The NBA has risen to prominence as America’s No. 2 sports league (some would argue even a legitimate challenger to the NFL) largely because of the players’ engaging personalities. Sure, watching Steph Curry rain 3-pointers and Giannis Antetokounmpo Euro step all the way from half court to the rim is amazing—but fans seem to take just as much pleasure from seeing Draymond Green or Joel Embiid clown their rivals on Twitter or in the press.
Many of the NBA players in this generation are flat-out funny. They’re guys with world-class talent on the hardwood and outsize personalities to match. And we’re grateful for that, because this crop of entertainers gives websites like Complex never-ending fodder to dissect and disseminate. The savagery—both on and off the court—is so constant nowadays that it’s difficult to narrow down the very best of the best. But we’ve taken a stab at it. Here are the 10 pettiest moments of the 2018-19 NBA season (so far—expect plenty more in the playoffs).
10. Russell Westbrook steals Lance Stephenson’s air-guitar celebration.
Strumming on an air guitar is kind of Lance Stephenson’s thing. If Born Ready is playing well and feeling himself, you can count on him wiggling his hips and making that music.
This guy loves agitating his opponents, whether that means dancing obnoxiously or blowing on their ears. So it was absolutely perfect when, during an early-season game between the Lakers and Thunder, Russell Westbrook celebrated a Paul George and-one with Lance in his grill by busting out his own air guitar.
The Thunder won that game, 107-100, but Lance & Co. got revenge in overtime two weeks later, winning 138-128. Russ put up big numbers in both games while Lance played a bit role. The Lakers soon after fell out of the playoff picture.
9. Mario Hezonja steps over Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giannis is a MVP candidate this year. Mario Hezonja is not. That didn’t stop Hezonja from dishing out easily the most disrespectful dunk of this season over the Greek Freak. Not only did he posterize Giannis—but he actually followed it with the Iverson staredown and step-over!
Giannis did not like it. After the Knicks won that game in overtime, he said if Hezonja were to try that again, he’d punch him.
Keep in mind that Giannis once literally jumped over former Knick Tim Hardaway Jr., so there’s a long history of crazy posterizations between Antetokounmpo and the Knicks. Could this be a budding rivalry? Maybe if the Knicks start winning this century.
8. Joel Embiid continues trolling Terry Rozier.
Last year’s Celtics-76ers second-round playoff series was one of the most memorable of the postseason. Though Boston ended up winning in five games, the series was much closer than it seemed and a couple games could have gone the other way. In addition, there was ample beef.
During Game 4—by this point, Boston had built a strong 3-0 lead—Celtics guard Terry Rozier, who filled in during the playoffs for the injured Kyrie Irving, got called for an offensive foul. Embiid tried to quickly take the ball, but Rozier was having none of it. Then the two exchanged words and shoves.
After the game, Embiid roasted Rozier: “He tried to punch me twice. Too bad he’s so short that he couldn’t get to my face.”
The feud carried into this season. During a recent interview, Rozier was asked what he thought of Embiid. He described the Cameroonian big man as “lame.” Later that week, the 76ers bested the Celtics, and Embiid consequently posted the perfect IG trolling Rozier.
JoJo continues to wear the NBA social media crown.
7. Klay Thompson says Cavs were ‘bums’ and ‘idiots’ for Halloween cookies.
The Cavs and Warriors met four times in the NBA Finals—thank goodness we’ll finally get a fresh matchup this year—and Cleveland only claimed one of those four showdowns. It also took the most miraculous of circumstances (a 3-1 comeback, a chucked mouthguard, a groin punch, and the craziest chase-down block in NBA history) for the Cavs to pull it off. But that didn’t stop them from celebrating the epic chip—in the pettiest of ways.
When LeBron had a party the following Halloween, there were numerous decorations calling attention to the Warriors’ collapse.
There were even cookies with the Warriors stars’ names on tombstones.
About two years later—after the Warriors had topped the Cavs not once but twice more in the Finals—Klay Thompson got a kick out of recalling those cookies.
“Oh, yeah. Ha!” Klay said when he was reminded of the party. “That was funny. Look how that turned out. Psssh. Bums. That was crazy. I forgot about that. Well, look at what pettiness gets you. Gets you 1-8 in the Finals. Idiots.”
