It come as no surprise to anybody that African-Americans are the prevailing demographic in the NBA game, and have been for a long time. Many of basketball’s greatest stars of all-time fall into this category. Also notable however, are the white NBA players that have materialized over the years. They’re almost always a curiosity; seemingly having made it against all odds to the pro level of a sport that usually doesn’t have white players at the standard bearers of excellence. With that, many of them have been entertaining while on the court, bringing a unique dynamic to the NBA game.
Many of these white NBA players have also been notorious for the level of ridicule that they have received. There’s no way around it; a white player on an NBA court brings attention, and opposing players and fans have often tried to use it against them psychologically. These players have had varying degrees of success in the NBA, but all of them have been viewed as the outliers that they are, and made for some of the greatest villains in the history of professional basketball. Let’s see which ones fit the bill.
Ranked below are the top 15 most hated white NBA players of all-time.
15. J.J. Redick
Coming out of Duke, Reddick already had a disadvantage in terms of how his career would be viewed, before ever playing a game in the league. He was considered a gimmick three-point shooter, and a player that didn’t have the skill set to last in the NBA for an extended period of time.
While the beginning years of Redick’s career with the Magic didn’t live up to expectations, he was able to make a turnaround and be a productive scorer in the league. Much of the hate for him coming out of Duke has dissipated over the years, but it was there at the start, and Redick was able to persevere into a quality NBA player after all. He’s found a niche role with the Clippers where he’s able to consistently succeed.
14. Keith Van Horn
The consensus on Van Horn back in the day quickly turned from a positive one, to the realization of the fact that he was a pretty lazy player. His scoring was good enough in a limited role, but he didn’t play with the toughness necessary for a 2nd-overall pick. Not surprisingly, he went on to play for a plethora of teams, all of them thinking they could get the best out of him.
Instead, Van Horn just got increasingly complacent as his career progressed. By the latter half of his career, his minutes had been nearly cut in half from where they were a few years earlier. Ultimately, he just didn’t have the drive to be a great NBA player, and is looked don upon for it. He was a highly-touted prospect, but never truly lived up to expectations.
13. Matthew Dellavedova
Though he’s really only a marginal player, Dellavedova has received a special kind of disdain, only reserved for the most annoying players in the league. He spent the first three seasons in his career on the Cavaliers, and proceeded to piggyback off of LeBron for any and all success he achieved.
Again, it was the fact that he was more of an annoyance than anything else. It was abundantly clear that he didn’t have great talent, and the idea that some Australian bench player could have a place on a team so stocked to the brim with talent was just a laughable prospect. Now, Dellavedova is on the Bucks, and any chance he has of being recognized again is slim-to-none. How long he can stick around the league in general is anyone’s guess.
12. Kirk Hinrich
A former 7th-overall pick out of Kansas, Hinrich was another in a long line of Bulls players who were supposed to help fill the shoes of Michael Jordan. Certainly not a bad player, but he there was something about him that made everyone shudder away. He just wasn’t particularly likable for a period of time (circa mid-2000s when his stock was at the highest), and that made everyone wary of accepting him.
Amazingly, he’s still in the league, though barely hanging on at this point after well over a decade of NBA service. He’ll likely retire soon to a modest amount of fanfare, but for a period of time he was one of the more reviled white players in the league.
11. Pau Gasol
There’s no doubt that Gasol is well-liked by some, and is a really nice player, but there’s always been an element of carefree attitude to his game that has made him less likeable than he should be. Maybe it was the time he spent on the Kobe-led Lakers, or the fact that he played a very European style of basketball. Whatever, the case, Gasol isn’t the prototypical NBA player here.
What he was able to accomplish was spearheading the presence of more Europeans in the league in general, at a time when it wasn’t a given that almost every team would have them on the roster. For that, he should be commended, because it means that more great talent is entering the fold. Still, he hasn’t been the most embraceable player over that time.
10. Kevin Love
By far the most ridiculed member of the Cavs, and of the “Big 3” along with LeBron and Kyrie Irving. Love is seen as the weak link in that group, and whether or not it’s based on any kind of fact, it’s true that he generally is reviled around the league. Questions about his play in the clutch have come up, and some have even called for Cleveland to axe him off the roster all together.
While the critiques on him may be slightly exaggerated, there’s no question that Love plays the game with considerably less force and tenacity than Irving or LeBron. Such a finesse talent may work with what the Cavs have on the roster, but it doesn’t help the public perception of him, considering how highly-touted an acquisition he was when he first came to Cleveland. He’s one of the most interesting case studies in the league right now.
9. Danny Ainge
A hallmark of the Celtics teams of the ’80s, Ainge was one of the more annoying players in the league. He had no problem getting in the face of some of the league’s superstars of the time, including Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. He was a pestering kind of player in his prime, and pretty much reviled by anybody outside of Boston.
Still, he was one of the more underrated players of his time, and made his mark on some of the best teams of his heyday. Ainge had a chip on his shoulder, coming into the league as a 2nd-round pick, and he sure played like it the entire time. A great player, but one that definitely wasn’t embraced by fans and players alike.
