Wob: The Greatest Practice Dust-Ups in NBA History
USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Michael Jordan, Jimmy Butler and Kobe Bryant
- Jimmy Butler's recent incident at Timberwolves practice got me thinking: What are the most notorious NBA practices of all time?
- From Kobe Bryant ruining Smoosh Parker's soul to Michael Jordan decking Steve Kerr, here's my definitive list.
We all know what’s going on with the Minnesota Timberwolves right now. Jimmy Butler showed up to practice after weeks of trying to force a trade, grabbed three towel boys + the mascot and took the entire first unit to the woodshed during a practice scrimmage.
He emasculated the starters. He taunted Karl-Anthony Towns, the franchise’s cornerstone star and prize possession. He told them “YOU CAN’T WIN WITHOUT ME.”
He then called a players only meeting the next day, but … apparently the players weren’t invited?
This is how I imagine it went down:
- Teague: “there was no team meeting.”
- Jimmy: “yes there was.”
- Teague: “all of us except you were standing right here.”
- Jimmy: “i am the team.”
What actually happened and who is telling the truth is a conversation for another day; all that needs to be said is the stunt Butler pulled off this week is a pantheon NBA practice story.
It had me thinking: what are the most notorious NBA practices of all time? I asked for help, and almost 500 of you responded:
Here are the best answers I got:
Dream Team Monte Carlo
Before the 1992 Olympics began, the United States basketball team traveled to Monte Carlo to train together. What transpired is the most notorious practice scrimmage of all time, a run that Michael Jordan calls “the best game he ever played in.”
Imagine being Christian Laettner, fresh out of college, stuck in between the crossfire of the best basketball players on Earth playing as hard as they ever have just to prove a point.
Knowing who was involved — Jordan, Magic, Bird, Barkley, Ewing and more — there had to be money wagered on this, right? And there was definitely more than one comma. We need to know.
Dwight Howard impersonating Stan Van Gundy
Rumors are swirling that the relationship between Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy and star center Dwight Howard have completely deteriorated.
Howard allegedly wants out or for Van Gundy to be fired. So guess what happens next? A press conference asking Van Gundy what’s up. Guess who shows up RIGHT when he’s asked the question…
The Portland Jail Blazers Brawl
“[Ruben] Patterson often targeted and taunted Randolph, with their bad blood culminating during a 2003 practice: Randolph noticed teammate Qyntel Woods arguing with Patterson and came to Woods’s defense, sucker-punching Patterson. (Remembers [Damon] Stoudamire, “I didn’t see what had happened because I had got the steal, so I was going the other way. Then all I heard was, ‘Come on, Zach.’ I turned back around and it was chaos.”) After Patterson suffered a fractured eye socket, [John] Canzano later recalled that “there was a period of a few days after that incident where Randolph hid out at Dale Davis’s house because he feared that Patterson was going to try and shoot him.”
Gilbert Arenas vs. Javaris Crittenton Wild Wild West duel
We brought you the full story from the mouth of Gilbert himself, detailing the game of Bourré that went wrong on the Washington Wizards plane. Like, WAY wrong, spills over to the next day at practice wrong. In the locker room, it goes down:
At practice two days later (after an off-day), Arenas brought four unloaded guns into the Wizards’ locker room and laid them out on a table. The guns included a Smith & Wesson Model 29 — “The Dirty Harry gun” — and a gold-plated Desert Eagle, the same gun used by Nicolas Cage in the movie “Face/Off.”
“It was about me calling his bluff,” Arenas said. “You say you’re going to shoot me? Fine, I’ll bring you the guns to do it.”
“Hey, MF, come pick one,” Gilbert told Javaris while pointing to the weapons. “I’m going to shoot your [expletive] with one of these.”
“Oh no, you don’t need to shoot me with one of those,” said Javaris, turning around slowly like a gunslinger in the Old West. “I’ve got one right here.”
He pulled out his own gun, already loaded, cocked it and pointed it at Gilbert.
Just a few days later, Arenas jokingly lets finger guns fly during pregame player introductions and gets suspended indefinitely by David Stern.
Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin go for Alonzo Mourning’s neck … er, kidney.
“After a draining practice session, Alonzo Mourning and half of the Nets team, mostly second-unit players, were making their way through the final strides of a set of suicide drills, punishment for losing a contest to the rest of the team Thursday at the Champion Center, the team’s practice facility. As Mourning trudged to the finish behind his teammates, already unhappy, he heard laughter from the players who were watching. Mourning snapped in reaction to the frustration of the drills, the team’s troubles on the court and the cavalier attitude he has perceived during the Nets’ 5-6 start this season. Mourning stalked over to where the players were laughing and, in a profanity-laden diatribe, shouted in part: “This ain’t funny. This is about winning.’’
The Nets ended up going 47-35 and losing in the second round of the playoffs.
