July 28, 2010
The 25 Most Hated Teams of All Time
111990 University of Miami football
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

These guys knew people despised them, and reveled in the fact. The Hurricanes arrived at the Cotton Bowl with players on at least one bus chanting, "We're the [players] you love to hate." Exiled from the national title picture, the 10-2 'Canes took their disappointment out on Texas, which they began taunting during pregame. The Hurricanes even taunted Bevo (I was there). In warm-ups, Miami defender Robert Bailey found Texas kick returner Chris Samuels and vowed to knock him out on the opening kickoff. He did. Miami started its first possession on a first-and-40, the result of two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Craig Erickson completed three straight passes, moving the chains, as the 'Canes drove for a field goal. Erickson threw four touchdown passes, the most memorable a 48-yarder to Randall (Thrill) Hill (pictured), who continued through the end zone and into the stadium tunnel. Seldom has a team been so undisciplined ... and unstoppable. Miami had a Cotton-record 132 yards in penalties. At halftime. The 'Canes finished with 202 yards in penalties, a bowl record that still stands. They also won 46-3. "If they aren't the best," 'Horns coach David McWilliams said, "I don't want to play the best." -- Austin Murphy

121991-92 Duke basketball
Manny Millan/SI

You loathed the second of coach Mike Krzyzewski's title-winning teams for the same reasons you hate boy bands: their nauseating omnipresence, thanks to a Blue Devils-centric, Dick Vitale-fueled TV schedule; an ensemble of well-coiffed prepsters who looked better suited for the cast of School Ties; and an aggravating, undeniable level of talent that justified their cocksure attitudes. Star forward Christian Laettner epitomized that rock-star mentality. He was the ultratalented leader (witness his perfection in the Regional final against Kentucky) and the bad boy (who could forget the stomp he delivered to Aminu Timberlake's chest?) of the group. This Duke team was not built to be loved. It was built to win, quashing the storybook runs of Kentucky's "Unforgettables" and Michigan's "Fab Five" in the process. This was when Duke basketball emerged as a polarizing brand -- a bastion of annual excellence that, simultaneously, became the target of effortless disdain. -- Chris Mahr

131986 New York Mets
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The 1962 Mets were lovable losers, but Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Len Dykstra (all three pictured), Kevin Mitchell, Keith Hernandez and company were detestable winners of 108 regular-season games. Pitcher Bob Ojeda admitted in author Jeff Pearlman's book The Bad Guys Won that "we were a bunch of vile f------." Bristling with arrogance and trash-talkers, this hard-partying crew had a trio of players (Jesse Orosco, Danny Heep, Doug Sisk) who charmingly called themselves "the Scum Bunch." The Mets were involved in four on-field brawls that season as well as a fracas in the Houston nightclub Cooters, and infamously trashed their flight home from the National League Championship Series in a drunken orgy that could have made the ancient Romans blush. The Los Angeles Times described them as the NL's runaway leaders in the Win and Loathe columns. "I'd hate to pitch against the Mets," said Mets pitcher Ron Darling at the time. "Too many demonstrations. Down the road, somebody's going to remember that we showed them up." But the gods were clearly on their side, as witnessed by their miraculous Series win over Boston. -- John Rolfe

141972 Soviet Union Olympic basketball
Rich Clarkson/Time Life Pictures/Getty

Before the gold-medal match in Munich, the U.S. had never lost an Olympic basketball game. Every four years, gold was a given in America's sport. That changed late on the night of Sept. 9, 1972. U.S. fans hated everything about the Soviets: their politics, their red "CCCP" uniforms, their bounce passes, their walk-it-up-style and their pale, grim faces. But all that was fine if our guys beat their butts every four years. Instead, on this night, the Soviets led for most of the game until Doug Collins' two free throws gave the U.S. a 50-49 lead with three seconds to play. Chaos then took over as the Soviets were given three chances to attempt a length-of-the-court pass, and finally converted the last when Aleksandr Belov gathered in a bomb from Ivan Edeshko and scored the game-winner at the horn. The controversial ending was tinged with Cold War emotions. Through the prism of time, the lesson of that night was that the world was catching up to the U.S. on the court; but the lasting memory is that America got robbed. -- Tim Layden

