The 50 Dirtiest Players of All Time
There's a fine line between gamesmanship and dirty play, and these players routinely cross it.
They're the guys you wish played on your team, and the ones you boo the hardest when they're not. Officials hate them. Their peers hate them. Hell, even their mothers might hate them.
They claw, kick, punch, bite, gouge and inject their way to victory, and you'd be crazy to call them out on it. We know they would deny it, anyway.
These are the 50 dirtiest players of all time.
50. Kyle Busch
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Busch is admittedly an "aggressive" driver, which, if you're on the track with him, is scary when you're driving at nearly 200 miles per hour.
In his own defense, he doesn't consider himself dirty, but that's not what fellow racer Todd Bodine thinks.
Bodine openly called out Busch after he spun him out during a race, calling him a "dirty" racer. Bodine would still go on to win the race, but Busch let him know in person exactly how he felt about the accusation.
Did I mention that Busch did this while Bodine was celebrating the win?
49. Kobe Bryant
Don't be sad, Kobe...or sleepy. Or whatever the hell it is that's going on with your face.
Make no mistake about it—Kobe Bryant is a dirty player. He's just really sly about it. Plus, he's a superstar, so nobody really cares to hold him to it.
As far as I'm concerned, sometimes you should get a pass if you've earned it to the degree that he has.
Kobe has a way of throwing his arms around that is completely deliberate, and it's not always to draw a foul—he's looking to smack you. He'll shoot you an elbow when the referee isn't looking, and he'll plead innocence whenever a player calls him on it.
Here's a compilation of his best dirty plays.
48. Antonio Margarito
One of the worst things you can do in boxing is wrap your hands with plaster of Paris. I mean, a punch in the face hurts enough, you know? But that's exactly what Antonio Margarito did in his fight against Shane Mosley in 2009.
What's funny is that it didn't help him, as he was beaten down thoroughly. He was given a one-year ban from boxing after the substance was discovered.
Once you have that reputation, it sticks with you forever.
47. Cortland Finnegan
That's Cortland Finnegan looking back at Andre Johnson—the man who almost killed him—after Finnegan's dirty play finally caused Johnson to snap.
Finnegan's known for getting his hand in a wide receiver's face and just generally being a pain in the ass. He even once said that he'd actually like to be the NFL's No. 1 dirtiest player.
Who actually admits that? This guy's an ass, and I look forward to seeing him get beat down some more in the (near) future.
46. Alex Ovechkin
45. Alex Rodriguez
Clearly A-Rod thinks far too much of himself to ever get into a physical altercation, so don't expect any fistfights to place him on this list.
Baseball lends itself to a different kind of dirty, especially because it's not really a contact sport. That different kind of dirty is called bush league.
Rodriguez has been accused of using cheap tactics to interfere with another player's concentration, and depending on who you ask, it's either brilliant or "out of bounds."
The call is yours.
44. Elizabeth Lambert
Elizabeth Lambert is known for having one exceptionally bad day. It was the kind of bad day that you hope to forget the following morning, but then you turn on the news and see the face of a monster.
And it's you!
Lambert, a soccer player for the University of New Mexico, unleashed the beast one fateful afternoon, kicking, punching and pulling her opponents to the ground.
Allegedly her then-boyfriend, upon watching the tape, covered his junk and ran for the hills, screaming...or so I would think.
43. Kevin Harvick
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Harvick has a way about him that rubs some drivers the wrong way. You can say that he's just steadfast in his pursuit of victory, living by the "whatever it takes" philosophy.
Still, sometimes doing whatever it takes means pissing a lot of people off.
Harvick recently took a swing at Kyle Busch—a fellow dirty racer—following a race in 2009, but soon realized it's kind of hard to connect with someone's face when they're still in the car.
Busch was also wearing a helmet, so it probably wouldn't have hurt anyway. Maybe Harvick's dirty and dumb.
42. Rasheed Wallace
Rasheed Wallace's face and body are permanently stuck in that position. That will happen when you spend your entire career arguing with the refs.
