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Behold a video catalogue of the most hated players in college basketball. Some were generational hate-figures found in our Most Hated College Basketball Players bracket. Some were just guys who pissed off our writers at some point or another.
Joe House: There is scientific evidence that suggests the neurological root of hatred follows an activation pattern in the brain that bears certain striking similarities to the pattern for love.
Which happens to provide a perfect explanation for what I’m about to say:
I hated Michael Jordan.
I grew up two miles from College Park, Maryland. While my formative hoops years were populated with heroes on the Washington Bullets and the still-unrivaled highs they delivered (35 years and counting … ), my hoops heart really belonged to the guys playing in Cole Field House. I loved Ernest Graham and Greg Manning and Adrian Branch and Albert King and Dutch Morley and Buck Williams and, of course, Len Bias. Because I could — and did — see those guys play. Not only were the ACC games broadcast on a predictable schedule that was mostly OK for a middle schooler, but I could go to the games (my elementary school had a hookup). And I went to a lot of them. Maryland’s coach during this era was Lefty Driesell, who was the perfect underdog coach for a team that never quite got a regular seat at the ACC adults table, and who had a particular skill when it came to fomenting grievances with Dean Smith.
So of course I intensely disliked Michael Jordan. He was an underclassman and he was skinny and it wasn’t eyeball-clear why he could play guard and forward so effectively (he used to KILL Maryland on the boards), but more than anything — he was stealing headlines that belonged to Len Bias. Above is the showboater Michael Jordan unnecessarily unveiling the cradle-dunk (10:33 mark) in Cole Field House at the end of a 1984 game Carolina had in the bag.
FYI, this entire clip is extremely worth the 11-minute investment. OLD-GUY MOMENT: This is what college basketball used to look like: crazy-good midrange games, because — get this — there was no 3-point line!
I was at this game, and I saw the dunk live. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and there was absolutely no doubt that MJ was rubbing it in. Which made me really loathe him. (But I definitely secretly looked forward to seeing the replay on the 11 p.m. Channel 9 news with Glenn Brenner.)
Jay Caspian Kang: Guess who I hate in this clip? The dude who stomped on an opponent’s face or the hardworking former walk-on who had his face stomped on? YOU DESERVED IT, LEE. HOW DARE YOU PLAY OUTSIDE YOUR NATURAL GOD-GIVEN ABILITY?
Bryan Curtis: Is it too soon — injury-wise — to hate Duke’s Ryan Kelly? Absolutely not. Let me direct you to a video called “The Ryan Kelly Comeback.” If you’re a Duke non-believer, it’ll get your blood boiling.
We begin with dramatic music, the kind that usually scores the trailer for a Jack Ryan adaptation. Kelly’s rehab — he hurt his foot against Clemson in January — is shown in dramatic blue and white. This is distinct from black and white because, I guess, we’re dealing with a Duke player. “Sittin’ out’s not fun,” Kelly says, “especially in your senior year.”
Then to Kelly’s comeback game, which came on March 2 against Miami. Kelly hit 3s. He hit turnarounds in the lane. He opened his palms in a kind of faux-Jordan statement of can-you-believe-this?! (It went nicely with his faux–Willis Reed statement of I-can’t-believe-I-can-walk.) Coach Mike Krzyzewski said later: “I mean, me saying ‘spectacular’ or whatever doesn’t do his performance justice.” After he scored a career-high 36, Kelly’s teammates threw wax cups full of water at him in the locker room.
The happy news is, Ryan Kelly is healthy enough to be infuriating again! When the tourney starts, I’ll be rooting against him harder than ever.
Sean Fennessey: When you’re 8 years old, Madison Square Garden looks like an ancient spaceship, a stone-and-steel bowl dropped from the sky into the center of lower-mid-Manhattan. A massive relic buried in the city, with extraterrestrial remnants in the bowels of the building. Inside, all the players were aliens to me. I always thought of St. John’s, then known as the Redmen, as the goofy, kind aliens from Explorers. Anyone from an opposing team was a Space Invader.
