I'm with you, Patrick. Athletes hating each other is like $10,000 salaries and sports on the radio: a thing of the past. We fans can thank ourselves for that.
There's such a small pool of the population that lives a "famous athlete" life that it only makes sense for a guy like LeBron to be friends with most of his rivals.
Once, athletes had as much in common with the average blue-collar Joe as they with each other. Most players were barely middle-class, and only the stars of the game had the resources and Q rating to live like kings—or if they so chose, anonymous fishermen. But as the popularity of sports increased with the advent of home TV, labor lawyers like Marvin Miller went to bat for the athletes and won them free agency and other juicy collective bargaining rights. Once that happened, it was all over, even if it took until the 1990s for player salaries to become exponentially higher than the average American's income. Now, the typical pro athlete is so different from the average American—more money, more privilege, more prestige, many more women—that they hardly live in the same society.
With that in mind, of course athletes have more camaraderie than they used to. There's such a small pool of the population that lives a "famous athlete" life that it only makes sense for a guy like LeBron to be friends with most of his rivals, even Durant. Throw in the mutual respect great players often have for one another, and it's a veritable love-fest. There are still holdovers from the acrimony of the past, like Kevin Garnett, but they are few and far between.
Is it a good thing? For the players, absolutely. Filling your heart with a burning hatred of all opponents won't fundamentally improve your career, unless you're a once-in-a-generation homicidal competitor like Michael Jordan. And with the unprecedented amount of player movement among teams, a mortal enemy today could be a teammate tomorrow. For the fans, the lack of vitriol could be frustrating—after all, Vinny from Staten Island wants every Yankee player to hate the Red Sox as much as he does. But most players don't feel the need to share their fans' bloodlust, nor should they.
Are you with us, Hampton? Or do you yearn for the hatred of yesteryear?