NBA players, much like any other professional athlete, play the game they love with a passion and aggressiveness that has over their lifetime fueled their success at their sport. However, when you throw in close range, physical, hand to hand battles for position on the basketball, sometimes that passion and aggressiveness can get the best of some players. The following is a list of the best, current NBA player rivalries who have a history of bad blood that is continually renewed every time their teams face off.
10. Blake Griffin vs Draymond Green
Blake Griffin and Draymond Green start the list at number 10. Both of their teams are normally at the top of the western conference year in and year out, and the interstate rivalry between LA and Oakland definitely adds a little fuel to the fire. It all began on a Christmas day game back in 2013 where Draymond Green was charged with a flagrant foul during the game for an unnecessary elbow to the head and neck of Blake Griffin.
Griffin took exception to the cheap shot and retaliated receiving a technical foul of his own. A few plays later Griffin was ejected after receiving a second technical foul for his involvement in an altercation between multiple players on both teams pushing and shoving after another hard foul by a warriors player. The team and personal rivalry between the two still is going strong. Earlier this season Blake seemingly had his own retaliation cheap shot at Green, grabbing his face on a put back dunk following by multiple words exchanged between the two.
Its no secret these two don’t like each other making for a great rivalry every time these two California teams meet up.
9. Joakim Noah vs Demarcus Cousins
Demarcus Cousins has developed himself quite a reputation among players, coaches and referees throughout the NBA as being one of the biggest hot heads in the game. No stranger to technical fouls and always willing to express his displeasure if things don’t go his way. With all that being said he is one of, if not the best, big man talent in the whole league currently.
Joakim Noah is also no stranger to physical play and technical fouls, and has made a living on his reputation for scrappiness and tenacity on the floor. Naturally, whenever their teams play, the conditions are prime for pushing and shoving and shit talking between the two players all night. Most recently this season, Cousins took exception to a foul called on Noah, that just looked to be a result of Noah’s aggressive defensive playing style.
Later in the year the two met again in another hard fought battle full of physical play and smack talking. Leading to Cousins poking a little fun at Noah for his ugly shooting form.
Its clear the two of them are not going to play nice with each other due to their very similar and aggressive playing styles. But at least its entertaining for the rest of us.
8. Blake Griffin vs Serge Ibaka
Although Serge Ibaka has since been traded to the Orlando Magic, and the two have not faced off yet this season due to an injury to Blake Griffin early in the year, this rivalry has not had a chance to be renewed in 2016-17.
It began because Ibaka’s old team and Griffin’s Clippers would meet multiple times in the regular season and playoffs being two of the best teams in their conference. Griffin is one of the best offensive players in the league at the power forward position and Ibaka has been hailed throughout his career as being one of the best defensive players at that position as well. It began in 2013 when the two teams met for a regular season game after a hard foul to the head of Blake Griffin by Ibaka.
Later that season Ibaka was caught taking a cheap shot to Griffin’s groin area after Griffin drove to the basket.
If once wasn’t enough, Ibaka took another shot at Griffin in the same playoff series!
Although Griffin is a very strong human being, and a Daniel-Son karate chop to the groin seems like the most effective way to disable him, someone should tell Ibaka he isn’t paid to go after those balls.
A year later the two met again in a collision by Griffin driving to the basket leaving him with a bloody nose after being hit by Ibaka incidentally. These two are no strangers to one another and always take it personal when they step on the floor against one another due to their confrontational history.
7. Demarcus Cousins vs Zach Randolph
Demarcus makes the list again too! But he is one of many repeats (Griffin being another) on this list, mainly because he is the type of player to get into it with almost everyone. Zach Randolph is a long time NBA veteran and plays for the Memphis Grizzlies who have coined their arena the ‘Grindhouse’ due to their physical, defensive style of play. Z-Bo is Zach’s nickname around the league, after people starting relating his playing style and attitude being similar to the neighborhood bully from the movie Friday, Deebo.
In 2015, after a layup by Randolph, a small shove from Cousins was issued. Z-Bo didn’t like it at all and, well, the video speaks for itself.
Z-Bo is no stranger to player rivalries after years ago getting into a skirmish with the Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, and after the two both got ejected from the game, Z-Bo ran off to the Celtics locker room where he was apparently waiting to fight Perkins to no avail. But whenever Randolph and Cousins meet up these days, it is must watch basketball due to the hot-headed nature of both players. They both take it very personally, as the next clip will show, not even the whistle can stop these two!
6. LeBron James vs Joakim Noah
Joakim is back again, and well deserving of this spot after his willing vocalization of how much he dislikes LeBron James and whatever team he is on. The fued between the two began when LeBron had first come into the league and was playing for Cleveland and Noah playing for the Bulls. It started as some smack talking from Noah, but Noah’s dislike for LeBron didn’t change when James left for Miami.
Noah and James have shared a number of hard fouls and collisions, but most of the time a lot of shit talking between the two. The following clip is a perfect example; and I wont repeat anything that was said, but listening very closely and some good lip reading can help find out what led to double technical’s for both of them in this instance.
The rivalry has carried on as LeBron is back in Cleveland, and Noah has since been traded to New York this season, and before the two teams met this season Noah was quoted saying this about LeBron’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
Over the many years of this player rivalry it still continues strongly on and off the floor, and probably will until LeBron loses the little hair he has left and Noah’s ponytail is grey with age and nappier than it is now.
5. Draymond Green vs Steven Adams
This was a rivalry that began last year after back to back kicks landed to Steven Adams man parts by Draymond Green sparked a controversy between the two players and their teams in the Conference Championship Playoff series. Here are the plays.
