There may be no better way for a joke to be passed around the Internet than the meme. Easily sharable and made for the short-attention span, memes are one of the best reasons to use social media. And while some memes are innocent, harmless fun more often than not they can be harsh takedowns that straddle the line. These are what are most commonly known as the savage memes.
Sports in general and more specifically the NBA are one of the more common subjects of memes. The so-called "NBA Twitter" is always fantastic to keep up with as millions of users try to one-up each other with the best roasts of everyone in the league. Fans can rip on any team or player through the meme for their play on the court, personal lives, or appearance. It doesn't matter if you're on top like LeBron James or on the bottom like the Brooklyn Nets. Memes will target anyone at anytime. The ones that go viral are the ones that all fans can understand and laugh at or, as we'll see on this list, are the most savage in their humor.
So here are 15 NBA memes that are savage but true:
15 Prehistoric Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh became a bit of a punchline when he joined LeBron James in creating a Big Three along with Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat. He didn't have the credentials of Wade or James despite being an All-Star and it was apparent that Bosh wasn't as close with James as Wade.
Even prior to signing with Miami, Bosh drew attention during his time with the Toronto Raptors for looking like, well, a raptor. Anytime a meme or joke attacks someone's physical appearance, it runs the risk of going over the line or being too mean. But at least for Bosh, this one celebrates his moment in the sun as he won an NBA championship with the Heat all while looking like a dinosaur.
14 The Official James Harden
It is no secret that superstars in the NBA get calls from referees that most other players would never get. This is by no means fair but it is generally understood by the fans and players alike that the name on the back of the jersey can influence how often the whistle gets blown.
There is perhaps no better example of that than Houston Rockets guard James Harden. Since joining the Rockets in 2012, Harden has never averaged less than nine free throw attempts per game. This past season he led the NBA with 10.9 per game. The argument can be made that Harden is an aggressive player who often looks to go to the basket and draw contact, explaining why he gets so many foul calls. But knowing the NBA, we can safely assume that Harden gets the benefit of the doubt more often than not. That's why this meme, suggesting that Harden gets an advantage from the refs and owes some of his stats to them, is harsh but true.
13 Kevin Durant Turns Heel
Kevin Durant transformed himself from one of the most popular players in the NBA to something of a super villain when he joined the Golden State Warriors for the 2016-2017 season. He ditched the Oklahoma City Thunder despite pushing the Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference Finals the year before.
Particularly interesting in the entire saga was KD's relationship with Russell Westbrook. They had become quite the dynamic duo in OKC but Westbrook seemed to take Durant's decision personally, effectively ending any contact between the two. This meme plays off that, showing just how ruthless and some might say cowardly Durant's decision to join a powerhouse team really was.
12 Kobe Bryant The Ball Hog
Kobe Bryant played in over 1,300 NBA games and scored a total of 33,643 points. After his rookie season, he never averaged less than 13 points per game, getting as high as 35.4 per game in the 2005-2006 season. This is all to say that Kobe was a scorer, flat out. That's what he did and that's where he excelled.
This meme goes after probably the biggest criticism that followed Kobe during his career: his reputation as a ball hog. Part of what made Kobe an all-time great was his confidence in his own game and desire to be the one with the ball in his hands. The other side of this is a perception that he didn't trust teammates and was much more willing to throw up an absurd number of shots in a given game. Kobe's unwillingness to pass may be slightly exaggerated--he did average five or more assists per game for more than half his career. But fans have short memories and in his final season, the Black Mamba had only 2.8 dimes per contest.
11 Lavar Ball's Delusions
Lavar Ball has made a point to make his name just as well-known as that of his son, Lonzo Ball. His bragging overshadowed Lonzo's play at UCLA and raised concerns heading into the 2017 NBA draft before the Los Angeles Lakers selected Lonzo second overall.
