Isiah Thomas, LeBron James and the 50 Most Hated Players In NBA History
There have been many, many unpopular players in the NBA's 60-plus years of existence. Fans cheer their home team and enjoy booing their foes.
Some players, though, have crossed over from popular to despised.
Whether it be controversial remarks, hard-nosed play, a perceived bad attitude or a guy being so good that he breaks hearts nationwide, there's never been a shortage of ballers to hate.
Some guys are also just, well, annoying, and the 24/7 news cycle has certainly ratcheted up the disdain for anyone who does something to draw the ire of fans.
There are surely those who are hated, but did not make the list. Which players have you found to be utterly impossible to root for? Please, share them with us all.
Enough with formalities already. Let's take a look at some of the most hated players in professional basketball history.
50. Sasha Vujacic
Dubbing yourself "The Machine," then averaging just 4.9 points per game for your career is not going to go over well with the public.
For some reason, Vujacic just seems annoying in general. Not sure what it is about him. He's just one of those guys.
Hitting crucial free throws in Game 7 of last year's Finals have him firmly entrenched in Lakers versus Celtics lore, something Boston fans are not very happy about.
49. Joakim Noah
People like winners until they start doing it too much. Noah won two national championships while playing at the University of Florida, giving him a bulls-eye for hate right away.
Lovers of fundamental basketball loathe his sideways spinning shot and he's one of those guys that, for some reason, just bugs people.
His "uncomfortable" time spent with John Elway in a steam room might be a good way to describe how fans feel when watching him.
48. Anthony Mason
Playing for six different NBA teams, Mason's size made him an intimidating player.
He used this to his advantage with his defensive intensity, something that will always cause a player to be hated by fans.
No one likes the guy who can help shut down your team's best player.
47. Nate Robinson
Nathaniel Cornelius Robinson was viewed as a player with a seriously bad attitude when he first became a pro.
He got into at least two fights with teammates in his rookie year, and was almost sent to the D-League.
He's gained some affection by winning the slam-dunk contest three times, but many will remember him for the antics he pulled when with the Knicks.
Surrounded by a strong coach and many veterans in Boston, Robinson has cleaned up his act a bit and is a contributor on a possible championship team.
46. Stephen Jackson
When the Indiana Pacers acquired Stephen Jackson prior to the 2004-05 season, they envisioned him putting them over the top: the man who would help them topple the Detroit Pistons en-route to the NBA Finals.
That was before Jackson received a 30-game suspension for charging into the stands along with Ron Artest at the Palace of Auburn Hills to attack some fans.
Jackson has gained a reputation as a relentless player who will defend his teammates to the death—a trait that did not serve his team well that November night in Detroit.
Guys who play tough defense will always irk opposing fans, and Jackson would likely have been up here even if not for his mingling with the Pistons faithful.
45. Tracy McGrady
McGrady is a tremendous talent, but can't seem to stay healthy. He never once played a full 82-game season and was unable to get past the first round of the playoffs.
He, at times, appeared disinterested when on the court, and he has crushed the seasons of many fantasy owners.
44. Carlos Boozer
Many consider Boozer one of the most overrated players in the game today.
He first found infamy by leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers after he reportedly told them he would stay. It was said that Boozer and the Cavs had agreed upon a contract, which he would sign after they released him from his current deal.
Once the team let him go, he promptly signed with the Utah Jazz, leaving Clevelanders with a sense of betrayal.
After leaving the Jazz for Chicago this summer, Boozer now has two fan bases hating him.
43. Paul Pierce
"The Truth" has been known to be a little, uh, dramatic with his injuries, leading to some disdain from NBA followers. His wheelchair incident in the 2008 Finals is the most famous example.
Prior to the arrivals of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, Pierce had been getting a bit on the heavy side and many questioned his work ethic. Never a good thing when trying to avoid a most-hated list.
As is the case with many others, after winning a title, his popularity outside of Boston decreased. Sports fans have never been known to be above jealousy.
42. Rasheed Wallace
Does anyone else wish the league's new emphasis on arguing with officials was in place when 'Sheed was around?
How many T's would he have racked up? One hundred? Two hundred?
Wallace constantly got into it with the refs, making him quite unpopular among fans. Many also believe he came nowhere near maximizing his talent, with Charles Barkley once saying, "He could be the best player in the NBA if he wanted to."
Fans will always have a distaste for players they feel did not give it their all.
41. Vlade Divac
Divac is known as possibly the best flopper of all-time, a tactic that doesn't exactly ingratiate a player with fans.
He was also involved in international controversy when he took away a Croatian flag from a fan who rushed the court after Yugoslavia won the 1990 FIBA World Championship.
Tensions were already high. Croatia was then a republic of Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav Wars were not far away.
The incident made Divac a despised man in Croatia and led his friendship with the late Drazen Petrovich to fall apart—a relationship that was excellently explored in the recent documentary Once Brothers.
40. Anderson Varejao
Vlade Divac 2.0.
Varejao's overall game is better than many realize, but he's more known as a pest who gets under the skin of opposing players and will flop even on minimal contact.
His hair doesn't help his case, either.
39. Chris Bosh
Guilt by association.
No one expected Bosh to stay in Toronto this summer and no one would have been particularly upset with him for going to Miami had he and his friends not jumped around on-stage while talking about winning seven or eight championships.
Fans also bemoan his lack of toughness inside and view him as quite overrated.
38. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
After initially refusing to stand for the national anthem, Abdul-Rauf worked out a deal with the NBA in which he would stand, but look down, usually praying to himself.
Born Chris Jackson, he changed his name after converting to Islam, which led him to protest the US flag as a symbol of tyranny and oppression.
Political statements are fine. Players just need to be prepared for the backlash that will come with them.
37. Marcus Camby
When the NBA instituted a dress-code during the 2005-06 season, Camby, making $7.5 million at the time, proclaimed that players should be given a stipend to buy appropriate clothes with.
He must have an unfathomably expensive wardrobe.
36. Shaquille O'Neal
Never afraid to speak his mind, Shaq has become both loved and hated at the same time.
Now that his career is in its twilight, there aren't too many Shaq-haters out there, but when he was in his unstoppable prime, it was hard for anyone outside of Los Angeles to be a big fan of him.
He tore apart so many teams and won championships while doing it. No one is a fan of a guy doing that to their team.
35. Karl Malone
I've been watching and discussing basketball for a long time with more people than I can remember.
Yet, I've never met someone who's said to me, "You know Ryan, I'm a really big Karl Malone fan."
Malone is obviously one of the best to ever play, but he doesn't seem to get much love outside of Utah.
It didn't help that he joined up with Kobe, Shaq and the Lakers in an attempt to finally win a championship, either.
34. Latrell Sprewell
After a very good start to his career, "Spree" dove into ignominy after choking his coach P.J. Carlesimo during practice.
It was not the first such incident for Sprewell, as he once brought a two-by-four to practice after an argument with a teammate.
He bounced back from his troubles by making significant contributions to the Knicks and Timberwolves, then got himself involved in another PR disaster when he turned down a $21-million contract by saying, "I got my family to feed."
While his sentiment is certainly understood, no one wants to hear a guy complaining about getting paid $7 million a year, particularly at a time when many were, and still are, struggling just to get by.
33. Tim Hardaway
Hardaway was controversy-free during his playing career and for a while was one of the best around, although injuries slowed him down a bit.
In 2007, four years after he retired, in response to former player John Amaechi's admission to being homosexual, Hardaway stated: "Well, you know I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."
He has since tried to reconcile by educating himself on gay issues, but the quote will always stick with him and ensure that he remains a hated man in many quarters.
32. Charles Barkley
"I am not a role model" were the words used by Charles Barkley in response to criticisms directed at him for his outspoken nature.
Barkley got into several fights during his career and consistently rang up technical fouls when arguing with officials.
His humorous nature and willingness to say whatever is on his mind helped deflect some of the hate during his career and has led to him becoming one of the leading basketball analysts on television today.
