One of the biggest obstacles to Tim Tebow becoming the Jets’ starting QB is the perception that he can’t, you know, actually throw. So naturally, he’s spending the summer doing… MMA training? Hey, whatevs. In honor of this latest development, here’s a look at other athletes who found fame despite having games with serious “glitches.” —Sean Cunningham
Usain Bolt, Track The Flaw: Trouble Getting Out of the Blocks. Bolt is a notoriously slow starter. In the 2008 Olympic 100-meter final, he had the second-worst start reaction time. Does It Matter? Bolt won gold while setting a world record, then did the same in the 200 meters. In other words, no. Or at least not yet.
Jerry Rice, Football The Flaw: Lack of Speed. Rice reportedly turned in a miserable 4.71 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine. Bill Walsh and the 49ers made him the 16th pick of the 1985 draft anyway. Does It Matter? Rice retired as the all-time leader in touchdowns (208) and all-purpose yards (23,540). Imagine what he could have done if he were fast...
Dave Kingman, Baseball The Flaw: Striking Out. Despite twice leading the NL in home runs and hitting 442 homers, he batted a lousy .236 while leading the league in whiffs three times. Does It Matter? Before Kingman, 400 or more jacks almost guaranteed admission to the Hall of Fame. He changed that forever, earning less than one percent of the Hall vote his only time on the ballot.
Muhammad Ali/Sergio Martinez, Boxing The Flaw: The Drop. Top trainers agree that boxers should keep their damn hands up. Photos to the contrary, both Ali and Martinez are frequent hand-droppers, telling opponents, “I’m giving you an open shot to the face, but I’m so fast I’ll still kick your ass.” Does It Matter? Ali is widely considered (including by himself) “The Greatest.” Current middleweight star Martinez still lowers his mitts at age 37... and since the Argentine’s last four opponents all failed to reach the 12th round, it seems to be working.
Wilt Chamberlain/Bill Russell/Shaquille O’Neal, Basketball The Flaw: Free Throw Ineptitude. Shaq shot .580 for his career, Russell .561 and Wilt .540. Does It Matter? Shaq won four titles in 19 seasons and Wilt collected two in 14. Russell focused on defense, leaving the charity stripe to his other Hall of Fame Celtic teammates while winning 10. 10!
Rene Higuita, Soccer The Flaw: A Need to Roam. The Colombian goalie liked playing offense, roaming the field and even scoring on free and penalty kicks, but there was a nagging sense of, “If he’s up here, who’s watching our goal?” Does It Matter? Higuita’s club team, Atlético Nacional, won lots of titles, including the Copa Libertadores in 1989. But Colombia chronically underachieved and never made a serious World Cup run. Also, he had a drug problem. But how awesome was the scorpion save?
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Baseball The Flaw: Base Runners. Dice-K dominated Japan, then pitched solidly for the Red Sox his rookie year as they won the World Series. In 2008 he led the league in walks, yet somehow went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA, causing the heads of sabermetricians everywhere to explode. Does It Matter? The wear and tear of facing so many batters has caused his body to break down. Dice-K went 16-15 over the next three seasons while battling injuries. He’s 0-3 this year.
Dirk Nowitzki, Basketball The Flaw: Not Knowing His Place. Most seven-footers hang near the hoop, so when Nowitzki showed up shooting threes, pundits claimed he lacked toughness, dooming the Dallas Mavericks to postseason failure. Does It Matter? Dirk destroyed Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and finally LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to earn his franchise a title last year—and himself the Finals MVP. Someday you’ll come back, skyhook.
Zdeno Chara, Hockey The Flaw: Being a Huge Freakin’ Foreigner. Hockey analysts often see Euros as weak (ask Don Cherry), so when a 6’9” Slovak wanted to join the league as a defenseman, he lasted until the 56th pick, with the consensus being, “Seriously, shouldn’t this big clumsy guy be playing hoops?” Does It Matter? The tallest man in the NHL also has the hardest slap shot. His first All-Star appearance came in 2003, and the honors have continued pretty steadily ever since, culminating in 2011 when Chara captained the Boston Bruins to their first Stanley Cup since 1972.
Sadaharu Oh, Baseball The Flaw: A Goofy Stance. The superstar for Japan’s Yomiuri Giants batted with what a 1977 Sports Illustrated article termed a “flamingo” style. Yup, one foot in the air. Does It Matter? Oh hit 868 homers while winning 11 championships and nine MVPs. Yet some observers insist he achieved his success in spite of his unorthodox stance, with former California Angel/Yomiuri Giant Clyde Wright asserting, “If Oh-san kept both feet on the ground like everybody else, he would hit 70 a year.” Wait, he didn’t?
Tim Tebow, Football The Flaw: Passing Inaccuracy. Tebow has completed only 47 percent of his throws in the regular season and 40 in the playoffs, numbers that would normally get a QB sent straight to the Arena League. Does It Matter? When Tebow took over as the starter in Denver last year, the team was 1-4. He threw 17 TD passes (nine picks), rushed for 12 TDs, engineered six fourth-quarter comebacks and led the Broncos to the playoffs, where they beat Pittsburgh before losing to New England. So of course John Elway dumped him the first chance he got. The only thing we know for certain? Mark Sanchez is nervous.
One of the biggest obstacles to Tim Tebow becoming the Jets’ starting QB is the perception that he can’t, you know, actually throw. So naturally, he’s spending the summer doing… MMA training?