NBA / Feb 14, 2012 / 5:46 pm

The 5 Players With the Most Heart in the NBA

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, Dime #22

Valentine’s Day give us a little bit of license to churn out themed content for our readers (never hurts to mix it up a bit). So far today, we’ve given you video propositions and 5 Great NBA Kisses.

Next up? My list of the five players in the NBA with the most heart. As always with these things, my list is my own and there are really no right answers (obviously this will not stop someone in the comments section from telling me that I suck because I left off Tyler Hansbrough or something ridiculous like that). These are the five guys who bring it on the court every single night, no matter the situation. They are the guys who battle through injury and adversity and who would rather die than give in and take an L.

5. Dirk Nowitzki – No, he’s not the most physical player in the NBA, but you don’t have bowl people over like Craig “The Rhino” Smith to have heart. Dirk is a killer. He gets the sh*t beat out of him every single night by defenders who think they can beat him up to get him out of his game and he keeps coming back for more, again and again.

Look no further than last year’s NBA Finals against a Miami Heat team that was more talented and more athletic than Dirk’s Mavs by miles. Given a return to the stage where the Heat had stolen his title a few years prior, there was no way Dirk was going to allow Dallas to lose. He put his team on his back, battled more minutes, scored more points, and pulled more rebounds than he did during the regular season and hit big shot after big shot.

This season he’s struggling a bit, but is still getting after it every night. Even with his struggles, he played this past weekend’s Double OT tilt with the Portland Trail Blazers like it was Game 7.

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  • http://www.dimemag.com Austin Burton

    I’d add Carl Landry and Nate Robinson.

  • Vinny

    Chris Paul
    Ray Allen
    Dwayne Wade
    Tim Duncan

  • BiGShoTBoB

    @Austin Nate’s a great pick. I would also add Chris Paul for his size he’s all heart. Maybe Monta Ellis.

  • EJ

    Rajon Rondo…last years playoffs prove that.

  • GoEasy

    Steve Nash deserves a mention…

  • http://www.nbafullcourtpressure.com Matt

    I would add Chris Paul in there… How about Derrick Rose?

  • Patrick Cassidy

    @GoEasy and Matt – Nash and Rose are both in my Honorable Mention list…

  • Chaos

    sorry but i would take out Kobe. normally i would say the way he plays is with heart….but for him now its arrogance, not heart. i agree with rose, nate, CP3 and nash that should be mentioned

  • yoda

    does heart= passion or heart=balls? because i believe KG has all the passion in the world but not so much of balls. even when he was the man in minny he used to fade in 4th quarter and pass instead to take over the game.

    i’d take nash and landry in that list.

  • http://www.bettlejuiceXs3.com Chicagorilla


    Don’t buy into that hype that KG used to fade int he 4th. That’s all media bullshyt. That dude had to play with bums for most of his career. When they finally put Cassell and Spreewell on the team KG won big. KG is not a ball hog and he plays the game the right way. If he was doubled he was going to find an open teammate. And being that Cassell was a big time clutch performer, there was no one better to pass to. No one says that Shaq faded in the 4th because he let Kobe or Robert Horry take big shots.

    KG and Chris Webber got a really unfair criticisms against them in those early-mid 2000s games with that “fading in the clutch” bullshyt that the media put on them.

    And as soon as KG or Webber hit a game winning shot or had a few clutch plays, the media refused to eat their words. They just stopped bringing it up.

    I don’t care what the writer says (Pat Cassidy i think) Kobe’s selfishness drives everything he does so i can’t respect that. No way i’d take his heart over Derrick Roses. IMO Derrick, a 6’3 PG, putting his team on his back and carrying them to 60+ wins and the ECFs is far more impressive than Kobe shooting his teams outta games. Also watching Derrick in his first two playoff series when the Bulls were completely in over their heads vs the Celtics and Cavs (with Lebron), i am convinced there is not a tougher SOB in the NBA.

  • yoda

    @ Chi

    its not media hype as much as limited access i had to ‘wolves games back then. i used to like KG back then but it seems to me that last 5 minutes of close games he wouldn’t demand ball down low or to impact games like duncan did at the same time. i know he always had that top of the key J but he spent so much there at the end of the games. or maybe is just my memory playing trick on me.
    i know they lost to my lakers that WC finals but if they won, i wouldn’t be mad. too bad spree couldn’t feed his family with 7 mill a year.
    never though about c-web as not clutch. he gave lakers hard time, damn it :)and those kings were fun to watch.

