As the NBA season kicks off I am reminded that there are certain athletes that you just cannot hate. As a fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder, (Sorry Mavericks’ fans) I want to dislike LeBron James. I dislike the Heat. I really despise Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade but LeBron James is the kind of transcendent talent that you simply cannot hate. When he steps on the court you have to see it and even when he plays your team you have to admire what he does. I think all across sports there are teams, coaches and players that have the combination of talent and personality that prevents you from hating them. In that spirit, I will give you two top ten lists today. One list for MLB players, managers and coaches you cannot hate and one for non-baseball sports. Both are based solely on my personal opinion and I welcome comments on the topic. These are not top ten lists of most like-able; these are top ten least hate-able.
Top ten players, coaches, and teams outside of baseball that are impossible to hate:
10. LeBron James
The discussion about LeBron being the best ever has already been in full swing for years and his recent performance certainly helps the case. LeBron is something to behold on the court. Try as I might to dislike him based on how he has relegated my favorite team to perpetual second best when I watch him I marvel. Some probably dislike him based on his general whininess and flopping so I have conservatively placed him tenth on the list.
9. Kevin Durant
Maybe I am biased, most likely I am biased, but I do not believe anyone can hate Kevin Durant. If you need proof that he is cleanest superstar to ever grace the NBA, he is currently running an advertising campaign about him being, “Not Nice” in an attempt to give his image a little edge.
8. Indiana Pacers
If the name “Pacers” was not already as about blue collar as possible, I would recommend that Indiana change its name to the Indiana Blue Collars. They certainly have the roster to match the name. They have almost no flair and almost no edge. They hustle and play right. I cannot image many people hating this version of the NBA’s most blue collar team.
7. Benson Henderson
Not surprisingly, Henderson is the only fighter on the list. Most fighters are easily hate-able if you like one of their opponents (or simply if you watch them long enough). Henderson makes this list because of his unique humility and entertaining personality. If he has one flaw it is that he can be a tad over the top with his faith, which might turn some people off, but at least he avoids the Tim Tebow level.
6. Stephen Curry
Curry took the NBA by storm last year and some would argue he is approaching elite level. Curry has one of the most interesting games to watch. He can take over a game and light it up from downtown in a mesmerizing way. You cannot hate him because he plays right and he is as entertaining as anybody in the league.
5. Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson is like LeBron James, he is so incredibly good that you cannot not like him. He is carrying a terrible franchise. Last year he made the playoffs and was nice enough to invite the rest of the Vikings to join him. Peterson is the most talented back in the league and is also one of the nicest. He takes care of business and stays out of trouble. He is the Kevin Durant of the NFL.
4. Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald is pretty much the nicest guy in the NFL. I have intentionally left off players who are lovable losers but part of why you cannot hate Larry is because he has never had a chance to succeed in Arizona.
3. Drew Brees
Another supreme NFL talent, Brees is a clean cut, entertaining player. Brees overcomes certain physical limitations to be one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in the NFL. He has proven to be a solid leader without being a diva in any regard. When you have his kind of success and avoid the perception other successful quarterbacks have garnered you have to make the list.
2. Russel Wilson
Wilson is like a young Brees. He has overcome questions about his height and physical tools. Wilson is certainly different than Brees. He has a cannon arm and less accuracy but you have to love a young quarterback taking over a team and becoming a star.
1. Andrew Luck
Perhaps I overvalue cerebral quarterbacks but in some ways Luck is a combination of all the great quarterbacks in recent memory. He is smart and usees pre snap calls but he is also one with immense physical tools. Luck is an athlete at the quarterback position. He is an unassuming kid and I cannot imagine fans disliking him.
Top ten players, coaches, and teams in the MLB that are impossible to hate:
10. Terry Francona
There are probably several managers that could fit in the tenth spot. I will put Francona here because of his combination of being a relaxed manager and a class act. Francona usually commands his team without flying off the handle as many managers are prone to do. He also makes for a fascinating interview.
Tulo has not been able to stay healthy over the last two years but when he is healthy he is hands down the best shortstop in the majors. He has all the tools and is as entertaining a player as there is to watch. He also seems to genuinely enjoy baseball. If you do not believe me go find video of Jose Fernandez catching his line drive in a game near the end of the season.
8. Jonny Gomes
Gomes, like many of the Boston Red Sox, is quite the character. You cannot find a more entertaining player in the majors. It is hard not to root for a career journeyman like Gomes. He is finally finding success and being rewarded for his persistence.
7. Joe Maddon
There is not a finer manager in the bigs. Maddon is the most unorthodox manager in the managers, probably the most unorthodow manager ever. He is positive and eccentric.
6. St. Louis Cardinals
I know fellow Rangers’ fans will want to hang me for this but there simply is not a finer organization in the MLB. They have a young and energetic team. They play right and run their entire system right. From top to bottom they are pure class. I cannot think of a player on the team that is not a class act.
Miggy is quiet and reserved. He seems to be all baseball, all the time. I put him on this list more because he is one of the best hitters in the history of baseball, let alone one of the best hitters currently. When he comes up to hit we have to see it. He has put up historic numbers two years in a row and would have back to back triple crowns if not for Chris Davis. One of the highlights of the year was Mariano Rivera against Cabrera. That was an electric at bat and perfectly highlights why he is on this list. His at bats are the most interesting ones around.
Verlander is a true ace pitcher but also a blue collar guy. It is unusual to see a player with the caliber of skills he has also have a blue collar work ethic. I do not know how one can hate a guy who works as hard as JV does. I love it when guys of this skill level also work hard.
3. Buster Posey
Posey is one of those young exciting players that does it right. He is the kind of high intelligence, high skill player that is impossible to hate. What you have to like about Posey is his skill both defensively and offensively.
2. Mike Trout
Trout is a four and a half tool player. His arm is at best average or else he would be a legitimate five tool player. There is not better collection of skills in the majors. I cannot express the level of hate I have for the Angels and even though I would like to hate Mike Trout, I cannot. We watch sports to see these athletes do amazing things. Trout is a joy to watch because he does everything on the field at the highest level.
There is not a more entertaining pair in sports. These two love the game of baseball more than any other two players in the majors. Those of us watching the Rangers every day have the benefit of watching these two field ground balls in the hole and catch pop ups with the greatest flair.
I am not sure it is possible to make the game of baseball more entertaining than these two do. Beltre playfully talks trash to opponents. He drops to a knee on homeruns and has the toe tap on pitches he almost swung at but did not want to. If you have not seen Beltre run into leftfield in Houston after he was caught in a run down you need to find that video.
Elvis runs up behind Adrian on infield pop ups and rubs his head after homeruns. It also does not hurt that there are not two better defenders at their positions, let alone a better left side of the infield. If you want to see stellar defense you need to watch these two. What could be more entertaining than the two best defenders in the league also being the funniest?
If you hate my list of players that are impossible to hate leave your opinion in the comments.