The National Basketball Association (NBA) has seen its fair share of dirty players throughout its history. These players have pushed the limits of the rules and have often used unsportsmanlike tactics to gain an edge on the court. Some of these players have become infamous for their actions, while others have managed to fly under the radar.
In this article, we will take a look back at the careers of some of the dirtiest players in NBA history and countdown the top 10 dirtiest players of all time. From trash talking to physical altercations, these players left a lasting impression on the game of basketball and will forever be remembered for their on-court antics.
Metta World Peace
Now, you probably would have thought that a player who changed his name to "Metta World Peace", was all smiles and giggles on and off the court. Well, you thought wrong...
16 years ago today, Jermaine O’Neal completed the first IRL falcon punch. (Also Ron Artest put the fear of god into some fans.) pic.twitter.com/2ti6irhLZt— big dog 🐾 (@griffpr) November 19, 2020
Metta's longest suspension followed one of the NBA’s ugliest incidents, when Artest waded into the stands and punched a fan. Of course, we all make mistakes and that's not who Metta is anymore, but it's still a shock to know that this is the same person who changed his name to World Peace.
Metta was ejected 11 times in his career, three times in a playoff game (most all time) and he was suspended a shocking 13 different times in his career.
If all of this hasn't convinced you yet, all you have to do is ask James Harden.
Dennis Rodman may be in the NBA Hall of Fame, but it was purely for two reasons - his defensive and rebounding abilities - and you don't have a legacy of greatness on that side of basketball without bending the rules a little.
In all honesty, Rodman bent the rules more than a little. He is widely known as one of the most outlandish NBA players of all time, on and off the court.
Rodman made his defensive prowess possible by utilising elbows, fingernails, teeth, hair and whatever he could find to win rebounds and steal the ball. All of this resulted in two defensive player of the year awards.
Karl Malone is an all time NBA great - ranking second for field goals, eighth for rebounds, and third in total points. But he also ranks very highly in the amount of elbows thrown.
Nicknamed 'The Mailman' he delivered more than his fair share of elbows in his time on the court, but he also had the perfect technique for 'pulling the chair' on players when on defense.
We don't normally feature Karl Malone on this account. Because we needed another reason not to, here's a video of him levelling players with his dirty elbows from '88 thru to '03. pic.twitter.com/Xml12CQLZt— Hoops Nostalgia (@HoopsNostalgia) November 11, 2022
One of the worst elbows he ever threw was to Isiah Thomas, who required 40 stitches after the incident. Thomas later called it “the cheapest *** in the history of the game.” Just watch the video...
He may have been one of the greatest NBA players of all time, but he was also one of the dirtiest.
John Stockton was a standout player known for his underhanded tactics. Despite this, he is also considered one of the most underrated players in NBA history.
He was notorious for flopping and committing fouls, influencing players like Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul. Stockton excelled in hiding contact when guarding the perimeter, mugging opponents and stealing the ball.
He holds the all-time record for steals with 3,265, a significant 39% lead over the second place player. Despite not being the quickest player, Stockton relied on reaching in for steals, setting himself apart from other players like Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo.
There are few people as intimidating and scary as Charles Oakley...
October 25, 1996: A preseason fight between Charles Barkley of the Houston Rockets and Charles Oakley of the New York Knicks.— NBA Cobwebs (@NBACobwebs) October 25, 2022
Both were ejected. Barkley was fined $5,000 and suspended for one game. Oakley was fined $10,000 and suspended for two games. pic.twitter.com/T4FQWMALsI
Oakley played almost 20 years in the NBA and in that time, committed a total of 4,421 fouls - not including the 503 playoff fouls, technical fouls, flagrants and of course all the dirty plays and cheap shots that the referees didn't catch.
Oakley often took his intimidating skills off the court too - serving as Michael Jordan's body guard when they went out to party.
Jalen Rose once referred to Charles Oakley as a "dark alley" guy. He had a constant feud with Charles Barkley, who wouldn't dare take things too far. Even Barkley wouldn't mess with Oakley and get away with it.
Bruce Bowen was an elite defender, but he's most infamous for his undercutting - placing his foot under a player's feet as they took a jump shot. This dangerous practice has caused many players to suffer serious injuries and end their seasons or careers. When a player is worried about landing on someone's foot, it affects their shot and performance and Bowen knew this.
Bowen was named to 8 All Defense teams due to his physicality, and is certainly respected for being a top-tier defender, but if today's rules were enforced during his career, he would probably have faced multiple suspensions per season.
Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer earned their reputation as part of the notorious "Bad Boys" team. Rodman's dirtiness was primarily psychological, while Laimbeer was physically aggressive. Laimbeer's physical style of defense would not be tolerated in today's game, and he is often overlooked due to this.
The game "Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball" for the Super Nintendo was created to showcase Laimbeer's rough play. He was known for doing anything to win and was feared by his opponents. Laimbeer was that player at the YMCA who would resort to foul means to get the advantage, such as kicking and punching.