Let me start off by saying this: There is not one athlete that is universally hated.
No matter how despised a player is, there is always some small section of fans that loves him for whatever reason. So no matter who I put on this list, somebody will say, "No way! I love that guy!"
Try to step back and think to yourself, outside of his or her hometown or the city in which he or she played, is this person hated? For the athletes on this list, the answer is yes.
This is an attempt to rank them in order based on how they are viewed by the public or the other members of their sport. It's a difficult task, and there will be plenty of disagreements, but isn't that what sports is all about?
Here are the 101 most despised athletes in sports history. Let the battle begin.
Terrell Owens drew the ire of football fans across the country while playing for the San Francisco 49ers, when his brash celebrations led to a bench-clearing brawl.
Since then he has divided his time between calling out teammates and demanding more money, making him one of the most despised athletes in the country.
Reggie Jackson is one of the most prolific power hitters in the history of baseball, but for some reason he rubs people the wrong way.
After establishing himself as one of the best players in college baseball history at Florida State, J.D. Drew's career got off on the wrong foot when he was drafted by the Phillies but refused to sign.
He then re-entered the draft and was selected by the Cardinals, making him public enemy No. 1 in Philadelphia for a while.
"J.D. Boo" has put up solid numbers in his 14-year major league career, but he will likely be remembered for never playing a full season and his, let's just say, unenthusiastic approach to the game.
He's underachieved pretty much everywhere he's gone, and whether that's his fault or not, he is certainly one of the most despised athletes in sports.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen put it best: "If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less."
He's talking, of course, about catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who has never denied that he is less than cordial on the baseball field.
Pierzynski has been accused of kneeing his trainer in the crotch and purposely attempting to step on the heels of first baseman Justin Morneau, and he is also known for colliding with Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, slapping the plate in celebration and then getting into a fight during an interleague game.
They didn't call them the "Bad Boys" for nothing. Rick Mahorn combined with Bill Laimbeer to administer some of the most punishing blows in NBA history.
Mahorn is in more than his fair share of the fights in the video, and he was known to be an instigator.
After establishing himself as an elite guard with the Timberwolves, Marbury earned a massive contract with the Knicks.
Like many of Isiah Thomas' contracts, this one didn't pan out, and Marbury has been a public enemy in New York ever since.
There are a lot of words that would accurately describe Randy Johnson: intimidating, accomplished, competitive. Notice that you won't find the words "nice" or "beloved" anywhere near that list.
Latrell Sprewell had a solid NBA career, but unfortunately he'll be remembered for two things:
2) Rejecting a three-year, $21 million contract from the Timberwolves, saying, "I have a family to feed ... If (team owner Glen) Taylor wants to see my family fed, he better cough up some money. Otherwise, you're going to see these kids in one of those Sally Struthers commercials soon."
Neither of those things makes him very easy to like.
There are lots of dirty football players out there, but Bill Romanowski, by all accounts, is one of the dirtiest.
He's had several altercations on the field, including:
- Kicking fullback Larry Centers in the head in 1995
- Breaking Kerry Collins' jaw on a helmet to helmet hit in 1997...in a preseason game
- Spitting in the face of J.J. Stokes
- Throwing a football into the crotch of Bryan Cox and a punch to the face of Tony Gonzalez
- Confronting a member of his own team, Marcus Williams, during a scrimmage, ripping his helmet off, punching him in the face and breaking his eye socket
I'd say he's alienated pretty much every fanbase with his actions.
"Captain Jack" is well respected in the league, but by the fans? Not so much.
Jackson is perhaps most despised for his role in 2004's "Malice at the Palace" incident, but he was also accused of firing a gun into the air outside of a strip club in 2006.
These actions plus his constant whining have definitely turned him off to the fans.
An enforcer on the ice, Marty McSorley was known to occasionally take things too far. This made him less than popular in visiting arenas and with opposing players.
It didn't help matters when he was charged with assault in 2000 for slashing Donald Brashear in the back of the head.
