In any competitive sports that you watch, you will find disruptions among teammates, opponents and coaches. However, there are some disruptions from players that are way out of line and just unprofessional and unsportsmanlike. Most of the time, the animosity among players may result from the passion for the game, the desire to win and the difficulty of losing a game. Sometimes, years of losing to the same team might also result in ongoing friction between players and teams. In a few cases, though, there will be players who display bad behavior regardless of anything else.
Some teams have been able to be successful on the basketball court despite the bad behaving players on the team. One such team is the Detroit Pistons during the days of Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Bill Lambier and other teammates. The team was very aggressive, but some players more than others. In fact, during that era, the Detroit Pistons earned the reputation of a bad boy image. Latrell Sprewell was a toxic player for the New York Knicks, even though he was a good player. Many fans have been expressive in their concern that some players are not taking their role very seriously as mentors to young people. Some say that young people will think that money can get you as far as you want without paying the consequences for bad behavior in the process. Don’t be disappointed altogether because there are some athletes that are exemplary in the way that they live - on and off the basketball court. However, unfortunately, these players are not making any television headlines to showcase their exemplary lifestyles for young people to see the other side of all of this. The competition, popularity of the game, the need to win and victories on the basketball court take center stage over the ethics and culture of the game. Even though, fans see the bad behavior week after the week, they still turn the tube on to watch their favorite teams without any reservation. Let’s take a look now at some of the most disruptive players in NBA history.
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11 Vin Baker
Prior to being traded to the Boston Celtics, Vin Baker played for the Seattle Supersonics. While he played for that team, the team’s overall record was 26-29. When he wasn’t on the basketball court playing, the team’s record improved to 23-4. What do you derive from the improvement? Yes, the team did better without him. He seemed to have a bad aura surrounding him and it adversely affected the entire team. Additionally, he was very demanding on the court – kind of like a ‘ball hog,’ if you may. He also took too much time to pass or shoot the ball when he received it, which hurt the team’s offense. The four-year contract deal of $56 million cost the Sonics a great deal when they acquired Baker. He did nothing for the team and his disruption to the team definitely made a negative difference. It was not much different with the Boston Celtics.
10 Michael Ray Richardson
In 1986, Michael Richardson was one of the first players in the NBA to be banned for using drugs. On three occasions, he failed his drug tests – testing positive for cocaine. He admittedly confessed that he had an issue with drugs, undergoing several rehab treatments and yet, he couldn’t beat the habit. He played for eight seasons in the NBA, hopping from the New York Knicks to the Warriors and then to the New Jersey Nets. No one can deny that he had talent. In fact, he was once the leading scorer for the Nets until he would go on one of his four day drug binges and lose focus.
He would miss the team’s flights to out-of-state games. Some in the media labeled him as the ‘biggest waste of talent’ in the NBA and one of the most disruptive players to the game of basketball. He later went to play basketball in Europe and enjoyed a decent career until an Italian league released him for the same cocaine habit.
9 Rasheed Wallace
What can be said about Rasheed Wallace that everyone doesn’t already know? He had a bad temper – period! And, he didn’t care if anyone knew. He would throw fits on the court if he didn’t get the call from the referees that he wanted. He would go right up into the face of the referee to show his displeasure. In fact, Wallace got multiple technical fouls in every single game. Because of his bad attitude, Wallace cost the Blazers many games they probably could have won. No one would argue that Wallace had talent. He did, but his talent didn’t get him far with his disruptive behavior on the basketball court. He made some early trips off the court and to the locker room. He certainly hurt his team and was a distraction.
8 Jason Williams
Known as “White Chocolate,” by his teammates, Jason Williams was not as sweet as the chocolate he emulated. He was disruptive to his team and the game of basketball. Playing for the Sacramento Kings, Williams got suspended for being in violation of the NBA’s policy as it related to drugs. He got numerous fines for getting into arguments with the fans. It was reported that he made offensive statements about gays and Asian-Americans. The Sacramento Kings did not hold their breath when he left for the Grizzlies team. One night, he had six turnovers on the court and shot 8 for 23, he blurted out that the team sucked and the media could print what he said. Of course, the team was not happy.
