When Machochip Editor Alex Ferreyra heard that the new [Los Angeles] Clippers guard Baron Davis has to go to Jenny Craig to lose all the weight he gained in the off-season, he cringed. Too many times he’s seen athletes with great careers stall or sputter because of weight gains. It’s time to stop! To that end, he’s compiled a list of cautionary tales to warn any athletes who might be thinking about skipping gym time for the buffet line and that second helping of sesame chicken.
As Homer Simpson once said, “Athletes… always wanting more.” Unfortunately for them, “more” isn’t reduced to bling, road mistresses and gambling, but food, as well. If there’s one thing sitting over a computer for ten hours a day has taught me, it’s that skipping the gym can be detrimental to your career. But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s look at some of the professional athletes in recent history who’ve grown their waistlines rather than their stat lines and rank them in terms of lost potential.
(And a note on injuries: Plenty of professional athletes have been hurt a lot worse than the guys on this list and managed not to gain 45 pounds—We’re looking at you, Mo Vaughn!—over a five-year period. Long story short: Injuries are no reason to give them a slide, especially when they’re collecting over $35 million over two years—again, that’s you Vaughn.)
- Name: Mo Vaughn
- Sport: Baseball
- Low/High Weight:230/275
- One of the funniest stories about Mo Vaughn is when then Disney CEO Michael Eisner, while being deposed in the Michael Ovitz case about the failings of the company, said he wished he had one do over. That was to never sign Mo Vaughn to a contract with the Anaheim Angels when the hitter was more broken down than the script to the third Mighty Ducks movie. Indeed Vaughn is the poster child for athletes broken down because of their weight. Coming up in 1991 with the Boston Red Sox, he was a powerful first baseman who had a stocky frame, but could play. He was the 1995 AL MVP and led the Sox to the ‘91 and ‘95 playoffs. But then the injuries came, and the weight gain soon thereafter. In one four-year span, Vaughn missed more than 200 games with injuries to his left ankle, left arm, right hand and left knee. In parts of two seasons with the Mets, Vaughn hit a piddling .249 with 29 homers in 166 games, as well as committed 19 errors at first base. It’s not easy to dive for line drives down the line at first when you’re carrying an extra 45 pounds and injuries.
- Name: Cecil Fielder
- Sport: Baseball
- Low/High Weight:230/300 (ESPN estimate)
- Looking at Cecil Fielder’s son Prince, who currently plays for the Milwaukee Brewers, we know we really shouldn’t pounce on “Big Daddy.” Sometimes guys just get big after a while because of genetics (or in Prince’s case, they start off that way.) But during Fielder Senior’s career he gained up to 70 pounds, which must’ve weighed his swing down. Because he’s in the tainted, steroids era of baseball, some will say his drop in home runs after his prodigious run in the early-90s is related to that. But reports say that Fielder wasn’t a part of the ‘roids scene, and it was truly his bulk alone knocking those dingers. So the numbers suggest at some point his bulk became too much, a point where it because a hindrance rather than a trait. This was probably once he broke 275 and couldn’t shift his big frame fast enough.
- Name: Eddie Curry
- Sport: Basketball
- Low/High Weight:285/?
- Now, Eddie Curry’s always been a big guy, but it became clear he’s reached the requisite weight to be on this list when he sat on an exercise ball in the Knicks locker room this week and blew it up. Though he’s still listed that way, I’m pretty sure no NBA baller weighs, six years later, what he did coming out of high school. Especially one that’s 6’11, has a 7’6 wingspan and looks like he ate the person in the before picture. He blew up an exercise ball. How could 285 pounds do that, even if the ball was slightly over-inflated? And what about his performance? Well, let’s just say his physical attributes (height and span) have saved him from his lack of athleticism. We’re sure gaining weight didn’t help. When a reporter asked Scott Skiles, Curry’s coach in Chicago, what Curry needed to do to become a better rebounder, Skiles simply replied, “Jump.” Harsh words for a guy who’s supposed to be a center.
