Sports fans are a passionate lot – to say the least. They love the players the love, and they hate the players they hate. There often is no middle ground about some pro players in the minds of the fans. Fans will live and die with their teams, and with their favorite players.
Of course, the other side of that coin is that as passionately and exuberantly as fans will back their favorite players, they will also turn an equal amount of that passion and exuberance onto the players they absolutely despise as well.
Some of these players that fans seem to love to hate can sometimes seem aloof and unapproachable. They seem to be arrogant and condescending. Some of them cheat in any number of ways. Others create a larger than life persona for themselves, only to have the facade come crashing down around them when their actual play cannot back up their talk and swagger. Some of these athletes have nasty tempers and come off like complete jerks. And strangely enough, some of them seem to be on “most hated” lists like this one simply because they've been so good for so long.
In some cases, when a player comes to somebody's favorite team, all of the previous animosity and acrimony is gone. Hey, he's one of us now, right? Take LeBron James for instance. He was public enemy number one when he left Cleveland to go be part of a super team in Miami. People were burning him in effigy and – well – were actually burning his jersey as well. But now that he's returned home to Cleveland, all seems to have been forgiven, and King James is once again, their native son – though he's now hated in the state of Florida.
While all can be forgiven with some players, with others, they will always engender a tremendous amount of hatred. They will forever be the sort of player that fans love to hate, and love to see lose.
With that in mind, let's look at just 15 athletes people love to hate...
15 Richie Incognito
What can you really say about the man at the center of the bullying scandal that rocked the Miami Dolphins locker room? He's entirely hateable. Detestable. Despicable. And in many ways, that's true. Had the incident in Miami been his first strike, perhaps he wouldn't have been cast in the role of the villain quite so forcefully. Unfortunately for Incognito, it wasn't the first incident, and he has a history of being something of a loudmouth, obnoxious bully. That, and being a pretty dirty player too.
In large part, it was that reputation that got Incognito run out of Miami and forced him to miss a year of play. And his banishment from the league, as well as his likely forever tarnished reputation is entirely of his own doing.
Incognito is back and has been given a second – or is it third or fourth? – chance with the Buffalo Bills. He's currently saying and doing all of the right things. He says that he's undergone some intensive counseling that has helped him with his temper and anger issues.
Only time will tell if Incognito is sincere when he says that he's a new person. But not even time will be able to restore his reputation entirely, and he will very likely be one of those athletes we love to hate.
14 Sidney Crosby
Sid the Kid is without question an incredibly talented hockey player. Some will say the hate he engenders around the league – mainly from Pittsburgh's most hated rivals – is well earned. Of course, Penguins fans love Crosby and practically think he walks on water.
But if you're outside of the Steel City, Crosby has developed a reputation for taking dives to draw penalties – something of a hockey no-no. He's also been accused of taking cheap shots, starting fights – and then letting other people fight his battles – and is something of a punk who even refuses to shake hands in the traditional post-game display of sportsmanship .
13 Johnny Manziel
From the moment he stepped out onto the stage at the 2014 NFL Draft flashing his money sign – this after he practically had to beg the Cleveland Browns to take him in the first round – Johnny Football has been nothing but a circus sideshow.
From him posting pictures of himself drunk and riding a pool toy, to any of another hundred pictures of him drunk and doing other stupid things, to posting videos of himself on his “money phone” – a stack of cash probably larger than what some folks take home in a year – Manziel's sheer arrogance and immaturity have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way – including his own teammates. Especially given the fact that he's not shown he has the game to back up his swagger.
Manziel believed himself to be the second coming of football Christ. And some people actually bought into it. Others though, have done nothing but develop a deep disdain for all things Manziel. Seeing him fall flat on his face as a rookie has no doubt inspired quite a few laughs and cries of, “I knew he'd be a bust!”
Post-rehab, Manziel is promising to turn over a new leaf and earn back people's trust. Time will tell if he's serious or not, or if the allure of celebrity will once again trump the allure of being an NFL quarterback.
Whatever happens with him, he has become one of football's most hated characters, and that might take a long time – if ever – to wash off.
12 Luis Suarez
Barcelona's Luis Suarez has become the Mike Tyson of international soccer. Three times in his professional career, Suarzez – on the field of play – has bitten an opponent. If there's no crying in baseball, there should be no biting in soccer, we say!
While his skills on the field have frustrated opposing teams and their fans, it's his oral antics that have really pushed people over the edge. The Suarez hate was made even worse by shoe giant Adidas building an ad campaign that attempted to capitalize on the anti-Suarez sentiment that was title, “There Will Be Haters.”
It was an ill-advised ad campaign, and one that Adidas hastily scrapped after Suarez bit his third opponent. For Adidas, it's not that there will be haters, but when they're in bed with one of the sport's most reviled figures, “there will be a loss of profits.”
11 Floyd Mayweather
There's no doubt that the people who bet large sums of money on Floyd Mayweather love him to death – because he's never lost and usually makes them a large sum of money in return.
Money Mayweather is one of the most gifted and ferocious boxers to ever lace up a pair of gloves. But he's also been one of the most controversial, one of the most notorious, and one of the most hated as well.
Floyd is a showman, and the fact that he travels around with a million bucks on him at any given time rubs some people the wrong way. He comes across as arrogant, sanctimonious, and like he thinks he's simply better than you. And perhaps some believe he is.
10 LeBron James
For a while, it was the folks in Cleveland who hated King James. But they all seem to have buried the hatchet this year. Now it's the folks in South Beach who despite LeBron for bailing on them. It seems like James just can't win where ever he goes.
Such is one of the pitfalls of greatness. Those whose team you're on love you to death. Those who you've perhaps scorned, hate you with just as much passion and vigor.
Of course, the debacle that was James' ESPN special “The Decision,” earned him a place on the permanent athletes we love to hate lists of a lot of people. The special, though pushed by the network obviously, really irritated a lot of people because of it smacked of so much arrogance. Of course, that's not entirely his fault, as ESPN had a big hand in it. But his face is the face people remember because he's LeBron freaking James.
Though he's made amends by going home to play for the Cavs, some people will continue to hate him no matter what he does – especially because he didn't choose to come play for their favorite team.
9 Bryce Harper
Bryce Harper is a phenomenal baseball talent. His skills and ability to mash are undeniable. And he's even pretty good with the one liners from time to time – one time famously dressing down a beat reporter who'd asked a stupid question by saying loud and clear, “That's a clown question, bro.”
What irks most people about Harper though, is his overwhelming confidence and sense of self. He thinks he's the best baseball player to ever strap on a pair of cleats. And he's not afraid to tell people that either.
But here's the rub – to be successful in baseball, or anywhere in life for that matter, one has to have confidence in one's self and in their abilities. If you don't think you're the best, why even bother stepping into the batter's box to begin with?
People though, love to hate on Harper because his confidence often crosses that line into arrogance and perhaps even a touch of self-aggrandizement. He comes across like a spoiled frat boy at times, there is no question. And because of that, he makes it hard for some folks to like him.
8 Tom Brady
Let's be perfectly honest here. Most people hate Tom Brady because he's just too damn good, and has too perfect of a life. Four time Super Bowl winning quarterback. Sure fire Hall of Famer. Married to Gisele freaking Bundchen. World famous, rich beyond measure. Yeah, it's easy to hate him just for that.
But some folks will always hate Brady because he's been at the helm while controversy has rained down upon his Patriots. Spygate. Deflategate. The Tuck Game. Through all of the flaps and firestorms, Brady has carried on with that smug grin so many want to smack off his face, and has come through it all completely unscathed.
And while all of that might be enough for some folks, for some others, it's all of that combined with the fact that he continues to whine about only being a sixth round draft choice, even all these years later, literally crying about that perceived snub.
Shut up, Tom. Things have worked out for you pretty well in the long run. No sympathy points earned here.
7 Kurt Busch
It's probably not surprising to NASCAR fans that Busch would make an appearance on a list like this. After all, they've been saying for years that Busch is an absolute jerk, and one of the most hated men in professional sports.
Busch is partly to blame for the perception others have of him. After all, he's tried to cultivate the outlaw and bad boy image – and he's done so successfully. So successfully in fact, that people can't stand him. It's not often you see a NASCAR driver mentioned in Forbes, but Busch made the Forbes list for the most disliked athletes.
Busch is known to have a temper. And that temper has led him into blowouts with reporters, fans, other drivers, and even members of his own pit crew. He's as responsible for his poor image as anybody. But in true Busch fashion, he doesn't seem to care.
6 Jay Cutler
Unlike NASCAR's Busch, who you could make an argument that he cares too much, Chicago Bear's QB Jay Cutler seems to have the opposite problem – the perception is that he doesn't care at all.
Cutler is aloof and standoffish with not just his fans, but with his teammates as well. And if you're a member of the media, forget about it. He doesn't want to talk to you. Now, there may be a very logical explanation for it all. Perhaps he's socially awkward. Perhaps he's shy. Perhaps he just doesn't like talking to people. Nobody knows for sure at this point.
But the fact that Cutler has been an absolute train wreck on the field for his Bears has made even the most devout Chicago fan come to hate and loathe him. He's developed a reputation for being soft, and for not being willing to lay it all on the line for his teammates – which is never a good thing.
