Born to be hated, dying to be loved

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This article appears in the July 26th issue of ESPN The Magazine.

The Timberwolves' bus pulls up to the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey following an afternoon practice. Players still in workout togs file off. Some have draped towels around their necks, others have fixed ice packs to knees and shoulders. Everything around them seems small: the scurrying bellhop, a lone autograph seeker, an elderly couple in need of directions. It is one of the countless humdrum moments of an NBA season that blur into nothingness.

From a chair inside a dimly lit lounge just off the hotel lobby, Rashad McCants watches his former teammates walk by. He has taken the stroll hundreds of times, but this is the first time he has seen it from the angle of an ex-player. As the Wolves push through the lobby a few of them spot an old pal. "Shaddy!" shouts Corey Brewer, who once battled McCants for minutes. Some wrap him in hugs. McCants grins uncontrollably as he is peppered with questions. Where are you living? When are you coming back? Ryan Gomes offers his new cell number. Al Jefferson sits down to reminisce. He and McCants laugh about the time Kevin McHale put a garbage can by the court after learning that Jefferson had had a birthday party the night before.

Then, just as quickly as they flocked to him, the players head to their rooms. Elevator doors close. A December Santa Ana wind rushes through the now-vacant lobby. Outside, McCants hands over his claim check. "What room is it under?" the valet asks.

"Al Jefferson."

Good try. "That'll be $12," the valet says.