In today’s digital age, we get to know NBA players beyond the court. We learn about their personality, interests and habits through their posts. Some players turn out to be not so likeable while others gain our admiration with their tweets. That wasn’t always the case, certainly not for these retired NBA legends, who had much more privacy compared to today’s athletes.
We get to know players from behind the screens, so it comes as a great shock to fans when they learn that their hero is a jerk in real life. There are players who love interacting with fans, and don’t mind signing an autograph or taking a selfie. They are also true role models in their actions, and treatment of their loved ones. Many of these players give back to their community and are well-know for their charitable actions.
Then you have players who are simply jerks, and go to great lengths to avoid fans. Players who completely ignore fans, or even worse, insult them. But that’s not the sole reason that makes someone a jerk, there are several factors that include their relationships with family, friends and teammates.
Although everyone preaches about sportsmanship, most players tend to be competitive, and we all love to see that mean side on the court. Unfortunately, many players are just naturally rude. There is a fine line between being a jerk and competitive.
It’s important to remember that celebrities are people too, and they have their bad days like we all do. While some fan might have a bad experience after catching them in a bad mood, it doesn’t make them evil. However, we’re talking about reoccurring behavior that earned them their unfavorable reputation.
Here are 10 retired NBA legends who are sweethearts in real life, and 10 others who are jerks.
20. Jerk: Kobe Bryant
Most people admire Kobe Bryant as a basketball player, even the biggest haters can’t deny his talents. One of the most competitive players of all time, Kobe made plenty of enemies on the court, from fans to players. His competitive spirit often got him in trouble, ranging from arguments to fights with other players.
But there is more as to why Kobe was a jerk, notably his actions when the cameras weren’t rolling. The rape case in 2003 is one that will never be erased from people’s memory, some have suggested that he got off easy due to his celebrity status.
If that’s not enough, Kobe has been a bully in the locker room, attacking everyone from management to players. His antics drove Shaquille O’Neal out of town, and continuously threw his teammates under the bus, even the likes of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Kobe has also admitted to making his former teammate Slava Medvedenko cry.
19. Sweetheart: Hakeem Olajuwon
The two-time NBA champion is the only star to win a title in the 90s during the Michael Jordan era. He was one of the main faces of the league, representing it in a positive light at a time when stars had their fair share of troubles off the court. The Nigerian center has helped increase the popularity of basketball in Africa, and even helped thousands of kids with camps and events held in the continent.
All former coaches and teammates speak highly of him, stating that he was an incredible teammate who was a great influence in the locker room. Many Redditors attest to our claim of Hakeem Olajuwon being a sweetheart following positive interactions with the Houston Rocket legend.
Hakeem is one of the best role models to ever grace an NBA court. Today’s players should aspire to be as great as he was, not only at ‘shaking’ opponents, but also at being a positive influence in real life.
18. Jerk: Karl Malone
Karl Malone is one of the greatest players to ever grace an NBA court. He was consistent throughout his career, and finished second all-time in scoring. With John Stockton, he formed one of the deadliest duos the league has ever seen. But all his impressive accolades matter very little when speaking about his real life persona.
If there was a Hall of Fames for jerks, Karl Malone would be first ballot for his actions that plenty of people never knew about. At 20 year olds, Malone impregnated a 13-year old, and he would go on ignoring his son for his entire life. When Malone finally met up with his child who had recently graduated high school, he told him it was too late for him to be his father.
Far from a stand up guy as you can see. Malone is lucky that he was allowed to even have an NBA career because he should’ve probably been balling in prison. That’s not to mention that Malone was known to have a thing for married women, even going as far to hit on his teammate Kobe Bryant’s wife.
17. Sweetheart: Tracy McGrady
Tracy McGrady was recently inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and some weren’t entirely convinced. An all-time great talent, he spent his injury riddled career surrounded by mediocre players, becoming one of the major “What if” stories in the NBA.
On the court, TMac was mostly cool as the breeze, putting on a show for the fans on nightly basis and having fun doing so. But he also had his hotheaded moments, getting ejected numerous times for fights and kicking the basketball like a savvy quarterback.
