The first thing you need to know about these rankings are that they are purely subjective. I am not trying to objectively evaluate how much an athlete is hated by the general sports population. Instead, I am simply providing my rankings and analysis for the players and sports figures I personally dislike the most. Also, please note that the title of this entry is my “least favorite sports figures of all-time” not “least favorite athlete”. The reason for this discrepancy is that I wanted this list to include announcers, columnist, owners, and coaches who cannot be considered athletes but still play a major role in how a game is played and/or analyzed. Sometimes it’s the people who don’t directly decide the outcome of a game who are the easiest for me to fall in love with. Moreover, you will see on this list that there is a disproportionate focus on athletes from individual sports. The reason for that is simple: when I watch team sports, I tend to focus on the teams involved and not really build a particular amount of affection (or hatred) towards a particular player. There are exceptions to this rule of course, but with individual sports, I feel that it is a lot easier to build a strong bond with the athletes competing. Furthermore, unlike most of the lists I have published in the past, this one is written in ascending order to preserve the suspense in my countdown to # 1.
30. Joe Lunardi (aka Joey Brackets)- Just like with my “favorite sports figures” list I am starting things off with a non-athlete. First of all, “Joey Brackets” does seem like a nice enough guy, so unlike most people on the list, his ranking here has more to do with the way he is treated than anything he’s actually done wrong. What I mean by that is that anyone that legitimately follows college basketball can do what he does and do it better, yet ESPN acts like his “Bracketology” is the word of the Lord and that only his opinion matters. It’s a convincing rouse that the network has somewhat successfully brainwashed into fans’ head. You will never hear about how accurate Joey’s bracket was after Selection Sunday because they don’t really want you to know that he’s actually not very good at his job. Don’t believe me? Check out how he has compared to other bracketologists including myself over the years (http://bracketproject.50webs.com/rankings.html). The bottom line is that I just don’t like the guy because he gets paid a ton of money to do something that I do for fun, and I am better at it than him. Jealousy? Maybe a little…
29. Kobe Bryant- You probably noticed from my “favorite sports figures” list that some of the greatest athletes of all-time are also some of my favorite athletes. My problem is with the guys who are undeservedly compared to those greats. These are the “posers” of sports who are often time very good but just don’t belong in the discussion of “greatest ever”. Kobe is a perfect example of that, as he has achieved great NBA success but has no business being compared to Jordan or anybody else in the all-time NBA top 5.
28. Brett Favre– I never liked the Green Bay Packers, so Favre was always a player who I held a somewhat unfavorable opinion towards. However, he would not be on this list if it wasn’t for the annoying “fake retirements” that we have had to endure for the last 5 years of his career.
27. Tiger Woods– I really liked Tiger when he was an amateur and when he first turned professional. However, I have liked him less and less ever since he won that first Masters in 1997, and it really doesn’t have that much to do with his sex scandal. Tiger’s become increasingly arrogant and obnoxious, and I hate how all golf coverage revolves around him regardless of how he’s playing. It’s become so ridiculous that every time the guy hits one good shot, commentators and pundits start screaming “Tiger is back!!!” The whole thing just reeks of desperation.
26. Terry Bradshaw– Bradshaw played before my time, but he’s an extremely obnoxious announcer and the Steelers are my least favorite NFL franchise.
25. Isiah Thomas– Thomas played like a thug and then acted even worse we he single-handedly ran an entire professional basketball league, the CBA, into the ground. It’s nothing but poetic justice that he got fired at lowly Florida International at the end of this season and then replaced by Rick Pitino’s 29-year old son.
24. Tonya Harding– Obvious choice for this list. One of the great villains in sports history.
23. Venus Williams– Never liked either of the Williams sisters. Don’t like how they play the game or how they act on and off the court.
22. Serena Williams– See comment above. Serena gets the slight edge over Venus on this list because she’s been a little more successful and a little more obnoxious throughout her career.
21. Mark May– I’m not sure how much of his ESPN persona is an act and how much of it is his true personality, but this now popular t-shirt says it all (http://www.juanelway.com/girl-wears-mark-may-is-a-douche-t-shirt/).
