NBA / Oct 25, 2011 / 5:00 pm

Who Gets More Hate: Kobe Bryant (2003-08) or LeBron James (Now)

LeBron James

LeBron James (photo. David Alvarez)

Hate is such a strong word, but it’s something that will forever remain a partner with sports. Fans love their team, and hate whoever isn’t with them. In sports, it’s okay to hate. Deep down, you can’t entirely hate an athlete if you don’t know them, having never met them. So fans get a pass. It comes with the territory. It’s part of what makes sports entertaining. You can hate someone in this context; Athletes are like the cartoon characters we grew up with. But sometimes, the public’s detest of a player can take on a life of its own. Normally, it’s the very best who are dealt the hand, as we once showed with Kobe Bryant and now LeBron James. It’s always the greatest who get the most love and the most criticism.

So on this slow, lockout-driven day, answer this question: Who was more hated – Kobe Bryant from around 2003-08 or LeBron James from around 2009 to now? We argue. You decide.


LeBron James has never won an NBA championship.

Do you know what else he’s never done? He’s never had many off-court troubles. He doesn’t struggle with a gambling addiction. He didn’t withdraw his name or refuse to sign with the Cavaliers on draft day in 2003. He’s never been known for chastising teammates over poor play. He doesn’t force his image. And he damn sure has never undergone a Jay Z-esque retirement (or two).

So, why the hate? And I don’t mean “hate” in the way that is leisurely tossed around nowadays by disgruntled fans. I mean hate. The burn-jerseys-and-make-fake-tombstones kind of hate. The kind of hate that would make Silky Johnson step down from his role as President of the Playa Hater’s Ball. The Dan Gilbert kind of hate.

James has unquestionably developed into the most polarizing figure in the NBA today, and when it’s all said and done, NBA history. Sure, he has his legions of loyal fans; awestruck by his above-the-rim ability, unmatched on-court swagger and knack for running the court better than any player since Magic Johnson. His jersey is always a bestseller and his kicks are hard to keep in stores. But for every fan James has, there are two haters waiting in the shadows, ready to call him “Queen James” or “LeChoke.” In all honesty, the game has never seen anyone like James. It’s easy to love him on the court but almost impossible to approve of his off-court decisions. People love him for his skills and hate him for, well, everything else.

But it wasn’t always like this. Let’s go back to the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, when James all but disappeared and then stormed off the court in a televised display of poor sportsmanship. Prior to this, James had already garnered his fair share of criticism but he was still widely lauded as The Chosen One. Sure, naysayers said he wasn’t clutch and couldn’t properly lead a team following his loss to Boston in the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals. But this was different. This was the beginning of the end for LeBron “the small-town sports hero” James.

Following four long summer months, James was gone. You guys know the situation. Rather than humbly bowing out of Cleveland, James made a spectacle of it. Nevermind the fact that he raised $2 million for charity, James became public enemy number one. And understandably so. He knew how much sports meant to Ohio. He knew he was the best thing to happen to Cleveland sports since Jim Brown. He knew the entire state would always stand by his side – even if that meant never capturing the elusive O’Brien trophy. Nevertheless, James made the move and solidified his tenure as NBA’s most hated megastar.

Every move he made was watched, commented upon and scrutinized. And he certainly didn’t make it easier on himself by promising Miami fans not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven but eight rings! But how much of the hate is truly warranted? His role as a basketball star shouldn’t force him to choose between his own happiness and the general public’s adulation. But it has and most probably, will continue too.

James may have made his own bed, but only after people had been messing with his sheets. His reason for leaving was selfish, but that’s exactly what people love about Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant! They don’t care about their faults or mishaps, because they just wanted to win. Why was James casted as a villain for wanting to do the same? And when will this madness stop? James can’t step on a court without hearing whispers of being a traitor who can’t win. He can’t make business decisions without hearing rumblings of Jordan’s bitter disapproval. Hell – he can’t even bring his friends around without hearing Tinker Hatfield badmouth his clique.

You may say LeBron James did this to himself, if you drink from the fountain of Skip Bayless. But that’s certainly not entirely true. No matter who’s to blame – James, media, Gilbert, or fickle fans – the fact is, King James’ throne has been besmirched. Never again will he stroll the palaces with the swagger of a Young Simba. He has a chip on his shoulder and a wrench in his heart. Still, all of that can go away – if only he wins.