But when TMac wasn’t balling and posterizing players, he had a great reputation off the court. Although he appeared to be cocky, it didn’t translate to his behavior with the fans. TMac has no problem interacting with fans on social media or the streets, he’s one of the nicest players. He’s also a family man who always gives back to his community, supporters and people.
16. Jerk: Jason Kidd
It seems like Jason Kidd has two faces, one of which he adapts whenever the cameras are rolling, and then you have his real life persona. For a player who was known as a great leader on the court, the same can’t be said about him outside of basketball. He may be one of the best point guards of all-time, but his legacy has been tainted by his actions.
In 2001, Kidd was arrested and charged for physically assaulting his wife, going as far as smashing her head into a car. I believe most would agree that incident alone makes him a big time jerk, but there’s more. In 2012, Kidd was arrested for drunk driving and endangering the safety of others.
He has burned bridges with nearly every team he has played for, even the Dallas Mavericks with whom he won a championship with in 2011. After agreeing to a deal with the Mavs, Kidd had a change of heart and signed to the New York Knicks without even letting his former team know.
15. Sweetheart: Tim Duncan
Not a single soul on this Earth would have expected Tim Duncan to be a jerk in real life. Throughout his NBA career, he’s been an exemplary role model who has helped the league and his team develop a positive reputation. You won’t find him getting into fights, throwing teammates under the bus, quitting on the team or holding the team hostage for more money. That’s simply not his character.
And it goes beyond the court. Duncan has shown the world how an athlete is supposed to be, whether the cameras are on or off. There are plenty of stories about Duncan being as humble with the fans, as he is on the court against the opposing teams. Arguably the greatest player of his generation, Duncan has never let success go over his head.
14. Jerk: Michael Jordan
Most will agree that Michael Jordan is the greatest player in NBA history, but you’re better off holding on to your fond memories of him on the court. Known for his trash talk during the games, Jordan could walk the talk. He was insanely competitive to the point he used to bully many of his teammates. Some will say he was just motivating them but there are way too many stories out there that prove otherwise, as Bill Cartwright has previously told everyone.
As for meeting his Airness in real life, you can just forget about it. Jordan will gladly take your hard earned money for his shoes but don’t you ever dare approach him for a photo or an autograph. In fact, Jordan doesn’t discriminate, he doesn’t only turn down fans, but celebrities as well. Chamillionaire’s story will make you look the other way if you ever happen to encounter Jordan.
Jordan is known for being extremely arrogant and was even kicked out of a golf club once due to his behavior. Just because you can put a ball through a hoop doesn’t entitle you to be a jerk to the rest of the world!
13. Sweetheart: David Robinson
Over the years, David Robinson has developed a reputation as the nicest guy in the NBA. In fact, he’s been criticized by many and dubbed as soft, but truthfully, the NBA needs many more role models like him.
He has an extensive file of charity works, in fact, the NBA renamed its “Community Assist Award” to honor Robinson who had set an example for so many years. During his time in the league, he offered scholarships to thousands of students. He’s also the founder of Carver Academy, a public charter school in San Antonio, and donated an amount that exceeded $11 million to the school.
Robinson is also known for being a family man, who’s very serious about his faith. Fans have only had positive experiences with him, claiming that he’s as humble and likable as his reputation indicates.
12. Jerk: Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett is one of the most complete big men to ever step foot on the court. He’s the type of player you loved having on your side, but absolutely hated to play against. If you have even remotely followed his career, there’s no doubt you would agree that Garnett was a jerk.
One story that’s been around for years is Kevin Garnett shouting “Happy Mother’s Day Mother******” to Tim Duncan, whos mother had passed away. More recently, he turned plenty of heads when he called Charlie Villanueva a “cancer”, then justifying his comment by claiming that he meant he was a cancer to the league.
Many of his former teammates have noted that Garnett was a jerk in the locker room and not exactly easy to get along with. Even ball boys have previously complained about his antics, so that’s all you need to know about him.
11. Sweetheart: Steve Nash
Arguably the best point guard of the 2000s, one could say that Steve Nash has changed the league in some ways and influenced the style of today. The two-time MVP is as much of a sweetheart in real life as he appears to be on court. Like several players on this list, Nash created his own charity, The Steve Nash Foundation, aiming to provide help and support for kids in need.