- Name: Shawn Kemp
- Sport: Basketball
- Low/High Weight: 230/317
- Even though I was a Lakers fan growing up, I was always in awe of the Seattle Supersonics’ Shawn Kemp. They called him the “Reign Man” and he was a beast to the basket. The way he dunked it was the antithesis of Michael Jordan’s grace. But as his career started to decline following a trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers, his weight went the opposite way. He may have posted career highs in points scored with the Cavs, but his defense suffered and he started drinking more. After only two years he returned to to the Pacific Northwest to play for Portland, but it wasn’t the same Kemp. He ballooned up to 285 and he looked like Krusty the Clown after chugging all those regular shakes. It was at this time that he started to heavily abuse cocaine which, come on. Get fat or ski, you can’t do both. While he’s tried to make it back to the league after dropping weight and the drug habit— actually fielding a few offers—looking at him now it’s hard to remember the Shawn Kemp that would unhinge the baskets at The Forum with his ferocious dunks. Now it’s easier to imagine him unhinging his jaw to fit a triple Angus cheesburger in his maw.
- Name: Ricco Rodriguez
- Sport: MMA
- Low/High Weight:250/350
- Ricco Rodriguez was, at one point, one of the baddest men in Mixed Martial Arts. Early in his life, he was once the most decorated high school wrestler in New York state history. Fighting in the UFC, he took down big names like Andrei Arlovski and Pete Williams. But after a controversial fight while representing the UFC in a PRIDE match, it seemed to go downhill for Rodriguez. The UFC didn’t renew his contract and he began fighting in smaller venues and leagues like the WFA, which I thought was a New Deal program. This, of course, led to substance abuse, which again included coke and food—a combination only athletes and David Crosby seem to be able to pull off. But he was cognizant of where he was in life, at one point commenting “I’m fat but I still got skills,” when he ballooned up to 350 pounds. It got so bad that he even made it onto VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,” which you know is the bottom. (It’s not even the classy rehab show on A&E.) But now his weight is back down and he’s kicking ass again in normal leagues after his suspension for having coke and pot in his system. It just shows to show that sometimes, all you need is a guiding hand—and to lose 100 pounds.
- Name: Ronaldo
- Team, Sport: Soccer
- Low/High Weight: 165/208
- When the leader of your country is asking about your weight, you know it’s a serious problem. But that’s the type of panic you cause when you’re one of the best players in the world and you gain 43 pounds in less than seven years. Which is exactly the situation Brazilian soccer maestro Ronaldo found himself in before the 2006 World Cup when the president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (or Lula), asked the team: “So what is it? Is Ronaldo fat or isn’t he?” While Ronaldo’s weight gain has been due, in part, to reoccurring injuries that have marred him since ‘99, that much gain that fast isn’t good for anyone, let alone a soccer star. The result? In the past two years, the once proud FIFA scoring king has had only 10 goals in 27 games when he used to score double that in a single season-and in as many games.
- Name: Tony Gywnn
- Sport: Baseball
- Low/High Weight:185/225
- Despite the addition of forty pounds to his stout frame, former San Diego Padre Tony Gwynn never had his Hall Of Fame numbers drop off until injuries shortened his last two seasons of pro ball. Even including those last years, Gwynn never hit under .309 after his rookie year and ratcheted up five 200-plus hit seasons. Add to that the fact that, most of his career, he missed 20-40 games due to days off and it makes you wonder what kind of numbers he could’ve put up if he didn’t get tired as much as he seems to.
- Name: CC Sabathia
- Sport: Baseball
- Low/High Weight:235/290
- Similarly to Gywnn, Sabathia shouldn’t be as successful a pitcher as he is considering his massive size . During Milwaukee’s recent playoff run, the Brewers trotted him out four straight times on three days rest, might have been one too many. The last came in the second game of the NLDS against the Phillies where he chose a bad time to have his worse game as a Brewer. But considering his close-to-300 pound frame, the fact that he has the stamina to roll off that kind of performance as a pitcher is amazing.
- Name: George Foreman
- Sport: Boxing
- Low/High Weight:212/262
- Do I feel bad about putting Foreman on this list because his he reached his weight max during his mid-to-late forties? Nope. Considering he became the oldest person to win the IBF and WBA titles, it’s fair game. Also, his metamorphosis from in-shape bad guy pugilist (remember he was the villain to Muhammad Ali’s good guy in the “The Rumble in the Jungle ”) to jolly, fat-guy fighter certainly helped his post-career transformation into grill pitchman. I mean, it kept his face in the news, and to be honest I’d rather buy a fat-draining grill from a someone I thought wanted to help me, not punch my face in after my turkey burger’s done.
Extra Bonus Round… Not all athletes who gained a ton of weight became an extra crispy fried shell of themselves… just a majority of them. Here are three that we found who stood up to the greatness when their pants size started growing along with their age.
So there you have it, the good and the bad side of fat athletes. While a majority of them do falter, there are a few that make good on their promise to entertain fans regardless of their excess weight.