The Best NBA Social Media Beefs of 2018...So Far
Just because it's the offseason doesn't mean the NBA has stopped beefing on social media. We run down the best beefs so far in 2018 between the NBA's brightest and best, including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook.
Feb 17, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (left) and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook during Team LeBron practice at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The NBA socialverse is petty, dramatic, and even a little bit narcissistic. And that’s what makes it the best pro-sports social media world on the internet.
It’s one of the few places where headlines are made by someone liking an Instagram comment. It’s also a place where you’ll see stars slide into random people’s DMs—not for anything like that, but just to argue about their skills. And it’s certainly the only place where grown men share pictures from Arthur, a decades-old PBS cartoon.
What makes NBA stars on Twitter and Instagram different from stars in other sports is that many of them aren’t shy about saying what they think, which can connect fans to their favorite players like never before. Whereas most postgame interviews are typically very cliché and diplomatic, NBA stars online will tell you what they think about opposing players, refs, or even teammates. And that honesty can make for some fun storylines throughout the season and certainly during the offseason.
While there are many intriguing and humorous components of NBA Twitter and Instagram, the ones that grab the most headlines are the player beefs. Knowing which players are feuding adds WWE-esque storylines that go far beyond the court to the game. Seeing two players exchange angry tweets provides for excellent public theater and gives fans a courtside view of the behind-the-scenes drama of the NBA.
There have been a lot of great beefs on NBA social over the last couple of years—here’s a look at the 12 best so far in 2018.
16. Enes Kanter vs. LeBron James
This rivalry is a little…one-sided, to say the least. LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of his generation, and Enes Kanter, well, isn’t. But that hasn’t stopped Kanter from trying to start a rivalry with him.
This all began ahead of the Cavs’ visit to New York in November, when James criticized the Knicks for drafting Frank Ntilikina over Dennis Smith Jr. During their matchup shortly after James made those comments, Ntilikina and James got into some pushing and shoving. Kanter then came to Ntilikina’s defense, getting into LeBron’s face and starting a contentious near-brawl on the MSG floor.
Things didn’t end there. A few weeks later, Kanter trolled LeBron on Twitter after his first career ejection:
King of Cleveland 👑 #HisFavoritePlayGround#StriveForGreatness pic.twitter.com/U6a3FwCc09
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) November 29, 2017
And here’s Kanter trolling LeBron after the Cavs gave up 148 points to the Thunder:
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) January 20, 2018
The Knicks’ big man later seemed to soften his stance towards James, by challenging him to “prove” he is king by coming to New York.
This one is for you @KingJames 👑 @rushwaiters #AskEnes#KingOfNewYork Come and Prove it 😉 pic.twitter.com/wPmWocp4rq
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) May 7, 2018
LeBron has better things to do than get into internet arguments with Kanter.
15. Mo Bamba vs. Joel Embiid
No mention of NBA Twitter would be complete without an appreciation of Joel Embiid. From thirsting over Rihanna to recruiting LeBron James to the Sixers, “The Process” has proven to be perhaps the most entertaining professional athlete on social media.
Embiid’s and Magic rookie Mo Bamba’s beef goes back to April, when Embiid said he was giving Bamba “cheat codes” for succeeding in the NBA. Too bad he couldn’t have given those to his former teammate Jahlil Okafor—he could have probably used them.
After being drafted No. 6 overall by the Magic, Embiid christened Bamba’s NBA career with a complete posterization in the gym.
Bamba made a Twitter account after Embiid welcomed him to the league, and it’s safe to say he’s looking forward to getting back at him once the games start counting.
Thank you @JoelEmbiid for such a warm welcome to the NBA 😂.. Will see y’all Oct 1 @OrlandoMagic https://t.co/wFpmTCIkCv
— Mo Bamba (@TheRealMoBamba) June 29, 2018
14. Isaiah Thomas vs. Cleveland
Has anyone had a worse 2018 than Isaiah Thomas?
Last year at this time, I.T. was coming off of an All-Star season in which he averaged 28.9 points per game and finished fifth in MVP voting. Then he got traded to the Cavs…and it was all downhill from there.
