Unlike the NFL and Major League Baseball, the NBA world allows for individuality. Whether it’s players speaking out on the issues of the day or trash-talking with one another, these personalities come out in droves.
It also leads to a fan base that’s split when it comes to the perception of these players. From a rookie in Los Angeles that’s in the news for all the wrong reasons to a King in Cleveland that can’t be loved by everyone, here are eight NBA players we love to hate.
Dwight Howard, Charlotte Hornets
Howard has been the poster boy for frustrated NBA fans to throw their shade at for many years now. It started in his one year with Los Angeles, when the eight-time All-Star didn’t necessarily get along too well with the GOAT, Kobe Bryant.
Then in Houston, Howard fell out of favor in just three seasons with the team. It ultimately led to him signing with his hometown Atlanta Hawks, a reunion of sorts that lasted one season and saw Howard put up a career-worst performance in 2016-17.
While the potential future Hall of Famer is having a career resurgence in Charlotte this season, one has to wonder what could have been for a man that many figured would be the next Shaq.
Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers
It’s not as much that NBA fans hate Lonzo. It’s more that he’s under the microscope due to his big-mouthed and sometimes intolerable father, LaVar. This has led to Lonzo receiving more criticism from players and fans alike than pretty much any rookie in the modern history of the game.
Among the most-popular NBA figures this season, Ball is averaging 8.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game. Not bad numbers. But his 31 percent mark from the field is just not acceptable.
As the face of the most popular franchise in the second-largest media market in the United States, Ball will continue to get press, both good and bad. How that plays out depends on his performance on the field and who his father decides to rift with next.
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Much of the hatred we’ve seen thrown Green’s way since he became an All-Star is due to his own on-court action. You can’t continually kick other men in the junk and expect to be a well-liked player in other NBA cities. You can’t continue to complain about a lack of foul calls and not be considered a cry-baby. That’s all on Green.
Though, in Oakland, Green’s popularity is primarily based on the passion and drive he has for the game. Here’s a dude that is the heart and soul of the Warriors.
That distinction doesn’t go to former MVPs Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry. It’s all about Green. Add in his stellar all-around play and the fact that he’s coming off a Defensive Player of the Year award, and Green will continue to remain popular. How that popularity looks depends primarily on geography.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Seen as soft by some around the NBA, Griffin struggles big time when going up against the big boys out west. Maybe that’s one of the reasons fans are not too fond of him outside of the Los Angeles area.
A lot of it has to do with the Clippers’ big-time struggles against the aforementioned Draymond Green and the Warriors. His plus minus in four games against the defending champs was -30.5 per outing last season. That’s just not going to get it done.
Now dealing with yet another injury to his knee, the injury-plagued label has also played a role in both Griffin’s popularity and our perception of him. That’s only magnified by the fact that he’s now the face of the Clippers’ franchise after signing a five-year, $171 million deal with the team this past summer.
Kelly Olynyk, Miami Heat
Before he even joined the Heat this past summer, Olynyk had a history with multiple Eastern Conference teams — the latest coming against Kelly Oubre and the Washington Wizards in the playoffs this past spring.
An instigator on the court, this role player simply doesn’t have a lot of friends around the Association. It’s the way he plays. The physicality that comes with his MO on the court. It also has him as someone we all love to hate.
DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans
In the same vein as a Draymond Green, Cousins’ emotions get the best of him on the court. It led to him being suspended multiple times last season after crossing the technical foul threshold. It also led to a pretty wide rift between Cousins and his former Sacramento Kings team prior to the All-Star center being dealt to New Orleans this past February.
The issue for Cousins here is that he’s about as talented of a big man that you’ll find in the Association. It’s his hot-headed personality that sometimes gets the best of him. This has led to some around the NBA not viewing Cousins as a franchise player. Now in the midst of his contract season, the hope here is that Cousins has learned from his past mistakes.
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
Cupcake city, baby. Just ask fans in Oklahoma how much Durant is loved around the Association. It’s one event that changed the entire perception of this former NBA MVP and reigning NBA Finals MVP.
Back in July of 2016, Durant shocked the world by leaving his former Thunder team for a Golden State Warriors squad that was coming off a 73-win campaign. Since then, the national perception of Durant has changed big time. He’s gone from a lovable player that couldn’t win the big game to one of the biggest stars on a team that most NBA fans simply don’t like. Though, fans in Oakland will gladly take the national hatred and turn those tears into more NBA titles moving forward.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Not too often is the game’s best liked by the masses. In the NFL world, there are some who absolutely loathe Tom Brady. Mike Trout is not adored by fans outside of Los Angeles at a clip many would expect around the baseball world. In the NBA, it’s King James’ world, and some are thrown off by it.
Whether it’s former Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving shading him or those who believe James cries about every foul, he just rubs some people the wrong way. Playing the role of adjunct general manager in Cleveland doesn’t help here. Despite this, James will take his hundreds of millions and multiple trophies as a sign that the hatred is all about jealousy and nothing else. Do you blame him?