It is often mistaken that hate is the opposite of love. In reality, apathy and indifference are the true opposites of love. Hate implies investing enough mental and emotional energy with an expressed aversion toward another.
During his playing career, Charles Barkley once said:
"I can hate anyone for 48 minutes. And overtime if necessary."
There was a time in the league when hate thrived. Players took a personal, vested interest in setting the tone for a game. The sight of an opposing jersey was seen as a personal affront. Personal pride was delivered in sending a message. Fraternizing with opposing players was frowned upon. Players were fined for not supporting another teammate on the court. Competition was fierce. Mutual dislike was the rule. Rivalries were abundant. Hate was there to escalate the intensity.
For purposes of competitive sports, hate is a virtue.
A good illustration of this could be found in the brief video. Fast forward past the commercial.
Background information on the video has Celtics forward Larry Bird having a sparkling performance against Philadelphia. Sixers forward, Julius Erving, is his matchup in the game. It becomes incumbent upon Erving, as the primary defender, to distract, disrupt and disable the red-hot Bird. Erving locks arms with Bird, throwing him to the floor. The move is so slick that Bird is the one who gets called for the foul.
At the other end of the court, Bird takes issue with Erving's tactic. A melee ensues with Sixer's Moses Malone and rookie Charles Barkley holding the Hick-from-French-Lick while the Good Doctor lands a few hay-makers on his face.
The significance of this isn't that two of the top stars of the day were going at it. Or that the respective leaders of their teams were going at it. The significance is that this game was played in early November. NOVEMBER!!
These players didn't wait for the playoffs to hate each other. They hated each other from the start of the season.
Regular season games mattered. Teams jockeyed for position in the standings on a game by game status. Marquee matchups were happening on a nightly basis, not a weekly basis.
Jocularity was saved for cheesy commercials. Personal friendships were off during the season. Sportsmanship and handshakes were saved for the end of the game. And in several instances, that didn't happen all the time, either.
This is exactly what the NBA is missing today—players that care enough to hate.
There are many causes that could be attributed to diminishing hate in the NBA. Stricter rules. McDonalds All-American. AAU. The global nature of the game.
Is there hope for hate in today's NBA?
It can be seen in Kobe Bryant's scowl. The antics of Kevin Garnett. The irritant that is Manu Ginobli. The yammering of Danny Granger. The young brash Brandon Jennings. Just to name a few.
A good example of hate still present would be the little altercation that occurred in December. This involved Blazers guard Andre Miller and Clippers forward Blake Griffin. After being pushed twice at both ends of the court, Miller decides to send a message, old school style, and intentionally delivers a shove at full speed to the talented Mr. Griffin.
This proves costly for Miller, who is fined over $80,000. Additionally, he was suspended for a game, ending his streak of consecutive games at 632.
What was most interesting about this was what Miller said.
"It just shows you how soft the league has gotten, protecting young players. Its not like it was when I came in this league."
Yes, Andre Miller says what everyone already knows. The league is getting soft.
There is too much fun and games going on between teams. Too many hugs and kisses. Aside from an obligatory handshake, fans don't want to see all the jocularity taking place in games. Fans want to see a hard-fought game. Or at least, to see players fake it like professional wrestling does.
It's what the NBA is missing. Bring hate back.
If only for entertainment purposes.