Wallace apparently felt he was constantly surrounded by haters, because if you weren't on his team, he was likely yelling at you and getting a technical for it.
Rasheed always looked like he just woke up, and he certainly played like he was cranky.
41. Juan Pablo Montoya
Geoff Burke/Getty Images
Don't be confused by his name—he's not a drug lord, as far as I know, anyway. But he is known for disregarding the safety of those around him and for having a temper...like a drug lord!
Wait, you guys don't think...
Here he is fighting with Kevin Harvick—surprise, surprise—after the two collided during a race. It's one of the saddest and weakest altercations ever.
NASCAR drivers aren't known for their fighting skills.
40. Rodney Harrison
Harrison is famously known for ending Trent Green's season, tearing his knee in a preseason game. Of course, Kurt Warner took over Green's quarterbacking duties and went on to win a Super Bowl.
I'm curious to know if he thinks it was dirty.
Personally, I love Harrison, but I sure as hell wouldn't want to see him coming at me.
39. Claude Lemieux
Do you see that guy on the ground there, half dead? That's Kris Draper. Now, do you see that guy who's fleeing the scene of the crime? That's Claude Lemieux.
Lemieux, unfortunately, is remembered best for this hit during the 1996 Western Conference finals between the Avalanche and Red Wings, when he slammed Draper's face into the boards.
Draper's face essentially exploded. He broke his jaw, nose and cheekbone, resulting in facial reconstructive surgery.
Without a doubt, that's one thing in life you never, ever want to hear. The only thing I can think of that's worse is genital reconstructive surgery.
38. Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens has always had a bit of an attitude, and some have even accused him of being a headhunter, given his tendency to pitch a batter tight.
Clemens led the league in most batters hit in 1995, and will forever be known for throwing a broken bat at Mike Piazza during the 2000 World Series between the Yankees and Mets.
The two already had ill feelings for one another—Piazza more so for Clemens—after the "Rocket" had struck Piazza in the head on a pitch just months prior, so Clemens' actions weren't totally unexpected.
Clemens would later say he thought the bat was actually the ball, and if he's telling the truth, that would officially make Clemens one of the stupidest men on the planet.
He's also been accused of using steroids, so he's dirty in that respect, too.
37. Nigel De Jong
Xabi Alonso, no!
Nigel De Jong is quickly earning a reputation for the dirtiest soccer player in world. This is what happens when you start jump-kicking people—it comes with the territory.
You'll notice that, if Nigel De Jong is on the field, the closest person to him will be on the ground. And no, they're not admiring the grass.
He fractured the leg of Stuart Holden, his late challenge on Hatem Ben Arfa resulted in a double fracture of his left tibia and fibula (a double fracture!) and then there's the video game-style jump-kick he laid on Xabi Alonso in the World Cup.
He claims that kick made him a "war criminal," but I think he's mistaken.
It made him a ninja.
36. Kevin McHale
I really hate that I didn't grow up during the NBA's golden years, back when you could clothesline someone and all the player would get was a simple foul.
That's what Kevin McHale did to Kurt Rambis in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals, and all the announcer said was, "That's part of the game, you know?" No, I don't know, because that kind of thing gets guys suspended now.
In fact, today that kind of thing would get you labeled as a dirty player real fast.
A solid clothesline that has gone down as one of the most memorable moments in NBA history can't be ignored. McHale makes the list.
35. Reggie Miller
No, Reggie Miller is not choking on a banana. If you must know, he swallowed a bug.
Some believe Miller was a dirty player, but personally, I'm not totally convinced. The guy just knew how to draw a foul. Yes, he kicked out his legs a lot, pushed off of guys and flailed his arms around like a sissy to get calls...all right, so maybe he was a little dirty.
Plus, he's so frail looking. It's hard to call a guy that skinny "dirty," unless you mean he smells.
Don't hate on "Miller Time." I'm referring to the beer.
34. Gilbert Yvel
For a mixed martial artist to be successful, he has to be part crazy. Gilbert Yvel is at least 90 percent crazy, making him someone you don't want to tango with.
He once punched a referee and kicked him when he was down. He's also been known to bite on more than one occasion.
