30 Athletes We Despise for Really Dumb Reasons

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2011

30 Athletes We Despise for Really Dumb Reasons

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    We've all known somebody who we wanted to like but couldn't for some reason. They're probably a person whose company you generally enjoy, but they have one stinking flaw that supersedes all of their positive qualities, try as you might to ignore it.

    Maybe they smack their lips while they eat. Maybe they interject a personal experience into every conversation. Maybe they are a close-talker.

    Thus is the case with the 30 following athletes. Even though most of them are excellent players and seemingly good people, something about their game or personality annoys the masses to no end. Though they should be beloved, they are often decried or, at the very least, made into polarizing figures.

    (Note: Dog fighting, steroid use, repeatedly cheating on your wife and committing crimes are all fair and understandable reasons for disliking an athlete. Keep that in mind as you click through this list.)

30. Pau Gasol

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

    He flops. He whines. He has a really annoying scowl/pout, whichever it is. He looks like a llama.

     

    Why they should let it go

    So this slide came down to either Gasol or Manu Ginobili, who I know annoys people with his diving and pandering for calls.

    But Ginobili also plays the game like an artist, as though basketball is a dance, and he is really incredible to watch. Because of this, I think people (me) can suffer through the whining because his game is so fluid and creative.

    Gasol suffers from the same annoying habits as Ginobili, but here's the rub—his game isn't all that fun to watch. He scores and rebounds, yes, but it isn't graceful or inspiring. He just gets the job done.

    And so, easy as he is to despise (at least in my opinion), we shouldn't forget that Kobe would probably have two less rings if it weren't for the addition of Gasol. The guy can play, even if watching him do so is really annoying.

29. Chris Bosh

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

    He isn't an elite player. The whole "Miami Thrice" thing was more like "Miami Twice" and occasionally guest-starred Chris Bosh.

    He looks like a raptor—not the team, the actual extinct dinosaur.

     

    Why they should let it go

    Is Chris Bosh an elite, top-10 talent in the NBA?

    Nope.

    Is he one of the game's best power forwards, and did he carry the Heat for a few games in this year's playoffs?

    Yes, he absolutely did.

    Annoying as the "Decision" was (and perhaps annoying to many that I left Wade off of this list because I think he, more than any of them, escaped the public's fury), it's easy to forget that Bosh is still a very good player. We shouldn't hold it against him that he isn't as good as LeBron or D-Wade—there are only a handful of guys that are.

28. Tony Stewart

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

    He's brash. He gets in scuffles after races. He says things he probably shouldn't.

     

    Why they should let it go

    Listen, I don't know much about racing, but when I see a Tony Stewart highlight on Sportscenter, I pay attention.

    It's normally a lot of fun.

27. Matt Leinart

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

    He's a pretty boy from USC (instant grounds for sports hate) who didn't live up to expectations because he partied harder than he practiced.

     

    Why they should let it go

    Not to be a jerk, but he's fairly irrelevant in football conversations at this point. Why keep beating a dead horse?

26. Danica Patrick

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

    Her GoDaddy commercials are soooo annoying (they really are). She's not that good of a driver. People only care about her because she is hot. Or, "I don't know why everybody thinks she's so hot, I don't."

     

    Why they should let it go

    Dude, she's the first woman to ever win an IndyCar race—that's really cool. Yes, her commercials are annoying, and no, she's not the most talented driver out there.

    But who cares? She's forever a part of racing history, and there are probably a lot of little girls out there who are inspired by her.

    That's never a bad thing.

25. Chase Utley

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

    Apparently, Chase Utley is "mean."

     

    Why they should let it go

    He does everything right.

    He plays hard, he comes to the park early, he studies his butt off, he plays through injuries, he never makes an excuse, etc. He's old-school, and if that makes him "mean" now and again, well, grow up and deal with it.

24. Philip Rivers

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

    He's a jerk. He whines too much. He talks too much trash. He needs to chill out.

     

    Why they should let it go

    He's real! He plays with actual emotion! He really, really wants to win!