In addition to suggesting that he could beat Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one, Lavar Ball has claimed Lonzo is a better shooter than Steph Curry and has guaranteed the Lakers will return to the playoffs. This meme plays off the delusion demonstrated by the senior Ball, including Lonzo's two younger brothers who will likely faced more scrutiny thanks to their father.
10 LeBron James Travels The World
We've already talked about how superstar players often get special treatment from referees by getting more calls. There is no better example of that than LeBron James. As the best player in the NBA, it makes sense even if its not fair. You can even see in LeBron's reactions just how shocked he is if he doesn't not get a foul called or has a foul whistled on him.
Beyond the ticky-tacky fouls he draws near the basket and the flops, LeBron is also known for taking liberties with his steps. Travelling is already rarely called in the NBA but King James has seemed to fly under the radar when it comes to the violation. This meme calls him out on it, comparing his walks down the lane to Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492.
9 The Golden State Warriors Advantage
The NBA2K franchise has become one of the most popular and best-selling in the video game industry. It has supplanted EA Sports' "Live" franchise as the go-to game for NBA fans and it has consistenly been ranked among the best in sports gaming. Countless memes have been made that compare the performance of teams to gameplay in 2K or how poorly an individual player performed to a "My 2K" player.
For any fan of the game, and especially those who play at home, this meme is all too relatable. The game loses some of its enjoyment when an opponent decides to play as the Golden State Warriors. The team is deservedly the best in the game with players like Steph Curry (Overall 94), Kevin Durant (Overall 93), and Klay Thompson (Overall 90). You don't exactly have to be a master of the game to get a few wins when players who really do put up video game numbers are at your control.
8 Max Contracts For Everyone
NBA contracts have become nothing short of ridiculous in the past few years. As CBAs, television revenue shares, and salary caps get reorganized, teams have found themselves flushed with cash. They've responded by throwing around money at everyone from superstars to role players seemingly just because they can.
This meme plays with that idea and brings to mind just who exactly has been given an max contract in the NBA. Eric Gordon, Rashard Lewis, Harrison Barnes, and Josh Smith are among the players who, while good and productive, never really deserved or lived up to the max contract deal. Despite this, the NBA has apparently not learned its lesson as players in the 2017 offseason continue to get signed to huge dollar amounts despite being less than "star" status.
7 Los Angeles Clippers: Property Of Steph Curry
There are very few teams in the Western Conference that couldn't be considered "owned" by Steph Curry and the rest of the Golden State Warriors. Coming off their record breaking 73-9 season, they added Kevin Durant and went on to win the 2017 NBA Championship. So there aren't too many teams that can say they've been successful when Curry and company are on the court.
But this meme makes a point to single out the Los Angeles Clippers perhaps because of the team's attitude despite not winning anything. Steve Ballmer is one of the more recognizable and animated owners in the NBA. He's understandably very supportive of the Clippers but the team have not had the playoff performances he'd prefer. This has been in part to Curry, who led the Warriors past the Clippers in the 2014 playoffs. In the regular season since that 2009 when Curry entered the league, the Clippers have only won 10 out of 32 match-ups. In those games, Curry has averaged 22.5 points and 6.2 assists. Only against the Portland Trail Blazers has Curry scored more total points. Safe to say that Curry owns the Clippers.
6 Keeping Up With Tristan Thompson
Players making the kind of money that Tristan Thompson make are often held under a microscope and can get some undeserved scrutiny. Fans see the salary a player is pulling down and expect a certain level of consistency on the stat sheet. On top of that, if you're dating a Kardashian, then you better be ready for even more eyes on you and people ready to throw stones the minute they can.
This meme came out during the 2017 NBA Finals when the Cleveland Cavaliers looked like they didn't belong on the same court as the Golden State Warriors. You can see the stat line Thompson put up in each of the first three games. And while he had a better game later in the series, it was still too little too late for the $15 million man also known as Mr. Khloe Kardashian. Eight points and 11 rebounds in three games isn't exactly the stat line that deserves dressing in furs and dating celebrities. This meme was ready to remind Thompson that he has to play like a superstar if he wants to act like one off the court.