Philip Rivers has developed into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but you won't find him being worshiped like Peyton Manning or Drew Brees.
I guess that's what happens when you heckle Jay Cutler, scream at Chargers fans and yell at Colts fans.
Despite being the NBA's all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar isn't exactly adored by most fans.
He's known for being arrogant and standoffish with the media. Maybe that's why he doesn't have a statue outside Staples Center.
This soccer player has been involved in several off-the-field incidents, included spitting on both players and fans repeatedly.
If there's one word to describe Albert Belle, it would be this: angry.
Sports Illustrated did an article about how angry he was, but there was no need to read it. All you had to do was watch Belle on the field, in the clubhouse or during interviews to see his anger in action.
Among his notable blowups are:
- Hitting a heckler in the chest with a baseball
- Chasing trick-or-treaters away from his house in an SUV
- A profanity-laced tirade directed at reporter Hannah Storm
- Giving second baseman Fernando Vina a forearm shiver on his way to second base, knocking the smaller Vina to the ground.
On top of all the anger, he was suspended for 10 games in 1994 for using a corked bat.
Nobody has more of a love-hate relationship with the fans than Brett Favre. Unfortunately, after a signature interception in the 2010 NFC Championship Game and a horrific 2010 season, Favre resides more on the side of "hate."
Publicly degrading Detroit, one of America's proudest hockey cities, would have done it for most hockey fans.
When Chelios decided to sign with the Red Wings and expected to be adored, every other fan jumped aboard the hate train.
I think the website firejoemorgan.com speaks to the public's feelings about this retired Hall of Famer's announcing abilities.
We all hate the guy because he's married to Brooklyn Decker, the object of many a man's affection, but we also hate him because he's constantly disappointing us as the "best" American tennis player in the world.
People had already been giving Reggie Bush a hard time for being a pretty big disappointment in the NFL, but USC fans always defended him.
That changed when it turned out that USC had to forfeit its national championship because Bush accepted illegal benefits.
Now nobody likes him. And Kim Kardashian's getting married to someone else. Ouch.
Romo was supposed to help the Cowboys reclaim their spot among football's elite. Instead he went to Mexico the week before the playoffs and fumbled the snap on a game-winning field goal in a playoff game.
Materazzi is an Italian soccer player known for goading players into beating him up. He did this particularly well with Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup.
Zidane was beloved in the eyes of the French until that fateful incident with Materazzi in the World Cup of 2006. Now some just can't forgive him for possibly costing them the championship.
He was loved in San Antonio but hated everywhere else for his "defense," which some players described as "dirty."
Now people despise the way he dresses on camera.
Americans love him because he represents us, but McEnroe disgusted many tennis fans who were used to the charm and gentlemanly grace of the sport with his countless outbursts on the court.
Talking smack is part of the job of an MMA fighter, but Sylvia's mouth has caused him to be disliked by many fans.
"Cashley" would be a cool nickname, if it wasn't given because Cole is so obsessed with his money that he almost crashed his car when he heard he was only offered a £55,000 per week contract.
Despite being one of the most talented players in the NHL, Crosby has drawn some hate for being soft (by hockey standards) and whining, which has earned him the nickname "Cindy" Crosby.
They love him in Boston...now. Before he was teamed up with two Hall of Famers, Boston fans were growing tired of Pierce's selfish attitude.
Since "Wheelchair-Gate" he has certainly become despised in other NBA cities, particularly Los Angeles.
Michigan fans hate him for calling timeout. Warriors and Wizards fans hate him for underachieving. Kings fans hate him for failing to lead one of the most talented teams in NBA history to the Finals.
Overall, there are not many fans of Chris Webber out there.
OK, Alex, I'll take "Things Fans Never Want to Hear Their Star Receiver Say" for $2,000.
The answer: "When I want to play, I'll play."
Who is Randy Moss?
Yes! You are performing brilliantly!
