Top 15 Thuggish Players in NBA History

The word thug is thrown around a lot, but what does the word really mean? Well the verb, to thug, means to nastily establish unrelenting style, skill, and or domination that squashes competition. When you put it that way, this applies very well to some NBA stars.

Some people think basketball is a sport just for thugs, but those people usually have never hit a three pointer. There is an art to the game, an athletic hand-eye harmonic concordance to the jump shot. Just like Plato’s Academy had written over it’s entry door, “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here,” so is unwritten over every single basketball court built, “Let no one ignorant of a jump shot enter here.” It might be true that opening public basketball courts increases crime in neighborhoods. And the NBA has had its number of thugged out incidents, like the Pacers incident… But the modern day definition of thug also includes the rough men in Churchill’s quote, “We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us,” as well as connotations of some baller saucing on you with unpredictable zesty flavor and flour, covering you with breadcrumbs, and panfrying you for brunch with freshly squeezed juice on the side when all that baller thought he or she was going to have was damn giblets.

For example, when the Houston Rockets came back from a 3-1 down in a series against the Los Angeles Clippers last year…that was pretty thug. And while we’re on the topic of the H-Town Rockets—when they scored forty-five points in the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors in last year’s playoffs: also thug. Ben Wallace is a thug, but not in a bad way—in a grounded and immovable way—what you want in a center. Rasheed Wallace was a thug in a very bad way. Thugs in the NBA come in all shapes and sizes and fabrics and styles. And, indeed, there is a pyramid ranking the thuggest. . .

15 Kevin Garnett

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

14 Chris Andersen

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports


13 Dennis Rodman


Five Rings. That is one heavy hand. His championships with the Bulls in the 90s were some of the greatest games played. He and MJ were a force of nature that plundered pounds of jewelry from the NBA, as well as other treasures.

12 Monta Ellis

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

11 Kevin Durant

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

10 Dwight Howard

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Moving to Houston changed Howard. I have to say it, Howard’s more thug now that he’s in H-Town. Nowadays Howard is less smiley, more serious and down to business, too. He has been hitting the gym for in-depth skills training sessions with Hakeem Olajuan whom has two championship rings from the Rockets’ back to back ships in ’94 and ’95. And Hakeem’s dream shake is paying off on the rebound consumer of worlds that is Dwight Howard.

9 Kirk Hinrich

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

8 Kobe Bryant

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I chose number eight for multiple reasons. Back when Kobe rocked no.8—back when he rocked the afro—this legend had, and still does have—a straight criminal crossover. And his pull up jumper should be outlawed from the league. But remember back when Kobe and Jordan played against each other? Those were two were the realest on the court. Kobe is triple OG. I’m highly surprised Kobe doesn’t have his own weed strain named after him in L.A.

7 James Harden

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

6 Patrick Beverly

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

5 J.R. Smith

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Smith is straight thuggin’ through the air as he escalates above the lane and descends to the hoop. Smith does not drive through the lane. He takes his hovercraft powered by his high tech rocket-boosting calves that jet him any where he wants to go. Some people muscle through the lane for a lay up, but Smith can just take the elevator—or he can take the escalator, depending on his mood for long jump or high jump.

4 Michael Beasley

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

3 Allen Iverson


2 Ron Artest


1 Rasheed Wallace


 At seven feet tall, Wallace towered with furious styles. Born in Philly, he blew up on the Portland Trailblazers and signed with the Detroit Pistons in 2004 and won a championship with them. Wallace would get in a referee’s ear like a giant fly. He wasn’t the type of person not to use freedom of speech. When he was playing in Detroit, a Pistons-Wallace fan was a thug even if we was the director of the PhD track for the biochemical engineering graduate students at University of Michigan. Wallace’s fury is known throughout the league like a ghetto Achilles.

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Top 15 Thuggish Players in NBA History