The guy is a live wire, and that's the last thing you want out of a fighter in an already brutal sport.
33. Matt Cooke
That's one ugly grill.
Matt Cooke is best known for his blindside hit to Marc Savard, resulting in a Grade 2 concussion that sidelined him for nearly the remainder of the season.
As Bruce Boudreau, coach of the Washington Capitals, said, "It's not like it's [Cooke's] first rodeo."
That solves the mystery of the missing teeth.
32. Pete Rose
Perhaps Pete Rose confused the All-Star Game with the World Series, and that's why we find him here.
Rose demolished Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game, and it permanently rearranged Fosse's left shoulder.
Players with a healthy sense of perspective would have known better than to destroy a catcher during what is essentially considered to be an exhibition game. Who knows? Maybe we should applaud him. He's a competitor who wants to win—at any cost!
Then there's the whole betting on baseball thing and the subsequent ban that came with it.
Welcome to the list, Pete.
31. Albert Haynesworth
I don't think Albert Haynesworth is asking Warrick Dunn if he's all right, but I could be wrong.
"Fat Albert" is a behemoth of a man with a poor work ethic and a terrible attitude. You throw those three things together and you have yourself a dirty player.
He has a special place on my sh&* list because of the time he stomped on Andre Gurode's head. Gurode, of course, plays for my Dallas Cowboys.
30. Hines Ward
What you're looking at is Hines Ward standing over Keith Rivers, a Cincinnati Bengals linebacker. If you're wondering about what they're discussing, I'll give you a hint—it's not stocks and bonds.
Also, Rivers couldn't exactly discuss much of anything anyway, mostly because his jaw was broken after being blindsided by Ward.
29. Sammy Sosa
As you can see, Sammy Sosa has successfully made the transition to vampire these days, and is likely living atop a hill in a big, creepy castle for all of eternity.
He's a cheater of the highest caliber, and now he's weird-looking to boot.
28. Gaylord Perry
I almost left him off the list solely because his name is awesome, but I just couldn't let go of the fact that he put Vaseline on his baseballs. And, no, that's not some kind of sexual innuendo.
He often threw the spitball, which eventually landed him in the Hall of Fame. The pitches were unpredictable—Ty Cobb called them "freak balls"—as the Vaseline aides in the ball changing direction on its way to the batter.
Whoever said cheating doesn't pay?
27. James Harrison
Karl Walter/Getty Images
James Harrison's reputation as a dirty player seems to grow by the day.
Ever since the NFL started cracking down on illegal hits, Harrison's wallet started getting thinner and thinner. Just last year he was fined $125,000 for hits the league deemed unnecessary.
That's one angry headhunter.
At least he admits that he's out to "hurt" people, which, according to him, is much better than injuring them. I guess there's a fine line between the two. Just like there's a difference between a janitor and custodian.
26. Jarkko Ruutu
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Pictured: Murder in progress.
Jarkko Ruutu is a nasty man. He's a big hitter who loves using his fists to solve any and all of his issues. And why not, if you're in a sport that allows it?
You better believe he's not opposed to biting, as was the case when Andrew Peters of the Buffalo Sabres stuck his glove in Ruutu's mouth. That will teach him to do that again.
Ruutu was suspended for two games without pay for the incident.
25. Sean Avery
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images
The thing about Sean Avery is he's kind of a jackass, and just to prove that life isn't fair, I should tell you that he's a jackass who has dated women like Elisha Cuthbert and Rachel Hunter.
I hate this guy.
In the latest edition of the "Top 10: Most Hated NHL Players" list by TheHockeyNews.com, Avery was ranked No. 3, and for good reason.
I think this video of Sean Avery sums him up best, as he purposely whacks Tim Thomas, goalkeeper for the Boston Bruins, in the back of the head with his stick for no apparent reason.
Notice how the announcer says that Avery "has an arms-length list of issues in the National Hockey League because of stupid plays like this, and you wonder why people don't have your back."
Yeah, that sounds about right.