The Thomas era in Cleveland lasted just 15 games, and was marred by injury and poor play. At the trade deadline, he was unceremoniously sent to the Lakers, where he once again failed to find his 2017 form, which cost him this offseason when he signed a one-year, $2 million deal instead of making max money like he once envisioned. It’s safe to say that Thomas doesn’t have many happy memories in Cleveland.
In fact, he effectively said as much in a recent Instagram video. In the video, Thomas recalled all of the cities he played in…and had some choice words for the Mistake by the Lake.
"I'm just saying, Sac, L.A., and Boston was all love. Phoenix was cool," Thomas said. "Cleveland was a shithole. I see why ‘Bron left again.”
Thomas later apologized to Clevelanders for his comments.
I apologize for my choice of words about Cleveland. I was on my live playing around. They don’t show you everything for a reason smh. Right after that I clarified what I said.... All love to everybody who had love for me in Cleveland.
— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) August 12, 2018
Thomas’ video would make Joakim Noah proud.
13. Joel Embiid vs. LaVar Ball
Joel Embiid and LaVar Ball are natural beefing partners.
Both love to clown in public—the only difference is that Embiid is actually an NBA superstar, and is usually just trolling. When Ball says things like he was a better tight end than Rob Gronkowski, you always get the sense that he means it. (For the record, Ball played special teams for some team called the London Monarchs).
So Embiid’s inevitable feud with Ball began when the Sixers star tweeted his desire to see teammate Ben Simmons posterize his son Lonzo.
Please dunk on him so hard that his daddy runs on the court to save him.. https://t.co/cMvt5RYiSQ
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) June 22, 2017
In a subsequent radio interview, Ball slammed Embiid for the tweet and told the Sixers to get their “asses off the goddamn tweeter and get in the gym.” And Embiid took Ball’s advice, to a degree. He went on Instagram to curse at Ball in a live video.
The beef between Joel Embiid and LaVar Ball just took another crazy turn 😱 https://t.co/hvFsP6OS3k pic.twitter.com/3oaWKPi4fP
— Complex (@Complex) July 5, 2017
Embiid’s F-bomb in this video earned him a $10,000 fine from the NBA. The Embiid-Ball beef went quiet for a few months after this, and appeared to end after the two shook hands after a game in December.
Tough loss but met LaVar and he’s definitely fun and full of energy #TheProcess pic.twitter.com/UiYHP8XLNA
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) December 8, 2017
12. Jimmy Butler vs. Dwyane Wade
Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade were teammates with the Bulls for a season. But it doesn’t look like there’s much love between them now.
Butler started the feud with a perhaps too honest comment on a post from Wade’s wife, model and actress Gabrielle Union.
Dwyane Wade (@DwyaneWade) and Jimmy Butler (@JimmyButler) are out here on Gabrielle Union’s (@itsgabrielleu) Instagram post 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/YHLxUtYdZ6
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) August 16, 2018
The next day, Butler posted a relatively innocuous video about his soccer aspirations, detailing the “good, the bad, and the ugly” about his game.
And Wade put his old teammate in a bodybag with just one comment.
Jimmy Butler comments on Gabrielle Union's Instagram post and Dwyane Wade wasn't having it! 👀
— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) August 17, 2018
Pro tip: Don’t hit on your co-worker’s girl.
9. Ben Simmons vs. Donovan Mitchell
This season, Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell engaged in one of the most compelling Rookie of the Year battles in years. Playing true to his point-center billing, Simmons averaged 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 8.2 assists per game. Mitchell, on the other hand, surprisingly emerged as a 20.5-point-per-game scorer.
The competition between the two has extended off the court as well. When asked if any other rookies caught his eye this season, Simmons responded in the negative—something Mitchell subtweeted his disapproval over:
— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) April 9, 2018
The next day, Mitchell debuted a new hoodie, appearing to poke fun at Simmons’ rookie status, since he was drafted in 2016.
Donovan Mitchell’s hoodie though lmao 👀 pic.twitter.com/VFbeugz77i
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) April 10, 2018
Mitchell continued the following day:
📍Rip City pic.twitter.com/N7BPwPDkak
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) April 11, 2018
When the Rookie of the Year award was ultimately given to Simmons, Mitchell took it like a pro and congratulated him...which you know had to make Simmons feel like such a winner.
