July 28, 2010
The 25 Most Hated Teams of All Time

Strutting. Showboating. Self-congratulation. Self-promotion. A sense of entitlement. Too much money. Too much talent. Bandwagon fans. Criminal behavior. Dirty play. These are just some of the things that made the 25 single-season teams on this list so insufferable, and their most egregious sin may have been winning or, in some cases, their failure to win enough. Of all the passions that teams ordinarily inspire, widespread hatred is a pretty notable achievement. Hearty contempt for rivals is a natural part of the sports landscape, but every so often a team unleashes a massive dose of loathing that consumes everyone but its own fans. Here is SI.com's list of the most hated individual teams in sports. (Weigh in with your thoughts and picks here.)

11986 University of Miami football
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

His players were visionaries, early practitioners of an in-your-face brand of football that went out of its way to belittle and intimidate opponents. It was, in a lot of ways, the opposite of sportsmanship. It was a 'Cane thing. To say that Jimmy Johnson (pictured, left, with Michael Irvin) gave his players free reign was an understatement. The '86 Hurricanes were caught up in "fights and fraud and alleged shoplifting and other unsavory shenanigans involving more than 40 players," wrote SI's Rick Reilly. "Miami may be the only squad in America that has its team picture taken from the front and from the side." It was also flat-out loaded, an NFL developmental squad, and not inclined toward modesty. The top-ranked 'Canes showed up in Tempe, Ariz., for the national title game rocking military fatigues, in stark contrast to the coats and ties sported by the charges of "St. Joe" Paterno, as Johnson dubbed his counterpart. In that famed Fiesta Bowl game, Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde threw five picks and Miami turned the ball over seven times in a 14-10 Penn State upset that made a lot of people across the republic very, very happy. -- Austin Murphy

21988-89 Detroit Pistons

Between the joy of Magic and the majesty of Michael was the dark and frightening rise of the Bad Boys. They threw hip checks like the Red Wings and were as mean as any boxer in Kronk Gym. Outside the state of Michigan, you wanted these guys in handcuffs. Never has an NBA team been so easy to detest, what with Rick Mahorn throwing forearms, Dennis Rodman elbows and Bill Laimbeer (pictured, left, with Mahorn) fits. (Somewhere, Laimbeer is probably still whining to the refs). Worst thing about them? They were a great basketball team. For all their roughhousing, the Pistons could light up the scoreboard with anyone -- Isiah Thomas flashing that sneaky grin as he beat you off the dribble, Joe Dumars locking up opponents and knocking down threes, Vinnie (Microwave) Johnson throwing in jumpers from everywhere. Fact is, the Pistons helped end two dynasties (Magic Johnson's Lakers and Larry Bird's Celtics) and delayed the start of a third (Michael Jordan's Bulls). They were bullies in basketball togs, but they could play. -- Damon Hack

31992 Dallas Cowboys
Al Tielemans/SI

"The only thing I got left to say is, How 'bout them Cowboys!" Well-coiffed coach Jimmy Johnson's (pictured, left, with Michael Irvin) locker-room whoop after his team's 30-20 win over San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game curdled the blood of anyone who bristled at the Cowboys' claim to being "America's Team." Dallas was back in the Super Bowl for the first time in 14 years, with a spotlight-seeking owner (Jerry Jones), a bling-soaked, showboating, prima donna wideout (Irvin) and a too-good-to-be-true-cut-from-Hollywood quarterback (Troy Aikman). Rolling to a 16-3 mark, the Cowboys were an annoying circus of self-promotion (there were 22 radio and TV shows devoted to them) and in the Super Bowl they took on the stench of preening bullies. During a 52-17 humiliation of Buffalo, defensive tackle Leon Lett recovered a fumble and began waving the ball before he crossed the goal line -- only to be caught from behind by the hustling Don Beebe, who became a hero to Cowboys haters everywhere. -- John Rolfe

41974-75 Philadelphia Flyers
John D. Hanlon/SI

The Broad Street Bullies were the first hockey team to use intimidation as a tactic. Urged by coach Fred Shero to "take the shortest route to the puck carrier and arrive in ill humor," rugged enforcers like Dave (The Hammer) Schultz (pictured), Bob (Hound) Kelly, Don (Big Bird) Saleski and Andre (Moose) Dupont racked up penalty minutes in record quantities while clearing the way for skill players like Reggie Leach, Bill Barber and three-time NHL MVP Bobby Clarke. They were nicknamed by Jack Chevalier and Pete Cafone of the Philadelphia Bulletin, who wrote in 1973 that "the image of the fightin' Flyers is spreading gradually around the NHL, and people are dreaming up wild nicknames. They're the Mean Machine, the Bullies of Broad Street and Freddy's Philistines." The Flyers captured back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and '75 and remained one of the league's biggest road draws for years to come, but many traditionalists contend their legacy was corruptive on hockey. "They brawled their way to the Cup," longtime Toronto Star writer Frank Orr recalled in HBO's documentary about the team. "To the purists, they represented everything evil about the game. They were a disgrace." -- Bryan Armen Graham

