With only 15 players on the roster, an NBA team can lend itself to great camaraderie and friendship. Players can bond over the ups and downs of the 82 game season and the grind that comes with the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of the sport. The most dominant teams were comprised of players who loved competing with each other, even if it was for one season or a decade spent wearing the same uniforms.
On the other hand, it's just as easy for a locker room of such relatively few guys to contain egos, anger issues, or worse. When this happens and tempers boil over, it typically results in players fighting amongst themselves rather than their opponents on the court. The wrong mix of players, a coach who can't control the room, or something as simple as a losing streak can all contribute to behind-the-scenes instances of fights, bullying, and confrontation. Publicly, these incidents are dismissed as coming with the territory and teams will do their best to limit attention from media and fans, keeping things in house.
But as time passes and players open up about their playing days and access to the locker room increases, more of these stories can come to light. We can now get a much better sense of the tensions between teammates, the truth behind rumored bad blood, or the explanation for a suspension. So with all that being said, here are 15 disturbing locker room incidents from the NBA.
15 Shaquille O'Neal Fights Scott Skiles
Any fight involving Shaq seems like a mismatch in his favor. But the size advantage he had over Orlando Magic teammate Scott Skiles in 1994 was pretty massive: nearly a foot and 150 pounds separated the two. They also had very different personalities as Shaq was a larger than life figure as soon as he arrived in Orlando and Skiles was a gritty, veteran leader.
Things became physical between the two during a Magic practice in which Skiles recalls breaking up a separate altercation involving O'Neal. O'Neal then responded by swinging at Skiles, leading to a team-wide brawl where more punches were thrown and Skiles ended up in O'Neal's headlock.
While the two disagree on who threw the first punch, both O'Neal and Skiles claim they came out of the altercation with nothing but respect for each other, praising one another and their time together.
14 Lakers and Kings Fight In the Tunnel
2002 was a different era for the NBA, perhaps best exemplified by the rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings. A good example of this was an October preseason game in which a fight broke out between the Lakers' Rick Fox and the Kings' Doug Christie just two minutes after tip-off.
What makes this story interesting is how things continued off the court as the players retreated to the tunnel and the locker room area. Fox waited there for Christie, putting him in a headlock before the two traded more punches. The second round drew the attention of both teams as Kings players entered the tunnel to help Christie and the Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal also became involved. It makes you wonder how often on-court scuffles continue outside the view of fans and what the NBA has done to prevent such altercations.
13 Delonte West Fights Von Wafer
The 2010-2011 Boston Celtics roster was full of personalities. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Shaq, and Glen “Big Baby” Davis were all part of a team that would eventually fall to the Big Three of the Miami Heat in the playoffs.
The team also included a few role players and journeymen, including Delonte West and Von Wafer. According to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld, these two were in a heated three-on-three game in practice. While Wafer tried to walk away and return to the locker room, West followed his teammate and fists started flying before things were finally broken up.
The incident was surprising considering the veterans on the Celtics roster and the championship goals of the team that season, but West has had his own history of issues both professionally and personally.
12 DeMarcus Cousins Fights Donte Greene
DeMarcus Cousins' rookie year got off to a rough start for the Sacramento Kings. He was fined for a verbal altercation with a staff member and was also kicked out of practice for arguing with coach Paul Westphal.
Those don't quite compare to what happened on February 12, 2011. Following a Kings loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cousins went after teammate Donte Greene because Cousins did not get the ball on the final possession. The two reportedly exchanged punches before being separated.
Cousins was later pulled on the team flight before it left for Phoenix and stranded in Sacramento to serve a one game suspension. It certainly sounds out of the ordinary for a rookie to attack a teammate for not getting the ball in a February game, but Cousins has proved to be anything but ordinary on and off the court.
11 Rajon Rondo's Feud With Doc Rivers
For all his skill and playmaking ability, Rajon Rondo is still known as a hot-head and a player that can make life difficult for NBA coaches. Doc Rivers is a widely respected coach by both his own players and those around the league. From a personality perspective, it was only a matter of time before these two blew up on each other.
Yes, they won a championship in 2008 with the Boston Celtics. But at that point, Rondo was only a second year player operating in the shadow of the Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett Big Three. As time passed and Rondo's role on the team expanded, so too did his problems with Rivers.
There was the film session incident during a 2011 playoff series with Miami. After Rondo attempted to defend himself from criticism, Rivers spoke up in an attempt to calm him down. Rondo's response? He threw a bottle against the television screen and shattered it.
