Sports is a high-octane profession. When your only job is to win, emotions and adrenaline run high. This can bring teammates together, since they need each other to succeed and are the only people in the world who can understand the pressure. They live in each other’s pockets during the season, traveling together, seeing each other at endless practices, and of course playing together. This can result in friendships that last a lifetime.
But sometimes the opposite can happen. If two people don’t gel, all that stress can result in some seriously epic feuds. Being around your enemy all the time becomes fuel on a fire. They have to work with someone they hate because it’s their job, even when they can’t stand the sight of their stupid face. Soon you have people refusing to speak, openly insulting each other, and sometimes even coming to blows. Here are some of the biggest enemies in sports history.
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant used the media
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were open about their dislike for one another. According to Lakers Nation, it all started in 1998 when Shaq started getting jealous of how well Kobe’s jersey was selling. This was enough to ignite a years-long feud where they openly insulted each other in the press, enough that their head coach called them both juvenile.
Shaq started it by accusing Kobe of playing selfish basketball. Bleacher Report says then Kobe went to a sportscaster and flat out said Shaq was fat and lazy and wasn’t a good leader. During one practice it got so bad they both had to be sent home.
Then there was the time it almost came to blows. Business Insider reports that Shaq had given an interview where he insulted Kobe’s play, his role on the team, and his contract status. In response Kobe went to ESPN and said Shaq was "childlike" and that he was just jealous. After that Kobe said he knew they would have to fight, and he came to practice prepared for it. (Considering he was so much smaller than Shaq, he also knew he’d get destroyed but still thought it would be worth it.) Shaq, in turn, threatened to "murder" Kobe. They had to be pulled apart by their assistant coach.
Eventually the feud cooled. They even did a joint interview addressing it in 2018 and seemed fine with each other. Time truly does heal all wounds. That or millions of dollars.
Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent came to blows
The animosity between San Francisco Giants teammates Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent was the worst-kept secret in baseball. Even more than a decade later, Kent told the San Francisco Chronicle, "We weren’t friends off the field. I’ve never really spent any effort trying to evaluate our relationship or care about it. It is what it was. It didn’t matter to me." He continued, "Why do we have to be friends? … We relied on each other on the field to win. That’s all that matters: win." And sure, winning is the main thing when it comes to sports, but it’s probably nice to not actively hate someone you have to do that winning with.
It’s not unheard of to have fights during a baseball game. Of course, they’re usually between people on opposite teams. That wasn’t the case in 2002. While playing the Padres, Kent started yelling at another teammate, David Bell, about a play he wasn’t happy with. Bonds stood up for Bell. This resulted in Bonds and Kent screaming profanities at each other, and according to NBC Sports, this escalated to shoving. Then Bonds grabbed Kent around the throat and threw him against the wall. The team’s manager had to pull them apart, while Kent shouted that he was off the team. ESPN dubbed it the "Slugout in the Dugout," and it showed the world just how they felt about each other.
Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter had a falling-out
One of the most famous feuds in sports is the one between former Yankees teammates Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. It didn’t have to be this way. Originally on different teams, they were like "blood brothers" according to A-Rod, but then he made the mistake of dissing Jeter in interviews, saying he "didn’t do the power numbers." For Jeter, that was the end of the friendship, which became a big problem when A-Rod joined the Yankees.
According to Newsweek, Jeter couldn’t hide his dislike, glaring at A-Rod when the third baseman messed up during games. The discord was so obvious that the general manager had to beg him to at least "fake" a good relationship. Others were too scared to even bring the feud up with Jeter, with one official saying that if he did "I would’ve been dead to him." Years later, Jeter was "beside himself angry" when he had to do an interview with A-Rod.
Perhaps nothing made A-Rod’s disdain for his enemy clearer than his choice to skip "Derek Jeter Night." USA Today says in 2017, the Yankees had an event to retire Jeter’s No. 2 jersey. Two dozen big names came out to celebrate him, including greats like Reggie Jackson. But one person conspicuously missing from the list was A-Rod. His publicist said he would be spending the day with his mother, which is the perfect cover.
