Smoking is not usually associated with sports because there is such a large emphasis on being as fit as possible. This is not to say that athletes do not smoke, however. There are some which are open about sparking up the occasional cigarette or cigar, whilst there are also a few who have tried and failed to conceal their habit. Additionally, athletes are role models for millions of kids, but they are only human and often under immense stress, so there is always an interesting debate when an athlete is seen with a cigarette in hand.
10. Kaarsten Braasch
Kaarsten Braasch is most famous for competing in the “Battle of the Sexes,” which saw him defeat Venus and Serena Williams during the 1998 Australian Open whilst he was ranked 203 in the world and 31-years old. He defeated Serena 6-1 and Venus 6-2 after they claimed that they could defeat a man ranked in the top 200. His highest ranking was number 38 (which he achieved in June 1994), but he was still a hugely popular player and this was largely due to the fact that he did not conform to the typical tennis club style. Braasch was described by one journalist as “a man whose training regime centered around a pack of cigarettes and more than a couple bottles of ice cold lager.” He was also known to smoke a cigarette during changeovers; certainly something you can’t imagine Nedal, Federer, Djokovic or any modern player doing.
9. Ricardo Mayorga
Ricardo Mayorga is not a boxer that conforms to the rules, and he has developed an infamous reputation for being wild and unpredictable. The former unified WBA and WBC Welterweight champion is known for relentlessly trash talking his opponents, as well as drinking and smoking heavily. Despite this, he managed a relatively successful career as a boxer and many believe that his antics drew more attention to the sport. There was certainly never a dull moment when he was on camera. His press conferences are something to behold, and during his MMA career, the Nicaraguan even sparked up during the press conference and blew smoke into his opponent’s face. He may not have been many people’s favorite, but there is no denying that Mayorga provided some great entertainment over his career and he certainly felt no shame about his smoking habit.
8. Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole was considered by many to be one of the best left backs in the world, but his behavior off the pitch has tarnished his career and he is no longer a popular figure. This comes down to his highly publicized divorce from Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Cole, which was due to several allegations of adultery. He has also had a few brushes with the police, and his smoking habit does him few favors. Cole is known to smoke heavily during the off-season, and his friends claim that he will chain smoke cigarettes whilst on vacation. This habit has played a large part in his downfall, as Jose Mourinho is known to be very anti-smoking. This saw Cole lose his spot in the team and cause friction at Chelsea. Cole was moved on to Italy, and his contract was recently terminated by A.S. Roma with one year remaining.
7. Jack Wilshere
Few athletes have faced as much criticism for smoking as Jack Wilshere. This is mainly due to the fact that he has been spotted several times smoking cigarettes, which sees him then apologize and deny being a regular smoker, only for him to be spotted smoking again soon after. This is unlike Dimitar Berbatov, who is open about his smoking and has faced very little criticism for it (not that he would listen anyway). Wilshere is also a player that has a lot to prove, as he has not lived up to his potential, due to the fact that he is repeatedly plagued with lengthy injuries. The Arsenal midfielder picked up (another) ankle injury over the summer and is ruled out till mid-September. Once he returns, he will be desperate to silence his critics and show that he has kicked cigarettes, too. It did lead to Arsenal fans singing a memorable rendition of “Jack Wilshere, he smokes when he wants” after he scored.
6. Anna Kournikova
Anna Kournikova is one of the most famous female athletes of all-time, despite the fact that she never won a singles title and was forced into retirement at just 21 years old (due to spinal problems). She was instead famous for her looks, and even became one of the most common searches on Google during the height of her fame. Living her life constantly in the public eye meant that it was difficult for the Russian to conceal her habit, and she admitted to being a smoker but claimed that she doesn’t smoke more than a few cigarettes a day. Having retired so long ago now, Anna is better known for her TV appearances and modeling career. This consequently means that she does not face as much criticism for smoking, as out of all celebrities, it is generally only athletes who are criticized for sparking up on occasion.
5. Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli has developed a reputation for being the “bad boy” of football through his wild off-pitch antics, as well as some questionable behavior on the pitch. This has, ultimately, held him back as he played for many of the biggest teams in Europe. But clashes with management have stopped him from developing. He has been seen smoking frequently, and even in the bathroom on a train whilst travelling to an away match. Balotelli has just finished a disaster spell at Liverpool, where he hardly got on the pitch at Anfield. He has now been loaned to A.C. Milan, where he has a good behavior clause inserted into his contract. This will see his social media channels monitored closely, he is not allowed to have any extravagant haircuts or clothing, he must not go to nightclubs and his drinking will be monitored and, of course, smoking is strictly prohibited.
4. Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney is the poster boy for English football and is the focal point of one of the biggest clubs in the world, which means that he is always scrutinized and never far from the headlines. It has been an up and down career for Rooney, and clearly the pressures of being such a huge name have gotten to him on occasion (understandably). Over the years there have been a few incidents which have caused somewhat of an uproar, such as being spotted smoking on a few different occasions. Most notably, this includes an incident in 2010 where he was spotted outside a nightclub in Manchester singing loudly, urinating in the street and smoking a cigarette. He has also been seen and criticized for smoking on holiday, proving that when you are a household name, your every move will be watched and scrutinized.
3. Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez’s career (and reputation) has been ruined by the performance enhancing drug scandal, and this makes him one of the most hated athletes on the planet. This is also due to his diva-like behavior, as well as his infidelity, which was heavily publicized. A-Rod is also a cigar smoker, and will often be seen lighting one up after an impressive performance. Due to the scandal and his reputation, it does not come as much of a surprise that he smokes. Although smoking cigars seems very minor in comparison to his other behavior, many fans will feel that he is setting a bad example, given that he is such a prominent figure in the world of sports. He very clearly does not seem to care what anyone thinks of him, and this also makes him a particularly controversial figure in the baseball world.
2. John Daly
John Daly has made a career of not conforming to the golf club appearance. He is also famous for indulging himself (as well as his driving distance off the tee). He would drink and smoke heavily (often on the course), but after requiring lap-band surgery in 2009, he was forced to quit drinking. He does, however, still smoke around 40 cigarettes a day. The 49-year-old very recently collapsed whilst playing in a tournament in Mississippi on the 18th hole, and this was due to a collapsed lung from a rib injury he suffered in 2007. In typical John Daly fashion, he returned to the course the next day and was even spotted smoking a cigarette on the clubhouse patio. Although not exactly a positive role model for kids, Daly is a fan favorite due to his attitude and his non-country club appearance and lifestyle.
1. Michael Jordan
The greatest basketball player of all time and one of the most idolized figures in sport, Michael Jordan is also a cigar aficionado. This is not something that he has picked up since retiring either, as he would also smoke a cigar before every single home game to relax. There are not many players that could get away with doing something like this, but “His Airness” is not like most other players. His first cigar was given to him by Jerry Reinsdorf (Bulls owner) after winning the first NBA title, and he soon fell in love with sparking up. Jordan is not seen too often these days, but when he is he will often be seen with a cigar in his mouth. He has even appeared on the cover of the popular magazine Cigar Aficionado, where he revealed how stepping back from the public eye has allowed him to enjoy himself.