In any sport, trying to maintain a good relationship with your teammates is needed. Chemistry is vital to success, especially in the NBA where teamwork is key to victory. The best championship teams are the ones who are well-oiled machines working smoothly together. Sure, you had one big star in many but even he recognizes he’s nothing without the right players around him. Michael Jordan had an ego but he recognized how it took the arrival of Scottie Pippen and others to make him a multiple champion. To get along with your teammates isn’t just important, it’s vital as any bad blood can rip a team apart majorly.
While some players are able to overcome that, others have a different problem. Bad blood can be common, even among teams who are champions. The tension can be high, especially when you throw in the egos of major stars and the clashes can be rather epic. There have been slews of such feuds over the decades but they pick up more in the later years with media attention rising and such conflicts becoming bigger deals. Some are truly epic and show how mixing such spirits with sports can lead to a mess. Here are 15 pairs of NBA stars who couldn’t stand each other in their playing time.
15. Kobe Bryant and Smush Parker
There can be no denying that Kobe Bryant had one of the most amazing modern-day NBA careers. He’s a lock for the Hall of Fame thanks to his multiple championships with the Lakers and is regarded among the best players in their history. However, that talent comes with a massive ego that makes it hard to get along with him. Smush Parker came onto the Lakers just after their early 2000s success but Bryant clashed with him from the start with the famous story of Bryan snapping in practice to “wait until you get more accolades” before Parker started talking.
It rubbed off in play with Parker admitting he would go out of his way not to pass to Bryant if he didn’t have to and their bad beef showcased the issues of the Lakers at the time. Parker left after two seasons with Bryan later dismissing him as never belonging in the NBA in the first place.
14. Larry Sanders and Gary Neal
The conflict between these two was more interesting for fans of the Bucks than anything Milwaukee did on the court. The two had supposedly clashed for some time, each considering themselves the star of the team, despite how bad the Bucks were in the standings. Each accused the other of hogging the ball and refusing to let the other shine while the rest of the team seemed to consider them both prima donnas. It finally came loose after a loss to the Suns in January 2014 with the two jawing at each other in the locker room.
It ended with the famous line by Neal of “I earn my money. You should try it sometime.” The Bucks tried to spin it with some players claiming it was just “team bonding” but the bad press combined with the poor play pushed them both against each other. Neal would later move to the Timberwolves while Sanders took a leave from basketball, showing how their argument cost the Bucks a pair of sharp players.
13. Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen
Usually, when a man retires after a long career that includes two NBA titles, players talk about him in good terms. Not so when Rajon Rondo was informed Ray Allen was retiring and replied “I thought he already was.” That shouldn’t be a surprise as their time together on the Celtics was marked by massive fighting between the two men. Despite how both men helped Boston to a championship, tension between them was high throughout their run, each wanting more playing time and feeling the other wasn’t giving them the ball enough.
There was also how Allen saw Rondo as the rookie and suddenly Rondo wanted to be the leader which Allen thought was ridiculous. Things really got worse in 2009 when the Celtics considered trading Allen and Rondo to Miami and it came out how neither guy wanted to be paired with the other. Their animosity clashed as the Celtics slumped with both men later going to other teams but their time marked how fast a championship pair can split.
12. Steve Nash and Dwight Howard
“Sports Illustrated” has long been accused of a “cover jinx” where teams or players who get a cover end up falling apart. A key example was in 2012 when they had a cover showcasing Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in Lakers jerseys and the line “This is going to be fun.” It was…much in the same way watching a train wreck is fun. From day one, things just didn’t click as Kobe Bryant was clearly the star of the team but his leadership skills were not helping in getting veterans Nash and Howard in line. The two were clashing constantly for ball control and had arguments in practice. It led to constant miscommunication on the court with both men chewing each other out on live TV.
Howard was held back by injuries but Nash accused him of “not trying” constantly and their issues came out more and more to hurt the team overall. Nash openly stated Howard never wanted to be a Laker in the first place and when the team was eliminated in the first round, Howard did indeed leave. The only thing this “super team” accomplished was fighting each other more than opponents.
11. Carmelo Anthony and Tim Hardaway Jr.
There was always friction between the two from the moment Hardaway was drafted by the Knicks in 2013. Anthony had been used to being the star of the team and was not happy about the attention being paid to this newcomer who he thought was not ready. Tensions built more as both players weren’t happy with coach Phil Jackson’s old-school offense that they felt was too predictable. However, Anthony was accused by Hardaway of taking too many shots on his own and not passing enough. Anthony fired back that Hardaway hadn’t earned his place with the team and no right to criticize him.
