NBA Enforcers: The Game's Best 'Trash Talkers' and 'Dirtiest' Players
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.
- An enforcer must be able to physically dominate and intimidate the opponent by "any means necessary" even if that means delivering a cheap shot.
- An enforcer must be able to lift over 200 pounds and has to be one of the strongest physical specimens in the league.
- An enforcer will usually be trained in some form of martial arts because size and strength alone won't make him a true enforcer.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Ben Wallace Is Not A Dirty Player, But He Is an Enforcer For His Team
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Ben Wallace, now back at home with the Detroit Pistons, is number two on my list of enforcers because of his striking and physically intimidating presence out on the basketball court. The man is a prototypical "enforcer." When you first see this guy in person, you will instantaneously forget that you are looking a basketball player and not a football player.
Word around the league is obvious: "It wouldn't be prudent to mess around with Ben Wallace." Ben Wallace is the ultimate "enforcer" and earned his "skins on the wall" simply be playing defense and intimidating opposing players.
Wallace doesn't get the expert trash-talking designation because he keeps his mouth shut and lets his body send the message.
Bumping into this guy too many times in the paint would send even the most physically gifted players to the hot tub after the game.
No one will ever forget about the incident that occurred in Detroit a few years back when Wallace chased the Indiana Pacers' Ron Artest into the stands causing Ron Artest to pick a fight with a much smaller fan.
Artest might be considered a little crazy at times, but he showed us that he is not as crazy as we thought by not getting into a fist fight with the likes of Ben Wallace.
Ron Artest: A Classic Nemesis That Even Resorted to Pulling-Down Shorts
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Everyone remembers back when Ron Artest played for the Indiana Pacers. He was the "crux" of Paul Pierce's worst nightmares when he would often tug and pull-down the Celtics star's shorts during a live game just to get into the his head and throw him off of his game.
Artest, often put the "p" in "pest" as he would literally follow Paul Pierce to the restroom and hand him the toilet paper. That's how tight defensively he would play Pierce just to show him that he would be in for a long night.
Artest is listed at 6-7 and 260 pounds, and even though he is not the "enforcer" and intimidator that he once used to be, he is still high on the list when the conversation comes-up regarding the best defenders in the league.
He currently assumes a defensive leadership role for the Lakers and was able to secure his first championship ring last year giving credence to the fact that any contending team must have an "enforcer" (a la a Ron Artest) if they want to compete for the championship.
Shaquille O'Neal Is Still The Biggest Baddest Dude In The NBA
The Boston Celtics have three players on my list of "enforcers" and Shaquille O'Neal comes in really high because he is still one of the biggest and baddest dudes in the NBA. Younger post players are counting-down the days when "The Big Aristotle" retires, because as long as Shaq is playing, there is still no way that anyone can physically matchup with him in the paint.
Shaquille O'Neal has pushed everybody around in this league since day one and really no one player comes to mind who can really match up with him even to this day. He is now a teammate of Kendrick Perkins, another player who made the list.
Shaq is 38 years old and still treats grown men in the NBA like they are baby boys because he is 7-1 and 325 pounds of sheer force. A word to the wise: "Don't make this dude mad or you will have to suffer the repercussions."
Kendrick Perkins is probably the only guy in the league that didn't back down to Shaquille O'Neal and was not intimidated by Shaq's sheer domineering antics. But Perkins is extremely happy to being playing "with" Shaq instead of "against" him.
Who will ever forget the wrestling match that Shaq had with Charles Barkley back in the day. Barkely was "old school" and was not about to let a younger Shaquille O'Neal intimidate him on national television.
But thank God that there were enough people there that night to pull Shaq off of Barkley, or Charles might have not been able to sit in the broadcast booth with Shaquille O'Neal's foot still stuck in his butt.
Kendrick Perkins Doesn't Have To Battle The Ultimate Enforcer Anymore: Shaq
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
This just out: Kendrick Perkins is huge! But Perkins is second behind his teammate Shaquille O'Neal in terms of physical stature. Perkins came to the professional ranks straight out of high school as a result of his "gifted" enormous size and strength.
Perkins is listed at 6-10 and 280 pounds and has been known to "mix it up" down low with anybody who is brave enough to take him on. As the old saying goes "you can't teach height" but you surely "can't teach enormous size" either.