Kobe telling Smush Parker he was the worst and to never talk to him again
Poor Smush Parker. He, like so many victims before him, just wanted to befriend Kobe Bryant. That’s not how Kobe rolls, as we all know by now. On an episode of Highly Questionable, Parker revealed the famous story:
He told me one day at practice — I tried to talk to him outside of basketball about football. And he looked at me in practice and was dead serious and said, ‘You can’t talk to me. You need more accolades under your belt before you come talk to me.’
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Kobe doubled-down to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times — saying:
“Smush Parker was the worst … He shouldn’t have been in the NBA, but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard. We let him walk on.”
Latrell Spreewell strangles PJ Carlesimo
December, 1997. Carlesimo is head coach of the Golden State Warriors, and has a firm closed-door policy at his practices.
As transcribed by Katie Dowd of the San Francisco Chronicle, Carlesimo showed up to a press conference one day following a practice with “long scratches” on his neck.
Reporters jokingly asked if he had cut himself shaving. Even though Carlesimo didn’t comment on it at the time, the world soon found out what had transpired. Carlesimo told Sprewell to “put a little mustard on that pass” and all hell broke loose.
How did “put a little mustard on that pass” never become a bar? Anyway, I don’t condone Sprewell’s violence, but I do condone violence against mustard.
Two days after the incident, the Warriors voided Sprewell’s three-year, $23.7 million contract, and he was suspended by the league for a full season.
Steve Kerr trades punches with Michael Jordan
At some point, Jordan’s ruthlessness and pure dominance was going to push one of his teammates over the edge.
That day came in the fall of 1995, when Steve Kerr spoke with ESPN’s James Herbert about an altercation between Jordan and him that went down at Bulls practice:
“The two guards were matched up in a scrimmage. It was intense. Jordan had heard the critics after the Bulls’ playoff loss to the Orlando Magic and intended to silence them …The postseason defeat to the Magic in the conference semifinals, his first series loss since 1990, had some suggesting his best years were behind him. At 32 years old, Jordan was hell-bent on proving otherwise. It was palpable in every drill, every time down the floor. He and Kerr talked trash on a couple of possessions, and then it escalated.
“I took exception to something he said,” Kerr says. “So I was talking back and I don’t think Michael appreciated that … and we got in the lane and he gave me a forearm shiver to the chest and I pushed him back. And next thing you know, our teammates were pulling him off of me.
The 6-foot-3, 175-pound Kerr wound up with a black eye. He threw some punches before it was broken up, too.
“I knew that if we were in an actual fight he could actually probably kill me if he wanted to,” Kerr says. “It was more just I’m going to stand up for myself.”
Allen Iverson is talkin’ about practice
People forget why Iverson was so upset that day. We always see the clip of him complaining about practice. What made him act out emotionally wasn’t the annoyance of being interrogated about practice, but the sudden passing of his close friend:
“I’m upset for one reason: ‘Cause I’m in here. I lost. I lost my best friend. I lost him, and I lost this year. Everything is just going downhill for me, as far as just that. You know, as far as my life. And then I’m dealing with this. … My best friend is dead. Dead. And we lost. And this is what I have to go through for the rest of the summer until the season is all over again.”
Damn. Let’s lighten the mood really quickly…
Larry Brown catches Allen Iverson eating Taco Bell in the bathroom
If there was one thing Iverson loved more than skipping practice, it was skipping practice to eat Taco Bell.
Eric Neel of ESPN’s Page 2 spoke elaborated on head coach Larry Brown having to chase him down sometimes like an episode of Tom & Jerry.
“I don’t know if that’s what it is, or what, but it’s ridiculous that he doesn’t practice. It’s not that he doesn’t practice at all, it’s that he’s not committed to practice. He’ll get there late, when Brown’s not looking he’ll duck out the side door and eat Taco Bell tacos and then duck back in. It’s like a 12-year-old rebellious kid.”
You can’t blame Iverson: There is not a day on the calendar where Taco Bell is not delicious.
Kobe vs. Shaq fight
Michael Jordan two-pieces Will Perdue and makes Phil Jackson install a curtain at practice facility
Horace Grant tells the entire story to HOT 97 in 2015:
“I mean, I hate to tell the story, but Will and I are still good friends […] Typical Phil, running this play, and Will set an illegal pick on M.J. M.J. said, ’Will, don’t do it again.’ ‘What are you talking about?’ That’s Will. M.J. says, ‘All right.’ Phil says, ‘Run it again.’
“So naturally, we ran it two more times. Illegal pick. M.J. walks up to Will — boom. Lit him up. It was over.
“We grabbed Will — you’re not going to hurt M.J. M.J. can take care of himself, but, you know … So, the next day on the plane, Will gets on the plane with a huge shiner.”
Here’s an excerpt from Sam Smith’s “Jordan Rules”, the bible for all things Jordan-era Bulls:
Perdue was in his third season and was waiting patiently. He’d rarely played in his first season; [then-coach Doug] Collins and [general manager Jerry] Krause feuded over his use and he became a pawn in their battle for control. Jackson had used Perdue more, but thought he was too weak defensively to play for extended periods of time. And it didn’t help that Jordan had once felt inclined to punch him around in a practice.
