Today’s NBA is full of friendships. It’s hard to say if it’s always been that way, but in the social media era it’s become obvious that off the court these men are hanging out, playing video games, and joking together. Look at the US men’s national team in Rio as they documented their time together on Snapchat. They seemed like they were having the time of their lives together, and most of those guys weren’t even going to be teammates once the season started.
The close bond among NBA players is a byproduct of the fame that comes from basketball. They become known across the country at a very young age, and need to look out for each other because no one else will. There are only 450 players in the NBA, which is tiny compared to the NFL, which has 1,696 players at any given time. And amongst the 450 players, there are only about 30 who can be called stars. These stars often have known each other since they were kids, playing with or against each other in AAU leagues and in college, so it only makes sense that they would become close friends.
Basketball is more than a game for some people. Here are the top 15 friendships that have been forged by the sport.
17 Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love
This “bromance” may have taken a bit of a turn following Love’s trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and from the down years when they were playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves before, but no one can deny that theses two pals were fun to watch. As rumors swell that the Cavs are trying to reunite the old friends, we can’t help but reminisce about the old days when K-Love and Ruby were inseparable (we know no one ever called them that, but they should have). When playing together, Kevin Love was one of the most dominant players in the NBA while Ricky was known as a special talent who just could never get healthy. At first everything was just sunshine and roses for the duo. They were taking the NBA by storm on the court, but it was off the court where their friendship bloomed. The two were often seen hanging out, working out together, and tweeting friendly taunts at each other. When the Love-to-Cleveland rumors started, Rubio opened up about how it affected his friend’s demeanor both on and off the court. When the dust cleared and Love was no longer in Minnesota, Rubio said “good.” Since then the two have seemed to rekindle the friendship as seen by Rubio publically defending Love during the playoffs via social media. We hope the old pals can be rebuild the friendship that has been a bit lost over the past couple years.
16 Greg Oden and Mike Conley
One guy has the biggest contract in NBA history, the other is one of the biggest busts in NBA history. Greg Oden and Mike Conley could not have had a more divergent path in their basketball careers. When they were kids, the spotlight was always on Greg. In high school Oden won Mr. Indiana; his teammate Conley was 2nd in voting. Oden was named to the All-American team at Ohio State; his teammate Conley was just all Big-10. Oden was drafted first overall, Conley wen fourth. Teammates for much of their lives, the two good friends were looking forward to meeting each other on the court often over the next few, but that plan never materialized. While Conley has become the face of the Memphis Grizzlies, the team that drafted him, Oden has become a warning for every young player with an NBA dream. Injuries to the big man took away his ability on the court. He only managed to play in 82 games in Portland, despite being with the team 5 seasons. He attempted a comeback in Miami, but the injuries were just too much for him and only managed to play in 23 games. Conley on the other hand has been a consistent for the Grizzlies playing in at least 50 games all 9 years of his career. The two have since remained friends and the two often text each other before games.
15 Rashad McCants and Kevin Garnett
It’s weird when you remember that Kevin Garnett has human friends. Judging by the way he plays the game, the only people that would like to be around him are masochists and maybe his family (big maybe on that). In all seriousness, Garnett is known as a nice guy off the court, but on it he is a monster. His trash talk is legendary and his stout defensive plays have devastated players on a personal level. That’s why the fact that Garnett had a good friend off the court that played in the NBA is a strange realization. Rashad McCants is a forgettable player out of the University of North Carolina who was drafted by Garnett’s Timberwolves in 2005. After a few years in Minnesota, McCants bounced around the globe, playing in 7 different countries and in Puerto Rico. The two players friendship isn’t one that was often reported on TMZ, but it was one of the best that the NBA has seen. Want proof? Just read this poem that McCants wrote about his old friend. “He came to me with open arms, like a hawk embracing his young, and he fed me food out his mouth but I was starving for knowledge. The type of knowledge that can't be fed by hand or voice, but by heart. So when he spoke he touched my soul, and my soul would smack me if I didn't listen the words he spoke weren't for the ears to hear.”
