The NBA seems to always teeter on the edge of having an image problem. Coming out of the '7os, rumors of extensive drug use by the league's players had The Association's broadcast partners so wary of offending viewers that they wouldn't show the NBA finals during prime time. In the '90s and early-2000s, with the wave of hip-hop loving stars led by Allen Iverson taking center stage, the NBA became so worried about its image that it instituted a dress code.
What we're saying is that professional basketball is no stranger to players who don't always believe in staying within the confines of respectable society. Of course, perceptions frequently don't reflect reality. Over its seven decades, the overwhelming majority of NBA players have been genuinely good people. Unfortunately, some of the game's biggest stars have also been some of its worst people. Both on the court and off, these guys have shown repeatedly that they failed the bare minimum standards for a decent human being. From breaking the law to endangering friends and family to treating women like disposable objects, there is no boundary that the worst of the NBA has not blown past.
One note, for the purposes of this list, players who appear to have a legitimate mental health issue haven't been included. That means that noted NBA problem children like Dennis Rodman, Delonte West and Metta World Peace are out of the running for this particular honor.
With that out of the way, here are the 20 worst humans who have ever pulled on an NBA jersey.
20 Kobe Bryant
The Black Mamba actually seems entirely comfortable being one of the least likeable superstars in recent memory. Whether it's with teammates, fans, the media, or even his own family, Bryant doesn't go out of his way to be nice to anyone.
He might not have been convicted of the sexual assault charges levied against him in Eagle, Colorado back in 2003, but the trial certainly wiped out his formerly clean cut image. While not on a criminal level, he also managed to throw then teammate, Shaquille O'Neal, under the bus while he was at it. Just to show that it wasn't an accident, he later publicly called out Karl Malone, accusing The Mailman of flirting with his wife (comments that caught the attention of Malone's own wife). Bryant cut off his family financially, reportedly for their own good. Kobe wants to be your enemy no matter who you are.
19 Derek Fisher
Oddly, one of the few NBA players who would've considered Bryant a friend during his playing days was his longtime Los Angeles Lakers teammate, Fisher. There was a time when the point guard was considered one of the good guys in the Association. Everyone's heart went out to him when it was revealed that Fisher's daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer.
Fisher's fall from grace started when he agreed to coach the New York Knicks for his old Lakers' boss, Phil Jackson. Not only did Fisher help hasten the downfall of the once proud franchise, but his family guy persona was revealed to be a sham. Not only was he cheating on his wife, Chandra, he was bedding the ex-wife of former teammate, Matt Barnes. More recently, Fisher was charged with a DUI after flipping his vehicle on a Los Angeles highway. The only good part of Fisher's story is that his daughter is doing fine.
18 J.R. Smith
Where do we start with Mr. Smith. He's managed to disappoint almost everyone who's come in contact with him since he entered the NBA as a first round pick in 2004. On the fairly innocent side, the Cleveland Cavaliers guard had to be fined $50,000 for multiple cases of untying opponents shoelaces while free throws were being shot.
On the way less innocent side, Smith was convicted of reckless driving after causing an accident in 2007 that killed his friend, Andre Bell. After being traded from the New York to the Cavaliers in 2015, Smith attacked a teenage Knicks fan who made a joke at his expense outside of a Chelsea pizzeria. The lesson is that your better off dealing with Smith's on-court antics than his destructive off-court shenanigans.
17 Bernard King
King is a New York hoops legend and grew up under tough circumstances in Brooklyn's Fort Greene projects. He also faced unspeakable racism during his college career at Tennessee. In other words, if anyone on this list has an excuse for being miserable, it's King.
The former Knicks great, though, never really rose above those circumstances. After arrests for drugs and theft during college, King eventually graduated to the criminal big leagues. In the early-80s, he was convicted of attempted forcible sexual assault in Utah (after pleading down from multiple sexual assault charges). In 1994, he faced charges after allegedly choking a woman. In 2004, he was arrested for spousal abuse after his wife claimed that he threw her to the ground multiple times. Basically, King can't seem to avoid taking out his rough childhood on the women who come in contact with him.
16 Isiah Thomas
No, not the All-Star point guard who's about to help LeBron James win another title. This is about his namesake, the '80s point guard with the cherubic face. The leader of Detroit's famed Bad Boys lived up to that reputation both on and off the court.
