Power Ranking Dwight Howard, LeBron James and the NBA's Unlikeliest Villains
In every sport, there are always those certain players who nobody can seem to stand.
The NHL has Sean Avery, MLB has A.J. Pierzynski and the NFL has Cortland Finnegan. The NBA has too many players to not like. You could make entire top-20 lists of players that aren't likable in the league right now and have valid reasoning and explanation for each player. They sometimes make it too easy for us, but we also construct our own amount of needless hatred for some of these players.
Take Kobe Bryant, for example. He's arguably the best player in the world, but everyone outside of Los Angeles and China seems to react to him as if he's the spawn of Satan. Thanks to the feud with Shaquille O'Neal and that whole Colorado controversy, Bryant has now been cast off as this unlikeable player who is still getting booed in stadiums across the country.
This list isn't dedicated to the Kobe Bryants. It's dedicated to the LeBron James' and Dwight Howards of the league. We're talking about the players who were likeable at a time, but then suddenly became unlikeable after a change in their personality or overall change in demeanor.
Pretty much like James and Howard, who were always the most popular players in the league before James went to Miami and Dwight through Orlando for several loops before eventually staying home.
We take a look at these two and eight other players who have become the most unlikeliest of villains.
10. Blake Griffin
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It hasn't even taken two years for Blake Griffin to become a villain. Of course, he still has plenty of support and has only gained it, but he also beginning to show characteristics of a player that we're going to soon tire of.
After sitting out what was supposed to be his rookie season, Griffin burst on the scene as one of the most energetic, entertaining and dynamic players to watch. At 6'10", his athleticism was out of this world and like none we've ever seen before. Griffin's open-court dunks, in-traffic dunks and poster dunks became a staple of every NBA top 10.
However, there are some things about Blake that peeves us. For one, he is constantly whining and complaining to the officials. I know the rookie year was something special, but it's a little too early to begin with that type of nonsense. No one in their second year, or any year for that matter, should constantly complain to the officiating.
Secondly, Griffin has become an actor on the court, as well as in the numerous commercials he's been in. His defense isn't as stellar as his offensive game, so he makes up for it by flopping and going as far as playing dirty.
9. Tony Parker
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Is anybody paying attention to San Antonio? We do this every year and they always sneak up on us, so maybe we should start being wary of that Spurs team that has four championships since 1999.
Without Manu Ginobili for most of the year and Tim Duncan's career deteriorating by the game, the Spurs still find themselves on top of the Southwest Division and only three-and-a-half games out of the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference.
How? Gregg Popovich of course, but that Tony Parker fellow has also been doing a grand job at leading the Spurs to another certain playoff spot, as well as a possible No. 1 seed. Parker is having himself an MVP season, averaging 20 points, a career-high eight assists and three rebounds per.
He's involving his teammates more than ever, and it's paying off in dividends, as the Spurs role players, some you've probably never heard of before, are becoming key instruments in victories. Guys like Danny Green, Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter have all become household names in San Antonio with the help of Parker's influence when he's on the court with them.
Parker has always been looked at as a likable player, but he began to receive a lot of flack for what he did to ex-wife Eva Longoria. Not only did he cheat on her, but he cheated on her with the wife of a former teammate of his in Brent Barry.
Hurting Eva Longoria? Strike one. Breaking the bro code? Strike two. Cheating on the wife of a former teammate and Slam Dunk Contest champion? Strike three.
8. Dwyane Wade
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Guilty by association, Dwyane Wade has also become a villain thanks in part to having LeBron and Chris Bosh join his team.
It's sad when you consider that Wade was actually one of the NBA's most likable and humble superstars prior to James and Bosh joining the Heat. While he still is beloved by the fans that have been following him since 2003, he has also brought about plenty of hate on himself for being the main reason why LeBron James isn't in Cleveland Chris Bosh isn't in Toronto.
For the people that say the Heat are LeBron's team, they must not realize that these guys all came to Dwyane. Nobody was opting to go play for Toronto or Cleveland. They wanted to go where there was an already established championships setting where there was a proven leader in Wade, who could step up whenever called upon.
Wade hasn't always been loved by everyone, however. He's always been accused as a player who initiates contact, gets cheap calls to get to the line and plays in a way that influences the officials into making the referees blow the whistle. While he's smartly exploiting the system, Wade tends to get those superstar calls that many elite players receive.
