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Miami Heat v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

What Players Do We Love to Root Against?

There have been many nemeses for Timberwolves fans throughout their existence. Who were/are your biggest enemies?

On Sunday night, Minnesota Timberwolves fans around the world held their collective breathes as Jimmy Butler rose up for a pull-up three point attempt with about 17 seconds remaining in game seven of the Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals. His hero ball shot would have put the Miami Heat up by a single point and likely into the NBA Finals to face a Steph Curry Andrew Wiggins led Golden State Warriors team. If that shot went in, the amount of strays that Minnesota would catch in the ensuing media circus would be a sight to behold.

Instead of chuckling at Patrick Beverley’s ESPN appearances where he takes shots at any and everyone, he would instead have to face the brunt of Stephen A. Smith forcing him to defend former Timberwolves roster blunders.

Why in the hell would you want to play for an organization that does not and will not develop or keep talent?!? Andrew Wiggins is an All-Star starter who resurrected the Warriors! Jimmy Butler is a baller!!

2009 NBA draft jokes would resurface, as if they’ve never left. D’Lo’s Twitter stans would have to show up like Avengers: Endgame to protect his honor. Hell, we’d probably even hear Skip Bayless anoint Jonathan Kuminga as a better young prospect than Anthony Edwards.

But alas, the Wolves guardian angel (Prayers up, Christ Johnson) blew a gentle gust of air to push Butler’s shot just short by a few inches.

In our reality, the Boston Celtics remain as the only non-Timberwolves-connected team standing. Kevin Garnett’s #5 in the rafters will hopefully protect Wolves fans from a summer of slander if Andrew Wiggins wins his first NBA championship before Minnesota does. That said, I couldn’t help but think...

Who are the players I’ve always loved to root against?

Let me preface this with the fact that I’m going to define “Root against” as, “Actively not want to cheer for in a professional sports environment.” Every single professional athlete is still a human being who deserves the same amount of respect as any person we see around us. I’m not here to say who you should or should not respect, but for the sake of this article, I’m refraining from turning it into a bash-fest where I’m launching into personal attacks. This is more of a, “Darn you for always being someone that has caused the Timberwolves pain!” Though there’s plenty of individuals out there, I’ve whittled my long list down to a #Top5.

Let’s get into it.

#5: Brad Miller

Dallas Mavericks guard Anthony Johnson (8) scrambles across Photo by Tom Pennington/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Yes, the former Timberwolves legend himself. Many of you may remember Brad Miller as the big trucker-looking guy who retired in a Wolves jersey in 2012, but the former two-time All-Star spent his best days operating as an offensive hub in the high post while in a Sacramento Kings uniform. I’ve detailed my long history with the Kings in older posts/comments at Canis Hoopus before, but Miller was perhaps my least favorite Kings player. He was always such a nuisance who excelled in trying to get under the skin of his opponents, often guised as “veteran savvy,” (More on that later). Brad formed an all-time flopping tandem with Vlade Divac back in the day, often falling over and making that face you see above trying to sell a foul. Imagine Kyle Lowry, but in center form.

My distaste for Miller can best be culminated in the segment below, which I skimmed through hours of old tape to find. I present to you: The quintessence of Brad Miller.

#4: Joel Embiid

Minnesota Timberwolves v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Unlike Brad Miller, it’s hard to direct my angst towards the MVP runner-up due to what he does on a basketball court. Does Joel Embiid also flop like a Magikarp out of water every time he forces contact? One hundred percent. However, I do truly respect his ability to dominate both ends of the court with power, finesse, and skill. That said, as a Karl-Anthony Towns fan, I’ve always viewed Embiid as Towns’ true foil. They’ve long dueled one another on the floor with the former typically getting the upper hand, but it quickly turned sour in 2019 when they went to physical war with one another in Philadelphia. The late Jacqueline Towns was not a fan of “Troell” and his eye gouging tactics.

The two of them took their altercation to social media afterwards. It generated great content for NBA fans, but was taking a darker turn than I would’ve liked. As someone who used to find Embiid’s trolling on Twitter somewhat amusing, I felt as though he was really starting to take it too far. His spat with KAT was just one example of many where he started taking personal shots at players around the league.

As we all know, the pandemic put a hold on their brewing rivalry. KAT and his family dealt with a ton of losses and health scares, as did Embiid with his personal bout with COVID-19. These harrowing reminders helped the two of them put their personal issues aside and squash what beef they had. Though the two Jimmy-Butler-exes seem to be on friendlier terms now, I’ll always have a hard time rooting for Embiid when he’s on the court.

