Dirty NBA players come in all shapes and sizes. Dirty play comes in different forms too. There’s blatant dirty and sneaky dirty. There’s tough dirty and mouthy dirty. There’s hard dirty and dirty dirty. There’s physical dirty and trash-talking dirty.
Some players would take exception to being called dirty. Some would wear the label proudly. Some would be insulted if you said they weren't dirty.
We place no value on dirty here. We merely acknowledge where it is. But whatever kind of dirty there is, we tried to include them, but there is one stipulation: the player has to have been active in the 1980s or later.
Because I’m only 45 years old, I can’t tell you what happened much before the late '70s (and barely that). So, this list does have a decided bias toward the past 35 years, but that’s because it’s what I’m limited to having seen.
Additionally, the idea of the dirty player seems to have been invented during the '80s. Even when trying to tap into the wisdom of my predecessors, their history of dirty players doesn't really start before 1980, either.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t dirty players before that—they probably just called it basketball.