These guys are just terrible teammates

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Jul 6, 2005

errell Owens is a terrible teammate. His character flaws have become famous, thanks to the breathless 24/7 media coverage of his rift with quarterback Donovan McNabb, his training room fight with Hugh Douglas and his conflict with all things Philadelphia Eagle.

But T.O. is hardly unique in the world of sports. There are lousy teammates at every level of competition. There always have been, and there always will be.

For every Joe Montana born into the world, there is a Ryan Leaf or Cade McNown: two cribs over aggravating all the other infants in the nursery.

For every savvy team leader like Eddie Murray, there is a bonehead like Albert Belle. For every good guy like Vinny Testaverde playing into old age, there is a mope like Jeff George pouting his way to premature retirement.

What makes a teammate bad? The transgressions are familiar: Finger-pointing, loafing, ball-hogging, rookie dogging, blame dodging, headline grabbing, cold shouldering, back stabbing, hot tub malingering, clubhouse lawyering, excessive preening, duty shirking, tab ducking, wife stealing . . . and the list goes on and on.

Some skirmishing within a team is natural, given the high level of testosterone. NFL and NHL training camps routinely feature fistfights when the drills and scrimmages become too heated. NBA and college basketball practices feature plenty of rough-housing as well.

In a different era, the classic Oakland A's teams were always fighting. Fiery Bill "Mad Dog" Madlock battled teammates at several stops. When hockey legend Eddie Shack aggravated Toronto teammate Tim Horton during a card match in a train car, legend has it that Horton choked him into unconsciousness before other Leafs pulled him off.

Sometimes it isn't easy for teammates to coexist. How about the 1994 U.S. women's Olympic figure skating team: Tonya Harding, Kristi Yamaguchi and Nancy Kerrigan? Harding's henchmen tried to take out Kerrigan with a hair-brained hit on her precious leg at the U.S. Figure Skating Championship.

That made things a little tense at the Winter Games in Lillehammer.

In recent years, we have winced at plenty of extreme, well-publicized examples of team discord. USC receiver Steve Smith fought with teammate Dominique Byrd earlier this year, breaking his jaw. (They reportedly brawled over the outcome of a John Madden video game).

Bill Romanowski, an admitted steroid abuser, attacked teammate Marcus Williams during an Oakland Raiders practice and inflicted a career-ending eye injury. Litigation by Williams and a tearful "60 Minutes" confession by Romanowski followed.

In the worst example of all, Carlton Dotson murdered his former Baylor University basketball teammate Patrick Dennehy.

Who are the worst teammates in sports today? After Owens, the reigning champion, here are 10 top candidates for the honor:

10. Kwame Brown, Lakers

His unhappy run in Washington ended when he skipped practices the day before and the day of a playoff game against Chicago, feigning illness. The Wizards sent him home.

Why would Brown bail on his responsibility? Because, he said, he didn't want to attack teammate Gilbert Arenas. "I was going to slap the (expletive) out of him," Brown said.

He believed Arenas asked coach Eddie Jordan to bench him.

"I'll admit it, what I did was wrong — not showing up was wrong — but I ain't saying what I would've done if I showed up would've been right," Brown told the Washington Post. "Being that I didn't show up, I didn't put my hands on nobody. How a teammate, a supposed friend, would go to a coach and tell him 'Don't put me in a game,' I would've done something seriously wrong to him."

OK, then. The Zen Master will have some work to do with Kwame, too.

9. Jose Guillen, Washington Nationals

He got through the 2005 season without any major flare-ups, which proves there might be hope for him after all. He played hard despite nagging shoulder, ankle and wrist injuries and kept his shouting matches with teammates to a minimum.

The Cincinnati Reds gave up on him despite his outstanding bat. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, weary of his antics, sent him home during the peak of the 2004 pennant race.

"There's a reason why he's been with so many teams and why it's gone bad for him each time," Angels reliever Brendan Donnelly observed.

"It hurts me so much," Guillen told The Sporting News. "You know why? Because people have no idea what happened last year. They don't know the real truth. When I go home (to the Dominican Republic), sometimes I cry a lot because people on the street, they think I'm an ass. Like, they think I'm the worst guy in baseball. And they don't know the truth."

Perhaps Nationals manager Frank Robinson put it best: "He doesn't know how to be a diplomat."

8. Randy Moss, Raiders

He is burnishing his image this season. He worked hard in training camp. He mixed well with teammates. He has played in pain the past few weeks while battling through multiple injuries.

(His less-than-shocking admission of marijuana use during a HBO interview didn't help his off-field image, however.)

As a Viking, he was fined more than $100,000 for his behavior on and off the field. He was notorious for loafing when the ball wasn't coming his way. He didn't embrace downfield blocking as part of his job description.

In one of his final acts as a Viking, he walked off the field with two seconds left in a 21-18 loss at Washington — symbolically abandoning his teammates.

"I think that his attitude has been fine," agent Dante DiTrapano said when the Vikings decided to trade Moss. "Of course he gets frustrated when they lose, but who doesn't? Randy's used to winning, and they haven't won much up in Minnesota."

7. Jason Williams, Miami Heat

Teammates usually don't despise J-Will. Actually, they often find him entertaining on and off the court. But there is always some turbulence on the J-Will ride. Ask his teammates from Sacramento and Memphis.

"I've never played with a player like him," Lorenzen Wright said after Williams left the Grizzlies. "He's a guy you want to hang with because he is very lively. He's the guy who keeps everybody entertained. He wants to win, and he wants to compete. He just brings a different way of doing things. All relationships don't end on a happy note. He parted ways with the Grizzlies, and hopefully it's for the best for everybody."

Like others on this list, Williams is trying to behave better with age.

"I wouldn't go back and change anything, even the mistakes that I've made because I think mistakes are good if you learn from them," Williams recently told the Palm Beach Post. "Maybe I wouldn't want to do them again, but I wouldn't change my lifestyle in any way. ... I don't change. It's you guys (the media) and the fans that put images on us. I just try to go out and help my team win any way I can."

6. Ricky Williams, Miami Dolphins

He drove the New Orleans Saints crazy with his eccentric and self-absorbed behavior, forcing that team to off-load him to South Florida at a tremendous discount.

Williams walked out on the Dolphins last year, leaving his teammates in the breach and effectively tanking the season.

"Ricky's just a different guy," Saints receiver Joe Horn explained. "People he wanted to deal with, he did. And people he wanted to have nothing to do with, he didn't. No one could understand that. I don't think guys in the locker room could grasp that he wanted to be to himself, you know, quiet. If you didn't understand him and didn't know what he was about, it always kept people in suspense."

Earlier in his NFL career, Williams was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, which was treated with Paxil. As a Saint, he conducted interviews with his helmet on and behaved oddly in the locker room.

He doesn't deliberately disrupt teams. He is a bright, pleasant fellow. When he plays, he plays hard and he plays hurt. By publicly apologizing for his 2004 sabbatical, which was spent traveling the world and smoking pot, Williams got a fresh start in Miami.

"I'm very regretful that people were hurt in the process of me doing that," he said during his welcome-back news conference. "I do realize that to a lot of people, it comes off as being very, very selfish. So I do offer an apology to all the people who were negatively affected by my decision."

5. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

Last season teammate Chucky Atkins, of all people, ripped Kobe for trying to run the franchise from his spot on the floor. Former teammate Shaquille O'Neal has fired similar salvoes at Kobe for the same offense.

During their previous time together, Bryant exasperated Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "Sometimes Bryant's needs overwhelm the rest of the ball club's necessity," Dr. Phil said at the time. "Kobe really could be the glue that holds us together. Or he could be the force that breaks us apart."

Jackson pounded Bryant in his farewell book, using words like "narcissism," "hypocrisy" and "selfish" to describe his behavior. Now Jackson is back on the bench, trying to use his Zen mastery to coax Bryant into a leadership role.

4. Jeff Kent, Los Angeles Dodgers

Teammate Milton Bradley accused him of being racist. That is an unfair shot; Kent irritates teammates of every conceivable demographic.

He admits his clubhouse persona isn't warm and fuzzy. "I don't see why you need to say hello to someone 365 days a year," Kent told the Los Angeles Times. "Shouldn't once a week be enough?"

Kent is the best teammate in the world if you are standing on second base and you really want to score. He is a remarkable clutch player. But he certainly isn't a party to be around.

"If you're going to be the leader of the team, then you need to mingle with the team and associate with the team," Bradley suggested last season. "I mean, you can't have your locker in the corner, put your headphones on and sit in the corner reading a motocross magazine. He's in his own world. Everybody else is in this world.'"

Kent might be better suited for a more solitary pursuit. "I don't know if I ever really liked baseball," he groused. "If I had my druthers, and could do something else, I'd probably be doing it."

3. Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants

He is capable of being a great guy — gregarious, funny, thoughtful, generous, the whole package. He just chooses not to show that side of his personality for weeks at a time.

He lives in his own corner of the clubhouse, where he is not to be disturbed. He works out with his own trainer. To see what is happening in Barry's World, Giants teammates and officials must check out his Web site. He scuffled famously with teammate Jeff Kent and ignored group functions like the annual team picture.

Here is Kent's famous quote in Sports Illustrated: "On the field, we're fine, but off the field, I don't care about Barry and Barry doesn't care about me. Or anybody else. He doesn't answer questions. He palms everybody off on us ... so we have to do his talking for him. But you get used to it. Barry does a lot of questionable things ... I was raised to be a team guy, and I am, but Barry's Barry. It took me two years to learn to live with it, but I learned."

2. Keyshawn Johnson, Dallas Cowboys

His sideline spat with quarterback Drew Bledsoe was only the latest outburst in a career of team busting. Meshawn mocked New York Jets teammate Wayne Chrebet — referring to him as a "team mascot" — in a book that exposed Johnson's egocentric view of the world.

The Jets got rid him. Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden sent him home during the middle of the 2003 season and later ditched him. "For whatever reason he didn't want to be here," Gruden explained at the time. "He let me know that some time after one of our early games."

So far, anyway, Bill Parcells has kept him under control in Dallas.

1. Rafael Palmeiro, free agent

When caught in a Big Fat Lie about his steroid abuse, Raffy threw teammate Miguel Tejada under the bus during testimony to Congress. Palmeiro suggested his positive steroid test could have been the result of a B-12 boost he got from Tejada.

Nice. How could Palmeiro break The Code while still playing?

"It's not good for anybody because I don't know what people think about me now," Tejada told reporters at the time. "I didn't do anything wrong. I just gave a B-12 (shot) to one of my friends to help him out. I don't give any steroids."

The Orioles sent Palmeiro home for the rest of the season and beyond.

Dishonorable mention: Volcanic Yankees pitcher Kevin Brown; itinerate New York Nets guard Jeff McInnis; angry Dodgers outfielder Milton Bradley; mouthy Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp; free-agent outfielder Sammy Sosa, the obnoxious boom box D.J.; free-agent outfielder Carl Everett, inveterate team rules breaker; mercurial Indiana Pacers guard Ron Artest; and Miami Heat forward Antoine Walker, the master of the ill-timed bad shot.