I don’t think SpongeBob has a crush on Squidward.
I don’t think he and Squidward could ever be a couple.
I’m gay, and as much as I would like to think that my favorite character of all time is gay, I just don’t see it, oddly enough!
SpongeBob is a weird, creepy stalker- that’s just who he is. He’s always been blissfully aware of boundaries and social cues. He’s also really affectionate with everyone- he isn’t bashful about giving people hugs and kisses and extravagant gifts. But he isn’t in love with Squidward. SpongeBob said it himself: “We’re like brothers.” (Remember that, shippers?)
He loves Squidward, as a cool big brother. And Squidward won’t admit it, but he loves SpongeBob, too- as an annoying little brother. SpongeBob looks up to Squidward and thinks he’s the coolest person in the entire world, and Squidward will stick up for SpongeBob and protect him when he really needs to.
There was an episode in season 1, called “The Paper,” where Squidward tries to trade with SpongeBob, and he offers him literally everything he owns, including his shirt. When he tries to give his shirt to SpongeBob, Spongy weeps with joy and immediately puts the shirt on, saying “I’ve always loved that shirt!” He then goes over the a mirror and starts posing, admiring how he looks in Squidward’s shirt. I’d say that’s a pretty clear indication that SpongeBob has an intense, unflappable admiration for his older co-worker.
Think about it- Squidward is taller, smarter, saner, and “more handsome” than SpongeBob. SpongeBob is a tiny little geeky-looking dork, of course he thinks Squidward is the coolest guy in the world and wants to be like him! (He does occasionally make fun of Squidward intentionally, but it’s usually in playful gest, and not malicious at all.)
Even in the new episodes, SpongeBob has that same “Oh, Squidward is so cool and I love him so much!” vibe. (He’s kissed Squidward like three times, and even told him to his fact that he loves him!) Even in “Boating Buddies,” (the screencap above is from that episode,) I still see that dynamic. SpongeBob is the clingy, affectionate, lovey-dovey little brother, and Squidward is the grumpy, aloof, rude big brother.
These two have a strange bond that can’t be broken. SpongeBob harasses Squidward and Squidward is often pretty mean to the little yellow idiot, but they care about each other immensely. They wouldn’t know what to do if the other went out of their lives.
I think I get emotional about this because SpongeBob and Squidward remind me of my older sibling and I. When people write off their love as “being gay,” that diminishes the poignancy of their brotherly love. I like to think of Spongy and Squiddums as having a “big brother/little brother” relationship.
(Also, Stephen Hillenburg confirmed that SpongeBob has a crush on Sandy, so there’s that!)