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.
Who wins the all-time award for trash talking?
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.
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:
And he certainly talks:
Needling NBA players might even pull hair, and this one may merge into the "are you serious?" category.
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.
"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:
Nor do you smack a guy there, like this incident between Chris Paul (then of Wake Forest) and North Carolina State's Julius Hodge.
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:
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:
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.
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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