Hate is a pretty strong word. Then again, throughout the history of the NBA, there have been a number of players who certainly fall in this category when it comes to their respective relationships with fans — be it their own or that of opposing teams.
To this very day, there are certain players painted by the media as villains, but perhaps gone are the days of the true “OG” bad boys in the NBA. Below is our top-10 list of the most hated villains in NBA history.
10. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard has been able to redeem himself a bit with the Los Angeles Lakers toward the tail end of his career. However, what many may have forgotten (or probably not) is how he actually used to be public enemy No. 1 for Lakers fans.
Howard had a brief and unsuccessful spell with the Lakers during the 2012-13 campaign. Howard clashed with Kobe Bryant, which obviously did not end well for the big man. Here’s an infamous clip of Kobe and Howard going at it soon after they parted ways as teammates:
9. Gilbert Arenas
Gilbert Arenas was a gifted basketball player and an exceptional scorer during his heyday. Unfortunately for him, however, many fans remember him for his infamous gun-wielding incident inside the Washington Wizards’ locker room.
Arenas had a gambling-related argument with then-teammate Javarais Crittenton, which resulted in Arenas bringing a loaded gun to the locker room the following evening to threaten his teammate. Not only did that earn Arenas an indefinite suspension from the league, but he was also charged by the state with a felony.
8. Reggie Miller
Regarded by many as one of the greatest shooters of all time, Reggie Miller was not exactly a nice guy on the basketball court. He was a ruthless competitor, and he made sure his opponents knew exactly that. Don’t let his frail body frame fool you; Miller was an absolute banger.
His “love affair” with the New York Knicks and its rabid fan base is well-documented. He proved to be a villain for the Knicks on more than a few occasions during the ’90s, but it’s undeniable that his most unforgettable moment against New York was that time he did that symbolic choking gesture as he scored 25 fourth-quarter points to lead his Indiana Pacers to an amazing come-from-behind victory against the Knicks in the Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals:
7. Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman was perhaps one of the most polarizing stars in the history of the NBA. He epitomized the statement “love him or hate him.”
His devil-may-care attitude throughout his career was not something that was appreciated by most fans. Unless you were a Detroit Pistons fan in the late 1980s-early 1990s or a Chicago Bulls supporter later in the 1990s, then you probably disliked Rodman for one reason or another.
6. Kevin Garnett
When it comes to trash talk, Kevin Garnett is the GOAT. This man, great as he was as a basketball player, went over the line night in and night out when he talked smack to his opponents. As a matter of fact, there was probably no line in Garnett’s mind.
One of his most infamous moments was when he called Charlie Villanueva, who was suffering from a disease that did not allow him to grow any hair, a “cancer patient.” On another occasion, he uttered some very disrespectful statements about Carmelo’s Anthony’s wife, La La. Anthony is a pretty mellow guy, but in that instance, he ended up waiting for Garnett outside the team bus after the game, ready to throw it down.
5. Kermit Washington
Kermit Washington is perhaps the most unknown name on our list, but he certainly deserves a spot. This was all because of a sucker punch he threw at Rudy Tomjanovich back in December 1977. It wasn’t your typical on-court fight, however, as the punch actually caused serious head injuries. At one point, fluids were leaking into Tomjanovich’s mouth.
Washington was suspended, subsequently traded away by the Los Angeles Lakers, and was never able to recover from that single violent act.
4. Latrell Sprewell
If you choke out your coach during practice, then you certainly deserve to be on this list, right? That’s exactly the case for Latrell Sprewell, who once put his hands on the throat of coach P.J. Carlesimo during his time with the Golden State Warriors. Sprewell saw red and almost choked out his coach, which then resulted in a 68-game suspension for the 6-foot-5 swingman.
3. Isiah Thomas
“The Last Dance” relived the notoriety of the “Bad Boy” Pistons in the 1980s, and Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas was front and center of this villainous group.
After his successful playing career, Thomas also had a rather unsuccessful stint as the general manager of the New York Knicks, which was mired by scandalous sexual harassment claims made by one of his employees.
2. Bill Laimbeer
Another prominent member of those Pistons teams was none other than 6-foot-11 big man Bill Laimbeer. The term enforcer probably does not do justice to what Laimbeer did while on the court. His extremely hard fouls made their mark — figuratively and literally. Unfortunately for the four-time All-Star, he’s considered one of the dirtiest players in the history of the game.
1. Ron Artest/Metta World Peace
We would not have done justice to this list if it did not have Ron Artest aka Metta World Peace. He was a controversial figure throughout his career — to put it nicely — but his unforgettable involvement in the infamous “Malice at the Palace” in 2004 has to take the cake. Artest was suspended for the rest of the season and fined a hefty sum for starting what is considered the most violent brawl in NBA history.
Oh, and who could forget this vicious elbow on James Harden. It’s still tough to watch after all these years:
Love him or hate him, Artest was quite the villain.