31. Stephon Marbury
When "Starbury" was embroiled in a feud with coach Larry Brown during his time with the Knicks, he became known as the "most reviled athlete in New York" according to the New York Daily News.
Marbury has been a good philanthropist and actually made basketball shoes affordable, but many will also remember him as a "Me First" player and for being part of the 2004 Olympic team that failed to win a gold medal.
30. Kevin Garnett
KG has somehow made the switch from beloved warrior to hated bully.
When Garnett was with Minnesota, fans loved his determination and constant hustle despite being on some not-so-great teams.
Once he went to Boston and won a championship, however, he quickly became viewed as a trash-talking antagonizer, whose skills could no longer keep up with his mouth.
As Garnett's fall from loved to hated proves, "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLEEE!!!!"
29. John Starks
Starks was fiery by nature. It was the only way he was making an NBA roster after going undrafted.
While this aspect of his personality helped him on the court, it also hindered him as he became viewed as a bit of a loose cannon.
He was ejected from a playoff game after headbutting Reggie Miller and once threw the ball at the shot clock in anger.
He's the type of player who is loved by his hometown fans, as he is in New York, but hated by the rest of the public.
28. Rick Mahorn
Outside of Detroit residents, it's unlikely that anyone was a fan of any of the late-80s "Bad Boy" Pistons teams.
Known as the "Baddest Boy of them all," Mahorn used his physical play to intimidate opponents and win a championship with Detroit.
After leaving the Pistons, he continued his roughness, irritating many opposing players and fans in the process.
27. Bill Russell
If Michael Jordan is basketball's greatest player, then Russell, with 11 championships to his name, is its greatest winner.
Russell grew up and played at a time when racism was much more out in the open than it is now. His early life experience left him jaded, and he often perceived racism even when it wasn't there.
His relationship with the media and fans was strained to the say the least, as he refused to sign autographs for white fans and often made controversial remarks to journalists.
Based on what he went through as a child and young adult, he surely cannot be blamed for being touchy when it came to race relations. He has since made amends and become an ambassador for the game.
When he was playing, though, he was hated even by his own fans.
26. Gilbert Arenas
People were irritated by Arenas' personality even before he destroyed the Washington Wizards by going to prison on gun charges.
He's now attempting to regain his old form, but stunts like feigning injury this preseason aren't going to help him.
25. Gary Payton
Payton earned the ire of opposing fans due to his relentless defense, which earned him the nickname "The Glove."
Easily one of the best point guards ever, those who disliked Payton reveled in his late-career championship chasing, some believing it tainted his finally winning a title.
Hating at its best.
24. Reggie Miller
When everyone in New York hates you, you know you're good.
Miller, one of the best three-point shooters in NBA history, is most famous for his feud with the Knicks and his back-and-forth taunting with Spike Lee.
He was never able to get that elusive championship, but he put on a good show for a long time.
23. Bruce Bowen
Bowen is one of the best perimeter defenders to ever throw on a jersey. He was also thought to be quite dirty.
Controversial on-court moments included allegations that he kicked former Phoenix forward Amare Stoudemire's ankle, which had recently been surgically repaired.
He also once kneed Steve Nash in the groin and used many other devices to throw opponents off of their games.
If I were a Spurs fan, I would love Bowen, as he helped the team win three championships. Those outside of San Antonio, though, aren't particularly fond of the lockdown defender.
22. Scottie Pippen
Fair or not, Pippen will always be viewed by some as a Michael Jordan's sidekick, a man who rode the coattails of MJ to six championships.
Hey, haters gonna hate.
Pippen was a great player in his own right, but he will also be remembered for refusing to come off the bench during a playoff game when a possible game-winning play was not called for him.
21. Manu Ginobili
Not only has Ginobili won three NBA championships to the disdain of three franchises, he also helped Argentina knock off Team USA in the 2004 Olympics.
He's not above flopping and finding other ways to draw fouls, welcoming in even more hate.