Just ask Kobe Bryant.

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  • beiber newz

    People hated Kobe from the get go because of his perceived selfishness and being dubbed the next mj (or better). The rape charge gave the haters leeway to say “SEEEEEEEEEEE, told you he was a bad guy!”. Lebron is being hated more recently. When you go from being loved to being hated, usually there is more credence to that cpompared to someone who is hated out the gates (ie kobe). With that said, I would have to go with Lebron being more hated simply because he went from being loved to hated and that situation offers more genuine hate. Kobe was hated because he was the young guy trying to step on his teammates toes. I know it’s a cop out to say people hated him because he was good, but in this case it makes the most sense. People wanted to see Kobe fail sooo bad. It’s weird. O well, i can’t really express myself. But I just know there is a better reason for someone to be hated after being loved compared to someone who is hated from birth (don’t confuse it with Jesus, the child king who was sought out to be killed because of that reason alone. I mean, damn, he was a baby and was looking to be killed out the womb.) *I am not comparing Kobe to Jesus. No one should eb compared with God or anyone religious entity.*

  • beiber newz

    my grammar and spelling has been off all week. sry about my recent comments’ poor spellings and what not.

  • tp

    stupid, this is kobe hands down. lebron fanboys cry about the hate but its not even close.

  • beiber newz


    dis is bs…but it’s still funny dat sum1 would write this up.

  • beiber newz

    you right, tp. I would say kobe was hated more, much more, much longer. I was really on the point that James’ was more authentic and he earned it. Kobe’s was more given to him. But the hate given to Kobe was definetly more than Lebron’s. Lebron’s hate was just more logical was where i was getting at but Kobe def has a longer list of “hate achievements” not that the hate was entirely called for but it was there.

  • Michorizo

    I hate LeBron’s mom more …

  • cj

    Nobody wants to say it, but i say it..kobe got a modern day lyncing, you touch a white girl back in the day, the white man would lync you, now they cant, so what they decide to do was lync kobe in the media, the hate that lebron is getting is nothing compared to what kobe got during those years

  • harry

    this guy is so bias wtf. first of all, james’s jersey is not best seller, its been kobe’s for the past w/e seasons. and hes failing didnt start in 08 it was in 07 when he got swept in the finals. iverson even had more heart to steal game 1 from the lakers during the 01 finals, james just never showed up. then again he never does. and to compare wat he did to wat kobe and jordan did is just pathetic. jordan and kobe carried their teams to championships. sure at some point in their career (mainly the beginning) they were seen as selfish because all they did was score. but both proved critics wrong by leading their teams to rings by scoring. wat james did was chickening out. u never saw jordan just go join the knicks or pistons or pacers when things were going rough during the 80s. and kobe never left for other teams when his lakers was struggling. he asked for trades but that was to strengthen his team. they never ditched their team and that why all their wrongs are forgiven once they won. james, even if he wins, didnt do it himself with his team. he merely hoped that when he disappears in the clutch, wade would step up and save him, which is wat happened in the finals this year if you rewatch the games. and when the heats lost, all the blame went to chris bosh, instead of james. someone who wants the fame for winning and no part of the blame for losing, isnt even worth been mentioned along kobe and jordan.

  • harry

    as for the kobe article, a bit more truth in it. people hated him cause of his desire to become better. it ticked people off when he made the allstar game in 98. it ticked them off when he said he fused to play the same role and wanted to show how much he improved. it ticked people off how much success he had after just 7 years in his career that they blamed shaq and phil leaving on him. basically people hated him cause he won. they might no like it, they might disapprove of the method he took to get there, but the reason they hate him is because he actually got there. did wat mj and and 3peated. some kid from highschool trying to chase down mj and thinking that he can pass him. just the thought of that ticks off some people, hence the hate. and colorado was all that was needed to spark off all of that. but how can that sort of hate be compared to the hate that people give to lebron? the type of hate kobe gets is hating on greatness. jordan has made an image in most people’s mind who watched him play, such a deep image that the idea of kobe almost reaching him and possibly passing him sparks hatred and makes him an instant target. the type of hate on lebron is the hate you would give to a quitter. so in the end, kobe can temperately shut people up by winning, but the more he wins the more respect he demands and the closer he is to mj and the deeper the hate grows. if lebron had won against the mavs, the hate toward him would die down. but the respect would be totally lost. if you think about it, both came out of highschool and talented youngsters, both seen as the heir to mj just like many others like vc, tmac, jrich, penny, stackhouse etc etc. one succeed in filling that shoe while the other is fading in the group of the “next air apprentice”.

