Fights are increasingly rare in the NBA since the infamous Malice at the Palace 15 years ago, but when players let the tensions boil over, the results can often be quite dramatic. This became clear during a recent game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Minnesota Timberwolves when big men Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns got into a spat.
From headlocks to shoves and punches, it was an all-out brawl, and in true 2019 fashion, the people of Twitter were quick to add their jokes to the brouhaha.
The Joel Embiid and Karl Anthony-Towns fight
Joel Embiid and Karl Anthony-Towns have a history of trash talk, and Embiid, especially, has a knack for getting under the skin of other players. The two got tangled up under the Timberwolves’ basket, and while the other players were concentrated on the Tobias Harris fastbreak that ensued, Embiid and Towns took the time to take the heated exchange to the next level.
The tangled arms quickly led to actual shoves and punches, and as the other players on the court realized what was happening, they rushed over to try to play peacemaker.
Towns tried to throw a punch at Embiid and missed, and followed it up by putting Embiid into a headlock. Video later showed that Embiid was forcing his thumb into the eye of Towns while the two were on the ground wrestling.
Predictably, the two players were ejected from the game, and the league eventually suspended both players a pair of games for their roles in the fight. While other players such as Ben Simmons, who was seen taking Towns away in a way that could appear to be a tackle, got involved in the fight, the league deemed that the two agitators were the ones who acted most maliciously.
The fight ended up on social media, where Embiid continued talking trash and calling out the fact that the exchange was so heated that Towns’ mom gave him the middle finger on the way out. Towns responded by calling Embiid a clown and posting a picture of the star crying after losing in the playoffs last season.
Embiid responded by mocking Towns’ lack of playoff experience and insulting him further, claiming that he now “owned” the Timberwolves’ center. Towns then reportedly hid Embiid’s comment, further spurring the Sixers’ center to say more before saying that he was done talking trash.
Social media is now a part of the on-court trash talk whether the NBA wants it or not, but as most things go, the social media reaction was not limited to the players involved.
The best Twitter reactions to the Joel Embiid and Karl Anthony-Towns fight
Sometimes, NBA players will communicate through emojis and gifs when they feel like there is nothing more to say about an event, and Rudy Gobert kept it simple, posting a gif of someone eating popcorn to represent his entertainment.
Towns’ former teammate in the NBA Cole Aldrich responded with some support for his friend, siding with the video of Towns’ mother’s reaction to the brawl.
One popular genre of Twitter reaction is showing the people who are not in the action of a particular shot, from fans to players. NBC Sports’ Philadelphia affiliate highlighted this by showing that Al Horford stood idly while the chaos unfolded around him.
Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer noticed a similar Easter Egg from the fight in the form of an excited reaction from Embiid’s teammate Mike Scott.
NBA analyst Tommy Beer saw a marketing opportunity for the rivalry when the All-Star game comes in February.
Drew Corrigan found humor in the little things, like perceived chokeholds that somehow went unnoticed.
Meanwhile, popular Twitter personality Rob Perez found entertainment in Embiid apparently training for the next fight as he shadowboxed in the tunnel after his ejection.
ESPN analyst Rachel Nichols had, perhaps, the best reaction of the night, however, feeding into the NBA Twitterscape’s love of a good pun.