12 Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley
Both Michael Beasley and Kevin Durant were taken second overall in their respective drafts, despite coming out of school as freshmen. Both were explosive scorers in school and teams in the NBA drooled over the idea of getting either of the two men. Famously, KD has gone on to be one of the best players of his generation and Beasley has turned into one of the biggest busts of his generation. Up until about three months ago, Durant was the golden boy in the NBA. He could do no wrong and every piece of news about him was good news. Beasley on the other hand was constantly in trouble off the court and if you heard his name, you would assume he was being arrested. That’s why so many people are surprised to hear hat the two men are childhood friends. They grew up together in the Washington DC area playing on the same basketball teams. Much like Conley and Oden, they have kept their friendship intact despite the remarkably different trajectories their careers have taken. The two have played in street ball tournaments together in their offseason, and Beasley even has credited Durant for helping him get his life back on track and giving him the push to get back into the NBA after dominating in the Chinese league.
11 Terrence Ross and Terrence Jones
We swear there is more to their friendship than the fact that they are both named Terrence. The two go back to their high school days where they played at Jefferson High School in Portland. Together they played during their freshman and sophomore years winning a state championship. Ross moved to Maryland and had to switch schools following the state championship, but the teammates kept in touch. When it came time to pick schools, Ross and Jones both committed to join each other again and play for the University of Washington. However, John Calipari swooped in and swayed Jones to join him at Kentucky. Both young men saw their NBA aspirations come to fruition in 2012 when they declared they would be entering the draft. The Toronto Raptors picked Ross eighth overall and Jones went 10 picks later to the Houston Rockets. Though the two haven’t played on the same team since their early high school years, they regularly go back to Portland to play in a pro-am summer basketball league with games in July and August. The two remain friends off the court, but never let that get in the way when they meet on it.
10 Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade
This used to be the “big 3” and while Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have seemed to have put the past behind them, Chris Bosh had a much harder time forgiving his old teammate for bolting to Cleveland following an NBA finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs. However, Bosh and Wade continued a strong friendship that has been one of the best that the NBA has to offer. The two men are always training together, out in Miami together, and snap-chatting pictures of each other. Even the two men’s wives meet regularly to chat about life, their kids, their careers, and whatever else they want. However, Wade’s wife Gabrielle Union has said that no matter how close she is to Adrienne Bosh, their friendship will pale in comparison to their husbands. According to Union, it’s not uncommon for Dwyane to get a knock at the door as late as 2 AM from Bosh asking if he can come out and play. The men have houses on the same street so they can make that possible. We have yet to see how the friendship will be affected with Wade joining the Bulls, but since Pat Riley forced his hand, we doubt Bosh will hold it against his friend. It will be exciting to see Bosh and Wade face off against each other this year, assuming Bosh can get back on the court.
9 Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki
Here we have one of the earliest “bromance” in the NBA. They helped to start the trend that players should be best friends in the locker-room. Both guys have won at least an NBA MVP (Nash has 2 somehow), were a couple of the biggest names in the league, and the brightest star on two of the best teams in the mid 2000s. They both joined the Dallas Mavericks in 1998 and immediately hit it off. Watching the two play was like watching your buddies at the gym just running the floor laughing and scoring the ball. They remained friends even after the Mavs let Steve Nash walk in free agency, and remain friends today. They play in each other’s charity soccer games every year (Nash is really good, Dirk is really bad), and Nash travels to Dallas for Dirk’s numerous other charity events, which seemingly happen weekly. The two have remained good friends and still shot playful jabs at each other, such as when Dirk told media that Nash excelled being “White and slow and injured” his whole career. Nowitzki watched as Nash was inducted into the Sun’s ring of honor, and we are sure Nash will be there when it happens for Dirk in Dallas. We also know that they will talk about each other in their respective Hall-of-Fame speeches.
