San Antonio Spurs v Boston Celtics

NBA History: 5 Dirtiest players of all time

Playing dirty is often perceived as a negative aspect of the game. It means intentionally provoking the rival team members by the use of physical play or by trash talk. It stops making the game fun for everyone. Some consider it as a part of the sport, others see it as a cheap way of gaining an advantage over your opponents.


These players use cheap tricks (frequently shoving, kicking and injuring others) and bend the rules just to get the result in their favour. A dirty player is not concerned with proving who is better. All that matters for him are to get his hands on the main prize by any means possible.


In this presentation, we will take a look at the five dirtiest players in NBA history.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not necessarily represent the views of Sportskeeda.


Explore the NBA Draft 2024 with our free NBA Mock Draft Simulator & be the GM of your favorite NBA team.


#5 Bill Laimbeer

Bill Laimbeer

Bill Laimbeer was the part of the Detroit Pistons team and stayed with them for 12 seasons. Playing at the centre position, Bill was known for his rough defensive game.


The Pistons used any means necessary to win and were known as the Bad Boys of the NBA. This team won two consecutive NBA Championships in 1989 and 1990 and defeated some of the best teams of all time including the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and even Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls.

Bill was the worst of them all. The four-time All-Star was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers but was soon send to the Pistons, where he made a formidable partnership with players like Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, and Rick Mahorn.

Laimbeer was a great defender, rebounder and a decent scorer (averaging 12.9 points and rebounds per game) but was hated by the opposition fans and players for committing rough fouls. He started several fights (sometimes with his teammates) and did much of the team's dirty work. He retired in 1993 due to problems with his back and knees.

There is also a Super Nintendo game called 'Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball', which endorses him and encourages physical play.


#4 Draymond Green

2018 NBA Finals - Game Three

Draymond Green is considered one of the Dirtiest player in the modern game. He loves to get under people's skin. Every time Green plays, it feels like he is only a foul away from getting suspended. Green has been seen kicking stars from his opponent teams to intimidate them.


Green is a tremendous leader, a great defender and won the Defensive Player Of The Year award in 2017. However, he is a reckless player who could injure anyone in favour of the result.

Green does not worry about the consequences and has injured several stars over the years. Elbowing Blake Griffin, punching LeBron James and kicking Steve Adams in the groin are just a few examples.

During the 2016 NBA Finals series, he committed so many fouls that he was suspended for Game 5. Without his presence, the Warriors lost the series, and Green took the blame on himself.

#3 Dennis Rodman

Dennis the menace

Dennis Rodman was also a part of the Pistons bad boys team. When it comes to rebounds, no one was better than him. His technique included the use of elbows, fists and putting his body on the line to get every rebound. Rodman wasn’t afraid of getting physical and often tried to get into opponent's head.


Nicknamed 'the worm', Rodman was a great defender winning Defensive Player of the year twice and had a total of five NBA titles, two with the Pistons and a three-peat with the Chicago Bulls.

He led the league in rebounds seven times (1992-1998) and made close to 12,000 rebounds averaging 13.1 each game.

Apart from his basketball career, Rodman was a big fan of wrestling and even appeared in the World Championship Wrestling during his suspension in 97 and feuded with the likes of Randy Savage and fellow Basketball star Karl Malone. He appeared in the squared circle on different occasions.

#2 Charles Oakley

Charles Oakley

Charles Oakley was one of the most aggressive and intimidating players in the league. During his 19-year NBA career, he made over 4000 fouls.


He was given the name 'Oak Tree' for his tough play. He has slapped many guys, including Charles Barkley during a meeting. The 1994 NBA All-Star played for many teams including, the Chicago Bulls (where he would often serve as Michael Jordan’s bodyguard), Toronto Raptors, Wizards and Houston Rockets.

His time with the New York Knicks (the mid-90s) is also well known as they were regarded as one of the toughest teams at the time.

Even after retiring, Oakley hasn't changed a bit as he recently got into a brawl with the Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden and was ejected from the arena.

The NY Police arrested Charles and he was charged with three counts of misdemeanour assault and criminal trespassing.

#1 Bruce Bowen

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers

Bruce Bowen is a three-time NBA Champion and a great defender as he was selected to eight All-Defensive teams during his career. However, this doesn't change the fact that he is the dirtiest player of all time.


Bowen was always consistent in his cheap tricks and did whatever necessary to keep his opponents from scoring. He used to slip his foot underneath a player as he went up for a jump shot, taking away their landing space and left them with twisted knees and sprained ankles. Players like Steve Francis and Vince Carter were injured by this move.

Bowen kicked Ray Allen, Chris Paul and Wally Szczerbiak just to name a few. ESPN's Bill Simmons had his opinion on Bruce, "He is a cheap player who's going to seriously hurt someone someday".

There was a time when the NBA warned Bowen to stop being dirty, proving what kind of player he used to be.

Edited by
Alan John
See more
More from Sportskeeda