‪The Best Protectors in Sports‬

Zack Pumerantz@z_pumerantzAnalyst IIISeptember 10, 2012

‪The Best Protectors in Sports‬

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    Behind every great athlete is a snarling teammate yearning for a chance to toss those fisticuffs.

    Often mammoth-sized and somewhat emotionally unstable, these "fighters" have one sole purpose: to protect their talented brethren.

    In the heat of the moment, chairs can be chucked, drinks tossed, hands thrown. But no matter what the situation entails, these gifted tough guys always come to the rescue.

    Let's meet the best protectors in sports right now.

    The backbones behind their respective teams' success.

20. Steve Smith, NFL

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    Following a slightly late hit, the hard-nosed, 5'9" Steve Smith takes matters into his own hands.

    His Panther teammates sprint up the field and attack the frustrated Saints, but Smith immediately runs in with an I-got-this mentality. The diminutive wideout can't be stopped.

19. Gennaro Gattuso, Soccer

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    With this year's shortest fuse award, we introduce classy Italian defensive midfielder Gennaro Gattuso.

    As the only one without a shirt, it's clear the Rhino will do whatever it takes to end a fight on his terms. In the heat of the moment, there are few we'd rather have on our side.

18. Metta World Peace, NBA

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    He may be associated most with the '04 brawl that took place at The Palace of Auburn Hills after which he was suspended for the rest of the season, but it's quite clear that Metta World Peace is the guy you want protecting your superstars.

    Kobe Bryant can soar, Pau Gasol can occupy the paint and Andrew Bynum can be inconsistent, all confidently knowing that their Peace man is always ready to throw down with the opposing team's toughest subject.

17. Brian McGrattan, NHL

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    Only a fight with the legendary mustache Parros has can properly grade Brian McGrattan against the toughest skaters currently gracing the NHL ice.

    And the ferocious Predator passed the test, surviving for another fight, another war if you will.

16. Steven Jackson, NFL

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    Rarely does beastly tailback Steven Jackson get into scuffles with aggravating defenders, but if the situation calls for it, the ripped phenom will take care of physical business.

    And when he's finished, Jackson displays a quick toss-back of the hair and a quiet smile. Success.

15. Brandon Prust, NHL

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    Don't mess with the green line.

    The crafty winger may not score a ton, but he was a driving force behind the Rangers' magical postseason run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

    Fierce play, dedication and loyalty have all led Prust to physical greatness.

14. Andre Johnson, NFL

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    Here's a case of the star protecting himself. But after watching Andre Johnson beat the snot out of the unbelievably irritating Cortland Finnegan, it was clear the talented receiver was a closet tough guy.

    Don't ever mess with the class act that is Andre Johnson.

13. John Scott, NHL

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    We commend 6'0" Derek Dorsett's ferocious attempt at sparking his team, but facing up against 6'8" John Scott is quite reminiscent of David vs. Goliath.

    Scott allows a couple light jabs before completely unloading on his eventual victim. A post-victory chuckle and subtle kick is all Scott needs to entertain the crowd.

12. Kevin Garnett, NBA

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    Protecting fans from the vibrant sight that is Craig Sager is an art few can truly appreciate, yet all need to understand.

    "The red socks which the people can't see at home, take all this, handkerchief, lime thong, all that, burn it."

    To protect and burn.

11. Cam Janssen, NHL

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    Perhaps the only normal-sized hockey player who can actually give 6'8" John Scott a proper bout, Cam Janssen has become a fighting extraordinaire during his time on the professional ice.

    The 28-year-old already has 750 penalty minutes, and he's nowhere close to finished.

10. Richard Seymour, NFL

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    Welcome to the world of gridiron-trench warfare, where faces go to die.

    It seems that whenever defensive end Richard Seymour senses danger, he swings for the fences. Ben Roethlisberger's tree-like demeanor couldn't get him out of this one.

9. Shawn Thornton, NHL

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    There are few players we'd like to see get more facially disfigured than NHL instigator Matt Cooke.

    But he does put up quite the fight for several seconds before Shawn Thornton completely demolishes any optimism existing in Pittsburgh. At 35, Thornton continues to teach the youngsters not to mess with their elders.

8. James Harrison, NFL

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    Six years after being tackled by Roger Goodell's No. 1 enemy, Browns fan Nathan Mallet is a changed man.

    But for James Harrison, this was just an example of what kind of protection he can offer the NFL on a weekly basis. Streakers and inebriated diehards will forever think twice before frolicking on the gridiron.

7. Tyson Chandler, NBA

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    Big-man physicality has clearly disappeared from the NBA hardwood since the days of Charles Oakley and Rick Mahorn (excluding, of course, Brian Scalabrine's hard-nosed mentality).

    But somewhere underneath the soft surface is one 7'2" gargantuan who patrols the paint for the Knicks and hoists New York up on his shoulders. Tyson Chandler is not to be questioned.

6. George Parros, NHL

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    While his porn-style 'stache already makes him a legend, it's George Parros' ruthless nature that has us truly inspired.

    The 6'5" winger has a mind-boggling 950 penalty minutes in his career, and even more knuckle bruises. It's tough maintaining a violent reputation.

5. Harvey Dahl, NFL

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    For those who aren't familiar with St. Louis guard Harvey Dahl, perhaps his accidental meeting with Hall-of-Fame linebacker and former 49ers coach Mike Singletary can properly sum up his brilliance.

    Word has it that during a Falcons-49ers game in October of 2009, the then-Falcon got heated with his counterpart, who then uttered, “You better be happy you didn’t play back in my day! If I could see you on the field!…”

    In response, Dahl said, “Suit up, then!”

    Dahl 1, Singletary 0.

4. Steve MacIntyre, NHL/AHL

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    Steve MacIntyre has lost his marbles.

    He may be playing for the AHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, but this notorious enforcer has yet to lose his drive.

    An entire team can't stop the ultimate protector.

3. Richie Incognito, NFL

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    Rarely do you want to test an offensive lineman's nasty streak, but Richie Incognito is a new breed of tough, a rare mix of passionate and violent.

    Incognito's reckless nature has earned him 11 personal foul penalties, $85,000 in fines and gotten him kicked off the Rams and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Loose cannon seems the applicable term here.

2. Zdeno Chara, NHL

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    The 6'9" Zdeno Chara vs. the 6'7" Hal Gill...a battle for the ages. Almost.

    There are few beasts more brutal, ruthless and intimidating than the animalistic Chara. Picture Gheorghe Muresan's My Giant, with rage.

1. Ray Lewis, NFL

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    Correction: The entire Baltimore defense

    Each of Ray Lewis' 1,279 victims must be thanking the gods that pads were invented for football.

    Perhaps the most violent specimen ever to approach the gridiron, Lewis became the epitome of brutal, the ringleader of ferocious.

    With Terrell Suggs and Ray-Ray watching his back, quarterback Joe Flacco can comfortably tell the world he is the best in the NFL. No fear.