20. Michael Vick– Vick’s pattern of behavior throughout his career seems to indicate that he’s just a bad human being.
19. Lebron James– You don’t have to be a Cleveland fan to notice a traitor when you see one. It’s pretty pathetic that the greatest player in the league had to go align himself with two other top 10 NBA players, and they still struggle to win championships.
18. Sammy Sosa– I really liked Sammy early in his career, especially during his magical 66 home run season from 1998. However, the steroid era turned me off to baseball and I still haven’t forgiven its biggest culprits: Sosa, McGwire, and Barry Bonds.
17. Rece Davis– One of the most outspoken BCS Elitists at ESPN.
16. Pete Sampras– Now we enter my nice guy section of the list. By most accounts, the guys ranked 15-16 on this list are upstanding and successful individuals that would serve as ideal role models for your children. However, I don’t like either guy because they were/are arch rivals of mine. Growing up Andre Agassi was my favorite athlete (see that list below), so naturally Pete was the enemy. Sampras also annoyingly precipitates the stereotype of the ultra-boring tennis player.
15. Mike Kryzewski– I’d probably like Coach K if he coached any other team besides Duke. Just like I might like Kim Jong Il if he wasn’t a crazy dictator. Instead, Kryzewski is the leader of the most evil program in sports history, which is why he qualifies for my top 15 least favorite sports figures. Overall, I tend to dislike Duke’s players and fans more than their coach which is why you will see multiple Dookies ranked higher on this list.
14. Vijay Singh– One of my favorite golf moments of all-time came when a heckler yelled out to Vijay at the U.S. Open after he hit a bunker shot to within 6 inches, “I think Annika would have put that one in.” It really says something about a sport when one of its stars wants to prevent women from competing against men because he’s worried about getting beat. Vijay is just the ultimate pompous and arrogant golfer.
13. Mark McGwire– See athlete # 18. The difference between McGwire and Sosa though is that McGwire parlayed his cheating into perjury on Capitol Hill.
12. Rafael Nadal– I hated this guy from the moment he burst out on the scene at the 2004 French Open. Capri pants have no place in men’s tennis…
11. David Stern– The worst league commissioner of all-time. As you may have noticed throughout this list, undeserved arrogance is a main theme of sports figures who I do not like. Stern is unjustly credited with rebuilding the NBA in the 1980s, when all he really did is ride the coattails of his two superstars, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Now that Stern has firm control of his league he can do things like throw Bird under the bus for making the overtly obvious point that the NBA is a black man’s game. Stern is the ultimate example of the Napoleon complex run afoul.
10. Bobby Petrino– The least of this guy’s crimes is coaching several teams who I don’t particular like (see Louisville and Arkansas). The more egregious crime is of course his constant betrayal of every program and athletic director he’s ever worked for (not to mention his family. The scandal from the past few weeks is sweet poetic justice for this slimeball…
9. Rick Dutrow– You remember this guy? He was the ridiculously obnoxious trainer for the Triple Crown contender Big Brown. I could expound more about him but Pat Forde (who appears on my list of favorite sports figures of all-time) does it better (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=forde_pat&id=3431608&sportCat=horse ).
8. Barry Bonds– Bonds is the face of baseball’s steroid era and just an extremely unlikeable guy, which is why he ranks as my least favorite baseball player of all-time.
7. O.J. Simpson– No comment needed here…
6. Bill Hancock– Some of you might not recognize the name, but Hancock is the figurehead of the most evil organization on the planet, the BCS.
5. J.J. Redick– One of the easiest basketball players to hate in the modern era. Redick is the epitome of all that is wrong with Duke basketball: arrogant, thuggish, and elitist.
4. Lance Armstrong– One of the world’s biggest frauds. This outspoken atheist is so arrogant that he attributes his survival of cancer to his toughness and work ethic. In fact, he’s basically used his cancer as a way to feed his ego and make money. The only reason people even knows that he’s a cancer survivor is that he used performance enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France seven times. Sometimes a story is just too good to be true and Lance Armstrong’s triumphant return to cycling is a great example of that. Cancer doesn’t just cause an average cyclist to become the greatest of all-time. Don’t give me that crap about it gave him a more cycling-friendly physique. There were definitely other forces at play here, and we all know what those were.