Bell was a defensive stopper who was also known for his dirty play. He got on the bad side of Lakers fans when he clotheslined Kobe Bryant in the 2006 playoffs.
Yes, trash talk is extremely common in sports, and that's not Avery's problem.
It's that he allegedly does things like joke about Jason Blake's cancer. There's nothing funny about that.
The pro tennis star has been ridiculed for choosing to play in the easier tournaments, avoiding real competition.
Not exactly what we like to see in sports.
He doesn't like to be called Pacman anymore, but fans will never forget his shooting incident at a strip club that landed him a massive suspension from the NFL.
Cutler's motto could be, "When the going gets tough, I quit." Broncos and Bears fans can commiserate over their hatred for Cutler.
Nobody really cares about him now that he's a mediocre NBA backup, but while he was at Duke, J.J. Redick was hated by every college basketball fan outside of the Duke campus.
They even came up with some creative signs to display their disgust.
His cameo in The Hangover may have made some people let up for him, but a rape conviction and a threat to eat human babies will probably keep Tyson on the blacklist for the rest of his life.
When one of the greatest dunkers in basketball history demands a trade and tells his home team, "I don't want to dunk anymore," chances are it's not going to go over very well.
He hasn't exactly won over the fans of Toronto, New Jersey, Orlando and Phoenix over his career.
Neville is quite the enigma. Through my research, there was no really evidence of him warranting hate.
However, every single soccer forum and blogger had his name near the top of the list for least liked.
Which can't be good.
This man has been public enemy No. 1 for many soccer lovers due to his shady play.
When you type Lleyton Hewitt into Google, it tries to finish your query as "Lleyton Hewitt racist." That's probably not the sign of a fan favorite.
The fans in Philly cheered for McNabb until they realized he was never going to lead them to a Super Bowl title.
The fans in Washington thought he would be the answer to a drowning franchise, but he failed to perform.
At least we know he still has one fan.
He may be adored in San Antonio and Argentina, but his flopping and complaining have put him at the top of the list of most hated in the rest of the world.
Irvin was a central figure on one of America's most hated teams of all time thanks to his showboating and loud mouth.
That little cocaine possession charge didn't help his image either.
Isiah Thomas was on a team known as the "Bad Boys" during his playing days but wasn't really hated until he made several terrible decisions as a head coach and general manager.
Schilling was known as an attention hog during his playing days and was accused of making controversial statements just to get on television.
Well, now that he's retired, he can be on television as much as he wants.
Depending on when you're reading this, either Ron Artest or Metta World Peace is a basketball player most known for dying his hair, drinking at halftime and beating up fans.
That's the holy trifecta of sports hatred.
In the grand tradition of Duke players, despite being incredibly productive Laettner was targeted by other campuses for being a whiner and a prima donna.
Being a champion can normally get anyone some love. Unfortunately, Schumacher did it by any means necessary.
That includes planning crashes, marrying his ex-best friend's wife and driving teammates off the track.
He's alienated the fans in pretty much every city that he's played for, which is saying a lot. He also tore his ACL being restrained from trying to kill an umpire.
On top of that, his board games have been frustrating young family members for countless years.
The people of Detroit and his hometown of Philadelphia may love him, but the people of Boston and pretty much every referee in the NBA hate him.
During a 12-year run, Marchment received 13 suspensions, mostly for his patented knee-to-knee low blows.
That's got to be one of the more impressive records in hockey.
Terry is known for having an affair with friend and teammate Wayne Bridge's girlfriend, which caused Bridge to quit an English national team that desperately needed him right before the World Cup.
I don't think that went over too well in England.
Nowadays, Chuck can say or do nearly anything and he will be loved.
But in his playing days, he didn't exactly find open arms after mouthing off countless times to the media.
Lemieux looks evil, and this is one case where judging a book by its cover isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Giving Kris Draper a severe concussion and a broken jaw, nose and cheekbone seems like the worst thing someone could do, but the former Shark doesn't like to be outdone.
