All Kinds of Crazy: The Looniest NBA Players of the 1990s
If you asked any NBA fan who the craziest and most deranged player of the last ten years has been, you’re going to get a near unanimous vote that Ron Artest takes the award. It’s pretty simple, if you incite a brawl where NBA players find themselves squaring off against paying customers, it’s going to take a lot for someone to outdo you for the title. Luckily for Ron, and more importantly, courtside NBA fans, no player was able to really challenge him for the crown.
However, this brings up an interesting question. Who were the craziest NBA players of the 1990s? There are some interesting nominees.
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Charles Oakley embodied the Knicks of the 1990s, unafraid of knocking down an opponent if he got open in the lane, or if Oak just didn’t like the way he looked. Oakley was constantly in the middle of the aggressive Knicks-Heat rivalry that really picked up steam when Pat Riley left the Knicks and took his talents to South Beach.
Though it happened post-1990s, in a 2001 playoff series between the Raptors (who Oakley was playing for at the time) and the Sixers, the following excerpt appeared in USA Today detailing two incidents relating to Oakley’s ongoing feud with Sixers forward Tyrone Hill. The back-story was that Hill allegedly owed Oakley money from a summer card game:
“Oakley was suspended for one game without pay and fined $10,000 last month for confronting Hill and hitting him in the head with a basketball following a morning shoot-around in Toronto before the Sixers played the Raptors on April 3…Before a preseason game, Oakley slapped Hill and neither was allowed to play.”
To this day, Oakley is known as Michael Jordan’s enforcer. This relationship formed when both played for the Bulls in the mid ’80s until Oakley got traded to the Knicks. It’s safe to say Jordan wouldn’t enlist you as an enforcer if he didn’t trust your ability to get crazy at a moment’s notice. So yeah, Oakley was definitely not a model citizen, but can we do better?
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Another strong candidate, who also came from those 1990s Knicks, is Anthony Mason. Mason was his own biggest fan, often shaving his nickname, Mase, onto his head along with assorted other images and text. Mason also had particular trouble not getting involved in bar fights during his time in New York; in fact, a Knick fan once sued Mase for $25 million after getting punched and kicked by Mason at a bar. In reference to that incident, the New York Daily News reported that “Mason, who failed to show up for three deposition dates, blamed the incident on his brother, who is also named Anthony Mason but is 6 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter.“ Obviously the excuses could get a little bitter.
Yes, Mason had an average career, playing for 6 teams in 13 seasons and averaging 10.9 points per game, but he makes the conversation for craziest players of the 1990s.
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Latrell Sprewell had a temper. A bad one. Some players take criticism from their coach during practice. Others don’t and proceed to choke them. Spree fell into the latter category of course. While playing for the Golden State Warriors, Spree choked coach P.J. Carlesimo for 15-20 seconds after Carlesimo had the nerve to discipline him. Sprewell would return 20 minutes later and deliver yet another shot at Carlesimo. This incident landed Sprewell a 68 game suspension and his contact being voided, thought he eventually had his contact reinstated through arbitration.
The choking incident was preceded by another practice dust up just two years prior. At a Warriors practice in 1995, Sprewell got into a fight with Jerome Kersey and returned to practice with a two-by-four. He reportedly then threatened to return again with a gun. Sprewell just didn’t like practice it appears.
When Sprewell took his show to the Knicks, things didn’t exactly calm down. In October 2002, Sprewell explained his broken hand on a fall that occurred on his yacht. The New York Post reported an alternate story: that Sprewell injured his hand when throwing a punch at a guest on his yacht and missing.
"If I was trying to hit somebody, I think I would hit them," Sprewell said. Something makes me not doubt that.
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During “The Malice at the Palace,” Ron Artest was wearing jersey number 91, a number he was wearing in order to pay tribute to one of the craziest players of our time. I am, of course, referring to “The Worm,” Dennis Rodman.
Rodman’s career crazy stats are highlighted by the following: He once announced he was getting married, only to show up wearing a wedding dress at a book signing in order to promote his autobiography, followed by Rodman releasing his second autobiography, I Should Be Dead By Now; promoting it by sitting in a coffin (so at least he was consistent in that regard). Rodman was a favorite of the NBA league office for suspensions; his head-butting of referees and kicking of courtside cameramen contributing to that. He also once married Carmen Electra, with the marriage being annulled a mere ten days later—though, I guess, the annulment is the only crazy thing he really did there.
Dennis Rodman had become so out of control while playing with the Spurs in the early 90s that it took the most dominant player of any era, Michael Jordan, to get him somewhat under control.
Rodman would try his best not to ruin locker room chemistry, and in return, he would do anything he wanted when he left the arena. Rodman succeeded at staying moderately focused on basketball, and is arguably the best rebounder of all time. Earlier this year, it was announced he would be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. This feat is even more impressive considering he was arguably the craziest player of the 1990s.