24. Roy Williams
As you can see in the picture, Roy Williams had an affinity for a particular type of tackle. They call it the "horse-collar tackle," and it works exceptionally well if you want to break your opponents' ankles.
You know you're doing something wrong when the league has to create a rule and name it after you, which is exactly what it did after Williams broke Terrell Owens' ankle. As you can see, he almost did the same to Donovan McNabb.
Maybe he just really hated the Eagles. Divisional rivalries will do that.
23. Kevin Muscat
You're looking at a referee reprimand Kevin Muscat for yet another terrible tackle, and by the looks of it, he begs to differ.
Muscat has a history of violence, with 12 red cards and 95 yellow cards to his name. He's even ended a career with his poor play, injuring Matty Holmes' leg so severely that he couldn't continue playing at an effective level.
Most recently, he made headlines for his "kamikaze tackle" against Adrian Zahra.
He's now 37 and is likely done for his career, so don't worry, soccer players, he can't hurt you anymore.
22. Carl Edwards
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
They say killers are quiet, so don't let his appearance fool you. He'll gut you like a fish. OK, that might be a little harsh, but he'll drive you off the road—like a fish!
The incident only resulted in probation for Edwards, which could be considered a light punishment. But look at him. It's not all that surprising.
That's the face of a guy you can't stay mad at.
21. Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds dirtied his way to a freakishly large skull and the all-time home run record. Despite his beastly appearance, though, he did it all with a voice as gentle as Michael Jackson's.
Seriously, it's ungodly. It's like in a horror movie when a demon opens its mouth and the sound of a baby crying comes out.
When people think of steroids, he's the first person who comes to mind. Unfortunately, his doping actually allowed him to take one of the most coveted records away from a player who truly deserved it in Hank Aaron.
Damn you, Barry!
20. Karl Malone
That's right; you're looking at Karl Malone kick Tim Duncan in the face.
"The Mailman" was known for delivering his elbow straight to his opponents' faces—and he sent it express. He was a little too rough as far as some were concerned, and many felt that the league turned a blind eye to his dirty play because of his superstar status.
A perfect example can be seen here, where he clocks Steve Nash with an elbow to the face back in 2004. He was given a technical foul, but nothing more.
There's even a person out there that hates Malone so much, he started a website just to show the world how dirty a player Malone was. The website's name? "Karl Malone Is a Menace."
19. Chris Simon
What is there to say about a guy who has been suspended on eight separate occasions for a grand total of 65 games? The last time I checked that was just 17 games shy of a full season.
If you want to get suspended in hockey, Simon will show you how to do it.
For instance, Simon says you can slash a player across the face with your stick, as he did to Ryan Hollweg. If you don't feel like doing that, Simon says stomp on some legs, like he did to Jarkko Ruutu.
Ruutu's a dirty player, too, so it's okay.
18. Floyd Landis
Don't celebrate just yet, Floyd. I have some questions to ask you.
The sport of cycling is rife with dopers, so you really could put any number of guys here—even Lance Armstrong, if you believe the allegations—but since Landis actually admitted it and was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France win, he is the face I've chosen.
Who knows? In time we might actually see Armstrong here.
17. Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Donald Miralle/Getty Images
He was aptly named "The Intimidator," and if you saw him in your rearview mirror, you hoped that you remembered to put your diaper on before the race.
Earnhardt wasn't opposed to bumping a few drivers a little too hard to gain an advantage, as his aggressive manner of driving helped lead him to a long and productive career, before his tragic death in 2001.
At least his passing led to some much-needed rule changes.
16. Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson was always unstable, so it came as no surprise when he bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear that one fateful night.
15. Chris Pronger
As you can see, Chris Pronger is looking for trouble.
He was named the league's dirtiest player by his peers in a 2009 Sports Illustrated poll, and deservingly so.
Let's see, there was that time he stomped on Ryan Kesler's leg. Then there was that time he elbowed Dean McAmmond in the head, knocking him out. How about the time he ran Tomas Holmstrom's head into the glass?
Yeah, I think his peers got it right.
14. Bruce Bowen
Bruce Bowen is that guy you hate, unless he's on your team.
