The Ten Most Hated Athletes

Who are the most roundly despised men in pro sports? We asked their peers—and they came out swinging

And who could blame Shaq—“the best teammate in the world,” according to Carter—for shunning Bryant after Kobe inexplicably told Colorado police that O’Neal had paid up to $1 million to discreetly remedy situations like the one Kobe found himself in during the summer of 2003. “That’s outlandish,” says Carter. “And why he said it, I have no idea.” Greg Anthony adds: “That’s something you don’t ever do. You never discuss someone else’s personal business with anybody. That’s an unwritten rule that he broke, and there’s a price to pay when you do something like that.”

4. Curt Schilling

“Between the white lines, it’s all real,” says one reporter who has covered Schilling. “But outside the white lines, there’s a huge gap between the man and the image he projects.” Take, for instance, Schilling’s self-glorifying display during Congress’s steroid hearings last March or his absurdly patriotic open letter to America on after 9/11, for which his teammates mocked him on a late-night bus ride with a chorus of “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy.” “They know what he’s about,” says the sportswriter. “I’d say a large percentage of them like him—every fifth day. He wears on people.”

On days he doesn’t pitch, Schilling is notorious for striking TV-ready poses on the dugout stairs. (His manager in Philadelphia, Jim Fregosi, dubbed him Red Light Curt.) “He’s somebody who’s always positioning himself in terms of what’s best for Curt Schilling,” says ESPN’s Pedro Gomez, who described Schilling as “the consummate table for one.” (Speaking of which, Schilling also has a reputation for sneaking into the clubhouse late in games to get a head start on the buffet.)

So avid is Schilling’s longing for the spotlight that some of his peers raise doubts about his now legendary turn in the 2004 postseason, when he pitched on an ankle tendon that had been sutured in place. During Game 6, cameras cut repeatedly to the bright red stain on Schilling’s sock. It was blood, right? “The Diamondbacks people think he definitely doctored that sock,” says the sportswriter. The ex-teammate laughs: “All around baseball, people questioned that. It was funny how the stain didn’t spread.”

3. Kurt Busch

After Kurt Busch won the 2004 Nextel Cup Series, his sponsor, Newell Rubbermaid, considered dropping him as an endorser. Dropping the champ? “It’s unprecedented,” says Eric Pinkham, the company’s motor-sports director. But, he adds, “there have been far greater champions in NASCAR, and we wish we’d had one.”

Last November, after being pulled over outside Phoenix, Busch said to the officers on duty, “Aren’t you supposed to be directing traffic somewhere?” When the officers asked Busch to perform a field sobriety test, he said, “I’m not doing this gay test!” and was summarily cuffed and arrested (though later released). “We weren’t trying very hard to find out about anything, frankly,” says a source for Roush Racing, Busch’s former team. “But when we saw what the sheriff told the AP, we said, ‘We gotta get into it.’ Forget that he tried to spin it that he’d never had a drink. The whole police interaction, that whole level of flouting authority, is just so far out-of-bounds for the expected behavior of a NASCAR driver.”