Most Memorable ‘Beefs’ In Utah Sports History
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The recent incident between Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha and LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will likely go down as one of the most memorable “beefs” in Utah sports history.
That got the staff at KSL Sports thinking, what other famous quarrels have taken place between sports figures in the Beehive State?
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are some of the more notable disagreements that sports fans in Utah will remember for years to come.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Nedum Onuoha
The incident began when Ibrahimovic brought down Onuoha on an illegal tackle during the match between RSL and LA on April 28th, leading to a yellow card on the Swedish-born superstar.
Later in the match, Ibrahimovic scored what became the decisive goal in the 78th minute and proceeded to taunt and have words with Onuoha.
Afterwards, Ibrahimovic entered RSL’s locker room to apologize for his actions in the game, but Onuoha refused to accept his apology.
Karl Malone vs. Isiah Thomas
On Dec. 14, 1991, Utah Jazz legend Karl Malone delivered one of the most infamous elbows in the history of the game against Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas.
It was a grudgematch between two of the grittiest teams in the NBA and just five minutes in, it became a bloodbath after Malone’s elbow connected with Thomas’s eye, sending the diminutive guard to the floor with an open wound that took 40 stitches to seal.
The benches were cleared as a brawl erupted on the court at the Delta Center. Several ejections followed, including Malone’s dismissal from the game. The Mailman was fined $10K for the hit and was suspended for one game as a result.
In later years, Thomas would call the play “the cheapest [expletive] in the history of the game.”
Greg Ostertag vs. Shaquille O’Neal
Prior to the 1997 NBA regular season opening game between the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers, Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal and Jazz center Greg Ostertag got into a major conflict that created buzz all across the league.
It’s unclear what happen to provoke the incident, but at some point before the game, when the two teams were trading places on the floor for pregame shootaround, O’Neal and Ostertag got into a spat that ended with a slap on the Jazz big man’s face by Shaq.
Ostertag was knocked to the floor and didn’t offer any retaliation.
As a result, O’Neal was fined $10K by the NBA and was suspended for one game. Many, including, Jazz owner Larry H. Miller, felt the punishment was too light.
It has since been rumored that Ostertag’s decision to not stand up for himself caused a riff among players and coaches in the Jazz locker room that season.
Max Hall vs. Utah Fans
Following BYU’s 26-23 comeback victory over Utah in 2009, Cougar quarterback Max Hall created a bit of drama in the Utah sports community with his comments after the game.
“I don’t like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, their fans. I hate everything,” Hall said. “It felt really good to send those guys home. I think the whole university and their fans and the organization is classless,” Hall said. “They threw beer on my family and stuff last year and did a whole bunch of nasty things. I don’t respect them and they deserved to lose.”
Utah fans, rightfully so, took offense to Hall’s comments and he became a major source of vitriol to them. Bright red T-shirts that read “Max Hall Hates Me” were soon printed and can occasionally still be found at BYU-Utah games to this day.
Some Ute fans chose to ridicule Hall when he was arrested for shoplifting and drug possession in 2014, but others chose to show compassion for the embattled former Cougar.
Dennis Rodman vs. 1994 Utah Jazz
In a highly physical first round series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz in the 1994 NBA playoffs, there were several notable beefs.
While John Stockton and David Robinson had their moments in the series, no Spurs player antagonized Utah more than Dennis Rodman.
While cutting to the basket, Stockton was tripped up by a knee placed in his path by Rodman. The Utah point guard went down hard and as a result, Rodman was given a one-game suspension. Stockton, seated on the bench with his knee wrapped in ice, was captured on camera shouting several expletives at Rodman while he was being escorted off the court.
It was clear throughout the best-of-five series that Rodman was doing everything he could to provoke the Jazz into playing his game. Karl Malone wasn’t having any of it.
“My whole attitude is, there’s nothing he can do to get me kicked out of the ball game,” said Malone.
It would not be the last time Malone and Rodman would have beef.
Dennis Rodman vs. Karl Malone
During the 1998 NBA Finals, Dennis Rodman, who was then a member of the Chicago Bulls, missed a mandated media session to announce an upcoming wrestling match between himself and Karl Malone.
The two then proceeded to battle in a physical championship series, which was won for the second year in a row by the Bulls.
Following the Finals, the two NBA stars met in the ring on July 12 in San Diego. In a tag-team match, Rodman was paired up with Hulk Hogan, while Malone teamed up with Diamond Dallas Page.
In a controversial decision, Hogan and Rodman were declared the winners but both Rodman and Malone received a sizable payout for their role in the pay-per-view event. According to one KSL Sports staff member who bought the event over 20 years ago, it was definitely not worth the money.
Jerry Sloan vs. Deron Williams
In February 2011, legendary Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and the team’s superstar point guard, Deron Williams, got into a heated argument that dramatically altered the trajectory of the squad and summoned a new era for Utah.
After a disagreement on a play call during a game, Sloan and Williams reported exchanged angry words with each at halftime. Sloan, in response, decided to call it quits and resigned from the head coaching position after 26 years with the Jazz after the game.
Following a storm of criticism from Utah fans, Williams was traded to New Jersey in a deal that included current Jazzman Derrick Favors.
After years of not speaking to each other about the incident, the Jazz organization arranged a meeting between Williams and Sloan, in which the former Jazz guard apologized for his actions to his former coach.
The reconciliation was chronicled in an online article by Aaron Falk, the Jazz’s in-house reporter, on UtahJazz.com.
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