Every good story needs a villain. Friday the 13th has Jason, A Nightmare on Elm Street has Freddy Krueger, and the NBA has Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young.
Since LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and James Harden are all out of the playoffs, fans lacked an NBA player to cheer against until Young came along. His brashness has made the 2021 NBA Playoffs more exciting.
Trae Young vs the New York Knicks
If anyone would have told you the Atlanta Hawks were on the verge of making the NBA Finals, you would have thought they were dreaming. But that’s exactly what may happen if the Hawks can take care of the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The main reason for the Hawks’ success is Young. He lit up the Knicks, who were a favorite to defeat the Hawks and move on in the playoffs. It wasn’t meant to be for the New York franchise.
Young averaged almost 30.0 points, 10.0 assists, and 3.0 rebounds. For some players, competing in Madison Square Garden in front of New York fans can be intimidating, but that wasn’t the case for Young. He thrived in front of the crowd and showed no fear, much to the dismay of the pro-Knicks crowd.
NBA villains in the past
You’d be hard-pressed to find a good NBA villain these days because everyone seems to like each other. The biggest villain to most, however, is probably then Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, but even he is hard to hate.
But in the late ’80s and early ’90s, there were plenty of NBA players to hate. You can start with the Bad Boys of the Detroit Pistons. Pick a player, any player, on that team. But the athlete most people hated most was Bill Laimbeer. Wherever he went, he was booed. But like Young, he enjoyed playing the role of the bad guy.
Dennis Rodman was another player who was disliked when he played for the Pistons and the Chicago Bulls. Both Laimbeer and Rodman were seen as dirty players, which is why they were hated so much.
Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and even Magic Johnson were at one point considered villains to opposing fans in other cities, mainly because they could put a dagger in your heart like Young did to the Knicks. Fans in Utah and Cleveland are still upset with Jordan for killing their playoff hopes with a last-second shot. Ditto for Magic and Bird when they played against each other in the NBA Finals. Boston and LA fans can attest to the pain that both players caused in their cities.
NBA villains are good for the game
This year’s 2021 NBA Playoffs are far more interesting than last year’s, not only because of the new blood but also because of players like Trae Young, who is now a nemesis to opposing teams. He not only destroyed the Knicks with his play, but he is doing the same thing to the Bucks, who were expected to make the NBA Finals.
But that’s what good villains are suppose to do: be the spoilers.
The NBA is far more fun and interesting when you have players you can root against. Trae Young officially has taken the mantle from Durant and James, who were knocked out of the playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns, respectively.
Because of his play, Young has joined the elite set of players who fans from across the country enjoy rooting against, while begrudgingly respecting his play on the court, as well. For the NBA, that’s not a bad thing.