  • Big Island

    Harry – I hate Kobe, but not because he won. Ever hear of that saying “Everyone loves a winner, nobody likes a loser”? Winning rings has nothing to do with why I hate Kobe.

    As for who was hated on more, I think Kobe was. Some people hated Kobe from day 1. Others, myself included, took awhile to hate him, and the hate peaked with the whole “rape” thing. It has nothing to do with him trying to be the best. That is why I respect Kobe. When he calls it a career I will be able to say that he did everything he could to be the best player he could and you can’t hate that. Whether or not he could’ve been a better teammate, leader, whatever can be talked about, but he has done all he could to be the best he could. Other guys, see: Webber, Chris and Diesel, Big, didn’t do that, and while I loved them as players, I can look back at their careers and say they were as good as they could’ve been. Kobe did and you can’t disrespect that. But I’m not trying to hear an argument about how he is the best ever. I hate Kobe fans more than Kobe himself. To go in Beib’s direction with Jesus, think of Kobe the same way as I think of religion and penises. I’m glad you have one. It’s great that you’re proud of it. I don’t want to try it, don’t want it in my face, and don’t try to shove it down my fucking throat.

    Everyone loved Lebron. Loved him. Then he left Cleveland the way that he did. Hell, I would’ve left Cleveland too, but he handled it poorly. So people turned on him and wanted him to fail. Then he loses in the Finals with the Heat and it was a happy time for most people. When he was in Cleveland and he played poorly, as a whole people forgave him. It was a situation where he was playing in a garbage town, with a garbage team, and it would have been a great story had he won. No offense to people from Cleveland. Then he went to Miami, with the one guy in the league who can kind of challenge him to the best player alive right now (only because Kobe is older), and acted like it was over for the rest of the league. More hate. He plays poorly and loses in the Finals again. More hate, kick him while he’s down. Kobe is the 300 pound fat guy who gained 20 pounds and Lebron went from 195 to 300. Kobe is fatter but there wasn’t much change, while Lebron ballooned the hell up and it’s more noticeable. They’re both fat, but Kobe has always been fat. Lebron just fell off.


    Man you are one of the most biased writers I have ever seen. I am gonna keep this short, Kobe has 5 rings. You didn’t see Kobe’s Jersey getting burned. Lebron James throws more games than a gambler throws dice. Biggest choke artist the game has ever seen. If you ask the majority of NBA fans who the better player is in the NBA, I would bet you any money they would overwhelmingly say KB. You are just another KB hater without the cape!!

  • http://www.dimemag.com panchitoooo

    ^^i’ll take that bet, i agree that kobes good and so is lebron but KB overwhelminglytaking the vote is going a bit too far

  • Promoman

    Kobe without question. Kobe was crucified from almost the moment he was drafted by everyone from his teammates to the general public. Kobe couldn’t even use the lockerroom because of the shit he was getting from Shaq leading the team against him. He handled getting fucked over by keeping his eye on the prize and becoming an at least a top 10 player. Eaglegate really kicked it into overdrive but he set himself up by running around on his wife. LeBron had a right to leave Cleveland but he did it shady by having the Cavs fire Mike Brown and force out Danny Ferry by giving the impression that he’d stay if they did those moves. LeBron would have to get O.J. level accusations to be truly hated.

  • Stradio

    Wow. Holy shit Brian K. Freeman. I really don’t believe you even read the full article for two reasons.

    1. Not a single thing about this article compares Kobe and LeBron as basketball players. The entire point, which you seem to have missed, is to compare them as people and to discuss the shift in their perception by the general public over the years.

    2. You seem to be addressing only one writer saying he is completely biased when there are 2 pages with 2 different writers representing difference perspectives.

  • beiber newz

    ^ haha…i think stradio just schooled dude

  • MissJackieM

    Kobe got so much hate,that for awhile I thought he was gonna betarred and feathered.

  • http://www.era-neteulanest.com/inne/srebro,s,1069/ brylanty

    Being of the younger sort id say Speed or Lee, though whovever said Emre made me realise Id totally forgotten about him, and Im not sure how. Good times (mostly) even of he might have been a bit of a racist..Well it was never proven..