Ranking the 10 Best Trolls of the 2016-17 NBA Season

After seeing supposed mortal enemies Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving join in an interpretive dance that may or may not have been a dig against LeBron James, I’m starting to think the rules of polite society we all are forced to adhere to at birth do not apply to NBA players.

I’m not sure anyone would want to be my friend if, let’s say, I implied I was the reason they went bald or allegedly suggested through surrogates that I would like to beat said friend’s ass for wanting to work somewhere else. NBA players do this kind of stuff all the time. They also sometimes claim Earth is flat, but that’s another article for another time.

Social media trolling is now as much a part of the NBA as a crisp chest pass or a screen-and-roll. I’m waiting for some analytics guru to start keeping track of the most excellent disses of the year or developing a complex metric for the hate. Call it TER for Troll Efficiency Rating. My math is about as bad as my fallaway jumper, so let’s begin this vital work with a simple ranking of the most trollish behavior from the last NBA year.

This list is, of course, based solely on my opinion. Your favorite disses might not be here. If you have a suggestion for a troll I left off, please don’t send it to me. There’s really no point. Instead, tweet me something passive-aggressive, in the spirit of the (off)season!

 

10. Russell Westbrook Instagrams a Photo of Cupcakes
Date: July 4, 2016

Our nation’s birthday: long an excuse to put on some tacky red, white, and blue clothes and drink warm beer. I happen to believe in tradition above all else, but Russell Westbrook, the guy who wore some old hotel wallpaper to the Teen Choice Awards, is not the sort to stand on ceremony or do what is expected.

Russ posted a seemingly innocuous photo of a spread of USA-themed cupcakes on Instagram. The internet barely batted an eye at the time. I don’t think of cupcakes on the Fourth of July, even if they’ve been meticulously decorated for maximum patriotic effect. Maybe I’m just an apple pie person at heart. Look for my holiday dessert column on Bleacher Report. Should be a big hit.

Anyway, why cupcakes? Well, in October of 2016, Sports Illustrated‘s Lee Jenkins reported that Westbrook has a habit of calling teammates he thinks are soft “cupcakes.” And the Fourth of July was the same day Kevin Durant chose to leave Oklahoma City for the Warriors. Was this really a dig at KD? Probably, but we’ll never know for sure. The mystery is what makes this such a great troll.

 

9. Joel Embiid vs. LaVar Ball
Date: June 21, 2017

LaVar Ball is a middle-aged man who thinks he could have beaten Michael Jordan in a one-on-one basketball game. Joel Embiid is a second-year pro (after two lost seasons) who has played only 31 more games in his NBA career than LaVar Ball. Naturally, these two polar opposites would tangle.

This makes the list simply because it could be the start of the NBA’s next great rivalry. Joel Embiid wasted no time coming out against LaVar and Lonzo Ball—going as far as to tell his teammate Ben Simmons that he needs to posterize Lonzo in the upcoming season. If the first Lakers-Sixers game isn’t on TNT (assuming Simmons and Embiid are actually healthy enough to play), I plan to compose a strongly-worded letter.

The dunk tweet wasn’t the end, though. Embiid also took to Instagram Live to say “F–k LaVar Ball,” which earned him a $10,000 fine. Embiid expressed no regrets for his comments at a Variety sports and entertainment panel, per Avery Yang of ESPN.com.

“I think most people have been wanting to say that. … I’m glad i said it,” Embiid told the crowd.

 

8. Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving’s Wedding Dance
Date: July 30, 2017

Kyrie Irving wants to leave Cleveland so he can escape LeBron James’ prodigious shadow, according to numerous reports. Hobnobbing at Harrison Barnes’ wedding with Stephen Curry seems like the action of a man who also wants to burn every bridge he can find on the way out of town.

Barnes and Irving have been friends for a while now. They were named co-MVPs of the 2010 Jordan Brand Classic. So it’s not out of the ordinary that Kyrie would be at Barnes’ wedding. But it is peculiar for him to be on video chuckling next to Curry, who was flexing a la LeBron’s viral offseason fitness-related social media post.

This would rank higher if Steph were a better dancer and if Kyrie added anything to the diss other than his passive consent. He’s rendered nothing more than a Flavor Flav-style hype man. If he had busted out the chalk and done LeBron’s pregame ritual, this would be an easy No. 1.

 

7. LeBald James

Date: June 15, 2017

LeBron James’ hair has been a touchy subject for years. We all know the guy is going bald. His headband hid his receding hairline for years. Then, some rather conspicuous work was done to fill in the gaps on his dome. There was also the Carlos Boozer-esque appearance in Trainwreck. “Fool me once, shame on you…can’t get fooled again,” as a wise man once said.

