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Kitchen Nightmares: Athletes' most ridiculous restaurants

Athletes have a limited shelf life that – unless you're an NFL kicker or a PGA superstar – allows for a horrifying amount of free time once they're off the field. Many take up broadcasting and go through rigorous boot camps to sound slightly less awkward than Tim Tebow's SEC Network analyses. Others look towards the future with open eyes and empty stomachs, going all-in on eating establishments, doing so even before they've settled into the non-sporting life. From the gourmet to the gross, here's a look at legendary players and their namesake restaurants.

Big Papi's Grille


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Red Sox stalwart David Ortiz is somehow still playing baseball, presumably because his Big Papi's Grille failed so hard that he was forced to stay a DH an extra season or four. Ortiz's restaurant started harmlessly enough: he decided to throw money at some other steakhouse and his reward came in the form of it changing names to better honor its benevolent contributor. Sadly, what didn't change was the mediocre food, questionable service and schizophrenic atmosphere. Representative Yelp review: “Ever find yourself craving pre-packaged institutional food, carelessly assembled, then indifferently served in a temple to the ego of an all-too-often underperfoming professional athlete? Well, have I got great news for you...”

Yao Restaurant and Bar

Yao Ming went into the restaurant business apparently not realizing that Yao is a really common surname and dining establishment moniker. He's had to ferry questions from journalists thinking he has a hand in every Yao restaurant ever as well as handling legitimate issues with his actual Yao Restaurant and Bar. Then, some weird basketball beef went down off-court between Yao Ming and Magic Johnson. Johnson's behemoth Magic Johnson Enterprises purchased the Pavilions, the pseudo-strip mall building that Ming's downtown Houston restaurant was in, and promptly chained up the door due to delinquent rent payments. Yao Restaurant and Bar still exists in the Westchase neighborhood of Houston and is so far keeping up with its bills.

Magic Johnson's many franchises

Magic Johnson.jpg

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Magic Johnson owns a lot of basic stuff (looking at you, Dodgers), so it somehow makes sense that the basketball legend would stake his claim in a boatload of Burger Kings and various other innocuous franchises. There's no special spin to a BK with Magic Johnson's name attached – it's just another place for a Big Mac thanks to the ridiculous imitator Big King sandwich. Magic Johnson Enterprises at one point laid its claim in Starbucks, 24-Hour Fitness, and TGI Friday's, the latter of which has apparently gone downhill now that Johnson's no longer throwing money at it. According to the nuanced wisdom of yelp, the Westchester TGI Friday's in Los Angeles is allegedly now "a total s**thole with medicore service."

Center Court with C-Webb

Chris Webber either loved the Sacramento Kings enough to open up a restaurant in California's capital city or hated its fans enough to subject them to subpar food and the occasional club night. Because Sacramento can easily stomach mediocrity, Center Court with C-Webb fared pretty well. It offered a horrifyingly large 44-ounce burger dubbed the Fab Five and a slew of overpriced artery cloggers. The restaurant lasted just three years before the recession took hold and forced its closing. Webber was then sued by the restaurant's landlord seeking future unpaid rent.

Arnold Palmer's

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The King of Golf can seriously do no wrong when it comes to cuisine. In addition to winning seven major championships, the fifth-most-winningest PGA player has a drink named after him and a restaurant in the heart of the SoCal golf mecca. Surrounded by palm trees and lush golf courses, Arnold Palmer's Restaurant is simply too big to fail. It even has its own putting green in case you weren't already frustrated enough with your golf game. Settle in for some fancy fare at the restaurant itself or get wasted on Arnold Palmer wine and curse whoever invented lateral hazards at the adjacent pub.

Wayne Gretzky's

Everything is great at the Great One's restaurant. There are numerous meals with “Great” or “Great One” or whatever other variation you can imagine, as well as a kid's menu for “Li'l Greats” (but only on the breakfast menu are they called that for some reason) because Wayne Gretzky does not suck. He's also insanely optimistic about everything and thinks everything is great – even gluten free food is great, so he's got a whole dedicated menu for your Celiac friends. Ignore the stupid food / NHL puns and head straight to the Gretzky wines, because they will not suck. They are great just like the Great One and everything is GREAT.

Bobby Hebert's Cajun Cannon

New Orleans is a city with so much to offer, especially when it comes to what's on your plate. For former Saints great and current fanatical/drunk broadcaster Bobby Hebert to attempt a restaurant, you'd expect similar greatness, right? According to the scant reviews trickling out of the newly-opened Metairie establishment, it's kind of mediocre. Portions are minuscule and offerings feel like a cross between Louisiana's treasured cuisine and a gourmand frat party. Hebert believes in this place enough to uproot the Saints' postgame radio show from the spleen of the French Quarter to the 'burbs for all away games, though.


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Wrestling fans, for the love of God, get over your Pastamania nostalgia. Pastamania never ran wild at home or in its mediocre Mall of America digs. It never ran anywhere. Maybe it sent you to the bathroom a little bit faster or made you feel slightly better about not buying that can of Chef Boyardee. If anything, it made you want to take your vitamins and say your prayers for fear of food poisoning. Before the gross energy drink and questionable microwave burger, Pastamania was Hulk Hogan's first foray into food: a strange cross-branding stink bomb that dropped around the latter quarter of the Hulkamania hype. It promptly opened and closed within a year.

Honorable Mention: Walk-On's

Walk-On's is the ultimate everyman sports restaurant started by two benchwarmers out of LSU's basketball program. The duo of Jack Warner and Brandon Landry turned their passion for the game into the type of dining establishment where you can enjoy a fishbowl full of food coloring and liquor watching a game or two. Landry and Warner formed their concept on a napkin on a plane ride back to LSU after presumably cheering their team on from the sidelines. They've since gone on to open four different Walk-On's, one of which is actually around the corner from LSU in Baton Rouge. Their menu offers decent fare and something called Boom Boom sauce, which will unfortunately not get you drunk.