Kevin Love has led a complicated basketball life since he was a teenager. Born in California but raised in Oregon, it’s a foregone conclusion to Beaver State residents that the state’s best basketball product becomes an Oregon Duck. However, when Love chose UCLA, Oregon fans felt betrayed. They responded with outrage that went well beyond the sports arena.
Kevin Love chooses UCLA over Oregon
One of the best high school players, Kevin Love was a hot commodity for college recruiters. While many players choose to attend school close to home, Love took his talents to one of the country’s most legendary basketball programs. At UCLA, he would prove that he had what it took to make it to the next level.
Teamed with Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Love was a hardwood star. He could shoot like a guard and grab boards like a center while also defending the paint against his college competition. Love led the Bruins to one of their best seasons in years. He averaged 17 points and almost 11 rebounds in his single year at UCLA.
Although the Bruins eventually fell to John Calipari’s Memphis Tigers, they were a favorite to the UCLA faithful. However, in Oregon, his home-state fans quickly turned to foes when he set his sails to LA.
Love gets hometown hate
When Love returned to his home state, he was not greeted with applause. The scorned Ducks fans made it known how disgusted they were that Love spurned them for the California program. When he took the court, fans booed him in ways similar to how Cavaliers fans booed LeBron James the first time he left the team.
Love’s father explained the hostile environment to Sports Illustrated (per Bruins Nation) in 2008. “Stan Love knew it would be bad. But not this bad,” wrote Wahl in 2008. The sixth-leading scorer in Oregon’s history, Stan “arrived at his alma mater that night in a party of seven including Karen, Kevin’s 13-year-old sister, his grandmother and his uncle Mike, a co-founder of the Beach Boys. But good vibrations were in short supply.”
Kevin’s detailed how he and his family were “pelted with popcorn cartons and empty cups, as well as a barrage of profane -insults.” This wasn’t just the adults misbehaving, either. Stan said people had their kids harassing the family based solely on Love’s college of choice.
“There were six-year-old kids with signs saying KEVIN LOVE SUCKS,” says Stan, who -endured a hail of one-finger salutes to snap photographs of the worst signs. “It was the grossest display of humanity I’ve ever been involved with. To think I’m sitting at the school where I played ball, and just because my kid -didn’t pick Oregon he gets abused like that? I’ll never go back there.”
Despite seeming larger than life, it’s easy for sports fans to forget that athletes are ordinary people with normal desires. Athletes owe them nothing. Unfortunately, the Oregon fans ignored this and treated Love as though he did something wrong. Lucky for him, Love appears to have recovered in the NBA.
Love goes out on top
Love’s NBA career might not have started the way he wanted, nor may it be where he wants it to be today. However, after years of losing on the Timberwolves, Love became an NBA Champion in 2016 while being a valuable second and third option for the LeBron James-led Cavaliers teams from 2015-18.
The superstar has since opened up about his mental health and how an athlete copes with everything around him. In the process, looking back at how that Oregon crowd treated him when he didn’t go to school there, it’s comforting to know that Love came out on top. Hopefully, years onward, those same fans that boo him can now realize that he did what was best for him and move on.