Professional basketball is a contact sport. Most contact is legal and without controversy. However, a game played by some of the largest—and smallest—human beings on the planet tends to create some pretty violent collisions; especially when every player gets—depending on how well one does it—five opportunities to inflict as much pain as possible on the opponent.
And when it’s NBA playoff time—make no mistake about it—pain is dished out on nearly every lay-up, dunk or screen.
The following slideshow is a list of the hardest ten fouls in the past three postseasons. Some are flagrant, some are intentional, most are hysterical, and all are awesome.
In the 2008 Eastern Conference first round, the Atlanta Hawks improbably took the Boston Celtics—and their three All-Stars: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen—to a game seven in Boston.
A very young Hawks team showed no fear (at least at home) against the eventual world champs and exhibited a toughness that put them on the map as one of the better teams in the East—especially one Zaza Pachulia.
The then 24-year-old Georgian went toe-to-toe with the notoriously intimidating Garnett—a man who approaches every game as if he is Spartacus leading a revolt—and backed-up his “fightin’ words” with physical play and a heady nose for an offensive rebound.
Unfortunatly for Zaza, KG is a crafty veteran and when game seven was thoroughly in hand, set an illegal screen on the 6’11” center that sent him flying and pushed the Celtics into the next round.
Derek Fisher is known as a tough player, but in the second game of the Los Angeles vs. Houston semifinal series of this year, he showed Houston’s Argentinean scrapper Louis Scola the American beef.
With time winding down in the third quarter, Scola attempted to set a back pick on Fisher while Fisher’s man, Kyle Lowry, moved right to left at the top of the key. Fisher—perturbed by some earlier roughhousing by Scola—promptly dropped the 6’9” forward while taking a forearm shiver to his chest.
Fisher was ejected, but the Lakers—buoyed by Kobe’s 40 point night—took game two by 13.
In a game seven blowout by the Celtics in the 2008 Eastern Conference first round, Marvin Williams attempted a hard foul on Rajon Rondo that sent him crashing to the floor and sent the Garden into an uproar.
For some reason that has never been made clear, Williams tried to wrap-up Rondo on a fastbreak lay-up attempt instead of going for the block, as any reasonable 6’9” forward would do against a young point guard.
Williams was ejected and the Hawks were sent home to Atlanta.
In game four of the 2008 Western Conference semifinals, Jazz swingman Ronnie Price drove hard to the hole. Lakers forward Ronny Turiaf was having none of it and sent the other Ronnie twisting up in the air.
Price bounced up fairly easily, but he was dangerously close to breaking his arm and Turiaf was ejected. The Lakers moved on to the Finals that year, losing to the Boston Celtics.
In the 2008 Western Conference first round the Phoenix Suns took on the San Antonio Spurs. While the Spurs won the series 4-1, the Big Agave once again asserted himself as the most imposing and immovable force in the Americas.
In game two, with Phoenix up by 10 points, 56-46, and with less than two minutes left in the first half, Tony Parker took off down the side of the court—determined to spilt Steve Nash and Shaq Attack for a lay-up.
Parker—being the fastest Frenchie not in Formula One—was traveling at about his normal clip of 200-2000 MPH when he ran directly into O’Neill and, well…as Marv Albert described it, “Like a gnat hitting the windshield of a U-boat.”
The 2008 Washington Wizards vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers was quite a memorable one.
Who can forget the classic, and never-to-be-repeated-again line, “LeBron James is overrated?”
There were plenty of hard fouls in this series, but the hardest of the hard occurred in game two at Cleveland.
LeBron, taking a pretty bounce pass from Zydrunas Ilgauskas on a fantastic back-cut, was absolutely hammered by Brendan Haywood, who made no attempt at the ball and pushed LeBron into the baseline cameras and was ejected.
In the 2008 Dallas Mavericks vs. New Orleans Hornets series, game four, Hornets guard Jannero Pargo attempted a lay-up.
Jason Kidd decided that was a bad idea and nearly flipped Pargo—from a closeline move—something professional wrestlers can barely do.
This playoff foul needs no introduction: Robert Horry on Steve Nash in game four of the 2007 Western Conference semifinals.
With San Antonio down by three, 100-97, late in the fourth quarter, Nash brought the ball up the bench sideline. The Spurs most certainly needed to foul and Horry made sure there was no question of a violation.
The 6’10” late-game three-point specialist drove the 6’1” Nash into the scorer’s table with a force that reminded everyone just what old man strength really is—strong.
This foul dramatically changed the series—Robert Horry was suspended for two games, while Boris Diaw and Amare Stoudemire were suspended for one for leaving the bench.
Although the Spurs won the series, Horry was miffed at the two-game suspension, “If it hadn’t been anybody but Steve Nash, it probably wouldn’t have been two games.”
Two of the best—er, worst—fouls in recent playoff memory came in the same series: the 2007 second round match-up between the Golden State Warriors and the Utah Jazz.
While these two flagrant fouls didn’t generate the same controversy that others did that same year, they are indicative of the violent collisions seen in the NBA playoffs.
In the fourth game of the series, after things had gotten noticeably testier, Jason Richardson took second round bargain Mehmet Okur down—knocking the big man damn near parallel with the hardwood before he came crashing down to the floor.
Al Harrington’s close-line decking of Carlos Boozer late in the third quarter of game three was pretty impressive given the monster that is Boozer.
While Harrington was apologetic and even helped Boozer up—an act of sportsmanship that occurs in the playoffs about twice every 10 years—he nearly decapitated the Alaskan.