As much as NBA viewers enjoy the actual basketball product on display, many who follow the league are just as intrigued by the individuals playing the game and their personalities.
Sometimes these stars, as famous and media-savvy as they can be, show their human side. Players can get heated with opponents or even teammates, as evidenced by Damian Lillard and Paul George’s recent verbal spat.
“Beef” between players both heightens the tension on the court and keeps interest high throughout the long season. While there are too many feuds throughout NBA history to count, here are 10 of the most notable.
10. Kevin Durant — Russell Westbrook
It started well before the summer of 2016. Westbrook and Durant, for as talented a duo as they were, never got over the hump. Many felt Westbrook’s incessant shooting and poor decision making at the end of games was holding the small forward back. When the Thunder blew a 3-1 lead in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, there was a feeling that the pair would split.
What followed was a shocking free-agent decision, one that left Westbrook “angry and hurt” and the two not speaking for months.
This feud has subsided in recent years, but in the couple seasons following Durant’s controversial departure from Oklahoma City to Golden State, it was clear Durant and Westbrook weren’t on good terms.
Westbrook even made it clear before the 2017 Finals that he would rather watch “Sister Act 2” instead of the Warriors in the Finals. A clear shot at his former teammate.
They had some unresolved issues after the breakup, and it came to a head in a game when the Thunder were blowing out the Warriors in November of 2017. After Westbrook swiped the ball from Durant, the two got into a (literal) head-to-head verbal exchange and had to be separated by teammates. It was the first significant time the two players acknowledged each other, and it fueled the fire for fans and media members who wanted a more definitive display of their issues.
Durant and Westbrook both denied there being any added tension in the matchup at the time, but they each have since opened up about their relationship issues. Durant said “I feel like I f—ed that up … I feel like I just made it a thing when it shouldn’t have been,” before the two played on the same All-Star team in 2018. Westbrook, about his interactions with Durant, said “It’s been fine. It’s been normal. Communicating, and that’s about it, you know?”
9. Reggie Miller — Spike Lee
Miller and Lee’s beef hasn’t endured over the years. The two can be seen exchanging pleasantries and laughing whenever Miller announces a Knicks game in Madison Square Garden. But back in the 1990s, fans tuned-in to see what antics the two would get into.
As discussed in an early ESPN “30 for 30,” Miller tortured New York in his heyday. Miller was known for his constant trash talk and flair for the dramatic, and Lee — always courtside for a Knicks game — was all too close to Miller’s escapades.
The two would routinely jaw at each other during the game. There was a genuine dislike between them that manifested itself on the court when Miller would reach an even higher level of play against the Knicks. The pinnacle of this beef came in the 1995 playoffs when Miller stole a game in the Garden by scoring eight points in the final 8.7 seconds of the contest, much to the dismay of Lee.
Miller even reignited their trash talk recently when he tweeted about Lee’s altercation with Knicks security last March. This beef isn’t more than skin deep at this point, but these two provided fans with several YouTube clips of them bickering.
8. LeBron James — Dan Gilbert