We’re still a week from the start of training camps, but the NBA’s beef season has already begun.
In classic fashion, two unlikely characters turned what was already an apparent feud between Minnesota Timberwolves teammates Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns into a beef undercard that briefly stole the show from the main event in a series of social media posts on Wednesday night.
The challenger: Nick Wiggins
In one corner, you have Nick Wiggins, the older brother of Wolves wing Andrew Wiggins, who tweeted and deleted the following upon learning that Butler had requested a trade from his little bro’s team:
The heavyweight: Jimmy Butler
That caught the attention of Butler, who called Nick’s “Hallelujah” in an Instagram story …
After Andrew Wiggins’ brother tweeted “Hallelujah 😊🙌🏼” after the Butler trade news…
JIMMY RESPONDS pic.twitter.com/TsmBND6mUt
— Sherwob Holmes (@World_Wide_Wob) September 20, 2018
… and raised him with a “Keep that same energy,” which served as further confirmation of a July report from the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley, who reported then that Butler “has been frustrated with the nonchalant attitudes of younger teammates.” The inference here, if I’m reading this beef correctly, is that Butler would prefer Wiggins channel his emotion into basketball instead of Twitter celebrations.
The former champion: Stephen Jackson
In the other corner, you have Stephen Jackson, a.k.a. Captain Jack, the retired NBA veteran whose commitment to the game led him both to a championship and eight different teams in 14 seasons. The 40-year-old occasional ESPN contributor entered the fray with an Instagram video of his own, in which he acts out a fictional conversation between the Wiggins brothers and tells Andrew he has “no heart,” “that’s why Cleveland traded him” (which, not exactly), and, yes, to “keep that same energy”:
A post shared by Stephen Jackson (@_stak5_) on Sep 19, 2018 at 8:09pm PDT
The middleweight: Andrew Wiggins
That’s when Andrew tagged out his brother and entered the ring himself, calling Jackson an “old dude” and “bum ass” who stays “hating like he was anything special.” He, of course, signed off with, “I keep that same energy everywhere I go,” letting us know he’s been following the entire beef along with us:
Those watching this unfold on social media appreciated that Andrew posted the above message without the “SJ,” deleted it, and then re-posted it with Jackson’s initials, just to make sure everyone knew exactly to whom he was referring. If I’ve learned anything from watching Kevin Costner corral cattle on “Yellowstone” these last few weeks, it is extremely important to keep your beef in order.
Captain Jack goes down swinging
You won’t believe this, but Jackson — the man who in the past has called out everyone from LeBron James and Chandler Parsons for respectively “quitting” in the NBA Finals and “not even caring about the game” — wouldn’t let Wiggins get the last word. He posted this video that began with, “You’ve got a lot of talent, kid, a lot of talent. I hope somewhere you can find some heart, find some passion for the game and have a good year.” He mixed in a little, “Make sure your energy is straight when you see me, all right? I’m pretty sure you know where I am.” And then he ended with, “I’ll catch you in traffic”:
A post shared by Stephen Jackson (@_stak5_) on Sep 19, 2018 at 9:04pm PDT
Before signing off on Wednesday, Jackson posted a screenshot of his career statistics, which through his first four seasons pale in comparison to Wiggins’ averages. Jackson started his career at age 22, the same age Wiggins is now, in the first year of a contract that will pay him more than Jackson made for his entire career. Jackson began his Thursday by posting a baby giving the middle finger on Instagram.
This is not the first time Jackson has grabbed headlines in retirement. Over the past year, he has said of marijuana in the NBA, “I smoked my whole career,” and told the story of that time Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made him choose between smoking weed and a championship. That should inform both this beef, since Jackson may be speaking from experience when it comes to focusing energy in the right places, and the substance that Jackson is smoking in the video he posted to Instagram.
If this was the season premier of NBA beefs, I can’t wait to see what the next episode has in store.
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