    I read an awesome column by Gregg Doyel on Rivers a few years back. In it, his central premise was that people disliked Rivers for one very ironic reason—he's just like us. He plays and responds to the game, and just like we would.

    And we just can't see it.

23. Georges St-Pierre

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

    He's a boring fighter. BOO!

     

    Why they should let it go

    Dude, he's one of the greatest fighters in UFC history—sorry you can't appreciate his technical prowess while you scream for blood.

22. Anna Kournikova

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     She has no talent. People only care about her because she is hot.

     

    Why they should let it go

    No, she didn't have the talent level of one of the Williams' sisters, it's true. But she was a very good doubles player, winning the 1999 Australian Open with Martina Hingis and reaching a No. 1 ranking in Women's Doubles that year.

    And yes, she's hot, and she's made money from a modeling career. So what? She was still better at tennis than most people will ever be at anything (and if you don't believe me, she was the eighth-ranked singles player in the world in 2000).

21. Eli Manning

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     He's the less-talented of the Manning brothers. He looks like he's a really tall kid in junior high. He's not a great leader. He apparently thinks he is way better than he actually is, because he's not that good.

     

    Why they should let it go

    He won a Super Bowl, he was extremely good in the playoff run up to the championship, and his part in one of the greatest plays in NFL history is often overlooked.

    Listen, Eli Manning isn't the flashiest or most talented quarterback in the NFL (I would put him just outside of the top 10), but he's a solid player and a model citizen. With all of the negative stories in sports today, shouldn't we at least respect the guys who go about their business the right way?

20. Jeff Gordon

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     I have no idea, because I don't watch NASCAR. But this answer seems to make sense (from a 2009 Bleacher Report article by Joe Mikolai):

    Gordon was, at the time, one of the few non-Southern drivers, and fans hated him for it.

    In a sport that has since gone nationwide with multi-million dollar television deals, native Californians like Gordon and his teammate Jimmie Johnson comprise a greater percentage of the NASCAR circuit than native-born Southerners.

    For many, this as a problem.

    Former Lowe's Motor Speedway President H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler famously once asked "Are we Merlot or are we moonshine?" when faced with NASCAR's identity problem.

    Oh, and he wasn't Dale Earnhardt.

     

    Why they should let it go

    Because most of the world prefers Merlot.

    I kid, I kid. But nonetheless, let it go.

19. Mark Sanchez

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

    He's an overrated pretty boy from USC. He ate a hot dog on the sideline—the horror! He did a GQ shoot before he played a snap—that's so lame. He hooked up with a 17-year-old, ew.

    Okay, so that last one is pretty "ew."

     

    Why they should let it go

    Sanchez isn't that bad of a quarterback, and his playoff resume—while admittedly due in part to a stout defense—boasts of four playoff wins in his first two seasons. Oh, and those wins came at the expense of Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

    Methinks that while the "pretty boy" for the Jets wears green on his jersey, it's all of the haters out there that are truly green—with envy.

18. Jimmie Johnson

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     From what I've gathered, Johnson represents the clean-cut "Chase" NASCAR that many fans despise. He doesn't have the personality fans want out of racers. He's been so dominant, it's hard not to despise the dude.

     

    Why they should let it go

    I don't get the whole NASCAR thing to begin with, but I have a feeling if Johnson develops a legitimate rival that actually wins championships over him, the hate will subside.

    Dominance is boring. Boredom breeds contempt. Opponents become glorified. Genuine rivalries temper distaste for the once-dominant superstar. New rival eventually becomes the dominant force. New rival becomes boring...

    ...And we drive around the same circle over and over and over again.

17. Kevin Garnett

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     He talks too much trash, plays too dirty, has the annoying habit of blocking shots opponents take after the whistle, and gives postgame press conferences that are occasionally unintelligible.

     

    Why they should let it go

    He plays the game the right way, that's why. He's unselfish, a great leader, and, lest you forget him in his heyday, a special talent.

16. Serena Williams

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

    People always say she's hot, but I don't think she's hot at all. She's always yelling at judges and acting like a hardass—she should just chill out.

