It may have parity and plenty of stars, but the NBA court is a strange place. The locker room, which holds up to 15 active players plus coaches, staffers, and interns, can get even stranger as personalities clash over cards, beliefs, and which cheerleader they find the most attractive.
Today, we're going to look at some of the strangest locker room incidents in recent NBA memory. For this one, there's not really many ground rules other than we're going to mostly be looking at events from 2000 on and they have to be off-court incidents, whether they're in the locker room or in the film room. The Malice in the Palace, for example, would not count because it was solely an on-court incident.
Also, incidents that were genuine hazing acts for a first-year or young player do not count because hazing is its own thing and one that many people took out of context. Making a rookie dress in pink shorts may not be a pretty sight, but it's not what this list is about.
So if you're ready to learn just how strange the NBA can get off the court and when the jerseys and sneaker are off, let's tour the association.
15 Vince Carter attacks Sam Mitchell
Vince Carter's final season with the Toronto Raptors in late 2004 (Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets shortly before Christmas) had plenty of tension as the swingman had made it well known he wanted out of Canada, but body slamming a coach?
"I crack jokes in the locker room like I did the past 18 years about players getting old, breaking down, and having to get a massage," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "I smacked both of them on the rear-end, joking. When I laid down on the table, cause my back was hurting, because I am really getting old, Vince laid on my back and [Alvin Williams] was laughing saying WWE. That's all it was, that was it."
Both Carter and Mitchell have denied for years that it was a true fight, although former teammate and current ESPN broadcaster Jalen Rose offered a different take in 2012, saying the two nudged each other after the joke and "they tangled up and were really trying to get each other on the ground."
14 Kenyon Martin threatens his teammates...over his car?
There's an unfortunate belief that the Carmelo Anthony-era Denver Nuggets always had issues because of the now-Oklahoma City Thunder star's 2011 departure and Allen Iverson's effect during his tenure from 2006-08. But, as Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin showed in 2010, things may not have always been pretty as Martin, after finding his Range Rover covered in buttered popcorn as an April Fools' prank, belittled and threatened to kill his teammates.
"I swear to God, boy ... when I find out who did it ... I'm gonna put my mother ****** hands on one of y'all. I'm gonna put my hands on whoever did it ... you best believe that ... it's ****** personal ... you best believe it."
If you're in the mood to hear just how unhinged Martin got, TMZ posted an uncensored version of the rant online.
13 Amar'e Stoudemire fights...a fire extinguisher
Amar'e Stoudemire may have a reputation for being brittle, but some of his injuries were fairly hard to control. Microfracture knee surgery? Ankle and wrist injuries? But when Stoudemire, after a Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, punched a fire extinguisher in frustration...yeah, we can't quite defend that. Stoudemire wound up cutting his non-shooting hand by, wait for it, punching through glass.
Stoudemire missed Game 3, but returned for Games 4 and 5, fouling out in the latter and leading the Miami Heat PA announcer to say the All-Star had been "extinguished." It is currently unknown at this time if, during Stoudemire's 2016 retirement with the New York Knicks, the restored glass pane was present to wish him best of luck in retirement.
12 DeMarcus Cousins fights a reporter, part one
Technically, it was San Antonio Spurs color commentator Sean Elliott who DeMarcus Cousins sparred with early during the 2012-13 NBA season, but the All-Star's media problems are well documented. Here, though, we're not quite sure what Cousins did to earn a two-game suspension from the league. After drawing a foul against Tim Duncan, Cousins told a teammate he was going to "bust (Duncan's) a**" before Elliott - a notorious homer for the Spurs - ripped into the then-third year big man.
"That's why some humility is in order. You think you're dominating Tim Duncan, you get it stuffed right back in your face. Timmy doesn't like to talk trash. But if guys start talking mess to him, he's going to respond. All that trash talking was premature. I'm not about to let these guys off the hook. Young ballclub should learn from this. Don't start talking and flapping your gums against one of the greatest players ever. He's going to make you pay. Tell me who got the best of this exchange."
Cousins and Elliott got into it after the game, but only the former was punished. Hmm...
