A celebration of the NBA's most infuriating players, both past and present. Read other NBA Shit List entries here.
Tim Hardaway was—and still is—an absolutely legendary dickhead. Alonzo Mourning was an inflated bicep-curl doubling as a basketball player. The only reason P.J. Brown isn't the least-exciting player in NBA history is because the league did exist before 1970. Jamal Mashburn looked like an overgrown wombat in a tank top. And Clarence Weatherspoon had a really stupid last name, in addition to having the first name of "Clarence." They all sucked.
But not as much as Voshon Lenard.
I was nine, 10, and 11 when the Knicks and the Heat created the rivalry that for New Yorkers was our last redeemable, semi-competitive moment as basketball fans, and for everyone else—outside of Miami—was grounds for the NBA to be cancelled forever, its remains blasted into space. When you're 9 or 11, sports takes on a bigger significance, I think, because there's more room to be taken up, less other shit to care about. So if we did expel a professional basketball league right out through the atmosphere, I'd make sure Voshon Lenard was crammed right into the tip of the missile.
The Shit List archives: Nick Young | Anthony Carter | Toney Douglas | Bill Cartwright | Dahntay Jones | DeShawn Stevenson | Michael Sweetney | Eddie House | Sasha Vujacic | Eric Leckner | Dwight Howard | Andris Biedrins | Antawn Jamison
I should hate every other player who's ever been on the Heat, anyone who's ever plied his trade under the slicked-back, crusted-face, weird-money regime of the human chicken-fried filet mignon that is post-Knicks Pat Reilly, more than Voshon Lenard. But that's why Voshon Lenard was the worst. The other Heat players—Mourning, Hardaway, Majerle, Mashburn, Dan Marino, Michael Jordan—were necessary for that rivalry to exist, for the Knicks to win all those games and have it feel like some kind of good-guys-over-complete-douchebag dynamic. If Voshon Lenard hadn't been there, nothing would have changed, except for Voshon Lenard not fucking being there.
Lenard wasn't very good, and he wasn't very bad, either. But to a 9-year-old Knicks propagandist, gray is not a color; it's more like a smudge on the T.V. that won't go away. Why can't I just ... wipe this off? Why do I have do watch Voshon Lenard play basketball in the NBA playoffs? And why did he just make that shot?
Voshon Lenard was the dickhead-Tim Hardaway of mediocre players: legendarily average. He played 565 games in his career, which is something substantial. (Five hundred of anything is a lot. Try counting that high.) He shot 38 percent from three, 41 percent from the field, and clocked in with a PER of 13.8 over 10 seasons. Basically, replacement-level mediocrity at its finest. The highlight of his career was winning the 2004 three-point contest, which is like grilling the best hotdog at a bake sale. Any career-backup guard could've played for Miami, and the team would've still lost to the Knicks in the playoffs every season, but no. It had to be Voshon Lenard.
And that name, that O-less name. When you're a pre-teen you take things adults do-like, "spell their last names"-to be a kind of indisputable truth. He's doing that thing this way, so yeah, this must be the right way to do it. I mean, he's an adult, isn't he? By wearing his name on a Miami Heat jersey on my TV, Voshon Lenard delayed my development as a person-who-knows-the-proper-way-to-spell-Leonard by at least five years.
Plus, Voshon Lenard looks like a younger version of Anthony Carter—even though Voshon Lenard is two years older than Anthony Carter. And anything that reminds me of Anthony Carter is sad because Anthony Carter started for the Knicks in the 2011 playoffs, which was the emotional low point, I'd argue, of the last 20 years of Knicks basketball. The post-Ewing years were a carnival stuck in a hamster wheel, an endless loop of bizarre shit that had to end once it wore itself out. And it spun too fast for anyone to get too emotionally attached, so the disappointment only went so deep. But the few games Carter started were a reality check of sorts. The Gallinari-Felton-D'Antoni era of fun was officially over, Stoudemire would never again be healthy, and the Knicks were going to be the Knicks forever—mediocre enough to make the playoffs, mis-managed enough to have to start Anthony Carter in a playoff game, and still always a Dolan-run truffle-and-spam mayonnaise-salad of a team.
(Important note: As of last December, Voshon Lenard was a club-promoter-type for Captain Morgan's then-new Long Island Iced Tea. Carry on.)
All of this, I guess, is a really long way of saying I don't have much reason to hate Voshon Lenard other than a misspelled surname, a strange resemblance to a former University of Hawaii point guard, and the historical record maintaining that he earned a multi-year paycheck from the Miami Heat in the late '90s. Sure, he played in most of those Heat-and-Knicks games, and by virtue of him having shooting percentages over 10, he probably made some semi-important shots, it being the playoffs and all, nearly every play being semi-important, especially in the eyes of a kid.
And that's what this is, maybe. It's lingering resentment of Voshon Lenard coming into the games and not being an absolute hardwood garbage-fire. To a 9-year-old, it's hard to reconcile someone who isn't starting a basketball game—at the time, someone who wasn't Tim Hardaway or Alonzo Mourning—actually playing the sport at a competent level. I could understand a good basketball player making a good basketball play, blocking a shot or hitting an open three. But Voshon Lenard wasn't a good basketball player to my knowledge (which was NBA Live and things my dad said), so him not being terrible was an easy thing to get angry at.
And now I'm an adult, kind of, and that lingering resentment is my connection to the last time Knicks basketball mattered in any context other than bleak hilarity. If we live in a world where sports are not a totally legitimate reason to hold vague, imaginary, definitely weird, possibly creepy childhood grudges, then Voshon Lenard can stay here. I'm moving to the moon.
Ryan O'Hanlon is an assistant online editor at Outside. Follow him on Twitter @rwohan.