5 pairs of NBA players with beef who became teammates in modern era
In a competitive atmosphere like the NBA, beefs are quite common between players. With players always wanting to win, there are some moments when tempers flare up and heated altercations ensue. A beef between both players always adds some drama whenever they come face-to-face on the court.
However, in an era featuring so much player movement, there are also times when players beefing with one another find themselves playing together. Although this isn’t ideal, some players are willing to squash their beef in order to focus on winning a championship.
For this piece, let’s take a look at five pairs of NBA players with beef who became teammates in the modern era.
Kobe Bryant & Ron Artest
In a neck-and-neck series between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers during the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals, Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest were going head-to-head against one another. In Game 2, things got heated between these two stars. With both Bryant and Artest trying to grab the rebound, Artest felt the receiving end of the former’s elbow. As a result, Artest tried to engage Bryant in a verbal altercation, which got the Rockets forward ejected.
Ron Artest confronts Kobe about a dirty elbow in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, next season they were teammates. pic.twitter.com/yAEygxduOR
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) February 14, 2019
As we all know, Bryant and the Lakers would go on to win the championship that year. But after that season, Artest soon surprisingly joined the Purple and Gold. Despite not wanting to team up with superstars, especially Bryant, Artest had no choice simply because only the Lakers offered him a contract.
Although it was an awkward team-up after a heated playoff duel, Bryant and Artest would make it work. The Lakers went on to win their second straight championship by beating their 2008 NBA Finals tormentors, the Boston Celtics. Coincidentally, the teamwork of Bryant and Artest executed the deciding play of the series, with Bryant assisting Artest for a dagger 3-pointer.
With this unexpected team-up, Bryant won his fifth championship. On the other hand, Artest won his first and only championship of his career. Artest also provided one of the most memorable championship postgame conferences in history.
Ron Artest's clutch 3 over Paul Pierce in GM7. pic.twitter.com/9OktzyoMwk
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) June 17, 2019
Kevin Durant & DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins has a reputation for his emotional outbursts on the court. Back when Cousins was still with the New Orleans Pelicans, opposing players like KD were willing to take advantage of it. With the Pelicans down eight with over a minute remaining in a regular-season game, Cousins and KD engaged in a shoving match reinforced with a heated conversation. Thus, both were eventually ejected from the game.
Both Cousins and Durant are ejected 😬 pic.twitter.com/spHpEHcr5l
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) December 5, 2017
However, the scuffle didn’t end there. Cousins reportedly looked for KD in the locker room. Because of this, security guards had to restrain the All-Star center. Thankfully, the situation didn’t escalate into anything serious.
— warriorsworld (@warriorsworld) December 8, 2017
Fast forward to the opening of the 2018-2019 season, and Cousins would find himself on Golden State. As we all know, KD and the Warriors were on a quest of achieving a three-peat. The two All-Stars publicly expressed they squashed their beef by “wrestling” each other on the way to the court.
Unfortunately, not all squashed beefs turn into championship rings. Although the Warriors made it to the Finals, injuries hampered their three-peat hopes. KD suffered a torn Achilles that would sideline him for the rest of the series and the next season. Aside from this, sharpshooting teammate Klay Thompson succumbed to a torn ACL. With injuries hurting the team and the Toronto Raptors playing great basketball, the Warriors ultimately conceded in six games.
LeBron James & Lance Stephenson
One of the most entertaining playoff matchups in the past decade was the duel between LeBron James and Lance Stephenson, whose antics fueled this rivalry.
Ever since their series back in 2012, when James was still with the Miami Heat, Stephenson would come up with various ways to frustrate him. However, the peak of Lance’s antics came in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals when he blew in LeBron’s ear. Despite these antics, James and his teams beat the Indiana Pacers three straight years in the playoffs.
Facts only, LeBron vs Lance is the greatest rivalry of our time. pic.twitter.com/AklRrhkGH1
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) April 15, 2018
The two, however, would eventually find themselves playing for the same team during the 2018-19 season on the Lakers.
However, this team-up didn’t bring a whole lot of success. The Lakers suffered a number of injury setbacks, including a groin injury to LeBron. Because of this, the team missed the playoffs by finishing as the 10th seed in the West. This also marked the first time since 2006 that James didn’t appear in the postseason and broke his Finals streak.
Unfortunately, after one season, the team-up was done. After that season, LeBron stayed with the Lakers and won an NBA championship after a major roster revamp that featured Anthony Davis joining the Lakers. On the other hand, Stephenson took his talents to China.
Joel Embiid & Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond recently signed with the Philadelphia 76ers on a one-year deal to replace Dwight Howard as the backup center. Drummond has some notable history butting heads against Sixers star Joel Embiid.
The two All-Star centers engaged in a feud that started back in 2017. Embiid was explicit about the game of Drummond when asked by a reporter before their matchup. To further intensify the flames, Embiid waived goodbye to Drummond after the latter fouled out of the game.
Andre Drummond fouls out…
Joel Embiid waves goodbye 😂 pic.twitter.com/UxWVtPbvW4
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) December 3, 2017
However, the beef didn’t end there. Embiid and Drummond squared off again the following season. The Sixers star would have a better showing, with Embiid dropping 39 points and 17 rebounds. Drummond only produced a measly eight points. After the game, Embiid continued his antics on Twitter.
— Joel “Troel” Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) November 3, 2018
Embiid obviously reigns superior in their matchups. According to NBC Sports, whenever the two lock horns, the Sixers star averages 27.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.6 blocks per outing. On the other hand, Drummond produces 15.4 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game.
However, given that they are now teammates, it will be interesting to see if Drummond is the missing piece to the Sixers’ hunt for an NBA championship. The beef is supposedly over, at least for now.
LeBron James & Trevor Ariza
Although this was a quiet rivalry, LeBron James and Trevor Ariza had beef with one another during their high school days. With LeBron being dubbed as a top basketball prospect in high school, Ariza publicly declared to reporters he could defeat him. To further intensify the feud, Ariza’s uncle chipped in and sided with his nephew.
According to Essentially Sports, Ariza’s uncle said “I don’t know why LeBron James gets all the publicity. My nephew, Trevor Ariza is better than he is.”
In their matchup, James flat-out dominated. He finished with 52 points in the game and led his team to a 78-52 victory, matching the opposing team’s output. Ariza, on the other hand, only finished with 12 points. Thus, LeBron earned the respect of his rival.
Now, LBJ and Ariza are seasoned NBA champions. But more importantly, they are now teammates. Just recently, Ariza was one of the former Lakers who returned to the Purple and Gold. As a result, he teams up with his high school rival with the hopes of giving the Lakers another NBA championship in 2021.