NBA / Aug 13, 2010 / 11:00 am

The NBA’s Top 10 Goons

Matt Barnes

Any time an NBA player goes slumming and plays with the “regular” folks on the playground — preferably in a legit summer pro-am in a legit basketball city — he’s going to gain some measure of street cred.

It happened for Gilbert Arenas and Kevin Durant when they took their million-dollar knees to Barry Farms in D.C. It happened for Kobe, Baron Davis, Nate Robinson and a host of others when they played at Rucker Park in Harlem. It happened for Paul Pierce when he ran at L.A.’s Drew League.

But then Matt Barnes had to take it a step too far. Playing in the San Francisco Bay Area Pro-Am earlier this week, Barnes reportedly got into an altercation with the opposing team’s assistant coach and slapped the coach.

While this story may conjure images of Jay-Z‘s famous-versus-brainless line in “Streets Is Watching,” I think Barnes was just practicing for his new role with the Lakers: Hired goon.

Barnes isn’t as important to L.A. as he was to Orlando. Barnes was the Magic’s designated defensive stopper, the guy who would be sicced on Kobe or LeBron or Brandon Roy or whichever All-Star perimeter scorer needed to be held in check. The Lakers already have that guy in Ron Artest. So either Barnes is going to be a backup stopper in L.A., or he’s going to be a designated goon: The guy brought in to play rough, to be an a-hole, to use his fouls (smartly) and try to get in the opponent’s head. It’s part Dennis Rodman, part Shane Battier, part Alvin Mack in The Program. Before he heads to training camp for his new team, Barnes can look to these experts in the art of chi-goon-ery for tips:

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Nene — Tied for fifth in the League in personal fouls. Dwight Howard led the League in personals and techs, but he’s too smiley, too talented, and too athletically graceful to be a goon. Nene is a solid starter who could be an All-Star if he puts everything together someday, but he’s not so good that he wouldn’t be asked to go in an send a message with a flagrant foul. Plus he’s got a quality sneer.

Ersan Ilyasova — The first time I saw Ilyasova, he was little-used rookie in the Madison Square Garden visitor’s locker room, sweating profusely after a pre-game warmup and reminding me of Ivan Drago in the Rocky IV training sequences. The next time I saw Ilyasova, he had a couple more years of Euroleague experience on him and was wreaking havoc in a Bucks/Sixers game, wearing a facemask and slinging elbows and knees everywhere.

David West — Like Dwight, D-West has too much talent to be considered a true goon, but you have to save a spot on the list for the guy who slapped Dirk Nowitzki in the face during a playoff game like he was in a scene from Miller’s Crossing.

Jonas Jerebko — When Tayshaun Prince isn’t smothering the other team’s best wing scorer with his length, quickness and technical acumen, Jerebko can simply beat them up.

Anderson Varejao — Unlike a lot of AV’s critics, I do think he has some identifiable basketball skills. But with all due respect to his screen-setting, off-ball movement and rebounding, Varejao is making $42 million over the next five years because he’s an effective goon.

Zaza Pachulia — You’d think Zaza and his 6-11 frame would be able to help Atlanta’s notoriously undersized front line for more than 14-15 minutes a night, but he always seems to be in foul trouble. As the East now boasts Amar’e, Bosh and Boozer to go with Dwight, KG and Brook Lopez, Zaza’s goon-ish tendencies will be more valuable than ever as the Hawks try to contend for a ‘chip.

Kendrick Perkins — If you were building the ultimate basketball goon, you’d give him either Perk’s face or Biz Markie’s face. Perk has the scowl and sneer down pat; Biz is just ugly.

Joel Anthony — If he wasn’t a goon before, he’s going to be one now. Between D-Wade, LeBron and Bosh, the Heat have a lot of guys that need protection, and the thick-necked, 6-9 scrapper with raw skills is the ideal candidate to provide that physical presence.

Brandon Bass & Marcin Gortat — Another pick for the future. Now that the Magic have first-round pick Daniel Orton to develop as a legit backup for Dwight Howard, Bass and Gortat can become the NBA’s Acolyte Protection Agency. They should even go all-out and wear black gloves when they check into a game. Dwight has needed an enforcer (or two) for a while now.

Reggie Evans — There are certain unwritten rules to playing a sport (e.g. no trying to rip off one’s testicles) that Reggie just doesn’t adhere to. The man has no remorse for anyone standing between him and his next foul.

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  • http://www.more-sports.net andrew macaluso

    Kenyon Martin is the ultimate goon in the NBA.

  • Simon

    No love for Reggie Evans? I thought he finished first in an SI poll for dirtiest player?

  • Heckler

    whats with all the movie references?

  • Pareja

    Tha’ts right Simon, Reggie Evans all the way. I paid attention, and in one game:
    Reggie fell down, and that guy even didn’t want to take Bargnani’s hand to stand up. He looked him in the eye and stood up. priceless.

  • jm

    Gortat? Are you saying that Gortat isn’t a legit backup center and that Daniel Orton is?? He would start and put up good numbers for 3/4 of the rest of the league.

  • Showtime

    Turiaf is like totally misplaced on this list

  • Stunnaboy09

    Orton is abosulte SHUTE. I never understand how someone who averaged 3 and 3 in college can go in the first round. He has no standout skill and I see him out of the league in a few years.