The Lakers have long been rumored to be interested in signing Thompson this summer (his father played for the Showtime Lakers), but LeBron’s cookie stunt likely won’t help matters.
6. Draymond Green roasts Rudy Gobert for crying over All-Star snub.
Rudy Gobert just can’t catch a break when it comes to All-Star weekend, man. The Stifle Tower has been arguably the league’s best defensive player for a few years now, and he’s an absolute force at the rim, but the 7’1” Jazz center still has not made a single All-Star Game. As he discussed yet another snub with the media, Gobert got emotional and even shed some tears.
Rudy grew increasingly emotional speaking with the media about his All-Star snub. Said his mom called him crying. Said he wrote and deleted several messages on social media. Finally, he grew too emotional to speak, and walked off, wiping away tears. pic.twitter.com/UkFX2nUrt8
— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) February 1, 2019
That excessive emotion provoked the laughs of his peers. Most notably, Draymond Green clowned him.
I guess I should cry too... no Charlotte? 😢😢😢
— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) February 1, 2019
Isaiah Thomas was among the others who got in on the fun.
Come on fam you are too big to be crying like that...
— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) February 1, 2019
Still, some thought it was fair to question why other players—like Karl-Anthony Towns—made the game ahead of Gobert, who is averaging 15.6 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game for the Jazz. You’ll get there one day, big fella. Just keep playing that D. Rudy, Rudy!
5. Ben Simmons says 2018 ROTY race ‘wasn’t a fucking race’.
4. Pacers fans troll Brandon Ingram with chants of ‘LeBron’s gonna trade you’.
The Lakers really wanted Kawhi Leonard. Then they really wanted Paul George. Then at the trade deadline, Anthony Davis.
None of those guys ended up in purple and gold.. (Hey, Lakers fans, you got LeBron James. No complaining.) But rumors about potential deals for these stars abounded, and many such rumors involved current Lakers heading elsewhere. That meant LA’s young core—guys like Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram—were popping up in trade rumors every day.
During the height of the Davis-to-the-Lakers pandemonium in February, the Lakers played at Indiana. It was a rough game for LA. For one, the Lake Show was blown out, falling 136-94. Second, Ingram got roasted early in the game, hearing taunts of “LeBron’s gonna trade you” when he stepped to the line in the first quarter. Brutal.
This, of course, was a reference to the idea that LeBron—not general manager Rob Pelinka or owner Jeanie Buss or president of basketball operations Magic Johnson—had all the power in the Lakers front office and was pulling the strings to get his friend Davis to LA.
3. Pelicans edit Anthony Davis out of intro video.
Anthony Davis has long been the Pelicans’ centerpiece for the present and future, one of the most dominant bigs in the modern NBA, and one of the most sought-after commodities in the league. But Davis has also obviously lost interest in sticking around New Orleans, and he made a trade demand weeks before February’s trade deadline. It was clear at that point that he was totally checked out. He even left the arena during a game (after suffering an injury), infuriating ownership. He did not want to be around the squad and was desperate to land in a new location.
The franchise was less than thrilled with his behavior during this holdout. Just two days after his trade demand surfaced, the Pelicans even edited him out of their intro video, in which he had been the clear focal point previously.
New Orleans also took him out of its Twitter account header, replacing him with Jrue Holiday.
After he wasn’t ultimately traded, Davis returned to New Orleans, but his days in the Big Easy still appear numbered. #HollywoodSummer19
2. Kings troll Steph Curry with moon landing video.
Steph Curry comes off as a reasonable person—exceptional athlete, family man, a genuine good dude. But that reputation took a hit this season when he expressed his belief that the moon landing never happened. That’s right: Steph channeled his inner Kyrie Irving.
The Warriors guard’s moon landing theory came to light after he and teammate Andre Iguodala appeared on the podcast Winging It, which is hosted by veteran Hawks Vince Carter and Kent Bazemore. At one point, Steph posed a question to the crew: “We ever been to the moon?” Two players answered, “No,” then Steph added: “They gonna come get us because I don’t think so, either.”
Later that week, during Warriors pregame introductions, the Kings played footage of the moon landing—something that definitely happened! Perfect troll from Sacramento.
Curry later walked back his comments and said, “Obviously I was joking.” Sure, buddy (wink).