#3: Derek Fisher

Timberwolves Sam Cassell tries to support his team by yelling at Lakers Derek Fisher in Game 5 of th Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Back to that “veteran savvy” comment I made earlier, one of the kings of this is none other than former Laker and current (underachieving) Los Angeles Sparks head coach, Derek Fisher. The five-time NBA champion has not a single individual player accolade, yet still turned in a 18-year career. Though players like Brad Miller and Joel Embiid often flop to get calls in their favor, Fish always seemed to create contact that resulted in the physical demise of his opponents.

I recall always tensing up anytime a Wolves player was on the break and Derek was scrambling back to get in the play. It was very likely that he would dangerously drag his opponent to the floor like he was a starving lion dragging an antelope to the ground. “What a strong playoff foul by Fisher!” Kevin Garnett beat his defender and is on his way up for an uncontested dunk? Fisher would come flying in to clothesline KG across the head and after the obvious whistle, he would confoundingly snap at the official and throw his arms up in the air, protesting the foul.

I don’t have one specific moment of ire about Fish, but for whatever reason, he’ll forever be engrained in my memory as one of the most annoying players that I’ve ever watched growing up. That’s why I personally have the moment Corey Brewer sent Derek into another dimension on my office wall.

#2: Jimmy Butler

2020 NBA Finals - Practice and Media Availability Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

There’s an old adage that goes something like, “The people who hurt you the most are the people closest to you.” Oh man, was I the biggest Jimmy Butler fan in 2017. I had just picked up my life and moved it 400 miles south, and less than a month later, the Timberwolves decided to reward my move by bringing the three-time NBA All-Star to Minnesota. The confidence that he oozed both on and off the court translated to wins. It almost had me forgiving/forgetting that the Wolves had to sacrifice Ricky Rubio for this. I remember when he supposedly put his personal cell phone number out there, boldly proclaiming that he was here to make a change. I remember so many close games where I would boldly announce to anybody within my vicinity, “We’re not losing this, we got Jimmy. He’s about to go Super Saiyan and take us home!” I remember being pumped to get an authentic #23 Butler jersey for Christmas that year.

(I don’t know what pump fisted is. I think I meant fist pumped.)

Alas, we all know how that story ended. A plane ride here. A practice there. A Rachel Nichols “exclusive interview.” He devolved into General Soreness and ugly rumors of off-the-court issues with KAT surfaced. Just like that, it was a quick breakup and he was off carrying the Philadelphia 76ers nearly to the Eastern Conference Finals. Philly would suffer a somewhat similar fate to Minnesota as he then carried the Miami HEAT to the NBA finals. Nearly twice for that matter.

The way he treated the Timberwolves like (one of his many) doormats left a level of distaste that many of us all share, unfortunately. Yes, I am and always will be bitter.

#1: Kobe Bryant

Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Where to begin. I guess it’s only appropriate to open with the fact that I don’t wish any ill-will towards his loved ones and never truly wanted to see his story end the way it did. Certainly a terrible tragedy. I’ll leave out any of his former legal issues in this, though it wouldn’t be honest of me to say that didn’t at least partially factor into why he’s number one on this list. That and the whole “alpha” Mamba Mentality thing that he coined.

Let’s focus on the basketball for now.

Kobe Bryant has always been a thorn in the Timberwolves side. To be honest, he was less a thorn and more of a machete. He always destroyed the Wolves both in regular season games and playoffs matches. Of all players who have played against the Wolves in franchise history, Kobe comes in at second all-time in points scored (Just 126 behind Karl Malone). There have been a number of Kobe highlights that have occurred at Target Center as well. His epic reverse dunk in the 2003 playoffs. Moving up to number three on the all-time scoring list (LeBron has since bumped him down). And many more.

Despite all of what I shared above, Kobe still always found a way to pop up whenever I least wanted him to. Back in 2002 when I rooted for the Kings, he gave an elbow to Mike Bibby that would make a UFC highlight reel today. In 2010, he stopped Kevin Garnett from getting his second championship with the Boston Celtics. Finally, in 2012, he trampled Ricky Rubio and stunted a Wolves resurgence which ultimately set them back six years. It felt like anytime things were going well, his looming shadow would be right around the corner. His career alone has shaped so much of my basketball fandom.

There’s no player that I have ever rooted against more than Kobe Bryant.

Honorable Mentions: Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Rush, Eduardo Nájera, Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen

Whew. What a terrible trip down memory lane! Then again, this is Canis Hoopus after all. Reliving past trauma seems on-brand. I would love to hear from you all in the comments section though.

Do any of you share some of the same anger that I do?

Are there some that I missed?

Who did/do you love to root against?