5 Lonzo Ball's Real Father
As we've already seen, Lonzo Ball has received as much attention for things going on off the court than his play on it. Despite the distraction of his father, Lavar Ball, and the familiy's increasing efforts to monetize their name, Ball was drafted second overall in the 2017 draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. With that, a lot of people online have used the opening to take shots at Ball for everything from his shot mechanics to his appearance.
This meme probably does the best in highlighting just how ruthless memes can be when they attack a person's looks. Here we have the theory that Ball is a cross between rapper Drake and Screech from "Saved by the Bell." While there is nothing wrong with being a Drake lookalike, not too many men want to hear that their face reminds people of the quintessential nerd in television history. Perhaps Ball's play can help quiet his critics but in the meantime, memes like these will continue to take aim.
4 Crying Jordan Pounds Steph Curry
If you ever seen the Crying Jordan in a meme, then you know there is very good chance it falls in the "savage" category. This one is no different and came on the heels of the Golden State Warriors' now infamous 3-1 series lead they blew in the 2016 NBA Finals. When LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers came back to win it all, the Warriors became the subject to countless punchlines and memes like this one.
Things were made even worse by the fact that this was the same season the Warriors went 73-9 and set the regular season record for wins. Any time someone is on the top, it makes for a long fall if things don't continue to go well. The historic season didn't end the way they wanted but Curry and Golden State did keep pounding and got their revenge in 2017. Still, that doesn't take away from this being one of the more ruthless Crying Jordan and NBA memes.
3 Brandon Ingram's Squarepants
Here we have another meme that savagely attacks a player's appearance. This time it's Brandon Ingram on the night he was drafted second overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016. Recently, draft night has seen more attention given to what the players are wearing as more of them choose to show off their personal styles. Ingram seems to be doing just that but his outfit caught the eye of fans who took to Twitter to roast him almost immediately.
Ingram is 6'9" and listed at 190 pounds. For a 19 year old his body type is understandable as he'll have time to add muscle and continue to develop. In the mean time, his long legs make for an easy target and the comparison to Spongebob was widely passed around online. Ingram may be less likely to rock the slim fitting black pants in the foreseeable future after getting the meme treatment.
2 Carmelo Anthony: Lord Of No Rings
Carmelo Anthony has been an elite scorer in the NBA since his rookie season. Yes, he can handle the ball and be an effective rebounder when he chooses to be but for the most part Anthony is a natural-born scorer. Whether with the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, or even U.S. Olympic team, he has been a leading scorer who racks up points.
The biggest criticism of Anthony has been that he is not a winner in the NBA. His teams have struggled in the playoffs and while his peers like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have won multiple championships, many believe that a Carmelo Anthony-led team simply cannot win a title. This meme attacks that by not only putting down the ringless Anthony but also propping up the legend Kobe Bryant. Melo has all the same tools as Kobe when it comes to putting the ball in the basket but seems to lack the killer instinct and competitive nature that helped the Black Mamba win five championships.
1 LeBron James: Bald-Faced Liar
Is there a more popular or more hated player in the NBA than LeBron James? It certainly doesn't seem that way and when you have that title, you're going to be the focus of plenty of savage memes. Earlier in the list we saw King James compared to Christoper Columbus for his travelling abilities and here we have a meme going after a player's appearance one final time.
LeBron has been a consistently dominating player since entering the league but the only thing that has not been consistent in that time is his hairline. It seems to change yearly, moving back some years and magically reappearing during other times. Plenty of people have speculated that James received hair plugs and there is no shame in that these days. However James has tried to hide that fact and seemingly do whatever he can to avoid going bald or even just shaving his head. At the end of the day, LeBron James is still LeBron James and if making fun of his hairline makes him seem just a little more human, let the memes keep coming.