You often see that NBA teams are like a band of brothers who go to war every night against the fiercest competition the league has to offer. Teammates scrimmage together, work out together, ride planes together, and even party together when times are good. So like most people who see and interact with one another all the time, they get to be real close.
However, just like family members, teammates can also get sick of each other or test each other's nerves and it often doesn't end well. It's not every day you hear about teammates that get into it with one another, but it certainly happens. Whether it's a friendly competition that goes too far, frustration with team roles and egos or even unresolved off-the-court drama, teammates can very quickly turn into enemies.
In the competitive environment that is the NBA, teammates are often battling for a spot in the rotation, more minutes, a larger role, bigger contracts or establishing reputations in the locker room. All these pressures can reach a fever pitch and fights have occurred between teammates that you would have never thought would get into it. In this list, we cover some of the most surprising fights that have taken place between NBA teammates.
15 Archie Goodwin and Markieff Morris Fight During a Timeout
When a team is having a disappointing season, morale is low and players who are paid to compete and win games become upset being on a losing team. That may have been what sparked tempers between Phoenix Suns players Archie Goodwin and Markieff Morris in the 2014-2015 NBA season when the teammates got into a shoving match that was captured by television cameras.
It was a February game and the Suns were getting stomped by the Champion Golden State Warriors in a blowout game. During a timeout, both teammates began pushing each other and it escalated into Goodwin being choked by Morris before the team broke the two up in an ugly moment for the team. Afterwards, when asked to comment, Markieff minimized the situation, saying, "That's nothing, it's part of being a leader and a big brother. Wrong place, wrong time."
14 Michael Jordan Picks On Kwame Brown
This wasn't really much of a fight as much as it was one-sided bullying by the Hall of Fame legend on a first-round NBA draft pick that he put all his hopes towards. When Michael Jordan made a return as a player for the Washington Wizards, he would be the first player ever to also have a role as the GM of the team.
Jordan was instrumental in selecting power forward Kwame Brown as the first pick, believing Brown to be someone who would bring the Wizards a championship. However, due to the lackluster play the big man brought to the table, Jordan was unable to hide his disappointment. Jordan would be extremely hard on Brown who he felt was a big bust and rumors floated that he made life a living hell for Brown during practices and reduced him to tears, though Brown denies this was ever true.
13 Steve Kerr And Michael Jordan
And yet another fight occurred against the greatest NBA player of all-time and a teammate, and this one actually had fisticuffs. Steve Kerr, who is now known as the award-winning Coach of the Golden State Warriors, was teammates with Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls after Jordan returned from retirement. Jordan had returned late in the Bulls season and while they made the playoffs, the favored Bulls were surprisingly ousted by the up and coming Orlando Magic.
Jordan was none too pleased and the Bulls immediately went to work in the offseason having some fierce practices which pitted Jordan against Kerr. An intense physical scrimmage led to thrown punches between the two. Jordan would immediately apologize to Kerr later that day and the relationship improved between the two after that and they even won three championships together. Kerr would say of the fight: “I knew that if we were in an actual fight he could actually probably kill me if he wanted to"
12 Scott Skiles And Shaquille O'Neal
In an NBA fight filed under "What the heck was he thinking?" NBA veteran Scott Skiles picked a fight with perhaps the most dominant center in NBA history, the imposing Shaquille O'Neal.
The fight occurred early on in Shaq's NBA career as he stormed onto the scene as the powerhouse of the resurgent Orlando Magic in the 1990s. In 1994, the Magic were having a tough and physical practice and Scott Skiles, the wily veteran that he was, though the young Shaq was being disrespectful and not taking practice seriously. Some jawjacking ensued and it led to what Shaq claims, "the little son of a gun charged me and took a swing." The swing missed and Shaq would get Skiles in a headlock before being separated.
Funnily enough, that same season, Skiles was traded away to Washington. Was it due to the fight? Perhaps.
11 Von Wafer And Delonte West Have A Training Camp Fight
Trying to make a spot on the rotation can make for fierce practices, but trying to make a spot on the team can be even more cutthroat between competing NBA players to the point that punches are thrown. In 2010, Boston Celtics guards Von Wafer and Delonte West would get into a fight during practice due to heated on-court competition.
West and Wafer got into a fistfight after a competitive game of two-on-two following a team practice. There used to be video footage of the fight but it has since been hard to find. The footage consisted of Wafer taking offense to West aggressively bumping him when he had the ball and then punches would get thrown before the two were quickly broken up. The aftermath? The Celtics didn't resign Wafer and traded away Delonte the following season.