8 Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony
Kobe Bryant is the kind of player that everyone knows has no friends and would take out his grandmother if she was on the court. However, that persona was fairly calculated and a consequence of Kobe choosing to keep a very low profile after the summer of 2003 that we won’t touch on here. Yes he had his beef with Shaq, and he was an aggressive leader on the court, but that doesn’t mean that Kobe had no friends. Even he and Shaq seem to get along when the camera is off them, and have formed a brotherly relationship (sometimes brothers fight a lot). One friend that Kobe made may surprise you. It has been said that following a gold medal winning run in 2008 and in 2012, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony have kept a strong friendship in tact. Both seemed to appreciate the way the other man played and continued their friendship into the rest of their lives. Anthony went on to lead team USA to another gold medal in Rio in 2016, modeling his leadership mentality off of how Kobe led the guys in the previous runs. Just goes to show that we know much less about some of these guys off the court than we realize.
7 Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol
From 2001 through 2009, the name Zach Randolph was synonymous with angry-headache. As in “oh watching that game gave me a Zach Randolph.” Throughout his time with the Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers, and New York Knicks, Randolph was always a problem for his coaches and teammates in the locker room. He’d play angry on the court, but kept that anger off the court, which caused a ton of problems. His talent was never questioned, but his antics (including drinking problems, off court tantrums, serving jail time and punching an opposing player) were enough for each team to choose to cut ties. It is worth noting that his during years with those teams were also marked with front office and coaching issues that had nothing to do with Randolph. Good teams knew to avoid Z-bo but the Memphis Grizzlies gave the talented big man a chance, and he never let them down. Part of the reason that he was able to shed the bad image was due to his bond with teammate Marc Gasol. The two big men formed a close bond and were seen hanging out in Gasol’s home country of Spain, early on in their career together. It seems that having a real friend on the team (something that never happened for Randolph in Portland, LA, or New York) reignited his passion for basketball and turned him into the leader we see today.
6 Josh Smith and Dwight Howard
Josh Smith and Dwight Howard are another pair of superstars who were best friends growing up. Or at least they used to be superstars, these days the two guys are closer to NBA pariahs than the exciting players they once were. The two boys grew up together playing ball in Atlanta. They were two big kids (literally) and would play on the same AAU teams, and dominate the tournaments that they would enter. The other kids rarely had an answer for two guys who were NBA bound from when they were 10 years old. From 2004-2013, Smith was one of the best players on the Atlanta Hawks, while Dwight ran the floor for the Orlando Magic. When things went south for Dwight, Smith was vocal about his want to bring his old friend home to Atlanta. Eventually the two did join forces in the NBA, though it was in Houston after the Detroit Pistons cut Smith, and Howard jilted the LA Lakers. Smith and Howard never were able to play well together, and the pairing so many wanted to see ended after only 55 games. Now it’s different Dwight finally has gone back to Atlanta to try and save a franchise that is bleeding players, and Smith has found a new role in Houston after spending some time with the Clippers. It’d be nice to see the two old pals play on the same team again, but we highly doubt Smith is allowed on the Hawks anymore, or that Howard can go back to the Rockets.
5 Lamar Odom and Metta World Peace
Lamar Odom and Metta World Peace have been two of the biggest headliners in the NBA over the past decade, but not necessarily for good reasons. Metta has had some strange antics (like changing his name…) and some issues off the court that made him one of the greatest villains in the NBA. Lamar Odom married a Kardashian, so he was suddenly the most known player in the NBA, behind maybe LeBron. Both were instrumental for the Lakers championship in 2010, but have had disappointing post-championship careers. Metta faded into obscurity playing a couple years with the Knicks and going back to the Lakers. Odom famously went through an extremely high profile breakup, drug addiction, relapse, and overdose. The two men grew up together playing street ball in New York City, but seemed to have lost touch until they were reunited in Los Angeles. However they both have opened up saying that their friendship was extremely important to their lives and careers. Metta openly blasted the Kardashians while Odom was in a coma for using his story to bring attention onto their family, and that they actively kept Lamar’s “real” friends away from Lamar while he was in the hospital. We hope the two stay friends for a long time and hope that Odom can stay healthy and happy in the future.
