Individual player rivalries have always contributed to the excitement of the NBA. We recently witnessed in “The Last Dance” documentary that disputes can still be relevant three decades in the making(Isiah Thomas/Michael Jordan).
There is no shortage of rivalries that exist today. A little bit of beef keeps the game interesting.
Here, we take a look at five NBA player rivalries worth looking out for.
5. Paul George and Joe Ingles
This rivalry started a couple of years ago, during the 2017-2018 season. When the Oklahoma City Thunder faced the Utah Jazz in December, George and Ingles got into a scuffle just 11 seconds into the game. Their tension was not lost, as it continued into the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
The two were guarding each other and went back and forth the whole series.
It was Ingles that got the last laugh, by winning the series and sending OKC home. However, the feud did not end here. Later the next season, Ingles slapped George on the head while on a defensive closeout. Ingles apologized, but for a brief moment, their dislike for one another was on full display.
If the two ever match up again in the playoffs, it will be worth keeping an eye on.
4. Joel Embiid and Karl Anthony-Towns
Joel Embiid and Karl Anthony Towns had been beefing on social media on and off, but their conflict spilled on to the court in October of 2019. The fight happened in the third quarter of the game, beginning when they got tangled up under the basket.
Although the fight was undoubtedly heated, the two appear to have buried at least some of it. Embiid recently showed his support when the news arose of Towns’ mother passing away.
3. Draymond Green vs Everyone
Draymond Green is not well-liked around the league. Even some of his own teammates have commented on the situation. Steph Curry touched on the subject, saying this:
“He wants every single confrontation. He’s amazing in that verbal warfare. You don’t want to pick that fight. He’s the type of guy that if the room is too quiet… he’s gonna pick a fight with one of us to get himself going.”-via “Rory and Carson” Podcast
There are too many players to mention that have had issues with Green, past and present. Arguably his most notable incident was when he kicked opponents in the groin area, which he did on multiple occasions.
2. Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard
When Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard are going head to head, you’re guaranteed prime-time entertainment. The trash talk is relentless between the two, but their games also speak for themselves. Every time the two match up, they put on a show. So far, it seems like Lillard has the edge. The Trailblazer point guard knocked off Westbrook’s Thunder with a ridiculous game-winning shot last post-season, in one of the most dramatic finishes to a series we’ve ever seen.
Their rivalry is something to keep an eye on, especially if Portland ever encounters Houston in the Playoffs.
1. Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul
This rivalry is one of the oldest and longest-lasting of recent times. Both Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo have been relevant point guards in the NBA for their whole careers, so naturally, they have gone head to head on dozens of occasions.
Their beef started years ago in 2008 when Rondo was on the Boston Celtics and Paul was on the New Orleans Hornets. Rondo was not selected to the U.S Olympic team and Paul was. The selection was heavily disputed, as Rondo had just won an NBA Championship with Boston. This Olympic Team selection may have laid the groundwork for the beef that was to come.
In 2009, Rondo and Paul got into a shouting match that led to double technicals. After the game, it was revealed that Rondo told Paul, “I’ve got a ring and you’re never gonna win one.” Rondo’s words, surprisingly enough, still remains true after all these years.
In 2011 the two were nearly traded for one another, which made things even tenser. The trade fell through and the rivalry looked to die down after years of nothing being said or done.
However, early last season, we observed that things were just as heated as they ever had been.
There is likely something personal between the two that carries on off the court. Fans may never know the full extent of the issues between them, but it sure makes for a thrilling rivalry.