A Look Back at Some of the Most Entertaining Athletes on and off the Field

The appeal of sports, for the most part, is in the simplicity of the games and in the incredible athleticism of the people that play them. Still, there are athletes that appeal to us beyond their athletic skill, either because they’re natural showmen or because they’re so singularly eccentric that they keep us absorbed. It's actually a long tradition in sports that stretches back to the likes of Muhammad Ali, Ty Cobb, and Dennis Rodman. But who are the players that have captivated us with their on-field performances and off-field antics? Well...

Novak Djokovic

Andy Roddick might have taken this spot had he not retired after the US Open, but Djokovic — who also happens to be the top men’s tennis player in the world right now — is no dullard. You should be able to tell from his nickname, ‘Djoker,’ the kind of personality that he brings to the tennis court. For much of the period before his rise to the top, Djokovic was known primarily for his humorous imitations of other players’ serves, including taking part in an elaborate ad campaign for HEAD that saw him dressing up as and impersonating Maria Sharapova. He also loves playing pranks, including pulling out a golf club instead of a tennis racket on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Fortunately, his play is good enough that no one makes too big a deal out of it.

Ron Artest / Metta World Peace

Djokovic’s humor is intentional; the former Ron Artest, meanwhile, seems totally oblivious to the eyebrows raised at his eccentric behavior. Artest, who legally changed his name to Metta World Peace last August, causes a stir whenever he opens his mouth, because he’s prone to saying things like this. The Lakers forward's eccentricity also has a darker side, though, as evidenced by his participation in one of basketball’s most infamous episodes: the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004, "the Malice in the Palace," which Artest began after a fan threw a drink at him.

Rob Gronkowski

New England Patriots tight end Gronkowski may or may not be just as unaware as Artest, but no one is quite sure: he could be a publicity genius, or he could be a fun-loving dude who happens to be good at football. Gronkowski is famous for his over-the-top spiking of the football after touchdowns and for being the personification of bro, which has in the past included doing things like declaring "Yo soy fiesta" on camera and taking pictures with porn stars. We’re not sure if he knows exactly what he’s doing, but we do know he’s having fun.

Brian Wilson

Not much was heard from Wilson on the diamond this past season, as he was sidelined for Tommy John surgery in April and missed out on helping his team win the World Series. Nonetheless, he's made a name for himself as one of the biggest personalities to step on the mound or into the batter's box. How's that? Well, let's start with that beard, a sufficiently distinctive and out-of-control facial fixture that it's even spawned its own Twitter feed. But his tendency towards eccentricity doesn't stop there: the Giants' ace closer is known for making outlandishly hilarious statements ("Chuck Norris has been known to throw a baseball 100 mph. I've been known to throw Chuck Norris 100 mph") and for making fun of his own celebrity, as when he wore a Spandex tuxedo to the ESPYs.

Bubba Watson

We're not huge golf fans here at the Daily Lounge, but we are definitely fans of 2012 Masters winner Bubba Watson, known, beyond his skill at hitting a small white ball onto grass, for using a pink driver to do so. That's only the beginning of his sartorial singularity; he once wore a miseltoe belt buckle to a charity event, for instance. He's also a pop star — of a sort, anyways — as a member of the four-person "Golf Boys."

[All pics via Flickr. Top - Lucy Boynton. Djokovic - Edwin Martinez. Artest - Keith Allison. Gronkowski - Jack Newton. Wilson - Paulo Philippidis. Watson - Tour Pro Golf Clubs.]

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