11 Rajon Rondo destroys a TV
Rajon Rondo, like former teammate DeMarcus Cousins, has had his share of strange moments over a long NBA career, but breaking a TV while watching film? During the 2011 NBA Playoffs, according to The Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett that December, Rondo let his anger get the best of him during a film session with teammates and Doc Rivers.
"According to multiple sources, Rondo’s errors were being pointed out when he arose and began discussing the mistakes of his teammates. Loudly. Using harsh language. Coach Doc Rivers got up and fired back, and Rondo threw a bottle that shattered the video screen. He bolted from the practice facility and was prevented from returning when he tried later."
We could have easily put Rondo's stints in Dallas or Chicago here, but this was just so much more fascinating.
10 Rajon Rondo nearly fights Doc Rivers
Oh, Rondo. According to a 2013 report from Chris Sheridan shortly before Doc Rivers took the Los Angeles Clippers job, the longtime Celtics coach nearly got into a fistfight with Rondo after some f bombs were dropped. Neither really ever tackled the report, but could you blame them? Rivers was about to take a job with the Clippers, Rondo was recovering from a torn ACL, and both were so hot-headed that such a thing could very well have happened.
Rondo, for a long time now, has been a rare example of a player who has all of these off-court and attitude issues, but isn't terrible or amazing on the court. Rondo's just been 'meh', and whether or not he'll continue to be average to slightly above average when he's finally healthy for the Pelicans remains to be seen.
9 Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett, and cereal
This story has been told plenty of times in the nearly five years since it happened, so here's the simple version. Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics played a tough, physical game over the New York Knicks in 2013 that the green and white ended up winning, but Carmelo Anthony tried looking for the future Hall of Famer after the game. Garnett wasn't in the locker room, so Anthony - who had reportedly been irked by comments the veteran forward made about the All-Star's wife, Lala, tasting like "Honey Nut Cheerios", went to find KG at the Celtics' bus.
Some of these stories about players legitimately going into locker rooms and opposing team buses to find people they're beefing with have been great so far, but there are still some great ones we haven't gotten to yet.
8 Kobe Bryant vs. Dwight Howard
Does this even come close to surprising you? Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard were far from best friends during the latter's lone year in Los Angeles during the 2012-13 season, so we're not going to claim any sense of shock when we see the two nearly fought when the 2008 NBA MVP called the future Hall of Fame center (Howard had his Hall of Fame plaque sealed by the time he hit California, for what its worth) "soft" one day in practice.
Bryant was a notorious gritty, hard working player and Howard had accusations of dogging it and being lazy, so Bryant being disappointed makes sense. But for Howard to react that strongly to Kobe Bryant calling him soft? If this was the last guy on the bench, maybe there's a case, but Kobe?
7 Michael Jordan bullies Kwame Brown
Kwame Brown has denied this incident ever took place, but given Jordan's track record when it comes to his teammates...well, we'll let Michael Leahey's book When Nothing Else Matters tell the story.
"He proceeded to humiliate Brown, mocking him while scoring at will, declining to help him up when the teenager fell hard to the floor, winning lopsidedly and, at the end, yelling at Brown to acknowledge his superiority in front of the team: "You better call me 'Daddy,' (expletive)."
While Jordan was known for being really tough on his teammates throughout his career, at this point, he was involved in management and he had to know that this in no way was constructive in making Kwame Brown a success. Just another example of how MJ, as great as he was on the court, has been terrible in managing a team.
6 DeMarcus Cousins fights a reporter, part two
Family is important, especially for many NBA players who only had their family growing up; there were no riches or luxuries, just family. Last December, DeMarcus Cousins took Sacramento Bee reporter Andy Furillo - who, when writing about a club incident featuring the All-NBA center and teammate Matt Barnes, referenced an incident involving Cousins' brother - to task for even daring to write about the incident.
"We’re going to have some real f---ing issues. Don’t ever mention my brother again," Cousins told Furillo, genuinely angry and hurt about his family being brought into the story. Though Cousins could have handled the situation better - and the efforts of both teammate Garrett Temple and Kings staffers to calm the big man down helped - it is important to remember what family means to these players.
5 Delonte West, model teammate
Oh, boy. Where do we want to start with Delonte West?