It came down to the two nearly coming to blows before teammates separated them and their issues clearly pulled the Knicks down. Hardaway would leave in 2015 and end a rough period as the issues between them were a key reason the Knicks couldn’t make it to the top in this time.
10. Michael Jordan and Kwame Brown
It was no secret that Jordan rubbed a lot of teammates the wrong way with his ego and pride, that competitive streak demanding he be the best and thus he hurt others. However, they put up with him because they knew he was the best and the six championships he brought to the Bulls proved it. But Jordan had issues like shoving Steve Kerr in practice and not being happy about Scottie Pippen rising up with him. The worst had to be when Jordan made his ill-conceived comeback with the Washington Wizards, clearly past his prime but still thinking it was the ‘90s.
Brown was the number one draft pick, a man seemingly ready to rise up but Jordan went out of his way to cut the kid down every chance he got, running him down constantly and slamming his efforts. Many believe it was Jordan’s “influence” that caused Brown to falter and not live up to his potential for a rough career and Brown trashes Jordan constantly. Jordan may be a legend but many think he’s hurt as many players as he’s helped.
9. LeBron James and Mario Chalmers
James has stirred a lot of bad feelings over the years from other players due to his massive ego and pride. Many in the Cavs organization are still ticked at him over his leaving to join the Heat although his finally bringing a title to Cleveland has soothed many of those feelings. However, Mario Chalmers still has some issues with LeBron over their work together in Miami. James paints it as him taking Chalmers under his wing but others paint a different view. Apparently, they argued a lot, Chalmers snapping about emerging as a star player and James talking down to him a lot.
They managed to work together to win two titles but the issues remained and many claim it was a key factor in James moving back to Cleveland. Chalmers was later sent to the Grizzlies and rumors are he may rejoin James with the Cavs, but it’s odd to think they can overcome their past issues.
8. Kevin Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak
Garnett has been slammed by a lot of teammates for his attitude that led to a lot of clashes. Szczerbiak is one of the biggest as he and Garnett clashed numerous times when both played for the Timberwolves. While Garnett’s intensity led to success, it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and was often seen as out for himself. That came up with Szczerbiak argued with him over playing time and their conflicts got worse. It came out finally when a practice went badly, the two arguing and then getting into a fist fight. Szczerbiak would leave for Boston and reports had it that Garnett refused a trade there in 2007 as he didn’t want to reunite with Wally.
As it happened, Szczerbiak would leave to pave the way for Garnett but they kept their clashes going. Even when Garnett helped the Celtics to a championship in 2008, Szczerbiak would slam him on not being a clutch player.
7. Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen
This should be no surprise. Barkley had a big ego even before entering the NBA and it just got bigger as he continued to play on. Pippen had been a humble guy to start but when you win six titles with the Bulls, it’s natural you come onto a team expecting a lot. Barkley had to give up part of his own salary to make room for the Rockets to sign Pippen after the Bulls collapsed in 1998 and didn’t enjoy doing that. From the start, it was clear Pippen expected to be the leader of the team and thus clashed with Barkley plenty in locker room meetings and on the court.
Pippen getting arrested for a DUI didn’t help matters either it hurt the entire team’s image. Their lack of chemistry hurt the team. What should have been a championship unit turned into a clashing couple. Pippen demanded a trade at the end of the season, wanting to re-join Phil Jackson with the Lakers and Barkley wanted him gone after just one year. Pippen ended up in Portland and to this day, he and Barkley trade barbs on TV and social media to show the bad blood that still exists.
6. Jimmy Jackson and Jason Kidd
Toni Braxton is known for many things such as being a Grammy-winning singer and known for her fantastic beauty. However, she also appeared to be the main reason why Jackson and Kidd’s time on the Mavericks was filled with so much tension. The two men had been seen as a power team ready to push the Dallas Mavericks to take off in the mid-1990s. But in 1996, Kidd was forced to call off a date with Braxton for another commitment. Annoyed, Braxton ended up going out with Jackson. Kidd didn’t take it very well and their beef would lead to Jackson being traded to the Nets months later and the Mavericks falling apart.