So he tried to bite off an opponent's finger during a fight.
We should have known not to trust his word after he did commercials saying, "I take Viagra" and then denied ever taking the drug.
It was even worse when he looked straight into the eyes of a federal judge and emphatically said he never took steroids but then was suspended shortly thereafter for violating the MLB drug policy.
How do you celebrate catching the game-winning touchdown in one of the greatest Super Bowl upsets in NFL history?
Shoot yourself in the leg and get thrown in jail? Wait, that can't be right.
Some applaud Chad Ochocinco's ability to brand himself and make a profit. Most of us just find it annoying and can't wait until he goes away.
"Pretty Boy" Floyd's braggadocio, while annoying, was always good-natured and tolerable. That is, until he let loose a racist and homophobic rant about Manny Pacquiao.
Not to be confused with the late, great "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Robbie Savage collected the most yellow cards in the Premier League's history.
Bertuzzi went from friend to enemy of so many in just one night.
He's apologized for fracturing three vertebrae in Steve Moore's neck and giving Moore a grade three concussion, vertebral ligament damage and facial cuts, but fans may never forgive Bertuzzi.
Once one of the NBA's great scorers, not only was Gilbert Arenas suspended for bringing a gun to the arena, but his huge contract and injury problems also ruined the Wizards for a few years before they dumped him on the Orlando Magic.
Many violent convictions and alcoholism are just a few things that make Barton so hateable.
Putting out a cigar in a man's eye, however, is the icing on the hate cake.
Loyal Chicago Cubs fans can't even forgive Sammy Sosa for deceiving them with corked bats and steroids.
If a search on Google for "most hated NASCAR driver" brings up your biography, there's a problem.
It's one thing to take out the catcher when he's blocking the plate, but it's another when you go in looking to hurt someone.
That's the perception of Nyjer Morgan, who also has been known to throw temper tantrums in center field.
Esa Tikkanen was known as an agitator during his time in the NHL and was known to rub a few players and fans the wrong way.
If there's one thing that fans hate more than an athlete that uses performance-enhancing drugs, it's an athlete that tells on other athletes that use performance-enhancing drugs.
Marion Jones went from an exalted American athlete to an international disgrace when the IOC stripped her of all medals earned after 2000, which she admitted was the year she started using steroids.
She was also sentenced to six months in jail for lying to federal prosecutors.
Big Mac has gotten off easy compared to players like Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco, but his involvement with steroids tarnished his 1998 season where he captivated the world and broke Roger Maris' record by hitting 70 home runs.
Despite still being loved in St. Louis, McGwire is one of the poster boys of the steroid era.
When you get paid as much as Cristiano Ronaldo does, people will always find a reason to hate you.
Known as "Nails," Dykstra was always one of those players that you love to have on your team but hate when he's playing against you.
The first part of that disappeared after he turned into a kooky criminal a few years into his retirement.
Pedro may have helped the Red Sox reverse the curse in 2004, but he's not exactly the most popular guy around. He's also hated by Yankee fans for throwing Don Zimmer to the ground.
Although his glasses would probably be considered cool today, fans outside of Los Angeles had nothing but hate for Kurt Rambis and his spectacles during the '80s.
The host of a sports talk radio show in California argued (pretty successfully) that JaMarcus Russell has turned out to be the worst draft pick of all time in any sport.
That may have been confirmed when his life coach quit on him.
The best part is, he's still owed millions of dollars.
"Manny being Manny" was acceptable while he was good and the Red Sox were winning, but even the Boston contingent soon grew tired of his antics.
He was unloaded to Los Angeles, where the Dodgers rode Ramirez to a playoff appearance in 2008 and the fans loved him so much that they renamed a section of the left field stands "Mannywood."
That all came to a screeching halt when Manny was suspended 50 games for violating the MLB substance abuse policy. He returned to lukewarm results and was shipped off to the White Sox in 2010.