4 Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook
Unlike many of the players on this list, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook actually share a lot in common. Both were lottery picks from the 2008 draft, after being coached by a couple of the best that college basketball had to offer. Both are ball hungry scorers who play the point guard position, sometimes to the detriment of their own team. They also have been two of the biggest names in the NBA this offseason (and the past 8 seasons). The two men have never played on the same teams, and grew up more than 2,000 miles away from each other, but still the two have a formed a nice friendship. Every offseason, you can catch Rose and Westbrook working out together. They have the same trainers. They have the same agent. Share the same taste in fashion, dining, and video games. They play pranks on each other, and make each other laugh. But when the game starts, the friendship stops for 48 minutes. While the Rose vs. Westbrook matchup games no longer draw the viewers that it once did, we can’t wait to see the two give it all on the court this season.
3 Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have one of the most storied “bromances” in the NBA. DeAndre Jordan somewhat feels like a third wheel, but if that’s true it’s because they made a big wheel tricycle. Back in the day, you couldn’t watch TV for 5 minutes without seeing Paul and Griffin sharing the screen telling you about car insurance, or a video game, or plum juice, or something. After almost losing their buddy to the Mavericks, Paul and Griffin got the team together to sway Jordan’s decision and convince him to stay in Los Angeles. Now it seems like the tides have turned as Jordan is getting more endorsements than Griffin, who has been dealing with his share of off-court issues, and Paul has been joining in on the commercial fun. The three share some amazing on court chemistry that has made the Clippers one of the most exciting team to watch in the NBA. The trio is one of the best “big 3” groups in the league, and every year they are expected to compete for a title, but never can get past that hump. This upcoming season is a big year for the three friends. After their early playoff exit last year, many expected the three to get broken up and the team to attempt a rebuild. After this year Blake Griffin will be a free agent, and the demands to trade Chris Paul to a contender will get louder and louder. Will this year be the end of one of the NBA’s best friendships? We will have to wait and see.
2 Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain
Perhaps the first real NBA “bromance” was hidden for years. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain were the two greatest players in their era. Russell was a 12-time All-Star, and Wilt was a 13-time All-Star. Wilt has 4 MVPs, and Russell has 5. However most importantly Wilt has 2 championships and Russell has 11. Throughout their NBA careers, people assumed that the two men hated each other based on the way they played on the court. It was violent, it was angry, but it was great basketball. Apparently the two men really respected the way the other played, and they formed a very close friendship. Russell and Chamberlain would train together, drink together, hang out together, and even have Thanksgiving dinner together. The friendship fizzled when Wilt blew his knee out in a playoff game and Bill accused him of faking it. They didn’t speak for 20 years, until Bill apologized personally. When Russell died, Wilt gave the eulogy saying that they would "be friends through eternity."
1 LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Paul
You had to see this coming right? Most current NBA fans were probably flipping through this slideshow thinking, “Seriously where’s LeBron and Melo? Or LeBron and Wade? Or LeBron and Chris Paul?” Well here are the four of them all in one. Whether it’s vacationing together on a banana boat, giving toasts at each others weddings, working out together in the off time, or just sitting around playing UNO; these four men have defined how the NBA stars should act off the court. None of them are ever in headlines for scandals, despite how hungry the world is to make one. They meet together all the time and have opened up about how they would love to play on the same team someday. LeBron was really close to making it happen twice, once in Miami (but Bosh got the role over Melo) and this offseason (but Wade chose Chicago over Cleveland and Paul wasn’t traded). We actually hope that one day it happens because watching these guys hang out on social media is so much fun, so watching them play on the court must be amazing. During the ESPYs the men used their friendship to address critical social issues to open the show. Their speech was powerful, but it showed what sports and fame could do. With so many men getting wrapped up in the fame and driving their image into the ground, here were 4 good friends who used their fame to boost their image to do good in the world. Nothing gets better than that.