A cult hero doesn’t have to be the best player on the court, but can nevertheless become a fan favorite . Some reach a cult status by their antics on the court, like dancing or acting out in press conferences, while others reach their status through their social media presence. These are some of the biggest cult figures in today’s NBA.
Who doesn’t remember the video of Stephenson blowing in LeBron James’ ear back in 2014? The moment was almost forgotten, until the internet made it into a meme during the Pacers-Cavaliers series in the playoffs, and Stephenson came back into the spotlight. Of course, this is Stephenson most known antic, but he has been the star of several ‘fan favorite’ moments throughout his career. Just to name some, another good one, he played his alter ego, sir Lancelot, in a parody video.
Now, four years later, Stephenson has joined LeBron at the Lakers, but he has continued his antics. He celebrated a three pointer by strumming an air guitar at one of his opponents, which wasn’t appreciated by the refs. Even though it got him a technical foul, it became so popular, that it has now become the unofficial celebration of the Lakers.
Though there are a lot of 7-footers in the league, Boban is still seen as a ‘giant’ and is currently the tallest active player in the NBA. When the Spurs fans found out ‘their’ new giant could actually play, it didn’t take long before Boban became a fan favorite. In his first year, there was even a Twitter account, Did Boban Play?, that kept track whether Boban had played, until he signed with the Detroit Pistons. Furthermore, there is an entire Reddit page dedicated to Boban just holding things.
With the Clippers, his status as a cult figure has only grown. Over the summer, he starred in a web series with his teammate Tobias Harris, he was dancing with his teammates before the game, entertained the fans on social media, and got the chance to show his skills on the court.
Who doesn’t like the Dunking Deutschman? Nowitzki has been a fan favorite for almost as long as he’s been in the league, and he’s proven himself on and off the court. He’s proven team loyalty is more important than money, by taking several underpaid contracts, as it was more important to build a good team than to get more money.
The fans appreciated that so much, that they started sending him thank you letters, some even including money to pay for his lunch, as he took so many pay cuts over the years. Furthermore, Dirk is never too good to make fun of himself on camera, and knows exactly how much of an old man he’s become after more than 20 years in the NBA.
Embiid is the NBA’s own social media troll. Even before he made his debut in the league, Embiid already managed to make a name for himself online. He called out celebrities, tried to convince other players to come to Philadelphia, all before he played a single minute in the league.
Then, Embiid showed the fans he was definitely more than just a social media presence, and he had the skills to back up his trash talking. In the 2016-2017 season, he averaged 20 points in 31 games, and the trolling definitely didn’t slow down. The only thing that changed was that Embiid’s fun was no longer limited to social media, but he could now also make fun of them on the court.
Of course, Embiid now has the chance to follow up on the incidents on the court with his social media. Back in November, Embiid overclassed Andre Drummond, and let him know it throughout the game. It ended with a stare down between the two centers, and Drummond getting tossed out of the game with his second technical foul. Embiid, of course, had no other choice than to comment about it on his twitter account.
Javale McGee became a fan favorite through Shaquille O’Neal’s segment on Inside the NBA, Shaqtin’ a Fool. At one point, McGee was a recurring part of the segment, as it seemed McGee had a clumsy moment in every game he played. Warriors coach Steve Kerr, even admitted he thought McGee wasn’t that good of a player, as he had seen so many of McGee’s unfortunate moments in the segment. After a lot of complaints, O’Neal promised to retire McGee from the segment.
During his time with the Golden State Warriors, McGee became a fan favorite, and instead of waiting on his next mistake, the fans were now waiting for his next alley-oop. McGee again proved his worth for the Warriors in the Finals, when he started the last three games, where he only had started 17 times in the regular season.
His status as a fan favorite didn’t change when he signed with the Lakers over the summer, and he’s still playing with the same energy as he did for the Warriors.