The Dirtiest Players In NBA History

As long as NBA players have laced 'em up, someone's been playing dirty. Not everyone is blessed with the perfect jump shot or a killer crossover, but anyone can affect the game with a well-timed punch to the groin. Dirty players come in many shapes and sizes, from the sneaky gym rat to the over-caffeinated creep, the motor-mouthed madman to the all-around psycho. Some play this way to make a roster, others to make a name. Some do it strategically, and some probably couldn't stop themselves even if they tried.

What they all share is a willingness to do whatever it takes to win. Whether they're stepping up under a three-point shooter or head-butting a referee, these hard court harassers aren't making a mistake. They know exactly what they're doing, leaving a bevy of torn ACLs and technical fouls in their wake. There have been many basketball legends, but the men on this list made those legends' lives a living hell. Here are the dirtiest NBA players ever.

Zaza Pachulia is coming for your MVP

Is Zaza Pachulia really out to break bones, or is he such a lumbering clod that he just can't help himself? That debate has floated around NBA circles since the dawn of time, or at least the dawn of the 2017 playoffs, when he stepped under a Kawhi Leonard jump shot and sent the Spurs' forward limping to the locker room. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was so incensed with Zaza's foul that he ran through a litany of the center's other dirty plays from memory after the game. (Man's got history.)

Pachulia was called out again in 2018, this time by Kyrie Irving, when he landed on top of Thunders guard Russell Westbrook. Irving told the Boston Globe, "We've seen it happen before for years and years with him doing [expletive] like that. I don't want the league to just suspend him for 10 games, but you've got to take a look at it or something. That's unacceptable in this game."

The fact of the matter is, Pachulia does have an unfortunate history of tripping into players and bringing all 275 pounds of his massive frame down right on top of them. Whether it's intentional probably doesn't matter much to his opponents — not when they're buried under what must feel like a ton of Grade A Georgian beef.

Metta World Peace went to war on court

Imagine being such a dirty player that you literally have to change your name to "World Peace" just to rewrite the narrative. Such is the life of Ron Artest, whose spastic style helped make him an All-Star but also took center stage at the biggest brawl in NBA history. Before the infamous "Malice at the Palace" back in 2004, Artest was celebrated as one of the best defenders in the league. Unfortunately, his career transformed in an instant, when he rushed into the stands that night and punched a fan in the face. Suddenly his unusual style, that once saw him pants Paul Pierce in the middle of game, took on a darker edge, nearly driving him out of the league.

In 2011, Artest made the name change, hoping to rebrand himself. An elbow to the head of James Harden shortly thereafter, which caused a concussion, didn't help the process. Still, World Peace slowly succeeded in moving the narrative, becoming a champion and mental health advocate with the Lakers. The one thing that never did change though was his energetic play, which always teetered on that fine line between Ron Artest and Metta World Peace.

Draymond Green's dirty plays lost his team a ring

If you don't think Draymond Green is a dirty player, feel free to ask Steven Adams. Or more accurately, ask Adam's pair of personal mini-basketballs. The burly Thunder center has taken not one but two cheap shots to the groin from Green over the years. In fact, upon receiving his second kick, he even complimented the loud-mouthed champ's aim, calling it, "pretty accurate."

Draymond himself all but admitted he played dirty back in 2017, when he copped to hitting James Harden's injured wrist as payback. Whether it's a jersey grab or a clothesline, a love tap or an all-out tackle, Green isn't afraid to get his hands dirty during a game. In fact, he amassed so many technical fouls during the 2016 playoffs that he received a suspension for Game 5 of the Finals. The Cavaliers won that game and the series, and Draymond went on to blame himself for the loss. Now, if you think that's changed his game, you are sadly mistaken. The flagrant fouls have continued, along with the winning. Green now has three rings and counting.

Dikembe Mutombo injured just about everybody

Dikembe Mutombo is famously one of the nicest people to ever play in the NBA, a league ambassador beloved around the world. He's won awards for his international health efforts and even founded a 300-bed hospital in the Congolese capital Kinshasa, paying $15 million of the startup costs out of his own pocket.

Truly astounding. Then again, he might want to build a hospital stateside, too, because you could fill a ward with the players he injured while playing the in NBA. ESPN charted every injury he ever dished out back in 2004, and the list reads like a who's who of basketball superstars. Michael Jordan got a bloodied nose in 1996. Ray Allen had his nose broken in 2001. Vince Carter got hit in the head so hard he couldn't return to Game 6 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Mutombo's elbows were lethal weapons in his playing days, responsible for more broken bones and bloodied bodies than a Sharknado. Not bad for an award-winning humanitarian.

