Most rivalries in the NBA are designed to rally the players and beef up the sports betting lines. But the anger between Westbrook and Beverley wasn’t for show. This rivalry was filled with physical altercation, hateful words, and genuine aggression.
Unlike other rivalries, it is easy to see where this anger first started.
In 2013, the Houston Rockets were up against Oklahoma City Thunder. Beverley was one of the Rockets at this point in his career, and Westbrook was a champion of Thunder.
The game was standard in terms of gameplay, until the first quarter ended. Westbrook needed to call a timeout and talk to his teammates. He dribbled the ball and signaled the referee, when Beverley saw his opportunity.
With a lunge, Beverley dived forward to steal the ball. It was a risk and he miscalculated.
Instead of swiping the ball out of Westbrook’s hands. Beverley swiped his legs instead, causing the Thunder player to crash to the floor. Westbrooks was clearly in pain.
Not only had Beverley attempted an unsportsmanlike move, he failed. Westbrook should have taken to the benches and recovered, but fury powered him onward.
With anger in his belly, the Oklahoma City Thunder destroyed the Houston Rockets, putting the rival team in their place.
As the adrenaline of the game subsided, Westbrook couldn’t ignore his pain any longer. He was taken to the hospital to complete an MRI scan. The appointment confirmed he had torn his meniscus.
At this point in his career, Westbrook had never accumulated an injury. But now Beverely had ruined that record. His anger refueling, Westbrook would not let this incident rest easily.
As Westbrook was whisked off to a medical professional, Beverley stood his ground. He had played a fair game, and his tackle was legal – even if it wasn’t completed successfully.
A year went by before Westbrook and Beverley played against each other again. In that time frame, Westbrook and Beverley’s fans alike told Beverley that his move wasn’t fair. So, when the two met again, we all expected Beverley to learn from his past mistakes.
How wrong we all were.
Like deja vu, Westbrook was dribbling the ball trying to call a timeout, when Beverley attempted to snipe the ball. Again he ended up aiming for the legs, but this time the referee called a foul.
Westbrook wasn’t injured in this attempt, but the repeated attack added fuel to the fire. Both players started hurling abuse at the other. The confrontation was so heated, that their teammates needed to break up the fight.
These two back-to-back interactions were enough to cement a decade-long rivalry. It didn’t matter what team they were on, it was player vs. player, not team vs. team.
Beverley is a defensive player, and he takes that role seriously (so seriously, that he will aim for your legs and tear your muscles). He puts a hundred percent into every game, which is why he became enraged by Westbrook’s comments.
Harden, Westbrook’s teammate, scored a triumphant 47 points against Beverley’s team. In doing so, you would imagine a teammate cheering on their friend. Instead, Westbrook decided to belittle Beverley.
He said “He don’t guard nobody man. It’s just running around, doing nothing. All that commotion to get 47.”
These words cut Beverley deep. From any other rival, it would just be smack talk, but from Westbrook, there was a weight behind them. After a couple of years, Beverley explained how these words haunted him.
“He damaged my career. Coaching staff, players, fans, they looked at me way different. They looked at me like, ‘You know what, he don’t play defense. He just yells and runs around’. And held on to that, and some people still do.”
The timeline for the rivalry continues to this day. For a quick look at the main events, you can see the chain of reaction below.
April 2013 – Westbrook signaled the referee. Beverley tried his luck to swipe the ball and failed, causing a knee injury to Westbrook.
March 2014 – The same thing happened, but Beverley didn’t cause an injury. Instead he was given a foul.
April 2017 – Westbrook caused a foul, and the game ended in a heated fight.
October 2018 – Westbrook celebrated with a new dance move called “Rock-the-Baby” aimed at Beverley.
November 2019 – Westbrook belittled Beverly saying he just runs as a defenceman.
From injury to career-crippling words, this rivalry is still going strong.