10 Tony Allen Gives OJ Mayo A Black Eye
NBA players do a lot of traveling around the country to play games so during those times on buses and planes, things can get boring, so the players do whatever they can to make the trips fun and sometimes having fun can have serious implications. That's what happened in 2011 when Memphis Grizzlies teammates Mayo and Allen had an altercation that led to OJ Mayo having a black eye and Tony Allen getting fined.
The details behind the fight go like this: Mayo and Allen were on a chartered flight with the rest of the Grizzlies squad when a heated confrontation erupted over bets made on a simple card game. Mayo was a few grand in debt ($7,500 to be exact) to Allen after it was all said and done.
With that kind of money on the line, tensions escalated quickly, and trash talking on Mayo's end resulted in Allen putting a whopping on Mayo in true loan shark fashion. Mayo missed the team's next game with a case of phantom “bronchitis” that is rumored to have been connected to the fight.
9 Kevin Garnett And Wally Szczerbiak
The Minnesota Timberwolves in the late 90’s and early 2000s were a beast of a team and it largely had to do with "the Big Ticket" Kevin Garnett and his talented teammates, one of which was sharpshooter Wally Szczerbiak. As most people who have played alongside or against KG, they know he's a big trash talker and loves to stir up trouble on the court with his competitive nature and Wally ended up on the receiving end.
During a practice in 2000, KG and Szczerbiak would get into it over a play and the jaw jacking carried over from the practice court to the training room where Garnett threw a punch at Wally and the two had to be broken up. The two would resolve their difference soon after, attributing it to just being competitive and wanting to win. "It's like when you get in a fight with your brother," Szczerbiak would say when questioned about the fight. "These things happen."
8 Michael Jordan Punches Teammate Will Perdue
Michael Jordan is once again on this list and this time he threw a fist toward a player bigger than him, Bulls center Will Perdue. As one could probably already tell, team practices when Michael Jordan was on the court were intensely competitive and not for the faint of heart. Fights would happen and they did between the NBA legend and Perdue, who won three titles together. Another NBA Bulls legend Horace Grant would recall the story that Jordan went off on Perdue.
The reason? Jordan wasn't liking the illegal screens Perdue was setting. After warning him once, Jordan would throw a punch at Perdue when he repeated his offense and left him with a black eye.
7 Richard Jefferson Fights Kenyon Martin
Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin were part of the dynamic New Jersey Nets team that were one of the heavyweights of the Eastern Conference in the early 2000s which was led by elite NBA point guard Jason Kidd. In RJ's rookie season however, he got into a fight with one of the baddest guys in the league, his own teammate, K-Mart.
Jefferson recalled in an interview that in the heat of a game, he cussed out K-Mart and in the locker room, the battle ensured. "I'm sitting down and Kenyon comes in the locker room pissed off. I stand up and he pushes me down in my seat," Jefferson remembers. "We have a full-on fistfight." The fight was broken up as Jefferson recalls that he was saved by New Jersey Net big man Aaron Williams. The fight would, in fact, bring the two closer. Martin and Jefferson would make it to the NBA Finals twice, unfortunately falling short of a championship both times during their time together.
6 Hakeem Olajuwon Slaps Vernon Maxwell For Spitting
Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon had a humble attitude and played the game with composure and finesse that the stars of today often try to mimic. However, one of the greatest centers in the league has had his fair share of fisticuffs, and one even took place against teammate Vernon "Mad Max" Maxwell, who was as known for his hot temper as Hakeem was known for being soft-spoken.
In NBA TV's "Clutch City" documentary which covered the Houston Rockets championship years in 1994 and 1995, it was revealed that Olajuwon once slapped Maxwell in the locker room. In the first half of a road game, Maxwell spit on the court - which he had the bad habit of doing so regularly. During halftime, Olajuwon told him to have some class and stop spitting on the floor. Maxwell was not in the mood to be told what to do and would defiantly spit on the locker room floor once more and got in Olajuwon's face. Olajuwon responded with a slap before teammates quickly broke them apart. The altercation led to newfound respect between the two and they would go on to win two titles together.
5 Kenyon Martin Knocks Out Nene
Kenyon Martin is on the list once again and this is due to a fight he had soon after he had joined the Denver Nuggets in 2004. Power forward Nene Hilario was the starter at the time and felt threatened by Martin's arrival and showed it in a physical game of practice which led to Martin throwing a punch to Nene which he claimed knocked him out.
