For a supposed non-contact sport, things can get pretty heated on the basketball court. Some players like to push the rules of the game to the limit and impart their physicality on their opponents. These are the most aggressive NBA players of all time.
His foul rate might say he wasn’t that dirty, but that just means Kobe was really good at getting away with sneaky fouls. The Black Mamba has long rangy arms that are perfect for catching people with elbows, and it’s something he did pretty regularly. If you were tasked with guarding Kobe you had to give him an arm’s length, otherwise you might just lose a few teeth on the court. Most of the time it does look like incidental contact, but it happened way more often to be a complete coincidence.
There were no sneaky fouls from Charles Oakley when he was on the court, he was pretty clear about most of them. If you were up close and personal with the power guard, you were going to feel it, both at the game and with the bruises you’d receive days later. Soft players on the court were absolutely destroyed by Oakley, and he’d make sure you knew who hit you. If things got really heated, he also wouldn’t back down and was not scared of a fist fight.
Only Bruce Bowen will know for sure if he set out to injure other players or not, but from the sidelines, it sure looked like he did. Bowen had a nasty habit of tripping players on their way up to the basket, compromising their landings.
Once they landed funny a few times, they suddenly began to question whether jumping near the Spurs legend was even worth it. Bowen got into your head in the worst kind of way and had you fearing for your career every time you faced off against him. He even threw in a few cheap shots along the way to let players know he wasn’t messing around.
People might have assumed that John Stockton was a pretty mellow guy considering his size and demeanor, but he was as feisty as they come. Stockton has the most assists in the history of the NBA, but he also got away with plenty of fouls too.
The man was a scrappy player, and he would fight for every inch on the court. Sometimes he’d literally fight players as he wasn’t scared to throw a shot to the torso to let people know he wasn’t playing. The best thing about Stockton’s aggressiveness is that he rarely ever got caught doing it.
Why block a player legally when you can just throw a big elbow and stop him in his tracks? Karl Malone was a great player and earned his spot in the Hall of Fame, but he was pretty aggressive, just ask Isiah Thomas. Malone caught Thomas with a seemingly deliberate elbow that caused the player to hit the deck and require 40 stitches near his eye.
These are the players you really didn’t want to mess with on the basketball court. They’d let you know pretty early on that you were in for a fight and some were smart enough to do it without getting caught.