Last updated on May 8th, 2022 at 11:10 am
Ever since its inception, the NBA has been a highly physical league. From the Bad of Boys of Detroit to The New York Knicks to the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, all these teams had to play with extra physicality.
While we had some amazing players back in the days, many players were forced to adapt to the style of play in the NBA. This was often a result of aggression and physicality that was displayed by the opposing teams.
Even though the NBA is not as physical as it used to be, we still have players who play with extra physicality and toughness. That said, let us look at the 10 most aggressive players in the history of the NBA.
10. Wilt Chamberlain
One of the greatest NBA players of all time, Wilt Chamberlain was undoubtedly one of the most dominant players of his era. Standing at 7 foot 4, Wilt Chamberlain terrorized opponents with his gigantic build and impressive athleticism.
Although Wilt Chamberlain was slow to anger, he was quite aggressive when he needed to be. Chamberlain appeared to score and rebound at will, something that was quite impossible at the time considering the style of play by most teams.
A defensive force, Wilt Chamberlain led the league in rebounds In his illustrious 14 years NBA career. Just like on the defensive end, Chamberlain was equally efficient on the offensive end.
During the 1960-1961 season, Wilt Chamberlain averaged an outstanding 50.1 points, a feat that has never been matched.
9. John Brisker
If controversy had a face, then it would be John Brisker. Born and raised in the projects, John Brisker was a basketball player who did not live by anyone’s rule. Brisker’s hard-headedness saw him get kicked out of the school’s basketball team for insubordination.
While he would later sign with ABA’s(NBA) Pittsburgh Condors, many had Brisker would tone down his behaviour, but boy was they wrong. It’s Brisker’s level-headedness that saw him become the enforcer for the Pittsburgh Condors and the Seattle Supersonics.
Brisker was not only at the centre of many controversies but also many ABA fights. The 6 foot 5 would receive many ejections, with the most memorable one being against the Denver Rockets. Two minutes into the game, Brisker got the marching orders after elbowing Art Becker on the face.
Apart from inciting Street fights with the opposing teams, Brisker also carried a gun to the team’s dressing room at one point. Opponents and players were both terrified of John Brisker.
Towards the mid-70s, Brisker was now with the Seattle Supersonics contended with coming off from the bench. After his stint with the Sonics ended, Brisker would leave everything behind and travel to Africa (Uganda), never to be seen or heard from again.
After disappearing for 7 years without a trace, Brisker was declared legally dead.
8. Rasheed Wallace
Even though he played for several teams in the NBA, Rasheed Wallace will always be remembered for his stint with the Portland Trail Blazers. With the Blazers, Wallace became a key member of the team, leading it to two conference finals.
In the 2000-2001 season, Wallace earned all-star honours after an impressive season. While Wallace was an effective player on the offensive end, it’s his defensive prowess that made him a force to reckon with. Simply put, Wallace was a player who was willing to do whatever it took to stop the opponent from scoring.
During the 2000-2001 season, Rasheed Wallace made history by receiving 38 technical fouls. In the following season, Wallace broke his own record with 41 technical fouls. Wallace would also receive a 7 game suspension after he openly threatened Tim Donaghy, a veteran referee.
The suspension would yet again place Wallace in the history books of the NBA. This would be the longest suspension, whose offence did not involve substance abuse or violence.
7. Charles Oakley
Considered to be one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history, Charles Oakley was a defensive specialist widely remembered for his stint with the New York Knicks. Alongside Patrick Ewing, John Starks, and Mark Jackson, the New York Knicks became one of the most respected teams in the NBA, making the NBA playoffs for 10 consecutive years.
After leading his college team to a 31-1 record, Charles Oakley caught the eye of Jerry Krause, who ultimately made a deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 1985 NBA draft.
While many Bulls fans had never had of him, Oakley played well for the Chicago Bulls as the team slowly gained prominence.
However, after being traded to the Knicks, Oakley ultimately became the focal centre and leader of the team.
In his 16 year NBA career, Charles Oakley averaged an outstanding 9.7 rebounds per game and only missed the NBA playoffs one time in 1999 while playing for the Houston Rockets.
6. Charles Barkley
Widely revered for his rough and tumble style of play, Charles “Sir Charles” Barkley was no pushover during his playing days. Despite standing at 6 feet 6 inches, Barkley was a powerhouse on both the defensive and offensive ends.
Many NBA coaches loved his aggressiveness and outstanding rebounding skills that saw him average 10+ boards in 15 NBA seasons.
Nonetheless, like most players on this list, Charles Barkley often experienced outbursts that resulted in either fines or technicals.
Most of his coaches understood that Barkley was an emotional player and thus had to look the other way, mainly because of his productivity on the court. Barkley was a player who did not shy away from confronting the opposing team’s fans and, in some cases, blew kisses towards them.
The fans were also quick to react and often made fun of his eating habits by bringing pizzas to the basketball court.
Even though his impulsive mannerisms often created waves in the basketball community, NBA fans loved his humour and frankness.
