Some NBA players are known for their greatness in the basketball court while others are famous because of their likable personalities. But then there are those who are famous because of their notoriety inside the basketball court.
These notorious players are often called dirty players although they would prefer to be called physical or rough. But really, these guys crossed that borderline more than once, many times or even most of the time. You can forgive one player for giving up one hard foul but when one player is called “dirty” by his peers, you know that his hands aren’t clean.
Let’s take a look at the “dirtiest” players in the history of the NBA:
1. Bill Laimbeer
When Nintendo created a game called “Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball”, you’ll figure out that something’s wrong with this guy. Bill Laimbeer was one of the key figures of the Detroit Pistons’ back to back title teams. He was also the undisputed leader of the Bad Boys, the nickname given to his Pistons team because of their “physical” style of play. But Bill was more than physical. He led to medical bills. Laimbeer was one of the most hated players during his days because of his dirty defense a malicious intent inside the basketball court.
2. Rick Mahorn
If Bill Laimbeer was the leader of Bad Boys, Rick Mahorn was the co-captain. Mahorn was a burly Power Forward who was known for physicality more than anything else. He was Detroit’s starting power forward at some point during his career but he never averaged more than seven points per game in his career. What can’t be disputed though is that he was the Pistons’ enforcer and he often started fights and brawls because of unnecessary hard fouls which he doesn’t hesitate to give, for no reason at all.
3. Dennis Rodman
The Worm is the third member of the Detroit Pistons’ Bad Boys of the 1980s. But unlike Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn, Rodman was a highly-skilled player. Yes, he was. In his first couple of seasons in Detroit, he showed some signs of offense. However, when he moved to the Chicago Bulls and beyond, he was purely a defender and rebounder supreme. Rodman was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year winner and a seven-time rebounding champion. But in between his awards was a dirty player who would not think twice about giving up the hard foul to prevent an easy basket.
4. Charles Oakley
Charles Oakley was one of the greatest intimidators in the history of the NBA. The burly power forward started his career with the New York Knicks. He also did tours of duty with the Chicago Bulls and the Toronto Raptors. But it was in New York where he became the true Madison Square Guardian. Oakley was New York’s top defensive player, enforcer, rule breaker and punisher all in one. When the Knicks played, you rarely got to see open layups and dunks because Oakley was always there to deny the opponent that chance, legally or otherwise.
5. Ron Artest
The man who triggered the worst brawl in sports history should be on this list. He changed his name to Metta World Peace ( how ironic ) but even if he changed it ten more times, he will always be Ron Artest who sparked the Malice at the Palace. Artest was far from being peaceful. In fact, he was suspended a total of 11 times during his NBA career including the longest suspension in NBA history after the Palace brawl. Ron Artest would later play for the Lakers and win a title there. But who cares? All I remember was him going after a fan who threw a water bottle at him.
6. Kurt Thomas
After Charles Oakley, Kurt Thomas became the Knicks’ enforcer and while Thomas didn’t look as scary as Oak, Thomas had crazy looking eyes that were always ready to spot a victim. Thomas was a good defender but when someone gets past him, he makes sure that player isn’t getting the basket, by hook or by crook. He averaged 3.2 fouls per game during his career and he was a guy who never allowed any easy basket. He made too many opponents pay for driving in his lane.
7. Zaza Pachulia
ZaZa Pachulia is best remembered as the here for the Golden State Warriors during the 2018 NBA season. That’s because Pachulia’s antics forced Kawhi Leonard to hurt his quadriceps and doomed the Spurs during their playoff matchup with the Warriors. Some say he didn’t trip Kawhi on purpose but if you watch his highlights, it wasn’t just Kawhi who fell victim to his popular trick. You can ask Russell Westbrook that. Russ knows how painful a collision with Pachulia is.
8. Draymond Green
Draymond Green talks too much crap inside and outside the basketball court. When he’s inside the court, he is also a terrific defender and an excellent passer. However, Draymond Green is also known for kicking nuts. Yes, those nuts. I remember how he was suspended in the finals for punching LeBron James in his royal nuts. Ouch. He’s also had run-ins with Steven Adams and many other players in the NBA.
9. Stephen Jackson
More than his physicality, it was Stephen Jackson’s mouth that got him into plenty of trouble during his NBA career. Jackson was one of the top trash talkers in the league and when you took his bait, he would retaliate. Remember that Jackson was also a prominent figure in the Malice at the Palace. He also had a total of 11 ejections and 135 technical fouls during his career. He was a well-loved in his teams but was public enemy #1 elsewhere.
10. Bruce Bowen
Bruce Bowen probably taught ZaZa Pachulia defense. That’s because Bowen loved to stick out his foot while the player he was guarding was taking a shot. He won three titles with the Spurs but he got away with plenty of uncalled crimes. He was the founder of undercutting and helped produce several knee and ankle injuries around the league. No question that Bruce Bowen was an elite defender. But he was also one of the dirtiest players of all-time.