Happy New Year B/R Swagger!
I hope 2011 finds all of you well. In honor of the new year, this special slideshow will focus on the 25 most reviled athletes, coaches, and individuals. Even certain sports conferences and a once-elite national football power are included as they are the perennial villains in the entire sports world.
This list is wide and extensive as it will feature players for all walks of life from the NBA, UEFA, NCAA, MMA, PGA, NASCAR, the NFL and even a recently-retired athlete or two.
This list is judged on an individual athlete's influence on his own league, marketing hype, love, hatred and overall ability to make sports fans' blood pressure boil from coast to coast. But at the same time, this athlete begrudgingly earns the respect of rival diehards everywhere.
A special Love/Hate meter will be accompanied with each athlete. "Areas of Hate" will help form a Love/Hate index with 10 being the highest and one being the lowest.
Without further ado, here are the 25 athletes in all of sports that we hate to love.
For me being a Cleveland fan, this was an easy choice for No. 1 on the list.
The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, LeBron James is a special kind of athlete and player that comes around once every generation. He has charming good looks, all-around charisma and he is a football tight end playing in a basketball player's body.
If there is a modern definition of human specimen, look no further than the 6'8'', 245 pounds of muscle that can literally go from one end of a basketball court to another in under five seconds..
Love/Hate Index (+10): While James has an impressive body of work during the regular season, James is beginning to get a reputation for being a sore loser and a chronic choker, as exemplified in his disappearance in the 2007 NBA Finals in which he was held to only 22.0 points per game as the San Antonio Spurs swept his Cavaliers.
While his 45-point shootout against Boston's Paul Pierce in the 2007-08 NBA playoffs was though to be the second coming of the famous Larry Bird-Dominique Wilkins duel, Cleveland would once again fall short in the postseason.
Most recently his refusal to shake hands with Orlando players after Cleveland fell short once again, prompted a nasty rivalry with Orlando. James' coup de grace was his "effort" or lack thereof in Game 5 of the 2009-10 NBA Playoffs when he went 3-of-14 for 15 points.
I could tell it was the last time I would ever see LeBron James in the wine and gold ever again.
James would go on to touch off the most self-absorbed, egotistical and cowardly free-agency defection in modern sports history by staging a one-hour ESPN special, named appropriately enough, "The Decision".
When word began to leak that James had chosen Miami, it just killed the suspense, but the harsh and angry feelings of rage, anger and sickening betrayal were not just felt in Cleveland but all around the country. James also turned down the Nets, Bulls, Clippers, Knicks and Dallas Mavericks in the process.
And now a part of Miami's "Big Three," he is the focal point of verbal jeering, abuse and ridicule for the 26-9 Miami Heat.
Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's response to James' defection became very famous or infamous in his "letter" to angry Cavs fans and guaranteed a championship before the "cowardly, self-proclaimed former King" would ever win one.
The media backlash would only continue to grow as civil rights activist Jesse Jackson would hurl accusations at Gilbert for treating James like a "runaway slave."
NBA champions Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson along with NBA MVP Charles Barkley would also comment and heavily criticize James' decision to leave and join a rival.
James would even bring race in as the reason for the media backlash when asked by Soledad O'Brien of CNN.
Areas of Hate (+10): Cleveland, Orlando, Boston, New York, Chicago, New Jersey and the entire known basketball world outside of Miami.
The saying "winning breeds success, and success breeds envy" must have had New England Patriots QB Tom Brady in mind.
Currently the leader of the NFL best 14-2 New England Patriots, Tom Brady may be the most successful QB of this generation. For his career, Tom Brady has thrown for 34,744 yards, 261 touchdowns, 103 interceptions, completed 63.6 percent of his passes and posted a QB rating of 95.2.
Love/Hate Index (+10): On top of his record-setting 50 touchdowns that he threw in 2007 and his 32 game-winning drives after a Patriots' fourth quarter tie or deficit, many fans simply hate to love Tom Brady because of the company he keeps: Brazilian wife and former Victoria's Secret supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
And then, of course, before he met Bundchen, Brady was in a three-year relationship with CBS Blue Bloods actress Bridget Moynahan from 2004-2006, with whom he does have a son, John Edward Thomas.
Then there is the whole Justin Bieber thing.
Areas of Hate: Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, New York, San Diego and the entire tween legion of crazed Justin Bieber fans.
Once thought to be the perfect role model for sports fans to look up to around the world, PGA golfer Tiger Woods proved to be anything but faithful this past Thanksgiving.
