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Most Hated NBA Teams of All-Time

Joel Brigham looks back at the most hated teams in NBA history and why they were despised.

Joel Brigham

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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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NBA

The Real Jrue Holiday Has Finally Arrived

It may have been a little later than they would have wanted, but the Jrue Holiday that New Orleans has always wanted is finally here, writes Matt John.

Matt John

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New Orleans has always earned the nickname “The Big Easy”, but ever since Jrue Holiday came to town, his time there has been anything but.

When New Orleans traded for Holiday back in 2013, they hoped that he would round out an exciting young core that included Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Ryan Anderson. At 23 years old, Holiday averaged 17.7 points, 8.0 assists, and 4.2 rebounds the previous season and was coming off his first all-star appearance in Philadelphia, so the Pelicans had much to look forward to.

Unfortunately, recurring extensive injuries prohibited the Pelicans’ new core from ever playing together fully healthy, with Holiday getting his fair share of the bruises. In his first two seasons, Holiday played in only 74 games combined with the team due to injury, and things didn’t get much better his third season. While he played more games, Holiday was on a minutes restriction and his season ended again with injury.

Holiday avoided the injury bug his fourth season, but he nobly took a leave of absence at the start the season to tend to his ill wife, which caused him to miss the season’s first 12 games and 15 in total. Holiday’s inability to stay on the court coupled with New Orleans’ stagnated progress made him a forgotten man in the NBA. That was until last summer, when Holiday became a free agent.

Given the circumstances, Holiday did what he could for the Pelicans. He certainly proved he was above average, but he hadn’t shown any improvement since his arrival. Coupling that with both how many games he had missed in the previous four seasons and the league’s salary cap not increasing as much as teams had anticipated, and one would think to proceed with caution in regards to extending Jrue Holiday.

But the Pelicans saw it differently. New Orleans gave Holiday a five-year, $126 million extension last summer, befuddling the general masses. Besides Holiday’s inability to stay on the court, the Pelicans already had an expensive payroll, and they later added Rajon Rondo, another quality point guard, to the roster. So, with all that in mind, giving Holiday a near-max contract on a team that had made the playoffs a grand total of once in the Anthony Davis era seemed a little foolish.

This season, however, Jrue Holiday has rewarded the Pelicans’ faith in him and has proven the doubters so very wrong.

With a clean slate of health, Holiday has proven himself to be better than ever. This season, Holiday averaged career-highs in scoring (19 points a game) and field goal percentage (49 percent overall), which played a huge role in New Orleans having its best season since Chris Paul’s last hurrah with the team back in 2011.

Holiday’s impact extended beyond what the traditional numbers said. His on/off numbers from NBA.com showed that the Pelicans were much better on both sides of the ball when he was on the court compared to when he was off. Offensively, the Pelicans had an offensive rating of 108.9 points per 100 possessions when he was the on the court compared to 104.4 points per 100 possessions when he was off.

On the other side of the court, Holiday was even more integral. The Pelicans had a defensive rating of 103.3 per 100 possessions when Holiday was on the court compared to 112.3 off the court. Overall, the Pelicans were 13.6 points per 100 possessions better with Holiday on the floor. That was the highest net rating on the team, even higher than Anthony Davis.

Other statistics also support how impactful Holiday has been this season. According to ESPN’s real plus-minus page, Holiday’s 3.81 Real Plus-Minus ranked ninth among point guards – No. 16 offensively, No. 4 defensively – which beat out Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and Goran Dragic, all of whom made the All-Star team this year.

However, Holiday’s effectiveness shined through mid-way through the season, or more specifically, on Jan. 26, when Demarcus Cousins went down with an Achilles tear. While Davis certainly led the way, Holiday’s role could not have been understated when the Pelicans went 21-13 without their MVP candidate to finish the season. Offensively, Holiday’s point average went from 18.6 to 19.4 and his assist average went from 5.2 to 7.2, all while his turnover average – from 2.6 to 2.7 – stayed the same.

Defensively, Holiday had much to do with the Pelicans’ improved defense after Cousins went down. According to NBA.com, the Pelicans defensive rating went from 106.2 points allowed per 100 possessions to 103.7, and much of it can be attributed to Holiday. When Holiday was on the court, the team’s defensive rating was 101.2 points allowed per 100 possessions compared to 109.6 points allowed per 100 possessions with him off.

Holiday’s improved numbers, combined with the Pelicans steadying the boat without their star center, make a fair argument that Holiday was one of the league’s best all-around point guards this season, but Holiday’s style isn’t much of a thrill to watch. He doesn’t have Russell Westbrook’s other-worldly athleticism, he doesn’t have Stephen Curry’s lethal jumper, nor does he have Chris Paul’s floor general abilities. Holiday’s specialty is that he has every fundamental of a good point guard, which makes his impact usually fly under the radar.

That was until last week, when the Pelicans unexpectedly curb stomped the Blazers. The Jrue Holiday coming out party was in full-swing, as the 27-year-old torched Rip City, averaging 27.8 points, 6.5 assists, and 4 rebounds a game on 57 percent shooting from the field, including 35 percent from deep. He did all of that while stymieing MVP candidate Damian Lillard, as Dame averaged 18 points and 4 assists while shooting 35 percent from the field, including 30 percent from deep, and surrendered four turnovers a game.

If Holiday’s contributions weren’t on full display then, they certainly are now. The Pelicans have suddenly emerged as one of the West’s toughest and most cohesive teams in this year’s playoffs, with Holiday playing a huge role in the team’s newfound mojo and potentially glorious future.

This was the Jrue Holiday the New Orleans Pelicans had in mind when they first traded for him almost five years ago. While his impact has come a little later than they would have wanted, it’s as the old saying goes.

