Basketball can be an unbelievably dirty sport. More so than baseball or soccer or even football, a basketball game can became incredibly personal and heated, leading to players making plays that are absolutely unnecessary and sometimes even dangerous to their fellow athletes.
In the NBA, there are players who seem to make their living on these sorts of plays. Almost every team in the league has an "enforcer"-type presence, someone whose job it is to deter opponents from going into the paint and to protect the rim at all costs, even if it means doling out a brutal hit.
While some teams, like the 1980s Detroit Pistons, were defined by their "tough guy" status, every team in the league currently can point to at least one player who fits the bill of being outright dirty.
Without further ado, here is the dirtiest player from every team in the NBA.
One look at the Atlanta Hawks' Ivan Johnson, and you can tell the Cal State San Bernardino alum was born to be an NBA enforcer.
Johnson, a slightly undersized power forward, was a late bloomer in the league as a 27-year-old rookie but has found his role coming off the bench providing grit, toughness and the occasional dirty play.
He is not a particularly skilled player, but Johnson is willing to mix it up with larger players and uses his body to grab tough rebounds, even if he may be committing a foul in the process.
His penchant for flashing the middle finger, including during Atlanta's first-round elimination at the hands of the Boston Celtics, certainly doesn't help his image, although it is not technically dirty.
Although a recent tussle with Kris Humphries might earn Rajon Rondo some people's votes, Kevin Garnett remains the dirtiest player on the Boston Celtics roster and, to some, the dirtiest player in the entire league.
Garnett's penchant for setting moving screens has been heavily criticized during his time in the NBA, as have his fiery demeanor and tendency to play a little too physically. He's always willing to dole out a hard foul or throw an elbow to set the tone for a game.
He plays basketball in a very psychological way, jawing at his opponent in order to get in his head and force him into making mistakes. While some simply consider this being competitive, others see this as outright dirty.
One particular play against the Phoenix Suns' Channing Frye involving an uncalled-for shot to the...lower body...perfectly sums up why many consider Kevin Garnett to be such a dirty player.
Since entering the league, Reggie Evans has earned his paycheck based on his ability to grab tough rebounds, draw charges and generally play the "garbage man" role to perfection.
While Evans has excelled, he has also come under fire for a number of questionable plays. Like Ivan Johnson, he is an undersized 4 who makes up for it with his physicality and willingness to absorb contact.
As a Denver Nugget, Evans got into a heated exchange with Chris Kaman after grabbing him while the two were battling in the paint.
In 2012-13, Evans became the first player to be fined under the league's new anti-flopping policy.
Reggie Evans has truly carved out a niche in the NBA but has cemented himself as one of its dirtiest players in the process.
Brendan Haywood was amnestied by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2012 offseason and claimed via the waiver process by the Charlotte Bobcats, where he provides the team with another body in the paint, some more rebounding and a few requisite dirty plays per game.
Haywood fits cleanly into the vein of "not very skilled centers who try hard," as he has an extremely limited offensive game that largely consists of dunking, is positively atrocious from the foul line and does the brunt of his damage within a foot of the rim.
Since his debut with the Washington Wizards, Hayward has been known as a shot-blocking big man who is always willing to contest a shot, even if it involves whacking the shooter in the hand.
He has been commended in the past for his hustle and while that is admirable, Haywood has also been recognized as one of the league's dirty players and may have been the cause of Dwight Howard's serious back injury that ultimately required surgery during the 2011-12 campaign.
With Derrick Rose out until 2013, Joakim Noah has stepped up admirably and has been playing some of the best basketball of his career. However, he has also kept up his reputation as one of the league's more physical and dirty big men.
Like Garnett, Noah is a very emotional player who plays a very aggressive brand of basketball. Sometimes this means making a perfect pass out of the post to an open cutter, but sometimes it also means throwing an unwarranted elbow or two while trying to get position in the post.
The Chicago Bulls are an incredibly physical, defensive-minded team, and Noah, who loves to bang around the basket and will not give up an easy shot at the rim, is the perfect center for the squad.
He is the quintessential big man that other players would love to be on a team with but hate to see in the other team's lineup.
