Many NBA fans who came of age during the 1980s and earlier tend to complain about the state of today's league, for various reasons both sensible and petty. One complaint, true in observation if not on the merits, is that players don't play with the same level of distaste for their opponents as they once did. The growth of AAU tournaments and the breakdown of traditional collegiate regionalism have changed circumstances. Players know each other well and become friends as young kids. I don't know why we should want everyone to dislike their potential future teammates, but there has been an apparent shift in culture.
Nevertheless, players do sometimes come to dislike each other in this era. It's just that, when it does happen, they come off as incredibly awkward and uncertain of how to proceed.
Take Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert and Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee. Back in late February, the two were involved in a fight that saw both players suspended for one game. On Saturday, Lee sustained a torn hip flexor that will keep him out for the remainder of the playoffs.
Ever the kind young man, Hibbert wished Lee well on his recovery. He also made his distaste for Lee known:
I really don't like @dlee042 but I really hope he has a speedy recovery. Hate to see guys get get hurt or injured.
— Roy Hibbert (@Hoya2aPacer) April 22, 2013
This is pretty much the definition of the passive-aggressive, so props to Hibbert for that. In expressing his condolences to Lee, Hibbert shielded himself from any argument that he lacked compassion. At the same time, he made sure he was able to make his continued dislike well known. Good job, Roy!
Not to be outdone, Lee fired back with a message of thanks. It was also not very nice!
This response is so muddled that it's hard to tell if Lee appreciates the well wishes or the mutual hatred more. It could be both, I suppose, particularly if Lee is thankful that this mini-feud will keep him in the public consciousness for at least a few more days. As we all know, publicity is a player's best friend.
Hibbert's message seems like it could be sincere, in part because his expression of sorrow comes across more as a general point to be made about any player's injury, not Lee's in particular. Of course, wishing a hated rival well seems like a poor fit for the kind of player-on-player antagonism certain fans want to see return to the game. He at least could have said he hopes Lee returns soon so they can get in another fight.
Regardless of intention, what's clear is that both players need a lesson in how to make a feud as vicious as possible. They sound like two aristocrats arguing over a friendly disagreement an inconsistency on a young lady's dance card, not two multimillionaires playing a child's game in public. If you're going to start a feud for ridiculous reasons, at least do it right.