Sometimes, amidst the team pride, the competitiveness, and the importance put on winning championships in the NBA, it’s easy to forget that basketball is still just a game - and games are supposed to be fun! Although this fierceness is constantly displayed on the court, b-ballers also have a knack for being able to let loose more than players in other sports. One of the main ways they do this is through pranks.
When we say pranks, we’re not strictly referring to elaborate, creative, and well-thought-out jokes. They can be simple, silly, immature, and sometimes just plain weird. They can also be completely random, a repeat gag, or part of an all-out prank war. For purposes of this list, it doesn’t matter what the details are, as long as the prank is funny.
It’s also worth mentioning that a couple of these pranks were perpetrated by former NBA players who were not active at the time of the joke. Since those involved in the aforementioned pranks are some of the biggest legends in the history of the game (and the gags are really, really funny), we felt compelled to include them. After all, this was never meant to be only a list of pranks executed by active players. Instead, it’s simply 15 funny ruses pulled by NBA players both past and present.
15 Kevin Durant’s Secret Stache
On April Fool’s Day 2016, with the season winding down, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant decided to have a little fun with teammates Steven Adams and Enes Kanter - two guys who grew some serious upper-lip facial hair this year, and were dubbed the “Stache Brothers,” with t-shirts stating such. During an interview with the Oklahoman newspaper that featured the furry fellas, Durant slapped on a fake mustache in another room and proceeded to crash the Q&A. He gloated about the superiority of his own ‘mustache’ (Durant actually sports a skinny stache as part of a goatee, but wore a bushy Rollie Fingers-esque beauty for the prank) and asked to get one of the “Stache Brothers” t-shirts, while also attempting to sneak a smooch with his teammates. Adams jokingly accused Durant of always trying to steal the spotlight, and asked him to “let us be cool for once.”
14 Dwight Howard, Leader of the Lakers
When Dwight Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on August 10, 2012, his new teammates made sure to make him the star of the team right from the get-go. During the team’s first home game of the season, they let Howard lead the squad out of the tunnel, but everyone secretly stopped just prior to reaching the court - leaving Howard to jog out all by himself. After Dwight realized the ruse, the rest of his Lakers teammates joined him - and thankfully, it was all captured on video. “That was supposed to be something for rookies,” Howard (then an eight-year NBA veteran) later said, playing the good sport. “They got me.”
Although it was Howard who eventually got the last laugh, as he left the team after only one season and signed a four-year, $87.5 million contract with the Houston Rockets. His run in L.A. didn't quite go as planned.
13 The Paper Cup
Sometimes a prank doesn’t have to be elaborate to be funny. Take the antics of a few Dallas Mavericks as an example. During a blowout against the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2013, a few of the veteran players decided to have some fun on the bench. When Tim Duncan walked over to take a seat, Manu Ginobili carefully, quietly, and quickly placed a paper cup on Duncan’s seat just as he lowered himself down. After he sat down and realized what had happened, the entire section of the bench erupted.
Duncan went into a enthusiastic but contained shake (as if to say, “Ah, you got me!”), while Tony Parker, clearly aware of the joke from the get-go, did his best to hide his laughter before the punchline, and then did a double fist-pump in celebration. As for Manu the mastermind? He just smirked widely and turned away from his successful punking - not gloating, not laughing, just taking pride in a job well done.
12 Not a Drop to Drink
Usually, the best ingredients for a prank are planning, creativity, and the ability to keep a straight face. But Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, ever the impressive specimen, pulled off a neat little gag using only quick thinking and ridiculous aim. During an on-court postgame interview, out of the corner of his eye, Curry spied teammate Draymond Green grabbing a drink of water. While still answering questions, Curry quickly fired his towel over his shoulder and through the crowd, knocking the cup right out of Green’s hand. I know it sounds simple, but you really need to see the video of this to believe it. Curry’s pinpoint accuracy is unbelievable, as there are numerous people in the some eight or ten feet between him and Green - meaning he really had to thread the needle to execute the shot. Then again, the interview was following a game where Steph had just dropped a whopping 39 points - so maybe we should all stop being so surprised at the things he’s capable of.
11 Charles Barkley Stays Ahead of Manute Bol
Back in the early ‘90s when Charles Barkley and Manute Bol were teammates on the Philadelphia 76ers (and, you know, still playing in general), the former gave the latter quite a scare. Barkley was always involved in something loosely basketball-related in his free time, so it came as no surprise in this particular instance that he would be hosting a televised cooking segment. Of course, this distraction could also provide the perfect opportunity for one of Barkley’s patented pranks. While Bol’s teammate was showing him the various prepared dishes on the table, he lifted a cover off one of the platters to reveal the head of teammate Rick Mahorn! And no, it wasn’t a fake paper mache head a la Escape From Alcatraz, but instead his actual head; Mahorn had been waiting patiently under the table (and under the lid) for the entire segment. Bol’s reaction likely made it all worth it.
