About a week ago, the Golden State Warriors threw a “Supervillain Party” at Stephen Curry’s place, which culminated in a group portrait by the pool taken via drone while in front of giant balloons spelling out the words “Super Villains” in giant, foil-wrapped mylar text.
It was weird.
Despite tapping into what would be the worst children’s birthday party theme possible outside of maybe “Broccoli Party” or “Vaccination Party,” the idea behind the gathering is pretty clear: the Warriors know that everybody outside of Oakland and San Francisco hates them this year.
That’s why Draymond Green is poking more and more bears, why Kevin Durant is wearing on-court stink-faces more often than smiles and why Curry is hosting a party at this house where, we can only assume, party favors included black capes, black licorice and laser rays powerful enough to blow up the moon.
The Warriors simply have decided to embrace the fact that they’re disliked this year, which is fine because, for the most part, they are. At least they’re accepting the disdain and using it as fodder for coming together.
Hated though they may be, the 2016-2017 Warriors are nowhere near the most despised team in recent NBA history. There have been others exponentially more odious, and the following list takes a closer look at the five vilest of them:
The Early 2000s Portland Trail Blazers
Everybody loves the Blazers today, mostly because Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are two of the most adored, likeable stars in the league, but it was only about 15 years ago that the team earned itself the “Jail Blazers” moniker that would stick with them for years after the offending players had retired or moved on to different teams. For a while there, it was difficult to remember that the nickname wasn’t the team’s actual moniker.
Those early-aughts Trail Blazers definitely pushed some buttons in their day. There were small, annoying things like Rasheed Wallace getting suspended for a game after throwing a towel in Arvydas Sabonis’ face or Bonzi Wells flipping off a fan, but then there were the more serious things like the seemingly endless string of league substance abuse policy violations or Zack Randolph punching teammate Ruben Patterson in the eye during a practice, breaking bones in Patterson’s face.
These were dark days for Blazers fans, and the non-stop string of questionable behavior made the team detestable to the rest of the league’s fans, too.
The Mid-‘90s New York Knicks
Without question, the New York Knicks teams that doled out punishment between 1992 and 1994 were some of the toughest teams in the history of the NBA, in large part because of how well they played defense. Patrick Ewing was a monster in the middle of the paint, defending the rim better than just about anybody in his generation, while guys like Derek Harper, John Starks, Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, Anthony Bonner and Greg Anthony were just as tough on the guys they defended, perhaps integrating a few sneaky (and occasional painful) tricks to make that defense so effective.
Oftentimes, the toughness would lead to some pretty serious on-court scuffles. Here’s a quick rundown of “highlights”:
- The time John Starks headbutted Reggie Miller.
- The time Starks and Scottie Pippen got tangled up on a screen, ended up chest-to-chest, and then both teams’ benches cleared in the ensuing frustration.
- The time Kevin Johnson set a hard screen on Doc Rivers, which sent Rivers stalking KJ to retaliate, which of course cleared both benches, including coaches, for a follow-up bona fide royal rumble. Even Pat Riley ended up in the fray, his suit getting torn in the fracas. Greg Anthony, who wasn’t even in uniform, flew in toward the end to cause a massive pile-up, forcing his ejection not just from the game, but from the arena.
- The time Derek Harper and Chicago’s JoJo English threw down and fought directly in front of Commissioner David Stern during the Eastern Conference Semifinals, again clearing the benches and leading to several suspensions.
And all of this was just the worst of it. Those Knicks teams in the early-to-mid ‘90s were so physical that violence seemed to follow them wherever they went. No team liked playing them, and opposing fans couldn’t help but get nervous watching them in action.
The 2010-2014 Miami HEAT
When Kevin Durant made the decision to leave the team that drafted him, the team he helped lead to the NBA Finals but not a championship, the parallels between his decision to bolt Oklahoma City and LeBron James’ decision to “take his talents to South Beach” looked pretty obvious. But however upset Durant’s decision might have made fans this past summer, it was nothing compared to what James did to Cleveland fans back in 2010.
Rather than just making a decision about his widely-publicized free agency and announcing it in normal fashion, James scheduled a half-hour television special called “The Decision” to break the news. There, in front of millions of people and after 28 minutes of stalling, James let his home state know that he’d be jilting them for greener (and significantly warmer, state-tax-free) pastures.
It stung, but when it became known that Chris Bosh also would be leaving Toronto so the two of them could team up with Dwyane Wade in Miami, many fans threw an absolute fit about how unfair the trio would be for the rest of the league. When James, Bosh and Wade were introduced in the most garish, audacious way possible, hinting that they’d win six or seven championships together while the flashbulbs popped, the collective dry heave of the nation was practically audible.
They didn’t win their first NBA Finals series together, but they’d win the next two titles, with fans outside of Southern Florida hating every minute of it.
The L.A. Lakers, Generally Speaking
There’s just something about the Lakers that people tend to dislike, in large part because they win so many championships. They’ve always been the New York Yankees of the basketball world, though a handful of Lakers rosters have been more detestable than others.
For example, when the Lakers acquired Wilt Chamberlain in 1968 the expectations were massive, but he ended up showing just how arrogant he was on basketball’s biggest stage, all while making the league’s largest salary. He didn’t get along with his teammates or his coach, which culminated in Chamberlain, arguably the greatest player alive, getting benched in the final six minutes of an NBA Finals Game 7 – which the Lakers lost by two points. Chamberlain was an easy guy to hate because he was just so dominant, but on that team in those circumstances, he was even worse.
The 2001-2002 team was even more universally abhorrent thanks to the Shaquille O’Neal signing and the way that all played out for Orlando Magic fans. Pairing him with an arrogant young Kobe Bryant and a cast of role players that knew every dirty trick in the book didn’t help, and the fact that they could have been helped along in the 2002 playoffs by a crooked ref only made everything worse.
A couple years later, when that same crew convinced Gary Payton and Karl Malone to come aboard, the general distaste of the nation grew even louder. It’s hard to get excited about a team that manufacturers that much talent in hopes of buying a ring. The same could be said about the summer they acquired Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.
Arguably the most hated franchise in NBA history, the Lakers have a storied history of annoying opposing fans, but even they weren’t the most disliked team ever.
One team was nastier than all the other most hated teams combined. True supervillains in their time.
The “Bad Boy” Pistons
For starters, there’s a seven-minute video on YouTube chronicling only the fights and altercations that Rick Mahorn got into during the 1989 NBA Finals. It’s just one guy in one series, and there’s seven minutes’ worth of it, so consider that just the tip of the iceberg.
Mahorn, Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer really were the three guys responsible for Detroit’s “Bad Boy” persona in the late 1980s, and it had everything to do with how physical they were, which often included way beyond just tough, hard-nosed defense. Mahorn was a cartoon character, doing things so over-the-top that they almost looked scripted, while Rodman would throw an elbow whenever he could and Laimbeer went full-goon more than a few times over the course of his career. Isiah Thomas wasn’t the most likeable of superstars either.
The fights, the arguing with refs and of course the overwhelming success over beloved Celtics, Lakers and Bulls teams of the era all combined to make them the most hated team of all time.
The Golden State Warriors may feel like villains this season, but in the historical context of the league they’re Dr. Doofenschmirtz following a long line of Jokers and Magnetos and Doctor Dooms. They have a long way to go to be truly hated, as these five teams rather conclusively prove.
And anyway, real villains don’t advertise with balloons.
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