Rarely does a year go by without an athlete kicking off a nuclear-sized feud with his team. This is our list of the most notorious sports feuds of all time.
Yankee legend Babe Ruth arrived in the Big Apple in 1920 and almost instantly clashed with Yankee manager Miller Huggins, an authoritarian who ran his dugout with a firm hand, something the gregarious slugger wasn't happy with in the least. Despite the pair's clashing, the Babe would spend the decade winning six pennants and three World Series championships, all with Huggins fining his best player for just about every infraction he could come up with along the way.
The relationship between Billy Martin and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was both loving and contentious, with public feuds spilling over into firings and subsequent rehirings, and despite their mercurial relationship, the pair managed to still be fond of one another, even as they threatened one another. After the tumultuous first stint of Martin as manager, Steinbrenner would bring Martin back to the Yankees four more times, each time ending with an acrimonious firing after Martin failed to get the Yankees to the playoffs. Despite that, at the time of Martin's tragic death in 1989, Steinbrenner was prepared to bring his frenemy back yet again for the following season.
Famously illustrated in books and film, New York Yankees manager Billy Martin was certainly one of the more colorful characters in Major League Baseball, but when free agent Reggie Jackson joined the team in 1977, it wasn't long before the All-Star and hot-headed manager found themselves at each other's throats. Martin's antics and passive-aggressive interviews where he'd openly take shots at Jackson led to the pair being restrained from one another on more than one occasion. That resulted in the first of many times Martin would be fired and rehired by the Yankees, but Jackson would be gone altogether by 1982.
Marcus Allen is arguably the best running back the L.A. Raiders ever had, helping the team win a Super Bowl in 1984. Despite both his longevity and popularity, a feud would form between Allen and Raiders owner Al Davis in the early '90s, with Davis referring to the soft-spoken Allen as a "cancer to the team." While it was originally believed the feud began over a contract dispute, the reality is both darker and mysterious, with Davis taking the truth to his grave and beyond, as even years after the owner's death, former staff members, and Allen himself, refuse to discuss it to this day.
After years of being unhappy with the condition of his stadium, Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell dropped a megaton bomb on the city of Cleveland in 1995 by announcing he was moving the team to Baltimore, a city that experienced a similar sense of loss when the Colts were moved to Indianapolis in the middle of the night back in 1984. Despite a successful last-ditch effort to give Modell the stadium funding he wanted the entire time, Modell was resolute in moving the team, breaking the hearts of a fan base already acquainted with losing. The fallout was massive, spurring the NFL to create a new franchise that would restore the team's name and records, but the damage is done, and to this day, Modell's name is still mud in Cleveland.
Sometimes the best of enemies can manage to make some magic. Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver was the definition of old school, with little patience for flamboyant stud ace pitcher Jim Palmer. Despite Palmer being the best pitcher in his bullpen from the late '60s through the early '80s, Weaver never cared much for him as a person, and the pair would publicly take shots at one another, with Palmer openly questioning Weaver's managerial ability and Weaver taking shots at his ace during his weekly radio show. Despite their enmity, the Orioles would win six AL East Division titles, four pennants and the 1970 World Series during their time together.
Before he was known as a hulking power hitter fueled by steroids and ego in San Francisco, Barry Bonds was simply a prodigy-level talent cutting his teeth under gruff manager Jim Leyland in Pittsburgh. In 1990, Bonds earned his first MVP for the Bucs, which went right to his head, something Leyland wouldn't stand for, especially as Bonds started dogging it during training drills, throwing his weight around and being a drag on the team in general. The tension came to a head as Leyland reportedly approached Bonds and read him the riot act in the most profane way possible, inviting him to quit the team, something free agency would take care of by 1992.
While most feuds end poorly, few came to a head in a worse way than that of former Golden State Warriors star Latrell Sprewell and head coach P.J. Carlesimo. During the 1997-98 season, Sprewell became fed up with Carlesimo, leading to a confrontation that started with the power forward choking his coach, to later returning to punch him. For his effort, Sprewell found himself suspended for 10 games and later sidelined by the Warriors for the remainder of the season, without pay, effectively ending his tenure in Golden State.
When Eric Lindros entered the NHL in 1992, he was looked upon as the second coming of Wayne Gretzky. As a center for the Philadelphia Flyers, the reality was unfortunately less than the legend tried to sell. While he nabbed early MVP honors, his very public clashes with general manager Bobby Clarke would come to a head in 1999 as Lindros' parents would accuse Clarke of "trying to kill" their son as his latest injury would land him in intensive care with a collapsed lung. Within a year, Lindros was done playing for the Flyers, famously sitting out for an entire season because the team wouldn't trade his rights as he requested.
What was supposed to be an innocuous interview as part of a feature in Sports Illustrated quickly turned into an all-out war between Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker and the entire city of New York. During the 1999 interview, Rocker unloaded copious amounts of invective against the Big Apple when asked if he'd ever play for the Yankees or Mets. His response, which took shots at single mothers, the LGBTQ community and just about every ethnic persuasion going so far as to call Mets fans "degenerates." While repentant in the face of a 28-game suspension for his comments, Rocker would never fully retract his comments, and dually, he never ended up playing for either the Yankees or Mets, a reality that certainly pleased all involved.