It was during the 1989-90 season. Perdue was setting a screen, which usually resembled a seven-foot piece of spaghetti, but this time he dug in. Jordan came by, expecting Perdue to give way as usual, when Bang! Jordan slammed into Perdue and stopped, almost sliding down to the floor like some life-size cartoon character. Jordan stopped, looked hard at Perdue, and swung. One! Two! Right to the side of the head. Perdue’s knees wobbled, but he remained upright.
“Why the hell don’t you ever set a pick like that in a game?” Jordan screamed.
Everyone stopped, and since this was early in practice no one was watching from outside the glass-enclosed gym in the Multiplex. The incident would lead to Jackson’s demand that the team install a curtain so practice could be private. Explanation: The players need to concentrate. Reality: We can’t have people seeing this stuff.
Wait what happened after Perdue caught it? They kept playing like nothing happened? Just another day at Bulls practice with M.J., I suppose…
Bobby Portis sends Nikola Mirotic to the hospital
Andrew Bynum launched 3-pointers whenever he touched the ball regardless of where he was
“Only Bynum never made it to the early January guarantee date for his full $12.5 million salary in 2013-14, and self-destructed. He stopped trying on the floor, and became a disruptive presence in practices. Before Bynum was thrown out of his final practice and suspended, he was shooting the ball every time he touched it in a practice scrimmage, sources said – from whatever remote part of the court he had caught the ball.”
So pretty much the Carlton Banks Fresh Prince of Bel Air GIF, but in real life. For three straight hours. What I would pay to have been a fly on the wall …
JR Smith throws soup at Damon Jones
Did the severity of the suspension depend on what soup it was? If you throw minestrone you should absolutely receive twice the punishment you get for chicken tortilla.
Pat Riley goes full Vince McMahon, Part 1
During training camp of his rookie Knicks season, as a camp invite only, Anthony Mason chased Xavier McDaniel around the gym with haymakers. Pat Riley reportedly didn’t want it broken up, but Patrick Ewing and the players intervened and the fight was deemed a “tie.”
The best part about this is the Knicks had JUST traded Jerrod Mustaf, Trent Tucker and second-round draft choices in 1992 and 1994 for McDaniel. Now he’s running for his life from Mason.
Pat Riley goes full Vince McMahon, Part 2
As detailed by Shaq in his memoir, “Shaq, Uncut: My Story”, a 63-year-old Riley steps up on O’Neal at Miami Heat practice. Shaq throws Udonis Haslem and Mourning out of the way like ‘rag dolls’, and the Big Aristotle and Riley nearly come to blows.
My ticket out of Miami was punched in mid-February 2008. There was a lot of tension between Pat and the players. So we’re about to start practice and Jason Williams comes in about 10 seconds late. Pat being Pat, he starts swearing at him and screaming, “Get the hell out of here!”…
I tell Pat we’re a team and we need to stick together, not throw guys out of the gym. Pat is screaming at me and says if I don’t like it, then I should get the hell out of practice, too.
That’s when I said, “Why don’t you make me?”
I start taking a couple of steps towards Pat. Udonis Haslem steps in and I shove him out of the way. Then Zo tries to grab me. I threw him aside like he was a rag doll. Now it’s me and Riley face-to-face, jaw to jaw. I’m poking him in the chest and he keeps slapping my finger away and it’s getting nasty. Noisy, too. He’s yelling “F**k you!” and I’m yelling back, “No, f**k you!”
Zo is trying to calm us both down and he has this kind of singsong panic in his voice. He keeps saying, “Big fella, no big fella, big fella!” I finally turn around and tell him, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to hit the man. Do you think I’m crazy?”
Vernon Maxwell vs. Gary Payton HELL IN A CELL!!!!
Had to save the funniest one for last.
Maxwell, for you kids out there who don’t know, once had his own Malice at the Palace type of event all by himself. He walked straight into the Portland crowd, duffed some fan, and went back to the bench like nothing happened.
Gary Payton, aka “The Glove,” is known for his intense brand of defense, which many of his opponents deemed “dirty.” Being the best trash-talker of all time, Payton is one of, if not the most disliked players by his peers in basketball history.
He was all up in your shit and could probably make the pope curse if you gave him enough time.
While playing together for the Seattle Supersonics, Maxwell and Payton dropped the proverbial gloves and WENT LOOKING FOR WEAPONS AROUND THE GYM!!!!
“The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Tuesday that the scene became so intense in the locker room after Sunday’s practice that Payton picked up a chair and Maxwell went to find a free weight, presumably to use as a weapon. Both men had to be restrained again and were escorted from the locker room separately.”
Maxwell was going to throw a free weight at Payton, while The Glove chased him around with a chair.
This is something you’d expect to see at a WWE pay-per-view, not an NBA locker room.
If only we had Twitter in the ’90s …