In today’s world of professional sports, demonizing athletes is common.
Fans, pundits and anybody else with an ability to communicate in some way, shape, or form are among those who partake in the demonization. Whether or not it’s warranted is a subjective question, to say the least.
Some NBA teams have multiple players who practically walk around with signs on their backs that scream, “vilify me!” Whether it’s because they failed at living up to expectations or have notoriously thick skulls, most of those in this group have done their part to find themselves on this list.
Some teams have just one player who fits that bill, while the remaining squads left don’t really have anybody that jumps out as a demonized player—so it’s not always an easy selection to make.
The following is a listing (sorted alphabetically by city) of every NBA team’s most demonized player.
Joe Johnson is in the category of superstar-caliber player who’s not good enough to win an NBA championship as a team’s best option.
Still, the Atlanta Hawks rewarded him with a six-year, $119 million contract in the 2010 offseason.
Sure, the Hawks couldn’t afford to let him go somewhere else if they wanted a shot at moving up the Eastern Conference totem pole, but man, that’s a lot of money for a player who’s arguably not even among the league’s 20 best.
Johnson ended last season averaging 18.2 points, 4.7 assists and four rebounds. While those are solid numbers, it’s not as good a stat-line you’d want from someone making about $20 million a year.
Honorable Mention: Josh Smith
Kevin Garnett is one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game.
Garnett’s also regarded as one of the NBA’s greatest trash-talkers and most notoriously dirty players. Never lacking in the intensity department, he’s almost always ready to spar with any and every opponent.
The Farragut Academy alum tried to play it off, stating that he only said Villanueva was cancerous to his team and the league. However, nobody really believed him, especially after considering his long history of garbage-speak (cool kids slang for trash-talk).
Among other things, KG said he was loading up his pump and had missile launchers ready. Some were offended by the comments, calling them insensitive because of the wars in Iraq in Afghanistan.
One other reason KG’s demonized is because of his insistence on preventing any shot an opponent puts up when play is whistled dead from getting close to the basket. Celtics fans love it and say it’s a wise move that prevents shooters from getting in a free practice shot, while fans of the team Garnett’s doing it to usually feel like he does it because he’s a synonym for the word donkey.
Honorable Mention: Paul Pierce
Throughout his five-year career, Tyrus Thomas has been one of those players who looked like he'd eventually turn into a star in the league.
The forward left LSU after a monster freshman year in which he and fellow Tiger alum Glen Davis led the team to the Final Four. His athleticism was raved about by scouts, and the Chicago Bulls thought so highly of him that they traded up in the 2006 NBA draft to acquire his talents from the Portland Trailblazers.
So far, Thomas has maintained his athleticism, however, the same can't be said about his composure. He spent three and a half seasons in Chicago, but didn't always see eye to eye with the coaching staff, especially when Vinny Del Negro was running the show.
In February of 2010, Thomas became so frustrated with Del Negro that he unleashed a bevy of expletives towards him in his office. Apparently the tirade was so bad, one Bulls player said it made Joakim Noah's outburst of two years prior (for which his teammates even added a game onto his suspension) seem like nothing. Thomas was suspended by the team for one game and then was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats soon after.
As a Bobcat, Thomas has done a pretty decent job staying out of the forever-revolving negative spotlight of the sports media. The Bobcats thought so highly of him, that they gave him a five-year, $40 million contract last July.
Last season, Thomas played well, averaging 10.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game (in 21 minutes of action), but suffered a torn meniscus that caused him to miss about two months of action. He returned and played decent, but not at pre-injury level.
The Bobcats are surely hoping Thomas can regain the form and explosiveness that placed him third overall for block rate at 6.2%. If not, they're probably going to regret giving him all of that money last July.
Had this list been made a couple years ago, Joakim Noah probably would’ve been the best choice. Now, Noah is one of the league’s most exciting big men and best interior defenders. While he’s still demonized by some, it’s definitely not at the same level as his teammate Carlos Boozer.
Boozer signed a five-year, $76 million contract with the Chicago Bulls in the 2010 offseason. He was considered the missing piece that could help the Windy City’s team evolve into a top four seed in the East.
