Every NBA roster is comprised of fan favorites. Many also have a player disliked by the fan base. One recent example for the Trail Blazers is Raymond Felton. He came into training camp overweight and never really set his season back on track. This week, a panel of Blazer's Edge writes explains their pick as their least favorite Blazers player of all time, excluding Felton.
Dane Carbaugh: I'm going to dismiss the hatred for Ray Felton. He was coming off a career year when the Blazers traded for him, and in Portland his lack of performance was due to style more than anything. Denver and New York were the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in terms of pace in 2011 and the Trail Blazers were dead last. Going from Mike D'Antoni and George Karl to Nate McMillan was like asking a fighter pilot to stop putting jet fuel in his plane and instead have him fill it with potatoes.
Anyway, it's hard for me to say there's a player I hate, as I'm just not that type of viewer. If I have to pick a player I never connected with, it would have to be Zach Randolph. A scorer and rebounder, Randolph did little else as he joined a long line of offense-first players in Allen Iverson's NBA. He was tops in a class of young talent who thought all Iverson did was score, struggling to emulate the 2001 MVP on and off the court.
It was a short-sighted view of Iverson's far more complex game. He led the league in steals per game three times, dominated the free throw line, put his teams on his back and was in the top 10 of minutes played five times over his career, including in 2008 when he led the league at the ripe old age of 32. Every piece of Iverson was there to win, and if he had to die on the court then he would. None of his fans in the NBA could replicate that desire and it showed.
That's why Randolph never struck a chord with me. He didn't know he wasn't a transcendent talent, and in an era where many left the NBA behind, that disconnect was troubling. Randolph was a poster child for an incomplete, juvenile style of play, failing to put in the effort on the defensive end of the floor or command leadership for his team when he had the scoring acumen and contract to necessitate it. Mix in his legal issues, and you hardly had a player you could root for.
Grantland's Jonathan Abrams wrote a wonderful piece about Randolph's background and career evolution in 2012, and it is well worth a read. His position, attitude and fit within the era of his time with the Blazers is contextualized beautifully, and lends reason why I say I never hate any player. When it comes to Zach Randolph, that's an era I think many would just as soon forget altogether.
Timmay!: Some players annoy you because they just don't give all they can. They're lazy, or they're overweight, or they act like they got paid and don't care anymore.
Some players annoy you because they played for a rival, and now that they're passing their prime, you're stuck watching their corpse as a Blazer.
Some players annoy you because they get paid so much, while providing so little, that they're like an anchor attached to your entire team, dragging them down to the bottom.
Some players annoy you because they don't even look like they know how to play basketball anymore. Not long ago they were All Stars, but by now they look a little like that rec league player that nobody wants on their team.
Some players make you wonder why you continue rooting for your team, when management chooses to acquire an unlikeable player that produces so little while being paid so much.
But very few of these players are ever purposely acquired by trading one of the most popular guys on your team. And when reporting the trade, papers were already noting this player's weight problems, bloated contract and surly attitude as pre-existing conditions. The Blazers snatched him up anyway.
Almost no players would soon get outright waived by the frustrated team, restructuring his contract so he was still getting paid 10 years later, just to make him go away.
Somehow, Shawn Kemp was all of those players wrapped up in one useless lump. We're not even getting into off-court issues. Let's pretend he never wore a Blazers jersey.
Sam Tongue: As a child of the Jail Blazer era, there are just so many amazing candidates for this "Least Favorite" Blazer award: sex-offender Ruben Patterson, cocaine-user Shawn Kemp, and never-know-what-you're-going-
I think my least favorite, though, has to be J.R. Rider. Coming off his first few years with the Minnesota Timberwolves -- where he was named to the All-Rookie First Team and Dunk Contest Champion -- Rider brought a scoring punch and incredible athleticism to Portland. Unfortunately, he also brought a truckload of baggage. Amid obvious chemistry issues that came with him from Minnesota, Rider also brought marijuana convictions and, worst of all, a three-game suspension for spitting on a fan -- the Cardinal Sin for any athlete.