Rumors of him sleeping with Gloria James, the mother of teammate LeBron James, circulated when the two were in Cleveland. While he initally shot down the rumors, West has seemed to embrace them in recent years.West fought teammate Von Wafer when with the Boston Celtics because...why? Maybe because West seemed to enjoy getting into these types of incidents?Essentially becoming blackballed by the NBA for his level of craziness and a feud with the league's biggest star.
There have been worse crimes on this list, both from a legal and a moral standpoint, but West was dangerously close to becoming the dreaded 'distraction' teams are so reluctant to employ. At least West is still in the spotlight when he takes shots at The King...
4 Draymond Green vs. Steve Kerr
Most of the players on this list are so emotionally invested in this game that these incidents don't exactly shock us, but Draymond Green - the NBA's resident bad boy as of 2017 - and the beloved Warriors coach Steve Kerr feuding so badly that guns were nearly pulled out. That is, even with Green's history, fairly surprising. From a 2016 ESPN piece by Ethan Sherwood Strauss:
Minutes later, in her report following halftime, ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters will recite a portion of Green's explosion: "I am not a robot! I know I can play! You have me messed up right now! If you don't want me to shoot, I won't shoot the rest of the game!"
"I'm standing outside the locker room with the Oklahoma City police, which are always stationed outside of every locker room," Salters will later recall. "They kind of moved me aside, and the officer just kind of stood by the door, with his hand on his weapon like he was trying to determine what he should do. It was clear that something bad was about to happen in this locker room. We've never heard anything like this before."
3 Dion Waiters fights Kyrie Irving
Before LeBron James returned to Cleveland after the 2013-14 season, things weren't exactly great in Ohio. Former Duke star Kyrie Irving was tasked with the same goal James had before going to Miami: being the alpha on a Cleveland team that didn't have much talent; Irving's Cavaliers had more talent, especially with fellow 2011 first-rounder Tristan Thompson and 2012 first-rounder Dion Waiters, but the future All-Star point guard didn't yet have the immediate team-changing burst James had (which, to be fair, very few players do).
In their second season together in 2013, Waiters and Irving reportedly got into a fight that left the latter with a black eye and a broken nose while the former Syracuse star missed two games with flu-like symptoms, AKA an excuse for either a hangover or a team-issued suspension. Both denied the incident took place, but there's too many thing going in the direction of it being real.
2 Ron Artest 'joins' the Lakers
It's not abnormal for players to express an interest to suit up for other teams, especially not as free agency approaches, but then-Sacramento Kings forward Ron Artest showed his preference for playing in Los Angeles by...joining Kobe Bryant in the shower?
Kobe said that after the Lakers lost Game 6 of the '08 NBA Finals in Boston by 39 points, he was alone in the shower, just fuming. He heard somebody walk in and assumed it was one of his teammates, or maybe a staff member. Instead, he looked up, and it was Ron Artest (to this day, Kobe has no idea how Artest got into the locker room).
"I want to come help you," Artest said. "If I can, I'm going to find a way to come to LA and give you the help you need to win a title."
Indeed, after spending a season in Houston, Artest joined the Lakers and won the 2010 NBA Finals. What sounds like the premise to a bad joke (a guy joins another guy in the shower...) instead seems to have worked out well.
1 Gilbert Arenas vs. Javaris Crittenton
Oh, you knew this was going to be on here. In perhaps the strangest locker room incident across any sport (not counting former Texas Rangers outfielder Juan Beniquez who would walk around the Red Sox locker room with his penis inside a hot dog bun...seriously), Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas and reserve Jarvis Crittenton nearly killed each other over card games and debts in December 2009. Unloading guns in the Wizards locker room, it took the intervention of teammates for blood and brains to not be splattered on the floor.
Arenas was sentenced to two years probation and 30 days in a halfway house carrying an unlicensed pistol outside a home or business, while Crittneton received a year of unsupervised probation before being charged with murder in 2011 for a shooting in Atlanta. This story has been told so many times in the past eight years not only because it involved an NBA star, but because of how odd and strange it was.
Which of these stories did you find the most shocking? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!