Before last season began, Boozer suffered a hand injury that caused him to miss about a month of regular season action. His explanation as to how it happened came under investigation by the Bulls. Boozer said he tripped over a bag in the dark at his home as he went to answer the door, however, his fracture was one that’s commonly seen when someone throws a punch.
Regardless of what really happened, Boozer didn’t live up to his contract last season. His scoring and rebounding numbers were down in the regular season, and he only put up 12.6 points per game in the playoffs—including six games where he only scored in the single digits.
Baron Davis has created a reputation as a notorious underachiever.
In the first round of the 2007 playoffs, Davis led the Golden State Warriors past the defending Western Conference Champion Dallas Mavericks. It was the first time in NBA history that an eight seed defeated a one seed in a seven game series. Davis’s play was of legendary proportions, as he conquered any defense the Mavericks threw at him and hit big shot after big shot.
Unfortunately for the UCLA alum, his play took a sharp decline after he signed a five-year, $65 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2008. Questions about his effort and conditioning came up often while he was in LA.
Last season, some thought Davis might re-focus himself to form a potent combination with Blake Griffin. In the end, though, the Clippers decided they’d much rather part ways with the former all-star, sending him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Since being drafted 24th overall in 2007 by the Portland Trailblazer, Rudy Fernandez has had an up and down NBA career.
In his first ever game, he came off the bench and scored 18 points. Fernandez looked like a guy who had the potential to become an all-star caliber player because of his explosiveness and three-point prowess.
In each of his three seasons, his scoring averages and minutes decreased. Last summer, he was fined $25,000 by the league for publicly demanding a trade from the Blazers.
While he remained with Portland throughout last season, there were times he clearly wasn't happy. It didn't help that there were stretches in which the most consistent thing about his play was his inconsistency. Still, there were moments he looked like one of the NBA's best bench players.
During the offseason, Portland traded Fernandez to the Dallas Mavericks. With the possibility that they'll be losing some key pieces to free agency, Dallas is certainly going to need the good Rudy Fernandez, and not the complaining, bad Rudy Fernandez who goes 1-10 from the field with five turnovers, if they want to repeat as champions.
Why Timofey Mozgov and not maybe, say, Al Harrington you ask?
Well, even if you don't ask, Mozgov is the Nuggets best selection because of how many times he's been shown getting tea-bagged by Blake Griffin.
His gooniness and lack of coordination don't help either.
If there were a list of active NBA players who’d love to own a time machine, Richard Hamilton’s name would be near the top.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Detroit Pistons had reached their sixth consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. Now, they’re a lottery team littered with bad contracts that’s trying to claw back into the playoffs.
Hamilton had his chance to join a contender last season, but he wanted more buyout money from the Cleveland Cavaliers and nixed a possible trade. He could have really helped an upper-echelon team like the Chicago Bulls.
Hamilton and the Pistons’ head coach of the last two seasons, who was fired after the end of last season, John Kuester, didn’t get along well—to put it nicely. There was a stretch of games in which Kuester refused to give Hamilton any minutes because they weren’t quite seeing eye to eye with one another.
Eventually, the two came to some sort of understanding, allowing Hamilton to make his way back onto the basketball court, but not before the UConn alum took part in boycotting a team shootaround to protest Kuester’s coaching methods.
Honorable Mention: Tracy McGrady
Monta Ellis is one of the NBA’s most exciting players and best scorers.
Still, there has been endless questioning as to whether or not he and Stephen Curry can be a formidable backcourt. Ellis’s name has been brought up in endless trade speculation, and the Warriors front office is reportedly in favor of keeping Curry over Ellis if a decision of that sort has to be made.
Whether or not Monta Ellis has a future with the Golden State Warriors remains to be seen. What is currently known, though, is that he’s an elite scorer who gives defenses fits.
In the beginning of last season, Terrence Williams became the first first-round draft pick to get sent down to the NBA Development League.
The Louisville alum’s demotion had more to do with attitude problems rather than his on-court play, according to head coach Avery Johnson. Williams was coming off a solid rookie season, and the New Jersey Nets were hopeful he’d continue progressing. Obviously, that didn’t pan out.