20. Vince Carter
Carter had a very quick and spectacular fall from grace when he admitted to not giving his all when with the Toronto Raptors.
While he and others insist there was a misunderstanding, Carter is still heavily booed whenever he plays in Toronto and he will likely never be forgiven.
Carter has also been viewed as a player who exaggerates his injuries and a poor crunch-time performer.
Not a good mix.
19. Shawn Kemp
A glaring case of wasted talent, Kemp exploded onto the scene in the mid-90s, before issues with his weight and alcohol and cocaine abuse derailed his once promising career.
Kemp also fathered seven children, although many claim the number is higher.
Some find humor in his downfall, others are disappointed and still more bemoan his squandered promise with great anger.
18. Michael Jordan
Jordan may now be known as the greatest ever and almost universally loved. During his heyday, it was a bit of a different story.
Growing up in New York, with my family being from Chicago and me not being much of a Knicks fan, it seemed only natural to root for the Jordan and the Bulls.
I heard just about all you can about how much Jordan stunk when he was beating New York every year, and that's not the only city he left wounded.
It's hard to root for a guy that single-handedly keeps your team from winning a championship, and his Hall of Fame speech didn't win him any brownie points.
17. Alonzo Mourning
As a player who could beat you on both ends of the floor, Mourning was a nuisance for opposing teams and their fans.
He gained much respect for returning to the NBA and winning a championship after a kidney transplant.
Before that, however, he drew the ire of fans in New Jersey, where he was routinely booed until he finished his career, when he went through the media to force his way out of town.
Great defensive player, warrior and also one of the most hated.
16. Lebron James
Just six months ago, James was possibly the most popular athlete in the United States.
Then came "The Decision," the WWE-style introduction and his repeated attempts to deflect all blame for his errors in judgment.
With the Heat unable to beat winning teams thus far, James and crew are beginning to look more like bullies than an elite NBA team.
They're also learning how hard it is to succeed when everyone wants to see you fail.
15. Magic Johnson
As the leader of the "Showtime" Lakers, Johnson won over LA fans with his excellent play and huge smile, all the while infuriating opponents—especially those in Boston.
The Lakers-Celtics rivalry is the best in basketball history. It's no surprise that many of the players involved in their ongoing feud have made it onto this list.
14. Danny Ainge
The architect of the current Boston Celtics' roster, Ainge was first a baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays before winning two titles as a players with the C's.
Playing at a time when the league was much more physical than it is now, Ainge was hard-nosed and consistently got under the skin of opponents.
He's the type of player fans love to hate.
13. P.J. Brown
During the late-90s, the Heat-Knicks rivalry was one of the best around.
During the 1997 playoffs, with Game 5 and the series slipping away from Miami, P.J. Brown and Charlie Ward got into a tiff, with Brown eventually flipping Ward upside-down and body-slamming him.
The melee that ensued resulted in suspensions for several New York players in Games 6 and 7, and the Heat went on to win the series.
There is still some debate over whether or not Brown did this in an attempt to start a fight that could possibly lead to the Knicks losing their cool.
Whatever the case, Brown made himself a highly-hated player.
12. Allen Iverson
Iverson is one of the best talents to ever play the game of basketball, but his attitude left much to be desired.
We all know how much he disliked practice and he's had more run-ins with his coaches than can be counted.
Now stuck playing ball in Turkey, it is unlikely "The Answer" will ever be part of an NBA roster again.
11. Nick Anderson
With some guys, it's obvious they don't want the ball in their hands in high-pressure situations.
In the 1995 NBA Finals, Anderson was one of those players.
With very little time left, the Magic were on their way to a Game 1 victory over Houston. All they needed was someone to hit the clinching free throws.
Unfortunately for Orlando, that burden fell on Anderson, who missed four consecutive attempts. The game went to overtime, the Rockets won and ended up sweeping the Magic and Anderson was never the same.
Orlando fans will never forget and are unlikely to forgive.
10. Larry Bird
There's a certain amount of hate that will always come with greatness.
Bird was not only able to beat you, he loved to tell you about it.