Thomas was behind the All-Star Game freeze-out of Michael Jordan, earning him the unyielding and unending hatred of the GOAT. His former best friend, Magic Johnson, believed that Thomas was behind rumors in NBA circles that his HIV-diagnosis was due to being gay or bisexual. Jordan and Magic got their revenge by keeping Thomas off of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. After ruining the Continental Basketball Association, Thomas moved onto wrecking the New York Knicks. During his tenure in the Big Apple, he was sued for sexual harassment, which led to an $11.6-million judgement against Madison Square Garden. Thomas has managed to ruin his reputation to the point that most people don't even remember that he was one of the greatest point guards in NBA history.
15 Zach Randolph
Before Randolph even got to college, he was in trouble with the law. As a teenager in Marion, Indiana, Z-Bo was arrested for taking possession of stolen firearms. Once he got to the NBA, he became part of the infamous "Jail Blazers," a group that still causes Portland fans to recoil at the memory.
Randolph always seems to be on the periphery of troubling behavior. A man was beaten by associates of Z-Bo while making a pot delivery to his Portland home. A woman accused Randolph of assaulting her, before then recanting her story. Most recently, after signing as a free agent with the Sacramento Kings, Randolph was arrested in Los Angeles on felony drug charges after police allegedly found 2-pounds of marijuana on his person. Randolph's teammates have typically had his back no matter what he does, but it turns out that could just be because of his extensive weed connections.
14 Scottie Pippen
One of Randolph's mentors on those Portland teams was Jordan's former Bulls' sidekick, and that's not necessarily a good thing. Pippen's infamous nickname -- "No Tippin' Pippen" -- tells you all you need to know about how much the former All-Star values his fellow man. The scourge of restaurant workers all over the country has managed to leave a trail of stories about his rudeness to just about anyone that he meets.
On the court, the Hall of Famer showed his stripes by throwing a hissy fit in a Bulls playoff game, during Jordan's mid-career sabbatical, when he wasn't called on to take the final shot -- and subsequently refused to enter the game. Off the court, he was charged with assault after he allegedly beat the snot out of an autograph seeker in Malibu. Pippen has passed along his charm as well, since his daughter, Sierra, was arrested in college for urinating in a hotel lobby.
13 Marvin "Bad News" Barnes
Barnes, the ABA Rookie of the Year in 1974-75, has been a cautionary tale for decades. A product of the free-wheeling '70s, "Bad News" was famously unreliable. He once went AWOL from his team because he was unhappy with his contract -- as a rookie. Another time, he showed up late for a game carrying a bag of hamburgers. While those are the funny stories, he also once went after a teammate with a tire iron in college and was arrested for burglary, weapons possession and violating parole.
His drug habit was so bad that he once admitted to snorting cocaine on the bench while playing for the Boston Celtics. At one point after his playing career, he was homeless. Barnes passed away in 2014 at the age of 62. His life story was one that never stopped being sad.
12 Derrick Rose
There was a time was that people in Chicago thought that the only thing wrong with hometown hero Rose was his handlers. That included his brother Reggie and agent, B.J. Armstrong, who fostered an acrimonious relationship with the Bulls front office during his Rookie of the Year and MVP campaigns.
Rose's bright career was derailed by knee injuries, but his darker side came to the forefront when charges of sexual assault came to light after a Los Angeles woman filed a civil suit against the former All-Star. The allegations stemmed from an encounter that Rose and two of his friends had with the woman at her apartment. While he was found not legally liable, his blatantly misogynistic testimony during the trial will follow him around for years to come.
11 Shawn Kemp
Ah, The Reign Man. Problem is that Kemp rarely knew how to rein himself in. His issues started early when he couldn't pass the SAT to become eligible to play at his college of choice, Kentucky. During his academically ineligible one year in Lexington, he was accused of stealing and trying to pawn jewelry that belonged to a teammate. Adding insult to injury, the teammate was coach Eddie Sutton's son, Sean.
Then there's the old standby punchline with Kemp: his children. Just try figuring out exactly how many kids by how many different women the former Seattle All-Star has. Officially, it's seven offsprings by six women. For years, though, rumors have persisted that both of those numbers are extremely conservative. It's no safe bet that Kemp himself actually knows what those numbers are. Of course, based on those old SAT scores, math has never been his strong suit.
10 Marcus & Markieff Morris
Yes, technically the Morris twins are two different people, but since they like to get in trouble together, there's no point in separating them now. In fact, they're so close that they threw an extended tantrum when the Phoenix Suns finally realized that having them both on the same team was a bad idea and traded Markieff to Washington after he got into a fight with teammate Archie Goodwin during a game. Marcus was subsequently sent packing to Detroit.
