Athletes who bounced back from jail time
Here's a list of notable athletes who've served time in prison and were able to bounce back and, for the most part, have respectable careers despite their personal troubles.
Compiled by Doric Sam
Prison Sentence: 23 Months (Served 21 months in prison and 2 months in home confinement)
Vick was drafted first overall in 2001 by the Atlanta Falcons. He quickly became an NFL superstar, using his cannon arm and quick feet to captivate fans. A human highlight reel, Vick was known as the most electrifying man in football until he pled guilty to federal charges in a dog fighting investigation in August 2007. He was suspended from the NFL indefinitely and the Falcons released him.
Vick was reinstated in 2009 and signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he plays now. He won the 2010 Comeback Player of the Year Award after passing for 3,018 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions with a passer rating of 100.2.
Prison Sentence: 6 Years (Served 3 years)
Tyson was one of the most ferocious and intimidating boxers of all time. In 1987, he became the first heavyweight ever to own all three major belts — WBA, WBC and IBF — at the same time. But Tyson’s career saw a decline in the ‘90s with a loss to James “Buster” Douglas, and in 1991 he was arrested for the rape of a contestant in the Miss Black America pageant. He was convicted in 1992 and sentenced to six years in prison. Tyson was paroled in 1995.
His comeback fight against Peter McNeeley was purchased by 1.52 million homes, setting both pay-per-view viewership and revenue records for that time. He regained the WBC heavyweight title in a 1996 defeat of Frank Bruno. However, he never won a big fight again, losing notable bouts to Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His second fight against Holyfield was one of the most controversial events in sports history. The bout was stopped with Tyson disqualified for biting Holyfield on both ears. He even removed a piece of Holyfield’s right ear, and it was found on the ring floor after the fight.
Prison Sentence: 6 Months
In 2000, Jones became the media darling of the Sydney Olympics by telling the press she was aiming to win five gold medals. She finished with three golds and two bronzes, still an astonishing feat never achieved by a female athlete before. However, she was later stripped of these medals in October 2007 after admitting to using steroids before the Sydney Olympics. She also admitted to lying to a grand jury about using steroids. Jones pled guilty to lying to federal agents in the BALCO steroids investigation in 2008 and received a six-month jail sentence.
A year after she was released from prison, Jones returned to basketball. A national champion at North Carolina in 1994 , Jones began working out for the San Antonio Stars of the WNBA. In March 2010, Jones signed with the Tulsa Shock, and she made her debut against the Minnesota Lynx on May 15. She has appeared in nine games in 2011 averaging a little over six minutes per game.
Prison Sentence: 5 Years (Served 4 months)
Iverson was one of the greatest Virginia high school athletes. At Bethel High School, he was a star quarterback and point guard, leading both the football and basketball teams to state championships. But his future as an athlete was put in jeopardy in February 1993 after he and his friends were involved in an altercation with a group of white teenagers at a bowling alley that escalated into a huge brawl. During the fight, Iverson allegedly struck a woman in the head with a chair. He and three friends were arrested. Only 17, Iverson was convicted as an adult on felony charges of maiming by mob. He maintained his innocence, saying that he left the alley as soon as the trouble began. Iverson received a 15-year prison sentence with 10 years suspended.
After spending four months at a correctional facility, Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder granted him clemency, and the Virginia Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in 1995 due to insufficient evidence. Iverson went on to become a basketball star at Georgetown and one of the best scorers in the history of the NBA.
Prison Sentence: 4 months
Lewis was one of the top running backs in the NFL during the early 2000s. He eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark in 2003 on his way to being named NFL Offensive Player of the Year. But in February 2004, it surfaced that Lewis was involved in talks about organizing a drug deal. Lewis was charged with conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms of cocaine and using a cell phone in the commission of the first count. He began his four-month prison term in February 2005.
Lewis was able to return to the NFL in 2005 and ran for more than 1,000 yards three more times before retiring in 2009.
Prison Sentence: 1 Year
MacTavish’s career looked to be on the rise after two seasons with the Bruins. However, he missed the entire 1984-85 season after being convicted of vehicular homicide after hitting and killing a young woman while he was driving under the influence of alcohol. MacTavish spent a year in prison as punishment for his offense.
After he was released, he signed with the Edmonton Oilers for the 1985-86 season and spent eight years with the team. He helped the Oilers win three Stanley Cups in 1987, 1988 and 1990 and served as a team captain from 1992-94. He was traded to the Rangers in 1994 and also helped them win the Stanley Cup. He also had a semi-successful coaching career, leading the Oilers to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2006.
Prison Sentence: 7 1/2 years (Served 3 1/2 years)
Clarett showed immense potential in his first year at Ohio State, setting a school record for single-season rushing yards by a freshman, leading the school to the 2002 national championship. But his career went downhill from there.He was dismissed from Ohio State the following year, unsuccessfully challenged the NFL’s draft eligibility rules, and never played a down in the NFL. He was then arrested in 2006 for armed robbery, and later, for leading a police chase. Clarett was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison but was allowed to apply for early release after three and a half years.
In April 2010, he was granted early release and was ordered to enter a halfway house for six months. He currently plays for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League.
Prison Sentence: 4 Months
Drafted in 2004, Johnson’s career barely got started before he ran into a slew of legal troubles. He helped the Bears establish a productive and feared defense during the 2005 and 2006 seasons, but multiple arrests on weapons and assault charges during that time eventually forced him into home confinement during the 2006 playoffs. Johnson had to request permission to leave the state of Illinois so he could play in Super Bowl XLI. After the season was over, he entered a guilty plea for violating his probation.In March 2007, Johnson was sentenced to 120 days in Cook County Jail. The next month he pled guilty to misdemeanor weapons charges and was sentenced to an additional 45 days in prison.
After he was released, the NFL suspended him for half of the 2008 regular season. The Bears later released him. He had a brief stint with the Dallas Cowboys and now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Prison Sentence: 3 Months
Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 1983, Probert was known more for his role as a fighter and enforcer than his abilities as a player. His best season came in 1987-88, when he led the league with 398 penalty minutes and tied for third on the team with 62 points. But his career hit a snag in 1989, when he was arrested for cocaine possession. He spent three months in prison, an additional three months in a halfway house, and was suspended indefinitely from the NHL.
Probert’s suspension was lifted at the end of his prison term. When he returned to the Red Wings in 1990, he was named one of the team’s alternate captains and averaged 40 points a season until his final year in Detroit. He joined the Chicago Blackhawks in 1995 and retired in 2002 ranked fourth on the NHL’s all-time list with 3,300 penalty minutes. Probert died on July 5, 2010 at the age of 45.
Prison Sentence: 90 Days
Moss was a star athlete at DuPoint High School in West Virginia, where he lettered in football, basketball, baseball and track. He led the football team to back-to-back state championships in 1992 and 1993, and he was named West Virginia football player of the year in 1994. But in March 1995, Moss took part in a fight at DuPoint that left one person hospitalized. He pled guilty to two counts of misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to 30 days in prison. Moss served three days and was required to serve the remaining 27 days after his freshman year in college. In 1996, while serving his jail sentence in a work-release program, he tested positive for smoking marijuana and thus violated his probation. He served an additional 60 days in prison for the probation violation.
Moss was dismissed from Florida State and ultimately transferred to Marshall, where he set multiple NCAA Division I-AA records. He went on to become one of the most productive — and controversial — wide receivers in the NFL, playing for the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans