With everybody’s favorite villain hanging them up at the end of this season, who will assume Kobe’s role as the NBA’s villain? Fans all over the country loved hating Kobe. Everyone loved hating Lebron when he “took his talents to South Beach,” but now that he has returned, there are more fans than ever pulling for him to bring a title to Cleveland. A great villain is loved by some and hated (but respected) by others. These are the players that very few have a neutral opinion about. They had to be stars to be considered for this list, because if you are a villain and not a star you are not a villain, you are just hated. These are the John Starks, Bill Laimbeer’s and Vlade Divac’s of the world. Here is my All-Time All-Villain Team:
G-Allen Iverson-“Practice? We’re talking about practice, man.” Rants like this one along with his gangster culture, cornrows, and tattoos made AI a natural villain. He was also one of the most popular players of his generation and perhaps the greatest player under 6 feet tall to ever play the game.
G-Kobe Bryant-The Black Mamba was the NBA’s best villain for a decade. The legal issues in Colorado, along with his teenage and immature arrogance made many people hate him. Driving out Shaq and repelling high talent free agents turned even more people against him. His clutch performances and 5 championship runs made him easy to love for Laker Nation.
F-Dennis Rodman-The “Worm” was perhaps the first to popularize the tattoo among NBA players. His bright and outrageous hair styles, wedding dress pictures, wild trips to Vegas, on-the-court antics, and friendship with North Korea made him easy to hate. As the greatest rebounder since Wilt Chamberlain, his teammates and fans loved having him on their team.
F-Charles Barkley-From spitting on fans to fighting on the court, Barkley was a hot head with a big mouth and not afraid to share his opinions. The generation that knows Barkley as the funny guy on NBA on TNT may not understand why Barkley makes this list, but those who remember his playing days will.
C-Dwight Howard-There is nothing that bothers fans more than seeing a player with great natural talent, fail to live up to their potential. While he is a sure fire Hall-of-Famer and a 3-time Defensive Player of the Year winner, Howard has been accused of not playing hard, not caring, and destroying locker rooms in the process. Howard’s star has fallen considerably since he was flying through the sky as Superman for the Orlando Magic.
G-Isiah Thomas-The NBA’s best player NOT invited to play on the historic Dream Team was just only evidence that Isiah was a hated Villain. After the Bulls finally knocked off the Pistons coming off their back-to-back titles, the NBA universe celebrated because the entire Pistons’ team (aside from Joe Dumars who somehow escaped this label) were villains. Knicks fans view Isiah as an executive villain. Double threat guy!
G-Deron Williams-A great way to become a villain is to run off a Hall of Fame coach. Had Deron not derailed his career in the process of leaving, Jazz fans would still hate him, but feel sorry for him. The combination of the chip on his shoulder, horribly matted hair, and being constantly compared to fellow draftee, Chris Paul, Williams was easy to hate. When he drove Jerry Sloan into retirement, his fate as a villain was sealed. Since then he has only added another fan base to rob and disappoint in Brooklyn before being paid to go away.
F-Draymond Green-If you are not a Golden State Warriors fan, then Green’s antics get real old, real quick. He, like Cousins, gets lots of techs, but as a member of the mighty Warriors has more to beat his chest over, making his flexing and soundbites that much harder for some fans to tolerate. As the essential and valuable teammate of one of the most likable guys in the league, Draymond keeps things interesting and creates lots of mixed emotions when the Warriors win or lose.
F-Ron Artest-Of all of the players on this list, Artest probably has the least star power. Still, his role in the “Malice in the Palace” along with his bull-in-a-China-closet style and ridiculous rename make it that much easier to hate him.
C-DeMarcus Cousins-Cousins doesn’t care what kind of coach you are, he’ll run you off just the same. The highly volatile but talented big man racks up techs and ill-advised shots while making coaches pull out their hair. He makes it easy for people to love to hate him.
Honorable Mention: Shaq, Lebron, Chamberlain