You'll absolutely love him if he plays for you.
He was a pest and annoyed the hell out of whoever he was covering. Personally, I don't think he was nearly as dirty a player as some have said, but he did have a way of undercutting guys on their way down.
And there was that time he elbowed Sasha Vujacic, but so what? That guys sucks.
13. Ron Artest
I really don't think I'll get much of an argument here.
Ron Artest, in addition to being an utter whacko, is known for giving players the business any chance he gets. Also, he's a rapper.
He's known best for his part in the infamous "Malice at the Palace," but he has plenty of dirty plays to put on his resume.
Take, for instance, this clothesline he laid on J.J. Barea in this year's NBA playoffs. He's no stranger to technical fouls, and if the whistle's been blown, you can guarantee he had something to do with it.
Ron isn't stable, and I'd have a panic attack if I ever found myself in a room with him alone.
12. Dale Hunter
Is that Dale Hunter or Patrick Swayze?
Hunter might just be one of the biggest sore losers in all of sports. Sure, LeBron James walks off the court without shaking his opponents' hands after a loss, but at least he doesn't physically attack them.
In the 1993 NHL playoffs, Hunter attacked Pierre Turgeon, knocking him viciously to the floor. Turgeon's offense? He scored a goal. Seriously, he scored a goal, and Hunter didn't care for that.
The hit would separate Turgeon's shoulder, resulting in him missing most of the remainder of the playoffs. Hunter was suspended for 21 games for hit.
11. Dennis Rodman
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Dennis Rodman's known for a lot of things, like his dyed hair and wearing wedding dresses, but players will remember him best for his on-the-court antics.
Sure, you can say he was a hard worker, but the guy was dirty.
10. Marty McSorley
His name was Marty McSorley, but it should have been—wait for it—Marty McSurly!
Marty is known for delivering one of the more vicious hits in hockey history, and his body wasn't even involved. No, Marty preferred to use his stick.
With just three seconds left in a game between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks in 2000, Marty, who played for the Bruins at the time, hit Donald Brashear in the side of the head with his stick, knocking him out cold. Donald suffered a Grade 3 concussion as a result.
Marty was suspended for the remainder of the season and was charged for assault, resulting in an 18-month suspension.
9. Tonya Harding
Some say "If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'." Well, I guess that means that Tonya Harding is one of the single greatest competitors of all time.
Tonya kind of hated her main competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, so Tonya and her husband hired a goon to make sure that Nancy had an "unfortunate" accident.
So along came a man with a collapsible police baton, who hit Nancy in the knee, effectively knocking her out of the upcoming skating event.
Word got out that Tonya was behind the attack, and the rest is history.
8. Bill Laimbeer
You! He chooses you, reader! And now you die!
You don't want to mess with Bill Laimbeer, the former center for the "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons. You think he wears that mask because he feels like it? No, it's because he smashed his face into a puppy's head, exploding its brain!
Actually, I don't know why he's wearing the mask—and I don't want to know.
He's started fights with Charles Barkley, Robert Parish, Brad Daugherty and even Larry Bird, and each and every time, he knew exactly what he was doing.
Evidently, it was all part of his strategy.
In his words: “I'm playing to win, and I'll use all my tools both physically and mentally to win the game. Other players don't like that and I can't help that. I have to do what I do best. I call it gamesmanship."
7. John Hopoate
John Hopoate is an ass man, and I don't mean he has a thing for women's derrières. The rugby player apparently believes that "what happens on the field should stay there," but when you allegedly ram your fingers up three different men's super special areas, that's unlikely to happen.
In his defense, he claimed he was only trying to give the men a wedgie, and if he's telling the truth, I guess he's just really bad at it. Or maybe somebody should explain to him what a wedgie is.
6. Bobby Clarke
Aw, such a pretty boy. His mother must be proud.
Bobbly Clarke was part of the notorious "Broad Street Bullies" of the '70s, who proved that you can viciously beat your way to the Stanley Cup title.
How crazy was Clarke? Well, he'll slash your ankles, just like he did to Valeri Kharlamov of the USSR. Then there was the time he attacked Frantisek Pospisil, ramming the butt of his stick right into his face.