Great players are often hated during their careers, then loved after retirement.
Bird is no exception.
9. Darko Milicic
One of the biggest busts in NBA history, Darko was taken ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the 2003 NBA Draft.
When you don't produce after being picked in favor of guys like that, there won't be much love directed your way.
8. Kobe Bryant
Aside from winning five championships with an already-hated franchise, Bryant has been seen as a bit egotistical, and generally someone who's not much fun to be around.
There are still many questions about what exactly happened in that Colorado hotel several years ago, and some will never forgive him for admitting to cheating on his wife.
His attitude, the winning and the controversies mixed together make Kobe one of the most hated players to play any professional sport.
7. Kermit Washington
In the 1970s, fights were not all that uncommon in the NBA. During a game between the LA Lakers and Houston Rockets on December 9, 1977, one broke out.
As the scuffle was going on, Kermit Washington, known as the Lakers' enforcer, saw Rudy Tomjanovich running towards him.
Washington thought Tomjanovich was on his way to attack him when, in actuality, he was trying to break it up.
Washington threw a vicious punch that broke Tomjanovich's jaw and nose, detached his facial bones from his skull and caused blood and spinal fluid to leak into his skull.
Tomjanovich was able to make a full recovery and play again, but soon began to decline.
Washington's image never recovered from the incident.
6. Bill Laimbeer
Tough play and hard fouls, with some flopping mixed in, made Laimbeer despised by just about everyone outside of Detroit.
There have been books written about the "Bad Boy Pistons" and their beat-'em-up tactics. Not helping Laimbeer's cause when it comes to being hated, he also won two championships.
5. Vernon Maxwell
Another player who fell far too short of what his potential promised, Maxwell has a seemingly endless list of controversies and poor decisions.
Among them, "Mad Max" once punched a fan in the stands, faked an injury during the playoffs because he was upset about playing time, knowingly infected a woman with herpes and refused to pay child-support.
His own children have been said to be disgusted with him and NBA fans feel the same way.
4. Robert Horry
"Big Shot Rob" hit numerous clutch playoff shots to win series and even championships.
Anytime you routinely stick the dagger into your foes, you will find yourself by hated by many fans league-wide.
Horry also gained notoriety when he hip-checked Steve Nash during the 2007 playoffs—a move that was seen as one designed to cause a ruckus that would result in suspensions for the Suns.
If that was the strategy, it worked, as Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were suspended for leaving the bench area and the Spurs went on to win the series and another championship.
That play, along with some others, prompted some fans to begin calling him "Cheap Shot Rob."
3. Dennis Rodman
Rodman's eccentric personality and on-court volatility made him hated by fans and non-fans alike.
He was, however, a great player and one of the best rebounders to ever step foot on an NBA court.
Among Rodman's exploits, he famously dyed his hair different colors whenever he felt like it, wore a wedding dress to promote his autobiography, once kicked a photographer sitting court-side, and got into several scraps with opposing players.
It's somewhat of a shame that all of this overshadowed his talent as a player, as he does not receive fair-due for his accomplishments.
2. Ron Artest
For a while, Artest was considered the best two-way player in the league. He was an absolute lockdown defender and was also a good scorer.
He has been mired in controversy for most of his career, however.
Whether it was giving fans the bird, throwing TVs, starting a riot or drinking Hennessy at halftime, the man has always found a way to get in trouble.
He's worked very hard at learning how to keep his cool, and last year won his first title with the Lakers.
Even if he somehow manages to win the next 10 championships in a row, though, he will largely be remembered for the distractions and chaos he caused in his younger years.
1. Isiah Thomas
Being part of the "Bad Boy Pistons" is going to land you on this list, it's just impossible not to. Thomas' skills are undeniable, but he's made a habit of rubbing people the wrong way.
Aside from his tough play on the court, Thomas became a joke when he ran the Knicks into the ground.
He embarrassed that franchise with his sexual harassment case and has made a number of remarks during and after his basketball career that raised eyebrows.
It's hard to think of another player who has had as much venom directed towards him as Thomas.