The twins save their best work for off-the-court, though. Back in 2015, the duo, along with three of their friends, were arrested for assaulting a man outside of a Phoenix recreational center, sending the victim, Erik Hood, to the hospital with a broken nose. The offense that led to Hood's beating? He sent a text to the twin's mother that they felt was "inappropriate." While Markieff remains with the Wizards, Marcus was traded to Boston this off-season, putting the twins on either side of their hometown of Philadelphia. Police departments up and down the Eastern Seaboard have been put on notice.
9 Calvin Murphy
Way back in the '70s, Murphy was the hero of little guys everywhere. At just 5-feet-9-inches, the former Houston Rockets point guard always played much bigger than his size would have indicated. He still holds the record for being the shortest player to make an All-Star game, a distinction he now shares with Isaiah Thomas, and is still the smallest member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Murphy's a legend in Houston, where he began a broadcasting career after this playing days were over. His exuberant personality always helped gloss over the fact that he was as good at impregnating women as he was at shooting free throws. Murphy, who once made 78 straight from the charity stripe, has 14 children with 9 different women. His pristine image was shattered for good when five of his daughters sued him in 2004, claiming years of sexual abuse. He was acquitted of the charges, but there's a wide chasm between legal liability and merely being a heinous individual. Murphy continues working on Rockets broadcasts since there's no rule against announcers being lowlives.
8 Karl Malone
Malone already made an appearance on this list, thanks to the story of his hitting on the wife of then teammate, Kobe Bryant, during his ring chasing stay in Los Angeles. Flirting with a teammate's woman is bad enough, but doing it while you're also married kicks the "ick" factor up a notch.
The Mailman, one of the most prolific scores in NBA history, is truly also one of it's worst people. While there are stories of Isiah Thomas spreading rumors about Magic Johnson after the superstar was diagnosed as HIV-positive, no one has to wonder about Malone. He went on the record about not wanting to share a floor with Magic. Turns out that he was nicer to Johnson than he was to his own kids. Malone has three illegitimate children, including former NFL player Demetress Bell and former WNBA player Cheryl Ford, whom he refused to acknowledge until they were in their late-teens. Even better, Bell's mother was 13-years-old when she became pregnant (Malone was a college sophomore). One thing that the Mailman can always deliver is disgusting behavior.
7 Latrell Sprewell
It takes a lot to become the poster boy for everything that's wrong with a professional sports league, but that's the kind of level that Sprewell managed to rise to during his playing days. Before we get to Spree's big ticket item, let's take a moment to remember that he once showed up at practice with a 2x4 that he wanted to use on teammate Jerome Kersey and allegedly intimated that he was only sporting the wood because he didn't have a gun handy.
Sprewell, though, will always be remembered for his main event, when he attempted to choke out then Golden State head coach P.J. Carlesimo. That earned him a 68-game suspension from the league. Those are just the highlights among dozens of stories of the former All-Star being a jerk. Amazingly, Sprewell has never seemed to understand what the big deal is about any of his abhorrent behavior. His latest offense, at least in the minds of New York fans, was being one of the former players that Knicks' owner James Dolan trotted out to prove that he was a nice guy after banishing Charles Oakley from Madison Square Garden.
6 Gilbert Arenas
Like a number of players on this list, Arenas was once considered a feel-good success story. The former second-round draft pick of the Golden State Warriors worked himself into an All-NBA performer and was rewarded with a $60-million free agent contract from Washington.
His time in the nation's capital, though, was what turned out to be his downfall. After a card game dispute with then-teammate Javaris Crittenton (more on him later) became heated, Arenas brought four guns into the team's locker room the next day. Apparently, he liked the franchises previous "Bullets" nickname a little too much. No shots were fired, but Arenas ended up suspended for the rest of the 2009-10 season. In a move that had seemed unnecessary previously, The Association had to remind its players not to bring weapons to its team's facilities. Arenas also likes to shoot off his mouth, like complaining about WNBA players not being hot enough and making other extremely misogynistic comments on social media. As always, his aim remains terrible.
5 Matt Barnes
Barnes has carried on the tradition of players like Rodman and fellow Bad Boy Bill Laimbeer as a guy who fans only like if he's playing for their team. If he's on the floor for the other team, though, he's a dirty player who seems to get away with hip-checking opponents without the referee seeing it.