Teddy Sheringham and Andy Cole used the silent treatment
You might think teenage girls are the best grudge-holders on the planet. But you would be wrong. Grown men are just as capable of prolonged hatred over the tiniest little thing.
Take the England and Manchester United soccer players Teddy Sheringham and Andy Cole. Despite having to interact approximately a million times over the years, they didn’t speak to each other. Ever. Even long after they stopped playing, the hate was still there. Take for example the opening line of an Independent column by Cole in 2010: "I would rather sit down and have a [cup of tea] with Neil Ruddock, who broke my leg in two places in 1996, than with Teddy Sheringham, who I’ve pretty much detested for the past 15 years." He goes on to explain, "We played together for years. We scored a lot of goals. I never spoke a single word to him."
But don’t assume he didn’t have a great reason for this intense dislike. Obviously Sheringham must have done something unforgivable. And Cole does explain what happened. It was 1995 and his first ever game for England. He was standing on the sidelines waiting to go on as a substitute, thinking about how much it meant to him and his family. He knew thousands were watching. As Sheringham came off, he completely ignored Cole, not shaking his hand as is customary. That was it. From then on they hated each other.
Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers took transportation seriously
Teammates hating each other is not a new phenomenon. It was possible to absolutely despise someone long before you were competing for obscene amounts of money and TV coverage. And two Chicago Cubs players, Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers, perfectly illustrate the ridiculous feuds that could start back when baseball was still young.
According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Tinker and Evers were magic on the field. One writer called them the "Siamese twins of baseball." But when not playing they absolutely despised each other. It probably didn’t help that Evers was so grouchy that he earned the nickname "the Crab." But the Orlando Sentinel says it all really started in 1905. The Cubs were playing an exhibition game in Indiana and had been told to get ready at their hotel before heading to the ballpark. Some players, including Tinker, were waiting outside when Evers got into a cab and left on his own.
Tinker was pissed, and when he got to the ballpark he had a go at Evers on the field. Reports from the time have him saying "I asked him who the hell he thought he was to have a hack all to himself." Then they didn’t speak for up to 20 years.
They met again in 1930, at a radio show. It was a tense moment. There was a "strained silence" and Evers said, "We had that old feeling again — meaning that we wanted to fight." Instead they hugged.
Wayne Bridge and John Terry had lady problems
When you’re a rich and famous sportsman, you can get almost any woman you want. But it’s still a pretty basic rule that you don’t hook up with the mother of your teammate’s child. English footballer John Terry forgot this rule.
Terry and Wayne Bridge played together for the England national team and at Chelsea. They didn’t seem to have problems until Bridge ended his three-year relationship with Vanessa Perroncel. Then, The Telegraph says, Terry moved in. Never mind that he had his own wife and children at home. Or the fact that he had been caught stepping out numerous times in the past and had sworn "I’m not going to cheat on her ever again." Terry went to court to stop reports of his affair from hitting the papers, but he failed. Things got even worse when it emerged he might have gotten Perroncel pregnant and paid for an abortion.
Everyone was angry. According to Sport Bible, fans at Chelsea games came up with creative chants about Terry being a dog, like "same old Terry, always cheating" and "Chelsea, wherever you may be, don’t leave your wife with John Terry." But Bridge really couldn’t forgive him. Per The Guardian, he chose to skip the World Cup rather than have to play with Terry again. Another Guardian article recounts how when they first met in a game after the scandal, Bridge refused to shake Terry’s hand. No one blamed him, and the moment went viral.
Javaris Crittenton and Gilbert Arenas wanted to be gangsters
Gambling is just a thing that happens in sports. Take obscenely rich people with a lot of time on their hands and they’re going to start throwing money around. Sure, it might be a good idea to save some of those thousands for retirement, but that isn’t as cool. But at least one card game went way too far.
