Ranking the NBA's pettiest players
The game of basketball celebrates the act of trash-talking as much as any sport in the world. The back-and-forth nature of play as well as the physicality are partially to blame, but sometimes the players just enjoy being petty.
With the proliferation of Twitter and the NBA’s popularity on that platform, #PettyWarz has become a fantastic way to track the league's top grudge matches and personal feuds. Let’s take a look at the starting lineup for the NBA’s All-Petty Team.
5. Kyrie Irving
Few players have had more public breakups than Kyrie Irving, who famously burned bridges with the Cavaliers and Celtics. The polarizing guard helped LeBron James bring a championship to Cleveland, but then demanded to be traded after not getting the level of recognition he felt he deserved. James and Irving both made some very emotional comments, and Irving unfollowed James on Twitter and Instagram. The six-time All-Star guard has also made numerous comments over the years that indicate he closely watches all of his exes.
4. Joel Embiid
Embiid lives to be the villain. He’s traded verbal barbs on the court, but it’s online after the games that he really loves to make a splash. In various exchanges with Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Russell Westbrook, Embiid has tried to get under his opponents’ skin with clever hashtags. The most famous incident came following a victory against the Thunder, when he posted a picture of himself dunking over Russell Westbrook and wrote "Crime Scene Investigation" beneath the image.
3. Kevin Durant
The top three players on this list could all fill in as the captain of our All-Petty Team, but for now we’ll check-in with Kevin Durant at No. 3. Durant is an active Twitter participant, commenting on posts from other players, retweeting inflammatory comments from fans, and most notably, creating "burner" accounts from which he has been caught engaging in dialogue about himself.
Durant has gotten into it over dozens of other petty things that shouldn’t really matter to a player of his stature, and has been called out by former teammate Draymond Green for being jealous and hypersensitive.
2. Chris Paul
Chris Paul is absolutely a gamer, but he conducts himself on the court like the cagey fill-in at your local rec league that ends up annoying everybody.
One of his most successful #PettyWarz efforts came in 2019, when the Oklahoma City Thunder were losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Wolves forward Jordan Bell checked in with an untucked jersey. Paul pointed it out, eliciting a delay of game technical infraction that gave the Thunder the opportunity to tie and eventually win the game. An NBA game being swung by Paul calling out an untucked jersey is pettiness at its finest.
1. Russell Westbrook
Durant does things with the bitterness of a teenager trying to redeem his image, and Paul does them with the cagey-ness of a hyper-competitive veteran, but there is no player in the league more petty than Rockets guard Russell Westbrook. The former MVP takes everything personally, and has clashed often during his career with anyone who crosses his path.
Westbrook’s favorite target has been former Thunder teammate Kevin Durant, whom he attacked on social media repeatedly following Durant’s departure from OKC. Alleging KD was "as soft as a cupcake" in numerous posts, Westbrook did little to hide his bitterness. On the court, Westbrook is also famous for his "me against the world" personality. The 31-year-old point guard is no longer the best player in the league, or the most successful, but he’s definitely the pettiest.