Better late than never.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Are Player Legacies Really On The Line?

How important is legacy in the NBA playoffs? Lang Greene takes a look.

Lang Greene

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As the NBA Playoffs continue to pick up steam, the subject of individual greatness has become the big topic of conversation. Today, we ask the question: is legacy talk just a bunch of hyperbole or are they really made or broken in the playoffs?

To be clear, legacies do matter. Reputations are built on reliability and how dependable someone is throughout the course of their respective body of work. We all have them. They are built over time and it’s seldom they change from one misstep – but they can. Some of the greatest players in NBA history never won a title; see John Stockton and Karl Malone during their Utah Jazz years. Some NBA greats never won a title until they were past their physical prime and paired with a young charge that took over the reins; see David Robinson in San Antonio. Some NBA greats never won a title as the leading man until they were traded to a title contending team; see Clyde Drexler in Houston. We also have a slew of Hall of Famers that have been inducted with minimal playoff success in their careers; see the explosive Tracy McGrady.

So what’s in a legacy? And why does it mean more for some then it does for others?

Four-time League MVP LeBron James’ legacy is always up for debate, despite battling this season to make his ninth NBA Finals appearance. James’ legacy seems to be up in the air on a nightly basis. Maybe it’s because of the rarified air he’s in as one of the league’s top 10 players all-time or maybe it’s just good for ratings.

As this year’s playoffs gain momentum, the topic of legacy has been mentioned early and often.

Out in the Western Conference, the legacy of Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star guard Russell Westbrook is being questioned at all angles. There’s no doubt Westbrook is one of the best players in the league today as the reigning MVP and coming off two consecutive seasons averaging a triple-double. However, Westbrook’s decision making has come into question plenty over the past couple of seasons.

The subject of whether you can truly win a championship with Westbrook as your lead guy serves as the centerpiece of the debate. It goes without saying former league MVP Kevin Durant bolted to the Golden State Warriors amid rumors that he could no longer coexist next to Westbrook in the lineup. Ever since Durant’s somewhat unexpected departure, it seems Westbrook has been hell-bent on proving his doubters wrong – even if it comes at the detriment to what his team is trying to accomplish.

The latest example was in game four of his team’s current first-round series versus the Utah Jazz.

Westbrook picked up four fouls in the first half as he was attempting to lock up point guard Ricky Rubio, who had a career night in Game 3 of the series. Westbrook infamously waved off head coach Billy Donovan after picking up his second personal foul in the first quarter. Westbrook was also in the game with three personal fouls and under two minutes left in the first half before picking up his fourth personal.

You can make an argument that this was just bad coaching by Donovan leaving him in the game in foul trouble, but it also points to Westbrook’s decision making and not being able to play within the constructs of a team dynamic. Further, what will be Westbrook’s legacy on this season’s Oklahoma City Thunder team with Carmelo Anthony and Paul George if they were to flame out in the first round with little fizzle – against a Jazz team with no star power and zero All-Stars? Is discussing Westbrook’s legacy worthless banter or is it a legitimate topic? There is no doubt on his current trajectory Westbrook is headed straight into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. As an individual player there is no greater achievement than to have your name etched in stone with the greats of yesteryear, but the court of public opinion factors in team success and this is where the topic of legacy comes into play.

Say what you will about Durant’s decision to go to Golden State, but his legacy is undoubtedly secured. Durant won the Finals MVP last season in absolute dominant fashion and showed up on the biggest of stages. All that’s left from those that question Durant’s legacy at this point are the folks on the fringe saying he couldn’t do it by himself. But that is exactly the line of thinking that’s getting Westbrook killed as well, because winning championships is all about team cohesiveness and unity.

Out in the Eastern Conference, all eyes will be on Milwaukee Bucks do everything star Giannis Antetokounmpo. After five seasons in the league, Antetokounmpo has zero playoff series victories attached to his name. Heading into the playoffs this season, the seventh-seeded Bucks were considered underdogs to the second-seeded Boston Celtics.

But the Celtics are wounded. They do not have the services of All Stars Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward. The Celtics are a team full of scrappy young talent and cagey veterans. Antetokounmpo is clearly the best player in the series and teams with the best player usually fare well in a seven game series. But the Bucks are facing elimination down 3-2 versus Boston. Antetokounmpo has only been in the league half of the time Westbrook has, but the chirping about his legacy has already begun as Milwaukee attempts to win its first playoff series since 2001.

So what’s in a legacy? Are there varying degrees for which people are being evaluated?

Despite James’ success throughout his career, a first-round exit at the hands of the Indiana Pacers over the next week will damage his legacy in the minds of some. While others feel even if Antetokounmpo and the Bucks were to drop this series against the Celtics, he should be given a pass with the caveat that he still has plenty of time in his career to rectify.

As for Westbrook, there are vultures circling the head of his legacy and these folks feel that a first-round exit will damage his brand irreversibly after 10 seasons in the league

Ultimately, the topic of legacies makes for good column fodder, barbershop banter and sport debate television segments. Because when guys hang up their high tops for good, a Hall of Fame induction is typically the solidifying factor when it comes to a player’s legacy.

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Insiders Podcast

PODCAST: The Futures Of LeBron, PG13, Kawhi and More

Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler and NBA writer David Yapkowitz talk about the future of LeBron James in Cleveland, the Paul George situation, Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs, the future of the Blazers and the Basketball 101 program that’s part of the Professional Basketball Combine.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler and NBA writer David Yapkowitz talk about the future of LeBron James in Cleveland, the Paul George situation, Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs, the future of the Blazers and the Basketball 101 program that’s part of the Professional Basketball Combine.

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