Charles Oakley was the ultimate enforcer

Charles Oakley made his bones in the NBA by breaking a few. He was the ultimate enforcer in his playing days, protecting Michael Jordan's drives to the hoop before switching teams and trying to stop him at all costs. His habit of throwing punches started early in his career, when he broke the nose of Paul Mokeski all the way back in 1987. From there, the fights became legion. From his scrap with Xavier McDaniels that spilled into the stands, to his body slam of Charles Barkley during a preseason game, he didn't take crap from anybody.

And once an enforcer, always an enforcer, it would seem for the Knicks legend. In recent years he's been picking fights with the Knicks security staff, leveling Al Harrington during his BIG3 debut, and openly mocking his old foe Barkley on Twitter. Oh, Charles! A tough guy to the end.

Reggie Evans grabbed some groins

Reggie Evans might not be the biggest name on this list, but he more than makes up for it with his testy play. Literally. During the 2006 playoffs, Chris Kaman slammed the Denver Nugget to the ground after getting his junk grabbed from behind. Not exactly how they teach rebounding in training camp, Reggie. Kaman admitted he was nervous about how to respond to the unexpected tactic because he didn't want to get thrown out of the game. That is until he told the ref what happened: "One of the refs said he would have knocked [him] out. It was crazy."

Evans was such a headache on the court that his fellow players voted him the league's dirtiest player in both 2010 and 2012. A largely one-dimensional player — he could rebound and not much else — Evans made his way through the NBA by kicking, punching, and grabbing anyone he could get his hands on. It's a living, apparently.

Chris Paul is a prolific nut puncher

It's clear that the NBA's dirty players love to grab some groins and punch some berries, but one player has turned the act into art form. Chris Paul, spokesman for your parents' favorite insurance company and president of the National Basketball Players Association, isn't just a nine-time All-Star. He's also a rock-banger extraordinaire.

He got his start while still a student at Wake Forest, delivering a low blow to NC State star Julius Hodge. His next scrotal smack wouldn't come for a decade, but it was a doozy, when he delivered a shot to Chris Kaman. Yes, that Chris Kaman. Poor guy. Let's hope he froze some sperm before he hit the NBA. Kevin Durant would be next, followed by a sly forearm to the junk of Rudy Gobert. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me four times, stop hitting me in the nuts. No wonder everyone in the NBA hates Chris Paul.

John Stockton/Karl Malone were the dirtiest duo in sports

They may be the most heralded duo in NBA history to never win a championship. For the better part of two decades their pick and roll was unstoppable, leading them to two NBA Finals and countless broken records. But there was something else driving those Karl Malone and John Stockton teams, and that was their cutthroat nature. These guys would do anything to win.

And by anything, we mean just hammering the crap out Isiah Thomas as he drove to the basket. We mean elbowing Michael Jordan right to the face. We mean Malone unleashing his sharp elbows with lethal force, and Stockton setting low screens and hip checking whenever he thought the referees weren't looking. They were cut from the same cloth, a fabric sewn by their coach, Jerry Sloan, who was also a dirty player of note back in his playing days. In fact, according to the fan survey conducted by USA Today in 2001, two of the three dirtiest players in the NBA were Malone and Stockton, accounting for 46.4 percent of the vote. So at least they won something together after all those years.

Dennis Rodman was the bad boy of basketball

Dennis Rodman was the original wild man of the NBA, riding his bizarre antics to superstar status. Whether he was wearing wedding dresses, sleeping with celebrities or just running through buckets of hair dye, he always found a way to make the headlines. But as out of control as he was off the court, he was even more on it.

Whether it was a nasty hip check or a full-on tackle, Rodman was an equal opportunity offender. It didn't matter if you were a giant like Shaquille O'Neal or the smallest superstar in NBA history, like Allen Iverson, an NBA icon like Michael Jordan or a sideline cameraman, he was ready to absolutely hammer you going for a rebound. If weird head games didn't work, he'd just unleash a headbutt. Anything to help his team win. But no matter how infuriating his play could seem at times, it worked. He spent years torturing the Chicago Bulls as a member of the Pistons, kicking and elbowing them out of the playoffs and onto the injured reserve, only to join them for three championship runs. He may have been dirty, but it delivered him five rings in the end.

Actually, all The Bad Boys were the bad boys of basketball

Dennis Rodman may be the most famous alumni of the Detroit Pistons Bad Boys, but he's far from the only dirty NBA player to don their uniform. Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, and even superstar Isiah Thomas played with a nasty style that earned them the rest of the league's contempt.

For the Pistons, you won by any means necessary, and if that meant turning their games in bloodsport, so be it. If Bill Laimbeer had to tackle a player, it got done. If Rick Mahorn had to knock Larry Bird out of bounds with his hip, then that's what it took. Former teammates took a beating, too. Isiah Thomas once punched Rick Mahorn right in the face. Heck, even their coach, Chuck Daly, got in on the action from time to time, picking fights of his own. When it came to Michael Jordan, they even coined a term for their physical/violent play: the Jordan Rules. They involved a lot of double-teams and a lot of elbows and hard bumps.