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NBA Playoff Stars We Love to Hate

Marshall ZweigContributor IIMay 16, 2013

NBA Playoff Stars We Love to Hate

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    Three of the players near the top of the Most Hated NBA Stars list are long gone from the NBA playoffs…which is encouraging if you are among those who despise them.

    Kobe Bryant fell injured just before the postseason dawned. His teammates and fellow hate targets,Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, bowed out when the Los Angeles Lakers were victims of a first-round sweep.

    Kevin Garnett and his Boston Celtics put a scare into the New York Knicks before also falling in the first round.

    Though these players took with them a substantial amount of our enmity and rancor, there remain in this postseason several players who are the focus of many a hater's grapes of wrath.

LeBron James

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    For those of us with long memories, LeBron is easy to hate because of the classless manner in which he defected from his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.

    The Cavs found out his Decision the way the rest of us did: by watching a self-aggrandizing hour-long special. He even hid behind children, as members of the Boys and Girls Club of America were apparently forced to sit with James as he announced that he was "taking his talents to South Beach."

    Has a more egotistical phrase been dropped by a sports star in recent memory?

    Yes, "The Decision" donated $2.5 million to the aforementioned childrens' organization. But at what price charity?

    For those of us who can more easily let go of the past, LeBron is still easy to hate—as long as you're not a Miami Heat fan. Because the guy is so gosh-darn good at what he does.

    LeBron just won his fourth MVP award after essaying one of the most epic seasons in NBA lore. That's to say nothing of the fact that his Heat are the odds-on favorite to win their second title.

    Though James has won the same number of MVP awards (two) with each of his franchises, there are those who say LeBron would not have had this season for the ages had he remained with the Cleveland Cavaliers. They say having fellow stars around LeBron deflects attention from him, which affords King James more opportunities to dominate.

    If you recognize that line of thinking, chances are LeBron is not on your Christmas card list.

Blake Griffin

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    Blake Griffin's high-flying, slam-happy act is unquestionably thrilling to watch. Some might use the term "crowd-pleasing."

    So why are so many in the crowd displeased?

    It's because to them, Griffin is a taunting antagonist who never seems to get caught.

    He dishes out cheap shots like they were Halloween candy. His flopping is so overt, I sometimes wonder how he can sleep at night. And more often than not, he'll drive right into a guy, then whine about a no-call.

    He should be grateful he doesn't get more offensive fouls, not to mention ejections.

    It's hard to average a double-double, which Griffin does. He's widened his offensive arsenal too, showcasing a more polished post game and good pick-and-roll skills. And he's unquestionably personable and charming.

    But to many, that charm is a veneer. To his haters, Griffin is the popular guy in school who, when nobody's looking, is a straight-up cold-hearted bully.

Carlos Boozer

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    I will never forgive Carlos Boozer for what he allegedly did to Gordon Gund.

    Gund is the former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers who drafted Boozer in 2002 with the 35th overall pick. Boozer's play far exceeded his draft positioning, but his rookie contract was binding because of salary-cap rules.

    The Cavaliers had an option year on Boozer in 2004 at $695,000, after which they could match any other team's offer when he became a free agent. According to Gund and Jim Paxson, Boozer, citing the desire for financial security, asked to be released from his current deal, reportedly saying (via nba.com), “If you show respect for me, I will show respect for you."

    Boozer verbally promised he would then re-sign immediately with Cleveland and be a Cavalier for the rest of his life.

    Apparently the rest of his life lasted only three days.

    Within 72 hours of the good faith Gund showed Boozer by declining his option, the power forward, according to multiple sources, began negotiating with the Utah Jazz. Two weeks later, Boozer signed a $68 million contract, essentially spitting in Gund's face.

    Oh, I forgot to mention: Gordon Gund is blind.

    Boozer has been a massive talent throughout his years in the NBA. But every time I see his face, I think of this widely reported act and it thoroughly sickens me.

    Count me among the haters.

Carmelo Anthony

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    Carmelo Anthony shone this season, capturing his first scoring title. Ironically, it was this season that Anthony took steps toward shedding the reason his haters have for despising him.

    The word has long been that Anthony is, as Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy put it, an "overrated ball hog."

    It's true Anthony does not rack up assists. And he led the league in usage rate (ESPN stats). But much of the reputation for selfishness came from Anthony's attitude toward Jeremy Lin during last year's Linsanity in New York.

    Capitalnewyork.com's Howard Megdal compiled a fascinating statistical analysis. Search Google News for "Carmelo Anthony selfish" from February 4, 2011 through February 3, 2012, and you'll get just 33 results. In fact, for the three years prior to February 4, 2012—the start of Linsanity—you'll get just 94 results in Google News.

    From February 4, 2012 through August 6, 2012, however, a Google News search for "Carmelo Anthony selfish" turns up 1,380 results.

    Megdal makes the case that those 94 results were from such credible sources as The Washington Post, ESPN, NPR and The Denver Post—the major paper covering Anthony's longtime former team, the Denver Nuggets. So the idea that Anthony was selfish was well-known among the media.

    But among haters, the idea took hold in the past 15 months.

    Is Anthony selfish? Yes. But if you've been watching the New York Knicks' second-round struggle against the Indiana Pacers, you'll probably say it's a good thing Anthony's selfish. Although he's not lighting the court on fire right now, at least he's scoring.

    That's more than we can say about J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Iman Shumpert, Jason Kidd or Amar´e Stoudemire.

Dwyane Wade

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    D-Wade always wears the natty duds, always plays hard, always displays an unquestioned thirst for victory.

    But ever since the tainted 2006 championship, during which the referees suddenly and mysteriously seemed to flip a switch named "call a foul on anybody approaching Wade," Wade seems like he's constantly auditioning for a guest spot on Grey's Anatomy.

    Every bump seems to end in Wade rolling on the hardwood with an apparent excruciating injury. Every no-call is a reason to pound the court in a protest of injustice.

    There is a legal maxim which goes, "If you don't have the facts [on your side], bang the law [i.e. legal precedent]. If you don't have the law, bang the facts. And if you don't have the law or the facts, bang the table."

    That seems to be Wade in a nutshell: He's not fouled and he's not getting unfairly targeted, but if he bangs the table long enough and loudly enough, he eventually gets his calls.

    That, coupled with his role as ringleader in the Heat's Big Three collusion, is more than enough fuel for haters.

    But if that's not enough for you, maybe the fact that Wade wears black matte nail polish is. Call me old-school, but I don't want my star athletes scheduling mani-pedis.

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