The Top 10 NBA Player Feuds Of All Time
Top 10 NBA Player Feuds
The NBA develops better feuds and rivalries than any other professional sports league.
Because the game is so physical, and because teams and players match up against each other so often, especially if they meet in the playoffs, the game produces some intense battles between players.
When you think about NBA history, you automatically think of some of the great competitions between players. The rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, for example, is one of the best-known and greatest rivalries in all of sports. Try to think of a rivalry in football or baseball that can match its intensity or importance. It can’t be done.
Some NBA feuds developed because the players hated each other, while others developed because their teams were battling in the playoffs. No other sport is able to produce these great rivalries, and today we are going to look at the Top 10 NBA Player Feuds.
The recent spat between Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett has the possibility of turning into a big feud, but it doesn’t make the list yet. With both players starring for teams located in cities with fans who hate each other, and with both players hoping to lead their teams through the playoffs, though, this has the makings of an intense battle. In addition, Anthony and Garnett seem to be polar opposites in personalities and playing styles, and this may also contribute to the rivalry.
To be honest, I liked seeing Garnett and Anthony upset with each other in a game earlier in the year, and I don’t mind that Anthony wanted to confront Garnett outside the team bus after the game. Professional sports are much more fun when you know the players may not like each other and will do anything they can to beat each other.
When fans are packed into an NBA gym, and two players who don’t like each other are battling for rebounds or trading baskets in the fourth quarter, it produces great and memorable moments. It’s one thing that makes the NBA great, and it’s fun to look back on the rivalries and debate which ones are the best. Here are my choices for the Top Ten NBA Player Feuds (with a few great rivalries thrown into the mix).
Kendrick Perkins and Zach Randolph
10. Zach Randolph and Kendrick Perkins – The centers for the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder are both very good post players on great teams. Both battle hard for position, and they have already had some great match-ups on the court and off. Perkins scowls in just about every NBA game and it almost seems like he hates every NBA player who is not on the Thunder, but it also seems like he and Randolph have a pretty good competition going right now. This one is going to be fun to watch for the next few years.
Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard
9. Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal – This one lost some of its luster when Shaq retired, but it seems clear that the retired center who played first for the Orlando Magic and then the Los Angeles Lakers doesn’t like the current center who played first for the Magic and then the Lakers. The fact that both players have gone by the nickname Superman adds to the rivalry, as does the fact that O’Neal just doesn’t seem to respect Howard or think much of him as a player.
Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain
8. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain – Many people call this rivalry the best in NBA history, and they make a pretty good case. Russell and Chamberlain played each other 142 times in the 10 years they were rivals. The two centers were some of the best and most dominant players in the league, and they played for the best teams in the NBA. They clearly are two of the all-time greats in the league, and they had some of the best battles in the history of the sport. The competition between Russell and Chamberlain may not fit the strict definition of a feud, but these two players were driven to beat each other like no other players at the time.
Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone
7. Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone – First of all, I should say that Rodman and Malone both seemed to have feuds with lots of players. Malone and Isiah Thomas seemed to dislike each other for a time, for example, and plenty of players seemed to loathe Rodman. But when The Worm and The Mailman tangled in the NBA Finals for two straight years, it made for great theater. The two pushed and pulled each other going for rebounds and fighting for position, and they had some great battles. The two players added to the “theater” by also battling and feuding in professional wrestling for a time. Whether the wrestling added to the rivalry or cheapened it is debatable, but it certainly added to the hype and moved this feud up the list.
Jason Kidd and Jimmy Jackson
6. Jason Kidd and Jimmy Jackson – Long ago in the 1990s, Kidd and Jackson were young players on Dallas Mavericks. With a young Jamal Mashburn also on the team, the Mavericks looked like they were set to have a long run of being a contender. Kidd and Jackson could not mesh well enough on the court, though, and off the court they did not get along either. In addition, they were rumored to both be dating singer Toni Braxton. It’s hard to know what was true, but it was clear the two did not get along and the young Mavericks nucleus had to be broken up.
Bill Laimbeer and Robert Parish
5. Bill Laimbeer and Robert Parish – This one is a personal favorite of mine, partially because I loved Laimbeer as a player. He is another guy who was hated by players from around the league, but he and Parish seemed to have special dislike for one another. The two had some great battles in the post for rebounds in the numerous hotly contested playoff games between the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons, and they had the type of in-game fights that you just don’t see anymore.
Reggie Miller and John Starks
4. Reggie Miller and John Starks – The rivalry between the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers was one of the best in NBA history at one time, and Miller and Starks were right in the middle of it. Both players were great shooters and scorers, and they had some intense battles in the playoffs. When you throw in Spike Lee cheering from the front row for the Knicks and talking back and forth with Miller, it elevates the feud and the intense rivalry.
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal
3. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant – The Los Angeles Lakers won three NBA title with these two on the roster, but how many more titles could they have won if they could have stayed together? It was clear that each player wanted to be “the man” for the Lakers and that there were some significant disputes between the two stars while they were on the same team. The rivalry between the two forced the team to break apart, which really just increased the intensity of the feud. It was always great television when these two would meet up on opposing teams.
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
2. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson – Much like Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, Bird and Magic were the two best players on the two best teams in the league. They battled for the NCAA Championship in college and then battled for league supremacy throughout their careers. They constantly measured themselves against each other, and they did not like each other early in their careers. The feud and rivalry between the two made them each work harder to become better players. The rivalry between Bird and Magic also helped to make the league attain new heights of popularity, as people all across the country wanted to watch this battle play out. The two became friends during their careers, but they were always fiercely competitive with each other and became such strong rivals that when you think of one of them today, you automatically also think of the other.
Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas
1. Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas – The Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls had one of the best rivalries of all time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the two teams were led by Thomas and Jordan. The two stars were among the most driven and competitive players in the league, and it was clear that they did not like each other. The rivalry spilled over in an alleged “freeze out” of Jordan in an All-Star game and in Thomas being left off of the Dream Team roster. The two have been retired for years, but it is clear that they still don’t like each other, which makes this the Best NBA Player Feud of All Time.