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Top 10 Athletes Hated By Their Former Team

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Spencer Sher

Script written by Spencer Sher

Talk about burning bridges! WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Athletes Hated By Their Former Team.


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Script written by Spencer Sher

Top 10 Athletes Hated By Their Former Team

Talk about burning bridges! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Athletes Hated By Their Former Team.

For this list, we’re taking a look at athletes whose departure from their former clubs was seen as a betrayal by fans. We’ll be paying special attention to athletes who were booed mercilessly when they returned to face their former team.

#10: Deion Sanders

This multi-sport athlete raised the ire of not one, but two pro sports franchises. Sanders started his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons, but jumped ship in 1994 to play for the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers. This didn’t exactly endear him to the Falcons fanbase, who felt abandoned by their superstar cornerback. Sanders did it again later in his career when he left the Dallas Cowboys for their long-time divisional rivals, the Washington Redskins. His time in the capital was short-lived, however – and unlike him leaving Atlanta to play in San Fran, he never won a Super Bowl with the ‘Skins.

#9: Carlos Tevez

After bouncing between several clubs early in his career, Argentine footballer Carlos Tevez found a home with Manchester United in 2007. Unfortunately for United, Tevez’ goal tally failed to match his output with Brazilian club Corinthians, and he rejected a lucrative offer to stay at Old Trafford for the next five years. A move seemed imminent, but few could have predicted it involving United’s crosstown rivals, Manchester City. To the wrath of fans, Tevez signed a five-year, £47 million deal with City in 2009 – making him the first player to leave one Manchester club for the other in almost a decade. Though he claimed the move wasn’t about the money, few United supporters bought that excuse.

#8: Roger Clemens

Long before his name became synonymous with steroid use, Roger Clemens was one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers. He spent the first 13 years of his career with the Boston Red Sox, and while he failed to bring a World Series title to the city, he nonetheless became one of the team’s most beloved players. Unfortunately, the love affair came to an end in 1997, with Clemens leaving to play for the Toronto Blue Jays. While the move no doubt upset the Red Sox faithful, it was nothing compared to when Clemens signed with their arch-rival New York Yankees in 1999. To make matters worse, Clemens would go on to win two championships in the Big Apple.

#7: Kevin Durant

After being bounced from the Western Conference Finals by the Golden State Warriors in 2016, Kevin Durant decided to live up to the old adage, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, leaving Oklahoma City to sign a two-year, $54.3 million contract with the Warriors. Durant was accused of being a title chaser by Thunder fans, who felt he’d abandoned the team once he realized he couldn’t get them past the Warriors in the playoffs. The move was compared to LeBron James’s decision to leave Cleveland for Miami in 2010 (more on that in a minute), and turned Durant into one of the NBA’s most hated players. But two championships and two NBA Finals MVP awards later, it’s safe to say Durant doesn’t mind.

#6: John Tavares

There was no bigger NHL free agent in 2018 than John Tavares. After being drafted by the New York Islanders in 2009 and spending nine seasons with them, he left to play for his favourite childhood team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. This didn’t exactly sit well with Islander fans, who felt disrespected by Tavares. They had plenty of time to stew in their hatred, as the Leafs wouldn’t play away to the Islanders until late in the season. When the day finally came, Islander fans were ready; booing their former franchise centre mercilessly, throwing plastic snakes on the ice and chanting "JT sucks” "Who's your daddy?" and "Thanks for leaving," among other insults. Surely, not the homecoming Tavares hoped for.

#5: Brett Favre

As the face of the Green Bay Packers for a decade and a half, Brett Favre helped restore the small-market franchise to their former glory, leading the Pack to a Super Bowl championship in the 1996 season. However, by the late 2000s, the relationship between Favre and the Packers had soured, and the team decided not to re-sign him. Favre played one year with the New York Jets before signing with the Packers’ second-biggest rival, the Minnesota Vikings, in 2009. The move made him public enemy number one in Green Bay, with many fans considering him a traitor. But since Favre’s induction into the Packers’ ring of honour in 2015 was warmly received, tensions between fans and their former quarterback have clearly subsided.

#4: Johnny Damon

Johnny Damon will forever hold a special place in the hearts of the Boston Red Sox faithful. His play in the 2004 postseason was instrumental in ending the Curse of the Bambino and bringing a World Series title to the city for the first time in 86 years. However, in pro sports, good deeds can be undone in the blink of an eye. Despite stating in 2005 that there was “no way” he could play for the New York Yankees, Damon did a 180 and signed with them the following year. Ditching your former team for their biggest rival – and for a ton of money, no less – is one of the lowest moves in sports, and Damon’s decision to do exactly that sparked outrage in Beantown.

#3: Sol Campbell

Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are as heated a rivalry as you will find in professional sports. The North London football clubs have nothing but seething hatred for one another, and when a player moves between the two teams, it’s highly contentious territory. So, when Spurs centre back Sol Campbell left to play for Arsenal on a free transfer in 2001, fans were furious for the obvious betrayal. Years later, Spurs fans are still upset with Campbell, who has since remarked that “people who were perhaps five (years old) at the time I went to Arsenal, or were not even born, feel strongly about it,” – perfectly summing up just how much the move impacted Tottenham’s fanbase.

#2: LeBron James

One of the most controversial moves in sports history, LeBron James’s decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to chase titles in Miami effectively eradicated years of goodwill built up since being drafted by Cleveland in 2003. James’ announcement of his departure from the team through an ESPN special called “The Decision” rubbed salt in Cavs fans’ wounds. James was heavily criticized by fans and the media for leaving Cleveland, and soon became one of the most disliked athletes in sports. Some fans went so far as to burn his jersey, while others simply took to booing and/or viciously taunting him whenever he came to town. It all worked out in the end, however, with James eventually rejoining the Cavs and leading them to an NBA title in 2016..

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are some honorable mentions.

Terrell Owens

Fernando Torres

Vince Carter

Alex Rodriguez

Wade Boggs

#1: Luis Figo

Despite being one of his generation’s best footballers, Luis Figo is also one of the most hated – at least by Barcelona fans – and the vitriol largely stems from his decision to leave for Real Madrid in 2000. The two clubs form the basis for one of the most heated rivalries in sports, so any player who leaves one to play for the other instantly becomes public enemy number one. At the time, Figo’s transfer fee of €62 million set a new record, only adding to the scorn of Barça supporters. When Figo played his first game away at Barcelona with his new team, the Camp Nou almost erupted. Fans displayed banners reading “Judas” and “Traitor”, and threw various objects in his direction. Infamously, his second game back in Barcelona saw a fan throw a pig’s head at him.

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