Basketball fans everywhere, rejoice! Summer is in the rearview mirror, fall is almost out of the door, and most importantly, the NBA season is upon us once more! (Bars). Moving past my pitiful attempt at rap/poetry, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the fledgling NBA season. With the exception of DeAndre Jordan reneging on a verbal agreement with the Mavericks (and essentially giving everyone in Dallas a Texas-sized middle finger), the offseason was decidedly devoid of drama. After this drought, I know fans everywhere are pining for some juicy NBA hoops action. Will Steph Curry ever miss? (Unlikely). How many times can James Harden euro step his way to the free throw line in one game? (A lot). Perhaps more importantly, does he lose his powers if he loses his beard? (I’m going to say probably on this one). Can we use Russell Westbrook’s seemingly endless energy on both ends of the floor as an alternative power source? (Definitely). All jokes aside, there are storylines aplenty in this young season.
However, if you look closer at the headlines, something appears to be missing. There seems to be a distinct lack of animosity between players today. Sure, there are some intense rivalries, but the modern NBA just doesn’t have the same amount of feuds and hatred. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s all fine and dandy that most of these guys are friends. In the age of social media, it’s far easier to stay connected and build relationships than it used to be. Pro basketball is a pretty exclusive fraternity and unless you’re a star or a very good role player, the average NBA career is just under five years. Regardless of what a player does post-basketball, there are only a select few who can relate to the experience, so it’s understandable why players are increasingly choosing to be friend instead of foe.
That being said, all this friendliness definitely decreases entertainment value. Fans absolutely love seeing players or teams that clearly hated each other go at it. There’s just a different feel to a feud. There’s an uncertainty to it, a boiling point if you will. Even at home, the tension is palpable. You’re on the edge of your seat, waiting for the hard foul, trash talk, or disrespectful motion after a particularly vicious dunk or dagger three. There is definitely still some of this in the NBA, but it isn’t as prevalent as it used to be. The accompanying list is a compilation of NBA players both past and present, who at some point during their careers, just couldn’t stand each other. It’s an ode to hatred and some of the entertaining moments this emotion has produced.
20. Kevin Love v. Luis Scola
We open our list with one of the premier big men in the league, Timberwolves-era Kevin Love, matched up with then-Houston big Luis Scola (a very good NBA player in his own right). The biggest incident between these two stems from one controversial night in 2012. After a particularly frustrating offensive possession by Love, Scola turned the ball over on the end, hitting the floor in the process. What happened next was the subject of great debate. In real time, it looked as if Love intentionally stomped on the Argentinian’s face. Replays made it less clear, but there was ultimately no foul called on the play. A couple of days and a league investigation later, the no-foul was upgraded to a flagrant 2 and the Minnesota forward was suspended for two games. Was this the result of frustration or was it something more? Just a week earlier, there was another, albeit smaller, incident between these players. Scola, trying to save a ball from going out of bounds, rocketed (ha.) it directly at Love’s nether region. The victim immediately dropped in pain and stayed on the ground for a couple of minutes. Of course, this is nothing but speculation, but it’s hard to believe that Love had forgotten that particular play while sizing up Scola’s face a week later.
19. J.R. Smith v. Brandon Jennings
Next up, we have not only a shining example of the pitfalls of social media use by players, but also a life lesson. J.R. Smith and Brandon Jennings aren’t too dissimilar as both have colorful personalities, exhibit questionable shot selection, and show flashes of brilliance coupled with maddening inconsistency. Unfortunately, these similarities did not extend to the world of Twitter. Jennings took to the site, tweeting, “Wait wait wait JR smith brother is in the NBA but @PoohJeter & @BBROWNLAU isn’t. Call me hater but not Rollin!!!“ Reading between the lines, the Pistons’ floor general openly speculated that J.R.’s status with the Knicks led to a roster spot for younger brother Chris. Smith would come to his brother’s defense, firing off a duo of tweets. The first insulted Jennings without naming him (subtweeting at it’s finest!), recommending he “#GrowUp!” and “#ManUp!” The second threatened, “…call some of my Number street homies and put #Detroit on smash..” an obvious threat to the Pistons guard. This was later deleted, but not before multiple screenshots were taken, resulting in some trouble between Smith, the league, and his team. To his credit, Jennings responded by slightly backing off of his earlier tweets. The lesson here? The moment you hit the send button, it’s too late. Delete can’t save you now.
