CLOSE

Where Are They Now? High School Kids Immortalized By Sports Illustrated

Bryce Harper made news last week when the 16-year-old from Las Vegas became the first high school baseball player to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 20 years. Baseball's Chosen One, who is described as "the most exciting prodigy since LeBron," hits 570-foot home runs, throws 96 mph, and has a number of impressive highlight videos on YouTube. Will he live up to the hype? Only time will tell. Some of the previous high school athletes to grace the cover of SI would become fixtures in the magazine for years to come; for others, the fame was fleeting.

1. Sebastian Telfair: March 8, 2004

The Cover: That's not Godzilla, it's larger than life Lincoln High School phenom Sebastian Telfair. Sports Illustrated's editors answer their own question: "Can a 6-foot high school point guard from Brooklyn make the leap to the NBA? Yes, he can."

telfairThe Hype: The Dallas Morning News profiled Telfair as a seventh-grader and his legend only grew from there. Nicknamed Bassy, Telfair was billed as the next in a long line of great New York point guards, which included Stephon Marbury, Telfair's cousin. The hype surrounding Telfair, who was still weighing the possibility of playing for head coach Rick Pitino at Louisville, was dwarfed only by that of LeBron James, who appeared on the cover of SI for the first time two years earlier.

The Aftermath: After Telfair decided to turn pro, the Portland Trail Blazers selected him with the 13th overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. He started 26 games and averaged 6.8 points and 3.3 assists as a rookie, but Portland stumbled to its worst record since 1975. Telfair was traded to Boston before the 2006-07 season and has spent the last two seasons in Minnesota. Off the court, Telfair was charged with felony possession of a weapon after a traffic stop in 2007, pleaded guilty, and served a three-game suspension. His scoring record at Lincoln was broken by Lance Stephenson earlier this year.

2. LeBron James: February 18, 2002

The Cover: Sporting his St. Vincent-St. Mary High School jersey and palming a gold-colored basketball, LeBron "The Chosen One" James' first appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated included this proclamation: "High school junior LeBron James would be an NBA lottery pick right now."

lebronThe Hype: James became the first sophomore to win Ohio's Mr. Basketball award and St. Vincent-St. Mary moved their home games to the University of Akron's arena to accommodate the incredible demand for tickets to see James play. Grant Wahl's feature story opens with a description of a meeting between Michael Jordan and James, then a high school junior, in the tunnel of Cleveland's Gund Arena in January 2002. The two shook hands moments after Jordan, who was in the twilight of his career with the Washington Wizards, hit a buzzer-beater to beat the Cavs, and Wahl compares the vibe of that greeting to the photograph of a teenaged Bill Clinton meeting JFK. The previous summer, Jordan had invited James to play in his top-secret workouts in Chicago, a clear indication that James was being groomed as Jordan's Air Apparent. In short, the hype was ginormous.

The Aftermath: After being drafted No. 1 by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003, James has somehow walked, er, crab-dribbled, the talk. While making witnesses of us all, he has carried Cleveland to the brink of the NBA Finals in back-to-back seasons (and led the Cavs to the Finals in 2007). He has appeared on eight more SI covers and is the player against whom future phenoms will be compared for years to come.

3. Richie Parker: June 24, 1996

The Cover: The tattooed Parker is pictured leaning against a wall, a light illuminating the profile of his face. The text reads: "Last year Richie Parker was convicted of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. Last week he received a college basketball scholarship. A modern morality tale."

parkerThe Hype: Before he was charged with sexual assault, the 6-foot-5 Parker had a reputation as being a good kid. He didn't drink, didn't smoke, and didn't curse, according to the assistant principal at Manhattan Center High School, where Parker was a rising star and on the recruiting radar of several prominent schools. Ellen Scheinbach told SI's Gary Smith that the only place she had seen Parker exert his will on anyone was on the basketball court, where his exploits made him one of the game's top 50 high school seniors in 1995.

The Aftermath: Schools that had been fawning over Parker before the incident backed off in fear of the media attention his presence on campus would attract. After playing one year at an Arizona junior college, Parker transferred to Long Island University and graduated in May 2000. He played briefly for the Atlantic City Seagulls of the USBL and appeared in a series of Jordan Brand commercials directed by Spike Lee, including one in which he guards Ray Allen. In 2002, Parker got involved with the Stay Strong Foundation, a mentoring program for troubled New York City kids. As of 2007, he could still be found playing basketball in New York's famed Rucker Park.

