It’s Unfair that Athletes Compete on Dancing With the Stars

Photo: Parade

Tonight’s the night, folks. The hit show Dancing With the Stars returns at 7PM CST on ABC. The dancing competition that takes mostly C to D-list celebrities, stuffs them into dresses and leotards, and parades them out for our entertainment will get its 29th season underway with a slew of entertainers, singers, and most importantly, athletes.

DWTS has a long history of having athletes on the show, and they’ve been extremely successful. Starting in Season One with Evander Holyfield and this season with Vernon Davis, Charles Oakley, and Johnny Weir, sports stars have had their time to shine on the dance floor. The show even had an “Athletes Only” edition during the 26th season of the show.

Plenty of Mirrorball Trophy winners in the athletic field, so let’s look back at the storied history of this television franchise.

Emmitt Smith, Season 3

Photo: The Blade

The former Dallas Cowboys running back took home the Mirrorball trophy against a stacked field of Jerry Springer, Mario Lopez, and Joey Lawrence. Tucker Carlson was the first dancer eliminated.

Apolo Anton Ohno, Season 4

Photo: USA Today

I feel like Apolo Anton Ohno was on my Wheaties boxes annually during my formative years. He won Season Four against the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus, Joey Fatone, and Clyde Drexler.

Hélío Castroneves, Season 5

Photo: chelsiehightowerdance.com

One of Indy Cars Series’ best, Hélío Castroneves took the checkered flag in Season Five. Other competitors in Hélío’s season were Wayne Newton, Mark Cuban, and Marie Osmond.

Kristi Yamaguchi, Season 6

Yamaguchi completed the fourth straight season of an athlete winning DWTS when she was victorious in Season Six. The Olympic figure skater beat out a star studded cast that included Penn Jillette, Steve Guttenberg, and Adam Corolla.

Shawn Johnson, Season 8

Photo: ESPN

One of the many Olympic heroes to grace our list, Shawn Johnson tumbled and flipped her way to victory in Season Eight. Johnson took the crown over Denise Richards, Steve O, and Lil Kim. Johnson also finished in second place during the Season 15 “All-Stars” competition.

Hines Ward, Season 12

Photo: LA Times

Two years after winning his second Super Bowl in 2009, Ward took home some more hardware in Season 12. Hines held off the likes of Wendy Williams, Ralph Macchio, and Kirstie Alley.

Donald Driver, Season 14

Photo: OnMilwaukee

Donald Driver took home the Mirrorball Trophy in season 14 against fellow dancers Gavin DeGraw, Jaleel White, and Maria Menounos.

Laurie Hernandez, Season 23

Photo: Teen Vogue

Another Olympic athlete, another DWTS winner. Laurie Hernandez took the top spot in Season 23 while fighting off tough competition from Rick Perry, Vanilla Ice, and Amber Rose.

Rashad Jennings, Season 24

Photo: Glamour

Rashad Jennings may have ended up a better dancer than running back. He won Season 24 against Chris Kattan, Charo, and Mr. T, amongst other high-powered celebrities.

Adam Rippon, Season 26 “Athletes” Season

Photo: TV Guide

This one might be the most impressive of them all. Adam Rippon Season 24, which was all athletes. His win marked the 10th win for athletes out of 24 seasons at the time. The Season 24 field consisted of, amongst others, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jennie Finch, and Josh Norman.

Plenty of Dancing With the Stars seasons, plenty of athletes taking home Mirrorball Trophies. For a competition in which hundreds of participants have vied for the top spot, former players and Olympians have reigned supreme approximately 36% of the time. Maybe the executives over at ABC should consider a non-athlete season due to the sheer dominance we’ve seen every the lifespan of the show.

Wildest Player/Team Late-Career Combos

The birth of #TompaBay got us thinking; what are the wildest player/team combinations we’ve seen in sports?