When word started to spread of his alleged affairs with various women, our image and impression of Tiger Woods was forever altered.
Love/Hate Index (+10): You simply have to wonder how and why Woods, whom seemed to have everything (two beautiful children and a gorgeous former Swedish bikini model in Elin Nordegren) would step outside of his marriage for the likes of Rachel Uchitel?
Areas of Hate: Sweden, disappointed golf fans and parents.
While fellow counterpart and rival LeBron James may claim more wins head-to-head against Kobe, the one thing that Bryant has in abundance over LeBron is hardware, as in five NBA rings.
Depending on which NBA fan you talk to, you either really hate and despise the Los Angeles Lakers guard or you simply admire and relish seeing the only true heir of Michael Jordan play.
Bryant is truly worthy of this list as his ability to close games makes him the most dangerous late-quarter player in the league.
Love/Hate Index (+10): Last second buzzer-beaters, feuds with Shaq and a prolific 81-point display against Toronto, let's not also forget the 2002 alleged sexual assault incident in Colorado.
Areas of Hate: Boston, Miami, Denver, and his hometown of Philadelphia, along with the rest of the NBA as a whole.
Whenever college basketball fans think of Duke, they think of three things: the rowdy student section known as the Cameron Crazies, ESPN super fan and broadcaster Dick "Dukie" Vitale and its hated and reviled, yet admired, coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
Love/Hate (+10): With the constant success of Duke, Krzyzewski is the face many sports fans associate with the Blue Devils. As long as Duke continues to win, the love/hate relationship with Krzyzewski will only continue to grow.
Areas of Hate: Chapel Hill, Raleigh-Durham and the entire NCAA college hoops world.
Humble, quiet and simply brilliant to watch, Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby is simply the best player in the NHL today.
At the age of only 23 years old, Crosby has led to a revival of hockey in Pittsburgh after it was rumored that the Pens were about to move to Kansas City. The former No. 1 pick in the 2005 NHL Draft has simply helped transformed Pittsburgh into a bona-fide hockey-crazed sports town.
Love/Hate Index (+9.8): For all of his accomplishments and accolades on the ice, Crosby has also begun to gain the reputation as a soft cry-baby and whiner which has prompted rival fans, most notably Philadelphia Flyers fans, to serenade him with chants of "Cindy" and "Crosbaby".
Areas of Hate: Philadelphia, Washington and New Jersey.
The Don Juan of soccer, Portuguese-born Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be known more for his dating exploits off the pitch along with his success on it.
He was acquired in a record transfer, $132 million US dollars from English Primer League power Manchester United. Ronaldo is currently playing for La Liga power, Real Madrid.
Love/Hate Index - (+9.8) As stated above, Ronaldo is seeming to become more popular for his black book of women that he has dated, ranging from Hollywood socialite Paris Hilton to Kim Kardashian and English model Gemma Atkinson. Ronaldo is currently dating Russian model Irina Shayk.
Areas of Hate: Manchester, England and jealous men everywhere.
For all of his accomplishments in the NFL, it is truly sad and tragic that Minnesota Vikings quarterback is going to be forever remembered for being knocked senseless in his final NFL game.
One of the truly great quarterbacks to ever play the game, Brett Favre's legendary gunslinger-like flair for comebacks and touchdowns endeared him to fans for over 20 years, and his streak of playing in 297 straight NFL games will most likely never be broken.
Love/Hate Index (+9.6): For all of his accomplishments, Favre's legacy may have taken a serious hit with the way he tried to wrangle Packers general manager Ted Thompson to try to come back and play after he retired back in 2007. Favre would then be traded to the New York Jets and abruptly flame out before announcing a second retirement in 2008.
During his time in New York he would allegedly have improper sexual relations with New York Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger, and even though nothing has been proven, the way Favre has come across in the media is that of an old, aging player having a mid-life crisis with a younger woman while still being married.
And in his final NFL game in Minnesota he would suffer a concussion knocking him out and ending his streak of games started at 297.
Areas of hate: Green Bay, New York City
No college athlete was as decorated nor nearly as accomplished as former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who would become the first ever sophomore to win the prestigious Heisman Trophy while down in Gainesville.
While preparing for the NFL Draft, there was so much buzz and controversy over what team would actually invest in the two-time national champion who had an awkward delivery and some issues with his throwing mechanics. Denver decided to take a risk and trade back into the first round and acquire the southpaw gun-slinger.