4. Kevin Garnett: June 26, 1995

The Cover: The baby-faced Big Ticket is stylin' in his windbreaker and black Boss jeans, posing in front of, well, we're not really sure. The cover reads: "Three weeks ago Kevin Garnett went to his high school prom. Next week he'll be a top pick in the NBA draft."

garnettThe Hype: At 19 years old, the 6-foot-11 Garnett represented a player that NBA executives could build around for years to come. He also represented a player who could turn out to be a colossal bust, as few American-born players had made the successful jump from high school to the NBA. As a senior, Garnett averaged 26 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists, and six blocks for Farragut Career Academy in Chicago. He dominated high school all-star camps and wowed scouts at a predraft tryout camp open to representatives from the 13 teams in the NBA draft lottery. "He's a genetic freak," Detroit Pistons head coach Doug Collins said at the time. "All the great ones are."

The Aftermath: Garnett was more ready than not. The Minnesota Timberwolves selected him with the fifth pick of the 1995 NBA Draft. Garnett teamed with point guard Stephon Marbury during his early years in Minnesota and the duo helped the Wolves clinch their first playoff berth in 1997. In 2004, Garnett led Minnesota to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the Lakers. He was traded to the Boston Celtics before the 2007 season and teamed with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to win his first NBA title the following June.

5. Jon Peters: May 8, 1989

The Cover: SI couldn't have picked a cheesier headline for its cover featuring Jon Peters, the "Texas high school pitching phenom" with the funny-looking delivery who ran his record to 51-0.

superkidThe Hype: Peters, a senior at Brenham (Texas) High School when he appeared on the cover, was catapulted into the national spotlight after he set the national high school baseball record of 34 consecutive wins as a junior. More than 1,500 people watched Peters' record-setting win, the largest crowd to see a game in Brenham since the school hosted Nolan Ryan's high school team in 1965. Peters was featured on ABC's Wide World of Sports and in USA Today.

The Aftermath: The SI Cover Jinx struck in a major way. Not only would Peters lose the first game of his high school career shortly after appearing on the cover (he finished 54-1), but he would also blow out his arm. "I just had bad mechanics," Peters told SI in 1997. Peters had undergone surgery as a sophomore, the first in a series of arm troubles for the right-hander. Peters attended Texas A&M, but injuries kept him out of action. He transferred to Blinn College in Brenham, where he went 1-1 in 1991, but tore his rotator cuff in the spring of 1992 and never pitched again. Peters served as an undergraduate assistant for the Aggies while earning a degree in kinesiology, added a master's degree in kinesiology from Sam Houston State, and joined his former high school coach as an assistant coach at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. Peters would leave coaching to pursue a doctorate in pedagogy at Louisiana State.

6. Kristie Phillips: September 1, 1986

The Cover: Phillips, 14, is dubbed "The New Mary Lou," as in Retton, the greatest female American gymnast of her era.

gymnastThe Hype: As a 13-year-old, Phillips, from Baton Rouge, defeated veteran gymnasts from 19 countries to win the American Cup and also won the national junior title under the guidance of coach Bela Karolyi. University of Utah women's gymnastics coach Greg Marsden, whose teams had won six straight national titles, called Phillips, without question, the most promising American gymnast. "She'll be at her peak in 1988," Marsden said, referring to the Seoul Olympics.

The Aftermath: While Phillips won the U.S. all-around title in 1987, she finished 45th at worlds that year, as she struggled to adjust to a growth spurt. She finished eighth at the U.S. Olympic trials and made the Olympic team as a second alternate, but did not compete. Phillips attended LSU on a cheerleading scholarship before moving to New York City to launch an acting career, which has included roles in several commercials and films. Phillips was elected into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2006.

7. Bobby Carpenter: February 23, 1981

The Cover: The subheadline accompanying the image of "The Can't-Miss Kid" performing a hockey stop says it all. "Here's Bobby Carpenter. He's 17 and hails from Peabody, Mass. NHL scouts say he's the best U.S. prospect they've seen. Ever."

bobby-carpenter.jpgThe Hype: Carpenter's skills were compared to those of Wayne Gretzky. At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, NHL scouts raved about his size for his age and the fact that he was a solid defensive forward. "Put him in a skating game and he'll skate; put him in a hitting game and he'll hit," one scout said. "Most players his age can either skate like mad or shoot like mad. He just does everything well." In other words, Carpenter was the 1981 equivalent of Alex Ovechkin.