These kind of late-career transactions have happened for numerous reasons; a player got fed up with a coach/team *cough Tom Brady cough*, the team got sick of the player, or maybe the player was ring chasing or looking for one more payday with a big contract, and was willing to go wherever needed to get that money. Nothing wrong with that.

For whatever reason, the below combos make me feel quite uncomfortable:

Kerry Wood, New York Yankees

As a Cubs fan, this one cut deep. While I don’t hate the Yankees, Kerry Wood was who you thought of when you brought up The Chicago Cubs during his time in the majors. Kid K spent his best years (1998-2008) on the North Side. After singing a two-year deal with Cleveland, Wood was traded to the Yankees on July 31, 2010. He primarily worked as Mariano Rivera’s setup man.

Luckily for us Cubs fans, Woody came home after his half year in New York. He signed a one year deal to come back to the Cubs and end his career in the blue pinstripes instead of the black ones. The way it was meant to be.

Patrick Ewing, Seattle Supersonics

Patrick Ewing is arguably the best player in New York Knicks history. I’m not old enough to realize how great Walt “Clyde” Frazier or Willis Reed were, but seems only appropriate to throw them in the discussion with more current Knicks like Carmelo Anthony & Allan Houston. For such a “storied” franchise, this is actually a pretty brutal top five list.

On September 20th, 2000, one of the largest trades in NBA history ended Ewing’s 15-year run in New York. The trade included The Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, and of course the Seattle Supersonics. Tough break for Patrick in my opinion; nothing against Seattle but I think the Emerald City would come in third place of places I would prefer to move if I had the choice between there, LA, or Phoenix.

Emmitt Smith, Arizona Cardinals

When Emmitt Smith was released from the The Cowboys in 2003 after 12 years in Dallas, he was the all-time leading rusher in NFL history. He had racked up 17,162 yards, scored 153 touchdowns, and won three Superbowls. He was a part of the “triplets” in Dallas with Troy Aikman & Michael Irvin. The guy was the Dallas Cowboys.

When Bill Parcells took over the Cowboys, he decided it was time for a change, and released Smith on February 26, 2003. I think we all would have been happy to see Emmitt call it a career at that point. However, he decided he still had some left in the tank, and signed a two-year deal with The Arizona Cardinals. What resulted were two forgetful seasons highlighted by his return to Dallas to play the Cowboys on October 5, 2003, where he rushed six times for negative one yard.

Shaquille O’Neal, Boston Celtics

The Big Shamrock! One of the cornerstone’s of the Lakers early aughts dynasty ended his career with the rival Celtics, tragic.

I think it’s fair to say once The Big Aristotle’s runs with The Lakers and Heat were over, it was pure ring chasing time for the big fella. Shaq’s tenures in Phoenix, Cleveland, and of course Boston were a bit hard to watch as his body began to break down.

The silver lining we can take from all of these stops are the nicknames that we were given along the way: Superman, The Big Diesel, Big Daddy, MDE (Most Dominant Ever), Wilt Chamberneazy, and my personal favorite from the Phoenix days…Shaqtus.

Randy Moss, Tennessee Titans

Photo: Fansided

Randy “Imma Play When I Wanna Play” Moss. One of the most supremely athletic wide receivers we’ll ever see. If you haven’t, I would suggest taking some time out and watching any highlight tape of Moss’ career, like this one. He was so good that his name became a verb. If you ever get “Moss’d,” you might as well hang up your cleats.

After setting records with Tom Brady in New England, things started to unravel for Moss. His second tenure with The Vikings lasted less than a month, he made six catches with The Titans in eight games, retired for a year, and played his final season with The San Francisco 49ers in 2012.

Michael Jordan, Washington Wizards

Not even going to talk about it.

More often than not, these late-career moves do not worked out well. While it’s nearly impossible in today’s business of professional sports for a player to spend an entire career with one team, loyalty is still something that can be appreciated. However, when the business side makes itself prevalent, we as fans can be given the gift of some hilarious and awkward visuals with players in new uniforms.