Shortly after his D-League stint, Williams was traded to the Houston Rockets. He hasn’t been able to put together a consistent string of solid games so far.
Psycho T has become a solid big man for the Pacers.
Before beginning his professional career, though, Hansbrough was one of the most polarizing collegiate basketball players in the land. For many, they either loved or hated the North Carolina forward.
Those who loved Hansbrough said he was a hard working player that always gave 110 percent. Those who hated him said he was an arrogant and overrated goon.
Many of Hansbrough’s haters hoped he’d never make an NBA roster, let alone become a solid role player that averaged 11 points and five rebounds in 22 minutes of action per game last season.
Chris Kaman just looks scary.
During the NBA lockout, he should scoot over to Hollywood and make some money by appearing in horror movies. He wouldn't even need a mask!
Okay, maybe that's a big of an exaggeration (or not, depending on one's personal opinion), but aside from looking like someone you probably wouldn't want to share an elevator or cross paths in a back alley-way with, Kaman made $11.3 million last season and was scheduled to make $12.2 million in 2011-12.
That's a lot of money for an extremely injury-prone player who averaged just 12.4 points, seven rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last season.
Andrew Bynum’s got tremendous potential. He’s also been the cause of a tremendous amount of headaches for the Lakers.
In the 2010 offseason, the injury-prone Bynum elected to hold off on major knee surgery so that he could go watch the World Cup in South Africa. As a result of delaying the surgery, Bynum missed a good chunk of the beginning of last season, causing Pau Gasol to log major minutes at the center position—a possible cause for Gasol’s postseason fatigue and struggles.
In Game 4 of this past season’s Western Conference Finals, Bynum landed a major cheap shot on J.J. Barea that sent the point guard flying. It was a terrible move by Bynum, not just because of how badly Barea could have been injured but also because it was Phil Jackson’s last game as a coach.
Now, with speculation running mad about whether the Lakers will try trading Bynum to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard, Laker fans may further demonize their current center if Jim Buss has an opportunity to make the trade but doesn't pull the trigger because of his affinity for Bynum. Buss was the one who’s decision it was to draft Bynum out of high school, and it’s well known that he is in favor of keeping him for the long haul.
Honorable Mention: Kobe Bryant
Zach Randolph is coming off an excellent postseason in which he led the Grizzlies past the San Antonio Spurs and helped them challenge the Oklahoma City Thunder. 2010-11 was another solid year for Z-Bo, as he averaged 20.1 points on 50.3 percent shooting and 12.1 rebounds per game during the regular season, and 22.2 points and 10.8 points per game during the playoffs.
Some criticized Memphis for adding Randolph to their young roster in 2009, but the move has, so far, paid off greatly for them. This past April, the Grizzlies rewarded his stellar play with a four-year, $71 million contract.
Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, Randolph’s got a history of having his best seasons when he’s playing for a contract. The Michigan State alum has also had his name in the news recently, and not for a good reason.
Reportedly, Randolph and his friends invited a marijuana dealer (who Randolph was acquainted with) back to Randolph’s home in Oregon. Randolph refused to pay the dealer for the marijuana, snatching it from his hands. Then about 4-7 people beat up the dealer, leaving him bloodied.
It wasn’t the first time Randolph’s been linked to criminal activity. He’s even been referred to as a major marijuana supplier in Indianapolis.
Whether or not Zach Randolph truly wants to break away from the image painted of him during his “Jail-Blazers” days remains to be seen. He’s a tremendously talented power forward who’s still in his prime.
Maybe he’ll be able to leave behind his checkered past and be a non-controversial franchise cornerstone in Memphis. Only time will tell.
Honorable Mention: O.J. Mayo
Well, this should come as no surprise.
Unless you’ve been in full-recluse mode for the past 16 months or so, you know why “King James” has gone from arguably the NBA’s most popular player to it’s most demonized.
Just in case you’re unaware, here’s a short list:
-The infamous “I’m taking my talents to South Beach” quote.
-Breaking the hearts of Cleveland Cavaliers fans and dealing a big blow to local businesses near Quicken Loans Arena.
