Top 10: Over-hyped athletes

From L-R: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Eric Lindros, Anna Kournikova. (REUTERS)

From L-R: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Eric Lindros, Anna Kournikova. (REUTERS)

DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

These days, we're quick to latch on to the next big thing in sports.

Tim Tebow wins a few games in dramatic style and is elevated by fans and media to a level previously reserved for the likes of Joe Montana. Not long after, Jeremy Lin comes out of nowhere and, withing weeks, become the most-hyped athlete this year. Please, can we stop the Lin-sanity?

I've seen this story way too many times to believe the hype. Here are the top 10 examples of athletes whose stars shone brightly then fell from the sky.

10. ERIC LINDROS

Let me start by saying Lindros is a whole different kettle of fish than the rest of these athletes. He had a very good, some would even say superb, career in the NHL. But, honestly, he never lived up to the hype that started before he had to shave. Sports Illustrated did a piece on him when he was 16. Heck, the OHL changed its rules about trading first-round picks because of Lindros. And Philly traded darn near half a team to get him. So, no, 865 points in 13 NHL seasons doesn't cut it.

9. DAISUKE MATSUZAKA

Remember all the talk about Dice-K's "gyro ball," the pitch that would purportedly make major league hitters look like Little Leaguers? Yeah, how'd that work out? The Boston Red Sox spent $51 million just for the right to talk contract with the Japanese star then spent another $50 million-plus to sign him. The hype machine then kicked into overdrive and Dice-K Mania swept through Boston. Five years later, the Red Sox have 49 wins to show for their cool hundred mill.

8. KEVIN MAAS

Considered the heir apparent to former New York Yankees great Don Mattingly, Maas opened his MLB career with 10 homers in his first 72 at-bats. In New York, as we've seen with Jeremy Lin, a red-hot two weeks is enough to set off all the hype-related bells and whistles. By the end of the season -- Maas hit 21 homers in 79 games and was runner up as AL rookie of the year -- you would have thought he'd finish as one of the game's greats. Instead, he retired with 65 home runs and 169 RBI.

7. ALEXANDRE DAIGLE

The term "can't miss prospect" gets thrown around far too much these days but that's exactly how Daigle was described leading up to the 1993 NHL draft. He was a junior scoring sensation, played for Canada twice at the world junior and was, hands-down, considered the best player available in 1993. Senators fans were drooling over seeing Daigle in Ottawa. After less than three years in the Nation's Capital, he was shown the door. In 616 career games, Daigle had just 129 goals and 198 assists.

6. MICHELLE WIE

Wie burst into the sports psyche when she made the cut at the U.S. Women's Open in 2003, when she was just 13 years old. Naturally, that started talk she'd accomplish more on a golf course than anyone could imagine. With a silky-smooth swing and the ability to drive the ball a long, long way, the hype over Wie went through the roof. Now 22, Wie has carved out a decent career -- two LPGA wins and more than $3 million in earnings -- but has hardly become the female Jack Nicklaus as predicted.

5. FREDDY ADU

The hysteria over Adu started well before he ever picked up a razor. Considered a soccer prodigy, Adu signed with D.C. United of MLS when he was just 14 years old, the youngest American in more than a century to ink a major league pro contract. He was a natural fit as the face of soccer in the U.S. and, before long, Adu was everywhere. These days, unless you're a hard-core soccer fan, you probably have no idea what Adu is up to. Well, he's back in MLS after bouncing around Europe for four years.

4. BRIAN BOSWORTH

The Boz was Da Bomb before he ever played a down in the NFL. A two-time all-American at Oklahoma, Bosworth gained notoriety -- and a reputation for greatness that reached near-mythical proportions -- in college that never translated into success in the pro game. Incredibly, Bosworth played just 24 games in the NFL after being a supplemental pick of the Seattle Seahawks. But in that short time, he became the NFL's anti-Tebow.

3. KIMBO SLICE

An Internet sensation -- Rolling Stone magazine coined him "The King of the Web Brawlers" -- who blew up big-time because of videos of him beating the snot out of people in street fights, Slice was revealed as a fraud almost as soon as he started competing in UFC bouts. Slice lost to Roy Nelson in his first fight on TUF, then, after a decision win over Houston Alexander, was TKOed by Matt Mitrione at UFC 113. He was promptly released by the UFC, ending Kimbo-mania.

2. RYAN LEAF

Heading into the 1998 NFL draft, some experts felt Leaf was a better prospect than Peyton Manning. At the very least, the two college quarterbacks were considered a toss-up. Hard to believe, isn't it? The Indianapolis Colts did the smart thing and drafted Manning first overall. The San Diego Chargers were probably ecstatic to get Leaf at No. 2. Now, hindsight being what it is, knowing that Leaf was out of the NFL within four years, maybe the Chargers would have been better off trading down.

1. ANNA KOURNIKOVA

Not that we needed any further proof that sex sells but Kournikova became one of the most-searched athletes on the Internet because of her looks, not her ability with a tennis racquet. There was a time, more than a decade ago now, that the hoopla surrounding the Russian beauty's every move (mostly off the court) surpassed anything else in sports. But even though she peaked at No. 8 in the world rankings in 2000, Kournikova never won a WTA singles title. And that, folks, is the very definition of style over substance.


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