NBA Enforcers: The Game's Best 'Trash Talkers' and 'Dirtiest' Players

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NBA Enforcers: The Game's Best 'Trash Talkers' and 'Dirtiest' Players
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This is a note to every GM in the league:  “If you are looking to enable your team to compete for an NBA Championships in the near future against great championship dynasties like the Lakers and Celtics, this will require the services of an "enforcer." 

An enforcer is the designated lead “trash talker” on the team.  He will always be considered among the “dirtiest” players in the league because of his unrelenting pursuit to "wreak havoc" on the opposing team. 

The late great Maurice Lucas, formerly of the Portland Trail Blazers, will go down as one of the best "enforcers" to ever play the game. Charles Barkley commented on the TNT telecast after Maurice Lucas passed away a few weeks ago when the Blazers faced the Thunder, “You wouldn't want to ever get hit by a Maurice Lucas elbow.” 

Other great enforcers that come to mind both past and present are:  Darryl Dawkins, Rick Mahorn, Karl Malone, Xavier McDaniel, Dennis Rodman, Charles Oakley, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Ron Artest, and Ben Wallace.

You wouldn't want to meet any one of these guys in a dark or crowded alley, let alone in a basketball game that’s supposed to be a non-contact sport. 

But by the same token, this would fit the profile of the player that you wouldn't mind jumping into a foxhole with in the heat of a battle or conflict. And usually these are the guys that will go toe-to-toe in a fist fight with anyone in the league at the drop of a hat. 

But just like in the past, the “quintessential” enforcer of today is a basketball player that has to meet certain qualifications for the job. 

These qualifications are listed below.    

  1. An enforcer must be able to physically dominate and intimidate the opponent by "any means necessary" even if that means delivering a cheap shot.  
  2. An enforcer must be able to lift over 200 pounds and has to be one of the strongest physical specimens in the league. 
  3. An enforcer will usually be trained in some form of martial arts because size and strength alone won't make him a true enforcer.  
  4. An enforcer must be able set bone-jolting screens that send a message over to the opposing team each time that says “You better pay attention next time.”
  5. An enforcer has to be able to protect the lane and knock anyone that comes into the lane on their ass, and send a message to the opposing team that says “Do not come into the lane ever again or you will be sorry.”
  6. An enforcer also has to be the best "trash talker" on the court and the type of player that inevitably handles the dirty work of guarding the other team's best offensive player by taking him totally out of his game.
  7. An enforcer must be a decent shot blocker because there's not a better way to show the opposing team that they are in for a long night than swatting several of their weaker shot attempts into the stands.   
  8. An enforcer will also perform other "dirty" deeds and resort to tireless shenanigans that will allow him to always be a “thorn in the side” of the opponent.
  9. An enforcer must get into fights and skirmishes with opposing players on a regular basis and will usually have one or two league-mandated suspensions on his record. 
  10. An enforcer must also be the "missing piece" to a championship team. 

Now that we have looked over the job requirements and the qualifications necessary for the "enforcer" job, let’s look at the players who “epitomize” this characteristic. 

Quite frankly, in today’s game, there is really no player who enforces or intimidates an opponent like the original enforcers Maurice Lucas and Darryl Dawkins did in the past. 

The game has also changed from being a more physical game like it was in the past, to more of a finesse game, like it is in the present. 

But here is my shortlist of the top ten enforcers and the dirtiest players in the NBA:

Kevin Garnett, Ben Wallace, Ron Artest, Shaquille O’Neal, Kendrick Perkins, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Marcus Camby, Dwight Howard, and LeBron James. 

Kevin Garnett is at the top of my list for one reason.  He isn't the most physically intimidating specimen on the list, but his relentless trash-talking exploits are known throughout the league and have been heightened lately with the infamous "cancer patient" remark that he supposedly made to Charlie Villanueva during a game against the Pistons. 

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