The Other Direction: 28 of the most traumatic breakups in sports
'My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined,' 22-year-old singer Zayn Malik announced on Wednesday. 'But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band.' The show will go on with One Direction as a four-piece unit in a breakup that feels a lot like the numerous sports divorces that have stunned fans over the years. 'I'd like to apologize to the fans if I've let anyone down,' Mailk added, 'but I have to do what feels right.' Maybe you’re not weeping over the boy band drama, but it’s likely as you go through this collection you’ll find a traumatic or impactful sports breakup that tugs your heartstrings a bit. Especially if you reside in Seattle.
Steve Babineau (NHLI)
Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers
It doesn’t get much more traumatic than 'The Great One' getting traded across the border to the flash of Hollywood, while in the prime of his career, a couple months after the Oilers won the 1988 Stanley Cup. 'The Trade' became so controversial that New Democratic Party House Leader Nelson Riis demanded that the government block it. Fans were so furious with general manager Peter Pocklington, who orchestrated the trade out of financial concerns, that fans burned him in effigy outside the Oilers’ arena. 'At the time I was doing it, I don't think I really got it,' said former Kings owner Bruce McNall, who helped orchestrate the trade. 'Looking back, now I see it had a big, big impact.'
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers
'The Decision' in 2010 turned into a jersey-burning disaster with a capital D, low-lighted by a regrettable Comic-sans screed by Cavaliers owner Dan Snyder condemning James. But James matured, Snyder later apologized, The King took his talents to Miami and added a couple rings, and four years later he came back to town to finally, hopefully, deliver a title to Cleveland. They’re the current Vegas favorite.
Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers
Sure, another Hall of Fame quarterback (Steve Young) would take the helm, but Joe Cool was one of a kind. He just never looked right in a Kansas City Chiefs jersey, which he wore for his final two seasons in the NFL.
Every time a team has left a city -- ever
A team’s departure from a city is the ultimate devastation. We’ve seen it unfold in a variety of ways but the mechanisms don’t alter the size or impact of the void a departure leaves. Some of the most memorable (i.e. heartbreaking) franchise-city splits: the Colts leaving Baltimore (1984); the Browns exit Cleveland (1995); the SuperSonics split Seattle for Oklahoma City (2008); the Giants (baseball) and New York; the Dodgers ditch Brooklyn for Los Angeles (1958); the Rams and Raiders both leave Los Angeles in the same summer (1995); the Expos move from Montreal to Washington, D.C. (2005). We wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers
It took some time for Favre to make up his mind about retirement, making way for that other guy behind him, and it took some more time to mend the scar tissue. But time heals and the Packers will retire Favre’s jersey during a ceremony on July 18.
Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls/basketball
Jordan’s 1993 retirement from basketball was so traumatic because he was the greatest, most well-recognized player in the game and at the height of his abilities; because Jordan’s father had recently been murdered, and his grief over that loss factored into Jordan’s decision; because Jordan himself didn’t appear at ease with the decision; most of all it was so stunning for the Bulls and basketball fans because the goodbye was so unexpected. His return -- 'I'm back' -- after a stint in baseball, was equally dramatic.
NBAE/Getty ImagesLou Capozzola
Dale Jr. joins Hendrick Motorsports
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was driving for DEI … Dale Earnhardt, Inc. The company was founded by his father, the legendary Dale Earnhardt, himself. However, with the patriarch gone, the infrastructure/relationship began to crumble. A public feud with stepmother Teresa Earnhardt ensued. Dale Junior wanted a bigger stake in DEI – read that as control or a majority interest. Teresa refused and that led to the almost unthinkable when Dale Jr. on May 10, 2007, announced he would leave DEI for Hendrick Motorsports, beginning in 2008.
Getty ImagesGrant Halverson
Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens
Roy’s split with the Canadiens was nearly as tumultuous as the netminder was talented, which is to say, fantastically. Canadiens coach Mario Tremblay (hired early into the 1995-1996 campaign) was Roy’s former roommate; the two detested one another and the tension boiled over when Tremblay left Roy in net during a terrible and uncharacteristic performance in which he allowed nine goals on 26 shots, eventually resulting in sarcastic booing from the crowd when Roy made an easy save. 'Nobody died, but this was, truly, a night in hell for the Canadiens, as a team, and for Roy, in particular' wrote the Montreal Gazette. Roy was traded to the Avalanche along with captain Mike Keane four days later.
Hulk Hogan joins the NWO
It was the greatest turn in pro wrestling history. The man who preached eating vitamins and saying prayers was the biggest babyface ever during his time in the WWF and then WCW. However, Hogan turned his back on his fans and joined forces with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall to destroy WCW. The Hulk Hogan who was a 'Real American' transformed into 'Hollywood Hogan' and a legendary heel run was born.