When it comes to feuds, few were as multidirectional as Terrell Owens. From his battles with 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci to his struggles with Eagles head coach Andy Reid, it seemed there wasn't a locker room Owens couldn't poison. As a player, Owens was innately talented, but for all his talent, his need for his coaches to recognize and praise that talent was equally as great. Coupled with his on-field antics and petty contractual disputes, Owens would eventually find himself as persona non grata at just about every stop throughout his career.
Philadelphia may be known as the City of Brotherly Love, but there was certainly no love lost between 76ers superstar Allen Iverson and coach Larry Brown. Many thought pairing Iverson with the legendary Brown would be a match made in heaven, but their styles clashed immediately as Brown's structured approach toward the game turned Iverson off, especially when it came to the concept of practice. While the pair was able to turn the Sixers into playoff contenders, the relationship was damaged from the start and only got worse until Brown left the team in 2003. Ironically, Iverson would go on to say that Brown was the best coach he ever had.
In 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers, quarterback Brett Favre amassed an impressive resume, earning three MVP trophies and a Super Bowl championship. 2007 may have been his best season, but rumors abounded that Favre looked toward retirement, prompting general manager Ted Thompson to turn to second-year QB Aaron Rodgers as the future of the franchise upon Favre's retirement in 2008. As Favre had a change of heart, Thompson refused to return him to the starting spot, nor release him, spurring a bitter feud between the former Packer hero and a team that seemed to want to move on from the legend who made the franchise relevant again.
Drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 1998, Randy Moss quickly became a fan favorite. For seven seasons, Moss redefined the role of wide receiver, putting up insane numbers until his 2004 departure. After stints with the Raiders and Patriots, Moss famously returned to the Vikes in 2010, and what was supposed to be a happy reunion quickly turned sour as Moss immediately became a locker room cancer as his toxic behavior forced head coach Brad Childress to cut him with little to no explanation, although most believe it was Childress' attempt to appease quarterback Brett Favre, who had no use for Moss either.
Alex Rodriguez went to New York as a conquering hero of sorts in 2004. A player at the peak of prowess, and the missing piece that would help the Yankees into a new dynasty, A-Rod didn't actually get the Yanks to the Promised Land until the 2009 season. Whether it was disagreements with former Yankees manager Joe Torre, who criticized him for his lack of production in postseason play, to his 2009 positive test for steroids and subsequent year-long suspension, A-Rod's relationship with the Bronx Bombers was tumultuous, finally coming to an end in 2016.
Never mind that King James would return to his home and win the Cleveland Cavaliers their first and only NBA championship in 2016, on July 10, 2010, James would become a local pariah when he declared that he'd be taking his "talents to South Beach," choosing to sign a free agent deal with the Miami Heat vs. the only franchise he ever played for. "The Decision," as it was known, turned James into a villain, with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert penning a venomous screed essentially painting James as ungrateful, leading to a rift that burned brightly throughout his time in Miami, until he chose to return four years later.
Winning can bring teams together, but it can also drive them apart. Despite returning the Los Angeles Lakers to greatness, injuries and an early playoff loss led to a rift between star teammates Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, causing head coach Phil Jackson to eventually jump into the fray, causing an even bigger rift between Jackson and Bryant. Bryant routinely began to flex his muscles against Jackson, often deviating from Jackson's plays, choosing instead to do things his way, to often mixed results. Jackson, fed up with his rebellious star, left the team soon after, writing a memoir that included a scathing critique of Bryant that alienated the pair further — that is until Jackson returned to the team, leading Bryant to another couple of NBA championships.
When Jim Harbaugh was coaxed from his rather secure position at Stanford to coach the woeful San Francisco 49ers in 2011, he immediately revitalized the flaccid franchise, shocking the entire league as the Niners found themselves in the NFC championship game after finishing the previous season below .500. The team's success would continue the next year, culminating into a Super Bowl appearance. But Harbaugh's frenetic style rubbed GM Trent Baalke the wrong way, creating a war of words that would spill out publicly, turning a success story into a nightmare that also sucked in owner Jed York, ending in the Niners collapsing almost as soon as they rose, with Harbaugh departing for Michigan in 2015 and Baalke being fired one year later.
What started as a silent act of protest from San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick turned into an overt act of blackballing the activist QB from the league entirely, even though the league refuses to acknowledge that teams continue to treat him as if he's radioactive. Yet a league settlement to Kaepernick would almost confirm those very suspicions. While public opinion from some sectors painted Kaepernick as an anti-American heel for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality in America, the league itself did little to protect him, with owners refusing to sign him despite numerous openings coming up in the last three seasons.
The 2019 NFL preseason focused almost solely on the antics of Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown, who after being traded by the Steelers, began causing misery for the silver and black almost instantly after reporting to training camp with frostbitten feet and a surly attitude. Disputes over helmets and other issues led to a number of disciplinary fines (over $200k), a verbal altercations with general manager Mike Mayock, a threat of suspension, an exasperated head coach Jon Gruden, a volcanic eruption, bizarre social media videos and a demand to be released that the Raiders agreed to all in the course of 48 hours. After being picked up by the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, there are reports that this may have been Brown's plan all along.
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