The Aftermath: Like Ovechkin would be more than 23 years later, Carpenter was drafted by the Washington Capitals with the third pick of the 1981 NHL draft. Carpenter appeared poised for greatness after tallying three goals and three assists in his first six regular season games. In his fourth year with the Capitals, he became the first U.S.-born player to score 50 goals in a season with 53, to go along with 42 assists. But Carpenter would never again notch more than 27 goals in a season and was traded to the New York Rangers two years later. Carpenter played in 1,178 games with five different teams over 18 seasons, finishing with 320 goals and 408 assists. He played the final six years of his career with the New Jersey Devils, winning a Stanley Cup in 1995, before going into coaching. Carpenter is now the Director of Program Development for the Valley Jr. Warriors of the Eastern Junior Hockey League.

8. Bruce Hardy: April 29, 1974

The Cover: Standing in the center of a two-lane highway, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Hardy is identified, quite simply, as "Best Schoolboy Athlete."

hardy.jpgThe Hype: Hardy was a three-sport star at Utah's Bingham High School. On the baseball diamond, he was a power-hitting catcher. On the basketball court, he was a versatile forward. On the gridiron, he was a cannon-armed quarterback. Everywhere around town, he was idolized, sometimes to a sickening degree. "Someone once broke into my car and stole my letter jacket," Hardy told SI in 1998. "They didn't bother with my tape deck or my date's purse."

The Aftermath: Eager to escape the attention in Utah, Hardy attended Arizona State, where he was converted to tight end. He was selected in the ninth round of the 1978 draft by the Miami Dolphins and carved out a respectable NFL career from 1978-1989. Hardy finished with 256 catches for 2,455 yards and 25 touchdowns, and also started in two Super Bowls. Hardy has since coached in the Arena Football League and at Florida International University. In a 2008 interview with the Arizona Republic, Hardy said he was managing a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. As for the SI cover that made him famous, he said, "I still get people sending me copies of it to sign. I sign it and send it back. My parents have a copy. My kids have copies. They're lying around somewhere."

9. Mike Peterson: August 9, 1971

The Cover: Just look at Mike Peterson spin that basketball. Just look at that "Kansas Schoolboy Marvel."

peterson.jpgThe Hype: The story of Peterson's unlikely appearance on the cover of SI begins with a letter penned by a barber in his hometown of Yates Center, Kansas, the Hay Capital of the World. As recounted by SI writer William Johnson, the barber described Peterson as a "once in a lifetime athlete," who starred in football, baseball, and basketball. For his part, Johnson wasn't hyping Peterson as the greatest American high school athlete, but rather as the subject for an essay on the prototypical high school hero in Small-town, U.S.A.

The Aftermath: In 1998, SI caught up with Peterson, then 44. Despite his successes in high school, Peterson wasn't recruited by major colleges. He played basketball and baseball at Kansas State Teachers College, and, after a short stint with an independent league baseball team in 1976, held jobs in a school, department store, and warehouse. Peterson, who was married with four children by then, recalled his cover boy status as a blessing and a curse. "The same week the article came out I was at a camp in Colorado, and everyone there wanted to play me one-on-one in basketball," Peterson told Jeff Pearlman. "If they did well, they asked why they weren't on the cover. It was as if I was supposed to be the world's greatest athlete."

10. Tom McMillen: February 16, 1970

The Cover: Towering above the competition, Mansfield, Pennsylvania's Tom McMillen is "The Best High School Player in America."

mcmillan.jpgThe Hype: McMillen grew up in the shadow of his brother, Jay, who was heavily recruited as one of the top high school basketball prospects in the country in 1963, attended Maryland, and drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. Having grown to 6-foot-11 by the time he was a senior in high school, Tom McMillen wasn't accustomed to living in anyone's shadow. Now, recruiters were after him, with scouts comparing him to Lew Alcindor and Bill Bradley. McMillen had his eyes set on being a doctor and put a lot of thought into where he wanted to play college ball. A lot of thought. "I read National Review and I think there are some good ideas in there, but I wouldn't want to be called a conservative," McMillen told SI. "I don't want people to think I'm against progress. I can't see having my name associated with a place like Alabama, where they really haven't faced up to-problems, or a school like Georgia in a state where Governor Maddox actually seems to be against progress."

