Potentially medium-warm take: Rivalries in the NBA that don't have everything—or, sometimes, even anything—to do with actual basketball are good and fun and we should root for more of them.

Anecdotally, it feels like there is an onrush of "Detrimental coverage, much?" whenever the focus shifts from breaking down the minutiae of the half-court offense being run by "Your Favorite NBA Team" at the 6:47 mark in the third quarter, of a preseason game, in which neither side is playing any of its top-seven players to Russell Westbrook being super relatable and choosing some good ol' prescribed me-time over joining the Los Angeles Lakers huddle.

The same goes for when fans, media members, podcasters, blogsters, etc. dare to focus on transactions rather than glean autoeroticism from the potential of a third-year 13th man who's shooting a career-high on threes in which defenders are at least 20 feet away over his team's past six quarters.

This is my roundabout way of urging us—all of us—to adequately appreciate everything about the NBA, or to at least not scoff at how others consume or cover it when said consumption or coverage is actually nowhere near "Detrimental much?"

That brings us to these Star vs. Team standoffs. Rivalries are always boiled down to Team X vs. Team Y. Singular players villainizing, trolling or just straight up feuding with an entire organization or fanbase is far rarer.

In a way, this dynamic is also more meaningful, because it's usually rooted in recent developments and showdowns. Team vs. Team rivalries are too often part of a franchise's DNA makeup and are outdated. Why should LeBron James and Jayson Tatum care that the Lakers and Boston Celtics met in the NBA Finals six times during the 1960s and three times during the 1980s?

The Player X vs. Team/Fanbase Y will be our only focus here. This means we're not considering rivalries that skew Player vs. Player (Kevin Durant vs. Joel Embiid). We will also avoid instances of Player vs. His Own Team (Draymond Green vs. Golden State, Anthony Davis vs. Minutes At Center, etc.).

 

Ja Morant vs. Golden State Warriors

To be fair, there may be a rivalry budding between the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors in their entireties. The plucky Grizz put up an enviable fight versus the eventual champs last year in the second round, despite losing Ja Morant to a right knee injury midway through the series. Then, after the Dubs won the title, Klay Thompson trolled Jaren Jackson Jr. for a tweet he sent in March mocking Golden State's "Strength in Numbers" slogan.

This prompted Ja to tweet about how the Grizz owned a lot of "free real estate" in either Klay's or the entire organization's head. Or maybe both. That, of course, led to a barb from Green about the Boston real estate market being better...or whatever. Morant responded, because obviously. That spurred a back-and-forth between him and Green that included everything from the pair (successfully) manifesting a Golden State-Memphis Christmas Day matchup to Green clowning Morant for imitating Stephen Curry's trademark four-point play celebration while watching Game 5 from the bench.

Later, during a podcast crossover event with J.J. Redick, Green was complimentary about the Grizzlies' overall rise but called Memphis' trash-talking to the reigning champs "a different level of oblivion" and insisted they're "going to get their reality check." This probably won't phase the Grizzlies, because as Ja noted in an interview with the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Damichael Cole, they "don't run from smoke."

Flat-out: I don't know what to make of this rivalry. It seems mostly friendly, for literal sport, with an undercurrent of Ascending Power vs. Incumbent Dynasty animosity, cut with some residual irritation toward Andre Iguodala for effectively ghosting on the Grizzlies after the Warriors traded him to Memphis during the 2019 offseason.

Do we even call this a rivalry? Ja won't. But while it's very Team vs. Team, Ja has been a central figure in responding to and throwing symbolic haymakers at multiple members of the Warriors. Jackson and even Dillon Brooks loom. And I'd bet anything Desmond Bane has said some #stuff to the Dubs during games. But much like Ja is the face of the Grizzlies franchise, he is the voice of this, well, um—ah screw it, let's go ahead and call it a rivalry.

Frankly, Christmas Day cannot get here quickly enough. Will Ja dunk on Green so hard that he feels the need to apologize to the entire Green family and the next 12 generations of their descendants? Will Steph imitate Ja's goggles? Regardless of what happens, whether the game is a nail-biter or one-sided ass-kicking, we should all turn on Twitter notifications for Ja and Dray after the final buzzer.

 

Ben Simmons vs. the Philadelphia 76ers

The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers are another potential rivalry at the macro level. Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid are no strangers to some mid-game shenanigans, and the Nets at large can't be too happy James Harden forced his way to Philadelphia barely a year after Brooklyn emptied the asset clip to acquire from the Houston Rockets.

Still, there is no eclipsing the Ben Simmons vs. All of Philadelphia rivalry. His beef with the organization started before he ever left.

Did you know Simmons passed up a should-be dunk during crunch time in Game 7 of Philly's 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals matchup with the Atlanta Hawks? And did you also know the Sixers went on to lose that game and, thus, the series? Bet you didn't know. Nobody ever talks about it.