Skip to main content

College Basketball's Biggest Villains: Where does Marshall Henderson stand?


The emergence of Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson has brought back a vestige of an older age in college basketball.

The villain.

He’s brash. He’s super-confident. He seems to relish his role of going into a opposing arenas and being the target of boos.

And most important, he’s good.

The villain in college sports is a complex label. And we don’t mean villain necessarily is a bad guy. After all, some of us rooted for the players on this list. As villains, they break from the norm: Ignoring the taunts from fans isn’t for them. Clashing with opponents is common. Humility is optional.

But they have to be good first. They’re villains because they’re probably better than the players they’re facing.

Marshall Henderson’s sharp-shooting, jersey-popping emergence this season baited us into asking who are college basketball’s best villains in the last few decades.

And, yes, it’s more than just guys who played for Duke.


1. Christian Laettner, Duke
Basketball credentials: Naismith and Wooden Award winner and All-American in 1992, the most famous shot in college basketball history in the 1992 Final Four
Villain credentials: Intentionally stepping on a Kentucky player in the same Final Four game has his miracle shot, highlighting his nasty player cred. And he still relishes being UK’s nemesis by coaching a Villain team in a charity game against Kentucky basketball alums.

2. J.J. Redick, Duke
Basketball credentials: Two-time first-team All-America, Naismith and Wooden award winner in 2006
Villain credentials: He didn’t lack for confidence in his ability as a shooter (which was legit) or a poet (which was not). He had heaps of praise poured on him from the media, even from non-Dukies. Profanities rained upon Redick in opposing gyms, which only seemed to make him more unstoppable.
Quote to The New York Times: “There's just something wrong with the culture of playing on the road in college basketball. If you say those things on the street, you can probably press criminal charges. But for some reason, in the arena of sport, it's OK."

3. Joakim Noah, Florida
Basketball credentials: Second-team All-American in 2007, Final Four MVP in 2006
Villain credentials: The long-haired forward let his freak flag fly during two national title runs with the Gators. Outspoken and goofy, Noah also played with enough energy on the court to draw the ire of opposing SEC fans.
Quote to "[Bill Walton] was an unbelievable college player. But off the court, I share his views ... I'm against the war. I don't understand it. When I hear Bill Walton I think, 'Oh yeah, he was a hippie.' It's so much more than that. He spoke his mind. ... I respect that, players who don't mind speaking their minds."

4. Eric Devendorf, Syracuse
Basketball credentials: All-Big East honorable mention in 2008-09, 14.5 career points per game
Villain credentials: Defendorf was a foul-mouthed sharp-shooter who had an altercation with a woman that was taken to the student judicial board. His personal appearance was compared to Kevin Federline. At the end of regulation in the 2009 Big East Tournament quarterfinal against Connecticut, Devendorf hit a game-winning shot and jumped on the scorer’s table, screaming at fans. The shot was waved off, and the game went to six overtimes.

5. Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
Basketball credentials: 19.3 points per game in 2012-13
Villain credentials: Henderson’s taunting of Auburn fans on Saturday was the tipping point of his all-time villain cred. Here’s what he did a few weeks before:

Quote: Upon transferring from Utah, Henderson said this to the student newspaper about former coach Jim Boylen: "Coach Boylen's program also has certain rules and restrictions that I respect, but I don't feel they fit with my individualism. This is not about the coaches, the system or the players."

6. The Fab Five, Michigan
Basketball credentials:
Heralded as best recruiting class ever, reached national championship game in 1992 and ’93.
Villain credentials: Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson weren’t greeted with warmth when they arrived in Ann Arbor in 1991. Things we take for granted now -- hip hop in the locker room, baggy shorts, shaved heads, black socks -- were new when the Fab Five took the court. NCAA violations stemming from the Fab Five era landed Michigan on probation.

7. 1990 UNLV
Basketball credentials: Went 35-5, won national championship
Villain credentials: The counterbalance to Duke villainy in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Like the Fab Five, UNLV brought a style that made the Rebels villains by shaking up the establishment with an up-and-down style that turned a no-name program into a title contender. UNLV’s coach, Jerry Tarkanian, thumbed his nose at the NCAA, and the media portrayed his team in a negative light, especially when facing clean-cut Duke in the 1990 title game. UNLV won 103-73.

8. Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
Basketball credentials: Three-time All-American, consensus national player of the year in 2008.
Villain credentials: Don’t think Duke players get all the villain love. The Cameron Crazies despised Hansbrough. Psycho T played with relentless abandon, even if he flopped or took a flagrant foul from Duke’s Gerald Henderson.

9. Steve Wojchiechowski, Duke
Basketball credentials: National Defensive Player of the Year in 1998
Villain credentials: Duke’s godfather of floor-slapping guards.

10. Adam Morrison, Gonzaga
Basketball credentials: First-team All-American and national scoring champion in 2006
Villain credentials: Perhaps the sign that Gonzaga had finally made it as a major program, the Bulldogs had a player worthy of villain-hood. Morrison was an emotional player who trash talked opponents. He also had trouble filling out his mustache, which made him an easy target. His competition with J.J. Redick for the scoring title and player of the year honors made him a villain-by-association.