Is the NBA Better off When Stars Despise Each Other?

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 07:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics blocks a shot by Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 7, 2013 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  The Celtics defeated the Knicks 102-96.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With a rough-and-tumble 102-96 win against the New York Knicks, it seems as if the Boston Celtics are starting to change the way they've been playing over the course of the season, playing with a distaste for their opponents.

Rather than relying on shots to fall (when they haven't been falling all year), or sound perimeter defense, mixed with ball denial in the paint (which has worked to mixed results all year), Boston has started to get nasty.

In their game against the Knicks, Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony ended up getting into a bit of a scrape along the way, ending in the worst cop-out known to the NBA, a double-technical.

In this instance, it was probably the only punishment that made sense, as both players were throwing elbows, jostling around and jawing at each other, but it was still a lame end to a fun back-and-forth.

It wasn't necessarily the end, however. 

After the game, Carmelo actually sought Garnett out, but nothing ever really came of that, either.

In the end, it definitely made the game more interesting, but does that mean physicality, and downright disdain for your opponent makes the NBA better?

I would say yes, but to an extent. We don't want another full-on Malice at the Palace going down, leading to another league-wide ban on fun.

To take a look at just what relationship hatred has with rivalries, we should look at the top rivalries we've seen in the league over the past few decades. 

Today, the best rivalry we've got is between LeBron James and Kevin Durant. In fact, it's the best rivalry the NBA has seen in decades.

Really, the only thing that can compare was the brouhaha between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, and that only ever really amounted to a feud.

The two were never fighting each other for NBA Championships, and it all fizzled out after Shaq got fat and faded away.

After that, Kobe-LeBron never really materialized because the two parties never met in the postseason.

That leaves more of the past to comb through to really find out the answer.

Throughout the 90's, there were a lot of players who could have been considered Michael Jordan's "rivals," but none of them were ever really on his level.

Sure, it was fun to see him feud with Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley and the John Stockton-Karl Malone connection, but there was never really a one-on-one rival that ever matched himself to Jordan. It was impossible.

That's why we have to go all the way back to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson if we want to find the last player-to-player rivalry that was on a level as high as LeBron and Durant.

Throughout the 80's, Bird and Magic loathed each other. They played for teams on opposite ends of the spectrum, they were constantly battling for supremacy in the league, and they had been cultivated from college to learn to dislike.

In the end, the two obviously respected each other, but there was such an edge to their rivalry that it eventually became known as one of, if not the all-time greatest rivalry in the NBA and sports as we know it.

Comparing LeBron-Durant to Bird-Magic is a no-contest. Bird-Magic wins by a mile, but that's because we know how their respective careers panned out.

However, it doesn't look as if LeBron-Durant will end up passing Bird-Magic, mostly because it seems like they will be content to be friends.

Does that make it any less interesting to see them play each other? Of course not. But a little bit of fire between the two, with maybe a hard foul here and there might make things a little bit more interesting.

The league should welcome a little bit of hate into the game, it's always fun to see a guy get his feathers ruffled.