The Most Controversial Memoirs by Professional Athletes

Former MLB pitcher Jim Bouton passed away last week. Bouton played in a bygone era of baseball history where players didn’t share much. His book, “Ball Four”, did a lot to change that.

Let’s take a closer look at Bouton’s work as well as some of the other most controversial memoirs by professional athletes. 

“Ball Four” by Jim Bouton

Bouton’s memoir captured his 1969 season pitching for the expansion Seattle Pilots as well as the Houston Astros. What made it controversial was the shocking candor Bouton displayed in discussing the player’s lives off the field and in the locker room.

In a pre-social media era when clubhouses were considered sacred places and player’s private lives were closely guarded, Bouton’s book was revolutionary. 

“Gazza: My Story” by Paul Gascoigne

This portrait of one of England’s most famous footballers talks about some of the soccer star’s famous off-the-field antics. One story that stands out is about Gazza stepping into a lobster tank at a restaurant in Rome. It also delves into Gascoigne’s attempts to recover from alcoholism. 

“Open” by Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi was one of the most famous tennis stars of the ’90s and his memoir stood out as a moving depiction of what athletic stardom can mean, both good and bad. It had three controversial highlights that stood out: 

  • A short but painful-to-read description of Agassi’s crystal meth use. 
  • The revelation that Agassi was being dishonest when media members asked him about his love of the game. 
  • Agassi’s famously long and dyed hair may have been part toupee. Agassi would shave his head in the later stages of his career for a look that seemed more comfortable for the star. 

“Bad As I Wanna Be” by Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman is one of the most outrageous players in NBA history, so it’s fitting that his memoir would have a lot of shock value to it. This book recounts his career up to Rodman joining Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.

The book’s most controversial section? Probably where the expert rebounder recounts his tryst with Madonna. 

“I Should be Dead by Now” by Dennis Rodman

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Storming. Area. 51.

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It would make sense for a figure as controversial as Rodman to appear twice on this list.

In his 2005 follow-up memoir, Rodman talks about his life after the NBA and attempting to get back in. He also writes about his problems with alcohol and his marriage to actress Carmen Electra. 

“Every Second Counts” by Lance Armstrong

Spending a lot of his time in his second memoir defending his reputation, Lance Armstrong would later be proven to be a cheater making many of his claims untrue.

Armstrong wrote the book when he was still seen as an inspirational figure to cancer survivors for being able to come back from insurmountable odds to triumph for seven Tour de France wins. In light of his admission of PED use, the book reads as disingenuous. 

“A View From Above” by Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain was a larger than life figure, dominating the NBA as one of its earliest superstars. His memoir covered everything from trash talk about fellow centers Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul Jabbar to his off the court exploits. In a claim that’s been oft-cited since the NBA Hall of Famer wrote that he slept with 20,000 women

“If I Did It” by OJ Simpson

This bizarre book features OJ Simpson, the man accused and later acquitted of killing his wife Nicole Brown Simpson along with her friend Ron Goldman, outlining a hypothetical scenario of how he would have killed Brown and Goldman.

While Simpson was found not guilty, no other suspect has emerged in the decades since the grisly murders occurred. Most of the tasteless book’s proceeds went to the Brown and Goldman families as well as Simpson’s numerous creditors.