Ramirez was looking to revive his career with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 but abruptly retired after just five games, supposedly after finding out that he was going to be suspended for a second time for violating the drug policy.
People don't really care about him that much, but those who know about Luke Scott probably don't like him. He's not a great player, but he sure is a great talker.
Lewis led his Ravens to a Super Bowl XXXV championship in 2001 and picked up the Super Bowl MVP trophy, but that doesn't stop him from being despised.
Lewis was sentenced to 12 months' probation in 2000 for giving misleading statements to police regarding the stabbing deaths of two men.
After that it was hard for him to bounce back in the public eye...no matter how entertaining his dancing may be.
Reggie pissed off more than just Spike Lee in his days as an Indiana Pacer.
In 1977 Conrad Dobler made the cover of Sports Illustrated for being "Pro Football's Dirtiest Player." He never tried to deny it either, saying:
"I see defensive linemen jump to knock a pass down. When that happened near me, I'd smack 'em in the solar plexus, and that got their hands down real quick."
Role players are important for any championship team, and it's important for those players to know what their strength is on the court.
Bill Laimbeer knew what he was out there to do for the Detroit Pistons, and he never failed to do it.
Laimbeer spent 14 seasons in the NBA beating up opposing players and collecting flagrant fouls...not to mention the fouls that were condoned back then that would be flagrant today.
One of the most prolific rebounders in the history of the game, Laimbeer will be remembered more for causing fights than his two rings and four All-Star selections.
The people of Boston particularly hate him, probably because he was one of the few guys that could get under Larry Bird's skin.
Albert Haynesworth has been one of the best linemen in the NFL for years, but he's also been one of the most despised.
It started when he was kicked out of a game and suspended for stomping on the face of offensive lineman Andre Gurode.
Since then he has continued to show up to camp out of shape and was recently accused of fondling a waitress at a cocktail lounge.
Not exactly the face of the franchise in Washington.
Nancy Kerrigan stood the best chance of winning gold at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Tonya Harding made sure that didn't happen when she and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly organized an attack on Kerrigan before the competition started.
Fans don't like it when top picks spend all their time partying and hanging out with girls at night clubs—especially when they perform like Matt Leinart.
Pop quiz: What's a sure-fire way to make people hate you?
For the answer, I refer you to Tiki Barber, ladies and gentlemen.
There's a great book called The Punch by John Feinstein that helps show just how much Kermit Washington's one punch changed not only his life, but also the course of the NBA.
It's one regrettable action, but it's the only thing people think of when they hear his name.
Jose Canseco was one of the greatest sluggers in the history of the game before injuries derailed his career, so why is he so widely despised?
Most people will point to his book Juiced, where he called out several former teammates and opponents, along with himself, for using performance-enhancing drugs.
While most of his claims turned out to be true, the general sense is that Canseco broke one of baseball's countless "unwritten rules": What happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse. What makes it even worse is that he seemingly did it for personal gain, not in an effort to clean up the sport.
Canseco had his house foreclosed upon, has been arrested numerous times and has put on several publicity stunts in an effort to make money, including an MMA fight with 7'2", 330-pound Korean Hong Man Choi...which Canseco lost in 76 seconds.
Big Ben could have been on the "most beloved" list before his incident and subsequent suspension before the 2010 season.
Of course, being accused of sexual assault by a 20-year-old doesn't exactly do wonders for your public image. Even though the charges were dropped, commissioner Roger Goodell thought there was enough evidence to merit a steep six-game suspension (it was eventually shortened to four games).
When Alex Rodriguez came up with the Seattle Mariners, he was considered a great young kid with unlimited potential.
After signing a then-record $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers and leading them nowhere, A-Rod was traded to the Yankees, where he was expected to team up with Derek Jeter to create a dynasty unparalleled in the history of sports.
Um, not exactly.
Yankee fans were immediately disappointed with A-Rod, who failed to get big hits both during the regular season and the playoffs. A series of off-the-field controversies turned him off even more to Yankee fans on top of the fans that already disliked him.
