Revenge Street: Ranking the NBA’s Most Important Types of Feuds

Feb 11, 2019 12:01 PM EST

Photo credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kyrie Irving and LeBron James

  • After watching Blake Griffin torch the Clippers and DeMar DeRozan go at the Raptors, we've realized one thing: Revenge is a big deal in the NBA.
  • On that note, Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) and Justin Phan are here to rank the various revenge narratives in the league.

Revenge is a human quality that even the purest of souls can have difficulty disregarding.

Its roots stem from both love and hatred: the lust for inflicting harm on someone or something in response to an injustice suffered at their hands. You don’t seek revenge unless an item you loved, tangible or not, was taken away. Reasons for seeking revenge can vary, but its emergence is often provoked by sentiments of justice and vengeance.

In the NBA, revenge is a nightly theme.

Sometimes regular-season games mean more than others, and this particular conversation has nothing to do with playoff or championship implications.

Sometimes, it’s personal.

Just a couple weeks ago, we saw Blake Griffin stiff Steve Ballmer and play his best game in years vs. the Clippers, in addition to Jimmy Butler dragging the Timberwolves around like Achilles did to Prince Hector’s corpse after slaying him outside the walls of Troy.

Whether it’s Player vs. Player, Player vs. Coach, Player vs. Team, Player vs. City, or Player vs. Executive … there are multiple instances of basketball revenge to analyze. The characters involved just always seem to play better when retribution is obtainable.

Let us ask and answer the following questions:

  • What are the examples of NBA revenge?
  • Who was involved?
  • What are the circumstances of them?
  • What is the most powerful form?
  • Do the analytics of revenge prove it enhances one’s basketball talent?

To do so, I’ve enlisted the help of fellow NBA analyst Justin Phan to provide the data behind the revenge narratives. Let’s dive in.

“You Cheated on Me” Transactional Revenge

CIRCUMSTANCES: Have you ever dated or been in a relationship with someone who drops the “Hey, I’m not feeling well, can we reschedule?” on you?

You take them for their word because that’s what any normal person would do, but when you wake up in the morning, the first thing you see on your Instagram feed is a video of them dancing on tables in the club.

Chances are nothing is ever the same and the relationship crumbles from there. But sometimes breaking up is not the end; sometimes you run into this same individual at an event in the future, and regardless of how many times you accept their apology and agree to be friends — you still want revenge.

Lies, truth manipulation and deception are all just ingredients of the recipe — combine them all in appropriate proportions and you will ultimately produce the finished product: betrayal.

Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Blake Griffin

EXAMPLE: Blake Griffin vs. Clippers

THE DATA: Blake Griffin has faced the Clippers twice since being traded to the Pistons and has averaged 55.0 DraftKings points, resulting in a FantasyLabs’ +9.1 Plus/Minus — the highest mark against any team he’s faced since the 2014-15 season.

That sample is buoyed by a massive 44-8-5-3-1 line earlier this month in Los Angeles that was preceded by Griffin clearly snubbing Ballmer, even though he later denied it.

It wasn’t just the sheer counting stats that were impressive, but it was the precision with which Griffin picked the Clippers defense apart. To post a 33.7% usage rate is one thing, but to finish with a 67.4 effective field goal percentage takes this revenge game to a whole other level.

What we learned here is that it’s important to look for signs that the player isn’t over the relationship quite yet, whether it’s as explicit as a handshake snub or as subtle as liking a tweet in which a fan throws shade at the other party involved. Returning to the scene of the betrayal adds even more fuel to the fire.


“We Meet Again” Revenge