    No Kenyon Martin? Must I replay the Nuggets/Mavs series again for you?

  • Samuel

    This lists are getting worst every time, the goon list without K. Martin or R. Evans R U Kidding me?

  • Mo

    LMAO! David West didn’t ‘slap’ Dirk. He simply tapped his cheek is all. Just to let him know he wasn’t going to be taking many more of Dirk’s swinging elbows to the lip. LMAO. The description above makes it sound like West straight up bitch slapped Dirk. LMAO.

  • Mo
  • Mo

    BTW, I never saw Miller’s Crossing.

  • control


    “I do think he has some identifiable basketball skills” then identify them. Give an example of basketball skills that Valgina has that aren’t a direct result of his hustling. He ain’t a goon, he let Wade throw down one of the sickest dunks ever right on his stupid looking face, and just laid there wondering if he should pretend to be hurt or something. He doesn’t play good defense, he gets backed down by guys 4-6 inches smaller than him, and his first reaction to any play is to flop. Get him the fuck off this list man.

    Didn’t Ersan Ilyasova serve in the Israeli army for a few years? If that doesn’t make you a bad ass, I’m not sure what does…

    Does AK47 deserve to be on this list?

    Reggie Evans NEEDS to be on this list…his only purpose in this game is to be a goon. I dislike his methods (grabbing guy’s junk constantly) but he is the definition of goon.

  • easy yeezy

    Ira Newble was a goon to the core.

  • kg fan

    did AB add to the list because i’m seeing reggie evans on the list?

  • dh

    #1 is right, Kenyon Martin is more of a goon than the other goons on Denver.

  • rell

    “Quick to bring the goons out like John Chaney”

    If David West is on the list then Artest should be on the list. Along with West, Perks,Ilyasova, and Pachulia I would have put Artest, K-Mart, Barnes, Raja Bell, Brad Miller, and Reggie Evans on list.

    If you did a top 10 all-time NBA goons list the Pistons and 90’s Knick would almost make up the entire list. Laimbeer, Rodman, Zeke, and Rick McHorn would be on the list along with Oakley, Anthony Mason and probably X-Man from the Knicks.

  • raytard

    Reggie Evan is on the list…..idiots read the WHOLE article nigga is on the bottom

  • LakeShow84

    LMAO i was lookin at that too..

    Reggie Evans is on the list peoples lol

    But im all for Kenyon Martin being a goon.. dude makes retarded fouls and acts like he aint do nothin..

    Dumb Foul Example # 1.. Holding Sasha Vujacic’s leg while he was on the ground in their elimination game in Denver back in 08..


  • Jahvon

    Jamaal Magloire….

  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla

    Ersan is a annoying player much like Andreas Nocioni but niether are goons.

    KURT THOMAS is a goon. Have you not seen dudes crazy look right after he dumps your big man on the floor. Also Kurt is from the old school wars of MIA/NY. He’s the definition of Goon.

    KENYON MARTIN There are just some players that don’t get Eff’d with in the L, and Kenyon is one of a handfull. Have you seen how dudes react to his flagrant fouls? They look and see it’s Kenyon, then walk the hell away mumbling under their breath. After seeing what he did to Corey Maghette’s jawline, can you blame them?

    REGGIE EVANS is the Gooniest of them all. Forget about the nutsack grabbing…dude looks like Omar from The Wire. thats enough right there.

    RON ARTEST come on, not having Artest on the list is like having sex with Beyonce and actually using a rubber. If Artest ain’t a goon, then I don’t know what a goon is. Have you seen what he does to opposing Rookies? They are terrified when they face him.

    JERMAINE ONEAL I didn’t know he was a goon until last year vs the Celtics when Q and KG got into it. Oneal came running over and pushing people over the pile yet no one touch JO. Then I look back at the Malace and he str8 blazed homey that ran on the court. No one wants to touch this dude.

  • BlazersBabyBri

    Charlie Villanueva should get an honorable mention. How can you be in a game for like 47 seconds and then get ejected for a flagrant 2 and not be a goon?? lol

  • LakeShow84

    “not having Artest on the list is like having sex with Beyonce and actually using a rubber”


  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla


    Yeh reading that now it does seem pretty funny, but my nicca…. i was so serious when i typed it lmao.


    the author’s definition of goon is different than mine…im thinkin marquis daniels…jr smith…etc

  • buffalo balla

    AV went from goon to being one of his teams best players…
    it’s so cold in the Cleve….

  • raytard


    Lmao Beyonce

    Ron Arrest and JO should of been mentioned, I wasn’t even thinking about them dudes but they should of been on here

  • Pareja


    hey idiot, dimemag added reggie evans after our comments. It looks that you are the tard after all.

  • bub

    Louis Amundson is a goon, just wanna punch him when i look at him. Goon = player u dont wanna play against but would love having on your team.

  • crossphaded

    You forgot the biggest goon of them all, Andres Nocioni. That fool is hella dirty!

  • Krayzie

    No Stephen Jackson, Zach Randolph, Rasheed?

  • ha

    Eduardo Najera

  • Crew Dizzy

    K Mart definitely needs to be on the list and though recently retired Sheed still deserves an honorable mention.

  • pH13

    nice list, perhaps we could add Andres Nocioni as well?

  • 313

    this is terrible

  • Hollywud15

    kmart, Zack randolf, stack jack? …this list sucks