     

    Why they should let it go

    What a double-standard. John McEnroe is often lauded for the intensity that caused him to have full-blown temper tantrums on the court. He was a "bad boy."

    But Serena is a, um, word-I-can't-type-here-but-is-often-used-to-insult-strong-women because she occasionally behaves in a similar fashion?

    That's pretty much the definition of a double-standard if you ask me.

15. David Beckham

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

    He is full of himself to sickening degrees. He's just another pretty boy with a lot of money and a publicity-hungry WAG (in this case, Posh Spice). He's sooooo overrated.

     

    Why they should let it go

    Listen, I'm no soccer expert, but I've always been under the impression that he was a one-trick pony.

    But it was a really amazing pony.

    As for the other stuff, well, jealousy doesn't look good on you.

14. Tom Brady

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     He's just another pretty-boy quarterback, and I hate all of his stupid hair styles. The NFL pampers him and protects him and keeps him from taking big hits. He's always moaning about something to the ref.

     

    Why they should let it go

    You know why the NFL protects quarterbacks more than they do other positions? (And even that is changing.)

    BECAUSE NOBODY WANTS A LEAGUE WITH A BUNCH OF BACKUP QUARTERBACKS LIKE JON KITNA AND KERRY COLLINS PLAYING, THAT'S WHY!

    The most important investment every team makes is in its starting quarterback. That's the way the world works. The Eagles have a bunch of Dream Team hype when Michael Vick is the quarterback; as soon as he got hurt, I heard an ESPN analyst actually say that the Eagles were pretty boring without him.

    While DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy might disagree with that sentiment, the point is this—the most important, ticket-selling position in football is the quarterback. End of story.

    Oh, and you may think he's a metrosexual pretty boy, but you aren't going home to Gisele either, now are you?

13. Hines Ward

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     He, um, hits people really hard, which must mean he is dirty since all of the Steelers are dirty. Also, what sort of sissy appears on Dancing with the Stars?

     

    Why they should let it go

    The tendency of the media to over-hype Ward's blocking abilities at the wide receiver position (which is such a revelation to analysts tired of me-first wideouts, I guess) is annoying at this point.

    But let's keep it real—Hines Ward is one of the best possession receivers from the past 15 years. (Insert Jerome Simpson joke here.) He has the eighth-most receptions in NFL history.

    Does he headhunt sometimes?

    Yeah, yeah he does.

    But the dude has always been a baller—let's not forget that.

12. Chris Pronger

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     He's always antagonizing opponents and subtly slashing and poking at them during the game. He's snippy with the media. He stole pucks at the end of games during the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago, which annoyed the Blackhawks.

    What a jerk!

     

    Why they should let it go

    It's hockey, people—this is how the game is played.

    The only reason Pronger gets hated on more than other players who incorporate the same tactics is because he is a superstar and thus, he generally receives more of the spotlight to begin with.

    Like Pronger or not, you have to respect him as a defencemen. If you can only focus on the mind games he plays, you're totally missing the point.

    Oh, and the puck thing was hilarious.

11. Joakim Noah

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

    He plays dirty. He needs to shut up already. His hair is stupid.

     

    Why they should let it go

    First of all, get over the hair thing.

    Secondly, Noah plays with an edge, he's hyper-competitive and isn't afraid to mix it up. He's the sort of guy that opponents hate and teammates love. Well, except for when he's an immature rookie and his own teammates vote to bench him for two days.

    Still, I love the edge the guy plays with, and every time you find yourself being infuriated by him, you're simply playing into his hands anyhow.

10. Tim Tebow

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     You know, something about Tebow annoys me and I'm not completely sure why. But my guess is that I don't really buy his saintly reputation. How could a guy like that not be sleeping around in college? I mean, c'mon. (Somebody had to say it...)

    Nor did I ever buy the notion that he could be a great quarterback in the NFL. It's not that I despise the guy, I just can't imagine that he'll live up to any of the hype, off the field or on.

     

    Why they should let it go

    And by they, I also mean me.

    We should all give him the benefit of the doubt. The thing is, he might be an awesome guy off of the field who lives the life of a saint—I don't have any evidence otherwise. And he might be a great NFL quarterback someday, though I doubt it. Besides, he was always going to be a project, not an instant savior.