There wasn't a knock to make on Wade elsewhere. He gave people a reason when him and Rajon Rondo got tangled up during the 2011 postseason. Rondo dislocated his elbow on the play when both players fell. Conspiracy theorists like to say that Wade intentionally pulled Rondo down, thus leading to the dislocated shoulder.
The Heat were up 2-0 in the series at that point. They were probably going to beat the Celtics with or without Rondo's elbow.
7. Russell Westbrook
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Already a top-five point guard after only three seasons, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook has taken the league by storm and has added a new bit of excitement to the one spot.
Westbrook is dunking like no other point guard we've seen before. He gets up with the best of them and has the athleticism of a small forward. He can do slam dunk contest-caliber dunks in game or put multiple defenders on a poster if he's given the lane and enough time.
He's a super athlete for his size at 6'3". Derrick Rose may be the only point guard that could even come close to matching the athleticism that Westbrook possesses in that small frame.
Even though Westbrook averaged 22 points, eight assists and five boards per while leading the Thunder to the Conference Finals, he became an unlikeable player during the team's five-game loss to the Dallas Mavericks. He and Kevin Durant had worked well together for the years they had played together, but it appeared that there was a sudden attempt at usurping the throne.
It was believed that Durant was the leader of this team considering he was arguably the best pure scorer in the league and has hit clutch shots before. Once the Conference Finals came around, however, it was Westbrook, not Durant, taking most of the shots in dire situations. Russell was taking just as many shots as Kevin, and the Thunder were losing games because of it.
With Westbrook attempting to become the offensive leader, disagreements arose, and the Thunder ended up blowing fourth quarters lead in all four of their losses. The two have already got into an argument earlier this year, but nothing has been heard since.
6. Rajon Rondo
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Before we start, let's give credit where credit is due. Rajon Rondo, even without the help of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, is arguably the league's best facilitator as a passer.
Many critics of Rondo perceive him to only be considered great due to the influence of the players surrounding him, but they fail to notice the part he plays on this team. He's the second best passer in the league, he's constantly finding his teammates and maximizes the potential and talent that each of his teammates possess.
While not the best jump shooter, Rondo has compensated with a solid inside game around the basket.
Back to the hate, however. The Boston Celtics point guard has always come across as a bit immature, but it reached new levels after a report surfaced prior to the start of the season. The report involved Rondo allegedly throwing a water bottle through a video screen during a film session after an assistant coach called him out on a particular play.
This occurred during the Celtics' semifinals loss to the Heat. Boston was already down 2-0 for the first time in the big three era and going back home at this point. Rondo would later apologize.
Rondo hasn't helped to repair that image, either, as he recently got suspended two games for throwing a ball at a referee.
5. Chris Bosh
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How could you hate someone with a smile like that?
I suppose if they left behind the city that drafted him, had the worst flop in the history of sports and joined the team that a large consensus of the NBA fanbase loved to hate, then it gives you plenty of reasons to cast Miami Heat power forward Chris Bosh as one of the NBA's unlikeliest villains.
It wasn't always like this, though. Early on in his career with the Toronto Raptors, Bosh was one of the first NBA players to take advantage of YouTube. He uploaded a number of videos intended for comedic purposes, attempting to get into the All-Star game and even gave accounts of the 2008 Olympic team and some of their adventures in Beijing, among other places.
However, the feelings of the NBA consensus would change, as Bosh would depart from Toronto, the team he had been playing with since 2003, and join the Miami Heat along with Dwyane Wade. LeBron James would follow a few days later. With Bosh being thrown into the spotlight, he quickly became guilty by association with James, like many other members of the Heat.
He'd be most criticized for his passive style of play. Bosh isn't the traditional style of power forward that attempt to score off of post-ups. Instead, Bosh likes to rely more heavily on a jump shot and the occasional drive to the hoop. It's more Dirk Nowitzki than it is Karl Malone for comparisons sake.
Bosh attempted to adjust to the role of third option, but would struggle early on. These struggles would mark the worst stretch of Bosh's career, as he was playing without confidence and going off for poor performances he only rarely saw in Toronto. Criticism mounted, but he'd fit in well near the end of the season and would play a pivotal role in the Heat's Conference Finals win.
4. Dwight Howard
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Leading one of the worst trade deadlines in recent history, Dwight Howard might have remained with the Orlando Magic, but he still established himself as an unlikely villain.
Staying with Orlando was the right move for Dwight. He stayed with the team that originally drafted him (something you don't see too often anymore), opted to take more money and avoided a "traitor" label being stamped on his head that would follow him to whichever team he decided to join.
