Ranking the NBA's Most Fan-Friendly Stars
Growing up an NBA fan, one of your greatest desires is to meet one of the stars whom you admire so much.
You hope that your interaction with them doesn't change your opinion of their greatness, but rather enhances them as a great person as well as an incredible athlete.
Sometimes we forget that professional athletes are human, just like the rest of us. Your once-in-a-lifetime interaction with them might catch them on a bad day or in the wrong mood.
There are instances where these guys just want to be left alone.
However, there are some NBA players who always welcome their fans and show their gratitude for the incredible support they receive. These are the guys we elevate to a higher status, the ones who we hate to argue against or say anything bad about even in heated sports-talk discussions.
They are the ones who always seem to be smiling in photos, who aren't hesitant to connect with fans through social media, who generously give back to their communities.
Who are these players? Let's take a look.
7. Dirk Nowitzki
It can certainly be a challenge for seven-footers to be comfortable in their own skin, but Dirk Nowitzki clearly is.
There's just something about the way he sways back and forth, leans back in his chair and holds the microphone at press conferences that screams "cool".
Dirk has become synonymous with the city of Dallas. He can be seen throwing out the first pitch at a Texas Rangers game or playing soccer with kids at FC Dallas games.
It's clear that the fans love him in Big D.
6. Metta World Peace
It's kind of weird to associate the word "friendly" with the artist formerly known as Ron Artest—just ask James Harden or anyone who lives in Detroit—but there's no doubt that Metta World Peace has mad love for the fans.
The winner of the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2011 auctioned off his 2010 championship ring to raise awareness for mental health and donated more than $100,000 to charities working for the cause.
But the anecdote that clinches his spot on this list is the barely-publicized story that Peace actually made up with the fan who threw the drink that incited the "Malice at the Palace".
Not only did Peace voluntarily reach out to the fan, but the two men now call each other friends. Hardly anyone even knows this, let alone brings it up, but it just goes to show the kind of guy Metta World Peace really is.
5. Kyrie Irving
It's hard to believe that Kyrie Irving is so poised and mature at such a young age. The NBA's next superstar has already endeared himself to fans in Cleveland and all over country with these qualities.
He also has a great sense of humor that he displays in the hilarious Pepsi MAX commercial depicting Irving as "Uncle Drew", a grizzled old man trying to show the new kids on the block how to ball.
Irving has also made his impact felt locally. After a fatal car crash took the lives of four young Cavs fans in Cleveland, Irving accepted a remembrance wristband from a fan and later tweeted that he was "blessed to have it" and would not be taking it off.
That's the kind of story that builds an unbreakable bond between a player and his fans.
4. Steve Nash
If I had to pick one NBA player to hang out with for a day, it would probably be Steve Nash.
The former two-time league MVP may have the best sense of humor in the Association. His Vitamin Water spots were the funniest ads by an NBA player I have ever seen.
Nash's humor also shines through in the hilarious short films he produces. In the age of social media and viral videos, he gives the fans more than just autographs and pictures.
Would any other player in the league interact with the fans like this?
3. Chris Paul
Chris Paul is a leader both on and off the court. He put New Orleans basketball on the map in his days with the Hornets and has continued to be a fan favorite in Los Angeles.
In addition to the autographs and mandatory press, Paul doesn't shy away from interacting with fans. The former NBA Community Assist Award winner engages fans away from the arena as well.
He will even school you in a friendly game of one-on-one if you think you can take him.
2. Kevin Love
Kevin Love has always been one of the most likable players in the NBA, but he rose into the upper echelons of fan favorites this past summer when he took Instagraming to a whole new level.
Love's Instagram feed during the summer Olympics gave fans an inside look at Team USA's life at the summer games, and he capitalized on his fame by joining Kyrie Irving in the Pepsi MAX ad campaign as Uncle Drew's old friend "Wes."
Love gives back to the fans as well. He is currently working with the Salvation Army on a promotion that collects old coats. In exchange, Love gives back free tickets to upcoming Timberwolves games.
The Minnesota star has popularity and the heart to go with it.
1. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is truly the people's champ. He really emerged as a fan favorite after LeBron James' decision, when he was promoted as the antithesis to LeBron—a humble, hardworking gym rat who lives basketball.
Durant's popularity has only swelled since then. During the 2011 NBA lockout, he roamed the country, delighting fans by playing pickup hoops in different cities. KD even partook in some flag football with the fans.
With over 3 million followers on Twitter, Durant is one of the most popular athletes on the social media site, despite being outwardly quiet.
He's not one to ignore his followers either, as the Thunder star goes out of his way to engage his fans directly.
He's got the game, the demeanor and the generosity. There's no doubt that Kevin Durant is the most fan-friendly player in the NBA.