In case you’ve missed it over the last week, Grantland has unveiled yet another compelling bracket that pits individuals against each other that would otherwise be impossible. If you didn’t feel the need to head on over to Grantland, just see the bracket here:
Friend of the blog Jeff Balinski brought up an amazing point that I couldn’t find an appropriate argument to. Having been born in 1989, it is nearly impossible for me to evaluate rationally the amount of hate some people felt for players in the 80′s and even the first half of the 90′s. A lot of my decisions would be based solely off what people have told me to think during those eras and which players analysts on ESPN or CBS have told me were scum. For example, I hate Reggie Miller, but for his years as an Indiana Pacer, not in college. Similarly, my love of Patrick Ewing growing up as a Knicks fan negates almost everything that could’ve pissed off college basketball fan me in the 1980s.
However, I do have plenty of knowledge about hate in the 2000s, as that’s when I developed my own feelings and emotions towards college basketball (and truly discovered my gambling problem). While I always have the utmost respect for anything Grantland does and acknowledge that Grantland’s existence has been a huge motivation for us to even start The Waiver Wire, I found myself disagreeing a ton on the players in their 2000 pool.
The easiest way to look at it has to start with the players Grantland included in their Top 8 that likely won’t even be on my list at all. Three players fall into that category: Aaron Craft, Marcus Williams and Kirk Hinrich.
Am I the only one that was totally stunned that Kirk Hinrich was on this list? Did anybody hate this guy when he was at Kansas if your favorite team didn’t also play in the Big 12? To me, Hinrich, along with teammate Nick Collison, was actually an enjoyable player to root for while he was in school. He played during one of the first tournaments I remember being fully involved in as a fan, and I actually hated plenty of other players in that tournament than Hinrich (we’ll get to that).
Skipping Aaron Craft for a second to Marcus Williams, I admit that there is probably a little bias on my part in saying Williams wasn’t a hated player, being that I’m from Connecticut and UConn basketball is as close as we’ll ever come to a pro team post-Whalers. Williams was certainly a gritty guard that even had Connecticut fans split on how important he was to the success of the team. However, I would never call him ‘hated’, and I didn’t know many non-UConn fans that truly disliked Williams. On those same teams, I’d say more people couldn’t stand Ben Gordon, Josh Boone or Charlie Villanueva than Marcus Williams.
Now, back to Craft. Besides the fact that he’s been in college since 2002, there isn’t that much to hate from Craft from a neutral party viewpoint. If you wanted to find enemies from the Ohio State camp over the last few years, I’d look towards Greg Oden, Evan Turner or even Jared Sullinger before I started pointing fingers at Craft. Craft is just a high-octane, three-point shooting guard. Don’t exactly know what Grantland has against him to include him in their Top 8 players that didn’t play at Duke for a most hated bracket.
As for the players that I would’ve included ahead of the three I mentioned before, it is important to note that J.J. Redick is the two-seed in the Duke bracket, and he would be the unquestioned #1 for hated players in the 2000. However, outside of that, there are a ton of players I’d have that need to be in the discussion.
I can make an all-time hate team just from the Big East alone, and I’ve always loved rooting for Big East teams come tourney time being from the Northeast. For everyone that isn’t a Syracuse fan, not having Gerry McNamara on this list is a little surprising. Yes, ‘Cuse is plenty represented in the form of Eric Devendorf, but McNamara was a maddening player that always seemed to throw daggers in the back of your favorite teams. He wore his emotions clearly and was never afraid of getting in the face of other players. And while we’re with Syracuse, you have to include Carmelo Anthony for his one year, Hakim Warrick and even Jonny Flynn. Other players forgotten from Big East lure: Chevron Troutman and Levance Fields (Pitt), Joe Alexander (West Virginia), Peyton Siva and Edgar Sosa (Louisville), Ryan Gomes (Providence), Darius Johnson-Odom (Marquette), Lance Stephenson and Jason Maxiell (Cincinnati), A.J. Price (UConn), Roy Hibbert (Georgetown), Scottie Reynolds (Villanova), anyone that played at Notre Dame and seriously many more that I’m forgetting.
If you think I’m only focusing on the Big East, I’m not. How could this list not include Drew Neitzel, who along with Scottie Reynolds seemed to stay in college for decades. And yes, Tyler Hansborough was truly hated and if you’re only going to have one representative from North Carolina over the last decade, it’s probably him. But, that doesn’t underline how much Sean May, Rashad McCants and the first few Roy Williams Tar Heels were hated.
Out west, you have the the Russell Westbrook/Kevin Love UCLA Bruins, Andre Iguodala/Jerryd Bayless out in Arizona, Keith Van Horn (not the right era, but I mean, come on, who liked that guy?), Nate Robinson when he made Washington relevant and so on.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re going to do a bracket of the most hated players in NCAA history, it is almost unfair to stack each era against each other. The best way to do it is to just evaluate it an era at a time. I mean, can we really compare an Eric Devendorf (easily, he’d win my bracket) with a Jalen Rose (who seriously wasn’t even the most hated member of the Fab Five – yeah I’m looking at you, Chris Webber) reasonably? I understand what Grantland is trying to do, and it’s really fun to bring back the memories of the players I loved to root against. However, the end goal is kind of impossible.
Then again, isn’t that the point to it all? Just to get the convesration going? I see you, Grantland.