Barry Bonds trial spawned reruns on cable sports channels of old documentaries chronicling Bonds’ chase for Hank Aaron's home run record amidst all the steroid rumors. Flipping from those channels to others, sports fans can find unending coverage of the NBA playoffs, filled with images of LeBron and Kobe. Sports itself is a story, the story of triumph or sorrow, victory or defeat; but the thing about stories is the good ones always have a villain. So here are my top 10 sports villains of the past 20 years or so. Trevor Amicone is the sports director at 88.1 Weber FM, "Ogden's Radio Station," and host of the sports talk radio show, "Fully Loaded Sports with Trevor Amicone." To check out more blogs, go to justsayinsports.tumblr.com or weberfm.org.
Most of the people on this list will have a significant portion of the population who defend them in the comments section. Kobe Bryant would have Lakers fans defending him. Alex Rodriguez would have Yankees fans defending him. But this guy will have very few. It has been said that Scott Boras is the most influential man in baseball who is not a player. Boras is probably even more influential than most players. He may be single-handedly responsible for the huge contracts free agents are now getting, which the players love. But team executives and fans who watch their teams lose out on players because they couldn’t pay them enough … they hate him.
If you think Kobe’s recent gay slur was controversial, John Rocker personified offensiveness. Even the people who hated arrogant New Yorkers were offended by the comment the Braves’ reliever made about New York City. His comments in January 2000 elevated the Braves-Mets rivalry to the realm of Red Sox-Yankees for a few years.
No team has drawn the ire of more sports fans than the New York Yankees, and that is largely because of George Steinbrenner. This makes sense because they may be the most storied franchise in sports, but it was made even easier to hate the Yankees when Steinbrenner took over the team in 1973. Steinbrenner was arrogant and overbearing. Even some Yankees fans were irritated by The Boss because they recognized that he made it a lot easier for people to hate their team.
If you go to the Wikipedia page of a public figure, there’s almost always a subsection titled “Controversy.” For Terrell Owens, that subsection is a mile long and includes smaller subsections titled things like “Desperate Housewives Skit” and “Spitting Incident.” It’s hard to say which T.O. media spectacle was the most sickening: the driveway press conference with T.O. doing dumbbell curls with microphones shoved in his face, the Drew Rosenhaus “Next Question” press conference, or the VH1 “reality” show, the T.O. Show. Eagles fans hate him, Cowboys fans despise him, 49ers fans detest him, Buffalo fans forgot he was ever there, and Team Ochocinco ignores him. From the nauseating touchdown celebrations to the obnoxious attempts to force his way onto SportsCenter, T.O. had to make this list.
While Eagles fans have seemingly forgiven him for his off-the field crimes, most of the outside world is flabbergasted that a man who committed his crimes could be allowed the type of forgiveness he’s been given. It also must be noted that the second he has a bad game, Philadelphia fans will descend on him like Mark Cuban on a financially fledgling franchise, just ask Donovan McNabb.
No team is hated more than the Yankees, and that’s going to come with a few select hated players. No Yankee in the past two decades has ever been the target of more Yankee hater disgust than Alex Rodriguez. Even his own teammates began to call him A-Fraud, according to Joe Torre. He’s drawn such nicknames from his detractors as “A-Roid” and “Double-Play-Rod.” Some fans hate him because he’s good, others because he’s a steroid user, but most hate him for his arrogant attitude and prima donna attributes. Until 2009, even Yankees fans hated him because he couldn’t perform in the postseason, calling him “The Cooler” because seemingly every team he went to started underperforming while every team he left started excelling. As hated as the man is, any Red Sox fan will tell you that there is no man (or beast) in the Yankees lineup that scares them more.
Big Ben was one of the most beloved figures in the Pittsburgh pantheon of sports stars. Was. One year and two alleged sexual assaults later and he’s having to fake remorse just to get back on the field. Even after he led his team to the Super Bowl, some Steelers fans still refuse to cheer for him. It may well be that his out-of-this-world athletic ability is the only thing that has kept him out of jail.
Quick, do you remember where you were when Barry Bonds hit his 755th home run to replace Hank Aaron atop the all-time home run list? Neither do I. With Bonds, it wasn’t just about the cheating, it was about his arrogantly cavalier attitude with which Bonds pompously strutted toward ruining maybe the greatest record in sports. The haughtiness and self-involvement oozed out of him. The mock glory that surrounded his record-breaking home run was so overwhelming that even he couldn’t celebrate unabashedly. His self-involvement was never so evident as when he crossed home plate after hitting No. 755 and neglected one of his last redeeming routines — kissing his bat-boy son. One thing that won’t be remembered? The “new” home run record. Think about it. Do you know the number? If you do, you’re a Giants fan … or Barry Bonds.
The invasion of gold and white No. 24 jerseys in opposing NBA arenas has irritated basketball fans to no end. It's almost as irritating as Kobe’s presumptuousness and audacity to pick No. 24 so as to be one better than MJ. Kobe and Bonds were cut from the same cloth. Their self-important brashness has become unbearable. If the skills and the attitude weren’t enough to push you over the edge, the rape charges in 2003 were. The assault case was dropped but further civil suits were settled between Bryant and the victim. Despite his public mea culpa (which most fans did not buy), many still have not forgiven him. At the very least he was an adulterer who kept his marriage together by throwing money at it, in the form of a $4 million diamond ring for his wife. Whether it’s for the sexual deviance, the attitude or the skills, few athletes are more booed than Kobe.
If this list had been put together a year ago, King James might not have even made this top 10, but somehow he has become the most hated man in sports. Hailed as the homegrown athlete that would save Cleveland, instead, he spent seven seasons teetering on the edge of the Cleveland faithful’s love by wearing Yankee hats to Indians games with no championship. He proceeded to leap off said edge, leaving the Ohio professional sports world in shambles. He invoked karma upon the Cavs, who did nothing to him while Lebron left them stranded like a “Bachelor” contestant without a rose. He refused to appear for the announcements of the starting lineups at Cleveland after Quicken Loans Arena security refused to let the second car of his entourage into the visiting parking lot. Quite a childish way to avoid the only formal chance that legitimately disgruntled Cavs fans have to boo him.