NBA playoffs: The 8 best feuds, taunts, and trolls so far
Forget the sweeping narrative of the battle for the championship. The real drama is in these personal spats.
1. Tim Duncan stops being boring, starts being silly
The Spurs' Tim Duncan is a two-time league MVP and four-time NBA champion who has a shot at winning No. 5 this year. The Lakers' Dwight Howard has never won a title and is on a dysfunctional team that just got swept by Duncan's Spurs. This gif from SB Nation is all you need to know about how that series went:
2. Kobe Bryant trolls his own team
Speaking of the Lakers' woes, things got so bad for the team that Kobe Bryant, sidelined with an Achilles injury, live-tweeted a critique of their play during the team's Game 1 loss to the Spurs. A sampling:
3. Marco Belinelli and the "Big Balls Dance"
Chicago Bulls guard Marco Belinelli broke out an old taunt in his team's decisive Game 7 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. After knocking down a three-pointer to put the Bulls up by 10 points with minutes remaining, Belinelli backpedaled down court while cupping his hands below his waist as if to pantomime enormous genitalia.
Former guard Sam Cassell is credited with popularizing the move — called the "Big Balls Dance" — which has become a go-to celebration for players after they've hit high-pressure shots.
The Bulls went on to win the game, but the NBA fined Belinelli $15,000 for "making an obscene gesture."
4. Patrick Beverley gets a taste of his own medicine
Oklahoma City fans will forever remember Houston's Patrick Beverley as the guy whose arguably cheap shot knocked their All-Star guard, Russell Westbrook, out of the playoffs with a torn meniscus in his knee. In Game 1 of their first round series, Beverley made a lunging steal attempt as Westbrook called timeout, colliding with him in the process and causing the freak injury.
In the very next game, the Thunder's Reggie Jackson returned the favor (but this time, without causing an injury) as Beverley attempted to call time.
Beverley wasn't amused, and earned a technical foul for the late shove.
5. Knicks wear black to Celtics "funeral"
Like any New York-Boston rivalry, the Knicks and Celtics have a mutual, deep-rooted animosity toward each other. And for most of the past decade, the Celtics have gotten the last laugh — until this year, the Knicks hadn't won a single playoff series in 13 seasons.
So with the Knicks poised to eliminate the Celtics — and potentially bring an end to the Celtics' championship era core of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett — some Knicks players wore all black before Game 5, saying it was appropriate since they were going to bury the Celtics.
Embarrassingly, the Knicks lost the "funeral" game... though they came back to win the series in Game 6.
6. "Whoop that Clip"
Sometimes, it's not just the players who taunt each other. Fans get in on the action, too.
That was the case in Memphis, where Grizzlies fans struck up a chant of "whoop that Clip" during the team's series-clinching win against the Los Angeles Clippers. The entire series had been marked by intense physical play, and earlier in the game, the Grizzlies' Zach Randolph and the Clippers' Blake Griffin fell to the court and got into a tangled shoving match.
7. The Celtics, Knicks, and Honey Nut Cheerios
Pretty much everything about the Celtics and Knicks' first round series could count as a form of trash talk, but this is the biggest — and strangest — example.
Back in January, Celtics forward Kevin Garnett allegedly told the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony that his estranged wife, LaLa Vazquez, tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios. That prompted an on-court altercation, and ended with Anthony lingering outside the Celtics' team bus after the game before being shooed away by security.
Fast forward to the playoffs, where, after the Celtics staved off elimination in Game 5, Celtics reserve guard Jordan Crawford confronted Anthony and apparently resurrected the old beef with a profane message. (You can read about it here. But beware: This is NSFW.) After the game, Anthony downplayed the incident, saying "I don't even think [Crawford] deserves for you to be typing right now."
Crawford, for his part, denied that he was even involved in that confrontation.
"Not me. You'd better go talk to someone who was there," he said.
Vazquez herself eventually weighed in on the incident on Instagram.
"Try again," she wrote, referencing Crawford. "You on the bench for a reason."
8. J.R. Smith being J.R. Smith
Knicks guard J.R. Smith, a notorious hothead, decked the Celtics' Jason Terry with a vicious elbow in Game 3, earning an immediate ejection and a one-game suspension. But again, this being the Knicks and Celtics, the incident didn't end there.
From Sports Illustrated:
Smith also claimed that he didn't know who Jason Terry was after earning a one-game suspension for Game 4 after elbowing the Celtics guard during Game 3.
"I'm a 14-year veteran," Terry said in a postgame interview Wednesday, after scoring 17 points off the bench. "If you don’t know who I am, you will after the series is over." [Sports Illustrated]
Smith, when asked if he'd learned anything from his suspension, added one last quip.
"Yeah," he said. "Don't throw elbows."