Love/Hate Index (+9.6): Tebow's Denver Broncos jersey set an NFL Draft record for jersey sales. He has also had the best-selling jersey in the entire NFL each month since being drafted. The Broncos, as a whole, have led the NFL among all teams in jersey sales as well.
Areas of Hate: Brady Quinn, Kyle Orton, the entire SEC Conference outside of Gainesville.
No other athlete in all of sports may be more maligned and hated for his past than Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick for his running of an illegal dog-fighting ring back in 2007. Fast forward to 2011 and he may just be the NFL MVP and Comeback Player of the Year.
Make no mistake about this, Michael Vick did a heinous crime in bank-rolling dogfights under his watch. While many feel that he should be executed, such as Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, Vick is having maybe the greatest comeback season in NFL history.
Love/Hate - (+9.9) Obviously, Vick is not too popular among animal rights lovers and PETA for his role in the dog-fighting, as there were protests held outside of Eagles headquarters when Vick's signing was first announced.
And to this day Vick still maintains rabid popularity down in Atlanta.
Areas of Hate : PETA, animal-rights activists and dog lovers everywhere.
A truly prolific and explosive hockey scorer , the former HC Dynamo Moscow and current Washington Capitals left wing is maybe the most feared man in hockey today.
The Larry Bird to Sidney Crosby's Magic Johnson, Ovechkin's much-hyped rivalry with the Penguins superstar is a major attraction to the NHL, as witnessed by the 2010 Winter Classic in which Ovechkin's Capitals would edge Crosby's Penguins 3-1.
Love/Hate Index (+9.3): While Ovechkin is a great scorer, he also has the reputation for being a puck hog and choking in the playoffs, as witnessed in an epic seven-game series back in 2009.
Critics will tend to point out that Ovechkin, while a great scorer, is not well-rounded like Crosby and tends to not play defense well.
Areas of Hate: Pittsburgh, all of Canada, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby
More known for being Roger Federer's foil and his angry outbursts on the court, Andy Roddick is currently the envy of men all over the world for getting hitched to Sports Illustrated swimsuit model and actress Brooklyn Decker.
Love/Hate Index (+10.0): Have you seen his wife? This is the only reason why he makes this list on B/R. Period.
Areas of Hate: Sports Illustrated subscribers and Victoria Secret's catalog buyers.
The man behind the growth of the fastest and most popular sport in America, UFC President Dana White has taken mixed martial arts from being an underground form of "human cock-fighting" as once described by Republican Arizona senator John McCain to a multi-billion dollar industry.
Love/Hate index (+9.2): White is either loved or hated because of his hard-nosed business approach and for his clashes with the media, most notably his verbal attack on Loretta Hunt in 2009, a sportswriter for Sherdog, in response to an article she wrote.
In the video posted on his YouTube account, White used derogatory language in an obscenity-laced rant.
Areas of hate: John McCain, GLAAD, Loretta Hunt.
Perhaps the only true rival to Tom Brady in terms of best quarterback of the 2000s, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can lay claim to some lofty accomplishments as well.
The bright and deep-armed quarterback is the cornerstone franchise quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but got into a little bit of trouble this past offseason that almost caused a near schism deep within the diehard and fiercely loyal Steeler Nation.
Love/Hate (+9.8): Amazingly mobile for someone of his size at 6'5'' and 240 lbs, Roethlisberger and his "backyard football" style, while it wins games, tends to lead to bad results as in interceptions. At heart, Roethlisberger is a winner and a gambler. Period.
His off-the-field issues such as the 2006 motorcycle incident when he was riding around with a helmet, caused massive backlash in the Pittsburgh media and most recently in 2009 when sexual assault charges were filed against him by a Lake Tahoe employee during a celebrity golf tournament he was attending.
And most recently in Milledgeville, Georgia he was seen with underage girls and supposedly raped a 20-year-old girl in the bathroom stall of the Capital City nightclub. Although not charged with assault, Roethlisberger was hit with a six-game suspension.
While Steeler Nation fiercely loves its own, Roethlisberger's actions on and off the field tend to divide many on how they see him.
Areas of Hate: Georgia, Nevada, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland
World-famous for his good looks and former pop-star wife, Victoria, Los Angeles Galaxy forward David Beckham was supposed to be the man that would revolutionize soccer in the United States, as his arrival was met with much hype and anticipation.
