While there is a lot to say for players who set a good example, they do not provide quite as much entertainment as a “bad boy.” Throughout NBA history there have been dozens of fantastic “bad boys” who you never knew what they were going to do next. Hard fouls, trash talking, and arguing with the coach are just a few ways that these players entertain, but they also serve an important function for a team. Typically, these players will always have their teammates’ backs and do not shy away from doing the dirty work, which all teams need to do.
10. Isaiah Rider
Isaiah Rider spent the majority of his career bouncing around from team to team, and this was because of a pattern of bad behavior which saw teams look to move him on before he caused any more disruptions. In his rookie year he was convicted of fifth-degree assault after kicking a female manager of a sports bar, and shortly after this he was arrested for marijuana possession and gambling in public. Later in his career, Rider was caught smoking marijuana in a hotel room, and then refused drug counseling despite the NBA demanding it. He continued to get suspended, and after showing up to a match late one day, he demanded his outright release instead of serving the three game suspension. In 2007, Rider was sentenced to seven months in jail for cocaine possession, evading the police and other charges.
9. Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson is widely regarded as one of the great scorers, but he was also known for having a “bad boy” streak. Nobody played with more heart than Iverson, but often this would spill over and it would land him in trouble. On the court he trash talked and frequently got into arguments with everyone, including his own coaching staff. Off the court, Iverson was constantly in trouble and this includes several run-ins with the law. He also attempted to launch his own rap career, but this did not work out and he found himself in trouble with the NBA due to the controversial lyrics. Whilst not all of his actions can be condoned, Allen Iverson was also one of the most entertaining players due to his dazzling dribbling skills and speed, but also his heart, attitude and confidence, which would sometimes land him in trouble.
8. Charles Barkley
Certainly one of the greatest players in NBA history, Charles Barkley is also one of the more entertaining characters the league has seen. Now a popular yet controversial pundit with a great sense of humor, Barkley made a career of being a very physical and aggressive player who enjoyed scrapping with other larger players. He was involved in numerous on court fights, but he is also considered a “bad boy” for his off-court controversies and controversial statements. He also had a few run-ins with the law, including throwing a man through a bar window. When asked if he regretted the act, Barkley claimed “Yeah, I regret we weren’t on a higher floor.” Whilst his behavior and comments often got him into trouble, Barkley was also a phenomenal player and is one of just five players to tally 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists.
7. Shawn Kemp
Shawn Kemp’s tumultuous lifestyle sadly overshadowed his career, but he was a fantastic and highly entertaining player to watch due to his physical and aggressive play (plus his high flying exploits). Kemp would also strike fear into his opponents, as he is not somebody that you would want to get on the wrong side of. He, along with fellow Seattle “bad boy” Gary Payton, would torment the opposition, trash talk and always get into scraps with their opponents. This made them a difficult team to play, and they went as far as the NBA finals in 1996. However, Kemp would later be traded to Cleveland where he began to struggle with his weight and his play rapidly declined. Later in his career, Kemp also had issues with cocaine and alcohol abuse, seeing him enter rehab in 2000. In his prime, he was a “bad boy” with the talent to back it up.
6. Latrell Sprewell
“Bad boys” are known to argue with their coaches from time to time, but Latrell Sprewell took this to the next level in 1997 when he actually choked his coach P.J. Carlesimo. Following this shocking incident, Sprewell was suspended for 68 games. He was then charged with reckless driving during the suspension, which saw him also placed on house arrest. Sprewell was later traded to the Knicks, and here he established himself as an elite player and a changed man. He flourished in New York and largely stayed clear of trouble, but he was also a player that you did not want to get on the wrong side of, and his reputation as a “bad boy” made him a feared player. He finished his career in Minnesota, but since retiring his personal life has been plagued by controversy and financial trouble.
5. Rasheed Wallace
You will struggle to find a player that is as entertaining as Rasheed Wallace, who certainly knew how to wind up referees and get himself technical fouls. Rasheed is the NBA’s all-time leader in technical fouls with 317, plus he also holds the single season record for technicals. Wallace was a key player for the Portland “Jailblazers” squad who constantly found themselves in trouble both on and off the court, and he later moved to the Detroit Pistons, with whom he won a championship, where he established himself as an excellent yet disruptive player. It was not just the technical fouls that made Rasheed one of the more entertaining “bad boys,” it was also his penchant for trash talking and getting in heated arguments with opponents. He is also famed for popularizing the phrase “ball don’t lie” when an opponent misses a free throw after a disputed call.
4. Bill Laimbeer
Outside of Detroit, Bill Laimbeer is perhaps the most hated player to play the game. He epitomized the Detroit “Bad Boys” team, and he played a key part in helping that team to consecutive titles in 1989 and 1990. This was for his physical style of play and tendency to commit hard fouls, which saw him regularly get into fights with other players. This would overshadow his skill set, but he embraced the “villain” role that was given to him by NBA fans (although he was a crowd favorite in Detroit). Although Laimbeer was a very physical player, he was also known to flop, which would further infuriate fans. He may not have been a “bad boy” off of the court, but on it he was a player that was always involved in controversy and was despised by many others in the league.
3. Charles Oakley
Charles Oakley, a player that you would love to have on your team but hate to play against, is as tough as they come, and even the “bad boys” on this list knew better than to mix it up with him. He played for a handful of teams (mainly in the Eastern conference), but is best remembered for 10 years with the Knicks. During this stint, he embodied the tough and physical style of play that they had during this time with other players such as John Starks and Patrick Ewing. A defensive specialist and elite rebounder, Oakley frequently got into physical fights with his opponents and always had his teammates’ backs. In one of the more famous NBA brawls, Oakley body slammed fellow “bad boy” Charles Barkley before several punches were thrown between the two heavyweights. Tension remains high between the two former players even today.
2. Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman, or “The Worm” as he is often called, is a legendary NBA “bad boy” and one of the most eccentric characters in sport. He spearheaded the Bulls’ defense and played a key role in helping them to a threepeat (he also has rings from San Antonio). Rodman constantly clashed with opponents and the officials, seeing him regularly get ejected from games. Not only this, but he stunned the crowd by dying his hair different colors for each game, along with his many tattoos and piercings. He also regularly made headlines off the court for his tumultuous personal life, which included a high profile affair with Madonna, problems with alcohol and several run-ins with the law. He is one of the biggest characters that the NBA has ever seen, and this, along with his fantastic defensive efforts each night, made him a fan favorite with many.
1. Metta World Peace
One of the most eccentric and controversial athletes ever, Ron Artest (Panda Friend, Metta World Peace, etc.) is famed for his wild behavior both and off the court. He is best known for igniting the infamous Malice in the Palace in 2004, but he regularly found himself fighting with other players, picking up flagrant fouls and technicals. Artest has had a few legal troubles over the years, and frequently faced problems in the NBA due to his personal life—including being suspended for asking for a month off to promote his own album. His wild behavior, ever-so-strange interviews, constant name changing and unpredictability make him a fascinating and, at times, highly entertaining player. He has also proven to be an elite defender who plays a very physical brand of basketball, and he worked hard become a solid offensive player which helped the Lakers to a title in 2010.