The Johnnies played a handful of home games at MSG every season and 1990 was peak Malik Sealy, the late, beloved swingman who died after being struck by a drunk driver in 2000. Ten years earlier, not yet 20, he faced off against Derrick Coleman, an evil alien. And though the above game, my first at MSG, was dominated by the efficient if dull Syracuse forward Billy Owens, Coleman loomed like a dark cloud over every play. He snatched rebounds, hoisted putbacks, dunked on Sealy and Sunnyside’s Robert Werdann, and looked terribly unhappy doing it all.
Coleman might have been the most talented Big East player I’ve ever seen in person — he was terrifyingly strong and athletic. And he was born to ball. Watch him run the offense after grabbing a board, attack the basket and then follow his shot — it’s like there’s a tractor beam emitted from the rim, drawing him in again and again. He’d dunk and pout, a routine of uninterested skill. Because of a frustrating pro career, his rep was dreadful for years. Now, he’s in danger of being forgotten, one more disappointing stud in a sea of not-quite-All-Stars (even though he made one). But Coleman was intergalactic, and his sourness was otherworldly. I hate him, but he scares me.
Charlie Pierce: Back in the day, there was nothing that was more fun for college basketball fans, especially those of us who were part of what Sports Illustrated once called Marquette Perennial Hellraisers, than tormenting Little Richie Phelps, the wad of gum and ego who coached the University of Notre Dame to several spasms of spectacular underachievement in the NCAA tournament. It was like being sent to the Macy’s Parade with a quiverful of flaming arrows. One of my fondest memories is of a Mideast Regional game almost 40 years ago at the University of Alabama, in which Phelps brought in the Fighting Irish team that had ended UCLA’s magisterial 88-game winning streak earlier that season and wound up getting shot out of the tournament almost singlehandedly by Campy Russell and his Michigan Wolverines. Such was the lack of confidence exhibited by the Michigan crowd that they didn’t even send the band. A friend of mine who played trumpet in the Marquette band wandered over to a spot behind the Notre Dame bench and played “The Victors” solo. The Michigan cheerleaders carried him back.
Of course, earlier that season, Notre Dame had beaten our lads in South Bend. Not two weeks earlier, the Irish football team had won a national championship, but only because Oklahoma was on probation for about 9,000 NCAA violations. So, naturally, we made up a sign that said, “Marquette University Says Congratulations National Champion Oklahoma Sooners” and ran it around the Notre Dame arena a couple of times. Frank McLaughlin, then an assistant under Phelps, and now the legendary athletic director at Fordham, still recalls it as “the night they locked up a busload of them.” Which is not true. Only one of us got arrested, and that was because the cop chasing him fell and broke his leg.
God, we were dicks.
God, he so deserved us.
Robert Mays: The hate for J.J. Redick at Duke wasn’t without merit. Redick’s college career aligned squarely with my time as an avid Blue Devil supporter, and I can recall just about every moment of J.J. ire — both its causes and its expression. There was the wave to the crowd at Florida State; the choice gesture at Carolina; the “Fuck you, J.J.” at Maryland. J.J. Redick didn’t do much to help himself in those four years, but I’ll maintain that the hate grew for one reason — J.J. Redick could play.
In the winter of 2006, no. 1 Duke was set to play no. 2 Texas in East Rutherford, New Jersey. That weekend, I was out of town at a school-sponsored retreat that left me without phone or Internet for the better part of three days. Because this was 2006, I managed to go the entire time without learning a single detail about what had happened. Because we didn’t have TiVo, a friend offered to record the game, and before even going home, I stopped at her house to watch.
What I saw was the best game of Redick’s career. He poured in shots from everywhere on the floor. Never did he need less room to get a shot off, and never did he make another team pay for what little room they gave. The best moment comes at the 1:28 mark of the video above. Up 20, on a neutral court, against the no. 2 team in the country, Redick takes a pass on the left wing, fakes, and as the defender flies past, Redick takes a step back — just far enough to get behind the 3-point line.
It was flashy, and unnecessary, just like the jawing and the head shaking on the way back down the floor. He scored 41 points. That day was everything I loved about watching Redick — and what everyone else hated just as much.