-The excessive “welcoming celebration” that gave us LeBron’s infamous quote when he shared how many championships the Heat’s new super trio would win, as well as how playing games will be so easy that even the 65-year-old Pat Riley could be Miami’s point guard.
-ESPN’s Heat Index.
-Saying during the season that he was in favor of contraction because of how cool it’d be to see Kevin Love on a good team.
-His struggles in the NBA Finals, and his Game 6 postgame comment that at the end of the day, people will have to go back to their miserable lives.
So, just how bad has it gotten?
Go to Google and type in the word demonization. The first auto-fill suggestion follows “demonization” with “of LeBron James”.
Even people who don’t watch or follow basketball were cheering against Bron-Bron and his Miami Heat in last season’s NBA Finals.
Whether or not the amount of vitriol directed towards LeBron is justified is a questionable topic. What isn’t questionable, though, is that there are a lot of people out there who want the NBA’s best player to continue failing until his retirement.
Honorable Mention: Chris Bosh
Everybody remembers that Metta World Peace (aka Ron Artest) was the guy who jumped into the stands to fight some fans in Detroit. What’s less remembered is that Stephen Jackson was also in the stands throwing punches.
While Jackson has certainly matured since then, he’s still going to have his fair share of games where he goes one on five and shoots 30+ times. Fortunately for Bucks’ fans, he has shown an ability to provide leadership.
Just make sure nobody throws beer on any of his teammates.
When Micheal Beasley was dominating the Big 12 (back when it actually had 12 teams) in his only collegiate year at Kansas State, many thought he was a lock to be the number one pick. The former Wildcat set Big 12 freshman records for scoring and rebounding that were set just one season earlier by a Texas Longhorn named Kevin Durant.
Of course, thanks to Derrick Rose leading his Memphis Tigers all the way to the NCAA Championship game that same season (Shhhhhh! Don’t tell the NCAA that!), Beasley dropped to the Miami Heat and their number two overall pick.
Beasley has had an up and down career, and while he’s turned into a solid player, he’s more known by some for his off the court issues.
Beasley, along with Mario Chalmers and Darrel Arthur, got into trouble at the 2008 Rookie Symposium for being in a room that smelled of marijuana and had women in it. He was eventually fined $50,000 by the league.
A year later, Beasley posted a picture via Twitter of his new tattoo. Unfortunately, the picture grabbed headlines because of the presence of two small baggies located in the bottom-right corner of the picture. As a result of the incident, as well as some tweets in which he questioned whether life was worth living, the Heat had him check into an in-patient rehabilitation facility.
During the 2010 offseason, the Heat traded Beasley to the Minnesota Timberwolves in order to clear cap room for their super trio. The K-State alum played well last season, averaging 19.2 points on 45 percent shooting and 5.6 rebounds per game, however, his future with the club remains to be seen after their decision to draft Arizona forward Derrick Williams this past June. The Timberwolves have a pretty crowded frontcourt, so it’s reasonable to believe that Beasley would be the first to go if they decide to move out a forward.
He certainly didn’t help his image when he shoved a heckling fan at a Dyckman Park exhibition game this past summer.
Honorable Mention: Ricky Rubio
When the New Jersey Nets were unable to land any big-name free agents last summer, they elected to give Travis Outlaw a five-year, $35 million dollar deal.
It would prove to be a very un-wise investment. Outlaw struggled so badly last season, he was one of the NBA's least valuable players, accounting for just 0.8 win shares on the team. Considering his annual salary averages to $7 million, it cost the Nets $8.5 million just to get one win out of him.
It's never a good thing when your atrocious contract gets you alongside names like Gilbert Arenas or Rashard Lewis. The Nets are certainly looking forward to the high possibility the next collective bargaining agreement features an amnesty clause.
Quick! Who was the player drafted after Dwight Howard in the 2004 NBA draft?
If you guessed Darko Milicic, you’re a year off.
If you guessed Emeka Okafor, you’re either knowledgeable about basketball or you put two and two together by reading the slide title.
Emeka Okafor has had a decent professional basketball career, but his current contract that commands him an annual salary of $12 million seems a bit much for a player who’s averaged about 13 points and 10 rebounds per game.
While Carmelo Anthony is one of the NBA’s most popular players, he’s also one of it’s most demonized.