3. Craig James– One of the dirtiest and most bigoted sports figures of all-time. This guy just seems to end up on the wrong end of every storyline/issue. First of all, while Rece Davis and other college football pundits subtly express their hate for non-BCS schools, James outright discriminates against them like a Klan member in 1960’s Mississippi. Not only does he consistently bash Boise State and other non-AQ teams on the air but his AP rankings of them have been beyond absurd (http://thebiglead.com/index.php/2011/11/29/craig-james-is-not-a-boise-state-broncos-fan/ ). Pretty ridiculous for a guy who actually played at a non-AQ school himself in SMU. Of course, that brings me right into the second black mark on James’ resume in that he was one of the biggest stars of the scandal-ridden SMU program from the 1980’s that ended up receiving the death penalty for continuously paying players. Those two demerits would probably be enough to get him pretty high on this list, but there’s even more to hate with this guy. Two years ago, James led the campaign that got the legendary Mike Leach fired at Texas Tech when James used his position at ESPN to overdramatize a story about Leach putting his sissy son in a utility closet. I mean is there anyone in the world as petty and vindictive as Craig James? Fortunately for myself and the rest of mankind, James announced last fall that he is leaving his perch as college football analyst to run for senate in Texas. Now he can claim the title as my least favorite Republican politician in the country. Everybody can have at least one guy in their own party they despise, right?
2. Scam Newton– The 2009 college football season was one of the most heartbreaking times of my life, and Scam is the major reason why. That year setup perfect for me with South Carolina, my second favorite football team, set to become the Cinderella champion of the SEC, and Boise State and/or TCU set to become the first mid-major ever to play in a BCS title game. Unfortunately, a thuggish preacher’s son came out of nowhere though to put an end to all my hopes and dreams. Scam, as he has been appropriately dubbed, cheated on tests, stole a computer, lied to police, lied to the NCAA, and then used his dad as part of a pay for play scheme at least two different schools. Somehow, Scam was deemed eligible by the NCAA and allowed to lead Auburn to asterisk-ridden SEC and national championships. A lot of friends of mine have forgiven him and now cheer for him since became a member of the local Carolina Panthers. I will not do so. Instead, the Panthers have gone from one of my top 5 favorite pro franchise to one of my top 5 least favorites all because of the despicable human being named Scam.
1. Christian Laettner– Scam may have ruined my 2009 college football season, but this guy right here ruined my entire childhood. At the age of 6 and ½ I started becoming a sports fan, and on March 28, 1992 I sat down with my parents and their friends to watch a game from start to finish for the very first-time. The local team, Kentucky, was set to play the national juggernaut, Duke, in the East Regional Finals. I knew enough about basketball to follow what was going on, and I soon became enthralled in this epic battle of basketball titans. I could tell you everything that happened that night. The Greatest Game Ever, as it has been called, is one of the earliest vivid memories of my life. I remember jumping around after Sean Woods hit the bank shot with 2.1 seconds left and then talking with my parents and their friends about how we were going to drive around town to celebrate as soon as the final 2.1 seconds elapsed. Then, the shot happened…. the ultimate elitist thug who embodies everything wrong with Duke basketball hit the most unforgettable shot in basketball history. That shot, that game, that moment changed my life in so many ways. First of all, it automatically established Duke basketball as my least favorite sports team of all-time. More importantly, however, it lit the fire behind my intense and sometimes unhealthy passion for sports. I realized, through the ups and downs of that game, how much the outcome of a sporting event can affect a person, a family, and a community’s happiness and well-being. We had friends who went into deep bouts of depression. And believe it or not, my dad, to this day, will not watch a close game involving a team he likes on TV because of how this one ended. That game was the ultimate clash of good vs. evil and on March 28, 1992, evil stepped on a defenseless player’s chest without getting ejected, hit all 20 shots he took from the field, and then hit a spectacular buzzer beater to put an end to the careers of Kentucky’s most popular senior class of all-time. I recently read Gene Wojechowski’s excellent book The Last Great Game: Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds that Changed Basketball, and one of the most interesting tidbits in it is that Laettner wore # 32 in tribute to the athlete he grew up idolizing. And who was that athlete you might ask? A football player by the name of O.J. Simpson. That really does explain a lot…