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The player fans love to hate

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Everyone's favorite villainWere I to attempt to document every article, column and blog post of people taking joy in Rasheed Wallace eating crow, I'd likely develop carpal tunnel sydrome before I was halfway done. But I did spot this entry over at Basketbawlful that I thought was worth a look:

But I'll give Wallace this much: he tries (wittingly or no) to make things interesting. He says things nobody else has the guts to say anymore. Remember back in the 80s and early 90s, when it was okay to hate the guys you were playing against? Back then, players were constantly woofing it up to the media. Take 1984, for example. Prior to the Celtics' semifinal matchup against the Knicks, Cedric Maxwell proclaimed that he was going to shut down the league's scoring champion, Bernard King (who, by the way, was fresh off a first round series in which he'd averaged 42 points a game...with dislocated fingers on both hands). Max said, "I'm gonna stop the bitch. The Knicks are going to lose. There's no question about it." He then added a little spice by mimicking King's distinctive gait and saying, "No way a guy who walks like this is gonna get 40 on me." After the Celtics went up 2-0, Kevin McHale said, "They're in the grave right now, and we've got the shovel in our hands." Did all this talk inspire the Knicks? Well, King scored 40 twice, and the Knicks pushed the series to seven games, so maybe it did. But it made for a much more intriguing series.

Another thing to remember about Rasheed's guarantee. He was only stating what most fans, experts, and bookies were already thinking: that, all things being equal, the Pistons were the superior team and should have won the game. Of course, all things aren't equal, and the best team doesn't always win. Which, of course, is why they play the games. But basketball, like anything elese, is much more intriguing when there are heroes to love and villains to hate. ANd 'Sheed is that rare player who is secure enough in himself and his ability that he isn't afraid to be booed, isn't afraid to be hated. In fact, he seems to enjoy it. So thank you, Rasheed Wallace, for being so wonderfully hateable.

I had just "praised" Anderson "Sideshow" Varejao a few days ago for filling the same role: the player the opposing team loves to hate. Sideshow, though, is cultivating a rivalry with his incessant motion on the court, not his incessant talking off of it. In the grand scheme of things, there's room for it all. And if the Pistons no longer fit the role of the underdog they embraced so much the past two seasons, well, let's hope they can step up and play the role of the villain.

Muwahahahaha!! (or "Sheed gets his pie hole shut") [Basketbawful]