Draymond Green is no fool. Sure, his hot-headed behavior in the 2016 Finals, which led to a crucial suspension in Game 5, might have cost the Warriors the NBA championship that year, but there is no question that he is an All-NBA First Team troll. Green posted a photo of a freshly shorn King James, with a caption that implied the Cavs‘ thorough defeat in the 2017 Finals had caused LeBron to finally go bald. For real this time.

The only caption more savage would have been Dray saying he recently forgot to flush in the bathroom of a Blaze Pizza, invited Skip Bayless over to his house for poker night and told NBC to cancel The Wall.

 

 

6. Draymond‘s Quickie Shirt
Date: June 15, 2017

More Draymond on the list, because our man lives for drama. After all, Green is the kind of guy who has no problem trading barbs with a loudmouth fellow troll artist like MMA fighter Conor McGregor.

Green will leave no insult stone unturned, as he proved on the day of the Warriors’ 2017 championship parade. He conspicuously wore a shirt that said “Quickie” with the Q drawn like the Quicken Loans Arena logo, the implication being that Green and the Warriors made quick work of the Cavaliers, which, to be fair, they did. The NBA Finals was over faster than a Kardashian love affair. Rumor has it Draymond‘s first choice for the t-shirt design said “Q-uite Possibly the Worst Team Ever,” but that didn’t fit.

 

 

5. Cavs Come Out to Monstars Music Before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals
Date: May 22, 2017

In an otherwise dull 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavs raised the bar for trolling when the Quicken Loans Arena speakers blasted the Monstars‘ music from Space Jam before Game 2. The Monstars are, of course, the team of genetically modified aliens tasked with kidnapping Michael Jordan in order to force him to appear at an intergalactic amusement park for the rest of his life. It’s a fate only slightly worse than having to deal with LaVar Ball challenging you to a one-on-one game every few months. There’s probably a LaVar/Moron Mountain joke in here somewhere.

The Cavs are definitely not genetically modified aliens out to kidnap Michael Jordan. So why did they play the Monstars theme before Game 2? Because Isaiah Thomas foolishly stated to Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com that the Cavs were “not the Monstars” and very beatable after Game 1. The thing is, they kind of were. They seemed unstoppable for a moment, and dusted off IT4’s Celtics in five games.

 

4. The Celtics Wear All-Black in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals
Date: May 12, 2017

The Celtics and Wizards do not like each other. Way back in January, the Wizards wore all black to play Boston, simulating the prevailing fashion vibe of a funeral. Weeks earlier, the Celtics and Wizards engaged in what NBA announcer Marv Albert might call a “fracas” after a Celtics home game. The Wizards won the now-infamous funeral game 123-108, and Thomas according to CSN Mid Atlantic’s Chase Hughes called the stunt “cute” and said “It’s not like a Game 7.”

While it was only in a Game 6, Boston returned the favor months later by dressing in all-black to face the Wizards in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. To their credit, at least it was a closeout game. Still, the Celtics lost again. Did the Celtics open themselves up to the Monstars diss and lose that Game 6 against Washington? Sure. But you can’t knock the trolling effort behind Boston’s blackout. Even if after all that funeral planning the Celtics were actually…digging their own graves.

 

3. LeBron’s Halloween Party

Date: Oct. 31, 2016

LeBron better not be all that mad about the Steph/Kyrie dance video, because King James could also be called the King of Trolling (see: Ultimate Warrior t-shirt). How can we forget the infamous LBJ Halloween party, which looked like nothing more than an excuse to mock the Warriors for their historic collapse in the 2016 Finals.

Part of me thinks this party was staged exclusively for the benefit of trolling Golden State. Tombstones emblazoned with “3-1.” A haunted house with a dummy dressed up like Curry. A skeleton band that appeared to be named “3-1 Lead.” Even more tombstones, in cookie form, with Warriors players’ names on them. This would rank higher if the Cavs didn’t get annihilated by the Dubs the very next year. RIP.

 

2. Russell Westbrook’s Official Photographer Outfit

Date: Nov. 3, 2016

Knowing former teammate Kevin Durant’s love of photography, Westbrook showed up at Oracle Arena picture-perfect in an orange vest that read “Official Photographer.” This is so subtle. You have to know that KD took photos at Super Bowl 50 for The Players’ Tribune and connect that to the vest. It’s masterful, and can only be trumped by one thing…

 

1. KD‘s Cupcake Ring Hat

Date: June 24, 2017

Kevin Durant is no cupcake. We saw as much after his stellar, MVP performance in this year’s Finals. It was truly something to behold and a legacy-cementing moment. The Nike commercial that dropped after the Warriors clinched the title says it all. Still, there was one Durant critic who had to be silenced: the cupcake man in the official photographer costume.

The best revenge is of the long, drawn-out, tedious variety. Play through a mundane regular season. Cruise through the Finals. Say nothing. Do nothing. Then, pull out the hat with a championship ring on top of a cupcake—simple and to the point. Russ’ MVP season might have been an 82-game diss track, but KD dropped the mic.

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