Nash’s charity works expand from Canada to the United States to China. He has been involved in raising funds for several causes, and has sponsored a yearly basketball league in his hometown of British Columbia.
He was also recognized with the 2006-2007 J.Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for all his great work for the community of Phoenix. According to Redditors who have had the chance to meet Nash in real life, he’s a pleasant person who’s very humble and treats his fans as one should.
10. Jerk: Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman is quite possibly the most controversial player in NBA history. He would’ve probably never made today’s league due to his immature and destructive behavior. Even his teammates Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen couldn’t stand him, two players who are often labelled as jerks.
Rodman was full of praise for Kim Jong-un and developed a friendship with him, visiting North Korea on several occasions. His record is far from clean as you would expect, Rodman has been arrested several times and for different reasons, too. From drunk driving to domestic violence, and even being involved in a hit and run accident.
Rodman is the definition of a jerk; he was rude to coaches, players and even fans. It’s probably the reason why Kim Jong-un is his only friend. To top it all off, he’s a deadbeat dad who has caused nothing but trouble for his kids, as well as his ex partners, with his selfish actions.
9. Sweetheart: Charles Barkley
Depending on who you ask, Charles Barkley could go on either side of this list, but we truly believe that he’s a sweetheart. Barkley famously declared that he wasn’t a role model during his prime years, but that doesn’t make him a jerk.
Known for his outspoken personality, Barkley has landed in hot water for comments he has made over the years. While most NBA players will give politically correct answers and shy away from speaking about social issues, Barkley has been the exact opposite and he’s one of the voices of the NBA.
His on-court controversies and comments made on TNT have overshadowed all the charity work he has done over the years. Since his playing days until now, Barkley has given back plenty to his community. In 2015, he donated $3 million to the Wounded Warrior Project, Morehouse College, and Auburn University. While you may disagree with many of his opinions, you can’t overlook all the great work he has done.
8. Jerk: Ray Allen
Ray Allen was a likeable player on the court who earned the fans’ respect with his consistency and incredible three-point shooting over the course of his career. Some will be disappointed to see Ray Allen listed as a jerk and we totally understand why.
During an interview with Paul Pierce, he was asked about his former teammate and he said, “It was a weird relationship. We were all good friends on the court, but Ray always did his own thing. That’s just the way Ray was. Even when we were playing together, we’d be having a team dinner and Ray wouldn’t show up. We’d go to his charity events but Ray wouldn’t show up to somebody else’s.”
Rajon Rondo and other teammates have also thrown Ray Allen under the bus for his behavior while playing for the Boston Celtics. There’s two sides to a story, but Allen was unprofessional in the way he handled the situation. Fans have been disappointed after meeting Allen in person, accusing him of being rude and arrogant. But he is Jesus Shuttlesworth after all.
7. Sweetheart: Jermaine O’Neal
Jermaine O’Neal is another guy who comes across as mean and someone you wouldn’t want to mess with at all, but the opposite is true. Unlike many players from his generation, there wasn’t much controversy surrounding the big man, as he was one of the better role models during the 2000s.
The only taint on his career is his involvement in the brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons, but he was only defending himself from abusive fans. O’Neal is known for being religious, and he often tweets about his faith with inspirational messages. He’s also a family man, his social media is filled with photos of his wife and kids.
In 2003 and 2007, he was recognized by the league with the “NBA Community Assist Award” for holding several charitable events, providing money, food, clothes, gifts and much more to members of the community.
6. Jerk: Patrick Ewing
Patrick Ewing is another name on the list that may surprise some fans. This goes to show how nostalgia glasses can sometimes cloud our vision when it comes to childhood heroes. The former Knick was one of the finest big men in the league during the 90s and would probably have a championship to his name, if it weren’t for another jerk on this list who dominated his era.
Ewing hasn’t been involved in any shady business but it’s his attitude towards fans that earned him a spot on this list. If you happen to meet Ewing in person, don’t ever expect an autography or a selfie, because the man will not hesitate to rudely reject your request.
