Before this NBA season began, Nielsen and E-Poll Market Research conducted a survey on Forbes.com to ask people which NBA player they dislike the most. You might have expected LeBron James to win that survey, but he finished second. Must have been Kobe Bryant then, right? Nope, third. When the results were released on December 22, the most disliked player in the NBA was revealed to be… Kris Humphries?
Yep, the former Mr. Kim Kardashian was voted to be the most hated on out of all those who say they get hated on. What exactly did he do to draw this ire, aside from being a bit of a black hole when he gets the ball? He participated in a popular reality show and a brief but highly publicized marriage that I’m confident he didn’t know was a sham. Hell, I’m confident he doesn’t know what city he’s in sometimes — I don’t think Kris is particularly bright.
I never watched the reality show that Kris was a part of — I think it was Kourtney and Kim Take New York, but I don’t really keep up on these things — but my wife did and she swears that the worst thing you could say about him is that he seems a little dim. As a Raptors fan who watched him play for my team for three years, I already knew this. I certainly never hated the guy for it. In fact, I was bummed out when he was traded to the Mavericks and I predicted he’d break out at some point if he finally got some playing time. That turned out to be one of my rare basketball predictions that actually came true.
Why am I bringing up this survey now? Because the ugliness of player-hating reared its head again last week when TMZ reported that Allen Iverson’s earnings would be garnished to pay off an $850,000 debt he owed to a jewelry store. Predictably, the haters started chirping on Facebook, Twitter and message boards about how Iverson was destined to go broke and how it would serve him right.
Now we all know haters don’t like to do research to back up their hatin’ — that would take away from valuable hatin’ time. But a quick Google search about Iverson’s finances revealed that he earned $150 million in his NBA career, at least $100 milion in endorsement deals, and he has a deal with Reebok that pays him $5 million a year for the rest of his life. You read that right — for the rest of his damn (and possibly damned) life. I don’t know guys, I think he’s gonna be OK on the cash money front.
Player-hating isn’t new, but it seems to be more prevalent now than it’s ever been, and I don’t like it. Don’t get it twisted — I’m perfectly fine with hating a player for what he does on the court. Bruce Bowen used to send me into hard orbit on a regular basis with his dirty defensive antics that included sliding his foot under a jumpshooter so he would twist his ankle on the way down. And I assume I don’t have to explain why Kevin Garnett is my least favorite active NBA player. It also goes without saying that I would have loved both those guys if and when they played for my Raptors.
That’s how NBA fans are supposed to hate. Lakers fans hate the Celtics and vice versa. Cavaliers fans hate LeBron James and the Heat for reasons we’re not likely to forget anytime soon. Magic fans hate their General Manager, Otis Smith. These are all perfectly acceptable forms of NBA hate. But hating Kris Humphries because he was momentarily a part of that Kardashian traveshamockery? That ain’t cool. Lamar Odom managed to crack the top 10 of that most-hated list presumably because of his association with America’s royal-pain-in-the-ass family.
I’d like to propose that we, as a group representing many of the more intelligent and sophisticated NBA fans — I’m referring to the lovely people reading this post — start a campaign to squash senseless player-hating in the NBA. If you’re at a game with a friend and he starts booing Kris Humphries when he comes on the floor, tell him to hush up and remind him that he almost certainly would have done the same thing Kris did if the opportunity presented itself. I’m going to assume that most female fans aren’t going to boo Kris because they actually watched the show and therefore know that he’s mostly just a harmless lunkhead.
While we’re at it, isn’t it time to move on from believing that LeBron James is the devil? Yeah, “The Decision” was a bad idea. We’ve all agreed on that. But that was a year-and-a-half ago. Can we get over it and admit that he’s one of the most awe-inspiring players to ever set foot on a basketball court? I’m not saying you have to root for him or that you should even be fine with the Heat winning a championship. But the vitriol he continues to receive from so many fans is now pre-marinated in lamesauce. Note: Cavs fans are allowed to continue to hate LeBron until he sheds his mortal coil.
No movement can gain any traction without a good slogan, and I’ve got one. From now on, when you encounter a player-hater who judges an NBA player based mostly on what he does off the court, respond with: “Don’t hate the player, hate his game.”