Professional athletes are some of the most competitive people on the planet. That competitiveness is a trait that is necessary to propel the athlete to elite heights of their sport that so few can attain. However, athletes and their competitive nature often cause emotions to run high and tensions to brew, resulting in the formation of rifts in the locker room. Some of these beefs likely could have cost the parties involved a chance at a championship, and can just be downright hilarious.
First up is the Terrell Owens vs. Donovan McNabb beef that potentially cost the Philadelphia Eagles a Super Bowl title in the mid-2000’s. For context, McNabb and the Eagles had made it to the NFC Championship game in three consecutive years, only to fall short each time. Looking to make a splash, the Eagles signed Terrell Owens, who was the best receiver in the league at the time, to a seven-year, $49 million contract.
The initial returns on the deal were amazing, as Owens posted over 1200 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns and earned an invite to the Pro Bowl. The Eagles were also finally able to break through this season and win the NFC Championship Game before losing to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl by a score 24-21—a game in which Owens recorded over 122 yards while playing with a fractured fibula. That, however, was as good as things got for Owens and McNabb in Philly, as the situation soured quickly after that.
During an offseason dispute with the front office over his salary being outside the top ten for receivers that season, Owens would go onto publicly diss McNabb for getting “tired” in the Super Bowl. Owens’ relationship with the front office only became more strained when the Eagles refused to allow him permission to play in the NBA Summer League with the Sacramento Kings.
After more public jousting with McNabb during the early parts of the season and Owens’ refusal to apologize to McNabb directly despite Eagles coach Andy Reid’s orders to do so, Owens would go on to be suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. He sat out the rest of the season before being released in the off-season. The Eagles would go onto finish 6-10.
Next up is probably one of the most awkward and hilarious beefs in NBA history, and that is where story of Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard comes into play. Howard and Van Gundy had a prosperous relationship from 2009-2011 and the Orlando Magic were one of the best teams in the league, averaging around 56 wins a season and making a Finals appearance in 2009. Howard would win three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year’s during that time frame.
However, following a disappointing first round exit in 2011, rumors began swirling that Howard had demanded a trade. Howard would go on to deny this and state he was “all-in” on the team and the season, although he still refused to sign a contract extension. From there, the 2012 season affectionately known as the “Dwightmare” began. Tensions were high and chemistry issues ran amuck as the Magic stumbled throughout the season, finishing a disappointing 37-29 during the lockout shortened season which culminated in a yet another first round exit.
The most notorious incident during the “Dwightmare” was an absurd April press conference featuring Van Gundy and Howard that took place just before the playoffs began. It began with Van Gundy talking to the media and confirming a rumor that Dwight Howard had requested that the front office relieve him of his duties as coach of the Orlando Magic. While Van Gundy was revealing this to the press, Howard then entered the room and wrapped him around Van Gundy to embrace the coach, unaware of his earlier comments. Van Gundy awkwardly and briefly discussed the upcoming game before quickly darting out of the room, leaving Howard there with the media.
The press then went onto ask Howard about Van Gundy’s accusations. Howard would deny all involvement in the process, stating that he’s “not the GM” and also attempt to discredit the source of the story to cover his tracks.
Ultimately, neither party would go onto come out the better from their beef. Van Gundy was fired during that offseason, and would never go onto have the same level of success again. As for Dwight Howard, he would be traded to the Lakers that offseason and is now on his sixth team since departing Orlando, never winning Defensive Player of the Year again.