Howard didn't have an hour-long special like LeBron James. He had a special that lasted two months where NBA analysts came about from all parts of the country to weigh in on where Dwight could possibly be headed this week. Even though Howard announced he wanted a trade for the majority of the first half of the season, he then began to get cold feet at the thought of possibly leaving Orlando.
For the final week before the conclusion of the trade deadline, Howard changed his mind numerous teams. One day, he wanted to negotiate an extension, and the next, he wanted Magic ownership to trade him already. It left the Magic organization and its devoted fans in an awkward position where they didn't quite know which direction their team was going to be headed for the next decade.
Fortunately for the Magic, Howard decided to stay for at least another year.
However, this whole process of demanding a trade and then rescinding it has left a blemish on one of the NBA's most colorful and entertaining personalities.
3. Carmelo Anthony
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You'd think superstars would learn by now. Don't they realize that nobody outside of their city is going to like them once they leave their team for the greener pastures that lie elsewhere?
LeBron James and Chris Bosh at least had Miami on their side. New York has become wary and tired of Carmelo Anthony, especially after noticing how disjointed the team became following his return from an injury.
It was obvious, too. Jeremy Lin was leading the Knicks to wins without Carmelo Anthony and the moment Anthony came back, the Knicks started to lose again. The Knicks faithful aren't too used to winning. Those short moments of success come by only so many times that they don't want it to go away once they know the feeling.
Of course, they're going to begin disliking the player that appears to be the root of the problem.
Analysts and fans have begun to criticize each and every part of 'Melo's game from his selfishness on offense to his commitment to the team overall. Even teammate Amar'e Stoudemire accused Anthony of not completely buying into former Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni's system.
Anthony has become the scapegoat in this mess because of the deterioration of the team since his arrival. The Knicks went from chanting M-V-P to Amar'e last year to booing the team in instances and hoping that they can salvage a playoff spot. The blame obviously fell upon who many thought was the root of the problem in Anthony.
2. Kris Humphries
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In 2009, Kris Humphries was a seldom-used big man who was in the middle of transitioning from life in Dallas to life in New Jersey. In 44 games with the Nets, he had averaged eight points and six rebounds per game. He was essentially any other power forward attempting to get rotation minutes.
Reality television could ruin a man's life. It's completely derailed Humphries' after his brief stint on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. In case you have been living under a rock, Humphries was dating Kim, the loud one of the three, and was prominently featured. The two would get married, and they'd get divorced 72 days later.
Lamar Odom happens to have a reality show of his own with another Kardashian sister, but hasn't got much bad publicity from it. Kris seems to have become a public enemy because he's going out with the girl that we've all seen too much of, is famous for no particular reason and is the definition of the first world problems meme.
Kris was young, in love (we think) and was with a woman who has a posterior so large that some claimed it was fake. It's tough to blame the guy, although he should have done his research and not make a complete fool of himself on national television.
The NBA is a heartless and unforgiving business, so choose which reality shows you're to be on wisely or you could be getting mercilessly booed by the fans of opposing teams.
1. LeBron James
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While it's taken a break since last year, hating LeBron James is still one of the most popular things a casual NBA fan can do.
There's just so much to not like. You could not like the fact that he's a surefire MVP for this season that he's leading the Miami Heat to a possible No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and most importantly, the idea that he still thinks he's better than you.
James has never been the most likable character. Sure, he had plenty of adoring fans in Cleveland across the globe, but he also drew a lot of criticism for his ego and some of the outlandish and self-centered things he'd say.
Being accused of quitting during his final playoff series with the Cavaliers in a 4-2 loss to the Boston Celtics would add some more weight on top of the camel's back. He'd throw on the straw during a nationally-televised spectacle where he announced his decision to leave Cleveland.
He wouldn't begin to truly feel criticism at its boiling point until he left for the Miami Heat. The entire city of Cleveland would loathe James, fans and analysts would accuse him of taking the easy way out and the rest of the entire NBA community followed in those footsteps. Hating LeBron James became the fun thing to do in the 2010-'11 season.
Every move LeBron made in Miami was criticized and put under a microscope. The team's 9-8 start, the idea that LeBron and Dwyane Wade can't coexist and the failure to execute in late-game situations were all taken into account. He'd shed away some criticism with terrific play in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but would quickly get it back after a horrendous NBA Finals.
Nowadays, not as many people are paying attention to LeBron. He's gone from getting booed in every road game to momentary jeers in places like Cleveland and Chicago (I'd be mad too if someone did that to my team in the ECF).