Martin recalled the event, claiming that the game was so physical that it was like they weren't even playing basketball anymore, but wrestling on the court. Martin would warn Nene about his physical play, "I stopped play, man (and said) 'Listen, you do it again, I’m going to punch you. Straight up. No ifs, ands, I’m going to punch you if you do it again.'"
Nene wouldn't take heed of the warning and Martin took offense and claimed to lay Nene out with a "one hitter quitter." Martin said of the punch "I turned everything into him. Hips, everything, hook. He grabbed his eye, he was bleeding, his eyeball was fluttering like it was moving. Grabbed his eye, it was bleeding, and he walked off."
4 Bobby Portis Breaks Nikola Mirotic's Face
Our most recent fight on this list comes from the 2017 NBA offseason between Chicago Bulls forwards Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis. Both players were competing for a more prominent role in the rotation and at the end of a heated practice, Portis' punched Mirotic (who was said to have incited the response with his trash talking) in the face and knocked him unconscious. The punch resulted in a concussion for Mirotic and several fractures in his face. The incident basically messed up the Bulls season before it even began with Bulls starter Mirotic being indefinitely unable to play and Portis was suspended for eight games.
Since the altercation, it is still unclear what the ramifications of the punch will bring. Mirotic refuses to accept Portis' apology and declares that either he or Portis be traded from the team because he does not want to play on the same team as Portis ever again.
3 Matt Barnes And Derek Fisher Scuffle Offcourt
While this scuffle is between teammates, it wasn't during the grind of an NBA season and neither player were even on the same team at the time. Derek Fisher and Matt Barnes were at one time former teammates on the Kobe Bryant-led LA Lakers between 2011 and 2012 season. While the drama of the NBA season didn't result in them gaining an NBA Championship, it was the off-court drama that gave these two the biggest headlines in the mainstream.
Several years after their teammate days in 2015, Derek Fisher was dating a woman who coincidentally was Matt Barnes ex-wife, Gloria Govan of Basketball Wives fame. While the story is hazy on both ends, apparently an enraged Barnes stormed over to his ex's home where his kids also were staying and got into a fight with Fisher. The fight resulted in a 2-game suspension from the league for Barnes and the public fiasco led to Fisher losing his coaching job with the Knicks. To this day, the beef stays strong as Barnes continues dissing Fisher on the social media front.
2 Latrell Sprewell Chokes His Coach PJ Carlesimo
This is a list about fights between teammates, but this listing is about a fight between a player and his coach!
Talented NBA guard Latrell Sprewell spent a number of solid years in the NBA and was famously known for rejecting a $21 million contract extension because of what he claimed that the money offer was an insult and it wasn't enough to feed his family. This behavior essentially blacklisted him from ever getting another offer by any NBA team. However before this, he also drew the ire of NBA front offices and fans for his difficult behavior when he choked his own coach during practice.
In 1997 while playing for the Golden State Warriors, Latrell Sprewell would get into it with coach PJ Carlesimo. The two would butt heads during the season and little by little things would escalate. It started when Carlesimo had Sprewell pulled from a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. A few weeks later, after Carlesimo told him to throw better passes in practice, Sprewell took offense and tried to intimidate his coach. When the coach walked up to Sprewell, Sprewell choked Carlesimo and threatened to kill him until teammates came in to break up the scuffle.
This ultimately led to a 68-game suspension from the league and subsequently being traded.
1 Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton Bring Guns To The Locker Room
In most of these teammate brawls, only fists are thrown, but these two teammates took things to a whole other level when they brought guns to the locker room. It was December 2009 and Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas, whos known for talking a lot of trash, had riled up teammate Javaris Crittenton after playing a game of cards. Crittenton would make a threat of shooting Arenas. Arenas boldly dared Crittenton to do so and said he would even offer him the guns.
A couple of days later, Arenas would put four empty guns on Crittenton's chair in the locker room with a note which read "pick one." This set Crittenton off, who pulled his own gun. Cooler heads eventually prevailed, but police got involved a week later and Arenas was charged with felony gun possession. This would bring a lot of bad publicity to the NBA and the Wizard organization and thus, Arenas and Crittenton were suspended for the rest of the season and Crittenton would be released. In the aftermath, Arenas would never be the same again and would be out of the league soon after, while Crittenton had a harsher fate landing himself in prison with a 23-year sentence for his role in a 2011 drive-by shooting.