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Top 10 Dirtiest Plays In NBA History

Sometimes there is an art to fouling. Maybe it is late in the game and you are trying to turn an epic back and forth battle into a free throw contest. Maybe a player is on a breakaway and you need to

Sometimes there is an art to fouling. Maybe it is late in the game and you are trying to turn an epic back and forth battle into a free throw contest. Maybe a player is on a breakaway and you need to grab out to stop him having a clear path to the basket. Maybe a bump in the lane will lead to a missed free throw instead of an easy layup. Those are not the fouls we are interested in here.

What we are looking for is the hardest, the toughest, and the dirtiest fouls in NBA history. These are the fouls which will make you never want to drive into the lane again. The fouls which will make you wince even if you hate the player on the receiving end. The fouls which sometimes make you wonder how the player who was hit can even still be alive as he peels himself off of, or sometimes out of, the hardwood.

If we are honest these are the fouls that David Stern and the rest of the NBA brass have done everything in their power to legislate against over the last 10 or so years. This era of above the rim play, highlight dunks, and marquee brand spokesmen could not exist if said spokesmen were being drilled out of the air on a nightly basis. The art of the enforcer, the center who may not have much in the way of skill, but who has everything in the way of toughness and intimidation, is certainly dying, if not already dead.

Thus, with a few exceptions, most of the fouls you will see coming up are from the golden era of the NBA tough guy. It is just a shame YouTube wasn’t around 30 or 40 years ago because it would have been interesting to see the shenanigans going on out there in more detail.

As it is, on with the list:

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10 Dennis Rodman on Scottie Pippen

There is so much more to this than it just being a hard foul. By 1991 the Bad Boy Pistons were cracking. A combination or age and playing so deep into the playoffs for five straight seasons was taking its toll on Detroit. Having dumped the Bulls out of the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, the Pistons once again tried to out muscle Pippen, Jordan, and company. This foul is a great example as Dennis Rodman isn’t content with just having stopped Pippen scoring. Instead he continues his work and decks his former teammate with a nasty shove into the stands.

The Bulls though would get that last laugh, ending the Pistons reign and beginning their own dynasty.

9 Charles Barkley on Hakeem Olajuwan

For an entire generation, Charles Barkley is a lovable, if controversial, analyst on televised NBA games. For those old enough to remember the game in the ‘90s though, he was the guy who took over the cheap and dirty label after the Pistons' Bad Boy era was over. At the end of this 1994 playoff series deciding game Hakeem Olajuwan looks to be taking liberties and running up the score on Barkley’s Phoenix Suns. Barkley is having absolutely none of it, so he decks Olajuwan mid-dunk with a hard shot to the stomach. As with any good foul there are a couple of ejections thrown in for good measure, all with just over seven seconds left in the game.

8 Charles Barkley on Dennis Rodman

This incident finds its way onto our list because it pits the two previous flagrant offenders against each other. Dennis Rodman may have been one of the strangest men to ever play in the NBA, or in any sports league for that matter, but this video goes to show just how you get the best of a bully in a big time situation. Rodman first takes a hard charge from Barkley before going right down the other end and getting in just the right position to convince Barkley to throw the elbow a couple of times. Less than ten seconds and two fouls called on the opposition’s marquee player. That is just smart basketball.

7 Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn on Larry Bird

This is as much for what the foul represents as it is for the quality of the foul. It can be argued that the combination of Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn is the most intimidating inside duo in NBA history. I would call them polarizing, but in order to be polarizing that would indicate some people liked you. These two were HATED by everyone outside of Detriot and their constant battles with Larry Bird made for some of the most dramatic twists and turns in NBA history. On this play Bird does the most Bird like thing even through getting rocked by two guys before calmly going to shoot some free throws.

6 Metta World Peace on James Harden

Hmm, was it an accident, as a result of being pumped up from the basket, or was it indeed flagrant? Either way, it looked bad, and you can't fault the ref for calling it flagrant. After making a basket, Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) elbows James Harden right in the head. Gee, the guy wasn't exactly the walking epitome of the name on his jersey. Artest served a seven-game suspension as a result of this elbow. Harden was later diagnosed with a concussion, but World Peace maintained the foul was unintentional. Alright, then.

5 Shaq on Rodney Stuckey

So this foul is unlike the others in that it doesn’t seem to be inherently dirty. The problem here then comes from the fact that you have the massive Shaquille O’Neal going up against the very lanky Rodney Stucky. Shaq really does seem to just be doing his thing as a rim protector as Stuckey drives in for the finish. That is certainly not to say though that meeting a seven-feet, 350-pounder in midair is going to be anything other than a disaster when you are 6-foot-5, 205 pounds yourself. If you look carefully they are still pulling the bones of Stuckey from the floor to this very day.

4 Shaq’s Lakers vs. Duncan’s Spurs

This game on the other hand was nothing but dirty. The first part of this video shows Shaq in his prime offensively and he is just a monster that the Spurs have no hope of dealing with. From there, the game gets chippy, then it gets dirty, before it ends in an all-out brawl with both benches clearing and actual punches being thrown. These are not your everyday show punches for effect either, these are the real deal. The best part about the fight at the end though is how clearly no one wants any of Shaq. That makes total sense when given the fact that his fist is roughly the same size as a frying pan.

3 Jonas Valanciunas on LeBron James

This is a very recent foul to be on a list of this sort, but something about it suggests that it will stand the test of time. With LeBron driving at you there are a number of options you can try defensively. One which has not been seen often, but the one apparently practiced by Jonas Valanciunas, is known throughout most of the world as a rugby tackle. Valanciunas quite simply throws out his arms as James is about to blow by him and throws him to the ground with a remarkable amount of form and seeming lack of effort. It is worth noting at this point that the big Lithuanian may actually just be playing the wrong sport….

2 Jason Smith on Blake Griffin

We all know that Blake Griffin can jump out of the gym. We also know that the best way to stop someone jumping out of the gym on a fast break is to foul them. The only question remaining is what kind of foul to use...

If you are Jason Smith the answer to that particular question is apparently to just destroy Griffin with a well timed shoulder block to the side of the body. Bonus points are awarded here for the fact that Griffin is not looking at the time the hit was made and that Smith does what all linebackers are taught and runs right through the player to make the play.

If only this were actually a football game like the one Smith seems to be playing.

1 Kevin McHale on Kurt Rambis

What is the best way to stop a fast break scoring opportunity?

Well if you are Kevin McHale in the 1984 NBA Finals then the obvious answer is to channel your inner WWE Superstar and throw a Clothesline from Hell on Kurt Rambis. The irony of this play is that the heat generated from it turned the series in the favor of the Celtics, proving that sometimes throwing in a hard foul is essential to win basketball games. Also we cannot move on without mentioning the first generation sports goggles, which Rambis is rocking for the game. Well played sir, well played.

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Top 10 Dirtiest Plays In NBA History