According to Deadspin, some Washington Wizards stars were playing Boo-Ray (a card game) on their team plane one day in 2009 and Javaris Crittenton ended up owing $1,100 to JaVale McGee. His other teammate Gilbert Arenas started teasing him about it. This made Crittenton angry, and words were exchanged. They left the plane with this exchange:
"I play with guns."
"I play with guns, too."
Two days later everyone showed up for practice and USA Today says Arenas was standing by his locker displaying four handguns. He told Crittenton he was going to shoot him with one of them, but Crittenton upped the ante. He turned around and said, "Oh no, you don’t need to shoot me with one of those. I’ve got one right here." He pulled out his own loaded gun, cocked it, and pointed it at Arenas.
Everyone in the locker room ran out. The one guy who stayed reminded Crittenton his life would be over if he pulled the trigger — so he put the gun down. But both their careers were ruined by this point. Arenas bounced around the league before retiring and Crittenton is now serving a 23-year prison sentence for manslaughter.
Bill Romanowski and Marcus Williams ended up in court
Bill Romanowski was an angry football player. This might be because he used steroids, which he admitted in 2005, according to Sporting News. He had a long rap sheet, including throwing a microwave at a teammate. But the worst is what he did to Marcus Williams.
The Raiders were having an "unusual full-tilt" practice. It was Williams’ job to block Romanowski on a running play. What happened next would end up in court. SF Gate reported the testimony of Ryan Prince, another player who witnessed it. After the play ended the two began "mixing it up." They each grabbed each other’s facemasks, and Williams’ came flying off. Then the furious Romanowski punched him in the face. Or rather, he "crushed" it. Prince said, "It sounded gross — a really unnatural sound, and [Williams] dropped — he was out. [Romanowski] is over the top of him, screaming, ‘Don’t you ever f***ing hold me! Don’t you ever f***ing touch me!’"
Williams didn’t move for "a good period of time." And no wonder, because he was messed up. His lawyer claimed his eye socket was completely shattered, and even when it healed he had double vision and brain damage, as well as flashbacks to the incident, depression, and memory loss. Romanowski’s attorney said it was just a case of "mutual combat" that got out of hand, and that you had to expect this kind of thing in football. The jury didn’t buy it and awarded Williams $340,000.
Michael Westbrook gave Stephen Davis a beat down
According to an interview with ESPN, Michael Westbrook really hated playing football. To be fair, his career doesn’t sound like it was that fun, since he was talented but didn’t live up to people’s expectations of a fourth overall draft pick. Fans responded by throwing eggs at his house, and rumors that he was gay were rampant. So it’s understandable that he had some pent-up anger about the whole thing. One day, he just snapped, and Stephen Davis was his victim.
The rumor at the time was that it was because Davis was calling Westbrook gay, but Westbrook says it went down differently. It was during a Redskins practice, and he says he was talking to some of his teammates including Davis. They were telling him to let them "handle the team" and he accused them of being jealous of his skills. Davis told him to shut up and that he sounded like he was saying "some gay sh*t." Then Westbrook attacked him, and it was all caught on video. The Washington Post reports the damage was so bad that Davis considered pressing charges.
A Seattle Times article says Westbrook was fined $10,000 for his outburst and suspended for one game. While teammates said they had no idea there was a problem between Westwood and Davis, Westwood’s agent said animosity had been building — the two had been having words for two seasons. It must have been bad, since it took so little to set Westbrook off.
Jason Kidd and Jim Jackson couldn’t be on the same team
Despite working well together on the court, Dallas Mavericks players Jason Kidd and Jim Jackson just didn’t like each other. According to CBS News, Kidd thought Jackson was a selfish player. The Orlando Sentinel reported that it came to a head during one game where, even though they were winning, Jackson attacked another teammate for not passing to him enough. This made Kidd angry. But rumor had it that there was a different reason they became enemies, a more female reason.
This was back in the mid-’90s, when the singer Toni Braxton was huge. She was dating Kidd, and she supposedly dropped by the team’s hotel one night to pick him up for a date, but somehow ended up leaving with Jackson instead. While both teammates deny this, Braxton confused things, telling a reporter who asked about it that she would "never kiss and tell."