18. Kevin Durant v. Dwight Howard
In one corner, we have Thunder superstar Kevin Durant, who seems bound and determined to shed his “nice guy” label. In the other, we have Rockets center Dwight Howard, one of the league’s most consistently hated on players. KD spent most of the 2014-15 season on the sideline, with injuries limiting him to 27 games. During one such particular contest against Houston, The Slim Reaper apparently decided his sideline role was not enough. The OKC superstar entered a war of words with Houston’s big man in the middle, getting in his face and reportedly chirping, “You’re a p—-” repeatedly. While it’s unclear what exactly started this confrontation, KD made his opinion of Howard abundantly clear to fans and everyone involved.
17. Joakim Noah v. LeBron James
LeBron makes his first appearance on this list, facing off with the one time Defensive Player of the Year, Chicago’s Joakim Noah. When you declare yourself basketball royalty, haters are always going to be coming for a piece of the throne. It seems that while there’s an ever changing landscape in the NBA, this feud remains consistent, starting in 2009 (during LBJ’s original stint with the Cavs) and persisting through the 2015 playoffs. Off the court, Noah openly took shots at Cleveland during the 2009 season, stating, “Cleveland really sucks.”
During LeBron’s time in Miami, Noah again let his voice be heard, commenting “…we don’t like the Miami Heat, and it always feels good to beat them” and also called the squad “Hollywood as hell.” LeBron has returned fire,saying that Noah’s trash talk was “disrespectful” and to “watch his mouth.” On the court, the two have exchanged many hard fouls, harsh words, and physical play. During the 2013 and 2015 playoffs, the two stars were issued double technical fouls after trash talking and physical play crossed a line. While it seems that Noah has been on the decline over the past couple of seasons, there is no doubt that whenever these two meet, mouths will run, bodies will crash into each other, and sparks will fly.
16. Patrick Beverley v. Russell Westbrook
This matchup features the enigmatic wunderkind, Russell Westbrook, against one of the league’s grittiest defenders, Patrick Beverley. However, if you ask Westbrook and others around the league, grittiest could easily be replaced with dirtiest. Beverley is cut from the “love-him-if-you-have-him and hate-him-if-you-don’t” cloth and has been the target of criticism from players and fans alike. This view of the Beverley became even more apparent during the 2013 playoffs, when he firmly entrenched himself as public enemy number one in Oklahoma City. Beverley dove at Westbrook as the Thunder floor general relaxed his dribble to call a timeout. The two became entangled, ending with Russ Wess flailing in pain. Despite returning to play, he would later be diagnosed with a torn meniscus, which required multiple surgeries before it fully healed. The charged exchanges between the two lead guards didn’t end there. Since the initial play, Beverley has continually gotten physical with Westbrook whenever they match up. During a particular duel in OKC, Beverley earned a technical foul for shoving the OKC dynamo out of bounds. Later in the game, clearly undeterred by his punishment, Beverley dove near Westbrook’s legs once again. Suffice it to say, it’s hard to see a future reconciliation between these two players.
15. Kobe Bryant v. Smush Parker
The Black Mamba makes his debut on this list, pitted against his former point guard, the much-maligned Smush Parker. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this isn’t Kobe’s only appearance on this list, nor is it his only beef with a teammate. While unequivocally one of the greatest players of our generation, Bryant has been notoriously hard to get along with throughout his Hall of Fame career. Poor Smush Parker is one in a long list of Kobe’s teammate graveyard. However, Parker stands out because of the particular venom the Mamba attacked his former teammate with. Bryant called him “the worst” and said “…he shouldn’t have been in the NBA.” Parker himself shed some light on the teammates’ troubled relationship, telling the media Kobe often refused to talk to him at practice. According to the artist formerly known as Smush, Bryant even went so far as to say, “You can’t talk to me. You need more accolades under your belt before you come talk to me.“ Ouch.
14. Kevin Garnett v. Charlie Villanueva
Let’s get something out of the way here. Kevin Garnett in his prime was absolutely bat-sh*t insane and a joy to behold. This is the man that hit his head on a stanchion before every game, enjoyed an average of three (not fact-checked) primal roars a game (also, see: “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE”) and reveled in psychologically decimating his opponents. As he aged and diminished athletically, his trash talking (already one of the best in the league) ratcheted up a couple notches, sometimes crossing a line. Such was the case against former Detroit Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva. After a game against Garnett’s Celtics, CV tweeted that “KG called me a cancer patient.” Villanueva suffers from alopecia universalis, one of the side of effects being an inability to grow hair. The Big Ticket later tried to clarify his comments, saying, “My comment to Charlie Villanueva was in fact, you are cancerous to your team and this league.” Given KG’s body of work in the art of trash talking, there was some skepticism about said clarification. However, only the two players involved really know the truth of the matter.
