The NBA has been lead by its superstar players since the inception of the league back in 1946. Being an NBA superstar comes with a laundry list of things that regular folks don't have to deal with. One of those things is the judgement of others, and with the judgement comes adoration, and conversely, disdain. Sometimes it may seem like it's the 'cool' thing to do, to throw hatred at somebody who seemingly has done nothing wrong.
The polarization of athletes has increased dramatically over the past two decades. Perhaps it is the advent of social media, in which athletes became more personal than ever before. Perhaps it is the advancements in media coverage, as we now have access to players rituals and personalities never seen before. Whatever the reason, the NBA has seen many players become hero and villains, and sometimes both. Players are more heavily scrutinized now than ever before. It could also be the fact that salaries have increased in the NBA, so with more money comes more scrutiny.
In a world of extremes it is only fitting that a list like this be attempted. Whatever the reason, these 15 players have generated more love and hatred than any other of the previous twenty years.
15 Hated: Rasheed Wallace
The king of the technical foul, Rasheed Wallace gets things started. Wallace was a great player, in fact he was one of the first productive stretch bigs in league history. In his younger days Wallace was part of the Portland Trail Blazers, often referred to as the "Jailblazers" as they had several players with perceived attitude problems. Wallace became the face of that era in Trail Blazer history.
14 Loved: Tim Duncan
Although during his career many people complained that he was boring to watch, many of those same people lament the fact that he is no longer in the league. Duncan has become one of those guys who is loved more after his career is over than he was during his actual time on the court.
13 Hated: Kevin Durant
When Durant began his career he was a quiet, respectful young player with the right attitude and a world of potential in front of him. As his career began to unfold his personality was always a bit secretive, but for the most part he was well received in most cities. When he won the MVP award in 2014 he became a fan favorite, as the speech he gave made grown men weep. He appeared to be the greatest teammate in the game, and as selfless a player as you could ever find.
Then last season happened...
12 Loved: Nate Robinson
There are few things that get fans as excited as seeing a little guy go up for a slam dunk. At about 5'7" Nate Robinson did things that many didn't think were physically possible, and for that he quickly became a fan favorite.
11 Hated: Latrell Sprewell
Spree had an attitude, let's just say that right off the bat. It is well chronicled that Sprewell attacked his coach, P.J. Carlesimo back in 1997. That, damn near criminal act, cost him $27 million in contract salary and a full season suspension.
10 Loved: Steph Curry
In 2015 Steph Curry became the NBA's golden child. His brand of basketball was something that had never been seen before in the game, and his squeaky clean image enabled him to capitalize in the way of support. Kids and adults alike could not get enough of the Steph show. He even had cameras shadowing him during his pre-game warm ups just to catch a half court money ball, or a shot from the tunnel.
9 Hated: Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard has proven to be one of the greatest defensive players, and rebounders the NBA has ever seen. Yet, with that being true, he is still trashed by media and fans for being too soft, often times being called a cry baby, or a whiner.
8 Loved: Jeremy Lin
Few players have ever caused a wave of excitement in the league the way Jeremy Lin did in 2011. "Linsanity" was the phenomenon of Jeremy Lin and his meteoric rise to popularity. He sparked interest and excitement back into Madison Square Garden in a way not even Carmelo Anthony was able to do.
7 Hated: Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman was the kind of player you loved to have on your team, but if you were playing against him you absolutely hated his guts. He had a special ability to draw anger out of his opponents, most notably his borderline hilarious battles with Karl Malone during the mid and late 1990s.
6 Loved: Yao Ming
The impact Yao had on the NBA is only now beginning to be truly visible. By being an NBA superstar and a first overall pick, he brought the NBA onto a global level it hat not quite reached previous.
5 Hated: Stephon Marbury
Marbury came into the NBA with an incredible amount of expectations on him. When he signed with the Timberwolves many believed he and Kevin Garnett would go on to become multiple time NBA champions. They never did, and Marbury ended up bouncing around the league most of his career. He was plagued by attitude problems, and a seemingly huge chip on his shoulder.
4 Loved: Kobe Bryant
It is hard not to love Kobe, after all, he is what kept the NBA afloat during the early 2000s. Bryant is the closest thing we have seen to Michael Jordan since his airness retired. Kobe did it all the right way too. He stayed with the same franchise his entire career, although there were some bumps in the road, but in the end he bled Laker purple and gold forever.
3 Hated: Allen Iverson
The cornrows, the tattoos, the baggy pants, it was all Allen Iverson. He was the first NBA player to bring the streets into the arena, unabashedly too! He had no filter and he had no off switch, on and off the court. That quality turned off many fans and media members. During the early 2000s Iverson was public enemy number one in the basketball world.
2 Loved: Michael Jordan
Perhaps the most beloved athlete in American sports history, Michael Jordan was still far from perfect. He had vices that have been well chronicled, and he was less than friendly as a teammate. Yet, somehow millions of fans across the globe are able to look past his shortcomings and simply adore Air Jordan.
1 Hated: LeBron James
Somewhat the opposite of Michael Jordan, LeBron James seems to have the perfect personal life. He is so often seen with his beautiful family, many times donating his personal time to help restore his home state of Ohio. Yet, for some reason, James is still one of the most hated men in sports.
It seems the initial reason many people turned on James (who was a fan favorite early in his career) was because he was viewed as soft. When he left Cleveland back in 2010, joining Dwyane Wade in Miami, there were videos of fans burning his jersey in the streets of Ohio. James ultimately came back to Cleveland and has thus far led the team to two consecutive NBA Finals appearances, winning it all last season. It seems there is nothing LeBron can do to get back in the good graces of many sports fans, but he clearly will continue to do what he believes is right and just.
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