Sports | June 8, 2021 1:17 pm

Apparently People Really Like Hate-Watching LeBron James

Twitter data shows James is the least favorite player in 24 states, but the Lakers also lead in TV ratings

LeBron James of the Lakers reacts to referee Scott Foster
LeBron James reacts towards referee Scott Foster.
Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty

It isn’t all that surprising considering the way he was ripped for leaving one game early and another without shaking hands with the opposing team after being bounced from the playoffs, but people who don’t like LeBron James really enjoy hate-watching him.

After tracking more than 70,000 tweets, hashtags and direct keyword phrases about disliking NBA players — such as “I hate LeBron” or “I hate Kyrie” — and determining where they were coming from using geotagged Twitter data, the NBA guys over at SportsInsider.com found that James is the most-disliked player in pro basketball across the country.

The least favorite player in 24 states, James was followed on the list by just five more players: Kyrie Irving (18 states), James Harden (three states), Kevin Durant (three states), Russell Westbrook (one state) and Paul George (one state).

A map shows LeBron is the most hated NBA player.
SportsInsider.com

Though they may not like him, it seems sports fans enjoy watching James as the Lakers have consistently been the NBA’s top draw in terms of television ratings. The team appeared in each of the league’s three most-watched telecasts and six of the top 10 this season, according to Sportico.

James and the Lakers continued to draw eyes in the postseason. When Los Angeles lost to Phoenix in Game 4 of their first-round series the matchup averaged 5.38 million viewers on ABC, making it the most-watched opening-round playoff game since the Clippers and Warriors averaged 6.29 million viewers on April 21, 2019.

With James now out of the picture, the NBA must hope that the three players behind him on the above list — Irving, Harden and Durant of the Brooklyn Nets — will help draw eyeballs. Currently taking on the Bucks, the talent-laden Nets could be on a collision course to face the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals, a matchup that would be very much to the NBA’s liking from a ratings standpoint.

“As Turner Sports has dibs to this year’s Eastern Conference Finals, TNT could get a lot of mileage out of a pairing of the top-seeded Nets and Sixers,” per Sportico. “With the Lakers out of the picture, Brooklyn’s mirthless band of mercenaries is the NBA’s top draw, and a showdown between the nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 media markets would automatically give TNT a leg up. (Together, the two cities account for 9% of all U.S. TV households.)”

Either of those teams advancing to the Finals to take on the Clippers and capture the attention of the Los Angles market would be an ideal final scenario for the NBA now that James is out of the picture.