All love between the rookies. pic.twitter.com/wL2VEme6Ty
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) June 26, 2018
8. Kevin Durant vs. C.J. McCollum
When Kevin Durant appeared on C.J. McCollum’s podcast in July, K.D. mocked the Blazers after McCollum said that he was “hot” when the Warriors signed DeMarcus Cousins. The two struck a friendly and joking tone throughout the interview, but it seemed as though there might be something bubbling under the surface.
And sure enough, there was.
A few days later, McCollum publicly called Durant’s decision to go to the Warriors “soft.”
I still think the b word is harsh and shouldn’t be used. . He know that decision was soft but I respect it. It’s like getting jumped with ur brothers by a gang you should’ve beat then joining the gang that jumped u and ur brothers 2 months later & forgetting about your bros https://t.co/BFGqQy1lwR
— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) July 26, 2018
Durant responded to that criticism with a furious denial.
So,I would get into a gang fight, lose, plot on my brother for 2 months in our home and then go get the gang we lost to and beat him up? U think that low of me CJ? I just did your fuckin podcast. Snakes in the grass boy I tell ya 🤣
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 26, 2018
At least he wasn’t fighting with a random 16-year-old this time. But it’s all good now, according to McCollum:
There is no feud y’all gotta chill. It was simply an analogy. I’m done speaking on KD and the warriors bc it’s childish of me to do so and soft lol (will be taken out of context). I’ve always said what I feel but we all know I’ve never been a 🐍. Back to the grind pic.twitter.com/93B39bqKTS
— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) July 26, 2018
7. Bryan Colangelo vs. the Sixers (Allegedly)
It’s not often that a team will part ways with its GM after its winningest season in 17 years. But thanks to some allegedly ridiculous behavior by Bryan Colangelo, the Sixers were forced to do just that.
Back in May, The Ringer published an extensive report alleging that Colangelo had several secret Twitter accounts that he used to disparage players, question coaching decisions, and even disclose sensitive team information. In its wake, the Sixers launched an investigation into the matter, and ultimately parted ways with him a little while later.
Philly’s investigation reportedly found that Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, was the one running the accounts, and that Colangelo didn’t know about them. In his resignation statement, he appeared to have thrown his wife under the bus in defending his own actions:
"While I am grateful that the independent investigation conducted by the 76ers has confirmed that I had no knowledge of or involvement in the Twitter activity conducted by my wife, I vigorously dispute the allegation that my conduct was in any way reckless. At no point did I ever purposefully or directly share any sensitive, non-public, club-related information with her."
6. Kevin Durant vs. Trolls
You’d think being a nine-time NBA All-Star, two-time NBA champion, and a two-time NBA Finals MVP would give you enough justification to ignore your haters.
Apparently not if you’re Kevin Durant.
Last year, Durant prompted speculation that he uses burner Twitter accounts to anonymously clap back at his haters.
KD has secret accounts that he uses to defend himself and forgot to switch to them when he was replying to this guy I'm actually speechless pic.twitter.com/9245gnpa3c
— ☄️ (@harrisonmc15) September 18, 2017
Durant quickly admitted to writing those tweets, apologized, and blamed them on feeling groggy after waking up from a nap. He has denied using “burner” accounts.
But his battle with random people didn’t stop there. Last month, Durant got caught having a lengthy Instagram DM argument with a teenager.
KD left the burner account at home this time. 💀👀 pic.twitter.com/FuidXOwLoi
— theScore (@theScore) July 11, 2018
Imagine becoming rich and famous and spending your free time getting into internet arguments with high schoolers.
5. Mark Cuban vs. the Refs
A feud as old as time itself.
Mark Cuban has amassed about $2.6 million in fines during his 18 years as the Mavericks’ owner, and much of that sum comes from his criticism of the NBA’s officials. His public anti-ref sentiment predates Twitter by about a decade, but Cuban routinely lambasts NBA officiating to his 7.8 million Twitter followers. Here are a few highlights:
Derrick Stafford has mailed it in. That travel was not a travel and the no calls. Rick needs to get a tech
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) March 26, 2016
Watching end of Warriors Raptors. Refs can't go back in time for a review. They can only review the out of bounds event. #protestable
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) January 14, 2018
The @nba has to stop calling fouls where a player stops short so that the player behind him runs into him. Unless it’s for a shot, the play should be like a screen, you have to give the opposing player a step to change direction.