The superstar forward’s trade drama (or melodrama if you enjoy being cheesy) last season became quite nauseating for some. Anthony would eventually find his way onto the New York Knicks roster, but not after ramped speculation about where his final destination would be.
Many felt the Syracuse alum held the Nuggets hostage with his trade demands. As the trade deadline got closer and closer, media speculation rose exponentially, creating a circus-like atmosphere in the locker room on a nightly basis. Once Anthony was finally shipped east, George Karl admitted that a weight had been removed off of his shoulders.
On the court, Anthony’s praised for his ability to score, but he’s vilified for his lack of commitment to defense. He also draws criticism for sometimes playing too much one on one and stagnating the offense, instead of keeping the ball moving or setting up his teammates.
Whenever the NBA returns, pressure on the Knicks to advance past the first round of the playoffs will certainly be prevalent, and Anthony would very likely be the main target of criticism from the New York City Media should they fail to progress.
Honorable Mention: Jared Jeffries
Even though the Oklahoma City Thunder came very close to defeating the Dallas Mavericks in last season’s Western Conference Finals, Russell Westbrook received a lot of criticism for not deferring to Kevin Durant.
Westbrook got a little shot-happy at certain points in the series, electing to put the scoring burden on his back. Once the Thunder were eliminated from the postseason, speculation started running rampant about whether or not he and Durant could co-exist and whether the Thunder should trade away their 22-year-old superstar point guard. Numerous sports media pundits were reporting that there were ongoing grudges between the two Oklahoma City stars, even though Durant stated multiple times that was simply not the case.
It’s very possible that if the Thunder had beaten the Mavericks, none of the demonization Westbrook faced would have surfaced. Personally, I found it unwarranted and just a byproduct of the media’s need for conflict in a story even when there is none. Still, that’s the way the cookie crumbled, so Russell Westbrook finds himself on this list.
Honorable Mention: Kendrick Perkins
“Got me bringin’ guns to work, Gilbert Arenas” – Jay Z, from the song "Under Pressure" by Dr. Dre
Regardless of what Gilbert Arenas accomplishes before his NBA career is over with, he’ll likely be most remembered as the guy who pulled guns out on his teammate (Javaris Crittenton) in the locker room because of gambling debts.
Shortly after the incident, Arenas made fun of the situation by pointing imaginary guns at his teammates in a pregame huddle. David Stern was not pleased with the comedic gesture, to say the least, suspending Agent Zero for the rest of the 2009-10 season.
Arenas’ suspension and injuries have turned him into a very expensive role player. In 49 games with the Magic last season, Arenas averaged 8 points per game on 34.4 percent shooting (27.5 percent from three)—hardly worthy production from a player who signed a six-year, $111 million contract.
Elton Brand is scheduled to make $35 million over the next two seasons. If that amount were to be paid to a 25-year old Brand, it would be a pretty decent investment. Unfortunately for the city of brotherly love, Brand is a 32-year-old, 275-pound forward who’s got an injury history.
When Brand signed his lucrative contract with the 76ers in 2008, Baron Davis wasn’t very happy. According to Davis, he and Brand made an agreement to play together in Los Angeles on the Clippers squad, but Brand ended up moving east.
Karma may have had the last laugh in the mini-feud (if you can even call it that) between the two former all-star players in the 2008-09 season, as Brand posted a career low scoring average and missed 53 games due to injury while Davis’s scoring average dropped about 7 points per game from the previous season.
To quote one of Clark Kellogg’s knowledgeable tidbits from NBA 2K12, "It’s not easy being an over the hill, aging superstar."
That’s where the 34-year-old Vince Carter currently finds himself. Gone are the days when he was capable of dropping 50 points on an opponent via a barrage of dunks and three-pointers. Now, he’s got to live with the fact he’s become a player who averages just over 14 points per game even with Steve Nash as his point guard.
When Carter was traded from Orlando to Phoenix last season, he wasn’t very happy about being moved away from his hometown. It’s tough for any aging veteran to be moved away from his home, let alone one who’s not far removed from having the nickname of "half-man, half-amazing."
Greg Oden’s career can be summarized by two words: What if?