And that was during a "friendly" against Czechoslovakia!
Also, as far as I can tell, Clarke really hated wearing a helmet.
5. Roy Keane
You don't want beef with Roy Keane—he's the type to hold grudges.
It began in 1997 during a match between Keane's Manchester United and Alf-Inge Haaland's Leeds United. Keane attempted to foul Haaland but only managed to hurt himself, injuring his ACL. Haaland accused Keane of faking the injury to avoid punishment.
The thing was, he was actually injured, and he would miss the rest of that season, but he never forgot what Haaland had said.
Come 2001, Keane found himself on the pitch with Haaland again, and he made the best of it, essentially jump-kicking Haaland right in the knee. Here's the video, and it's ugly (go to the 19-second mark).
Haaland was never the same again, and what's worse, Keane admitted that the foul was completely intentional, and he felt no remorse.
4. Jack Tatum
“I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault.”
Jack Tatum wrote those words in his book, They Call Me Assassin, and he sure wasn't kidding.
He played with reckless abandon, and sometimes that resulted in some serious injuries, as was the case when Tatum hit Darryl Stingley in a preseason game in 1978.
Tatum is also known for the vicious hit he laid on Sammy White in Super Bowl XI, leveling White as he made a catch over the middle.
3. Bill Romanowski
Have you ever had a friend or acquaintance you were kind of afraid to be around sometimes because their behavior was so unpredictable? Did you ever wonder if maybe they were on something?
Now imagine that person is enormous, cut, powerful and could sew your ass to your face.
That's Bill Romanowski.
There are quite a few things that place him on this list, so it may just be easier to number them:
- He spit in J.J. Stokes' face, which is one of the worst things you can do to a person. The fine was $7,500.
- He broke Kerry Collins' jaw after a helmet-to-helmet hit in a preseason game. The fine was $20,000.
- In 2003, he crushed Marcus Williams' eye socket—his teammate, by the way—during an altercation at practice. Marcus sued him and won $415,000 in a settlement, accusing Romanowski of "'roid rage."
- He was fined for throwing a ball at Brian Cox below the belt.
- He was fined a total of $45,000 for multiple illegal hits, one of which included a punch thrown at Tony Gonzalez.
If we account for inflation, that's $1 billion and ¢35. I did the math in my head, so I could be wrong. I never show my work.
2. Conrad Dobler
Some guys are just out to destroy, and Conrad Dobler was one of them.
He made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1977, and not because he was awesome. The issue was called "Pro Football's Dirtiest Players," a distinction he was surely proud of at the time.
Keep in mind this was a guy who once said that he feels a defensive lineman should do much more than just jump up to knock a pass down.
"When that happened near me, I'd smack 'em in the solar plexus, and that got their hands down real quick. It's as if nobody wants to see anybody else get injured."
You know, I don't think they do.
His autobiography was called They Call Me Dirty, and he was because he would punch, kick, poke, spit on and bite players whenever he could.
He was a mean, mean man, and his body today is bruised and broken after the beatings he gave and received on the field.
1. Ty Cobb
Ty Cobb just may have been the Antichrist.
I should preface everything you're about to read by stating that Cobb's mother killed his father, so that might have a lot to do with why he was so nutty.
He was allegedly despised by his teammates, and he didn't take too kindly to rookie hazing. He had a habit of using the spikes on his shoes as weapons—it's good to be resourceful—and his teammates sent a gift basket of congratulations to a player on another team after they thought he beat Cobb for the batting title.
Oh, and there was that time he beat down a fan with no freaking hands. The fan had no hands! That is the saddest, strangest, most awesome and psychotic story I've ever heard...I think.
I don't really know how I feel about it.
Also, he was allegedly racist.
A lot of this can be passed off as tall tales, and maybe some of it has been exaggerated. In fact, I hope most of it is. Still, if true, you truly earned this No. 1 spot, Ty. I mean, Mr. Ty! I mean, Mr. Ty Cobb!
Please don't rise from your grave and kill me.