152005 USC football
Peter Read Miller/SI

Entering the season, USC had won 22 straight games and was embarking on a quest for a potentially unprecedented third straight national title -- and fans around the country couldn't go 15 minutes without hearing about it. As the fawning over Pete Carroll's program reached dizzying proportions, many came to resent the "Hollywood" aspect of the Trojans -- quarterback Matt Leinart (pictured, right, with Reggie Bush) partying with Paris Hilton; celeb-fans Will Ferrell and Snoop Dogg hanging out at practices. As they won another 12 straight to reach the BCS championship game -- "I always thought that the more attention we drew to ourselves by the things that other teams or the fans would say just made us stronger," Carroll told SI.com recently -- fans of other conferences bemoaned the Trojans' purportedly inferior Pac-10 competition. They cried foul over the "Bush Push" that helped USC pull off a last-second win at Notre Dame. To many, though, the run-up to the Trojans' BCS title game against Texas served as a nauseating apex, with ESPN's analysts debating how the '05 USC team would fare against some of the greatest teams of all time. Vince Young and the Longhorns rendered the argument moot, but the public's animosity lingered for years due mostly to the NCAA's prolonged silence over allegations that Bush took money from potential marketing reps during his time there. That silence was broken in June, and you know how the story ended. -- Stewart Mandel

161974 Oakland Athletics
Walter Iooss Jr./SI

Not to say the '74 A's were disliked ... but they had won the previous two World Series and they still finished 11th out of 12 American League teams in attendance. The team's biggest star, of course, was Reggie Jackson, before his "straw that stirs the drink" days in New York. The pitching staff featured players whom meddling owner Charlie Finley (pictured) thought needed to be more colorful. He suggested that Jim Hunter be called "Catfish," that Johnny Odom start going by "Blue Moon," and he paid $300 for Rollie Fingers to grow his soon-to-be-famous handlebar mustache. The team's hard-core players, Sal Bando and Gene Tenace, wore garish yellow and walked a lot. It was a circus act, but to the never-ending frustration of opposing teams and fans, the A's won again in '74, beating Earl Weaver's Baltimore team in four games in the ALCS and then pounding the Dodgers in five in the World Series. -- Joe Posnanski

171993 Notre Dame football
John Biever/SI

The Fighting Irish are either The Team That America Loves or The Team That America Hates. A fan base -- "The Subway Alumni" -- built in the first half of the 20th century worships from afar and, along with actual alums, embraces Notre Dame football for its perceived connection to good grades, hard work and the Almighty. The haters despise Golden Domers for all the same reasons, which they regard as holier-than-thou arrogance. The fall of 1993 was the last high point of the Lou Holtz era in South Bend. The Fighting Irish took down mighty Florida State in that year's Game of the Century (which landed defensive end Jim Flanigan on the SI cover), but one week later suffered a shocking home loss to Boston College, when former prep school soccer player David Gordon knuckleballed a game-winning field goal into the darkness enshrouding Touchdown Jesus. Half a continent away, in a press box in Morgantown, W. Va., jaded sportswriters covering another game stood and spontaneously cheered. The BC loss helped hand the national title back to FSU (and led to the formation of the BCS). Notre Dame still hasn't won one since. -- Tim Layden

181976 East Germany women's swimming
Walter Iooss Jr./SI

The joke about the East German swim team went like this: The good news about their revolutionary training program was that the ladies didn't have to breathe between strokes. The bad news, of course, was that they had to shave between strokes. The facts were no laughing matter. At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, East German women won 11 gold medals in 13 races, stunning the highly touted U.S. women, who won only a single relay. In 1972, the gold tally for women's swimming had been eight for the U.S. and none for the GDR. Years later, Stasi files confirmed that diabolical cocktails of uber-doping had boosted the German women's muscles, deepened their voices and decisively dropped their times. Even before the documented revelations, their suspiciously rapid improvements, like their appearances, were giant elephants in the arena. As a souped-up Kornelia Ender (pictured) swam her way to three individual gold medals, U.S. hope Shirley Babashoff left the Games with three individual silvers and thoughts of what might have been in a clean pool. Today, the 1976 GDR women's swim team remains the most injected squad ever projected onto the sporting landscape. -- Brian Cazeneuve