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) April 24, 2018
Last year, the NBA refs’ official Twitter account tried to turn the tables on Cuban by sharing an editorial critical of his criticism of referees:
.@NYDNSports turns the name-calling tables on Mark Cuban. Wonder how he likes it... https://t.co/CQC9jbzUOM pic.twitter.com/Py0zoxlPkS
— NBA Referees (@OfficialNBARefs) January 13, 2017
And Cuban responded in the most on-brand way possible:
Derrick Stafford has mailed it in. That travel was not a travel and the no calls. Rick needs to get a tech
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) March 26, 2016
Never change, Mark Cuban.
4. Kevin Durant vs. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were great friends as Thunder teammates. But since K.D. jumped ship for Golden State, it’s been obvious to everyone that there’s at least a little bad blood between the two.
Their beef has been the subject of media and fan scrutiny every since that fateful July, but it has not been publicly confirmed by either of them—Durant has downplayed it, and Westbrook has been mostly mum on the subject. Despite this, the overwhelming perception is that the two don’t get along anymore. And in addition to their on-court clashes, a few cryptic social media posts have further fueled this perception.
While the two have never directly targeted each other on social media, the levels of petty and subcontext in these incidents are indicative of NBA social media culture—and how fans will read basketball storylines into just about anything the players post.
The most notable instance of this came in April, when Durant liked an Instagram comment critical of Westbrook. The comment read: “‘subpar’ lmfao the problem was Westbrook. [The Thunder] had a good ass team.”
This made national headlines. And Durant didn’t even write this. He just liked it. And it still made national headlines. For a like. On something he didn’t even write.
Welcome to 2018.
Durant said the like was accidental. But that wouldn’t be the last potentially cryptic subpost of the Durant-Westbrook saga.
In June, Westbrook posted a video of himself rapping the lyrics to Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline,” which includes the following bars:
Goddamn, I’m glad y’all set it off
Used to be hard, now you’re just wet and soft
First you was down with the AK
And now I see you on a video with Michel’le
Looking like straight Bozos
I saw it coming, that’s why I went solo
Hmm, who could that be about?
Westbrook didn’t say it was about Durant, and seemed to deny in a later post that it was. But “used to be hard, now you’re just wet and soft”? “That’s why I went solo”?
Makes you think.
On a separate Durant Twitter note, it’s always worth remembering that K.D. ironically wrote this gem back in 2010:
Now everybody wanna play for the heat and the Lakers? Let's go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 16, 2010
3. LeBron James vs. Draymond Green
LeBron James and Draymond Green developed quite a rivalry on the court over the last four NBA Finals. This rivalry has also played out off the court. And it has made for amazing entertainment.
The James-Green feud all started in Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals, when Green infamously went below the belt on LeBron. This move got Green suspended for Game 5 of that series and, ironically, was a major contributing factor to LeBron’s third ring. After the Cavs’ Finals win, LeBron wore an “Ultimate Warrior” T-shirt to their championship parade. The vintage ’80s wrestling tee served as an apparent reference to the Warriors’ loss—and, as you may have heard, their blown 3-to-1 series lead.
Things got even more petty that Halloween, as Twitter blew up when photos surfaced from LeBron’s party. The party had a tray of cookies styled as tombstones with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson’s names on them, and decorations that referenced Golden State’s legendary 3-to-1 lead. The rivalry continued.
LeBron James went full savage at his Halloween party. pic.twitter.com/9NZFHxchD3
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) October 31, 2016
After Golden State took down Cleveland in 2017, Green hit back at the Warriors’ parade with a shirt of his own, one that simply read, “Quickie.” This was a reference to the Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs’ home, and their sweep in the NBA Finals. LeBron tried a comeback on Instagram.
But Draymond had a comeback of his own. And he went there.
A LeBron hairline joke. Those will never die.
After this year’s championship, Green trolled LeBron yet again with an Arthur-themed shirt displaying the Warriors’ three rings. James is a fan of using the Arthur-fist meme, and Green clearly knew it.
draymond wins best shirt of the day pic.twitter.com/STlhwQCEGk
— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) June 12, 2018
It’s a shame these two won’t be playing in the NBA Finals again this year. But now that they’re division rivals, James and Green will be facing off four times this season—giving fans plenty of opportunities for Arthur memes and LeBron hairline jokes.