Getty ImagesFranziska Krug
Luis Figo and Barcelona
In 2000, Barcelona superstar Luis Figo did the unthinkable: He accepted a transfer to bitter rival Real Madrid. Sure, Barcelona received a then-record transfer fee for the winger, but Figo became public enemy No. 1 among Barcelona fans. The former Barca darling was persona non grata at Camp Nou, and his return proved it. A cacophony of boos (along with coins and other trash) rained down on him any time he touched the ball or took a corner kick. To cap it all off: A rabid fan threw a severed suckling pig’s head at Figo in 2002. Serious business.
Eric Lindros and the Philadelphia Flyers
Lindros began his stellar but controversial and concussion-riddled career by forcing his way from the Quebec Nordiques to the Philadelphia Flyers. His eventual trade from Philly to the rival New York Rangers finally materialized after a contentious 16-month soap opera during which the 1995 MVP winner lost his captaincy after criticizing the Flyers medical staff for failing to diagnose a concussion. Said Flyers GM Bobby Clarke in November 2000 while Lindros sat out the season: 'He was the one who walked out on his team. I don't care if I talk to Eric for the rest of my life -- it won't kill me. I don't care if he ever plays again. All he did was cause aggravation for our team.'
Vince Carter and the Toronto Raptors
The eight-time NBA All-Star Carter earned the nickname 'Vinsanity' for his incredible leaping ability (over a large French man, once) and energetic dunks. Raptors fans loved him but the team failed in the playoffs and discontent brewed when Carter questioned Raptors president Richard Peddie’s commitment to building a contender; at times fans questioned Carter’s effort on the court but he was still a bona-fide star they wanted in town. In July 2004, Raptors fans even paid to fly a banner 'Keep Vince, Trade Peddie' over the Air Canada Centre before Carter’s Charity All-Star Game. But to no avail. The team traded Carter to the New Jersey Nets in December 2004. Ten years later when a 37-year-old Carter returned to Toronto as a member of the Grizzlies, the team played a video tribute to him that brought him to tears.
Manny Ramirez and the Boston Red Sox
Red Sox Nation could only explain the prodigious right-handed slugger’s quirky behavior as 'Manny Being Manny,' but he was theirs. The franchise survived just fine after trading Ramirez to the Dodgers, but the breakup was messy and emotional.
Shaq and Kobe
Three titles in eight years is splendid but the inability of these two greats to coexist longer proves that winning doesn’t cure everything. Shaq won his post-divorce NBA title first in 2006 with the Miami Heat; Kobe answered back in in 2009 and again in 2010 with his fifth championship. At a news conference after that one, when asked what the accomplishment meant to him personally, Bryant said: 'I’ve got one more than Shaq.'
NBAE/Getty ImagesDavid Sherman
Ken Griffey Jr. and the Seattle Mariners
Mariners fans had the pleasure of watching 'The Kid' or 'Junior' climb walls and club 398 homers with his majestic swing from 1989 to 1999, a stretch in which Griffey made 10 All-Star Games and won the 1997 MVP award. But the Cincinnati native’s heart called in 1999, leading to a Mariners-Reds swap that sent the franchise player and the face of baseball to Cincy for Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko, Jake Meyer and Antonio Perez. (The older, oft-injured Reds version of Griffey paled to his former self but that’s beside the point.)
Jim Tressel and the Ohio State Buckeyes
Did the punishment -- a forced resignation -- fit the crime?
Diamond Images/Getty ImagesDiamond Images
Mike and the Mad Dog
The most successful duo in sports-talk radio history went through a shocking split in 2008 when Chris Russo left Mike Francesa and WFAN for his own solo show on SiriusXM. The pair had become just as big a New York institution as the area's sports teams thanks to doing five-plus hours a day in drive time for 19 years. They were also simulcast on the YES network beginning in 2002. Whether you liked them or not, if you were a sports fan in the New York area, you listened to Mike and the Mad Dog. From the extremely catchy opening song to Russo playing the over-the-top wacky lunatic to Francesa's straight man to their intense arguments with callers and each other, they had a chemistry that was unmatched.
Marcus Allen and the Los Angeles Raiders
Hall of Fame running back Allen had a very rocky relationship with cantankerous Raiders owner Al Davis (as many did). Here’s how former Chiefs president and general manager Carl Peterson explained Allen’s departure from the Raiders via free agency after 11 seasons: 'He called me and said 'I will tell you two reasons that I want to come and play for the Chiefs.' He said 'Number one, I get to play against the Raiders and Al Davis twice a year,' which I knew, and then he said, ‘The other thing is I always wanted to play with Joe Montana and you just made a great trade.'
Rogers Clemens and the Boston Red Sox
After 12 incredible seasons in Boston, Roger Clemens decided to spurn the Red Sox in free agency for a different AL East team: the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rocket continued to dominate in Toronto, winning two Cy Young awards in two seasons. Then to make matters worse, Clemens forced his way out of Toronto with a trade to Boston's biggest rival: the hated Yankees. Clemens would go on to win two World Series in New York and become an all-time enemy of all Red Sox fans.
Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth
They were the ultimate pro wrestling love story. In a business where marriage ceremonies were made for disaster, Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth parlayed real life and the surreal life of pro wrestling into an amazing feel-good story. However, real life and ring life sometimes mirror each other and the happy couple didn’t last, divorcing shortly after Miss Elizabeth’s final WWF appearance in 1992. Both Miss Elizabeth and Savage met tragic ends. She died in 2003 as the result of a drug and alcohol overdose. He died at the wheel of his car in May 2011, suffering cardiac arrhythmia while driving with his new wife in Florida.
Getty ImagesB Bennett
Rick Pitino and the Kentucky Wildcats
There are certain things you aren’t supposed to do, whether it is in life or coaching. Joining the enemy would be one of them. After the 1996 NCAA championship, Rick Pitino was riding high with Kentucky. However, the lure of the NBA made Pitino leave the Bluegrass for what turned out to be a disastrous stint in Boston in 1997. 'I think I do regret leaving Kentucky because I took over a team with 15 wins banking everything on the Tim Duncan lottery, and once we didn’t get Tim Duncan I realized that leaving Kentucky was not a good move,' said Pitino, who added insult to the Wildcats’ fury by returning to the Bluegrass State, only as coach of arch-rival Louisville.
Sol Campbell and Tottenham Hotspur
Once regarded as a possible future long-term captain for Tottenham, Sol Campbell left the Spurs after nine years for hated London rival Arsenal in 2001. What’s worse: Campbell left on a free transfer, leaving nothing for Tottenham to show for cultivating his talent. He even said in an interview that he would never play for Arsenal. So much for that. Campbell found himself the subject of numerous offensive chants (which resulted in punishment for some fans) and the expected 'Judas' moniker. Campbell had the last laugh, though, as he and Arsenal went on to an undefeated season as 'The Invincibles' in 2003-04.
James Harden and the Oklahoma City Thunder
NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy helped tie this whole 'One Direction' concept together during the Thunder-Spurs game Wednesday night. Though he was referring to Kevin Durant’s absence due to injury, not the Harden-to-Rockets trade, Harden was clearly a prominent (and quite fashionable) member of the old band. Van Gundy said: 'How can One Direction bounce back from Zayn leaving the band today? It's the same thing as Oklahoma City withstanding some adversity with Durant out to continue on with greatness.'
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic
Not long after O’Neal's arrival in 1992, he helped deliver the expansion franchise to national prominence and to the NBA Finals in the 1994-95 season. (Shaq’s appearance in 'Kazaam' and his rap album 'Shaq Diesel' helped that cause.) This big man’s departure to Los Angeles in 1996 -- and his three championships there -- was a major blow to the organization, but hey, those Penny Hardaway commercials were fun.
Tom Seaver and the New York Mets
Tom Seaver was the Mets. He became an icon in 1969 when the Amazins’ stunned everyone and won the World Series. Years later friction developed between Mets chairman M. Donald Grant and the ace right-hander. It came to a head when the chairman decided it was important – critical – for the Mets to win a midseason charity game, the Mayor’s Trophy – against the Yankees. With the Mets slumping, Seaver heard this and responded: 'The man is a maniac ... Here we are in the worst slump of the season, and all he's worrying about is an exhibition.' The Seaver-Grant battle took place on many fronts and eventually led to the June 15, 1977, Midnight Massacre that saw the right-hander traded to the Reds for Doug Flynn, pitcher Pat Zachary and outfielders Steve Henderson and Dan Norman.
Lane Kiffin and the Tennessee Volunteers
Wham, bam, what just happened? Kiffin talked a big game and tradition ('singing 'Rocky Top' all night long after we beat Florida next year, it will be a blast') and fired other shots at Florida’s Urban Meyer. But after a 'brief' one-year tenure, he left for beachfront property at USC. Iif Kiffin’s mother’s 2014 remark on his return to Knoxville with Alabama are any indication, he is not a welcome guest on campus: 'I’m scared to death for his safety. Some people were visiting us last weekend from Tennessee and they said they better not let him on the sideline (where Kiffin coaches at Alabama), they should put him in the press box. I want him to be in the press box.'
Alex Rodriguez and the Seattle Mariners
Mariners fans were still reeling from a similar fate with Griffey -- a former No. 1 overall draft pick and MVP-caliber talent leaving town -- when A-Rod followed suit in ditching Seattle. A-Rod’s Scott Boras-orchestrated 10-year, $252 million free agent contract with the Texas Rangers in 2000 was perhaps not as jarring to the Mariners fan base as it was to the game of baseball in general. Many sportswriters criticized the deal as out-of-control and imprudent spending that would harm the game and less heralded players who comprise the majority of the league.
Shawn Michaels and Marty Janetty
While it is scripted – yes, it is – perhaps there is no more drama than when a pro wrestling babyface (good guy) turns heel (villain) or when a heel turns babyface. One of the legendary moments was when Shawn Michaels split with longtime tag-team partner Marty Jannetty. As always in pro wrestling, it wasn’t the actual act but the action: Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake was hosting Michaels and Jannetty on his segment of the show. Everything seemed to be going well until Michaels attacked Jannetty and put him through the barbershop window. It is one of those moments that wrestling fans never forget and also transcend the industry.