Celebrities have the right to their actions, we understand that they don’t like to be bothered all the time. The thing with Ewing is he doesn’t like to be bothered at all and doesn’t care one bit if he offends a fan, which makes him a jerk in our book.
5. Sweetheart: Gary Payton
Gary Payton was a mean guy on the court, he played with tenacity that made him one of the toughest players on the court. Known for his all-around game, his defensive abilities stood out and earned him a place in the history books. It’s the very same reason that Seattle SuperSonics fans fell in love with him during his 12-year tenure with the team.
Despite not appearing as a charming fella on the court, he’s one of the most approachable players in real life. Fan stories on Tumblr and Reddit indicate that he’s actually quite the sweetheart when he’s not torturing opponents and making enemies.
Payton has a son who’s currently in the league, and unlike some NBA fathers, he’s been there to support him and offer words of advice. He’s been pictured attending his son’s games on several occasions, which speaks volumes about Payton as a man.
4. Jerk: Chauncey Billups
On the court, Chauncey Billups was one of the most respectable players from the past 17 years. He was a great all-around player who led the Detroit Pistons to a championship in 2004. Although he came across as a likeable guy and someone who’s easy to root for, Billups doesn’t care much for the fans.
His record is clean, so we’ll give him that. He hasn’t had any trouble with the law, or any baby mama scandals. A great leader on the court, Billups has a reputation for getting annoyed by fans. In fact, several have complained about their disappointment in meeting him.
Many have called him rude following interactions with the former Pistons guard. Some say that you’re better off not meeting your favorite player, and we advise anyone who grew up a Billups fan to be wary – your perception of him might change once you meet him!
3. Sweetheart: Reggie Miller
Reggie Miller was known was known as the deadline three point shooter before Ray Allen, and now Stephen Curry dethroned him. He also had a reputation as a legendary trash talker, no one was safe. Not Michael Jordan, not Spike Lee, not even fans who asked for trouble. And when you listen to his commentary, it’s easy to assume that he’s probably a jerk in real life – I mean the man makes you want to mute your TV.
But very little is known about the amount of charity work that Reggie has done over the years. In 2002, USA Weekend named him as the “Most Caring Athlete Of 2002,” rewarding all his charitable work that year. Even the most hardcore New York Knicks fan would have to respect Reggie for that.
Like many athletes on this list, Reggie created his own foundation, The Reggie Miller Foundation, to help burn victims in Indianapolis. As for meeting Reggie in real life, it’s been said that he’s interactive and takes time with the fans.
2. Jerk: Shaquille O’Neal
Shaq may have been the most dominant player of his time, he was impossible to defend. You couldn’t throw a double team at him and one-on-one defense certainly didn’t work either. His on-court greatness came with antics that made some fans fall in love with him, while other resented him for his behavior.
He loved being the centre of attention, it’s one of the reasons he left Orlando Magic to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. He starred in movies and released rap albums, Shaq was everywhere. His fun personality made him a star, but as he grew older, his childish antics got on people’s nerves. Known as a bully on the court and locker room, Shaq is still immature to this day as a commentator on TNT.
He’s been in trouble for constantly harassing JaVale McGee, and many controversial social media posts, including a post where he mocked a disabled fan for no reason. And although he likes to have fun, he absolutely hates being on the receiving end.
1. Sweetheart: Chris Webber
There are many reasons to dislike Chris Webber; it could be the infamous timeout blunder or his commentary that gets on your nerves after a while. But his record is clean for the most part, although he did love the ganja and was arrested for possession back in 1998. But let’s be honest, that’s not an offense we’d hold against him nearly 20 years later.
Webber comes across as a genuinely nice guy whenever he appears on TV, but he isn’t just pretending when the cameras are rolling. Webber has done plenty of charity work, which alone makes him a sweetheart. He’s been involved with many charities, including Make A Wish foundation, The Timeout Foundation, and Bada Bing Charity.
During his stint with the Sacramento Kings, Webber invited thousands of kids over the years to attend the games. Additionally, Webber has always been outspoken about ongoing social issues unlike other athletes who opt to remain silent.
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