Grass is green, and the Cleveland Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao is a flopper. These statements are simply facts.
Despite an absolutely brilliant start to the 2012-13 season in which he has been a force on the boards, scoring surprisingly well and passing with flourish, most NBA fans' first thoughts of Varejao are of him crashing to the ground in dramatic fashion after the slightest bit of contact.
Although he is 6'11", Varejao would like refs to believe a stiff breeze would send him to the ground, as he has become a master at drawing charges for the Cavs. Varejao will occasionally toss an elbow or foul someone harder than necessary, but he is primarily known for his flopping.
In case an example is needed, here is Varejao being tossed to the hardwood battling for a rebound with the likes of Derek Fisher.
Signed by the Dallas Mavericks a month into the season to shore up the point guard spot behind Darren Collison, 38-year-old Derek Fisher has always walked the line between cagey and dirty during his lengthy NBA tenure.
Fisher has never been a player who wows people with his athleticism or his scoring and playmaking ability, but he knows how to sell calls when necessary and always could find a way to have an impact on the game.
Although he is a point guard, Fisher has never been afraid of throwing his body around and relying on his strength to make plays.
In the 2009 Western Conference semifinals, Fisher hit Houston Rockets forward Luis Scola with a blatantly illegal body blow, sending Scola to the floor in pain.
The Denver Nuggets roster does not have much in the way of "dirty," so while Andre Miller appears on this slideshow, he does not necessarily belong with the likes of Garnett and Metta World Peace.
That being said, Miller is an incredibly physical guard who knows how to draw fouls on both ends of the floor. Though he is far from a dynamic athlete, Miller has an extremely high basketball IQ, and sometimes that means knowing when to make a play that some may see as improper.
In a game against the New Orleans Hornets, Miller faked a timeout and took the ball to the basket for an uncontested layup. Although not against the rules, the play was certainly poor professional etiquette.
Still, if that's the worst thing he has done recently, there isn't much to gripe about, and Denver should be commended for shedding the thuggish image it had during the Carmelo Anthony-J.R. Smith era.
During his time with the Detroit Pistons, Charlie Villanueva has become not only the poster child for teams spending too much money on mediocre players, but a fairly dirty player as well.
Villanueva is not very physical on offense and prefers to drift out to the perimeter, but he is certainly willing to dole out a questionably foul on defense, as Derrick Rose can testify.
In addition, he is known for jawing with other players while out on the court.
To summarize, Charlie Villanueva, even in a marginal role, is not a positive contributor for Detroit in any way, shape or form.
These Golden State Warriors are a pretty clean-cut bunch and have been one of the more pleasantly surprising stories of the 2012-13 season, but some players, including Amar'e Stoudemire, have gripes with their oft-injured center, Andrew Bogut.
Bogut is not an especially dirty player, but he is a true throwback center who loves to play aggressive basketball in the paint, and he is quite good at being physical.
Bogut is not quick-footed or uniquely skilled on offense with the exception of his hook shot, but he is a gifted shot-blocker who loves to bother his opponents' shots and will protect the rim at all costs.
In a different era of basketball, Bogut may not be considered especially dirty, but his willingness to make contact and set strong screens earns him a place here, if only because his Warriors teammates are pretty harmless.
This young, exciting Houston Rockets team really does not feature very many dirty players at all. James Harden in actuality is far from dirty, although he does have a knack for flopping on both ends of the court that earned him this spot.
Harden had one particularly memorable flop in the 2011 Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks after accidentally walking into Tyson Chandler, and while he continues to draw charges and try to get himself in front of driving guards, there are far worse things for a young player to do.
Offensively, Harden is the prototypical guard who drives into the lane and flails about in order to draw a foul. Often he will use a possession just to draw a foul, jumping into the defender and selling the contact to the official to get himself two free-throw attempts.
All that being said, Harden is only dirtiest by comparison to his teammates, not the rest of the league or this list.
For a long time this spot would have gone to Jeff Foster, a connoisseur of dirty plays, but with Foster retired, Tyler Hansbrough has picked up the mantle for the Indiana Pacers.
