Sports-related polls, articles and social media posts are not reality. No matter how much you might let them rule your world (like I do), sports is simply a form of entertainment.
Yet, entertainment is quite visceral and polarizing. Ask a sports fan the most emotional memory of their entire lives and within two seconds, before the birth of a child or when they said the words ‘I do’, they’ll blurt out some random sports moment.
A Phoenix basketball fan might say John Paxson. Ron Artest. Robert Horry. For U of A fans, there’s Frank Kaminsky. Sorry, but I can’t think of a visceral world-impacting basketball moment from ASU, good or bad. I thought Bobby Hurley was supposed to change that?
Arizona is a basketball state. Football is fun. Yes. I adore the Cardinals and the Sun Devils, and I know that Tucson folks live and breathe Wildcats football. And baseball is fun most years. We will always have the 2001 Diamondbacks giving us the only major championship of the 21st century in the wake of 9/11.
But first, foremost and always, this is a Suns state. You can see by the reaction of fans for this upstart Suns team that the sleeping giant is now awake again. Over the past year, but most viscerally in these last three months, a ground swell of Suns fans is overtaking the desert.
We love the Suns. We love Chris Paul. We love Devin Booker. We’re even warming up, collectively, to not-Luka. We anticipate a month from now we might be on the edge of our seats trying to close out a championship. It’s all love these days.
We haven’t even been awake long enough to actually hate anyone yet, have we?
Yet, here we are the only state in this great nation to decide the player they hate the most in all of the NBA is... Paul George?
The State-by-State breakdown is as follows:
1) LeBron James: 25 states
2) Kyrie Irving: 17 states
3) James Harden: 3 states (Alabama, Georgia, and Texas)
4) Kevin Durant: 3 states (California, Nevada, and Ohio)
5) Paul George: 1 state (Arizona)
6) Russell Westbrook: 1 state (Pennsylvania)
The rest of the nation hates the usual suspects: LeBron James, James Harden, Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant. My hometown state of Pennsylvania, where much of one side of my family always have and still resides, hates Russell Westbrook for some reason. ?? Don’t ask. I have no idea why, either.
And then there’s Arizona. For some reason, whatever poll was taken, fans from our state voted that Paul George is more hated in these parts than any other player listed.
That’s the Clippers Paul George. Formerly the Thunder’s Paul George (Oklahoma). Formerly the Pacers Paul George (Indiana). None of those states hate Paul George as much as any other player.
Why would Arizona hate Paul George? What has Paul George ever done to us?
Okay, yeah, he had a war of words this year, in a sense, with the Suns. He said the Suns were talking a lot of smack and he didn’t like it. In three games against the Suns, he’s made 60% of his threes and averaged more points versus the Suns (32 per game) than against any other team. Is that enough to make him the most hated? The Clippers are just about the only team that won the season series against the Suns (2-1) in this magical year. We don’t have much to hate this year, so maybe that IS enough.
And what is he about to do to us, now that he knows we hate him?
The Suns might take on Paul George next week in the Western Conference Finals. George’s Clippers won Game 5 in Utah on Wednesday night behind his 37 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and a steal and now have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. One more win and the Clippers are in the Conference Finals. Teams that win Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead end up winning the series almost 85% of the time. Game 6 is in LA, giving the Clippers the backing of a sold-out 100% capacity Staples Center crowd. Game 7, if needed, would be on Sunday in Utah where they just won Game 5.
We’ve made our bed, so to speak.
We’ve said he’s Arizona’s most hated NBA player.
Now we need to own up to it over the next two weeks. If he wasn’t YOUR most hated already, he just might become that soon.