10 Kent Bazemore Gets Popped
Filling a teammate’s car up with something odd and inconvenient (or filling their car’s A/C vents with something messy) has been a classic prank for some time. The key to making it unique, however, is exactly what is selected - and Kent Bazemore’s Golden State Warrior buddies came up with an idea that really popped. They completely filled his car - floor mats to sunroof - with popcorn. Spending a year in the NBA as a rookie is always a challenging experience, but spending all day cleaning fluffy, buttery kernels out of your car is a different sort of obstacle altogether. Not to mention the fact that he’d now be smelling the salty snack while driving for the foreseeable future.
I almost feel sorry for the guy, except, as you’ll later find out, this wasn’t the most destructive popcorn prank ever pulled in the NBA. It also wasn’t the funniest prank involving a car.
9 Devin Booker Packs It Up
Remember that stuff I was saying about it being common to fill up a teammate's car with something inconvenient and annoying? Well, the Phoenix Suns are familiar with this gag too, as some of the veterans completely stuffed rookie Devin Booker’s car with styrofoam packing peanuts - floor to ceiling once again. So what exactly, you may be thinking, makes this funnier than the Kent Bazemore/Golden State Warriors prank? That would be the fact that, in addition to video footage of the completed joke, there is also video of Booker driving away with the peanuts still in place. (Hopefully he was still able to buckle up!) Even better, Devin also posted a video on his social media accounts that show him driving down the road smiling as the peanuts are flying everywhere. As a side note to the rook: Roll up those windows, kid! Littering is not cool!
8 Old Man Kyrie
This particular gag was part of a Pepsi Max commercial, but that doesn’t make it any less funny. Just after winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2011, Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers was disguised as an old man, complete with a gray wig and facial hair, a prosthetic gut, and the voice and mannerisms to match. He then rolled up on a pickup basketball game in the park as “Uncle Drew,” who began by simply watching from courtside. Eventually, however, “Uncle Drew” decided he had the skills to join the game. Although many of the players and onlookers were obviously skeptical - especially after the old man didn’t appear to be especially talented - they still allowed him to play on.
Eventually Kyrie pulled out the big guns and began sinking three-pointers, nailing layups, pulling off embarrassing steals, and playing perfect defense. Since the YouTube videos are part of a lengthy ad, viewers unfortunately don’t get to see the eventual reveal, but there were a few scenes of Kyrie snapping photos with spectators afterward.
7 Nik Stauskas’ Corny House
As we already mentioned, NBA players like to prank rookies by filling their cars up with annoying items. However, the situation became complicated when it came to Nik Stauskas, the 2014 Sacramento Kings draftee out of the University of Michigan. As teammate Rudy Gay explained, “Our rook doesn’t have a car. He don’t have a license either. So bam, what’s the next best thing? His house!” That’s right, Gay, Reggie Evans, and DeMarcus Cousins broke into Stauskas’ home and scattered popcorn everywhere. Bags and bags of it. And when we say ‘everywhere,’ we mean it. Popcorn was thrown on the floor, on the furniture, in the sinks, in his shoes, in his bed, even in his freezer! Stauskas, for his part, was a good sport about it. He even filmed some of the mess (and his reaction, which was also caught on numerous hidden cameras) to give fans a first-person view of the prank.
6 Who Got J.R.?
Charles Barkley is back again to prank another teammate, but this time the ruse is much more elaborate, and also involves help from Rick Mahorn and Muggsy Bogues. Bogues invited J.R. Reid over to his place to hang out, and while the two were chatting, some “breaking” sports news came on the TV. A local news anchor (in a pre-recorded segment) announced that Mahorn was getting traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Charlotte Hornets for Reid. The rookie was instantly stunned, even more so when the TV showed Mahorn and Barkley getting interviewed (in additional pre-recorded segments) and criticizing Reid numerous times.
Eventually Bogues was interviewed too, and - after cruelly joining in on the criticism - gave up the prank. Personally, I’m just impressed they managed to pull off this prank so well technology-wise back in 1990. I mean, just look at the huge “hidden” cameras they used!