The proverbial icing was put on the cake in 2009 when A-Rod admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs while playing for Texas.
Sure, he helped redeem himself on the field in winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award in the NFL in 2010, but there are still millions of people out there that despise Michael Vick.
There are plenty of people out there who will never forgive him for his role in a dog fighting ring that landed him 21 months in prison.
I don't really need to explain why people hate John Rocker. I'll just allow you to read his comments from the infamous Sports Illustrated interview published in 2000.
When asked if he would ever play for a New York team, Rocker replied:
I'd retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark looking like you're riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing. ...
The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?
Commissioner Bud Selig suspended Rocker, saying that the remarks "offended practically every element of society."
In case that wasn't enough fodder to hate him, in 2008 Rocker admitted to using steroids. All-around great guy.
Whether you believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame or not, chances are you don't like the guy.
Pete Rose violated one of the most sacred rules in sports: You don't gamble on your own games. While Rose says that he never bet on his team to lose a game, he admits to betting on his team "every night" while he managed the Cincinnati Reds.
Rose is the all-time major league hits leader, by far, and was known for always playing the game hard (so hard that he had an infamous collision in which he permanently injured catcher Ray Fosse's shoulder...in an All-Star game).
Roger Clemens was one of the most beloved sports heroes in Boston history before the unthinkable happened, as he was acquired by the New York Yankees in 1999 after a brief stint with Toronto.
He's drawn hatred from more than just Red Sox fans in recent history, however, because of his consistent denial of taking performance-enhancing drugs despite a multitude of evidence to the contrary.
One thing's for sure: Mike Piazza doesn't like him.
Kobe is one of the most polarizing figures in sports. Some fans love him; some fans hate him.
It just so happens that the majority of the people that love him live in Los Angeles, while the majority of people who hate him reside in the rest of the world.
Even the people that love Kobe on the court have to admit that there's enough evidence—from the Colorado thing to his conflict with Shaquille O'Neal—to see why he is hated by most.
I know I'm going to get a ton of comments saying that Kobe is loved, but let's face it—a lot of people can't stand the guy.
When you get booed after winning the All-Star MVP in your own hometown, you know you're despised.
You know what's funny? A year ago LeBron would have made the "most beloved" list.
That all changed on that fateful evening of July 8, 2010, when LeBron announced that he was "taking his talents to South Beach."
Instantly LeBron went from being the savior of Cleveland sports to the premier antagonist of the NBA. A series of nasty comments about his former team didn't exactly do wonders for his image either.
After a subpar Finals performance, it certainly appears that everyone, Heat fans included, dislikes LeBron James.
Even before the whole steroid thing, Barry Bonds was hated. He was known for being curt and flippant with the media and was not exactly known as a "team player."
He was loved by many of the fans in San Francisco when he started hitting home runs at a historic rate in the early 2000s, but now even the most loyal Giants fans see him as a fraud who could never live up to historic names like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey or even Will Clark.
Yeah...there are at least 121 reasons why people hate Tiger.
Do I really need to explain this one?
Ty Cobb is one of the greatest hitters the game of baseball has ever seen. He is also one of the worst human beings the world has ever seen.
A notorious racist, Cobb had several altercations with black men in which he ended up violently attacking them. One of the most famous incidents was brought about when a groundskeeper named "Bungy" Davis slapped Cobb on the back as if to say "good job" and was consequently attacked by Cobb because he felt a black person shouldn't be so familiar with him.
Cobb was not much kinder to the white players on the field, as he was known for going in spikes up and attempting to injure players in his brand of "hard baseball." As a ballplayer he was respected and even adored by some fans, but even his biggest supporters would agree that he was a mean son of a gun.
Some evidence apparently exists to say that Cobb either was never as racist as people thought or that he began to reform his ways towards the end of his life.
Even if that is true, if you mention the name "Ty Cobb" to most sports fans, you will receive a reaction of pure disgust.