If you managed to get through the staggeringly long part one of the series, good for you. The fact that you are willing to endure another must mean you are either related to me, or I’m currently behind you with a gun to your head. Just in case the ladder is the truth, I’ll get right in to this. Here are my favorite people from the last ten years.
Shaquille O’Neal- Even if you completely ignore the fact that he was perhaps the most dominant force from 1995-2005, Shaq still affects the NBA as much as anyone in the decade. To say Shaq was lovable is an understatement. From the nicknames he gave himself1, to every single public interview he was in, Shaq made us laugh. I know that it was technically made in 1996, but you have to mention Shaq’s big screen appearance as the star of Kazaam. To say that wasn’t the absolute masterpiece of unintentional comedy, please tell me what is.
Kobe Bryant- Have you ever seen a player go from poster boy for every major corporation, to scum of the Earth, back to an idol? Nope…and you wouldn’t have believed it could even happen before Kobe. My favorite Kobe moment was the commercials Nike had with Kobe talking about why people hate him. He mentions that it might be because he is so good, that he is a leader, because he plays for the Lakers, and other hysterically hubristic ideas. Meanwhile, we are staring at the screen going, “dude, we hate you because you raped a girl. How blinded by pride can you be to possibly think it is anything other than that?” All rape comments aside, I love the guy’s swagger. The fact that he was able to withstand that and still remain a superstar is awesome. Can you think of another athlete that has gotten away with more? He demanded the team trade Shaq, got the greatest coach of all time fired, demanded a trade, and almost sunk low enough to sign with the Clippers. Yet despite all that, we love him. Why? Because he is a winner2. It is not often that I thrash on the guy I consider to be my second favorite player
Peyton Manning- I’m gonna get some crap for this because I was such a Peyton hater up until about two years ago, but I have come around. The guy is hilarious in every commercial he is in. Whether or not he himself is actually funny (as opposed to just being in commercials with great writers), I don’t know, but he has us all convinced of the first.
Terrell Owens- I will be the first to say T.O. is a dick and I would never want him on my team. That being said, I love watching him from a far. I loved every single touchdown dance he every had3, and thought watching him cause the implosion of the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys was like watching the best reality show ever.
Gilbert Arenas- Here is another one I’ll get shit for. My unhealthy love for Gil is well documented and therefore, my thoughts are skewed. However, this is my blog so screw you. Gilbert made players in the NBA seem human again. After having MJ make it seem like basketball players were gods and better than you, Gil was there to let you know that this wasn’t true. His blog let us in on his personal life and showed us he was human. He was super nice when people saw him out and about4, and his success was inspiring because people doubted him every step in his career. Not only that, but “Agent Zero” had a knack for making buzzer-beating shots. He was so clutch, and I won’t ever forget the way I felt after every game-winning buzzer beater he made.
Clinton Portis- Mark Schlereth once said that if it weren’t for player antics, the time from Monday to Sunday would be a long wait. Portis was one who made sure that you were never bored. From 2005 to 2006, Portis made a habit of dressing up as characters such as “Southeast Jerome” and “Coach Janky Spanky” and kept us all laughing. The most important part, when the team struggled in ’06, he called it quits because he wanted to focus on helping the team. That is why I loved it…he made sure it didn’t become a distraction.
LeBron James- I know I’m supposed to hate him and the Cavs, but can you actually do it? He is amazing on the court5, and one of the funniest guys alive, not just in sports. His commercial campaign for Nike “The LeBrons” was awesome, and the new puppet commercials are my favorite of all time As of right now, the kid has been nothing but an outstanding citizen and teammate, and overall makes it more fun to play the game.
Manny Ramirez- Never has one man gotten away with so much because of a nonsensical phrase. “That’s just Manny being Manny” got him out of so much crap it is unbelievable. Let’s think about this. He is one of the worst left fielders ever6, was a total prick, demanded to be traded just about every other week, noticeably tanked in the middle of the 2008 season to force the Red Sox to trade him, and then broke the cardinal rule of baseball by testing positive for steroids this year. Yet despite all of this, people just shake their heads and grin. To be able to get away with all of this and not be a villain to a Barry Bonds7 level.
Mike Tyson- I was talking to a friend recently and decided I would never want to meet Tyson because I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face when he started talking with that lisp of his, and would end up getting the shit beat out of me. From the time he said that he would “eat your children,” I knew we had a character. At that point, he decided we hadn’t had enough and brought us two more chances to give him shit with the epic fail of a comeback, and the greatest face tattoo ever designed. Finally. Tyson buried home his status as funniest boxer ever by playing himself in the Hangover and knocking the crap out of Zach Galifianakis.
Next up: My least favorite people
1. My favorites were “The big Aristotle,” “The Diesel,” “Officer Shaq” (after he became a volunteer policeman in Miami), and “Shaq-ovic” (because players like Sasha Vujacic and Vladimir Radmanovic were so good at shooting, he decided that if he changed his name, to end in “-ovic” he would become a better shooter).
2. The Nike puppet commercial didn’t hurt either. He doesn’t even play his puppets voice and I still love him for it. It is by far my favorite commercial campaign and Kobe and LeBron get my love for it.
3. I also give him credit for the dances of guys like Steve Smith, Chad Johnson, and Joe Horn, because he made it trendy.
4. Perfect example: My junior year, my good friend Austin and I wrote an article on the Wizards and needed a picture to go with it. We couldn’t use a picture from online because of copyright issues, so we decided to ask him. We went up to his door and straight up asked him. Instead of saying “no” because he was actually in the middle of a work out, he invited us in, showed us around a little, and brought us into his office to find a good picture. He searched probably for ten minutes after he had already found several because he wanted “to give us a good one.” I’ll never forget that. Not only did he help us, he took his time with us to make sure he helped us as much as he possibly could. Can you really fault me for loving the guy?
5. Can you really blame him for the fact that all referees want to suck his dick?
6. This isn’t emphasized enough. Manny played LF in Fenway Park for most of his career, where he had one of the smallest areas to cover in all of baseball (the left field wall at Fenway is only 310 feet). Despite this, you saw him make more boneheaded plays than anyone
7. I’m not gonna cover Bonds much but I will share my opinion. Bonds got a VERY raw deal because he was the best. Yea, he took steroids, but so did most guys. He won two MVP’s in Pittsburgh, way before he was on steroids, and should be in the Hall of Fame first ballot regardless of steroids.