LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and the NBA's Biggest Villains This Season
The 2010-2011 NBA campaign is arguably the most anticipated season in the history of the League. For years we awaited the summer of 2010. Where will Lebron James go? New York? Chicago? Will he stay in Cleveland? What about Dwyane Wade? Chris Bosh? What about Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Dirk Nowitzki and others? We all knew this would be an offseason NBA won't soon forget but the actual results of the "Summer of Lebron" were more staggering than any of us could have ever imagined.
In the aftermath of "The Decision" and all the other transactions that preceded and followed it some very intriguing storylines have emerged. None more intriguing, perhaps, than the vilification of King James. A popularity poll conducted by The Q Scores Co. recently revealed that Lebron is now the sixth-most-disliked figure in American sports.
That certainly cannot be good news for Lebron and the ambition he has to grow his brand name. However, there is also some good news for Lebron. Kobe's in the top 5. Lebron has been behind Kobe Bryant over and over in his career but for once he can take comfort in knowing that he did not beat the five-time NBA champion.
10: Kevin Garnett
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As Kevin Garnett gets older and slower his mouth gets louder. Garnett has not been able to control his mouth since coming over to the Boston Celtics in a 2007 blockbuster trade. Tune into any Celtics game since then and you are likely to see at least half a dozen profanity laced tyrades from Kevin Garnett. The somewhat laughable part of this is that the tyrades often seemed to be directed at no particular person. Is the man just going insane? If so, I would consider taking him off this list.
In Minnesota Garnett was fiery but he at least seemed to have a little class.
Now, he's just like the old guy we have all played pick up basketball with that knows he cannot quite keep up with the younger players anymore but still runs his mouth to make up for it.
9. Gilbert Arenas
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For a few months last season Gilbert Arenas made himself the number one villain in the league. Brandishing firearms in the locker room did not go over well with most NBA fans. Making light of the situation seemed to alienate anyone who was still on his side.
He seems contrite now. This could be a redemption story. Can Gilbert Arenas remove himself from the ranks of the NBA's anti-heroes and play his way back into our hearts? Can be a good mentor to John Wall? Will Washington contend for the playoffs again?
8: David Kahn
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Minnesota Timberwolves general manager David Kahn comes off more like the lovable idiot than he does a villainous mastermind. He's more Michael Scott than Hannibal Lecter. Check out the interview he gave NBA TV during a summer league game to see what I mean. At one point he compared Darko MIlicic to Chris Webber (who was conducting the interview).
The list of moves made by Kahn is long and confusing. He drafted three point guards in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft. He signed Darko Milicic to an inexplicably long and hefty contract. He traded for a headache-waiting-to-happen in Michael Beasley.
Right now, it looks like they have one proven piece to build around and that's Kevin Love. Everyone else on the squad is young and they don't look like they have a shot at 20 wins this year.
7 and 6: Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony
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These two are not so much villains right now but their stories have the potential to turn sour before the trade deadline. If more rumors of trade demands surface they will find the number of fans rooting against them increase. If their demands are met and they are traded the cities of Denver and New Orleans will not soon forget their betrayal.
Paul and Anthony are after the same thing that led to the fall of Lebron. They want to be on a "super team" and loyalty figures to play a small role in their decisions.
5: Dan Gilbert
I can imagine steam from the ears and fire from the nose and mouth of Dan Gilbert as he wrote his now infamous letter to Cavs fans following "The Decision".
I actually thought it was pretty cool of him to stand up for his team and city but he definitely took it too far. The media has already turned him into a bad guy over this and they will continue to do so.
His biggest mistake was making the ridiculous guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers would win a title before Lebron. People will remember that. The Cavs will be lucky to win 30 games next season and the road to recovery for this franchise appears to be long while Miami will contend for a title in 2011.
4: Pat Riley
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Pat Riley already has his haters. They have been piling on since his glory days with the Lakers. People love to hate a winner.
The vast majority of NBA fans outside of Miami will be tuning in to Heat games all year and rooting against the new big three.
Riley is the architect of the new Miami Heat. As much as we all want to hate this team there is no denying the fact that the moves he made were brilliant. Even so, this new basketball empire may be considered evil for years to come.
3: Lebron James
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How did so many people not see this coming? Lebron has been acting like a villain for years but we just kept ignoring it. The huffing and puffing on the court, the arguments with officials, the oozing-with-arrogance post-game remarks, not shaking the hands of his opponents after losing in the playoffs, attempting to bury video of a college kid dunking on him... and the list goes on and on.
Lebron James may have more self-pride than any other athlete in sports. But who can blame him? At the age of 17 he was tagged by national media as "The Chosen One". What 17-year-old kid could avoid letting all the attention go to their heads. Over the last several years fans and media alike have continued to contribute to the inflation of a monstrous ego.
Then somehow, we were surprised at the spectacle of "The Decision". This summer was just the culmination or climax of something that has been building for years.
2: Kobe Bryant
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Like I said before, people love to hate a winner. According to the recent poll by The Q Scores Co. Kobe Bryant is still more disliked than Lebron James.
The stories of Kobe Bryant and Lebron James are almost certain to intertwine this year. A meeting of the Heat and Lakers in the finals will make this one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Kobe vs. Lebron. Phil Jackson vs. Pat Riley. The old guard vs. the new.
Millions of fans profess hatred for either Kobe or Lebron... but that will not stop them from tuning in.
1: The Possibility Of a Work Stoppage
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As NBA fans, the last thing any of us wants to see is a work stoppage. We will be hearing about this all season long. Let's hope that the players and owners can reach an agreement before the start of the 2011-2012 regular season so that we can continue to watch our favorite (and of course, our least favorite) NBA players.