Rider continued his escapades even after finishing his Blazer career. From narcotics possession to assault, Rider was an outlaw long after his NBA career ended. So, for all the talent and athleticism, to be an overall bad dude (or at least a terrible decision maker), Rider is my choice as Least Favorite Blazer.
Chris Lucia: I can't say that I've ever really hated any particular Blazer -- in the 90s, I was too young to really know much about a knucklehead like JR Rider. By the time the "JailBlazer" era rolled around, I had too much blind loyalty to the organization to direct any vitriol toward the players, so I honestly didn't hate guys like Bonzi Wells, Ruben Patterson, Zach Randolph, Darius Miles, etc., even though I would've had reason to.
However, I've never been more disappointed in a player than I was with Shawn Kemp.
The Reign Man was my favorite player growing up; I had his No. 40 Sonics jersey, several sleeves in a notebook full of his trading cards and even a poster on my wall of him on the Cavaliers. Even though Kemp was overweight after his Seattle days, he did average 18.5 points and 9.1 boards a game over three seasons in Cleveland, so I had a little hope that he could put things together and at least be half the All-Star he was all those years before. At 31, I figured he had a little gas left in the tank. I was the only one among my circle of friends who was willing to forgive Bob Whitsitt for shipping out fan-favorite Brian Grant in his prime for an overweight Kemp.
Fast forward to April 6, 2001. Kemp was at the end of his first season with the Blazers in which he was averaging 6.5 points and 3.8 rebounds, by far his worst season as a pro. I had been broken up with by my girlfriend earlier that day at school and was already pretty bummed when I came home. I walked in the door, went to the kitchen table and picked up the sports section of the Oregonian. To my astonishment, Kemp -- my favorite player, childhood hero and the guy I spent countless hours defending -- had reportedly checked himself into drug rehab for cocaine and would miss the end of the 2000-01 season.
He never returned to form after that and was out of the league in two years. I was really disappointed in Kemp for how his time in Portland went, and the amount of cap space he was taking up for almost zero production was just salt in the wound.
Ben Golliver: Nolan Smith. I'm sure everyone is really shocked by my answer. Unlike some of the other panelists, I judged "favorite" based on on-court stuff rather than off-court stuff. Smith, a solid, media-friendly citizen off the court, was clearly overwhelmed during his time in Portland. Breaking news: it was so, so painful to watch him play basketball. The negative Win Shares, the microscopic PERs, that one incredible game against the Bucks where he more or less singlehandedly gave up a 17-0 run in less than three minutes. Smith somehow seemed to combine all the worst aspects of Sergio Rodriguez, Jerryd Bayless and other recent failed back-up point guard options into one catastrophic combination. He also came along at a horrible time, and was guilty by association due to so many other failed draft picks during that stretch.
Two other underrated annoying aspects of the Smith Era: 1) the one percent contrarians who wanted to ignore all evidence and irrationally defend him, and 2) the 3,223,456 questions on radio interviews in which hosts wanted to compare his selection to Kenneth Faried.
Smith has been able to carve out a career for himself overseas and he got some Summer League run in this year, so perhaps the NBA hasn't seen the last of him. His back story clearly makes everyone pull for him as a person, even if watching him during his two seasons with the Blazers was as rough as it gets. It's a credit to his character that he stuck with the sport after what was a nightmare start to his professional career.
Sagar Trika: I don't necessarily have a least favorite Blazer of all time, but I do have a least favorite Blazer era: the Jail Blazers. Viewed by many as the low-point in franchise history, the Blazers of the early 2000s were notorious for problems on and off the court.
The Jail Blazer era had plenty of players that could receive the award of least favorite Blazer if I were to give one out. In the case I did single one out over the others, I'd pick out Darius Miles. He didn't play well for the team and an incident with coach Mo Cheeks described in the article linked above certainly didn't help his image among the public.
Who do you agree with the most? Vote in the poll and give your least favorite Blazer below.