The Scariest Players in Sports
There are countless physically-imposing, scary players in sports. I know that I don’t want to get into any kind of altercation with the likes of Ray Lewis, Kendrick Perkins, AJ Hawk or Manny Pacquiao.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
When I think of the scariest players in sports, I’m talking about the players that scare you as a fan of the opposing team. What are those players, moments in games, circumstances or plays that concern every fan when they see a game-changing superstar in a particular situation?
Here is a list of the Top 5 Scariest Players in sports from the last decade.
Ray Allen, NBA – Is there anything more joy-sucking than when you see Ray Allen spring across the baseline, turn and catch the ball with nobody even near of him? As a New York Knicks fan, my heart stopped every single time Ray Allen caught the ball after alluding his defender via several screens. He just shoots way too well from three-point land to be left wide-0open, and yet he gets open all the time. It makes watching your favorite NBA team play him about as uneasy a viewing experience a basketball fan can have. Especially when it happens in the fourth quarter or on a last-minute shot. No fan wants to see Ray Allen wide open from behind the arc with the basketball in his hands—it’s just one of those situations that doesn’t end well for the opposition.
Randy Moss, NFL – He’s well past his prime now, but there was time when if the football was thrown in the air, deep down the sideline, to the side of the field Randy Moss was lined up on, it was as good as (in the words of Randy Moss) “straight cash, homie.” No fan of the opposition ever wanted to see Randy Moss in single coverage, and to the NFL’s credit, very rarely did that happen. But sooner or later, throughout some point in a game against the Minnesota Vikings or New England Patriots, the coach of your favorite football team would opt to blitz or run three-deep zone, resulting Moss going one-on-one with what was usually a terrified cornerback. And when Daunte Culpepper or Tom Brady would throw a bomb down the field to the side of the field Moss was on, your mind was probably going crazy, just hoping for a “simple” 50-yard catch, all the while knowing that it would probably result in a touchdown.
Shaquille O’Neal, NBA – You may have to go back a ways for this one, but there was a time when if Shaquille O’Neal caught the ball on the block, it was as good as two points. Even during his days in Miami, Shaq shot careers highs in terms of field goal percentage. Sure, some of what Shaq brought in scariness from the block was negated by the joy you had in seeing him go to the free-throw line. But from 2000-2002, Shaq was one of the most efficient basketball players the NBA has ever seen, and I’m not exaggerating that one bit.
Peyton Manning, NFL – There are a few quarterbacks out there with more “actual” fourth quarter comebacks, i.e., John Elway, Dan Marino, Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas. But over the last decade, there’s no doubt who the king of the fourth quarterback is. I’m not sure what the number is right now, but according to a 2009 Pro Football Reference article, Peyton Manning has had more fourth-quarter comebacks than anybody else in the NFL right now. And when you’re the fan of the opposing team that’s up by less than one score and Peyton Manning walks on to the field, you cannot help but think of how he is going to manage to comeback and beat your team. Simply put, Manning is a precise, deep-throwing, defense-dissecting pocket passer. And when the game is on the line, he calls only the plays that he knows will work to his offense’s advantage. While the Indianapolis Colts have certainly had their fair share of fourth quarter losses, Manning has dolled out more than his fair share of heartache, making him the most feared quarterback in the NFL.
Mariano Rivera, MLB – When looking at baseball players, it was hard to determine what exactly gives a player’s opposing fans the most to worry about. Hitters certainly can end games with one swing of a bat—but then again, that rarely happens. And starting pitchers can routinely hold a team’s entire offense to 1 or 2 runs for 8 or 9 innings. But a closer, as lackluster and undemanding as their job actually is, is put in the best position to strike fear in a fan’s mind. Because when Mariano Rivera comes jogging out of the bullpen, in pursuit of the pitcher’s mound and with a lead at his disposal, it’s hard for any fan to imagine themselves coming away with a win. Essentially, for over a decade, whenever Rivera came out to the mound, the game was over. From his placement to his trailing cutter, Rivera just couldn’t be hit. He got out after out and saved game after game. Sure, hitters and starters have been just as dominant as Rivera has. But for the better part of the last two decades, the sight of Rivera essentially meant the game was over, and for a fan of a team that’s losing, there is nothing scarier than that.
Honorable Mention: Tiger Woods
I don’t actually consider golf much of a sport; otherwise, Woods would be among my top 5. For goodness sake, he doesn’t just scare fans, he scares the people he’s playing against. That’s a level of fear unprecedented in most sports, nevermind individual competition.
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