He's not a vocal leader, and well, he doesn't seem to be much of a leader, period. His attitude just screams, “I don't really care,” which is what is upsetting most Bears' fans. Until either his play or his attitude improves, people will continue to revel in their hatred of all things Cutler.
5 Ndamukong Suh
Suh is a hulking, beast of a man. And he's one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL today. He's so big, strong, and quick, that he often makes opposing offensive lineman look downright silly.
But Suh is aloof and reserved – two things people take to be arrogance. He's not the most accessible superstar, and often has no desire to speak to the media – which makes some people believe that he thinks he's too good for it all. Though it's more likely that he's just misunderstood in that regard.
However, the thing that lands him on the list of athletes people love to hate, is the fact that he's a bit of a dirty player. No matter how many times he claims that it was an accident, or that he didn't see the player he'd assaulted, Suh is widely regarded as a very dirty player. He's kicked, he's stomped, and he has without a doubt, done worse things than that.
It's the dirty play, more than anything, that enrages people so much about Suh. Of course, most of those people would be thrilled to see him in their team's colors.
4 Tiger Woods
Eldrick “Tiger” Woods was, for many years, the most dominant force on the golf course. He was simply miles and miles better than his nearest competitor. For years and years, it seemed like Woods won anything and everything – and usually by a substantial margin.
Tiger is a victim of his own success. It seems that people just can't be happy when one player can so thoroughly dominate an entire sport the way Woods did for so long. Having that much success is bound to bring out the haters, and in Woods' case, it brought them out in droves. To be completely fair to them though, Woods has always been a bit reserved. He's never been the most warm, welcoming sort of person, and that too has stuck in the craws of some.
There are more than a few people though, who are still reveling in the fact that since the incident with his now ex-wife – you remember, the incident where she clobbered him with a golf club amidst the rampant cheating scandal? – he has not been the same golfer. Not even close.
Tiger is struggling to put his life, and his game back together, to see if he has it in him for another run at greatness. And because of his early and overwhelming success, there will always be a contingent rooting against him.
3 Lance Armstrong
If anybody deserved the overwhelming heaping of hatred that has been dropped on them, it's Lance Armstrong. The world was captivated by the sight of Armstrong claiming seven consecutive Tour de France titles – undoubtedly one of sports' most grueling events. He was a worldwide celebrity and was on top of the world.
Everywhere you looked, people were wearing those little yellow Livestrong bracelets. And you couldn't blame them. Armstrong's story, and his road back to greatness, was an amazing tale. It was inspiring and it was motivational.
But then came the fall. And what a fall it was.
After it was revealed the Armstrong had been doping, and that those performance enhancers aided in his consecutive Tour victories, rather than standing up and taking responsibility, Armstrong lied, lied, and lied some more. He even threw former teammate Floyd Landis under the bus.
In the end, Armstrong finally admitted that he was a cheater, and had in fact, used the drugs he'd been accused of using, Too little, too late though. Not only have millions of those Livestrong bracelets been flushed down the toilet, so too has Armstrong's reputation and career.
2 Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game. He's arguably inside the top ten of all time greats. For his near two decades of greatness, it's an accolade he richly deserves.
Of course, he's also developed a reputation around the league and, for many, he is a player they love to hate. It's his intensity, and his desire to not just win, but to be the best in the game, that turns some people off and rubs them the wrong way – fans and teammates alike.
Kobe can be seen ripping into his teammates on the sidelines, ripping into them even harder during practices, or if they screw up, just shooting them death glares from across the bench.
He's never been the warmest or most compassionate soul on the floor. He's incredibly intense, demanding, and comes across as cold and arrogant. But all of that is a by product of his ambition and his desire to transcend the game like Michael Jordan did. But it's also why people love to hate Kobe so much.
1 Alex Rodriguez
If there is one person on this list who has done more to engender so much hate – and who actually deserves it! – it is Alex Rodriguez.
He was gifted with some amazing baseball skills, and really had what it took to be one of the all time greats in the sport. Now he's going to go down as nothing more than one of the all time greatest cheats in the sport. And it's a reputation that is very well earned.
In dealing with the whole PED scandal, and the fact that he'd been straight busted for being in the middle of it, Rodriguez has been nothing but surly, defiant, and outright arrogant. He spoke with conviction that he'd never touched a PED, and demanded apologies from those who accused him of doing so.
Now that he's come clean – sort of – and has lost a year of his career for taking PEDs, you would think that Rodriguez might be a bit humbled. But you'd be wrong. His arrogance surrounding his PED use, his repeated denials and outright lies, will forever tarnish his reputation – a reputation that could have once made him a sure fire first ballot Hall of Famer. And rightly so.
If many had their way, A-Rod would never see the inside of Cooperstown. For many, A-Rod will always be a pariah and an embarrassment to the game.