The first one appears to be a little bit of incidental contact, the second one you can decided for yourself if its a cheap shot or not by Green. Voted as two of the dirtiest players in the NBA by coaches and players around the league, it was inevitable that sparks, and legs apparently, would fly with these two going head to head in a 7 game playoff series. This rivalry has since been put on the back burner by another set of players from these two teams, but don’t be surprised if it comes kicking and screaming back to the forefront of headlines this season.
4. Russel Westbrook vs Patrick Beverly
Russel Westbrook is by far one of the most explosive and exciting players in the NBA today. One of the best young players that opposing teams do their best to contain every night. Patrick Beverly is not even close to one of the most exciting players in the league, but has made a name for himself based on his tenacious defensive and scrappy play. So get in where you fit in Pat. This hatred for each other began during a playoff series where Beverly went for a steal as Westbrook attempted to call a timeout. The play injured Westbrook, after what many call a cheap shot by Beverly, and Westbrook was sidelined for the rest of the playoff series and season with a torn meniscus.
Westbrook is not the forgiving type, but we will cover more of that later. Here is what happened when to two met in a similar situation the next season.
Westbrook and Demarcus Cousins might be the two most easily angered players in the NBA, but Beverly’s main job is to get into Westbrook’s head and he has done a lot more than that.
3. LeBron James vs Stephen Curry
After the Cavs and Warriors have met in back to back NBA titles it’s a little tough to ignore the newly established rivalry between the two clubs. These men are arguably two of the best players in the entire league right now, and vital to both of their teams making it to the NBA finals after consecutive years. Although the rivalry isn’t nearly as physical as the others on the list (wouldn’t be very fair anyway), it still contains great substance to put these two in the number 3 spot.
After Stephen Curry won the league MVP in 2015, and later led his team to beat James and the Cavs in the Finals on their own home court which is important to the story. They met in a finals rematch the next year in Cleveland where Curry said that he hoped ‘the locker room still smelled like Champagne’ which offended James and the Cavs, but the rematch still resulted in a blowout victory by the Warriors. This play from the game could have been a result of LeBron’s frustration by getting beat.
The story continues with the Warriors setting a record for most single season wins leading up to the playoffs, and Curry being named the first ever unanimous league MVP. But after the Warriors looked to win their second NBA title and put the finishing touch on their record setting season, LeBron finally had enough of people calling Curry the best player in the NBA and re-established his dominance personally to Curry.
After leading his team to the improbable comeback, James was once again an NBA champion and widely regarded as the best player in the league once again, MVP or not. Still there is no love lost, as prior to the beginning of this years NBA season, LeBron held his annual team Halloween party featuring dessert tombstone cookies of Warriors Klay Thompson and Steph Curry.
It is yet to be seen whether or not the two will meet again in the finals, but with new additions to the Warriors, they look to take out LeBron and the Cavs and return to the highest pedestal in the NBA.
2. Draymond Green vs LeBron James
Since you got most of the back story about the two teams in the last ranking, we will skip right to the good stuff. Draymond is not shy about voicing his dislike for LeBron either, seems to be a popular theme. But unlike his quiet teammate Curry, Green is much more physical and vocal about his dislike for King James on and off the court. This interview was given by Green after the 2015 Warriors victory in the finals.
The next year, leading to the finals, Green had the whole nut-shot fiasco with Steven Adams (see 5) and after a physical in-game altercation with James, it looks as though Green attempted a shot at the King’s royal jewels as well.
Green was suspended after this game by the NBA after his 3rd nut-shot of the 2016 playoffs. But Green still is passionate about the Warriors and Cavs rivalry, and took another shot at LeBron this season.
With the help of a little acting from LeBron, it looks like Draymond and LeBron didn’t have being nicer to each other on their list of 2017 New Year resolutions.
1. Russel Westbrook vs Kevin Durant
Without a doubt the most entertaining player versus player match up in the NBA today. Last season these two were one of the most dynamic duos on the floor together for the Oklahoma City Thunder. They were one win away from beating the Warriors and going to the NBA finals to face the Cavs. This year, however, Kevin Durant was a free agent, meaning he could shop himself to any team on the market. Being one of the leagues best players for the past few years, he was the hottest item on the market, and after choosing to join the team that snubbed the Thunder out of the finals, Durant quickly became one of the leagues most hated players, especially by his former teammate Russel Westbrook. Before the season started, Westbrook released this advertisement from Jordan upon the release of his new shoes.
Taking shots at KD for ‘running’ from the challenge to the team that beat them, Durant responded by saying the Warriors are a ‘selfless team’ taking a shot back at Westbrook implying that he was a selfish player, which was a topic of debate for many seasons while the two played together. Westbrook then released another commercial!
To the song called ‘Do What I Want’ probably due to the fact that Westbrook can be as selfish as he wants now and doesn’t have to worry about appeasing his traitor teammate. It doesn’t end there, the two teams have already played twice this year and Durant has scored his season high in points both times against his former team, truly letting his play do the talking, and if you listen carefully to the next clip, not only does it appear Durant and Westbrook aren’t on speaking terms, but Westbrook doesn’t even want the rest of the Thunder team to be on speaking terms with him either. Listen close.
Although there are many player rivalries within the NBA and a who lot of pushing, shoving and smack talking, these 10 rivalries top the charts, with a new leader on the board, we can only hope for another Thunder, Warriors playoff series to keep the shots coming.