191919 Chicago White Sox
John Durant/SI

There have been many attempts to tell the "true story" about the Black Sox -- how they were mistreated by penny-pinching owner Charlie Comiskey, how Shoeless Joe Jackson never really took money and played his hardest at all times, how Buck Weaver only knew about the scheme but was not part of it -- but in the end the main story was this: The 1919 White Sox threw the World Series. Gambling played a big role in baseball in the early part of the 20th century, and many people inside baseball were convinced that the Black Sox scandal could have destroyed baseball as America's national pastime. Eight players were banned from baseball and none, even in death, have been reinstated. The owners hired an opinionated commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and gave him virtually unlimited power. They livened up the baseball and watched a big star named Babe Ruth lift the game's popularity. Funny how baseball took similar steps after the 1994 baseball strike. -- Joe Posnanski

202004 U.S. Olympic basketball
Bob Rosato/SI

By turns full of braggadocio (Carmelo Anthony guaranteed a gold as training camp opened) and seeming to shirk responsibility ("It's not like it's the end of the world," LeBron James said after a 19-point pool-play loss to Puerto Rico), this team could have been pronounced too young to know better: Anthony was 20, James (pictured, left, with Lamar Odom and Stephon Marbury) was 19, and it featured an average age of 23.6. But decorum and discipline were so poor that coach Larry Brown wanted to send several players home from Athens on the eve of the Games. After another pool-play loss, to Lithuania, and a medal-round defeat to eventual gold-medalist Argentina in the semifinals, Brown pronounced himself "humiliated" and the alibis flew. Some players blamed fouls whistled on center Tim Duncan; others blamed zones they weren't used to shooting over. (Of the dozen teams in the draw, the U.S. sank the second-fewest three-pointers.) Only two positives resulted from that Greek tragedy: heightened appreciation of the 1992 Dream Team; and the chain of events -- an embarrassed Jerry Colangelo hires Mike Krzyzewski and makes playing for your country cool again -- that led to the Redeem Team, which atoned for American basketball at the 2008 Games in Beijing. -- Alex Wolff

212000-01 Portland Trail Blazers
Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images

With their incessant bickering and boorish behavior, the Trail Blazers, long cherished in Portland, alienated their customers and disgusted the rest of the league's fans. The biggest lightning rod, of course, was forward Rasheed Wallace (pictured, left, with Bonzi Wells), who set an NBA record with 41 technical fouls, threw a towel in the face of teammate Arvydas Sabonis and had to be restrained by teammates from charging coach Mike Dunleavy in the locker room. The Oregonian described the Blazers as "tanking it in the playoffs [in a first-round sweep to the Lakers] amid a cloud of tantrums and technicals." The frightening aspect of this "Jail Blazers" era is that there are multiple teams from which to choose and moments to pinpoint. To wit: The following season, in December 2001, swingman Bonzi Wells told SI about being booed: "We're not really going to worry about what the hell [the fans] think about us. They really don't matter to us. They can boo us every day but they are still going to ask for our autographs if they see us on the street. That's why they are fans and we are NBA players." -- Richard Deitsch