Sadly, Beckham would not live up to the lucrative 10-year, $250 million contract that he signed with the Galaxy and is now rumored to be acquired by English Premier contender Tottenham Hotspur for a three-month loan.
Love/Hate Index (+5.6): Basically at this point an ambassador to the game and spokesperson, Beckham missed playing for England with a thigh injury and has missed time with the Galaxy.
He made the cover of Sports Illustrated. A few weeks earlier Adidas launched the extensive 13-part ad campaign "Fútbol meets Football" starring Beckham and NFL running back Reggie Bush. And W magazine published a racy photo spread featuring David and wife Victoria.
Although deeply respected, it's kinda hard to admire a walking billboard.
Areas of Hate: AC Milan, Sir Alex Ferguson, Tottenham Spur, Los Angeles Galaxy, Landon Donovan.
Universally maligned for his high profile relationships with Madonna, Kate Hudson and now Cameron Diaz, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez up until 2008 was also more known for his postseason failures and his massive $252 million contract than the number of titles he has won.
When with the Texas Rangers, Rodriguez signed a record $252 million contract, but failed to live up to those expectations. After being traded to the New York Yankees for Alfonso Soriano and unnamed players, he finally got his wish of coming home to play for his hometown Yankees.
Love/Hate Index - (+7.5) For all of his accomplishments, Rodriguez has garnered a lot of disdain for the two large contracts that he has signed totalling a combined $527 million and for all of that he has only ONE World Series title and numerous postseason flops to show for it. Testing positive for PEDs only elevates the hate for A-Rod.
Areas of Hate: Derek Jeter, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners
Once a perennial national powerhouse that last won a national title back in 1988, the Fighting Irish are truly a unique brand and entity entirely.
Notre Dame has not won a national title during the BCS era, but the Fighting Irish have won 11 national championships in their history.
Their influence is always felt. Notre Dame is a true "kingmaker" in its own right.
While commanding one of the most knowledgeable and rabid fan bases, Notre Dame is a part of the American football landscape and whether you are loathe to admit it, Notre Dame has shaped college football in so many ways.
Love/Hate Index - (+9.9) What raises the ire of many rivals is the special BCS "Notre Dame" rule that allows Notre Dame to be automatically selected as an at-large into the BCS Championship Series. Critics rail that this gives the university unique privileges in the postseason, due to its independent status.
In addition, Notre Dame also receives $4.5 million for playing in a BCS game and $1.3 million when it does not.
Love them or not, Notre Dame always wakes up the echoes on Saturdays.
Areas of Hate : Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Navy, Army, East Lansing, Pittsburgh and the rest of all NCAA football.
One of the faces who helped bring the UFC and mixed martial arts to the mainstream, Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell is one of the true modern spokesmen of the ever-growing sport.
Recently retired and inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2009, Liddell, along with Randy Couture, helped attract more viewers and fans to the global phenomenon. Liddell was most recently on ABC's Dancing With the Stars.
Love/Hate index (+8.3): Not much bad can really be said about Liddell considering what he has done for UFC and mixed martial arts in general, and he is looked upon favorably by MMA diehards around the world.
Areas of Hate: Randy Couture, Quinton Jackson, Tito Ortiz
Widely considered the best tennis player of all-time, Swiss tennis pro Roger Federer is currently the No. 2 player in the world behind fellow rival Rafael Nadal.
Love/Hate - (+9.4) Simply efficient and a winner, Federer surpassed American Pete Sampras and won his first ever French Open due to nemesis Rafael Nadal missing it due to injury. Federer has the respect of many in and outside of tennis.
Areas of Hate : Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal
Widely regard as one of the best racers of his time and a constant lightning rod for trouble and controversy, NASCAR Sprint racer Tony Stewart is widely regarded as both a villain and a champion.
Love/Hate Index - (+9.3) Loved and loathed by rival fans, Stewart is always in the middle of the Chase Cup hunt.
Areas of Hate, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jimmy Gordon
Sexy, fast and very popular, Danica Patrick is a very beautiful woman who has given hope to other women such as Ashley Force about women in racing. However her lack of wins on the track along with her lack of maturity in working as a team player at times makes her unpopular.
Love/Hate Index (+9.4): Aside from her magazine spreads in Maxim and Sports Illustrated, Patrick is more known for her looks than wins.
Areas of Hate: Jealous wives and girlfriends of NASCAR fans everywhere.