The Aftermath: McMillen attended Maryland, choosing Lefty Driesell and the Terps over the opportunity to play for head coach Dean Smith at North Carolina. He graduated in 1974 and was drafted by the Buffalo Braves. McMillen would play for three more teams, never averaging more than 10 points or 6 rebounds per game, before retiring in 1986 to pursue a political career. That led to his six-year stint as representative for the 4th congressional district of Maryland.

11. Rick Mount: February 14, 1966

The Cover: Never mind the haircut. Ignore the jacket. Rick Mount, photographed in front of a barn in Boone County, Indiana, is the "Brightest Star in High School Basketball."

mount.jpgThe Hype: Mount, who drew comparisons to Oscar Robertson, was nicknamed The Rocket at Lebanon High School, where he averaged more than 33 points per game as a junior and senior and once scored 57 points in a game at famed Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The incomparable Frank DeFord, who wrote the feature story that accompanied the classic cover shot of Mount, described his subject as follows: "He has the moves of a cat"¦the eyes of a hawk, the presence of a king and he has visions of UCLA or Cincinnati or Miami or other faraway places." Mount was the first high school team athlete to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated and was featured in the magazine's Faces in the Crowd section in 1965 after he surpassed Robertson's state high school scoring record.

The Aftermath: Mount decided to stay close to home and attend Purdue, where he averaged 32.3 points per game in his career, was a two-time First Team All-America selection, and was named Big 10 Player of the Year as a senior with the Boilermakers. As a junior, he hit the game-winning shot in the Final Four to lift Purdue to a win over Marquette; UCLA ended the Boilermakers' title hopes in the championship game. Mount was drafted first overall by the Indiana Pacers of the ABA and played five years in the league, earning less than $250,000 during that time according to a 2001 SI article. Mount, who was good but not great as a pro, retired after the 1974-75 season and returned to Lebanon. In recent years, he has run a number of shooting camps throughout the Midwest.

Sports Illustrated cover images courtesy of the SI Vault.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Brett Deering/Getty Images
arrow
Big Questions
Who Was Heisman and Why Does He Have a Trophy?
Brett Deering/Getty Images
Brett Deering/Getty Images

On Saturday night, one of three finalists will be named this year's Heisman Trophy winner. But before anyone brings home the hardware, let’s answer a few questions about John Heisman and his famous award.

Who Exactly Was John Heisman?

© Bettmann/CORBIS

His name is mostly associated with the trophy now, but Heisman (right) was a player, coach, and hugely successful innovator in the early days of football. After playing for Brown and then Penn as a collegian from 1887 to 1891, Heisman became a coach at a series of schools that included Oberlin, Buchtel, Auburn, Clemson, Penn, Washington & Jefferson, Rice, and, most notably, Georgia Tech.

For What Football Innovations Does Heisman Get Credit?

Just some little trivial stuff like snapping the ball. Centers originally placed the ball on the ground and rolled it back to their quarterbacks, who would scoop it up and make plays. When Heisman was coaching at Buchtel (which later became the University of Akron), though, he had a 6’4” QB named Harry Clark. Clark was so tall that picking the ball up off the ground was wildly inefficient, so Heisman invented the center snap as an easy way to get the ball in Clark’s hands. Heisman also innovated the use of pulling guards for running plays and the infamous hidden-ball trick.

Any Other Shenanigans on Heisman’s Resume?

You bet. When Heisman found a way to gain an edge, he jumped on it no matter how ridiculous it seemed. When Heisman was coaching at Clemson in 1902, his team traveled to Atlanta for a game against Georgia Tech. Although Heisman was known for being a rather gruff disciplinarian, the Clemson team immediately started partying upon their arrival.

When Georgia Tech’s players and fans heard that the entire Clemson squad had spent the night before the game carousing, they prepared to coast to an easy win. When the game started, though, Clemson roared out of the gate en route to a 44-5 stomping.

How did Clemson crush Tech when by all rights they should have been ridiculously hungover? The “team” that everyone had seen partying the night before wasn’t really Heisman’s Clemson squad at all. He had sent his junior varsity players to Atlanta the night before to serve as drunken decoys, then quietly slipped his varsity team in on a morning train right before the game.