222001-02 Toronto Maple Leafs
Dave Sandford/Getty Images/NHLI

There was something "special" about this team, just like there is something "special" about a coming tax audit. You live to tell about it, but it won't be pleasant. These Maple Leafs were more of a vocal than a vicious team, like the neighbor's noxious terrier that doesn't bite. (Often.) Indeed, one reason the Leafs were reviled -- beyond coach Pat Quinn's constant haranguing of the refs, a diver like Darcy Tucker, a stick man like Shayne Corson and an unabashed brawler like Tie Domi -- was that they were viewed as something of a pet. The Leafs were loathed, in part, because of location. They were the darlings of media coverage because Toronto is the center of the hockey universe. And with Toronto's soupçon of on-ice success during the era, Hockey Night in Canada essentially transformed itself into the parish bulletin of the First Church of Leafs Nation. Additionally, the league's hockey operations department was located in the office building attached to the Air Canada Centre, which led to the theory that Toronto received preferential treatment from referees. While there was no proof, it didn't change the perception. Feared like the Broad Street Bullies? No. Hated? The way an off-key singer despises Simon Cowell. -- Michael Farber

231983-84 Georgetown basketball
Andy Hayt/SI

John Thompson's Hoyas dominated college hoops through fear. For 40 minutes a game, Thompson pushed his team not simply to execute better than its opponents, but to harass them with a combination of claustrophobic defense and shot-altering size. From a sharply thrown Patrick Ewing elbow to the menacing stare of muscular freshman stopper Michael Graham (pictured, with Ewing), the Hoyas punished teams while building an intimidating presence that prompted many a basketball purist to label them thugs. The scowling Hoyas made many observers uncomfortable with their style and, truth be told, appearance. Thompson, all 6-foot-10 and 300 pounds of him, towered over an all-black roster led by Ewing's equally towering 7-foot presence. "People would heckle and we would see a lot of signs, particularly about Patrick, about how he couldn't read or some other personally offensive things," Thompson said. "There definitely were some racial aspects to it, but that's what was there. If we had been all white, it probably would have been our size [they criticized]." Even after the Hoyas toppled Houston in the title game, they were seen by some as basketball's incarnation of the Raiders, both in their ethos of intimidation and resonance with African-Americans. The Hoyas didn't flee from the comparison; they won because of it. -- Paul Forrester

241909 Detroit Tigers
Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

The Tigers were loathed precisely because of one man: Tyrus Raymond Cobb, arguably history's most hated athlete during his playing days. Cobb, still only 22, led the Tigers to their third straight World Series (they had lost the previous two to the Cubs!) by winning the Triple Crown (.377, 9 HRs, 107 RBIs). He also stole a league-leading 76 bases. He set these splendid marks by flashing his spikes and his fists at everyone in his path -- teammates included. But as the Tigers prepared to play the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series, Cobb (pictured, left, with Honus Wagner) was not only hated but also wanted -- by the authorities in Ohio. In September, Cobb (a notorious racist, even for a Southerner of his day) knifed a black Cleveland hotel detective named George Stansfield, and there was a warrant for his arrest in the Buckeye State. To get to Pittsburgh from Detroit, through which state was the shortest route? Ohio, of course. Cobb first tried circumventing it by rail through Canada. Ultimately, he was handcuffed by the Pirates, batting .231. Pittsburgh won in seven games, and Cobb never again reached the Fall Classic -- giving Cobb haters a reason to rejoice. -- Dick Friedman

252010-11 Miami Heat
Gregory Heisler/SI

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh (all pictured) and Co. have yet to play a game, but Phil Taylor explains why the NBA's most-talked-about team belongs on this list. (Read Taylor's full column here.)

I hate that the Three My-Egos are being painted as a bunch of Mother Teresas who have taken a vow of poverty when all they've done is forego a small percentage of what are still obscenely huge salaries. I hate that we have become so accustomed to the overwhelming greed of superstar athletes that when the Heat's threesome accepts roughly $110 million each when they could have had closer to $120 million, some people want to fit them for angels' wings. They have given front-runner fans a new bandwagon to jump on. People who couldn't have named a single one of Wade's teammates weeks ago will now declare themselves to be Heat lovers, decking themselves out in Miami gear with cutesy phrases like Miami Thrice and the Three Basketeers. All those fans who like the Yankees just because they win, or who were devoted to the Bulls until Michael Jordan left, are now going to come out of the woodwork and swear their undying love to the Heat. I hate that. -- Phil Taylor

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