Chris Ryan: There are college basketball players who you hate because their sheer existence just doesn’t seem fair. That was Marcus Camby for me. He was the giant obstacle standing between the mid-’90s Temple University basketball teams and eternal glory. The only thing that consoles me — other than the fact that UMass’s Final Four trip in 1994 was nixed after it was found that Camby enjoyed certain, er, benefits — is watching the above video of Allen Iverson dunking on him. It’s something A.I. made a habit of …
Shane Ryan: My hatred for Khalid El-Amin runs so deep that it skewed my memory of the clip above. I thought there was an extended shot of him in front of the scorer’s table, shouting and pointing and crowing, when actually there’s just a brief moment when he pops his jersey and disappears. You can also hear him shout, “We shocked the world!” immediately after Trajan Langdon lost the ball, and that’s a big part of my hate — the guy’s first instinct after winning the national title was to dash to the TV cameras and deliver a line that I’d bet anything he prepared beforehand. He was a sore winner all the way through the tournament, and even watching how he carried himself around the cameramen afterward still gives me a surge of rage. And about “shocking the world” … someone should have reminded him that UConn started the year ranked second in the country, spent most of December and January at no. 1, and secured a 1-seed for the tournament.
I’m not especially proud of this, but I hated him so much that I was glad when he got arrested for marijuana possession two weeks later, and even gladder when his NBA career failed after a season. That seems really stupid now, and so does my hatred — El-Amin is reportedly pretty charming — but at the time, it was red-hot. And I can’t believe he didn’t make the ’90s bracket. (Did people outside Ann Arbor really hate Mateen Cleaves? He was the likable version of El-Amin!) But I’m glad for the chance to commemorate him here.
Rafe Bartholomew: What is he doing to Wojo! You can’t do that to Wojo! NOOOOOOO!
Mark Titus: As a resident of the great state of Ohio, choosing the most hated college basketball player in the last 30 years is a bit of a no-brainer. That’s because as much as the media likes to suggest that Ohioans hate LeBron James, the fact of the matter is that nobody is hated by basketball fans in Ohio more than Joakim Noah.
He was easy to hate before he even did anything to Ohio. The combination of his obnoxiousness and the ugliness in every aspect of his being — his two-handed jump shot, his punchable face, and most importantly his ponytail that resembles a wad of pubes clogging a shower drain — was enough for any college basketball fan to hate the guy. But when his Florida Gators beat Ohio State in the 2007 national championship game, Buckeyes fans had to watch him celebrate as if he didn’t just get completely dominated by Greg Oden. When a few years later he called out the city of Cleveland, he forever sealed his legacy as public enemy no. 1 for Ohioans.
I know Christian Laettner is inevitably going to win this contest, but I’m begging America to at least put Noah in the finals if for no other reason than this.
Duke Flops vs. Duke Goats
Patricia Lee: First let me say that as a recent Duke grad, I am 100 percent in on our basketball team. I have slept outside in a tent for weeks in Krzyzewskiville for the home Carolina game and came back early from winter break multiple times, only to wait for hours in the snow for the Maryland game. I know when to wave my arm out and heckle the opposing team, and I know how to dance the “Rock Lobster.” Needless to say, I have no personal vendetta against Duke. In fact, I find this whole bracket awesome — part of the reason people hate Duke players is because the team is always relevant and often winning, right? This is all clearly just a testament to the school’s strong basketball tradition (and obviously not to individual players’ dickishness or Cameron Crazies’ annoyingness). All hail Coach K, and GTHC (they did).
With that out of the way, I present a YouTube video of not just one annoying Duke basketball player, but a bunch of them — flopping. And juxtaposed with flopping goats. It is basically the greatest video to ever come from a UNC fan (unless there is one of Austin Rivers’s shot out there that I don’t know about). Duke flopping is infamous, as evidenced by the 26,300,000 Google results for “duke flop,” and this video does a great job of showing the absurdity of it all. I’ll admit it — sometimes I watch our games and do a facepalm when somebody in blue and white suddenly drops to the ground, as if hit by Goku’s Kamehameha. Why, even John Calipari noticed — and fired shots. So while a single Duke player might not be my most hated college basketball player, as a group, they probably are Calipari’s. I bet he’d vote for Ryan Kelly in the First Four if that were part of our bracket. Anyway, GOAT Duke flopping and GOATS flopping. Perfection in a YouTube video.