Friday, August 15, 2008

SwaggerJack: The Hate List

Holly MacKenzie is a contributing writer for SLAM magazine, SLAM online, and HP. Her "SwaggerJack" column runs Fridays around these parts.

Because I love this game so much and I’m often sticking up for the players who have managed to make their own lives difficult (or, as difficult as getting paid millions of dollars to play basketball can be), I am often asked about the players I don’t like. My mother taught me not to hate, so there is no true NBA monster in my mind, but there are some players both past and present who have been able to get under my skin.

Reggie Miller is a past guy that I loved to hate. Watching him yell in the PR guy's face before the game to get hyped up used to make me want to deck him. Of course, when he played his final game, I bawled my eyes out, because even for Reggie there was great, great respect. As a player, not a member of the broadcasting team. Still, there are some players in the league today who annoy me. Sometimes this list is validated, sometimes not.

It took me awhile to come up with my list, but I’m confident that there are others out there who will agree with me. While my mind first went to the usual suspects like Bruce Bowen or Shaquille O’Neal, neither of these guys fit the bill. With Bowen, I liked that he knows and accepts his role on the Spurs, even though I want to bash his shins with a baseball bat at least once a year. Especially so when he gets involved with Chris Paul in a skirmish.

While people expect me to hate Shaq since I am obviously Team Kobe, I can’t. The guy is too entertaining and he was a huge part of getting us three championships and with the exception of a certain someone below, anyone who was once a member of the purple and gold will always hold a place in my heart, even Kwame. That being said, the little stunt he pulled this season, being miraculously healed as soon as his plane landed in Phoenix wasn’t so cool. Also, calling out his former teammates in Miami. Chris Quinn? Really, Diesel? His bench-sitting in Miami was a slap in the face to the fans and organization and I’m not down with that.

But, who am I kidding? I’m that girl who really does love the NBA and everyone in it. Even the guys who made this list, I still root for them while watching and it’s kind of like the people in your everyday life who drive you nuts, but without them, you’d hate the silence. I’ve got love for all of these guys even if they make me want to pull my hair out and scream some (most), games. To the people who wanted to see my negative side, read on. I now present the first (and probably last), SwaggerJack Hate List.

1. Wally Szczerbiak

I like typing your crazy last name and how you were like a mentor on the Sonics earlier this season. I like how intense you can be while in the game and I also am kind of in awe of your shoulders. It sneaks up on you, that physique you’ve got. Still, I'm almost positive that you were endorsing Skechers a few years back. If it wasn't, then that male model was your twin. Also, any man that uses more hair product than I do gets an automatic strike (see below: Kirilenko).

2. Antoine Walker

Remember when you and PP led the Celtics back from 21 down in the fourth quarter of the 2002 playoffs? I think I liked you then, and somehow I was able to look past the fact that you just don’t look like a basketball player. Or, at least one who actually hits a weight room. You seem like a fun guy, but you were definitely the one getting the better deal out of the Pierce-Walker tandem. Now he gets to play with KG and Ray Ray and he actually earned his ring. Hope you had fun watching from your courtside seat!

3. Damon Jones

Damon. Damon. Damon. How quickly they forget. I know that’s what you’re thinking. It wasn’t long ago you was draining threes and had everyone mesmerized. Well time’s up, Jonesy. With the loud outfits and even louder mouthpiece, you’ve made a mockery… Of yourself.

4. Brian Cook

Brian Cook, gets the distinction of being the only Laker to make this list. Since that 03 draft when I hoped and prayed that the good things I had read about him in “Men of March” would translate over to the NBA, he has let me down and crushed my spirit. It was a warm day in November when I heard the news that he was leaving for Orlando. Even after all of these years of disappointment, I wish nothing but the best for him with the Magic.

5. Ben Wallace

Part of me cannot believe I’m putting you up here, Wallace. A few years ago, I was fearing the fro and cheering for every monster rebound you’d find a way to haul down. I loved your work ethic. Now, it seems like the only highlights I’m getting from you are air balled free throws and fainting spells. Where oh where did Big Ben go?

6. Reggie Evans

Exhibit A. Obviously, I’m not a guy and I have no idea what this feels like, but being a woman in a bar where complete strangers use close quarters as an excuse to be entirely inappropriate, Evans needs to be on this list. He grabbed Kaman’s stuff! That's got to be at the top of "Things that are Never Okay on a Basketball Court".

7. Cuttino Mobley

Cuttino. Stevie Franchise. Somehow these two are forever connected in my brain, but Steve has never bothered me like Mr. Mobley. Maybe it’s the cocky look always present on Cat’s face when it’s been quite some time since he’s accomplished anything worth noting, maybe it is how he thinks he’s going to save the Clippers in close games and ends up sinking them, or it could just be because he reminds me of the days when Francis was young and had those crazy hops, bottom line is, Cuttino makes me scowl.

8. Andrei Kirilenko

This may be an unfair selection since I actually love looking at Kirilenko’s stuffed stat line each night, but his spiky hair drives more than Sloan crazy. Add in his wife who thought going on the Tyra Banks show to discuss the “free pass” she’s got for Andrei was a good idea and he needs to be here.

9. Vince Carter

I’m Canadian and have had more than enough of both your whining and your mother. That’s really about it. Thanks for deciding to bail on your fans when you decided you wanted out, it was appreciated.

10. Jason Kidd

It hurts my heart to have to put you out there like this, but I really don’t have any high-profile NBA superstar on this list. I guess you'll do. I love your talent, adore your knowledge of the game and wish I had your court vision. I also despise the way you handled things in New Jersey and I’m not really a fan of your jumper.

Honorable Mentions

Brook Lopez

Yes, I realize this boy has yet to play a minute in an official NBA game, but after his teary-eyed performance at the draft (and his asking who the Nets coach was), he’s got some redeeming to do before he gets in my good graces. Things working in his favor: He’s young and passionate, likes writing and the arts and I hear he’s a good guy from the people.

Adam Morrison

I can’t kick a guy when he’s down, but ever since your dramatic exit to the NCAA’s you make me scrunch up my face and not in a good way. I was able to look past the ‘stache and your eccentric ways, and I love when a guy is able to put it all out there, but writhing on the floor, tears soaking your jersey was a little much. Maybe if you’d lost out on a buzzer beater or something. Anyway, get healthy, and man up!

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