Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett is often referred to as the most hated player in the NBA. The 16-year veteran embraces an aggravating style of play by talking trash nonstop and dramatically overreacting to contact even while handing out cheap shots himself. When confronted, he excuses his misconduct by citing his passion for the game, causing eye rolls from fans and commentators alike.
But this week, Garnett will be portrayed as a shrewd, misunderstood warrior. His team, the storied Celtics with 17 championship banners hanging from the rafters, will be cast as plucky underdogs. This is all because they are up against perhaps the most reviled franchise in professional sports these days: the Miami Heat.
On July 9, 2010, the Heat threw a gaudy rally to announce that the league's marquee player, LeBron James, along with celebrated center Chris Bosh, would join Dwyane Wade in Miami. The "Big Three" mugged for the cameras and openly predicted they would win multiple titles.
Stacking talent in the way Miami did was distasteful, although not significantly different from what other teams have done. But boasting about winning titles before the team had ever played a game was over the line and ushered in an era of Heat hating. Some go as far as saying that the move threw the league into an unbalanced state and the game will suffer for it long-term.
Those folks need to be reminded that while obviously good, the Heat haven't (or is it "hasn't"? What the hell's a "Heat," anyway?) won a championship yet. Also, having such a clear villain in the league helps generate interest in the playoffs from places like Wisconsin, which hasn't had a decent NBA team of its own for decades.