The most interesting sports story of 2013 involved a NCAA linebacker and his imaginary girlfriend. The 2nd most interesting was probably Aaron Hernandez murdering everyone you love. Or maybe it was Johnny Manziel making it rain, or maybe Riley Cooper and his n-word potty mouth, or Richie Incognito going full ‘O’Doyle’ in the Dolphins locker room.
Basically, the most interesting sports stories aren’t really stories about sports. They are stories with athletes at the centre of them.
For every Auburn comeback that happens on the field, there are about four other attention-grabbing “sports” stories that happen at an Atlanta strip club. Much of the appeal of sport is the story. We seek out the structure of a character arc in sports like we do in movies and TV. We want sensationalism. We want, as they say, some sizzle with our steak.
REX RYAN FOOT FETISH PORN?! I can scarcely remember who won the Super Bowl last month, but can vividly remember every detail of that particular tale.
So what else does a story have? A hero? OK, what’s more interesting than a hero? A heel.
Now, for the purposes of this, not all the individuals listed below could be considered “heels” in the general sense of the word. Some could, in the way they play off the fact that they’re not universally appreciated, but others are hated for different reasons altogether. But, my dear friends, I wish not to descend once again into the dark abyss of hate. Not this day. Instead, I wish to share a few sports stars who have climbed out of my shit list.
Kobe Bryant’s an easy guy to hate. He’s one of those irreverent characters with limited recognizable character traits and he appears thinks highly of himself, in a world where that’s more than common. That’s tough to like.
To this day, it’s tough to picture him having any friends. I mean, look at this picture below and tell me your friends wouldn’t have put a stop to this with one, stern “DUDEBRO….”
But the thing is, Kobe is not there to be a likable character to the fans. Hell, he doesn’t even get any points for being likable to his teammates, it seems. He, like Jordan, will succeed on the floor surrounded by a group of guys that wouldn’t ask him out for drinks after the game. (Yeah, I’m comparing him to Jordan, wannafightaboutit?) Shaq rapping about Kobe eating his bottomhole kind of drives this point home.
So anyways, Kobe is a dick. He also does this.
This was not Kobe’s coming-out party. Not be a long shot. At this point, he had 3 rings, 7 all-star appearances, a smattering of All-Defensive First Team awards and even a Slam Dunk award; when all star weekend used to mean something. (A.K.A. before Kevin Hart and Nick Cannon started getting invites.)
This was also obviously not my first exposure to Kobe Bryant, but like many, it probably was the most meaningful. Kobe Bryant could not be denied respect after this point. If so, I would be admitting that what I’m looking for in an athlete is a “chill brah” instead of something that actually matters in the world of sport.
Whether you are living or currently dead, LeBron James is at worst the 3rd best basketball player you’ve ever seen play. There is room for debate in this matter, but I’m not hearing it.
Unlike Kobe Bryant, LeBron James is not a dick. I’m reminded of a moment in 2010, where the cameras caught rookie Stephen Curry being given a post-game advice session from the more seasoned James. James, who knew a thing or two about the pressures of being a hyped rookie and excelling in the face of them, knew that he was in the unique position to ease Curry’s transition into the NBA by a simple few words. Judging by LeBron’s hand movements, he seemed to be telling Curry to not let outside factors distract him, and to just focus on bettering himself as an basketball player. All in all, a nice moment from a seemingly good guy who even wants his competition to succeed.
Could you picture a guy like Kobe or Jordan serving up wisdom nuggets, just cause? I can’t. Kobe or Jordan’s version of advice would most likely begin and end with a cupped fart hadouken and some double freedom rockets.
The thing is, the James/Curry moment was at the height of my disdain for LeBron, as the Decision had only happened a few months prior. Now, I have no particular affinity for the city of Cleveland nor do i wish to be a morally authoritative, and tell LeBron (a grown man) how he should behave—this (and my modest cholesterol level) is probably why I never pursued a career in sports journalism.
However, while free to make his own choices (again, because he’s a grown man), that doesn’t mean I had to like it. And I didn’t.
I don’t want to get too far into it, as its been beaten to death already, but like many I don’t think it was the best course of action for LeBron to drag his supporters through such a roller coaster as The Decision. Airing his live special for fans and NBA GMs alike to sit powerless in anticipation of where he might be soon looking for real estate, appeared to be at the height of narcissism. But in actuality, the Decision was probably more a product of a young, somewhat naive man who has been hot shit since he was 18 years old, and used to trusting his judgement.
It wasn’t a mistake for LeBron to leave Cleveland. The proof of that is the two rings he now has since he left America’s armpit just three years ago. The mistake lies in, and only in, just how his departure was trumped up and revealed.
Now, as I’m not a resident of Cleveland, I can say that these things can be forgiven. If you do, you can fully appreciate watching one of the greatest basketball players of all time in his prime. Blink, and you’ll miss it.
This big Slovak comes to mind, but this entry could probably include a number of future hall of famers that were major players for teams that I just didn’t like. (Hi Derek Jeter!)
My original hate stems from Chara being a key member of the Ottawa Senators. Full stop. (It’s unusual to harbour such feeling for a team/fanbase that is on such a loser end of the ‘rivalry’, yet here we are. If you’ve ever met a Senators fans, you would understand.)
So anyways, after an unhealthy mixture of Lipitor and Beaujolais* Ottawa decided to let Chara walk in free agency, in favour of Wade Redden (*ed note-citation needed). Which, for the uninitiated, is like selling your 1997 Google shares to buy frozen dog turds.
Chara then gets signed by the Boston Bruins, whose 40 year past emulated that of my team; the Toronto Maple Leafs. Namely, an Original Six team with minimal recent success. Also, there was no direct rivalry, and they despised the Habs. All good.
Now, the signing came at a time when the wicked retahded Pats had just won their third Lombardi in 4 years and the fahkin’ gritty Red Sawks just one their first since World Series since Jack Palance was born. Whatevs, said Ryan. They’re different sports.
Then this happened…
YES TYLER, I AM MAD. Never mind what I’ve said. I hate Chara again.
And #FuckBoston forever.
The San Antonio Spurs
It’s tough to single just one Spur who incites or incited a feeling of “hate”. Maybe that’s why their position on many people’s “most hated” list has been based on bullshit from day one.
While it may be easy to single out Tim Duncan’s iPhone factory worker like efficiency, coupled with the absence of any notable emotion, this was more of a team-wide issue. They were perceived as collectively boring.
I could’t say this before but I can say this now; “so what?”
Since Duncan (aka The Big Fundamental aka Boiled Chicken) was drafted by the Spurs in 1997, they have won fewer than 50 game only once….in a lockout-shortened seasoned. Oh, and that season they were on pace to win 60. That type of consistent dominance in North America can only be rivaled by the Detroit Red Wings. And even then, it just just barely does.
It would be tough to argue that they aren’t the most consistently elite franchise in any of the big four North American sports.
Hate is an easier reaction to have than appreciation, when you have a horse in the same race. I, like many, HATED the Spurs for a while. It was tough to watch the Spurs suffocate younger or more exiting teams every time the playoffs came around.
For me, the feeling turned to respect in recent years when the Spurs were deemed to be a bit past their prime yet have continued to “do work,” as the kids would say. That’s admirable, and shows a little (dare I say) ‘fight’ in them. Now that they have to overcome such things as age and the injuries and the lack of speed that come with that, it’s interesting to see how greatness seems to find a way. They just keep winning. And they deserve props for that.
Just kidding. This hate still burns with the heat of a thousand suns, Vince.