7 Roy Tarpley
Roy Tarpley went to the Mavericks in the 1986 NBA draft. He was considered a talented center, but it didn’t take long for him to be banned from the team. In 1991, he was also tested for drugs and found to be using cocaine. He returned to the NBA on a six-year, $22 million contract in 1995, but a year later, he received another ban for drinking alcohol. As a result, he was in violation of his rehabilitation agreement. His reputation continued to go downhill after leaving the NBA. He got arrested for burning his girlfriend in her abdomen with an iron. He subsequently didn’t show up for the court date. Many from the media agree that Tarpley could have been a great basketball player, if he had kept on the straight and narrow.
6 Marvin Barnes
Prior to entering the NBA professionally, Marvin Barnes played in the ABA for six seasons. He earned a reputation as an aggressive person, beating a teammate with a tire iron while at Providence College. While a rookie for the Spirit of St. Louis, Barnes decided to leave the team to renegotiate his basketball contract. Subsequently, he found himself in trouble for drug use and alcohol as well as carrying a concealed weapon. He moved from one team to the next: from St. Louis to the Detroit Pistons and then the Buffalo Braves. His career ended in 1979 with poor performance on the Boston Celtics. He was never quite able to translate his ABA success to the NBA.
4 Latrell Sprewell
Everyone may remember Latrell Sprewell by the choking episode during practice of his coach, P.J. Carlesimo of the Golden State Warriors. This wasn’t the only incident. He attacked the coach on two occasions and threatened to kill him. He was subsequently banned from the NBA for a whole year. When Sprewell went to the New York Knicks afterwards, it appeared that he had changed – for a moment. He didn’t go to training camp. He was always late arriving to basketball games. On some occasions, he walked out of team meetings. He received many fines while playing in the NBA and a lawsuit, which was quite distracting to the league and his team. After receiving an injury to his hand, he failed to report it to the coach right away and his team suffered for it.
3 Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson always had a ‘bad boy’ street image, from the moment he came into the NBA. He earned this rebellious image from his attire of tattoos, baggy clothes, glitzy jewelry and his cornrow braids. This wasn’t what the NBA was looking to promote, but this was what his young fans liked about him, in addition to his basketball talent.
He was reported to have had numerous arguments with his coaches and the team’s officials. The media portrayed him as a disruptive and selfish player. He also had a few legal infractions during his tenure in the NBA. In September 2009, he signed a contract with the Memphis Grizzlies after playing for the 76ers for most of his career. He wasn’t pleased with his role and so after three games, he left the team. In December 2009, he then returned to the 76ers for a second chance. This didn’t last very long because he left in February 2010 to take care of his ill daughter, after which the team announced that he wouldn’t return. He played overseas in Turkey for two years with the team, Besiktas and then retired officially in 2013.
2 Isaiah Rider
When you hear the word, “trouble,” you would think about Isaiah Rider. While he is a great talent, why did he move around so much in his NBA career? He went to Minnesota, Portland, Atlanta, L.A. and Denver. It seemed as if he never grew up, pulling childish stunts on and off the court. In the early period with the Lakers, Shaq didn’t waste words letting everyone know that he did not want Rider on the team. Rider proved Shaq right. He was always late for practice and games. One time, he gave Phil Jackson some note about why he was late. He said that the hotel manager failed to wake him up. He also was suspended for violation of the drug policy set by the NBA. He was bad news to all the teams that gave him a chance.
1 Dennis Rodman
“The Worm,” is no other than Dennis Rodman and you know why he made number one on this list, don’t you? He was quite a distraction to his team, the NBA and the game of basketball in general. It is said that he butted the head of a referee and kicked a press photographer. He was always bickering with his coaches. One time, he took his sneakers off before a basketball game had ended. He received numerous fines and suspensions on any team that he played for.
Steve Kerr once told a story that Phil Jackson once asked him to babysit Rodman while he went to go gamble.
He had a hard time getting along with his teammates. One could argue his talent was worth it, but there was a certain shelf life for Rodman with a team.
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