How to Get Under the Skin of an NBA Superstar

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How to Get Under the Skin of an NBA Superstar
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Kevin Garnett found a way to get under the skin of Carmelo Anthony.

As imprecise as it may be defined, there's always a line—and there's always someone to cross that line.

Just ask Carmelo Anthony; you don't talk about another man's wife, estranged or not.

Or talk to Ramon Sessions about being kicked in his manhood.

From classless to just plain annoying, any exaggeration of disrespect or egregious physical foul is likely to get under the skin of an NBA player. 

NBA players are alpha dogs, most of them since they were boys. If someone was getting picked on, it likely wasn't going to be the biggest kid in the class. Few people argue, few people step up.

So when one NBA player messes with another, it's not always handled with forgiveness.

It's not just the dirty players or the trash-talkers. There are plenty of ways to irritate an opponent, and for the most part, they fit into four main tiers:

1. No-filter guy: Taking it too far

Guys are going to talk. But there is a line, and it's one some guys consistently cross.

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Kevin Garnett's breakfast cereal insults toward Melo's wife may (or may not) have been as bad as when he called Charlie Villanueva a cancer patient.

As one of the league's well-known trash-talkers, Reggie Miller told Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

You don't ever talk about anyone's family. Even with trash talking there is a code of conduct.

Boys will be boys. We don't really know what KG said. We've only heard the reports. But family members, mothers and fathers, kids and especially spouses are off limits. That's taboo.

Just like in everyday life, not all guys play by the same rules. The filter is set to a more degrading level for certain guys, and not everyone enjoys the jawing.

2. Unnecessary roughness: More than just annoying 

Guys slap wrists and calves, twist the hair on a guy's leg or constantly keep a forearm in all the sensitive areas. There's no discrimination here, and the annoying contact comes in the post and on the perimeter.

They're obnoxious, using any method to aggravate and throw off an opponent's game.

Some of the more serious offenders include former players like John Stockton and Dennis Rodman and active guys like Metta World Peace and Chris Paul.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
John Stockton was one of the game's more aggressive players off the ball.

Then there are the other guys who go too far.

Rajon Rondo, in this Associated Press article following a brawl with the Brooklyn Nets, denied that he plays dirty:

I play the game the right way. I'm not a dirty player. Sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me, but I have no intention of hurting anybody. I go out there and compete every night, and that's how I play the game. I play the game hard; I play the game with an edge. I'm not a trash-talker. I don't play the game dirty. I play hard and when one of my guys are disrespected, I retaliated.

Obviously that's pretty much not true at all.

Rondo gets dirty:

Rajon Rondo throws Kirk Hinrich into a scorer's table.

And he certainly talks:

Rajon Rondo proves he has a mouth.

Needling NBA players might even pull hair, and this one may merge into the "are you serious?" category.

Tony Allen pulls the hair of Kenneth Faried

3. Cheap shot artist: The line has been crossed

Bruce Bowen may deserve the lifetime achievement award for being a dirty player. It's one thing to tug a guy's shorts or call him a name; it's another when careers become threatened.

Specifically, Bowen used to slide his feet underneath an opponent as they shot.

Bruce Bowen places his leg under the shooter.

That dirty play resulted in an injury to former Knicks guard Steve Francis, prompting this 2006 Deadspin quote from fellow dirty player and then-Knicks coach Isiah Thomas.

"I'd beat the (blank) out of somebody. Really, I would," he said of his own exploits. "That's murder [what Bowen did]. Excuse me, but in the NBA, when you're in the air, you're really exposed and there's a certain code."

Plays like this recent one by Dwyane Wade against Sessions obviously aren't a part of a code established since boyhood:

Dwyane Wade gave Charlotte's Ramon Sessions a shot to the groin earlier this season.

Nor do you smack a guy there, like this incident between Chris Paul (then of Wake Forest) and North Carolina State's Julius Hodge.

Chris Paul hits dirty at Wake Forest

4. Doing too much

Sometimes, getting under a guy's skin comes through showmanship.

Like Allen Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue in this I-just-took-your-lunch-money way:

Allen Iverson didn't show much respect for Tyronn Lue here

Or when LeBron James went not-so-tiny dancer in Chicago. James did a dance, and Joakim Noah clearly wasn't a fan. Apparently, unfavorable club moves on another team's court of aren't always well received:

LeBron James dances and doesn't find a fan in Joakim Noah.

Doing too much can also come in the form of a flop.

Nothing is more irritating than losing a bucket, possession or foul thanks to a player successfully acting and earning a cheap call from the officials. Sportsmanship is completely lost when a guy flat out fakes it to gain an advantage.

Tony Allen utilized this ridiculous phoniness in the following video, in which he looked more like a WWE superstar than a basketball player. Gordon Hayward couldn't have been happy with the gullible referee.

Tony Allen goes down easy with this acting job.

Ultimately, there are plenty of ways to get under an NBA player's skin.

Some of them are minor and work as distractions, while others fall well outside the etiquette of the game.

The trick is determining whether or not firing a guy up helps or hurts your competitive chances.

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