Things only got worse when Allen left and it was clear Pierce and Garnett were on the way out. According to Chris Sherridan, Rivers was willing to leave Boston for the Clippers due in part to his dislike for Rondo. The relationship soured more when Rivers had to be held back from fighting Rondo after his point guard cussed at him during a team meeting.
10 Michael Jordan Bullies Bill Cartwright
If Jordan was willing to break down Kwame Brown at the end of his career, it comes as no surprise that the legend was just as ruthless in his prime while winning championships.
Bullying Brown was meant as motivation but Jordan's treatment of Cartwright was out of pure anger. Jordan was upset that the Bulls let go of his friend, Charles Oakley, and replaced him with Cartwright. From there, Jordan made a point to single out Cartwright's mistakes and even went so far as to intentionally make it difficult for the center to succeed in practice:
“Jordan . . . took it out on Cartwright, calling him 'Medical Bill' and intentionally throwing impossible-to-handle passes at him in practice to draw attention to what he perceived to be his bad hands.”
-Eric Freeman, Yahoo! Sports
9 Michael Jordan Bullies Kwame Brown
It is widely known that being Michael Jordan's teammate was not easy. He had high expectations for everyone around him, a winner's mentality, and a champion's ego. Jordan never hesitated to call out those around him, whether it was to motivate or out of actual spite.
So if anyone thought a 38-year-old Jordan would reverse course and take it easy on an 18-year-old rookie, they were sorely mistaken. In 2001 Kwame Brown became the first high school player drafted first overall. Add to it the fact Brown was the personal choice of Michael Jordan as team president. With that distinction came unbelievably high expectations, ones that Brown never really came close to during his career. It seems like Jordan's tough love approach did little to help. Several reports say that Jordan bullied Brown to the point of tears on multiple occasions in front of teammates, causing irreparable emotional and psychological damage for Brown's Wizards tenure.
8 D'Angelo Russell Records Nick Young's Confession
This story is one of a prank war gone too far involving a rookie who perhaps didn't know quite what he was doing. In 2016, a video surfaced of Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell recording an unaware teammate Nick Young confess to cheating on his fiancee, rapper Iggy Azalea. Somehow the video was released to the public and a scandal was born.
Reports soon started coming out of the Lakers' locker room that Russell was given the cold shoulder by teammates. Stories ranged from the team forcing Russell to eat alone to veterans standing up and walking away when he sat nearby. Sources even suggested that the Laker organization was concerned over trust issues with Russell, who had been the second overall pick.
The incident was a dark spot in what was supposed to be a celebration of Kobe Bryant's final season as Los Angeles had little else to be positive about with that roster. And while Russell and Young both claimed to have moved passed it, Russell will likely carry the stigma with him for some time.
7 DeMarcus Cousins Bullies a Reporter
DeMarcus Cousins is a tremendous talent. That has never been in doubt since he entered the NBA. When you are an All-Start and the face of a franchise like Cousins was with the Sacramento Kings, the level of scrutiny from the media can be difficult to handle.
This, apparently, was how Cousins felt in December 2016 when he unleashed a tirade and attempted to intimidate Sacramento Bee columnist Andy Furillo. Furillo had written an article critical of Cousins' off the court headlines following allegations that he sucker punched a man in a New York City nightclub. In that article, Furillo referenced a separate incident in which Cousins and his brother Jaleel were involved in an altercation at a Tampa club that resulted in the Jaleel being tasered.
The next time Cousins saw Furillo in the Kings' locker room, he initially stated he wouldn't answer any questions until Furillo left. He then made a point to single out the veteran reporter and order he never make mention of Cousins' brother again.
All in all it was an ugly scene in which Cousins had to be restrained and was only criticized more for attempting to control and frighten the media.
6 Ron Artest Sneaks Into Lakers Locker Room
Not all disturbing or bizarre stories from NBA locker rooms involve fighting or screaming matches. But this entry on the list centers on Ron Artest, also known as Metta World Peace, so it is understandably strange.
The story told by then-Lakers coach Phil Jackson takes place following Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals. The Boston Celtics had just dismantled Los Angeles by a score of 131-92 to claim its 17th championship. Jackson recalls that Artest, who had been eliminated by the Lakers earlier in the playoffs as a member of the Houston Rockets, found his way into a restricted coaches' locker room. There he made his case to Jackson on why he wanted to join the Lakers the next season and win a championship. As if that wasn't bizarre enough, Kobe Bryant was taking his post-game shower when in walked Artest. He made the same pitch to Bryant as the Laker great stood in the shower.