When Oden’s healthy, he’s a solid interior presence who can score around the rim, rebound and block/alter opponents’ shots.
Unfortunately, the former number one overall pick has been unable to keep the injury bug away. Since being drafted, he’s missed 164 out of a possible 246 games.
It’s reasonable to believe Portland’s fans, players and management have all thought about what things would be like if they had selected Kevin Durant in the 2007 NBA draft instead of the oft-injured Oden.
Demarcus Cousins is one of those players who’s got a lot of talent, but is very prone to making immature mistakes.
One such mistake came this past February, when he was kicked off the team plane because he got into an altercation with teammate Donte Greene. According to AOL News, Cousins got mad at Greene when he elected to pass the ball to Tyreke Evans to try hitting the game winner in the previous night’s contest. The Kings were down by three to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Cousins felt he should have got the ball.
The Donte Greene incident wasn’t Cousins’ first tango with trouble.
Not too long before last season began, the Kings fined him $5,000 for getting into it with the team’s strength and conditioning coach. In late November, he was kicked out of practice for excessively arguing with head coach Paul Westphal.
During his brief collegiate career at Kentucky, Cousins elbowed an opposing player on more than one occasion.
When Cousins avoids confrontation, he’s a valuable player. He finished last season averaging 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
The Kings definitely consider Demarcus Cousins a building block for the future. Now, they just need to hope he keeps his behavior in check.
This was probably the hardest selection to make.
It’s not often that a former NBA Finals MVP can be considered the most demonized player on his team. In Tony Parker’s case, he gets the nod here because of some of his off the court actions.
Whether it’s releasing French rap videos or divorcing Eva Longoria, the Spurs point guard has done some things that would make the average person say, "What?"
Still, Parker’s a solid point guard who currently finds himself playing basketball in France for a team he is the Vice President of called ASVEL. He’ll make $1,995 each month he plays for the French club—a lot less than the $12.5 million he would have made with the Spurs this upcoming season.
Statistically speaking, Andrea Bargnani’s had a solid NBA career so far.
Of course, numbers don’t tell the whole story. While the former number one overall draft pick has averaged 15.1 points per game for his career, he struggles defensively and doesn’t rebound well for someone who’s seven-feet tall—averaging 4.9 per game for his career.
The Raptors have $42 million committed to Bargnani over the next four years. The team really needs him to improve if they don’t want to be eliminated from playoff contention before next season hits the halfway mark.
In 2010-11, Bargnani earned $8 million but only accounted for 2.6 win shares, according to Basketball-Reference. Bargnani may be able to stretch the floor with his shooting, but he wasn’t able to provide the Raptors with a good return on their investment last season.
For some fans, especially those who cheer for the Lakers, Raja Bell is mostly known as the guy who clotheslined Kobe Bryant in the 2006 NBA playoffs.
Bell has always been a feisty defender in the league. He’s also a good shooter from three-point range.
Even though he’s a few years removed from his rumbles with Kobe Bryant, Bell gets the distinction as the Utah Jazz’s most demonized player.
Just in case you forgot or never knew about Bell’s wallop on Kobe, play the video in the media slot. It’s like a WWE move, only real!
Rashard Lewis currently has one of the worst contracts in the NBA.
The Orlando Magic signed him to the terrible six-year, $118 million deal in the hopes that he could spread the floor and draw an opponent’s power forward out to the perimeter so that Dwight Howard would be harder to double team. There were moments in Orlando he played well (like in Games 2 and 3 of the 2009 NBA Finals), but he never did anything that made you think; “Wow! He’s really earning all that money!”
Unfortunately for Lewis’s teams, if his offense wasn’t working then they weren’t going to get much else from him—as his defensive intensity dial was usually set to zero.
In the beginning of the 2009-10 season, Lewis was suspended 10 games for testing positive performance-enhancing drugs. He claimed no wrongdoing, but he still failed a drug test after being re-tested during the 2009 NBA Finals.
Lewis was pretty awful in the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics, averaging slightly over 8 points on 34 percent shooting (17 percent from three). The Magic could have really used his offense to help alleviate all the attention placed on Dwight Howard.