While he loved the exchanges with fans, Charles Barkley remained to be one of the most aggressive NBA players.
On the basketball court, Barkley shot over 50% in his illustrious NBA career, received the 1991 NBA League MVP award and 11 All-Star honours.
5. Kwame Brown
Despite being drafted as the number one overall pick at the 2001 NBA drafts, Kwame Brown has constantly been at the centre of criticism throughout his NBA career. Many NBA analysts and fans were quick to label him as a bust, mainly because he did not perform as expected.
Like Michael Jordan, Kwame Brown was drafted straight from high school. While he had a slow start in the NBA, Kwame Brown slowly transitioned himself into one of the most aggressive players in the NBA as his career progressed.
After his stint with the Washington Wizards ended, Kwame Brown rejected a $30 million contract instead, opting for the free agency. Brown would sign with LA Lakers the following season.
Once again, he had a rather slow start averaging just 6 points and 6 rebounds in his first few games in the purple and gold jersey.
However, after assuming the starting role as a centre, Kwame Brown’s potential began showing as he was now averaging 12.3 points and an impressive 9.1 boards. Apart from posterizing various NBA players, Kwame Brown had also managed to become a defensive machine.
4. Ben Wallace
Considered to be one of the greatest undrafted players in the NBA, Ben Wallace was a defensive juggernaut and one of the most dominant players in the NBA. Unlike most players in the NBA, Ben Wallace spent his first few years in the G-League before finding his way into the NBA.
A four-time defensive player of the year, Ben Wallace’s suffocating defence and aggressiveness saw him become a Detroit Pistons great.
In 2016, The Detroit Pistons retired his Jersey Number.
While Ben Wallace played for various teams in his illustrious NBA career, it’s his stint with the Detroit Pistons that will be widely remembered. With the Pistons, Wallace was not only the rim protector but also the emotional leader of the team.
Just like Ron Artest, Ben Wallace was also another player who will also be remembered for his role in the infamous Malice at The Palace incident. Because of his involvement with the incident, Ben Wallace ended up receiving a six-game suspension.
While he was not a naturally dirty player, Ben Wallace often fought back when provoked. Wallace could not back down from a fight and neither could he give in.
3. Ron Artest
Although he might be one of the most misunderstood players in the NBA, Ron Artest was a basketball player who was not only aggressive but also outrightly dirty. Many NBA fans in the 90s will often remember him for the Malice at The Palace incident that sent shock-waves throughout the entire association.
This incident led to the suspension of nine NBA players for 146 NBA games. It’s also his involvement with the incident that contributed to Artest changing his name to Metta World Peace.
Born and raised in the projects, Ron Artest had one of the toughest childhoods.
Like many kids in the projects, Ron Artest constantly looked for ways to escape the projects and thus turned to basketball.
At the 1999 NBA draft, the Chicago Bulls selected Ron Artest as a 2nd round draft pick. From the get-go, Ron Artest NBA career was marred by aggression, verbal exchanges, and indecent gestures.
In his fourth season in the NBA, Ron Artest received a four-game suspension, after getting into a verbal altercation with Pat Riley and then flashed an indecent gesture towards the crowd.
2. Dennis Rodman
When people often talk about the 90s Chicago Bulls, people put more focus on Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. The Worm (Dennis Rodman) is a player who is often overlooked and, according to many NBA analysts, he was the focal centre of the Chicago Bulls.
Without Dennis Rodman, the entire landscape of the Chicago Bulls changes entirely.
A 5 time NBA champion and a Hall of Famer, Dennis Rodman was a player who perfected the art of rebounding. By the end of his illustrious NBA career, Dennis Rodman had collected an astounding 11, 954 rebounds.
After graduating from college, the Detroit Pistons drafted Dennis Rodman at the 1986 NBA draft. Rodman’s tough defence and aggressive rebounding made him a perfect fit for the Bad Boys of the NBA.
With the Detroit Pistons, Rodman helped the team secure two NBA titles. The Worm would later on request a trade which saw him join the San Antonio Spurs briefly before joining the Chicago Bulls.
With Michael Jordan running the show and Scottie Pippen serving as the second in command, it was Dennis Rodman who did all the dirty work for the team.
1. Shaquille O’Neal
One of the most dominant NBA players of all time, Shaq was a force to reckon with at the peak of his NBA career. Unlike most 7 foot tall NBA players, Shaquille O’Neal had the body mass to back it up. For a man his size, Shaq was faster.
Apart from breaking backboards while dunking, Shaquille O’Neal also used his upper body strength to bully the opposing players. If there is a player who has posterized many NBA players, then it has to be Shaq.
Although O’Neal played both in the 90s and ’00s, it’s the latter decade that helped him get more aggressive. Whenever players got aggressive towards Shaquille O’Neal, the towering behemoth always went back with more aggression.
As a member of the Orlando Magic, Shaquille O’Neal helped the team become one of the top dogs in one of the most brutal eras in the history of the NBA.