Barnes isn't just a hazard to other players while he's on the court. If you mess with him away from basketball, he's not afraid to take care of business then, either. When his former Lakers' teammate Derek Fisher was romancing his ex-wife, Barnes reportedly didn't like what he was hearing on a phone call with his kids. He proceeded to drive nearly 100 miles just so that he could attack Fisher while the memory was (sort of) fresh. Houston's James Harden isn't a fan of Barnes, either, after he told the mother of the Rockets' star to -- well, we can't repeat what he said, but suffice to say that it was nothing anyone wants said to their mom. Showing that it still pays to be bad, however, Barnes managed to win after being traded to Golden State this past season.
4 Alvin Robertson
Despite being one of the top guards of the '80s, Robertson has largely been forgotten by all but the most hardcore NBA fans. That doesn't diminish the fact that former Arkansas star had a stellar career. He was named to four All-Star games, won both the Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year award, and has the highest steals-per-game average in NBA history.
As a person, though, Robertson has proven that basketball was about all he had to offer to society. After being arrested multiple times for domestic abuse during his playing days, he decided to step up his game after retiring. In 2010, Robertson was part of a group arrested and charged with kidnapping a 14-year-old San Antonio girl, pimping her out to clients for sex. The charges were eventually dismissed by a judge in 2015, but true or not, it was just another reminder that Robertson's attitude towards women are stuck in the Stone Age.
3 Javaris Crittenton
By far, Crittenton is the least accomplished basketball player on this list. Despite being a first round draft pick, he only played for two seasons in the NBA, never made an All-Star team and never won any individual awards. That means that the former Georgia Tech star had to have done something truly bad to overcome his relative anonymity. Boy, did he ever.
For starters, there's Crittenton's place in NBA lore thanks to being the other player in the infamous Gilbert Arenas gun story. According to Caron Butler's autobiography, "Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA," there was only one true gangsta in the Wizards locker room. In a section excerpted by the Washington Post, Butler revisited the incident and revealed that while Arenas brought guns for show, Crittenton had his gun loaded and ready for business. The story ends up being quaint compared to Crittenton's next episode. After playing in China for a while, the guard plead guilty to manslaughter relating to the 2011 shooting death of Julian Jones in Atlanta. In the lead up to his plea agreement, Crittenton admitted to being a gang member. The only reason that he avoided a murder conviction was because Jones wasn't the person who he was trying to shoot. He's currently serving a 23-year sentence in Georgia.
2 Stephen Jackson
Jackson was a basketball nomad after being drafted in the second round of the 1997 draft. He played in the CBA and overseas before finally earning minutes in the NBA. At his peak, he was a fearless scorer who averaged over 18 ppg in six of his 17 seasons. He even earned a ring as a member of the 2002-03 San Antonio Spurs.
What he's most remembered for by fans, though, is as one of the players at the center of the "Malice at the Palace." While Metta World Peace (then still Ron Artest) started the episode first by smacking the Detroit Pistons' Ben Wallace and then going into the stands after a fan who threw a beer at him, Jackson was the second one into the stands and punched a man once he got there. The difference is that World Peace might legitimately not be of sound mind. After all, he once tried to get a job at a Chicago-area Circuit City during his rookie season while starting for the Bulls and asked the Pacers for a leave of absence to pursue a music career. Jackson, by contrast, is just a bad dude and retirement hasn't calmed him any. While playing in Ice Cube's BIG3 league this summer, Jackson got into an altercation with his coach, former NBA enforcer, Charles Oakley. Some things never change.
1 Jayson Williams
Perhaps one of the issue with Williams is that he had the wrong kind of mentor. When he was a young player for the Philadelphia 76ers, the power forward had Charles Barkley take him under his wing. While many of Sir Charles' antics are funny, he's not exactly the one that anyone should want advising youngsters (that "I am not a role model" declaration was not just a marketing ploy). One of the earliest signs of trouble for Williams was when he got into a bar fight, while hanging out with Barkley, at a Chicago bar in 1992.
Williams was never afraid to mix it up. He was accused of being in bar fights multiple times, and once punched the Charlotte Hornets' J.R. Reid in the head during an on-court dust up. All of that pales in comparison to what happened in the early morning hours of Valentine's Day in 2002. After a night of partying and treating his friends to a Harlem Globetrotters game, Williams invited the crew's limo driver into his house for a drink. The then-retired NBA player began playing with a shotgun and accidentally shot the driver. Better still, he tried to cover up the incident and asked his friends to lie about what happened. Among the tidbits that came out as part of the investigation was an alleged incident where Williams shot his pet Rottweiler after the dog lost him a bet. It might be possible for a future NBA player to sink lower than Williams, but that's not something to be wished on anyone.
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