What Kind of Coach Was He?

Heisman worked as an actor in community stock theater during the summer – he consistently received rotten reviews – and allegedly spoke in a brusque, yet bizarrely ostentatious manner. Georgia Tech’s website relates a story of one of Heisman’s speeches he would break out on the first day of practice while describing a football: "What is this? It is a prolate spheroid, an elongated sphere - in which the outer leather casing is drawn tightly over a somewhat smaller rubber tubing. Better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football."

How Did His Name Get on the Trophy?

After leaving his head-coaching job at Rice in 1927, Heisman became the athletic director at New York’s Downtown Athletic Club. In 1935 the club began awarding the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy to the nation’s top college football star. (Chicago’s Jay Berwanger won the first trophy.) Heisman died of pneumonia the following fall before the second trophy could be awarded, and the club voted to rename the prize the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award.

Did He Ever Really Throw that Iconic Stiff Arm?

© Bettmann/CORBIS

Possibly, but Heisman didn’t have the ball in his hands all that much. Even though he was a fairly small guy at just 5’8” and 158 pounds, he played as a lineman throughout his college career.

The famous “Heisman pose” is actually based on Ed Smith, a former NYU running back who modeled for the trophy’s sculptor in 1934. Interestingly, Smith went years without knowing that he’d modeled for the famous trophy. His sculptor buddy Frank Eliscu had just needed a football player to model for a project, and Smith volunteered.

Smith figured Eliscu was just doing some little personal sculpture and remained totally oblivious to his spot in football history for the next 48 years until a documentary filmmaker called Smith to interview him about the Heisman in 1982. Smith initially had no idea what the guy was talking about, but he eventually remembered his modeling days. In 1985, the Downtown Athletic Club gave Smith his own copy of the Heisman, and in 1986 he even received recognition on the televised ceremony. He looked at the four finalists – Vinny Testaverde won that year – and quipped, "Whoever wins the award, I feel sorry for you, because you're going to be looking at my ugly face for a long time." [Pictured Above: Auburn's Bo Jackson in 1985.]

What’s a Heisman Trophy Worth on the Open Market?

Quite a bit. A number of Heisman winners have eventually sold their hardware, and the trophies fetch quite a bit of loot. O.J. Simpson got $230,000 for his, and several others have gone for six-figure prices. The most expensive trophy that’s changed hands was Minnesota back Bruce Smith’s 1941 award; it fetched $395,240.

How Did Steve Spurrier Change the Process?

SEC fans are going to be floored by this one, but the Ol’ Ball Coach did something really classy when he won the Heisman in 1966. Instead of taking the trophy for himself, Spurrier gave it to the University of Florida so the school could display it and let the student body enjoy it. Florida’s student government thought Spurrier’s generosity was so classy that they paid for a replica for Spurrier so he’d get to have his own trophy, too. Since then both the school and the player have received copies of the trophy.

So Heisman Must Have Been the World’s Greatest Sportsman, Right?

Well, not really. Heisman was on the victorious side of possibly the most gratuitously run-up score in sports history. In 1916 tiny Cumberland College canceled its football program and disbanded its squad, but it had previously signed a contract to travel to Atlanta to play Heisman’s Georgia Tech team. If Cumberland didn’t show up, they had to pay Georgia Tech a $3,000 penalty, which was quite a bit of cash in 1916.

Rather than forfeiting the money, Cumberland scraped together a team of 16 scrubs and went to take their walloping from Heisman’s boys. For reasons that still aren’t totally clear – some say it was to avenge an earlier baseball loss to Cumberland, while others claim Heisman wanted to make a statement about the absurdity of the old system of using total points scored to determine the national champion – the legendary coach showed Cumberland’s ragtag band no mercy. Tech went up 63-0 in the first quarter, but Heisman kept attacking until the final score was 222-0. There are tons of hilarious stats from the game, but the funniest is Georgia Tech rushing for 1,620 yards while Cumberland only squeaked out negative-96 yards on 27 carries.

