.

George Foreman, Pro Boxing

Foreman, pre- 5 little Georges.
Forget the guy you know now, the happy-go-lucky minister who sells grills and does commercials. When Foreman first went pro after winning the ’68 Olympic Gold Medal he was a one man wrecking crew. I’ll never forget watching him lift undefeated heavyweight champion “Smokin’” Joe Frazier completely off the mat enroute to a 6-knockdown, 2-round beatdown for the ages. The man had a right like a jackhammer back then.

The original LT.
Lawrence Taylor, NFL

LT was an absolute menace on and off the football field. For over a decade opponents had to account for his presence at all times. He was fast, big, mean, and changed the way people looked at the linebacker position forever. None other than Joe Montana once said that LT was the only football player he ever feared. Lawrence Taylor was a badass.

Maurice Lucas, NBA

One bad mofo fo sho.
For you youngins out there, Maurice Lucas played for the Portland Trailblazers with Bill Walton when they won the NBA title in ’77. “Luke” as he was known, was the Blazers enforcer and was one bad mofo. In that ’77 NBA Finals series, Lucas asserted his "enforcer" role in Game 2. With the 76ers comfortably ahead late in the game, the Blazers streaked down the floor on a fast break. Lionel Hollins missed a shot, and both 6’-5” Bob Gross of the Blazers and 7’-0” 280 lb Darryl Dawkins went up for the rebound. They both came crashing to the floor, then jumped up and squared off. They appeared ready to come to punches when Lucas slapped Dawkins in the head from behind. You know, just to get the big fella’s attention. Dawkins then whirled around and saw what awaited him. Maurice Lucas, at 6’-8” and 220 lbs, had dropped into a boxers stance and was charging in. At that point Dawkins backpeddled away, thus saving his life if not his pride. Lucas, on the other hand, had cemented his legend.

Must be a league game.
Dick Butkus, NFL

No one in the history of professional football played with more maniacal intensity than Butkus. He didn’t just hit people, he meant to destroy them. Those who played against him learned to fear this monster, a bringer of pain, a harvester of ruin. Butkus admittedly played every game as if it were his last. He also once stated that his dream was to kill a guy on the field. He also once famously said, “When I played pro football, I never set out to hurt anyone deliberately - unless it was, you know, important, like a league game or something.” Yikes.

Circa '87. One bad man.
Mike Tyson, Boxing

Kids, forget the face tattoo and the biting off of people’s ears. Forget the prison stint for rape and the goofy quotes about eating your children. OK, maybe you should remember that last one. The point is that from 1984 to 1990 Mike Tyson truly was “The Baddest Man on the Planet.” He not only beat people, he destroyed, embarrassed and disgraced them. He wore no robe or socks, just black trunks and shoes. Most boxers were finished before the fight started. He was simply a devastating puncher and relentless boxer that rarely experienced a fight past 3-rounds in his prime.

"The Spin Cycle."
Tie Domi, NHL

Domi may have been the most feared enforcer in the history of the National Hockey League. This menacing cutthroat was famous taking on anyone, anytime. Once, he aquirted a fan with water and the fan foolishly jumped into the penalty box after him. By the time security arrived Domi had beaten the guy senseless. And get this, Domi’s fighting style even had a name – it was called “The Spin Cycle.” Classic.

Ronnie "9-Finger" Lott
Ronnie Lott, NFL

Here’s all you need to know about Ronnie Lott’s toughness – he once had a finger amputated rather than miss playing time. Vince Carter just read that sentence, pissed his pants, and passed out. I remember his hit in Super Bowl XXIII that nearly killed Ickey Woods. You could feel it through the TV set, and Woods was lucky his head stayed attached to his neck. Guys who played against Lott still consider him to be the most brutal hitter in NFL history.

Al Hrabosky, Baseball

Al was known as “The Mad Hungarian” for good reason. This Fu Manchu wearin’ maniac would stomp around behind the mound, muttering to himself, shake his long unruly hair, go to the mound, stare the hitter down, then promptly deliver his 98 mph fastball. He threw the fastball 90% of the time, and even though hitters knew it was coming there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot they could do about it. The pitch was rendered even more effective because it would occasionally be aimed right at the batter’s ear.

Looking for a QB to destroy.
Deacon Jones, NFL

Deacon Jones was a member of the famed “Fearsome Foursome” who played for the Los Angeles Rams, and is credited with inventing the term “quarterback sack.” He hated quarterbacks and revolutionized the role of pass rusher in the league. Recently Jones was asked who is the toughest athlete in sports today. Here’s his answer: “I'd have to cast the vote for myself. Because No. 1, I'm probably the toughest motherfucker here. Ain't no question about that with me. I'm the toughest guy here. If you want to eliminate me from the pack, you can pick somebody normal. Of course, quarterbacks are eliminated. We definitely don't want none of them in that mix.” Kids, Deacon Jones is 72-years old.

"The Big Unit"
Randy Johnson, Baseball

At 6’10”, Randy Johnson is one of the tallest baseball players ever. With a fastball that’s routinely clocked at 100 mph, his mullet and goatee, and a downright vicious demeanor, Johnson cuts an imposing figure on the mound. Add to this a notorious early-career perception of a stunning lack of control, not many hitters have felt truly comfortable guarding the plate with “The Big Unit” throwing fastballs. Everyone remembers the All-Star Game when Johnson faced off against John Kruk. You may also remember the look of sheer terror in Kruk’s eyes as a pitch smoked wildly over his head. Randy Johnson, in his prime, terrified hitters.

Woody taught him well.
Jack Tatum, NFL

Jack Tatum’s autobiography is titled “They Call Me Assassin.” In his first pro game after graduating from Ohio State, he knocked the Baltimore Colt’s John Mackey and Tom Mitchell out cold. Jack Tatum was ruthless, and he and George Atkinson anchored one of the most vicious and feared defenses in football history for the Oakland Raiders. In a 1978 preseason game Tatum caught the Patriot’s Daryl Stingley with a brutal hit, paralyzing him for life. Sad story, but it defined Tatum’s career of bone-crushing hits.

So there you go. Who ya got?


  1. I guess you could say Jim Brown, if you asked his ex-wives and girlfriends.


Man, that chick beside me is smokin'.

Imagine waking up and seeing this on ESPN. I look like I'm having a stroke back there. Good Lord.

Imagine waking up and seeing this on ESPN. I look like I'm having a stroke back there. Good Lord.

3:30 AM, after the Louisville game.

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