Some athletes are “hard men” on and off the court, and they love it. Having a one up on their opponents, thriving on the roar of the crowd whether it’s with or against them, that surge of power that comes with knowing you are King. Not all of the bad boys on this list were vicious, dirty players, most are just that good that their reputation precedes them. Take a look at the 15 biggest, baddest athletes in NBA history.
Wallace won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award four times, that’s not easy. The size of Wallace probably explains where his power comes from, 6 ft 9 in. His strength makes him one of only five players to have more blocks than personal fouls and he’s the only player among those to also have more steals than turnovers.
Y’all know Shaq, come on, the man’s a superstar. He had an overpowering low post presence, his career averages were 23.7 points on .582 field goal accuracy, 10.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. His physical frame of 7 ft 1 in, 325 lb and U.S. shoe size 23, gave him a power advantage over most opponents.
Scottie Pippen is just one of three NBA players with 200 steals and 100 blocks in a season, plus he has the record for most career steals in the playoffs. He was incredibly skilled at staying in front of his man on defense and he could chase down an opposing player to block shots from behind. Pippen is regarded as one of the most versatile and agile players, and maybe even one of the greatest defenders ever.
If you know anything about Charles Barkley then you know that he was stockier than most small forwards, yet shorter than most power forwards he faced. And yet, he was still capable of outplaying both taller and quicker opponents because of his strength and agility. His defensive talents are incredible, they’re led by an aggressive demeanor, his foot speed and his capacity to read the floor to anticipate for steals, that’s how he rooted his second All-Time leader in steals for the power forward position and as a leader of the highest all-time steal per game average for the power forward position.
The Mailman is considered one of the best power forwards in NBA history. Malone was a physical defender and rebounder, and he was easily one of the most durable players ever in the NBA, missing just five regular season games in his first 13 years in the league.
As a big defensive forward, Washington was known for his ability to gather rebounds. His average was 9.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, not bad. But you probably remember him for punching opposing player Rudy Tomjanovich during an on-court fight in 1977. In fact, his punch nearly killed Tomjanovich, and resulted in severe medical problems that ultimately ended Tomjanovich’s playing career.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Kobe Bryant is a legend, often he’s called one of the most dangerous scorers in the NBA. He absolutely loves being the villain, and revels in being booed and silencing the crowd with his play. His body is resilient, the man’s got a high pain threshold and he often plays through injuries.
If you don’t know who Michael Jordan is, then just get out. He was well known throughout his career for being a strong clutch performer. His competitiveness was extremely visible in his prolific trash-talk and well-known work ethic. He was also known to aggressively drive to the basket, as well as draw fouls from his opponents at a high rate; his 8,772 free throw attempts are the ninth-highest total of all time. Jordan would go on to develop the ability to post up his opponents and score with his trademark fadeaway jump shot, his leaping ability was insane. In 1988, he was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award and became the first NBA player to win both the Defensive Player of the Year and MVP awards in a career.
Moses Malone is remembered for rebounding his own misses. He would rush shots close to the basket knowing full well that he had the strength and quickness to recover the ball before his opponents ever could. He was great at wearing down his opponents with his relentless effort and physical play. He was named MVP three times.
Eccentric + Fierce + basketball = Dennis Rodman. There was almost no one as notorious for his numerous controversial antics then that of Rodman. He dyed his hair in artificial colors multiple times, had numerous piercings and tattoos, and regularly disrupted games by fiercely clashing with opposing players and officials. In 14 seasons, he played 911 games, scored 6,683 points, and grabbed 11,954 rebounds, meaning 7.3 points and 13.1 rebounds per game in only 31.7 minutes played per game. He’s one of the most successful defensive players ever, winning the NBA championship five times, NBA Defensive Player of the Year twice, making seven NBA All-Defensive First Teams and NBA All-Defensive Second Teams.
Say what you want but Rasheed Wallace is extremely talented and he’s funny as h-e-double l. He is known for his intensity and unique personality, and often resulting in frequent confrontations with opponents and officials (which lead to technical fouls and ejections). He also holds the league records for most career technical fouls, most technical fouls in a season, and most ejections in a season. Oh yeah, he owned the phrase “Ball don’t lie”, for when a player on the opposing team misses a free throw after a disputed call by referees.
Currently Rick Mahorn is a radio analyst for the Detroit Pistons but we all remember him as the “Baddest Bad Boy of them all.” He quickly gained a reputation for his physical play, as he had to make up for his relatively limited leaping skills. He was the team leader of the ‘Detroit Bad Boys teams’ of the late 1980s, winning his only NBA Championship in 1989 along with captain Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Dennis Rodman among others.
Metta World Peace
Metta World Peace is remembered as one of the league’s premier defenders, he did after all win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2004, he was also named an NBA All-Star and earned All-NBA honors. He was also a part of numerous controversial on-court incidents, most notably the Malice at the Palace, plus his sometimes eccentric and outspoken behavior is not something you easily forget.
If you don’t know who Larry Bird is, one, sit back and relax cause we’re about to drop some knowledge. Two, ~insert loads of profanity~ cause we’re shocked you don’t know who he is! Right then, Bird played the small forward and power forward positions, was nominated to 12 All-Star teams, won two NBA Finals MVP and three regular-season MVP awards, all consecutively. He had the most uncanny and unparalleled ability to anticipate and react to strategies of opponents. He’s also remembered for his incredibly competitive nature and constant trash-talking on the court. He’s also one of the foremost clutch performers in the history of the NBA, very few players have performed as brilliantly in critical moments of games. The man’s a rockstar in other words.
During his playing career, Bill Laimbeer was one of the most notorious players in the NBA. Why? Because he was absolutely despised by opposing players and fans for committing hard fouls. In fact, his reputation as one of the Pistons’ “Bad Boys” was so strong that in 1991 he even endorsed a video game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System called ‘Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball’, which was a futuristic basketball game in which physical play is encouraged.