This article originally appeared in 2010.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Al Bello/Getty Images
arrow
#TBT
Thin Ice: The Bizarre Boxing Career of Tonya Harding
Al Bello/Getty Images
Al Bello/Getty Images

In 2004, the Chicago Tribune asked Tonya Harding about the strangest business offer she had received after her skating career came to an abrupt end in the mid-1990s. “I guess to skate topless,” she answered. In 1994, the two-time former Olympian became infamous for her ex-husband’s attempt to break the leg of rival Nancy Kerrigan. Although Harding denied any knowledge of or involvement in the plan—which ended with Kerrigan suffering a bruised leg and Harding being banned from the U.S. Figure Skating organization, ending her competitive pursuits—she became a running punchline in the media for her attempts to exploit that notoriety. There was a sex tape (which her equally disgraced former husband, Jeff Gillooly, taped on their wedding night), offers to wrestle professionally, attempts to launch careers in both music and acting, and other means of paying bills.

Though she did not accept the offer to perform semi-nude, she did embark on a new career that many observers found just as lurid and sensational: For a two-year period, Tonya Harding was a professional boxer.

Tonya Harding rises from the canvas during a boxing match
Al Bello/Getty Images

Following the attack on Kerrigan and the subsequent police investigation, Harding pled guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution, received three years’ probation, and was levied a $160,000 fine. (Gillooly and his conspirators served time.) Ostracized from skating and with limited opportunities, Harding first tried to enter the music scene with her band, the Golden Blades.

When that didn’t work—they were booed off stage in Portland, Oregon, Harding’s hometown—she disappeared from the public eye, offering skating lessons in Oregon before resurfacing on a March 2002 Fox network broadcast titled Celebrity Boxing. Using heavily padded gloves and outsized headgear, performers like Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges pummeled one another on the undercard. In the main event, Harding used her physicality to batter and bruise Paula Jones, the woman who had accused then-president Bill Clinton of sexual harassment.

This was apparently the boost of confidence Harding needed. “I thought it was fun knocking somebody else on their butt,” she told the Tribune. Boxing, she said, could be an opportunity to embrace her self-appointed title as “America’s Bad Girl.”

Harding looked up a boxing promoter in Portland named Paul Brown and signed a four-year contract that would pay her between $10,000 and $15,000 per bout. The 5-foot, 1-inch Harding quickly grew in stature, moving to 123 pounds from her 105-pound skating weight. Following her win against Jones, Brown booked her a fight against up-and-coming boxer Samantha Browning in a four-round bout in Los Angeles in February 2003. The fight was said to be sloppy, with both women displaying their limited experience. Ultimately, Browning won a split decision.

Harding rebounded that spring, winning three fights in a row. Against Emily Gosa in Lincoln City, Oregon, she was roundly booed upon entering the arena. “The entire fight barely rose above the level of a drunken street brawl,” The Independent reported.

Of course, few spectators were there to see Harding put on a boxing clinic. They wanted to watch a vilified sports figure suffer some kind of public retribution for her role in the attack on Kerrigan. Following her brief winning streak, Harding was pummeled by Melissa Yanas in August 2003, losing barely a minute into the first round of a fight that took place in the parking lot of a Dallas strip club. In June 2004, she was stopped a second time against 22-year-old nursing student Amy Johnson; the Edmonton, Alberta, crowd cheered as Harding was left bloodied. Harding later told the press that Johnson, a native Canuck, had been given 26 seconds to get up after Harding knocked her down when the rules mandated only 10, which she saw as a display of national favoritism.

Harding had good reason to be upset. The Johnson fight was pivotal, as a win could have meant a fight on pay-per-view against Serbian-born boxer Jelena Mrdjenovich for a $600,000 purse. That bout never materialized.

Tonya Harding signs head shots on a table
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There was more than just lack of experience working against Harding in her newfound career. Having been a longtime smoker, she suffered from asthma. The condition plagued her skating career; in boxing, where lapses in cardiovascular conditioning can get you hurt, it became a serious problem. Although Harding competed again—this time emerging victorious in a fight against pro wrestler Brittany Drake in an exhibition bout in Essington, Pennsylvania, in January 2005—it would end up being her last contest. Suffering from pneumonia and struggling with weight gain caused by corticosteroids prescribed for treatment, she halted her training.

In an epilogue fit for Harding’s frequently bizarre escapades, there was remote potential for one last bout. In 2011, dot-com entrepreneur Alki David offered Harding $100,000 to step back into the ring, with another $100,000 going to her proposed opponent. Had it happened, it probably would have gone down as one of the biggest sideshows of the past century. Unfortunately for Harding, Nancy Kerrigan never responded to the offer.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios