Kevin Love has rivals. Really friendly, fist-bump-before-and-after-the-game rivals.
As transcribed by Beyond The Buzzer:
If I had to pick 2, it would probably be Blake [Griffin], just because, you know, we came in [to the league] around the same time…we’re the same high school class and he plays on a spectacular team right now in the LA Clippers. So, he’s one of them, and then a guy like LaMarcus Aldridge. He’s really taken his game to new heights, also plays on a great team in Portland. Those are the guys I look forward to playing against.
Aldridge and Griffin are two excellent choices, if not Love's only options.
Individual rivalries are typically borne out of playing the same position. Power forward has become a fluid slot, where the lines between traditional power forward, stretch 4 and small forward are increasingly blurred.
Natural small forwards like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony can now be considered stretch 4's or what have you because of the small-ball phenomenon, limiting Love's options if we wished to stick with actual power forwards.
After Aldridge and Griffin, names like Dirk Nowitzki and Anthony Davis come to mind, both of whom can space the floor but would be playing power forward no matter what—just like Love. Beyond them, it's slim pickings.
Anyhow, Love singled out some killer peers here.
Both Aldridge and Griffin are worthy superstar adversaries. The thing is, they don't feel like Love's rivals, even though they're two of the best at their respective position.
Maybe that's because of how much the power forward slot has evolved. Or maybe it's because these matchups don't hold the same luster as James vs. Anthony or James vs. Kevin Durant.
Or perhaps it's because Love's definition of "rival" seems slightly morphed. That's what Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would say at least.
"Hate’s a strong word, but it’s probably not strong enough," Cuban said of his personal arch nemesis, the Miami Heat, per the Dallas Morning News' Eddie Sefko. Be honest, when you think "rivals" you think of something close to that, or strong feelings in general.
Love doesn't have to despise Aldridge or Griffin, but he basically gave each of them a metaphorical hug. And he actually offered Griffin a hand this season after accidentally elbowing him in the face:
In no way am I mocking Love's courtesy because, quite frankly, it's awesome. Matt Barnes probably wouldn't approve, but who cares?
Camaraderie among opposing players is all fine and dandy. Competition just feels more fierce when something's at stake—when some level of animosity or deep-seeded envy is brewing.
"I do get jealous, I'm not gonna lie," James said of Durant's shot attempts, via ESPN Insider Tom Haberstroh (subscription required).
Now that's more like it.
Pleasant jealousy, or something along those lines, is essential to any rivalry. Love's encounters with Griffin and Aldridge feel more "let's split a milkshake after the game" than "I always want to rise above those guys."
Nevertheless, Love was put on the spot and provided us with a legitimate and diplomatic answer.
Brownie points to him for thinking on his feet without causing a widespread stir.