8. Vlade Divac
Divac has become somewhat of a punchline in recent years, as the players that the Hornets ended up trading for in exchange for Kobe Bryant. He was a really good NBA player, but ultimately the trade that Charlotte made for Kobe was absolutely cringeworthy in hindsight.
So Divac has had somewhat of a negative shadow cast over him because of circumstances beyond his control. But the fact is that the Hornets could have had a massively different trajectory had they simply kept who turned out to be one of the best players of his generation. Now, Divac is in the midst of a roster blowup as general manager of the Kings, further adding to his questionable legacy. By the time it’s all over, it may make people forget the Kobe trade, and give them new reason to ridicule him.
7. Brian Scalabrine
One of the ultimate douchebag players of his era, Scalabrine had little in the way of actual talent on the court. He was particularly cringeworthy on the Celtics roster, when he couldn’t live up to the performance of great white players of Boston’s past. But he acted like a star at times all the same, and it just never materialized.
Actually, Scalabrine is probably the least talented player in the list. The ironically named “White Mamba” was a perennial bench player who was noteworthy for all the wrong reasons. Needless to say, he wasn’t the brightest spot in Celtics’ history, and he probably would have been better off staying out of the league all together. Just a dreadful player.
6. Chris Andersen
Going under the moniker of “Birdman”, Andersen has been a mediocre big man in the league, only noteworthy for being one of the players that LeBron was able to prop up as a legitimate talent during his time with the Heat, and for his abundance of tattoos. Everyone knew that Anderson wasn’t worthy of being on championship roster, and their negative perception of him followed suit.
He ended up eventually following LeBron to the Cavs, where he’s toiling away now. Anderson is nothing less than dead weight, and his overstated persona isn’t supported by his play on the court. He’s just the embarrassing kind of athlete that everybody has disdain for, and ore of a circus act than a basketball player.
5. Jimmer Fredette
The hype surrounding Fredette when he was at BYU was off the charts. He was considered to be a kind of Steph Curry-esque long range shooter that could hit three-point shots from anywhere on the court. He did try to adapt that style of play, except with almost none of the talent. The fact that he was the 10th-overall pick in the 2011 draft is still an embarrassment for the NBA, and talent evaluation as a whole.
Fredette only furthered the idea that white players are just naturally three-point specialists. To nobodies surprise, he fizzled out as an effective player early on, and never was able to recover. He’s still hanging around by a thread in the league, but it’s only as a marginal fill-in player. Fredette is one of the biggest falsely-hyped players of his generation, and fits all the negative stereotypes of a white basketball player.
4. Shawn Bradley
Once pronounced “the great white hope” for the Sixers, Bradley was a gigantically tall center who simply couldn’t play basketball at an elite level. His career would look the part for a 2nd round pick, but as a 2nd overall selection, he’s not only a bust, but one of the biggest laughing stocks of his era.
He just wasn’t the transcendent player that many had pegged him as, and soon “the great white hope” became “the great white nope”, as he fizzled out of Philadelphia, on his way to being a journeyman player for the rest of his career. Ultimately, Bradley had the size to dominate the league, just none of the skill.
3. Bill Laimbeer
Part of the legendary “Bad Boys” Pistons teams of the late-’80s, few players had a greater mean streak in them than Laimbeer did at the height of his powers. Not only was he an enforcer on the court, he was a very effective player in his prime. This caused many to hate him with a passion, considering he was on such a polarizing team to begin with.
Indeed, Laimbeer had run-ins with plenty of stars on the court, and was one of the most volatile players of his era. He was able to back it up with quality play, but almost everybody outside of Detroit hated his guts, and for relatively good reason. Still, he was an important part of the era he played in, which was a more physical, in-your-face style of NBA game.
2. Christian Laettner
When it comes to most hated players from Duke, Laettner is at the top of the list. His clean-cut image only served for many to hate him, and he was seen as a pillar of the kind of authority that many NBA players railed against. That didn’t change when he got into the NBA, but since he was never on a high-profile team, the attention from him did sway a little bit.
But for what Laettner represented, he is definitely one of the most reviled players in league history. He was a walking embodiment of the status quo, and as a result he saw more heat for a period of time than any other player in basketball. The fact that he was never on a high-caliber team may have dampened the level of hate for him as the years progressed, but there’s no denying that he’s one of the biggest villains to ever set foot on a court, regardless of the level of play.
1. Larry Bird
Far and away the best player on this list, in his heyday, Bird was nothing short of an outlier. There simply weren’t white NBA players that had his combination of talent and trash-talking ability to their credit. Bird led the Celtics to one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the league, and was considered despicable by opposing fans who wanted to see their demise.
Every time someone would count Bird out, he would only up the ante. He was an antagonist on the court at all times, never afraid to ruffle the feathers of the best players the game had to offer. As the years passed, much of the contempt that fans held for him has turned into respect, but during his playing days, there were few players that could rival the level of hatred that fans and opposing players had for him.
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