Whatever Artest said worked as the next year he signed a five year deal with Los Angeles and was on the 2010 championship team.
5 Jermaine O'Neal Confronts Rick Carlisle After Malice at the Palace
The 2004 brawl among the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, and fans could probably show up on any number of lists about the NBA. The video from that wild night has been analyzed over and over as well as the actions of players like Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Ben Wallace.
What may not be as well known is the mood in the Pacers' locker room once the players were escorted from the court and some level of order was restored. Jermaine O'Neal described the mood as tense with many of his Pacer teammates understandably still on edge. Once head coach Rick Carlisle made his way into the room, he attempted to calm his team down. O'Neal, who had thrown his fair share of punches in the melee, responded by yelling at the coach for holding the players back and preventing them from protecting themselves. Carlisle reportedly matched O'Neal's intensity in claiming he and the staff only tried to help. Eventually the player and coach were separated before any more punches could be added to the night's total.
4 Vince Carter Body Slams Coach Sam Mitchell
The 2004-05 NBA season was Vince Carter's last as a Toronto Raptor and it did not end on the best of terms. Carter was openly upset with the direction of the team that was clearly looking to rebuild under new coach Sam Mitchell.
According to Jalen Rose, a member of the Raptors that season, it only took seven games for things to escalate. Rose recalls that the normally passive Carter was the target of some light teasing from Mitchell while receiving pregame treatment. When Carter responded, a harmless wrestling match ensued that intensified until Carter lifted Mitchell off the ground before slamming him back down.
For his part, Mitchell claims the body slam never occurred. His version only includes Carter playfully bear hugging him from behind and the coach suggests that Rose may be embellishing the story for attention.
3 Richard Jefferson Fights Kenyon Martin
Kenyon Martin had a reputation as a tough, physical player during his 15 year NBA career. But in 2001, that didn't stop then-rookie Richard Jefferson from confronting his New Jersey Nets teammate.
Speaking with SLAM, Jefferson told the story of how he was trash talking with opponent Bonzi Wells during one particular game. To avoid an ejection, Martin suggested Jefferson relax but instead RJ responded with profanities aimed at both Wells and Martin.
Tempers boiled over in the locker room where Martin shoved Jefferson down into a seat, leading to fistfight that had to be broken up by Aaron Williams, who took an off-target punch from Jefferson in the process.
Reflecting back on it, Jefferson sees it more as a bonding experience than anything else. Seems like a tough way to bring a team together, but the Nets did have a string of success between 2001-2008.
2 Draymond Green's Halftime Tirade
While the Golden State Warriors appear to be an easy-going, fun-loving team, forward Draymond Green has been no stranger to controversy during his brief NBA career. He has shown no hesitation for trash talking opponents or playing a physical game-- a style that has crossed the line on more than one occasion.
It was during halftime of a February 2016 game against the Oklahoma City Thunder that Green turned his wrath on his own team. Reports state that coach Steve Kerr was showing video to the team and singled out a mistake by Green, setting the player off on a profanity-laced tirade that also allegedly included the quote “I am not a robot. I know I can play.” ESPN's Stephen A. Smith also reported that Kerr did not shy away from confrontation and attempted to control Green who was threatening not to return for the second half. The player and coach went back and forth until Green's teammates stepped in between them.
Kerr would go on to downplay the incident, suggesting that Green's attitude was welcomed and compare the “crazy” he brought to Warriors to Dennis Rodman's role with the Chicago Bulls. For his part, Green took responsibility and apologized. The spat certainly didn't hurt the Warriors' chemistry as they went on to win a record 73 games that season.
1 The Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton Gun Showdown
This list has to conclude with perhaps the most infamous example of teammates who couldn't see eye-to-eye, to say the least.
It was 2009 when the two Washington Wizards guards got into an argument following a card game on the team plane, telling one another that they were no strangers to firearms.
According to teammate Caron Butler, two days later when the team gathered for practice Arenas had four guns on display and taunted Crittenton. The former Georgia Tech standout responded by cocking and pointing a loaded gun at Arenas, starting a full on standoff.
Thankfully cooler heads prevailed with the help of Butler. Both players were suspended by the Wizards for the remainder of the 2009-10 season and faced gun possession charges.
Arenas only played two more seasons in the NBA but it was nothing compared to Crittenton, who was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 2011 in the shooting death of an Atlanta woman.