Whatever happened, it finally became too much for Kidd. He told the owners that either he or Jackson had to go, and if they weren’t willing to trade one of them to another team, he would sit out until they did. He said they tried to patch things up, but their relationship was "beyond repair" and he didn’t think Jackson was really committed to winning a championship. Despite their coach saying he thought the guys would be able to "put their differences aside and move forward," Kidd got his wish and was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1996.
Emmanuel Frimpong and Samir Nasri
Footballers/soccer players Emmanuel Frimpong and Samir Nasri played together for Arsenal, but while they should have been united in trying to defeat the other team they were playing, it seemed attacking each other was sometimes more important.
According to The Athletic, it all started after a match in 2011, when Arsenal played Liverpool. Frimpong was a brand-new Gunner, and ended up getting sent off in the second half. Playing with 10 men proved to be a big issue for Arsenal, and both of the goals scored by Liverpool in the 2-0 match came after Frimpong was sent off. In the locker room, Nasri, a much more established player, called Frimpong out. According to the latter, "Nasri basically stood up in front of everybody and said we lost the game because of me."
The two only had to be teammates for a few months before Nasri transferred to Manchester City, at which point Frimpong told Nasri he would "never respect him as a professional player." Frimpong claims the animosity continued, with Nasri threatening him in a phone call at one point, as well as being rude about him on Twitter. When their two teams met in a match in November 2011, it escalated to on-field clashes, which Frimpong claims started when Nasri said he could "buy" his former teammate. Frimpong says that would be pointless: "I will never, ever like this guy. Even if he gives me five billion dollars, I will still not like him."
Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb
The bad blood between Philadelphia Eagles players Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb was plain to see for fans and pundits during 2004 and 2005. And decades later, the two are still talking smack about each other. Owens claims there is good reason for him to disrespect his former teammate: McNabb’s bad choices blew the Super Bowl for the team. Owens made the accusations on the Club Shay Shay podcast in 2021 (via CBS Sports). "There were teammates that said he threw up in the huddle," Owens said. "I’ve talked to teammates since then, and know for a fact, that he was out before Super Bowl XXXIX, drinking before the biggest game, pretty much of all our lives."
Owens even said that, given the chance, he’d be willing to compete in a boxing match against McNabb. "I’ll be controlled. It’ll be controlled anger. I’d be like a Navy Seal. I’d be a Navy Seal because you know they’re cool, calm under all conditions. But there would be a fire burning inside of me … I’d knock the Chunky Soup from him."
And as of 2022, it seems Owens still hasn’t forgiven and forgotten. When McNabb’s former teammate DeSean Jackson complained about him on a podcast (via Sports Illustrated), it lit up Twitter. One tweet opined that "McNabb was always jealous of other players getting the spotlight, that’s what started the whole thing with @terrellowens…" The former player responded to the tag, saying it was "Facts!!!"
Golden Tate and Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin only played six regular season games with the Seattle Seahawks, but that was enough time to create major problems with teammate Golden Tate, according to an interview Harvin gave to Buffalo News (via Bleacher Report), as well as with Doug Baldwin. "We all played the same position. So me coming in took reps from them," Harvin explained.
This professional animosity quickly escalated to blows with Tate, at least according to Harvin. The week the team played in the Super Bowl, Harvin made comments in an interview that upset Tate, and he confronted his teammate. "That was one of the times, he tried to use me to show he was a tough guy. I tried to walk away and he came back," Harvin claims "It got messy. And I think what happened was the best for me." The story goes that Harvin landed some solid hits on Tate, which somehow ended with the latter in a garbage can, per NBC Sports, and sporting an injured eye for the pre-game team photo.
However, Tate has stated categorically that this version of events is far from the truth. "What went down is 100% false," he tweeted (via NBC Sports). "No punches thrown in the altercation and lastly that mark under my eye was there well before the day before the Super Bowl. And you can google to fact check that."