The only bright spot for the otherwise disappointing Cincinnati Bengals, the NFL's "Batman and Robin" dynamic duo of wide receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens.
The free agent addition of Terrell Owens in Cincinnati was originally supposed to lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl, but instead led them to an AFC North finish of 4-12. However you couldn't help but tune in just to watch the antics of these two spotlight loving play-making divas.
Body of Work - (+8.6) Between the two of them, "The T.Ocho Show" would combine for 139 catches for 1,814 yards and 13 touchdowns and not much else in an otherwise dismal year in the Queen City.
Love/Hate Index - (+9.6) Both highly controversial and drama queens in their own right, you have to admit that they were both fun to watch, especially their joint reality show "The T.Ocho Show".
At least they made life in Cincinnati amusing.
Areas of hate : Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore
Coming from an Ohio State family alumnus, this is a tough addition to this list, but when you are one of the richest, most successful college football programs in the NCAA and yet you have a history of choking in bowl games, this is an easy addition.
Love/Hate Index (+9.8): While all of this is good, the Ohio State University has become more of a SEC punching bag and media target for their failures in BCS title games, most notably losing to Florida in 2007 and LSU in 2008. Ohio State would also lose to Texas in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.
Ohio State is heavily criticized for playing a soft non-conference schedule and for the lack of top quality competition in the Big 10. While it is unfair to criticize a program for the lack of talent it faces in its own conference, what else can explain its 0-9 record against the SEC and its 1-3 mark in its last six BCS bowl games?
Ohio State president Gordon Gee would only help add to the Buckeyes hatred by criticizing BCS busters Boise State and TCU for not being worthy of playing in the BCS Championship Series and alluding that the Buckeyes don't play the "Sisters of The Poor".
Memo to Gee: TCU just beat Wisconsin 21-19, and five of your own football players got a free pass to play in the Sugar Bowl after exchanging sports memorabilia for tattoos.
Before you shoot your mouth off about something you don't know, at least let your college team back up your words on the field.
Areas of Hate: Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Happy Valley, the entire SEC, Los Angeles, Boise and Fort Worth
Only one word can be used to describe the SEC when it comes to college football. Dominant.
And it isn't even close.
Without question the elite conference in college football over the last 20 years and during the BCS era, the SEC is an NFL football factory in terms of speed, talent and players.
Love/Hate Index (+10.0): Outside of the SEC, especially in Big Ten country, it is reviled, feared and yet admired for its speed, players and talent. And while the Cam Newton allegations may give some fans of other conferences something to rag on the SEC about, SEC fans can counter that their conference has won the most BCS national championship games with five, including the first two-time winners in LSU and Florida. And also the last four straight.
There may be lots of hate for SEC football, but that comes with the territory when you are the best in college football.
Areas of Hate : Columbus, The entire Big Ten and all of college football.
The last player on the 25 Athletes that we "Hate to Love" is none other than New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. How can you not afford to hate to love a man who has dated high-profile women such as Mariah Carey, Jordana Brewster, Jessica Alba and is now engaged to Esquire's Sexist Woman Alive in Friday Night Lights actress, Minka Kelly?
Did I forget to mention his five World Series rings?
Love/Hate Index (+10): Considered a true professional, Jeter is respected by teammates and rivals alike, Jeter is known as a clutch performer. In the postseason, he boasts a career batting average of .309 with 18 home runs and 50 RBI.
Jeter has a Major League Baseball record 175 career postseason hits, at-bats (559), runs scored (99) and strikeouts (107).
Areas of Hate : Boston, Queens, Anaheim, Arlington, Miami, Chicago, Seattle
Widely respected for his business-like professionalism and feared for his clutch hitting, Derek Jeter is the B/R athlete we all hate to love.
As much as we may hate and loathe the athletes, coaches, schools and conferences mentioned, you cannot help but sneak a quick peak when any of them are playing, right?
Think about how many Cleveland Cavaliers fans have secretly tuned into Miami Heat games and cheered against LeBron or how many AFC East rival fans will secretly cheer for the demise of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
These individuals shape our lives one way or another in the sports world. Whether we hate to admit it or not, we all know that the SEC is the best conference in college football.
We all know that Notre Dame will continue to get lucrative deals and primetime games, but the question is: why do we care? Is it because we hate them out of sheer jealousy? Do we wish for their total and utter failure?
Or do we all wish on some deep level that we were them ourselves?
Either way, we all know that we will be secretly keeping tabs on them and that is something that will be foolish to deny.