5 Shaq’s Chair-Raising Prank
Shaquille O’Neal is a notorious, longtime prankster dating back his days as a player when he apparently enjoyed chasing around teammates in the locker room and attempting to wrestle them - all while his 7-foot-1-inch, 325 pound frame was completely naked. As funny as this is, we prefer the smarter pranks that Shaq pulled (and continues to pull) as a commentator. In one gem, Shaq secretly commandeered the controls to his Inside the NBA co-stars’ chairs (specifically those of Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith) and made them annoyingly and obviously rise and fall while the analysts were speaking. This prank had a very nice progression, because the commentators went from trying to ignore the height changes, to admitting the difficulty and dismissing it as a technical issue, to simply trying to complete their jobs. Eventually, Shaq, grinning widely, revealed his ruse and the remote he was secretly holding.
4 Festus Ezeli Gets a Lyft and a Cut
Getting cut from a team is one of the most crushing experiences for an athlete, so of course players would cruelly create a prank around this subject. Andre Iguodala did it recently with teammate Festus Ezeli as the victim, and a little help from Lyft. After getting picked up, Ezeli’s driver turned on the radio, and a sports show announced that Ezeli had just been cut from the Golden State Warriors team. Festus was obviously taken aback by the news, and it didn’t help that his fellow Warriors (who were in on the gag) started texting him with messages of sadness and condolences, including one that said, “It was a pleasure working with you.” Eventually, the car pulled over, and out popped Iguodala from a tailing car with balloons and a cake to reveal the ruse. Ezeli laughed it off, but he also smashed the cake over Andre’s head in retaliation.
3 Walking With the Suns
We’ve likely all seen a dinosaur suits used in a prank or other video recently, but if you haven’t seen the one with the Phoenix Suns players from two Halloweens ago, allow us to introduce you. Goran Dragic borrowed one of the shockingly lifelike baby T-rexes (and its handler) from the Walking With the Dinosaurs live show to scare some of his teammates, and the results were hysterical. Tyler Ennis, Jeff Hornacek, Mark West, Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, Anthony Tolliver, Zoran Dragic, Alex Len, the Morris twins, and even team owner Robert Sarver all had their turns as the victim, but Archie Goodwin probably had the best reaction. The guard threw his jug of water at the T-rex and then put up his fists like he was fully ready to box the dino. The funniest part was probably the fact that after the initial scare, many of the players were still clearly scared of the creature, as if this long-extinct animal would actually harm them in some way.
2 Kobe’s Sweating Retirement
Kobe Bryant may have retired from the NBA this past season, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t keeping busy. Just after his final season ended, Kobe stopped by Ellen as a guest and also to pull a hilarious prank. The show asked an esthetician to chat with Kobe backstage about a supposed problem he had, while Ellen fed the future Hall of Famer lines and directions via an earpiece, and hidden cameras captured it all. (In case you’re unfamiliar, an esthetician is defined as a person who is knowledgeable about the nature and appreciation of beauty, and is similar to a beautician.) Bryant told the unsuspecting victim about a hilarious sweating problem he was having, but the best part was all the ridiculous things DeGeneres made him do, from saying lines like “I’d stand up, but I’m so tall” to hopping around and spinning in circles in order to showcase his sweatiness - which was also described as defying gravity. The esthetician even handed over her glasses when Kobe asked to wear them. Good sports all around! (No pun intended.)
1 Gilbert Arenas’ Entire Repertoire
During Gilbert Arenas’ 11-year NBA career, he amassed 11,402 points, 2,168 rebounds and 2,909 rebounds while playing for the Warriors, Wizards, Magic, and Grizzlies. However, many people will remember him for his pranks as much as his athletic prowess.
Arenas was constantly pranking teammates, and we couldn’t possibly just pick one instance, so here’s a sampling: Gilbert Arenas once defecated in a teammate’s shoe. (“They read the funny stuff, like me taking a crap in Andray Blatche's shoes,” Arenas later said, “But nobody is going to ask what Andray did to deserve it.”)
He also frequently feuded (playfully) with teammates Nick Young and Dominic McGuire. They stole Gilbert’s iPod and shoes, he stole Young’s car keys and mailed them back home. The duo then broke into Arenas’ house, but he saw them on his security cameras and snuck outside to deflate their tires; they ended up stealing a toaster. (“They stole my daddy's toaster! I like making toast! So I told them, Since you don't want to give my toaster back, it's war.”) The war culminated in an all-out paintball showdown.
Gilbert would also make huge batches of coffee in the hotel bathtubs of his teammates (like Andray Blatche and James Lang), he’d occasionally shred players’ suits so they had to go home in uniform, and he once sprayed Awvee Storey with a hose for three minutes while the latter was on the toilet.
Even as a rookie with the Warriors, Gilbert still had the gall to pull some pranks, like serving powdered donuts that were actually plain ones covered in baby powder. As for the glazed? He had thoroughly licked each one before putting them out for his teammates.