    Tebow is a polarizing figure, and he hasn't exactly shied away from publicizing his beliefs, which are probably the reason he is polarizing in the first place. Heavy is the head that wears the Heisman, I guess.

9. Chad Ochocinco

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     He's a publicity whore. He tweets when he should be studying his playbook, the big jerk. Despite what he may think, he's not an elite receiver. Did I mention he's a publicity whore?

     

    Why they should let it go

    I would like to start this by saying the following: Shut the hell up, Tedy Bruschi.

    You blew the whole Ochocinco tweeting-about-being-in-awe-of-the-Patriots-offense thing way out of proportion. Sure, it got your face on television more than normal and gave ESPN something to talk about for a while, but nobody would have thought that tweet was a big deal if you hadn't gone ballistic on it.

    As for the other stuff that annoys people about Ochocinco?

    I always thought the guy was fun. He's a good teammate, plays hard, doesn't get into any trouble off the field, and really likes the spotlight. But everything he does is in good fun, and even though it can be annoying at times, should we really hate on a guy for enjoying the opportunities he's been granted?

    No, we shouldn't. But we will, won't we?

8. J.J. Redick

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     For one, he's a Dukie. Nobody outside of Duke likes a Dukie. But Redick also looked like the quintessential Dukie and played like the quintessential Dukie (great shooter, decent-at-best athleticism, intelligent, overrated by the media), which somehow made him the biggest jerk-face of them all.

     

    Why they should let it go

     Think for a moment—why did you (or do you) hate J.J. Redick?

    Did he do anything terrible off-the-court? (Correction: As several of you have noted, he did get a DUI after his senior year.) Was he a huge jerk while he played? Can you honestly say that he was anything less than one of the two best players in college basketball during his senior year?

    Take your time, I'm sure you'll think of some way to justify your hatred of Redick. But the fact is, he was just the poster child for everyone's favorite pastime—hating Duke (I include myself in that)—even if he didn't really deserve our ire.

7. Sidney Crosby

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     He is always diving and whining and begging for calls and acting like a sissy.

     

    Why they should let it go

    Because when he is healthy, he is a special talent, and most of us who call him "Cindy Crosby" and complain about all of his whining would be ecstatic if he played for our team.

6. Donovan McNabb

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     He's passive-aggressive in press conferences and doesn't take the blame for losses when he should, mostly because he is overly sensitive. He always chokes in the clutch. He misses too many open receivers with missile throws that hit the ground short of their target. He's kind of goofy.

    (This may apply more to Philly than it does nationally, though I think his stint with the Redskins, and now the Vikings, have raised some eyebrows.)

     

    Why they should let it go

    For one, McNabb is the greatest quarterback in Eagles franchise history, which the fans voted on. He led the Eagles to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. In his heyday, he was one of the best duel-threat quarterbacks in NFL history. He never had off-the-field incidents and was widely respected as a quarterback and a man.

    Philadelphia's love/hate relationship will never make sense to those who don't live in the city, and that's fine. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't appreciate McNabb for all of the good he did while he was in Philadelphia.

5. Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     He's selfish, arrogant, and a prima donna. He keeps ducking Manny Pacquiao. His knockout of Victor Ortiz was a cheap shot.

     

    Why they should let it go

    People didn't like Muhammad Ali in his prime either.

    Now before all of you demand that I jump off of a bridge for comparing those two, I'm not comparing them as boxers, only as brash personalities. And no, I don't think Mayweather has ever been a political figure, let alone one of the most important political figures of the 20th Century like Ali was.

    But when it comes to arrogance, self-love and the ability to instigate?

    Yeah, they're comparable.

    And no, Mayweather isn't ducking Pacquiao, he just wants Olympic-style drug testing. What's wrong with that?

    Oh, and while it was a lame finish, Ortiz should have been paying attention. There wasn't anything illegal about what Mayweather did.

    I'll end on this—he's 42-0. That's pretty good, in case you were wondering.