  • bob1

    Where was kobe’s heart when the suns were blowing out the lakers in the first half of a game 7 and he decided to take only 3 shots in the second half?????????

    No one with heart would do such a selfish, cowardly thing like that and bail on his teammates.

    Kobe at the top of the list is wack.

    He’s a talented player, but one with little heart. Heart is fighting to the end no matter what the circumstances, not throwing in the towel when the situation looks dire.

  • Nyeme

    @Chi – Don’t let media hype skew your opinion. KG didn’t play with bums. They weren’t top players in the league but they were more than serviceable. Actually the worst team he’s had (not including the year before he was traded) was Cassell & Sprewell and that’s the team that he achieved the most success with. Why? Because Cassell was a cold-blooded killer and Spree played with fire. They were anti-KGs. On the flip-siode, I won’t deny KG’s passion though but like I said, KG & Webber are almost identical; even with them as the best player on the team, you still need that leader on the floor with them.

    The truth is that KG has had enough talent around him to win a playoff series.

    So I’d take off Dirk, KG.

  • the shaman

    wow Manu could easily be #1 much less top 5. but I’m a Spurs fan so what do I know, I’ve only watched him since 2003.

  • Richard

    Joakim Noah gives it every game.

  • control

    This is one of those situations where AB needs to chime in, because he always brings it up and he’s right in this situation. People will always say “Kobe” as the first thing out of their mouth when it comes into any discussion about this “heart” bullshit. Just like people will say “Kobe” when it comes to any question about best player, best teammate, best etc…even though that obviously isn’t the answer.

    Obviously Kobe’s heart doesn’t extend to winning, his heart is aimed at his stats, not at getting his team involved and making high percentage plays that ultimately improve his team’s chances of winning. It’s funny when you bring up Kobe taking low percentage shots, and people defend it with “Well, Kobe is so good at them, he can do it and it ain’t low percentage”. Well, this year, guy is shooting like 42%, so either he’s falling off, or those shots really aren’t good shots. In addition to that low percentage, he is freezing out teammates and fucking their games up too.

  • UncheckedAggression

    Interesting list, but of course a list like this is so subjective. I’m not sure I would put a single player on this list on mine. Dirk is only included because of his championship last season, which I find funny. If they lost in the WCF or something, you’d get laughed at for putting him on there.

    Also, saying the Mavs were less talented than the Heat is pretty inaccurate. The Mavs best 3 can’t compare to the Heat’s top 3, but the Mavs best 7 were miles ahead of the the Heat’s top 7. The Mavs were more talented.

    Kobe #1? Definitely not, for reasons that others have already brought up. The guy has heart, but as control said, it ain’t aimed at being a winner. It’s aimed at trying to make everyone believe he’s the best. Funny thing is, the best way he could do that would be to play a team game and prove he will make sacrifices for the betterment of his team. No way in hell has he ever shown he’s willing to do that.

    Get your numbers, Kobe.

  • dale

    dang, Kobe don’t have the ‘right’ type of heart now…? man i thought the madness had stopped a while back i guess it never will for some.
    Anyway, good article, like others i might swap in Rose or Nash for KG. More for the ‘picking on little guys’ rep, that might be overblown but i think that has to cost you points if there’s only 5 slots. The Minnesota ‘passing off in the 4th’ rep is kind of undeserved, the way i remember it was more about being (too) unselfish but i didn’t sense fear or nothing like that.

  • David

    I’d add Varejao to the list. Dude plays hard no matter what. He goes relentlessly for rebounds, defends his a@s off (even if it means getting posterized), and has played that way on good teams and bad.

  • http://www.bettlejuiceXs3.com Chicagorilla


    it’s called Fools Gold homey. Kobe’s hype machine will tell you anything they can in order to get you to click on their articles and buy their magazines. And I mean ANYTHING. Even Magic Johnson is saying Kobe is the best Laker ever and best player ever. Why? Do you think it has something to do with Magic being a part of the Lakers organization? Yeah people forget that. He has since sold his ownership in the Lakers but the damage was already done and he can’t go back on his words.

  • neoy

    which laker will be better than Kobe by the time he retires? please explain from a unbiased point of view.

  • http://www.bettlejuiceXs3.com Chicagorilla


    If you have to ask that question, then clearly you are the one who has a biased point of view.

    Seriously go on youtube and watch some game film