13. Shaquille O’Neal v. Chris Bosh
Our list continues with two of the more polarizing big men in recent history. Chris Bosh is definitely the more reserved of the pair, but Shaq has never had a problem voicing his opinion. Shaq’s dislike for Bosh is well-chronicled. During his time with the Suns, the Big Cactus referred to him as the “RuPaul of big men.” This comment was made after the then-Raptors big man remarked that O’Neal had benefited from uncalled three second violations on his way to dropping 45 points on Bosh’s squad. After his career concluded, Shaq went on to become an NBA analyst and uses his current platform to hate on and criticize the league’s current big men. Unsurprisingly, Bosh remains one of The Big Aristotle’s favorite targets. During a preview show for the 2011-12 season, O’Neal commented on Miami’s “Big 2 of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade,” purposely leaving Bosh out of the equation. Shaq has also taken shots at the Miami big man in his autobiography, Shaq Uncut. It’s safe to say that there’s no love lost between these two.
12. Matthew Dellavedova v. the Atlanta Hawks/Chicago Bulls
The 2015 NBA playoffs were something of a coming out party for the scrappy Cavaliers guard from Down Under. Due to solid play from the Aussie and nagging injuries to Kyrie Irving, Dellavedova received a lot of PT during the playoffs. Suffice it to say, Delly, as he is affectionately known by teammates, rubbed some people the wrong way with his style of play. He is of the Patrick Beverley ilk, combining physical defense and hustle that, according to the opposition, borderlines on dirty play. The Bulls and Hawks in particular, grew tired with the young guard’s feisty play. During the series against Chicago, Delly got into a scuffle with Taj Gibson, receiving a kick from the Bulls’ forward while he was on the ground. During replay it looked as if the Cavs guard had “leg locked” Gibson, prompting the kick from the Bulls player and a subsequent ejection.
Against Atlanta, Delly once again found himself in the middle of controversy, this time drawing the ire of Kyle Korver and Al Horford. At one point, the Aussie dove for a loose ball, rolling up on Korver’s ankle, knocking the sharpshooter out of the playoffs. Later in the game, Dellavedova again found himself in hot water, this time rolling up on Horford’s legs while going after another loose ball. The Atlanta forward didn’t take too kindly to this, dropping The People’s Elbow directly to the back of Delly’s head as retaliation. Horford would later comment that while the retaliation was very poor judgement on his part, Dellavedova had a “track record” of diving at players’ legs. It’s safe to say that the Cleveland guard will hear his fair share of boos in the ATL and Chi-town this season.
11. Kevin Garnett v. Carmelo Anthony
Ah yes, here we have yet another example of KG taking his trash talk way too far. During the Celtics’ visit to the Garden, Garnett shared some rather inappropriate words with Carmelo Anthony, not disparaging the Knickerbockers star himself, rather directing them at his wife, Lala. After the game, Anthony tried to express his displeasure by chasing the Big Ticket to the locker room and the Celtics team bus. When questioned by the media, the Knicks forwards would only say “there’s just some things as men you don’t say.” Later it was reported Garnett told Melo that his wife “tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios.” Yikes, that’s definitely crossing a line. Insulting a player is one thing, bringing loved ones into it is a different matter entirely. However, the league, upset with the New York star’s post game antics, suspended Anthony for one game. The two attempted to patch things up after the game over the telephone, but there was apparently additional fallout.
10. DeShawn Stevenson v. LeBron James
Initially, this was a one sided affair. However, the steady stream of trash talk, physical play, and snipes through the media transformed it into a very entertaining beef. It began during LeBron’s first stint with the Cavaliers, while Stevenson was suiting up for the Wizards. While the talent gap was tilted substantially in the superstar’s favor, Stevenson utilized his entire arsenal of psychological warfare, employing trash talking and critiques through the media. During a series in which James’ Cavaliers bested Stevenson’s Wizards 4-2, he provoked King James, calling him “overrated” while speaking to reporters. LeBron responded by comparing his comments to Soulja Boy calling out Jay-Z. Soulja Boy came to a Wiz game and HOVA ended up releasing a Stevenson diss track (Can’t make this stuff up, kids).