Hansbrough may not look like a typical NBA enforcer, but the former UNC standout is more than willing to hit somebody hard if it prevents a shot at the rim. In his short career, he has earned a bit of a reputation as being willing to give out the occasional cheap shot.
Hansbrough was criticized by many for his play against Derrick Rose in the 2011 playoffs and drew considerable flak after a flagrant foul on Dwyane Wade in the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals where he smacked Wade in the face on a drive.
Because of his ability to run an offense and his knack for making the right play, the L.A. Clippers' Chris Paul is touted by many as a sterling example of a point guard, but he is also seen by many as one of the league's less publicized dirty players.
Paul is a master at drawing fouls and sells contact as well as anyone in the league. On offense he will exaggerate after the slightest bit of contact, flailing about in order to earn a trip to the foul line, while defensively he is great at anticipating a drive and getting position to draw a charge.
He is also perceived by many as a pest on defense and someone who, because of his superstar status, gets away with lots of questionable plays that would be called fouls on someone less well known.
Although he is a brilliant playmaker and a perennial MVP candidate, there is no denying that Paul can manipulate a game when he wants to and does so often.
Sure, he has made an effort to clean up his image since coming to Los Angeles, but Metta World Peace will never be able to separate himself from his reputation as one of the dirtiest players in professional basketball history.
World Peace, who in his prime was a lockdown defender and one of the best in the league, is known for being absolutely relentless and incredibly physical when guarding some of the NBA's top scorers. He gets under a player's skin, forces him into tough shots and is more than happy to throw a shot someone's way.
Obviously the Malice at the Palace is proof enough of his aggressiveness and volatility, but it was reaffirmed in the 2011-12 season when, after making a shot, he proceeded to elbow Oklahoma City's James Harden in the neck, resulting in a seven-game suspension.
World Peace has started the 2012-13 season incredibly well, but he will forever be considered one of the league's most vicious players due to his repeated history of questionable incidents.
The Memphis Grizzlies have been one of the biggest surprises of the young season, as their tenacious defense has put them firmly in the title conversation. While they have a number of scrappy defenders who are willing to play aggressive man defense, the honor of dirtiest Grizzly is bestowed upon shooting guard Tony Allen.
Allen, long considered one of the game's best perimeter defenders, can be unbelievably physical with his man in order to come up with steals and force tough shots. Allen makes plenty of contact while denying drives and is always willing to get up in somebody's face to contest an attempt.
In addition, he has occasionally resorted to some more questionable antics, including yanking Denver's Kenneth Faried's dreadlocks during a game in November. There is no denying his skill and determination, but his relentlessness earns Allen a spot on this list.
Many would have preferred to see LeBron James or Dwyane Wade listed here as the Miami Heat's dirtiest player, but the reality is that Udonis Haslem's role on the team is to play the enforcer for the star-studded "Heatles."
Haslem has spent his entire career with Miami and has made his name known for his aggressiveness and willing to do the dirty work. He rebounds at a very high clip, can knock down mid-range jumpers and is always willing to make hustle plays for his team.
However, he can also be overly aggressive, clearing out players with elbows or knees, setting dubious screens and on occasion smashing Tyler Hansbrough in the face during a layup attempt.
Because of his willingness to do whatever it takes to win, Haslem is a key player for Miami, but his penchant for making nasty, unnecessary plays earns him a spot in this slideshow.
The Milwaukee Bucks use Joel Przybilla sparingly, as they have plenty of options in the frontcourt, but the seven-footer, who has struggled with injuries during his career, is perfectly capable of making an impact on the game, even if it is not for the right reasons.
Przybilla, a fan favorite during his tenure with the Portland Trail Blazers, earns his living by setting hard, often iffy picks and by bullying his way into the paint to make plays around the basket. He has never been a refined player or a high-flyer; he is simply willing to make the plays necessary to win games, even if other players are not.
While he never quite lived up to expectations as a high lottery pick back in 2000 by the Houston Rockets, Przybilla's physicality has earned him a place in this league, even if it is a relatively marginal one.
Until the 2011-12 season, Kevin Love was viewed by many as an incredibly gifted, hard-working player who could make a tremendous impact on the glass and also score quite well.