51978 New York Yankees
Walter Iooss Jr./SI

Immortalized by reliever Sparky Lyle's classic book The Bronx Zoo, this edition of the Bombers was an even more farcical soap opera of clubhouse intrigue and unseemly back-page headlines than the year before. With bombastic slugger Reggie Jackson still in the cross fire, imperious owner George Steinbrenner -- who incurred widespread enmity for assembling "the best team money can buy" -- publicly demeaned his players and threatened to fire his hot-headed manager, Billy Martin (pictured, left, with Jackson). By midseason, Martin could take it no more. After yet another beef with Jackson, Martin famously told reporters, "[Reggie and George] deserve each other. One's a born liar, the other's convicted." Martin then resigned before the Boss could fire him. Most galling was that this team repeated as world champs -- in its third straight trip to the Series and with wins over the Royals and Dodgers -- after rallying from a 14-game deficit in mid-July to catch the Red Sox and then break hearts in Boston as Bucky Dent earned an expletive for a middle name for his home run in the one-game playoff that decided the AL East. -- John Rolfe

62007 New England Patriots
Damian Strohmeyer/SI

They were the NFL's Miss Manners, with delicate sensibilities that could be offended by the most innocuous sources, from a kicker like Mike Vanderjagt to a third receiver such as Freddie Mitchell. Any press-conference comment, no matter how mundane, prompted charges of disrespect. When former Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer mentioned after a game that the Patriots were hampered by injuries (Tedy Bruschi was recovering from a stroke at the time), Tom Brady emerged from his protective casing and barked: "You don't talk about our team." They were the best organization in the league, and in 2007, it became clear they were also the most hypocritical. For all their policing of opposing players and coaches, it turned out that the Patriots were the ones breaking actual rules. Staff members were caught illegally videotaping opponent's signals, drawing the interest of Congress. Safety Rodney Harrison was busted for performance-enhancing drugs. Coach Bill Belichick (pictured) responded to the criticism by running up scores as if he were in the BCS. He made it undefeated to the Super Bowl, where karma and the Giants finally caught up to him. -- Lee Jenkins

71993-94 New York Knicks
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

These Knicks were a collection of chest-pounding, elbow-throwing players who won without any of the aesthetically pleasing basketball that their famously suave coach, Pat Riley, had overseen during his tenure with the "Showtime" Lakers. Yes, the likes of Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, John Starks (pictured, left, with Chicago's Scottie Pippen), Derek Harper and Greg Anthony defined grittiness in complementing star center Patrick Ewing, and the Knicks were statistically a great defensive team. But their rough-and-tumble style went over so well that after their seven-game loss to the Rockets in the low-rated 1994 Finals (in which neither team exceeded 91 points, Starks shot 2-for-18 in Game 7 and the league's signature event was described as "Uglyball"), the NBA cracked down on hand-checking in an effort to liberate perimeter scorers and increase scoring. Naturally, the Knicks weren't pleased. "The game has become sissified. Let us play. People are going to get bored with the games," Mason said. "It's going to get ridiculous." But it beats the alternative. -- Lars Anderson

81976 Oakland Raiders
Walter Iooss Jr./SI

Beginning with Al Davis' arrival as coach in 1963, you could hate any Oakland Raiders team for the next quarter century. The franchise's slogans -- "The Pride and Poise Boys" and "Just Win, Baby" -- reeked of arrogance. Raiders rosters included hard-edged players such as Ted Hendricks (pictured). Why pick '76? Because that season, coach John Madden's club did win, baby. Or rather, the Raiders stole a postseason game from the Patriots, the only team to beat them all year, in a memorable 48-17 massacre in October. The Pats also seemed to have the divisional playoff in hand, leading 21-17 when they forced quarterback Ken (Snake) Stabler to heave a desperation incompletion on fourth down. But hold the phone! An official somehow saw defensive end Ray (Sugar Bear) Hamilton roughing Snake. This call was not dubious; it was egregiously bogus. Given a reprieve, Snake scored the winning TD. For once, the inmates were happy. As for everyone else, we had one semi-printable thought: Pride and poise, our ass. -- Dick Friedman

91989-90 UNLV basketball
Rich Clarkson/Getty Images

One of the first rules of sports fandom: Don't boo athletes who aren't getting paid. But given the abundance of circumstantial evidence, you were free to voice full-throated displeasure at this team. Coached by the inimitable, towel-chomping Jerry Tarkanian and starring forward Larry Johnson (pictured), the program was in keeping with the Vegas ethos: Have wild fun now, break some rules and deal with the consequences later. True to their nickname, the Runnin' Rebels ran up the floor and ran up the score with equal enthusiasm -- gloating all the way -- beating their opponents by an average of 27 points, and Duke 103-73 in the championship game. They rebelled, too, bending the NCAA rule book in such a way as to make Cirque du Soleil-style contortionists proud. While the allegations outnumbered the proven violations, suspicions were born out when various players from the 1990 team were photographed cavorting in a hot tub with Richard Perry, a convicted sports fixer. You could argue that this 1990 collective was the best college team ever. You could also argue that the team left as its legacy the culture of corruption that has infected college basketball ever since. -- Jon Wertheim

101998-99 Manchester United
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Even during a 26-year title drought that ended under Sir Alex Ferguson in 1993, Manchester United was always England's glamour club. As such, the team's ongoing golden age has attracted legions of glory-hunting supporters far beyond the industrial city's limits. And if success breeds contempt, then no team in club history was more reviled than the treble winners of '99, a side featuring Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Roy Keane and David Beckham (pictured, right) that vaulted Ferguson into the pantheon of all-time great managers. After winning the Premier League and the FA Cup, the Red Devils were outplayed by Bayern Munich in the Champions League final -- only to steal the match (and the trophy) on two miracle goals in stoppage time. Before Man U pulled it off, the treble had been thought of as the impossible dream. Ferguson was later knighted for his services to football and Beckham eventfully fell out with his manager, embarking on a tabloid-style journey that took him to Madrid, Milan and Los Angeles. -- Bryan Armen Graham

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