After a brief hibernation period, the disagreement resurfaced during LeBron’s Miami getaway, the two clashing in the 2011 NBA finals against Stevenson’s Mavericks. The rest, as they say, is history. James was consistently frustrated by the Dallas zone and played poorly for most of the series, eventually culminating with the Heat losing the Finals 4-2, giving the Mavs guard a title before LeBron. Stevenson, ever the class act, celebrated the championship with a “How My Dirk Taste?” t-shirt. Coupled with scrappy play and obnoxious on-court antics, Stevenson has proven himself to be a major pest to LBJ over the years. However, James has remained a dominant force in the L, while Stevenson lobbied LeBron to get him a job with the Heat in 2013, to no avail.
9. Kendrick Perkins v. Zach Randolph
Our number nine showdown features former OKC big man Kendrick Perkins and Memphis star Zach Randolph. These two have matched up several times during during the regular season and playoffs and have made it known that they do not like each other. After a Grizzlies’ victory during the 2011 playoffs, Randolph commented, “…all Perk can do is foul me..he’s too slow. He’s a big body. He can foul.” During the following season, the two were ejected from a game for trading too many verbal jabs. This culminated with a confrontation following the game, when Z-Bo headed towards the OKC locker room area. The Memphis big man would eventually be fined $25,000 by the league for his actions after the contest. Later, when asked by a reporter if he could “whoop Perk’s a–,” Randolph responded by saying, “I’m good with these hands, man. I’m a jackin’ dude. I’m pretty good with these hands, so …” Well then. If the two ever came to blows, Z-Bo certainly isn’t lacking in confidence.
8. DeAndre Jordan v. Dallas Mavericks
Some of the biggest news out of free agency this summer came in the form of DeAndre Jordan verbally pledging his services to the Dallas Mavericks. Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki, and Chandler Parsons all played huge roles in recruiting the Clippers big man to Texas. Unfortunately for Dallas, things don’t always go they’re planned, with Jordan ultimately going back on his word and returning to Los Angeles. Due to going all in on Jordan, the Mavericks were put in a very precarious situation, leaving them without an established center to roam the paint. Needless to say, the move drew widespread criticism, most of which was emanating from the Dallas area. Parsons made his feelings known, saying, Jordan “wasn’t ready to be a franchise player” and that he felt “disrespected.” Cuban and Nowitzki made similar comments to the media, setting the stage for future heated clashes between the Clips and Mavs.
7. Bruce Bowen v. the NBA (specifically Ray Allen, Steve Nash, and Amare Stoudemire)
Bruce Bowen held the crown as one of the best defensive players in the NBA for a long time. However, he was reviled as a dirty player outside of San Antonio. There have been several clips showcasing his infamous “foot defense” (purposely putting his foot where another player could land on it) and being possibly responsible for several player injuries during his career. During a 2007 playoff tilt featuring Bowen’s Spurs and Amare Stoudemire’s Suns, the big man accused Bowen of kicking him in his Achilles and calling the Spurs “a dirty team.” Another notable Suns player, Steve Nash, also made his feelings about Bowen known during a conversation with futbol player Thierry Henry for ESPN the Mag. Nash was quoted as saying, “That’s what I just experienced with Bruce, so I’m glad you understand…But there comes a point when you want to punch the guy in the face.” Former compatriot Ray Allen stated, “Oddly enough, he used to be a friend of mine.” Outstanding defense aside, Bowen seems to have made several enemies during his time in the league.
6. Kobe Bryant v. Dwight Howard
Next up, we have two players who have already made appearances on this list, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. This rift began during Howard’s underwhelming time as a Los Angeles Laker and has continued during Howard’s time as a Houston Rocket. The two stars apparently never meshed as teammates, with Kobe’s old-school mentality clashing heavily with Howard’s more laid-back approach. Bryant opened up about the pair’s relationship, explaining that he tried to imbue toughness in the big man, but said Howard didn’t like the confrontational nature of the locker room. The obvious differences between the two players lead one to believe that marriage was doomed from the jump and that was made clear when Howard skipped town to play for the Rockets. During a particular match up between LA and Houston, Bryant took offense to the pivot’s throwing elbows, calling him “soft” and later, a “teddy bear.” Although Bryant is notoriously ornery, the stark contrast between the players makes it seem impossible for the two to have ever meshed in Laker land, so Howard probably made a good decision by leaving town.
