NBA players have been allowed to participate in the Summer Olympics five times now, starting with the original Dream Team in 1992.
The goal was not only to raise the quality of play but to increase the NBA’s brand around the globe using its most talented and likable stars.
The first team in 1992 went to Spain as rock stars. Jordan. Bird. Magic. Barkley. Fans fawned over them everywhere they went, and opposing players were in awe of them.
It doesn’t hurt, either, that they played for the USA and there’s nationalistic pride at stake in the Olympics.
USA Basketball has put together a pool of 20 players that this summer’s team will be comprised of. The talent level is extremely high, with some analysts even thinking they could beat the original Dream Team.
A different question to ask, however, is if anybody will actually root for this squad.
The players will be wearing red, white and blue, but they could be hearing plenty of boos. While the team has yet to be finalized it seems as if there are some players that are close to being locks to make the team as possible.
LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard should all make the team, and while the point guard position is a crowded one it’s very possible Deron Williams could make the team as well. They haven’t been making too many NBA fans happy lately though.
Nielsen and E-Poll Market Research conducted a survey of the NBA’s most disliked players that was released in December. James (No. 2), Wade (9), Bosh (6), Bryant (3) and Anthony (7) were all featured on the list (Lamar Odom, who was No. 10 on the list, is also a finalist for the USA Olympic team). The free-agency situations and coaching drama that have surrounded Howard and Williams the past two seasons could also put them on an updated version of that list.
Some of the hatred is jealousy; The Heat and Lakers are good teams, so those compilations of talent forming together create a lot of attention that other fans wish they had on their team. That doesn’t mean that these players haven’t done things to turn fans away.
The Heat trio came together in a strong show of arrogance, with their rock-star-like pep-rally. The constant moaning about how everyone hates them and that they are being blamed for everything is annoying. The mocking of Dirk Nowitzki and how he was sick in last summer’s NBA Finals was childish.
Mostly though, the dislike goes to LeBron James, whose “Decision” was an ill-advised promotion that seemed self-centered and upset many fans, especially the fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who without being mentioned felt that their loyalty meant nothing.
Bryant has frequently been viewed as a bad teammate and one of the biggest complainers to referees in the league. His cockiness also irritates fans.
Anthony made some enemies last year when he forced his way out of Denver. Anthony always seemed to be distant from his team, looked uninterested during the games and talked about his desire to be traded, especially to the New York Knicks. Then with the Knicks, he came out of the lockout out of shape, got hurt and Knicks fans believed that he would ruin the excitement and team chemistry generated by the arrival of Jeremy Lin.
While most fans dislike the first four mentioned because of character issues, Anthony’s style of play is widely criticized as well as his persona. His slow-the-ball-down isolation play seems selfish, and his lack of defensive abilities makes him look like he is not a team player.
Williams has made a number of enemies in the likes of Utah Jazz fans. He reportedly got into an argument with long-time Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. When Sloan resigned days later, many placed the blame on Williams, who hasn’t really shed his coach-killer reputation.
When he was traded to the Nets, he complained about the deal. He’s been noncommittal about his future there, but with comments about how he dislikes the arena they play in (although it is the final year there before the Nets move to Brooklyn) and his recent “Nineteen days” countdown, he can’t be charming too many people.
Howard has held the Magic hostage this year. He’s flip-flopped on his desire to stay with Orlando past his contract and has recently reportedly asked the Magic to fire coach Stan Van Gundy. Howard has sparked a media circus around Orlando this season that has directly affected the play of the team and will only continue into next season.
Add his penchant to get technical fouls called from referees and the times he loses his cool by elbowing opponents, resulting in a suspension, and it leaves fans to wonder if all the histrionics and drama are worth the incredible talent.
A player has a right to act any way he wants to on the court. He also has the right to play for whatever team he wants once his contract expires. All fans want to see is effort and some acknowledgment that they are appreciated.
When a star bad-mouths his team, the city or a successful coach, the fans get fed up, which leads to certain names going onto the list of the most disliked players in the league.
So if these guys, collectively, make so many fans groan in disgust, will there be anything beyond nationalism that propels fans to root for them as a group this summer?
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