That’s all it took for Kris Humphries to ascend to the top of the pop culture world as Mr. Kim Kardashian — and plummet back to Earth as the most hated man in the NBA as her ex-husband.
In the New Jersey Nets forward’s first appearances back on the court, the player who was named the league’s most disliked player in a recent survey has been on the receiving end of fans’ vitriol, complete with boos and heckles every time he touches the ball.
So what’s with the heaps of hate?
Nets head coach Avery Johnson told the New York Post he wasn’t sure if the fans themselves knew why they were jeering.
But image specialists have a laundry list of reasons.
“It’s one thing for a guy to be used by the system and then chucked,” said Rob Frankel, a branding expert. “It’s another thing to be completely whipped, used and rejected and spun out by a woman.”
Beside the perceived emasculation the Kardashian clan handed Humphries, the fact that it happened in front of millions doesn’t help, either.
“Why didn’t Joe DiMaggio get booed? He was a silent warrior,” Frankel said, referring to the Yankee Clipper’s divorce from Marilyn Monroe just months after their wedding. “A real man doesn’t do his suffering publicly.”
Brant Skogrand, who owns a PR company in Humphries’ native Minnesota, would have the NBA vet tell his side of the story — if it weren’t for the reported prenuptial agreement standing in his way.
“He hasn’t said anything in his (own) defense or admitted that it didn’t work out or that he got too wrapped up in what was going on,” Skogrand said. “The story is being shaped by the Kardashians.”
Some of the bitterness can be chalked up to an attempt to distract Humphries on the road. A percentage of it, perhaps, comes from the way he’s portrayed on “Kourtney & Kim Take New York.” Or perhaps it is the possibility that his marriage to Kim was a sham.
Yet Humphries has shrugged off the noise, using the crowd as fuel — in the Nets’ season-opening victory over the Washington Wizards on Monday, he had 21 points and a team-high 16 rebounds.
“People are yelling at you. You know you have to go and perform, go and play hard. They want to have a reason to say something, so you have to try to not give them that reason,” Humphries told the Post. “It makes it a hostile environment, and it’s kind of fun to play in that.”
That sound bite is a step in the right direction to turn down the volume — it’s time for Humphries to take his newfound fame and use it to his advantage.
“The problem is that people don’t know what his brand is,” said Donna Sturgess, president of Buyology, Inc. “He can redefine himself by saying, ‘This is who I am, this is my character, my commitment to my sport, I don’t want to talk about that other stuff.’ He has to change the conversation.”
At least Humphries gets a break while he’s back in New Jersey — during Tuesday’s home opener against the Atlanta Hawks, Humphries received a nice ovation from the crowd at the Prudential Center when he was introduced and a roar on a first-quarter, put-back dunk.
Regardless of his performance on the court, Humphries will face a season full of heckling. The hatred should increase when the Nets make a February stop in Dallas, where he’ll face his former brother-in-law, Lamar Odom, who hasn’t received similar treatment.
“Lamar hasn’t gotten dumped yet,” Frankel said. “That’s the only difference.”