5. Isiah Thomas v. Michael Jordan
Next up we have the tough-as-nails point guard of the Bad Boy-era Pistons and the GOAT, His Airness himself. This is one of the most storied feuds in the history of the league. During his time in the NBA, Isiah Thomas consistently played the role of villain, fairly or unfairly, while Jordan was beloved by fans worldwide. There is much speculation that Thomas was jealous of Jordan being embraced so universally. It seems as if there was always some sort of negative stigma involving Thomas, whether it be the alleged freeze out of MJ in the 1985 All-Star Game (which he denies orchestrating) or the snub from the 1992 Dream Team. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in a “Dream Team” documentary, MJ even admitted in assisting with blackballing the Pistons floor general from the squad while simultaneously admitting to hating him. These two enemies couldn’t even put aside their differences for an exhibition game or to represent their country. That’s some pretty intense animosity.
4. Reggie Miller v. the New York Knicks
Reggie Miller, the Knick Killer. The Indiana Pacers two-guard antagonized Knicks’ fans for many years and was public enemy number one in New York for quite a long time. During a 1993 playoff series, Miller was on the receiving end of a John Starks headbutt. In another infamous incident, Knicks fan/maniac, director Spike Lee, decided it would be a good idea to antagonize Miller. The Pacers sharpshooter proceeded to absolutely detonate in the 4th quarter, scoring 25 points and taunting Lee after every shot. It’s impossible to truly capture the hate New York fans have for Miller in such a small space, as there just aren’t enough descriptive adjectives. In order to get a good idea, just ask any die-hard New York fan about Reggie Miller. The emotions that will likely play across their face that it will be able to it better justice than this small paragraph can. It’s a match made in hell. New York hates Reggie Miller and Reggie Miller hates New York, it’s that simple.
3. Kobe Bryant v. Shaquille O’Neal
We begin the top three with one of the most infamous teammate feuds in NBA history. On the court, Kobe and Shaq were dominant, winning three consecutive NBA titles. However, the two couldn’t keep it together off of the court, constantly butting heads. O’Neal was quoted as calling Bryant “selfish” and reportedly telling Lakers management they couldn’t win with Kobe playing the way he did. The two continually did battle in the press as well, throwing barbs whenever given the chance. The beef extended past the pair’s time as teammates, with Kobe commenting that O’Neal had paid women he had sexual encounters with in order to keep quiet. O’Neal went on to blame his divorce on the comments Kobe had made, calling Bryant “a rat” and denying he ever paid anyone off. My favorite Kobe-Shaq moment, however, has to be the big man getting caught on tape rapping about Bryant, one of the lines being, “Kobe, how my a– taste?” The list of the shots fired between these two is so extensive that there’s even a Wikipedia page dedicated to it.
2. Tony Parker v. Brent Barry
This teammate match up is the ultimate case of breaking bro code. It was discovered that Parker at the very least had an “inappropriate sexting relationship” with Brent Barry’s wife, Erin. While she denied that there was any physical relationship, this infidelity ultimately led to Parker’s divorce with Eva Longoria as well as the dissolution of Brent and Erin’s marriage. In this own writer’s humble opinion, I’ve got to put all the onus on the Frenchman here. His ex would later open up about their marriage, exposing Parker’s affinity for strippers and reputation as a ladies’ man. Tony Parker got way too greedy. He already had Eva, there was just no need to get cozy with his teammate’s wife. C’mon, man!
1. Gilbert Arenas v. Javaris Crittenton
We conclude our list with one of the most infamous locker room incidents in the history of the NBA. While the details of what exactly happened that day differ depending on who tells the story, there are some key points that we do know. During the 2009 season, both players brought weapons to the Wizards’ locker room, with Arenas prodding Crittenton to “pick one.” Crittenton responded by pointing his own loaded gun at Agent Zero. We also know that this confrontation was not the first between the two and the argument stemmed from a gambling debt that Arenas refused to pay out on. Different sources placed the debt at different amounts, but according to Caron Butler’s retelling in his autobiography, the amount was $1,100. The guards were suspended for the rest of the season and the incident effectively ended both players’ careers. The artist formerly known as Agent Zero was subsequently traded to the Orlando Magic, but never could regain his old “hibachi” magic and was out of the league within two years. Crittenton was charged with manslaughter and sentenced to 23 years in prison this past April for the shooting death of a 22-year-old mother of four.
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