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:
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.
9 Charles Barkley on Hakeem Olajuwan
8 Charles Barkley on Dennis Rodman
7 Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn on Larry Bird
6 Metta World Peace on James Harden
5 Shaq on Rodney Stuckey
4 Shaq’s Lakers vs. Duncan’s Spurs
3 Jonas Valanciunas on LeBron James
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.
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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