With a somewhat physical 2010 Finals in progress, stifled by referees, we see Ron Artest, Derek Fisher, Rasheed Wallace, and tiny Nate Robinson being aggressive and tough.
Over the last 20 Finals there have been some 'Bad Boys' a Rodman and a Shaq attack from some of the toughest guys in NBA history. Some of these guys employed mental tactics along with physical play to help win it all for their respective teams.
In 2004 Ben Wallace made his outstanding physical presence known against giants of the game like O'Neal and Karl Malone.
He played devastating defense in 2004 and intimidated naturally, just by the looks of him. He backed it by getting in bigger guys faces and playing them straight up and then blocking their shots, and dunking nasty on guys.
Big Ben was pure muscle and he used every ounce of it to defeat his foes and become one of the NBA's all-time Finals tough guys.
Vernon Maxwell wasn't huge in physical size (6'4" 180) but his attitude was. You think Kobe looks scary when he makes his little scowls? Well Maxwell stared at players like he was going to kill them, and it worked as he played offensively aggressively in the Finals for Houston. Mad Max would take it to anyone with anger, even Jordan, who schooled him. In 1994 Starks could not stop him and in 1995 Penny Hardaway could not stop him. He would fight if you wanted to. Most guys didn't.
Rasheed Wallace has always been an emotional guy who is really big and really rough. He has been playing so long and stopping so many players physically and psychologically and it has won him a title. In 2004, Sheed was the heart and soul of the 2004 Detroit team that amazingly stomped the Lakers 4 games to 1. He intimidated other players and scored from everywhere on the court, kind of like he is doing now in the Finals for Boston.
Dennis Rodman was a tough guy, especially for his size. At 6'7" 225 pounds of pure muscle, he still seemed skinny. When he played for Detroit, Rodman tried his hand at the 'Jordan Rules.' He used both his hands on Jordan, actually.
When he played for the Bulls he kept up his tough guy play by pissing off some of the hugest guys in the game, at risk to his own body. He didn't care if Kemp or Malone wanted to fight. That's actually what he wanted. He also scared refs, photographers, the public, and his own teammates. But his opponents paid the most and Rodman won four titles by barely scoring but really scaring.
Shaq is 7'1", 330 pounds and he knows it. He knows he scares people because of his size. He knows he can dominate by continuously taking it to the hole with authority.
He knows that people who get in his way can be truly injured. He knows that he can throw anyone on the floor with one arm. He knows that he can tear down the rim. He knows that he is a champion and he has been a three time NBA Finals MVP by being a monster on defense and offense. When the Lakers had Shaq they were tough because of one man - Shaq. When he won a title in Miami he had fellow tough guy Alonzo Mourning at his side.
Shaq has always been devastatingly bad ass.
At 6'11" 260, Laimbeer clogged the lane well enough. What he did to other players coming into the lane was awesome, especially for the 1990 and 1989 title teams from Detroit.
The big guy would smash his arms into anyone with no reservations. He knew what he was doing and it worked. yeah, it took taking many fists to the face over the years. He was so bad that he didn't even care, he would just go out there and clobber you. He actually had a sweet shot, including the three but his main thing was to be the perfect Bad Boy. He was the epitome of a player who sacrificed his body for the good of his team. He didn't care about stats but he seemed to enjoy hurting guys.