However, when he stepped on Luis Scola's face while running in transition on offense, that certainly changed his perception around the league. Love was suspended briefly, and though he has yet to have another incident of that magnitude, his reputation has certainly changed.
In addition, like many superstars in the league, Love knows how to contort his body to either draw a foul or make it seem like one occurred and is perfectly willing to use some objectionable tactics to carve out position for a rebound in traffic.
Most casual basketball fans have never heard of the New Orleans' Hornets Jason Smith, who has actually become a solid role player, but if they have, it is likely because of his incredibly dangerous foul on Blake Griffin during a Hornets-Clippers game in 2012.
As Griffin was sprinting down the court in transition, Smith hip-checked him, sending Blake careening to the ground. I was at that game and remember the entire crowd gasping as Griffin hit the deck and rose slowly to his feet before giving Smith a standing ovation as he walked off the court following his ejection.
Besides that one instance, Smith is also known for the occasional flop and for being overly rough in the paint, just like practically every player who has appeared on this list.
Because of Amar'e Stoudemire's knee injury, the New York Knicks' Kurt Thomas has actually been playing regular minutes early in the season, something most fans and pundits did not expect of the 40-year-old big man.
For as long as he has been in the NBA, Thomas has been known for using his body to deter opponents from entering the paint and doing the little things necessary to win games, including flopping at the slightest bit of contact.
Given his declining skills and lack of speed, what is keeping Thomas in the league is his reliable mid-range jump shot and his penchant for making questionable plays on both ends of the court.
This may very well be his last year in the league, and fans will remember Thomas for his physicality and his role as an enforcer for the ages.
Kendrick Perkins is a student of the Kevin Garnett School of Basketball, meaning he plays with an unbridled intensity and a mean streak that few in the league can rival.
He is not particularly light on his feet, struggles to make a shot that isn't directly at the rim and cannot run the floor particularly well, but Perkins is exceptional at getting under the skin of his assignment defensively and protecting the rim at all costs.
Lots of players have complained about Perkins' antics during his career, including the Heat's Udonis Haslem, who says he doesn't believe Perkins is "the tough guy that he puts on the show to be, at all" (via the Palm Beach Post).
Perkins has a knack for hard fouling and getting into heated exchanges with other players and even referees at times. His fiery demeanor is great on a championship contender and can inspire his teammates to match his intensity, but his penchant for dirty plays hurts his squad more than it helps.
The Orlando Magic acquired Josh McRoberts as an afterthought in their blockbuster Dwight Howard trade, as the journeyman forward really provides nothing on a basketball court beyond a body in the paint and a guarantee of at least a handful of shockingly dirty plays per season.
McRoberts is cut from the cloth of Indiana Pacers big men who play basketball the wrong way, setting improper picks, clearing out players in the paint and flagrant fouling left and right.
There are a myriad of examples of McRoberts being dirty, but here he is giving Derrick Rose an elbow to the chin after Rose's vicious two-handed dunk. The exchange happened during a dead ball and is a perfect instance of McRoberts being dirty just because he can, with it doing absolutely nothing to help his team win.
Andrew Bynum has yet to even suit up for the Philadelphia 76ers since the team acquired him, but there is no doubting that once he finally steps on the court, he will take the reins as the team's dirtiest player by a wide margin.
Bynum has struggled with maturity issues since coming into the league, and that has manifested itself in countless cheap shots, including three particularly egregious offenses involving Gerald Wallace, JJ Barea and Michael Beasley.
He proved during the 2011-12 season that he has the potential to become one of the league's most dominant players, but not until he improves his decision-making and stops doing things like taking three-pointers and throwing elbows at helpless players like it is a valid defensive strategy.
76ers fans may be focused on his knees and his bowling exploits, but what they should really be concerned with is whether he can rehab his image as an unbelievably dirty player and become their franchise cornerstone.
After two injury-plagued seasons with the Boston Celtics, Jermaine O'Neal appears to have been revitalized by the miracle workers on the Phoenix Suns' medical staff, and while he has yet to have any particularly dirty plays in the 2012-13 campaign, O'Neal certainly has a history of them.
