A veteran trans-Tasman basketball player has exploded with his best game of the season after his former club attempted to sledge him in the lead-up to their NBL game.
Corey Webster played for the New Zealand Breakers in the Australian competition for 13 seasons and won three championships before the 34-year-old joined the Perth Wildcats this season.
The former international has struggled to find his best touch in 2022 and has largely been consigned to the bench.
However, when his former club poked the bear, he responded.
The New Zealand Breakers billboard at Spark Arena and the offending sledge aimed at former player Corey Webster that was also shared on social media. It has since been deleted
The Breakers social media team posted an image of Webster with an equals sign and an emoji of a cute cat, implying that he is soft.
The image, since deleted, was broadcast on Twitter and displayed on a large screen outside the Breakers home court at Spark Arena.
New Zealand have an 11-4 record this season and sit second on the NBL ladder, but the struggling Wildcats travelled to Auckland and posted a 94-82 win following the sledge, largely because of Webster.
He exploded with a 26 point shooting spree including a 16-point third quarter outburst that proved decisive.
Webster had his best game of the season against his former club who had sledged him online during the week
Webster said he was shocked when he learned his former club had fired a shot at him on social media after so many years as a loyal servant at the Breakers.
‘I was pretty surprised by that to be honest after I’ve given my heart and soul to this club for many years,’ he said.
‘For them to personally go at me was a bit surprising, but I don’t need extra motivation when it comes to basketball. This is a game I love and I’m a pro, and this is something I’ve done for a long time so I didn’t need extra motivation.
‘It was still definitely there in the back of my mind and before the game I really wanted to have a great performance, and come in here and get the win. It was a little bit of extra motivation for sure.’
The New Zealand Breakers enjoy having fun on social media, poking fun at themselves and other teams by using memes and referencing pop culture like Harry Potter and The Matrix
The Breakers have a history of controversial social media posts this season, with an especially savage post aimed at the Brisbane Bullets after they fired coach James Duncan.
The club posted an image of a bullet with the caption: ‘Bullets never stay employed, they’re always fired’.
Breakers coach Mody Moar said the social media team would learn from its mistake.
‘We are one team. Players, coaching staff, front office, social media, marketing – you choose whatever you want,’ Maor said.
‘Within this team, everybody has the privilege to go and make mistakes. The way we are judged is how we respond to those mistakes. Players make mistakes, they’ll learn from it and the same with me.
‘Social media make mistakes and they’ll learn from it, and they’ll be better.
‘This is what growth looks like in every aspect. It’s not him or us or them, it’s all of us taking this mistake in stride, learning from it and moving forward.’
Webster during his time at the Breakers gestures to a court side spectator after winning the round 14 NBL match between the Wildcats and Breakers at RAC Arena in 2021
Webster had a long association with the Breakers and is the fifth most capped player in the club’s history with 236 NBL games over 11 seasons.
He won three NBL championships with the club along with another three championships playing in the New Zealand NBL competition and he has played for the national NZ Tall Blacks side 92 times.
Stephen Curry of Team USA in action against Corey Webster of New Zealand during the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup Group C match at the Bizkaia Arena in Bilbao, Spain
It was a long and sometimes controversial stint in New Zealand, with Webster sacked in 2011 for using synthetic cannabis while he was also found guilty of two assault charges in 2017.
In 2021 he was slammed for a ‘dangerous’ tweet about the Covid vaccine tweeting that ‘the Pfizer vaccine kills nearly as many people as the virus’ one week after leaving the Breakers by mutual consent.
Webster (right) celebrates winning game two of the NBL Grand Final series between the New Zealand Breakers and the Cairns Taipans at North Shore Events Centre in 2015
His brother Tai Webster had earlier been cut from the Breakers roster over his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid.
‘Tai was amazing for us last year and we wish him the absolute best,’ Breakers owner Matt Walsh said.
‘I fully support each player’s freedom of choice in regards to the vaccine.
‘The club will keep the door open for Tai, but unfortunately we are living in extraordinary times and without being vaccinated he will not have freedom of travel which would allow him to play for us this season.’