Sex, money, scandal: The controversial legacy of Reggie Bush

Somewhere steeped in controversy, negative comments, negative yards, and a Kardashian veneer, you will find one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. Reggie Bush was a star at Helix High School in La Mesa, California and then became a superstar at USC. But in the last few years he’s lost all of his star power, the big contracts, the endorsements, and a Kardashian.  Well, he sort of lost a Kardashian.

Hmm, what’s the best thing about being in the NFL? In America it’s the number one sport; it’s exciting, fun, so to me the best thing is the buzz that surrounds football on and off the field”

Reggie Bush

Bush was once the number one rated running back in the country as a high school student in 2003 where he compiled almost 4,000 yards and over 50 touchdowns on his varsity team while starring on the track team.


He was unstoppable and a highly touted collegiate recruit with a 3.8 GPA. Pete Carroll won him over and Reggie went on to dazzle fans as a multi-talented player returning punts and kicks, taking handoffs, catching passes out of the backfield, and even throwing for a touchdown. There wasn’t a pro team that would have passed him up.

Except, of course, the Houston Texans, who took Mario Williams first sending Bush to the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans Saints.  Suddenly, Bush found himself engulfed in a storm of turmoil of his own. According to the case, marketing agents had given anywhere from $100,000 to $280,000 to Reggie’s parents while he was at USC, expecting to keep him as a spokesperson when he was legally able to become one. Soon, the story became national and Reggie was caught in the middle of it. The hearings determined that USC and Reggie Bush were to be held accountable. In 2010 he was ordered to vacate the Heisman Trophy he won in 2005 and Bush and his family settled for around $200,000 to $300,000.

After a much anticipated offseason, the NFL season began and Reggie found out the hard way that he wasn’t exactly ready for it yet. Coach Sean Peyton saw a lot of potential in the young man but relied on veterans to do most of the work. Reggie became more of a utility player but the fans loved him and he donated money, time, and effort into the recovery of New Orleans in hurricane relief. But in his first preseason game, he wore Adidas cleats due to an endorsement deal and the NFL fined him $10,000. Bush, it would seem, was choosing his endorsements over the game; choosing popularity off the field instead of gaining respect on the field. But Reggie wasn’t done yet.


He became entangled with Kim Kardashian around 2007 and started gracing the headlines of tabloids. Occasional negative attention came to the star as story lines were made out of pictures. His stats remained the same, ringing in a combined 1,000 yards in rushing and receiving. He still remained a fan favorite and his name was a household one, as much to do with his legacy at USC for the good and the bad as it was to dating Kim Kardashian. Reggie won a ring with the Saints in 2010, relishing in the acme of fame and the game’s brightest spotlight.

There’s a lot of pressure that comes with being in the spotlight and being a superstar and a role model, but I’m enjoying it.

Reggie Bush

After the Super Bowl with the Saints, Reggie went to the Dolphins for two seasons and two with the Lions. His fame was not the same in these years, buried mostly in obscurity away from the limelight and the Kardashian glow. Reggie seemed focused on football, having his best statistical seasons and his only two 1,000 yard rushing seasons in Miami and Detroit, respectively. But his decline came quick and in his second year in Detroit he was plagued by injury and had a dismal season. He played a few games the next year with San Francisco and then ended up in western New York with the Bills this past season.

In Buffalo, Bush became the very first NFL running back to finish the season with over ten carries for negative yardage, officially ringing in the worst season in history for a running back. He went from endorsement contracts with Subway and Adidas to a razor bump relief company called Barc. He went to dating Kim Kardashian to marrying a girl who looks like Kim Kardashian. Reggie’s need for stardom, money, endorsements, and fame beleaguered his potential and it culminated in 2010 with the vacation of his Heisman trophy, acting like an ominous finger wag into his near future; from first to worst looking for fame and not the ball.

Reggie’s legacy will be different depending on who you talk to. Helix High School alumni will remember him as the greatest to ever play. USC fans will remember him as one of the greatest to grace their field. College football fans will remember him as the guy who had to give back the Heisman. NFL fans will remember him as the guy who gained less than zero yards in a pathetic season in chilly Buffalo. Pop culture fans will remember him as one of the many boyfriends of Kim Kardashian. New Orleans will remember him as the star who cared to help.

Make no mistake, Reggie Bush will certainly be remembered.


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