RealSport Top 10: Ugly departures

Athletes who left their teams in messy circumstances. See who made the list!

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(Photo credit: Илья Хохлов)

Most of the time, athletes mange to exit the teams they play for with the dignity of both sides intact. However, there have been plenty of instances where they have not.

Sometimes, it is misbehavior that does it; other times it is egos getting in the way. Almost always, it is entertaining, provided you’re not a fan of the team or player in question.

We will not be including departures that got ugly after the fact, only those that were fiery at the time, nor will we include athletes who were sacked for a perfectly reasonable reason. Nevertheless, here are 10 exits that got ugly.

Honourable mentions

Vince Coleman departs the New York Mets, 1993

Almost as soon as he joined the New York Mets, Vince Coleman’s career went downhill. He had disagreements with coaches, was difficult to get along with, and even injured teammates and fans. It’s truly a stint stranger than fiction.

James Harrison departs the Pittsburgh Steelers, 2017

Recently, reports emerged of longtime Pittsburgh DE James Harrison sabotaging his 2017-18 season after becoming dissatisfied with his reduced role on the team. He ended up being released, and signing with the Steelers’ biggest rivals, New England.

10. Jason Akermanis departs the Brisbane Lions, 2006

As dicey as departures come, Jason Akermanis’ long-running feud with premiership coach Leigh Matthews came to a head in 2006, when he was dropped to the reserves for inflammatory comments he made midweek.

While the former AFL Brownlow Medalist only spent one week in second grade, it was apparently the last straw for Matthews.

With Akermanis coming off contract, the head coach and his staff, along with the team’s leadership group, unanimously voted (12-0) to not allow him back to the club for the next season. He would sign with the Western Bulldogs just a few months later.

9. William Gallas departs Chelsea and Arsenal, 2006 & 2010

After transferring from Chelsea to Arsenal as part of another infamous episode, with Ashley Cole, William Gallas’ former team claimed he said he’d “score own goals” if he was not allowed to leave.

While the French international and many others strongly refuted the claims, his subsequent departure form new club Arsenal may prove the Blues’ apple was not all that far from the tree.

In November 2009, Gallas told the press about tensions within the team, and criticised the younger players. He was fined, dropped for one match, and two years later forced his way out after demanding an “unreasonable” pay increase.

8. Luis Suarez departs Liverpool, 2014

If you know anything about Luis Suarez, you will not have a hard time believing he is about as honest as he may seem.

Not long after Liverpool finished runners-up in their magical 2013-14 campaign, Suarez stated publicly of his desire to leave the club, despite inking a new contract just months earlier. He would stay put for the next season.

After an equally as good follow-up season from the Uruguayan striker, he again re-upped with the Reds, and again demanded a transfer. This time, he got his way, and Liverpool fans were bemused Fernando Torres 2.0 was playing out.

7. Eric Lindros departs the Quebec Nordiques and Philadelphia Flyers, 1992 & 2001

Like Gallas, Canadian hockey Hall of Famer Eric Lindros has forced his way out of two teams.

Drafted by the Quebec Nordiques first overall in 1991, Lindros told them prior to picking him he had no interest in playing for them. After a yearlong holdout, Quebec eventually sent him to the Philadelphia Flyers at the next draft.

After eight years in Philadelphia, including six as Captain, Lindros refused to re-sign with the team after publicly criticising them for mishandling his concussion problems. In protest, he sat out another season, before eventually being traded to the Rangers.

6. Sonny Bill Williams departs the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2008

Everything appeared to be going great for young rugby superstar Sonny Bill Williams and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. He won a premiership with the team in his rookie year, had represented his country, and had just re-signed on a monster contract.

However, in the dead of the night in July 2008, Williams skipped the country to move to France and take up a deal with Toulonnais, an act cited as the worst betrayal in the history of the sport. Some claimed he had been brainwashed by his new manager.

After a distinguished career in France and New Zealand, Williams returned to Australia in 2013 to take up a contract with the Bulldogs’ rivals, the Sydney Roosters. The return proved to be almost as ugly as the departure.

5. Shaquille O’Neal departs the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers, 1996 & 2004

There is a level of shame attached to breaking up just one potential championship dynasty due to your own 7’2″, 325lb ego, but Shaquille O’Neal accomplished it twice, with the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers.

Coming off contract in 1996, O’Neal’s asking price was $115 million, only his teammate and fellow superstar Penny Hardaway wanted to be the highest-paid player in Orlando. They could not sort out their differences, and the big man bolted for LA.

The same problem would occur there, with Shaq refusing to get along with another alpha dog, Kobe Bryant. The two fought constantly, with O’Neal at one point ready to “kill” Bryant. At the first opportunity, the Lakers traded him to the Miami Heat.

4. Vince Carter departs the Toronto Raptors, 2004

Despite well and truly being the third most popular team in the city, Vince Carter helped Torontonians fall in love with basketball, making this saga’s ending all the more disappointing when he was traded to the New Jersey Nets in 2004.

After the 2003-04 season, in which Toronto had failed to make the Playoffs, the Raptors decided to go in a different, “rebuilding” direction, only they decided to mislead Carter, telling him they were still committed to winning now.

New coach Sam Mitchell benched him for long stretches of games, and Carter in turn admitted to not trying his hardest for his new HC. It was a sad and disappointing ending that only got uglier as the years went on for the man who brought basketball north.

3. Robbie Farah departs the Wests Tigers, 2016

It’s hard to imagine the situation for a former team captain could ever get this bad, but egos and the decline of Robbie Farah’s play brought about a difficult situation handled equally poorly by all.

New head coach Jason Taylor opted to play his team’s champion from the bench, noting they performed better the less he played. Soon after, Farah was dropped altogether, three games shy of 250 appearances for his beloved Wests Tigers.

The club was offered an unofficial ultimatum of sorts, forced to chose between the hard lines of their new coach, or their deteriorating legend. They chose the former, in order to move on from past glory, and fractured a team and a fan base.

2. Patrick Roy departs the Montreal Canadiens, 1995

Arguably the most famous of all messy departures, Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy’s time with the Montreal Canadiens ended in a perfect drama-storm that encapsulated everything the team has come to be known for.

After months of disagreements between Roy and new head coach Mario Tremblay, it all came to a head on December 2, 1995, when Tremblay “embarrassed” his goalie by refusing to substitute him in a game for nine goals against versus Detroit.

When he was finally brought to the bench, Roy stormed past Tremblay and straight to the face of team President Ronald Corey and said, “I will never again play for Montreal.” He was traded to the Colorado Avalanche three days later. 

1. Wayne Carey departs the North Melbourne Kangaroos, 2002

Although not as notable as many of the others on this list, AFL great Wayne Carey’s departure from the North Melbourne Kangaroos left more than just a club ruined.

In March 2002, North Melbourne’s captain had an extramarital affair with his best friend and vice captain’s wife, which was inadvertently discovered at a teammate’s house party.

Carey resigned from the Kangaroos shortly after, and no one involved in saga has spoken to each other since.

Who would you include on the list? Discuss in the comments below!

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