O'Neal spent his formative years as a part of the infamous Portland "Jail Blazers" clubs and then went to the rough-and-tumble Indiana Pacers, ultimately being involved in the Malice at the Palace and suspended for a handful of games.
While in Boston, O'Neal was involved in a controversial play where he shoulder-blocked LeBron James on a drive, sending him tumbling into the ground. He'll never be an All-Star again, but O'Neal appears poised to churn out a few more dirty plays before his swan song.
The Portland Trail Blazers have shed their thuggish image quite nicely, morphing into an incredibly likable group of young, mild-mannered players.
In fact, if it wasn't for Nicolas Batum's inexcusable decision to punch Juan Carlos Navarro in the groin during a 2012 London Olympics game between France and Spain, this slide may have been left blank.
Batum was attempting to foul Navarro in order to stop the clock and get the ball back for France but ended up winding up for a vicious hit on Navarro that sent the Spanish guard to the ground writhing in pain and started a tussle between the two national teams.
He has never had an incident nearly that severe while wearing Blazers red, but fans will always discuss that one cheap shot when reflecting on Batum's young career.
DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings has struggled with both maturity and foul trouble during his brief but eventful NBA career. The young center has all the talent to be a franchise centerpiece, but he consistently makes poor decisions that negatively impact his team.
Cousins often plays defense with his hands and not his feet, reaching in to prevent a drive instead of anticipating the motion and sealing off the lane with his body.
Cousins will also throw elbows in the paint and be excessively physical in the painted area in order to grab boards.
He is still growing as a player and has time to change his image as a dirty player, but Cousins' knack for fouling, short temper and excessive physicality have earned him an undesirable reputation around the league.
The San Antonio Spurs are not a particularly dirty club, playing extremely efficient, almost mechanical basketball and simply smothering most of their opponents. However, the team has historically been helped by the flopping of Manu Ginobili, who has developed quite a reputation for hitting the deck at the slightest bit of contact.
Ginobili may not be the biggest or most physical guard, but some of his flops are completely obvious, including this one against Bonzi Wells of the Houston Rockets. He always manages to get into his position, get his feet set and take the charge right in the chest, selling the call flawlessly.
Ginobili also exaggerates contact on the offensive end in order to earn shots at the charity stripe and has perfected the "Eurostep," or as it's known in some circles, the travel. He is great at getting into the lane, but often what happens after that is highly questionable.
The Toronto Raptors' Linas Kleiza has been a serviceable role player during his NBA career, rebounding at a decent clip and chipping in a bit in the scoring column too.
However, he has gained a reputation as being one of the league's nastier players and someone who will gladly deliver a blatantly illegal hit on a player in order to prevent him from getting to the hoop.
Kleiza is not the most physical player, but he has a history of questionable fouls, including a flagrant on Rajon Rondo that caused the Boston point guard to miss several games with a wrist injury.
Kleiza has never performed like a superstar outside of a few flashes of brilliance in the Olympics, and in most NBA circles, he is renowned not for his clean plays but his dirty ones.
Raja Bell has spent the 2012-13 season at odds with his Utah Jazz team and thus has yet to actually set foot on the court, but while he is mostly known as a defensive stopper, he also has quite a reputation for being overly aggressive and physical.
Bell particularly prides himself on guarding Kobe Bryant and routinely gave Kobe all he could handle in the playoffs, including clotheslining him while with the Phoenix Suns.
He is the kind of perimeter defender who is constantly trying to knock the ball loose and as a result commits plenty of fouls, some of which get called and plenty of which don't.
At this point he does not have much left to contribute offensively, but because of his willingness to make dirty plays and play relentless defense, he will continue to have a place in this league.
Honestly, there really is not much to say here for the Washington Wizards. The team has made a concerted effort to clean up its image, trading for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, and has almost no players that could be considered dirty.
The only reason Vesely is on here is because he has accrued fouls at an amazing rate, as through 13 games he had more fouls, 34, than either points or rebounds.
Vesely is not an especially dirty player, but he is still adjusting to the NBA game and as a result is incredibly foul-prone because he does not move well on the court and plays defense more with his hands than his feet. This may change in time, but Wizards fans should be happy knowing that their dirtiest player is pretty far from dirty.