That's the Bad Guy
NBA Playoff series don’t need a bad guy or villain – but it sure makes things more interesting when one exists. Just ask Cavalier fans, who are currently embroiled in a war of words with Chicago’s Joakim Noah.
Last season, the Cavaliers blew through the first two rounds of the postseason. The once-hostile fans in Auburn Hills were actually chanting “MVP!” for LeBron as he and his teammates swept their Pistons. And Atlanta’s fans – never known to be sports’ most passionate – watched the Wine and Gold win four straight over the Hawks without incident.
But in this year's First Round series, an unapologetic villain has emerged. And he’s already made the series that much more entertaining.
With notable omissions of Rick Mahorn, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, here’s a look at three recent Playoff nemeses that the Cavaliers have faced over the past few years …
When asked if he regretted what he said about the city over the weekend, Noah responded: “Not at all. You like it? You think Cleveland is cool? I’ve never heard anyone say I’m going to Cleveland on vacation. What’s so good about Cleveland?”
Aside from the sideshow, Noah is having a nice series through two games – averaging a double-double after Monday’s 25-point, 13-rebound performance. Of course, he was booed every time he touched the ball – something he’s apparently used to.
“I was booed a lot,” he responded, when asked if he’s ever heard the catcalls like he has over the last few days. “My whole life I’ve been booed. College, I was getting booed a lot. Boston, they don’t like me over there. They don’t like me over here either. It’s ok. I have my friends. I don’t care.”
Down 0-2 in the best-of-seven series, Noah – who's Florida team topped Ohio State for the NCAA Championship – might not like the city of Cleveland, but he’ll be glad to be back if his squad can stay alive.
He originally drew Cavalier fans’ ire in 2006, when he clobbered Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the head, drawing blood during a regular season game. When his Pistons played the Cavaliers a couple weeks later, there was no physical retribution, but the Quicken Loans Arena chant of “Sheed Must Bleed” was born.
Later that spring, in LeBron James’ first postseason experience, the Cavaliers faced off against Detroit after topping Washington in six games. After dropping the first two, the underdog Cavaliers won the next three. Sheed guaranteed that his club would win the series – comparing Cleveland’s good fortunes to the “sun shining on a dog’s a**.”
That year, Sheed was right, and his Pistons topped the Cavaliers in six. One year later, the Wine and Gold returned the favor.
Clevelanders might get another shot at the tempestuous veteran – providing his aging club can get past Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.
The rivalry between Cleveland and Washington had already been one-sided before Stevenson called LeBron “overrated” after a 2008 regular season loss. The previous year, Cleveland had taken another First Round series from the Wizards.
Stevenson and his teammates played rough with LeBron through the first part of the series, and even rappers, Souljah Boy and Jay-Z got into the fray. Each time Stevenson canned a shot, he celebrated with the John Cena “You Can’t See Me” gesture – further inflaming the Quicken Loans Arena crowd.
But in the end, it was too much LeBron and the Cavaliers, with Cleveland advancing in six games.
The Wizards lost their third straight series to Cleveland and imploded just over one year later. LeBron, meanwhile, led his team to the best record in the NBA in back-to-back seasons and will likely be named MVP for the second straight year.