- Rick Reilly, Columnist, ESPN.com
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Sure, everybody yells it and e-mails it and posts it and Twitters it and chants it and writes it on signs as big as Chevys at games, but "TYLER HANSBROUGH SUCKS!" doesn't really go far enough, does it?
The question is, what specifically sucks about the leader of the untouched No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels? Here's what haters say:
He's a big baby who gets all the calls!
This is true. "Psycho T" gets to the line more often than a pro bowler. He led the nation in free throw attempts last season, and nobody was even close. He keeps swinging his nose into people's elbows. Of all the nerve! "I think he should shoot more," says his coach, Roy Williams. "People foul Tyler in ways that other coaches would want intentional fouls called. And he just keeps playing. Doesn't say boo to the refs."
He'd like to. "Sometimes, when I get an elbow to the face, I'd like to just punch somebody," Hansbrough says. "Hard."
"They boo him," says his dad, Gene, an orthopedic surgeon. "They say he flops, they call him overrated, but if someone suddenly told these people, 'Hey, Tyler is going to play for you guys,' would they still hate him? I don't think so."
Big guys are not supposed to be look-at-me-Coach hustle bunnies.
That's for little, annoying guys, not large, white doofuses. Try some decaf already! Nobody likes someone who plays like he's been on a Rockstar IV drip for days, who gulps every court second like it's his last breath, who looks like he's going to rip a hammy just putting on his socks, all for the price of a scholarship he didn't need anyway. So what if, as he says, "I feel about 90 years old" as a result?
And who cares if the reason behind the hustle is his brother, Greg, who might've been the best athlete in the family were it not for the tennis-ball-size brain tumor he got when he was 7. Removing it left him partially paralyzed on the left side, and yet Greg played hoops in high school and has run three marathons, one-sided. "Sometimes," says Gene of Tyler, "he has half an hour to go in a workout, and I think he thinks, If my older brother can run a marathon on one leg and one arm, this is nothing."
Guess that's why Tyler wears 50, Greg's high school number.
He never smiles! He never reacts to anything! It's like he's a robot after Botox!
Which is why it's weird that he notices everything. Like the time somebody yelled, "Why'd you shoot Bambi's mom, Hansbrough?" Or the time a guy held up a giant poster of his cell phone number. "It really was my number!" he says. "And when I got back, I had 17 messages, all telling me how much I sucked."
What's a little bent is that he likes hearing, "F—you, Hansbrough!" "It adds so much more to the game," he says. His favorites are usually at Duke. "They make you laugh." (Inside, apparently.) Less humorous are the chants meant for his mom: "MISS Mah-ZOOR-ee!" (Which she was.)
And what does Williams feel when people say Hansbrough is the Most Hated Player in America? "Pride."
The big dope was stupid to come back for his senior season! Who turns down all that NBA cash?
Exactly! Why would somebody want to play on a team that has a chance to be the first undefeated national champion in 33 years, become the No. 1 scorer in Tar Heels history, live in a house with his four best friends, jump off balconies into pools and date a tongue-burn-hot former cheerleader when he could be locked in an epic struggle against the Toronto Raptors?
Besides, the oaf isn't gonna be anything in the NBA anyway, right?
Possibly true, but it won't be for lack of trying. He's in bed by 11 p.m. He begins lifting an hour before his teammates and finishes with them. He shoots more midrange jumpers in practice than Shaq has taken in his career. He works like an OCD patient on his free throws (he's made 100 straight in practice). He shops at Whole Foods, eats ostrich and bison, sleeps on an earthing pad, even gets pedicures to pamper his dogs. Question is, once he's in the pros, will he piss the players association off by hustling as if he's on Ritalin, like he has at UNC?
"I'm not changing anything," he says. "That's my style. I just hope I don't drop dead."
Now you're talking!
9hK. Lee Davis