4. Tony Romo

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    Why people say they despise him/her

     He isn't clutch. He's overrated. He went on vacation with Jessica Simpson during the bye week of the 2008 NFL Playoffs. He plays for the Cowboys. He's more concerned with celebrity and fame than he is with football.

     

    Why they should let it go

    First of all, Tony Romo is a very good quarterback, and one of the best in the league when he is "on." Sure, he can be maddingly inconsistent, and yes, he sometimes folds in the clutch.

    But he also led the Cowboys to a fourth quarter comeback against the 49ers with a fractured rib and punctured lung. How's that for clutch?

    And to top it off, he has been in a locker room with some huge egos and wacky personalities, namely at the wide receiver position. Accept that he's a top-10 quarterback in the NFL, forgive him for not being top-five, and for heaven's sake, move on.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her

     He actually answered this in his own words.

    "I think that because I am rich, handsome and a great player people are envious of me," Ronaldo said. "I don't have any other explanation. We are very happy with the three points we took, but I'm not so satisfied with the refereeing.

    I should add that he is widely considered to be a serial flopper and pouter.

     

    Why they should let it go

    Listen, before you all go crazy with how lame flopping in soccer is (and it is), let's remember for a moment that it is a form of gamesmanship.

    The same sort of gamesmanship that causes hockey players to take dives in order to draw penalties. Same with football punters and kickers. It's the same sort of gamesmanship that causes defensive players in football to fake injuries to slow down no-huddle offenses. Or basketball players to flop after drawing a charge.

    So unless you rail against all of the pansies who commit the following acts, slow your roll the next time you want to insult the game of soccer solely because some soccer players flop.

    Oh, and Ronaldo is right—you do hate him because he is talented, attractive and rich. But it's annoying that he had to point it out.

2. Jay Cutler

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her 

     He's aloof, distant, unfriendly, surly, dismissive, smug, and anything else that suggests he wouldn't want to be my best friend.

    Did you know he spent an entire lunch with John Elway watching the television instead of picking the Hall of Famer's brain? And that he once didn't look up from the phone he was texting on while John Lynch was trying to talk to him, causing Lynch to rip the phone out of his hands?

    Plus, he didn't play hurt, so he obviously has no heart.

     

    Why they should let it go

    I'm sorry that Cutler hasn't created a public persona that makes him seem like a nice guy, and that bothers you. I'm sorry that he generally avoids the spotlight and isn't interested in having his personal life aired out in the public eye. I'm sorry that because of this, you probably have no idea about all of the really awesome charities he supports.

    And I'm sorry that while you and a bunch of blowhard athletes were criticizing him on Twitter for leaving the NFC Championship Game against the Packers last year, none of his teammates or coaches questioned his toughness.

    Cutler is a talented quarterback, a hard-worker, a good teammate and a giving person. And no, he doesn't want to be your best friend—but I promise, you'll be okay.

1. LeBron James

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    Why people say they "despise" him/her 

    I think we all know why, but in a nutshell: He's a narcissistic home-wrecker (well, to Cleveland at least) who went to Miami to pair up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh because he didn't have the killer instinct to be the alpha dog and primary superstar on his own team.

     

    Why they should let it go

    I don't really disagree with any of the above, though the main thing I think we should focus on is the spectacle that was "The Decision."

    That was weak sauce, LeBron.

    But did LeBron deserve the full measure of hate he received? Let's look at this without context for a moment: A 25-year-old took less money than he could have gotten elsewhere to play on the same team as two of his close friends in Miami.

    That doesn't sound so bad, does it?

    But people love designating one team as "The Villain" almost as much as they love making their team "The Hero." And when you take the biggest moment in the history of NBA free agency, create an hour-long program to broadcast one player's decision, that player in turn leaves his hometown in the dust, and he helps to form the NBA's version of The Avengers?

    That's easy to hate. That's fun to hate. I will openly admit that I love hating the Heat.

    But LeBron bore the brunt of it all. And truthfully, that wasn't really fair.

     

    Be sure to hit me up on Twitter (@TRappaRT) along with the entire B/R Swagger team (@BR_Swagger)