With Bruce Bowen retiring last week and John Stockton headed for the Hall of Fame this week, the concept of the “dirty” basketball player has been in discussion around the Dime office.
Even the casual NBA fans knows about notorious thugs like Bowen, Bill Laimbeer and Ron Artest, who wind up on “SportsCenter” with every elbow, slide-under ankle-breaker, hip check and hard foul they deliver. But you really have to watch the games to point out the guys who are sneaky-dirty; the ones less like Bowen and more like Stockton, whose slight-of-hand acts don’t get as much attention as the guys with reputations that precede them. Here are 10 of the sneakiest/dirtiest, a.k.a. The Wood Harris All-Stars:
1. Kobe Bryant — For one of the most physically in-control athletes in the world, a gym rat who is aware of what his body is doing every second of every game, Kobe sure has a lot of “accidents” on the court: Mike Miller caught one of those accidental elbows in the throat, Manu Ginobili was one victim of a wayward back-handed chop, and Shane Battier took a surely “incidental” knee to the cheek recently. And as good as he is at getting away with stuff, Kobe is equally adept at playing it off in case he does get caught. When he ran an Adam’s Apple check on Ron Artest in this year’s playoffs, Kobe’s reaction looked like Kevin Hart “This is dumb, man. Gimme a hug” bit.
2. Chris Paul — The Michael Irvin of the NBA is the master of the unnoticeable push-off. His flopping game is also on-point, and don’t forget the Julius Hodge incident.
3. Reggie Evans — If I were ranking guys in order according to dirty-ness, Evans would be #1 and #2 at the same time. Unless you’re fighting for your life, there’s just no excuse for grabbing a guy’s nuts. And unless you’re in a prison yard, there’s really no excuse for slapping a dude on the ass with all your might.
4. Steve Nash — As high-profile as his “gets” have been: the Robert Horry hip check, the Bowen knee-to-crotch, or the Tony Parker head collison that split his nose open, Nash’s “gives” have usually slipped under the radar. Most notable was when he kicked Yao Ming, the most gentle guy in the League. That’s like giving Teddy Ruxpin an uppercut.
5. Derek Fisher — He fits the sneaky-dirty profile almost perfectly: Small-college guy who isn’t the most athletic or talented player around, yet he’s managed to not only stick in the League, but play a vital part on several winning teams. He’s got to be bending the rules in his favor somehow, right? Fisher’s most recent dirty play was knocking Luis Scola’s hair off his head with a shoulder block in this year’s playoffs — the rest of his repertoire includes slight jersey tugs, a little stepping on the feet, and somehow tackling an opponent so discreetly, he’ll get the guy called for a foul. Check this Smack note from a Warriors/Lakers game in 2008:
… down by two with four seconds left, [the Warriors] were inbounding on their side of the court. Everyone was bunched up at the beginning of the play, and it turned into a scrum. Kobe and Baron Davis were basically hugging each other, and then Derek Fisher fell backwards while pulling Monta Ellis down on top of him, baiting the ref into calling an offensive foul on Monta (as Fish pretended to be hurt). That of course sent the Warriors announcers through the roof, and understandably. “That’s just awful. That’s not even basketball!” one of them said as the Lakers iced it with free throws.”
6. Mickael Pietrus — His stealth is even more impressive than his dirty play. In an Eastern Conference Finals series where LeBron James was getting sent to the line if you brushed up against him, Pietrus somehow managed to elbow LBJ square in the groin while ‘Bron was in mid-air and didn’t get called for it. You’d think the refs would be all over that.
7. Tyson Chandler — Off the court, Chandler is actually one of the nicer guys I’ve met in the NBA, a religious family man almost in the David Robinson mold. On the court, he’s got that whole Jekyll/Hyde thing going. Blame it on his high school days playing in Compton, or on coming into the League as a skinny teenager and needing to find a way to establish his place, but Chandler has some dirty tricks in his toolbox. The worst was from a Hornets/Blazers game last January. All night Chandler had been battling with Joel Przybilla, who was playing with a broken wrist that was clearly wrapped up due to injury. Jockeying for position on the block one time, Chandler looked at Ghostface’s wrist, then came down with a karate chop on it, setting off a fight in which Chandler was ejected. It was so foul that Przybilla’s grandma got involved.
8. Ray Allen — Another of the NBA’s nice guys who definitely has a dark side. Glaring at somebody or talking smack after hitting a big shot is one thing (everybody does that on the playground), but Ray’s history goes deeper than that. His scraps with Bowen and Kobe are well-known, and he’s also been known to swing an elbow towards the baby-making region. Ray got into a scrap with Keyon Dooling in Seattle a few years back that was just as bad as Nate Robinson/J.R. Smith brawling in MSG, it just didn’t get as much hype because it wasn’t in New York.
9. Rajon Rondo — After Rondo slapped Brad Miller in the face and threw Kirk Hinrich into the scorer’s table with zero repercussions, Aaron Gray must have been praying he didn’t get any PT during that Bulls/Celtics series, otherwise he’d end up on the hit list.
10. Louis Amundson — He’s got to be doing something dirty or he’s just damned annoying, because for whatever reason, guys want to kick Lou’s ass and don’t even care about the consequences. Last season, Zach Randolph punched Amundson in the face in the middle of the court for allegedly trying to kiss him “in my mouth,” then Nene took a break from basketball to treat Amundson’s face like a heavy bag, later calling him a “stupid dude.” Despite what you told that girl in high school, you can be dirty with just your mouth, too.
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