The intense love fest that Massachusetts sports fans have for their heroes is only rivaled by the virulent hate they reserve for the biggest rivals of players and teams in the Commonwealth.
PlayMA surveyed 600 sports fans in the state to find out which athletes they love to hate the most. Some names on the list are expected. Others may be a surprise.
Massachusetts sports fans have seen many rivalries throughout the years, and the recent rollout of sports betting in Massachusetts has even more attention on the sports world in the state.
Here are some insights from the survey and the top 10 most hated athletes by Massachusetts sports fans.
1. LeBron James, 53 votes
Not a day goes by that basketball fans on social media don’t get riled up about their deep-seated hatred of LeBron James. While the veteran forward is one of the best to play the game, he also has a personal rivalry with the Boston Celtics universe that probably will not wane in our lifetime.
He broke Celtics hearts with outstanding performances in the last two games of the 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, dashing Boston’s hopes of a Finals appearance.
Overall, James’ outstanding play helped to take down Boston in the playoffs nearly a half dozen times between 2011 and 2018.
In 2018, rumors circulated the LeBron could possibly land in Boston after leaving his home state team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, for the second time. He ended up playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Boston/Los Angeles rivalry is the most heated in the NBA, so James joining that franchise sealed his fate as a Massachusetts nemesis.
2. Derek Jeter, 27 votes
While the Celtics/Lakers rivalry is fierce, it is no match for the white-hot hatred between the MLB’s Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
While the animosity between the teams spans over 120 years, some of its most heated moments came during the years Derek Jeter played for the Yankees.
The shortstop tormented the Red Sox during his 20-year career with the Yankees. His amazing plays against Boston included one that was voted the Play of the Year. During a tied game, he caught a pop fly while diving headfirst over the railing into seats and injuring his face during the process.
Even though fans love to hate Jeter, they recognized his talent and gave him a standing ovation the last time he exited the Fenway Park field.
3. Alex Rodriguez, 25 votes
Third on the list of infamy is Alex Rodriguez. Like LeBron James, Rodriguez is a player fans from many teams love to hate.
A-Rod almost became a member of the Red Sox in late 2003 after playing for the Texas Rangers. The Rangers were ready to trade Rodriguez to Boston, but in the deal, the shortstop would have taken a voluntary pay cut. However, the Major League Baseball Players Association vetoed the trade.
Rodriguez joined enemy No. 1, the Yankees, in a move that immediately made him a nemesis of Boston fans.
4. Kobe Bryant, 20 votes
The sharp shooting of Kobe Bryant put tears in the eyes of fans across the NBA. His buzzer-beating clutch shots became legendary in sucking the wind (and some might say soul) of out of teams who seemed to have a chance at downing Los Angeles in crucial games.
As a member of the Lakers, the late Bryant was an automatic foe of Boston fans.
Still, even three years after his death in 2020, Bryant draws the ire of sports fans in Massachusetts. You could say that’s the ultimate sign of hate-filled respect.
5. Peyton Manning, 19 votes
The Patriots and Indianapolis Colts developed a strong rivalry in the 2000s. Thus, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were frequent counterparts on the gridiron, often times in the postseason.
Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, but after so many head-to-head matchups with the Patriots, New England fans just can’t seem to stand the guy — no matter how likable he is.
6. Tom Brady, 16 votes
There is no doubt that Tom Brady is one of the most beloved Massachusetts athlete of all time. For the longest time, it appeared that Brady would be a Patriot for his entire career.
However, Massachusetts sports fans hate traitors, and Brady put his name on the turncoat list for simply playing for another team after the Patriots.
It didn’t matter that in his 20 seasons with New England, he led the Patriots to their first-ever Super Bowl win, along with five others, and helped them earn 17 division titles.
He left the Patriots in 2019, then promptly won another Super Bowl with the Buccaneers in his first season in Tampa Bay.
7. Patrick Mahomes, 15 votes
Like the Patriots and Colts rivalry, the Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs had a strong rivalry when Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes were dueling it out. Brady and Mahomes went head-to-head six times, including once in the postseason in the 2019 AFC Championship Game.
Each team went 3-3 in those six matchups, but Patriots fans developed a strong dislike toward Mahomes.
8. Aaron Judge, 9 votes
Being the premier player on the New York Yankees will put you on any most hated list among Red Sox fans. Aaron Judge blasted 62 home runs last season, and exactly zero of them were enjoyed by Red Sox fans.
In his career, Judge has hit 21 home runs in 84 games against the Red Sox, with eight of them coming at Fenway Park.
9. Kyrie Irving, 8 votes
Kyrie Irving, who played for the Celtics for two seasons, put his name on the list for his antagonistic and often bizarre behavior, which puzzles fans, teammates and franchise owners to this day.
After he left Boston for the Brooklyn Nets, he began a personal rivalry punctuated with stunts like stomping on the Celtics logo after a Brooklyn win and flipping off fans who annoyed him.
10. Aaron Rodgers, 6 votes
Aaron Rodgers has a knack for finding himself in the headlines. The NFL QB makes this list in the No. 10 spot, two votes behind Irving.
Rodgers and Brady went head-to-head fives times, with Brady holding the overall advantage with a 3-2 record.
Other notable athletes to receive votes
Sidney Crosby, 5 votes
Stephen Curry, 4 votes
Josh Allen, 3 votes
Eli Manning, 3 votes
Magic Johnson, 3 votes
Alex Ovechkin, 2 votes
Ben Roethlisburger, 2 votes
Hank Aaron, 2 votes
Manny Machado, 2 votes
Babe Ruth, 2 votes
When asked about their favorite teams, the Patriots came out on top as the team survey respondents loved the most, with 32.50% citing the football franchise as their favorite.
The Red Sox were second (24%), followed by the Celtics (23.83%) and Bruins (19.67%).
Pollfish, an online survey service, conducted the poll for PlayMA in early March. Respondents were over 25 and identified as sports fans.