If competition brings out the best and the worst in people, then you can count on each year bringing us new heroes and villains in sports. Think about it: A year ago, the Golden State Warriors, with their 73 regular season wins and lights-out shooting, were the darlings of the NBA. But when they added Kevin Durant, another darling of the NBA, to their roster, the world turned on them. Our underdogs had grown too powerful, and thus became villains.
Fans and foes are famously fickle, leaving us to ask one big question. Who were this year’s notable heroes and villains?
Did anyone have more fun in 2016 than J.R. Smith? After the Cavaliers won the NBA Finals, Smith stole the show with his choice of dress, or lack thereof. Smiling all the way, Smith stayed shirtless through the Bay Area, Cleveland, and all of social media. And this wasn’t just a spur of the moment thing for Smith. It was a trend he carried on for as long as he possibly could, including at Game 7 of the World Series.
JR SMITH IS SHIRTLESS pic.twitter.com/eV5Qg8xLlE
— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) November 3, 2016
If you were inspired by Smith’s lack of attire, you can buy it here. Helping others to be like him, now that’s a hero.
Draymond Green has fully embraced the villain attitude this season, never holding his tongue on any topic. But his villainous acts started long before the beginning of this season. Let’s take it back to the NBA playoffs when Green connected on more (nut) PATs than most NFL kickers…
And it doesn’t stop there. James Harden and Allen Crabbe are two more guys that have beef with Green for how he gets his kicks. Take a look at the shot Harden takes to the face.
Need I say more?
As part of their World Series celebration tour, a few Chicago Cubs players stopped by Saturday Night Live and jumped in on a sketch as male strippers. Maybe they’re heroes for breaking the 108 year curse, but I say they’re heroes for their impressive dance moves. TWERK!
No one is challenging Ryan Lochte’s athleticism. If Michael Phelps wasn’t around, Lochte had a shot to be the best male swimmer, maybe of all time. But unfortunately for Lochte, the reality is that Michael Phelps very much exists, and he came out of retirement to prove his continued dominance in the sport. Apparently Lochte, whose reality TV show What Would Ryan Lochte Do? was never renewed because no one wanted to know the answer to that question, still needed the spotlight. So much so that he blatantly lied about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio. Reality bites. JEAH!
That’s an intoxicated 32 year-old man lying on national television, fabricating the details of a crime, embarrassing his country, and stealing the attention of news crews who could have been covering real winners. Villain.
Olympic distance runners Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) and Abbey D’Agostino (USA) competed in the qualifying heat of the 5,000m. And though neither even came close to winning the race, they still made headlines everywhere.
Hamblin and D’Agostino got tangled up and fell with about 2,000m to go in the race. For many, this would have been the heartbreaking end of the hardest, most painstaking journey to the Olympics. But D’Agostino showed her sportsmanship and perseverance when she stood up, helped Hamblin to her feet, and showed her true grit.
“Get up, get up, we have to finish this,” D’Agostino said.
In the fall, D’Agostino tore her ACL, making every step painstaking, and eventually she urged Hamblin to continue without her. But Hamblin returned the favor, waiting for D’Agostino to join her as she crossed the finish line and embraced before the American was taken away in a wheelchair. These women truly embody what heroes are all about.