But there were witnesses to the incident, and the feuding pair’s former teammate Cliff Avril said of Harvin’s account, "Everything he just said is a fact."
Michael Jordan and Kwame Brown
It takes a brave player to come for Michael Jordan. Despite his well-documented issues as a person, Jordan is still considered the GOAT of basketball by many. But when Kwame Brown played with Jordan, he found out why you should never meet your idols.
Brown played for the Washington Wizards after being a #1 draft pick in 2001, but his career didn’t measure up to the hype, and teammate Jordan seemed to have a problem with that. According to Michael Leahy’s book "When Nothing Else Matters" (via ESPN), Jordan would scream at and utterly mortify Brown during practice. At the time, the situation was difficult and painful for the young player. "I knew what they were trying to do. You’re trying to prove to the world that this young kid can’t handle pressure. So you’re creating situations for me to overreact to so you can succeed," he said.
Brown seems to have reflected on the situation deeply in the years since. In an interview in 2021 (via Essentially Sports), he said, "What happened to me was about money … Look at this guy that Michael Jordan drafted and he was wrong about him … Look at the way this kid is playing, he can’t even catch. They didn’t say one good thing about me in 20 years." But according to Sportscasting, there is one part of the beef that Brown says has been exaggerated. "Michael has never brought me to tears," he said. "Did he upset me a lot? Yeah."
Mauro Icardi and Maxi Lopez
Messy love triangles in sports make headlines well beyond their section on news websites. And when it comes to soccer love triangles, probably none was messier than the one involving players Mauro Icardi and Maxi Lopez, and the woman they both loved, Wanda Nara.
According to Sport Bible, the men played together for Sampdoria and quickly grew close, even going on vacations together. And through this quality time, Icardi also became close to Lopez’s wife Nara. Some would say too close, especially after Nara and Lopez divorced and Nara and Icardi quickly started a relationship. Nara insisted there was no overlap, though. "I left Maxi Lopez and went back to Argentina," she said. "That is when I started a thing with Mauro."
However, social media sleuths pointed out the problem with a message she posted for Icardi’s 28th birthday: "Ten birthdays together, many dreams fulfilled and many more to fulfill, trying to give you all I can and more to make you happy." As one commenter noted, "Benedicto [Nara’s son with Lopez] has just turned nine and the other day Wanda was celebrating ten birthdays together with Mauro" (via The U.S. Sun tabloid). The timing is off, to say the least.
Regardless, the two men have bad blood between them now. Not only did Icardi marry Nara, but he got the names of Lopez’s three children tattooed on his arm. Before a match in 2014, now on different teams, Lopez refused to shake Icardi’s hand. Fans dubbed the match the "Wanda derby."
Omar Vizquel and Jose Mesa
Many sports stars air their dirty laundry in autobiographies eventually, but usually, this tends to happen after they have stopped playing. But not always. In his book "Omar! My Life On and Off the Field," Omar Vizquel laid the blame for the Cleveland Indians’ loss of the 1997 World Series at the feet of his then-teammate Jose Mesa, per ESPN.
Nine months later, now on different teams, the two faced each other, with Mesa on the mound, and he had a score to settle. "He hit me [with a pitch] three times," Vizquel said, according to Cleveland.com. "He said he was going to hit me every time he faced me and he did that." Mesa was unrepentant about his unsportsmanlike revenge, saying, "If I face him 10 more times, I’ll hit him 10 times. I want to kill him."
Vizquel shrugged off the threat. "I don’t know if that’s really what he meant when he said that," he said. "Sometimes we would say in Spanish, ‘I’m gonna kill you.’ But in the translation, that’s not really what we meant." (Narrator: It was what Mesa meant.)
And an apology was out of the question, since Vizquel said of Mesa, "I don’t think he’s the type of man who would take an apology." While they may not have liked each other, Vizquel obviously understood Mesa, as the latter’s response was, "If he comes to apologize, I will punch him right in the face. And then I’ll kill him."