Both men have played down the incident and even denied it ever happened but it still remains a key story. Others cite it as just the excuse for the clashes between the men as their egos ruined the team chemistry. It just goes to show how much trouble a lovely lady can cause.
5. Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters
Despite proclaiming that they were the NBA’s best backcourt, Irving and Waiters were not bosom buddies by any means. Irving had been the number one pick for the Cavs and expected to lead the team into a championship era. However, Waiters thought he was the better player and their conflicts soon became obvious in their play. Waiters accused Irving of playing “buddy ball” with Tristan Thompson, even calling him out on it in a locker room meeting. The conflict was building more and more and clearly weakening the Cavs’ ability to keep on winning.
The coaches and managers did their best and the arrival of LeBron James gave hope that things could turn around. However, in the end Waiters went to the Thunder and while he missed out on a title, it sounds like he’s doing a lot better as far away from Irving as he can get.
4. Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton
Arenas was always known as “Agent Zero” for his clutch shooting but also some ego that caused a lot of conflicts. His signing with the Wizards caused a major rule to be formed on restricting free agents although Arenas did well. However, he and Crittenton clashed several times with arguments on playing time and who should lead the team. The big beef was on a gambling debt Arenas owed Crittenton that Gilbert refused to pay. It got to the point where in December of 2009, Arenas showed up with some guns to the locker room and urged Crittenton to “pick one.” Javaris responded by pointing his own gun right at Arenas.
Needless to say, the NBA took a very dim view of two players turning a locker room into the O.K. Corral. Both men were suspended for the rest of the season and the reports of the incident made them radioactive for teams, so neither was ever the same. Conflict is one thing but having it nearly come to a full-on shootout is something else.
3. Magic Johnson and Maurice Lucas
The 1980s Los Angeles Lakers were the dominant force in the NBA thanks to Magic Johnson, Pat Riley and Jerry West managing a fantastic team. However, even West could make some bad moves and bringing in Maurice Lucas was one of the worst. Thinking the Lakers needed backup in rebounding, West traded two draft picks to the Suns for Lucas, nicknamed “The Enforcer” for his hard play. However, L.A. got a prima donna who acted like he was the one with multiple championship rings on the team. His mouth and demand for more attention wore all his teammates, down, especially Johnson.
It really came out when Lucas learned he was stuck in coach for a flight and threw a full scale tantrum on Riley. He and Magic clashed constantly with Johnson openly telling Lucas to just shut up in team meetings but Lucas kept challenging him. His play was rough too with Magic coming right off the court, going to Riley and growling “get him out of the game, I can’t play with this MF anymore.” The Lakers lost the Western Conference finals and Lucas was immediately shipped to Seattle, ending one of the biggest blunders of West’s career.
2. Tony Parker and Brent Barry
It’s the unspoken rule of every team: Do not sleep with your buddy’s wife. Few times has that been a major effect then with Parker and Barry. The two men were key to the San Antonio Spurs’ dominance in the 2000s, winning titles in 2005 and ’07 and getting along great. They were known as pals off the court and great teammates on it and it seemed that would continue. But things seemed to get tense between them in 2008 with buzz on something personal coming between them.
It seemed quieter when Barry left but there was clearly some bad blood between them. The reasons why were made clear in 2010 when it came out that Parker had been cheating on his wife, Eva Longoria, with Barry’s own wife. Texts surfaced with speculation the affair had been ongoing since their playing days. Needless to say, the two men loathe each other today and the friendship that helped bond the Spurs is destroyed thanks to breaking this major rule.
1. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal
You’d think that two guys who won three straight NBA titles would have been good friends. You’d be very wrong. Despite good talk in the press, the fact was that Kobe and Shaq clashed from the moment they joined the Lakers in 1996. Shaq had believed he’d be the star of the team, already a major NBA presence and resented Kobe taking up his game time and attention.
Kobe was a kid getting a rush to the big time and was determined to rise up on his own. It got worse as Kobe became more popular with Shaq complaining about his jerseys selling less than his teammate’s. Phil Jackson managed to get them to shove those egos aside to win three championships and put on the face of being great teammates.
But behind the scenes, the tension was rising further and further over each wanting to be held up as the star of the team. When Shaq was injured and Kobe was arrested in 2003, it finally came loose and it was clear neither man could work with the other. Shaq was sent to Miami where he led the Heat to a title while Kobe bounced back to win two more titles himself. The fact there is a Wikipedia page all about this feud shows how huge this was.