by Rob Joyce

After last week’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Heat forward LeBron James called himself the “easiest target in sports” after leaving the game in the fourth quarter with cramps. A certain Hall of Famer, James has a perpetual bulls-eye on his back from critics for seemingly every misstep he takes. But he is not alone in being an “easy target” around the sports world.
Travis Golby/NHLI via Getty Images

Travis Golby/NHLI via Getty Images

5) Sidney Crosby
It is a near-universal acceptance that the Pittsburgh Penguins center is the most talented hockey player in the world. There is also no doubt that the face of the NHL takes the most criticism. Some of it is fair, some of it is unjust.The loudest critics are the jealous ones. Before he was drafted in 2005 Crosby was being called the next Wayne Gretzky, and within three years achieved absurd success. He was the first teenager to lead the league in scoring, became the youngest captain in NHL history at 20, and won a Stanley Cup by 22. Not to mention he scored the gold-medal winning goal in overtime to lift Canada past the United States in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

But in recent years the success has worn off. Pittsburgh has not returned to the finals since 2009, losing to lower-seeded teams each of the last five years. He is labeled as “soft”, known for embellishing and complaining for calls. Fans from around the league seem to bond over disliking Sid the Kid.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

4) Alex Rodriguez
When fans of the team you play for dislike you, “easy target” probably applies. What started as a reputation of arrogance has since turned into years of postseason failures (from the slap of Bronson Arroyo in the 2004 ALCS to batting .120 in 2012), rumors of him using performance-enhancing drugs, denying such accusations, and then turning around and admitting to using them.Most recently he fought a second accusation of PED use from his relationship with Biogenesis and Anthony Bosch, claiming he stopped using any illegal substances. After being suspended for a record 211 games – since reduced to merely all 162 games of 2014 – he has since backed off, dismissed all his lawsuits and has not been heard from since February. It is unclear if the 38-year-old will come back, or if he’s wanted back at all to the Bronx.

Elsa/Getty Images

Elsa/Getty Images

3) Mark Sanchez
From the GQ magazine shoot to the infamous butt-fumble to declining numbers to eventually being cut by the Jets, Sanchez was constantly prone to criticism in his time with New York.The fifth overall pick in 2009 had early success, becoming the second quarterback ever to reach the conference championship game in each of his first two seasons. But a 55 percent career completion percentage, more interceptions than touchdowns and a declining record eventually ran Sanchez out of New York after a shoulder injury forced him to miss all of 2013. He has signed as a backup with the Eagles.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

2) Johnny Manziel
The one person on this list who seems to love the notoriety and criticism he receives, Johnny Football is a unique case. The first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy, the former Texas A&M quarterback beat Alabama in 2012 and he’s been a superstar since. Coming from a wealthy family, Manziel hangs out in Las Vegas, is seen courtside at big NBA games and is BFFs with Drake.Drafted by the Cleveland Browns, there are as many people rooting for Manziel as there are critics who hope his freestyle, ad-lib play under center and party-style personality off the field will lead to NFL bust.

James McIsaac/Getty Images

James McIsaac/Getty Images

1) LeBron James
The man is from all appearances an upstanding human being. Never a controversy off the court, gives back to the community, and happens to be the most physically gifted athlete to ever grace an NBA court. But one on-court negative overshadows every five positive accomplishments.“The Decision” made him no fans, but most outside of Cleveland have moved past it. Even with two rings, and a chance at a third, the LeBron haters are out in full force because everything is compared to Michael Jordan. No matter what he does, Jordan apparently did it better. Jordan did not get cramps, or play poorly, or apparently ever make a single mistake on a basketball court, according to the loudest critics.

So because LeBron cannot single-handedly guard all five positions, score 50 points a game and carry an aging Heat squad to a third consecutive championship, he stinks. Got it.


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