Kendrick Perkins is one of the top enforcers in the game today and just so happens to be on the same team with two other teammate that made the list.
Pau Gasol: Not Physically Striking In Stature But Will Put a Body On You
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
When the Los Angeles Lakers landed Pau Gasol, it instantly resulted in adding two more championships to their illustrious total. Pau Gasol is seven feet tall and weighs 250 pounds. Gasol made this "enforcer" list because of the way he puts his body on opposing players and uses his extreme length to make a difference in every game.
Gasol is also a savvy veteran that has several years of experience playing in a much more physical international league. Since Andrew Bynum, one of the league's largest and most physically gifted players is on his team, Gasol can take a "physical" day off when he isn't going up against Shaquille O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins, or Marcus Camby, because no one else can match up with him.
Pau Gasol has a brother in the league that's even more physically gifted than he is. Marc Gasol is an even bigger 7-1 and weighs in at upwards of 265 pounds. He currently plays for Memphis but did not make the "enforcer" list because he hasn't had a true "skirmish" and doesn't have enough skins on the wall yet.
Andrew Bynum When Healthy, Has The Size To Be an Enforcer When Needed
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Andrew Bynum's size alone gets him on my list of enforcers and also gives the Los Angeles Lakers three players on the "enforcer" list along with the Boston Celtics. Bynum is listed at seven feet and a modest 285 pounds, but anyone can see that this guy has a much larger physical presence.
The fact of the matter is; Bynum came into the league straight out of high school because of his size. He got on the enforcer list by going toe-to-toe with Shaquille O'Neal and even getting in a "cheap shot" on Shaq. As we all know, this was when Shaq was traded to Miami and he was out to show a Laker home crowd that there was really no replacement for the real "Shaq Daddy."
Bynum took the first shot at Shaq, setting the stage for Shaq to retaliate and make the young upstart player pay his dues. Even though Shaq got the best of Andrew Bynum that night, Bynum still solidified his name amongst the best "enforcers" in the game today by standing-up to him.
Marcus Camby Is a Veteran That Knows What Being an Enforcer Is All About
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Camby knows how to position himself for blocking shots and playing good defense. One of the greatest enforcers in modern-day basketball history was Maurice Lucas, and Marcus Camby plays for the same organization that Lucus played for.
Camby has the size at 6-11 and 240 pounds, along with the strength of playing as a veteran in the NBA since 1996. In Camby's 14-year tenure in the league, he has certainly seen his share or true "enforcers" and actually benefited by learning how to "enforce" from some of the toughest players in both conferences to ever do it.
Camby had his best rebounding year just two short years ago in Denver by averaging over 13 rebounds per game, and has averaged over 3 block shots per game more than 5 times during his career. Camby has that "old man" strength that can't be taught and had to go toe-to-toe against Shaq early-on in his career while playing in the Eastern Conference.
Dwight Howard Has The Physical Attributes To Be an Enforcer On a Daily Basis
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Dwight Howard is just a beast out there on the court when he is playing "his" game. He can literally jump out of the gym and has the size and strength to battle with the best "enforcers" in the league.
Howard is an "enforcer" because he can straight out embarrass a player with some of the most intimidating block shots ever imagined. Howard has been known to swat the weaker shot attempts into the stands.
Howard is a tough physical specimen with a uniquely sculptured and prototypical center's body at 6-11 and 265 pounds, but he's not really "mean enough" to be higher on my list of prototypical "enforcers."
LeBron James Might Not Be Known As an Enforcer, But He Puts In Work
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
LeBron James makes the list simply because he is a physically gifted athlete who puts up big numbers in every category imaginable. James, at 6-8 and 250 pounds has arguably the most prototypical "enforcer" body, than any other player in the league.
LeBron James could easily be an All-Pro tight-end or defensive end playing professional football if he had chosen to take that route.
LeBron James has not backed down to anyone in this league and should be considered an "enforcer" because of the way he leads his team and dominates his opponents in every aspect of the game. LeBron is an obvious leader, a characteristic that every "enforcer" must have, and usually dominates every game because of the size and the match-up problems that he gives opponents.
James can run down even the fastest points guards in the league and block their layup attempts. James often leads his team in rebounds and can guard any position on the floor getting him on this exclusive list of players that do the "dirty" work.