NBA's Hard Knock Life: The 10 Hardest Fouls of All Time

Pat Mixon@patmixonSenior Analyst IDecember 14, 2010

NBA's Hard Knock Life: The 10 Hardest Fouls of All Time

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    Can today’s NBA of 2010-11 ever live up to the past? Has the hard foul completely disappeared?

    Pretty much. 

    The hard foul has been systematically removed from the game by the powers that be: David Stern and his NBA henchmen. The hard foul is now old school, talked about like old men at a bar, remembering their glory days.

    That’s because guys in the NBA don’t foul like they used to. And, it’s not just because they get fined or suspended. It’s more cream puff now. More "take it easy." They’re all millionaires, so why play tough?

    Nothing highlighted this more than two weeks ago when LeBron James and the Miami Heat returned to Cleveland. There the King was with his new team, delivering a beating to the Cavs on national TV. The entire time, LBJ was talking smack.

    But nothing happened. As a matter of fact, the Cavs let it get worse. James was even over along the sideline in front of Cleveland’s bench running his mouth. And the Cavs players sat there and took it. 

    There was no hard foul during the game when LBJ went to the rim. No knockdown on a dunk. No throw-down to the floor. No message to James that said “not in our house.” Or, “between these lines, we come to play.”

    So, what has happened to the NBA? Where has the toughness, the killer instinct gone? Why has the assassin’s creed disappeared?

    There was a time when a foul was just as critical as a game-winning shot. You sent a message. You prevented a score. You made them earn it on the line, with 16,000 hostile fans screaming against them. 

    But where have the men gone? This is a league of boys. 

    What am I talking about? I’m talking plays that mattered, that meant something, that stopped something, that sent that message, that laid the guy out, that stopped the run or changed the tide. 

    And I’m not talking a fight, a punch, a low blow after the whistle has blown (that's an entirely different slideshow). We’re talking during game action, the clock running and a knock-down foul.

    So, here are the top 10 greatest NBA fouls of all time.

No Posterize by MJ

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    Rick Mahorn fouls Michael Jordan in 1989. No flagrant, just a foul. And, believe it or not, MJ got up from this uninjured, just a little sore the next day, as he tweaked his knee when he landed.

    Mahorn had already left the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons and teamed up with another head-banger in Philly, a young workhorse named Charles Barkley. Together, they were the Bruise Brothers.

    And whenever Mahorn played MJ, he made it a personal duty to lay the superstar out.

    Now that was the 1980s.

The Head Slam

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    This 1997 brawl, when the Miami Heat forward P.J. Brown flipped New York Knicks guard Charlie Ward over his head and body-slammed him, resulted in a bench-clearing melee and multiple suspensions for both teams.

    This wasn't during the regular season, but rather in the playoffs with all the marbles on the line. This was only one of a couple historic fouls in this series that resulted in fights and suspensions.

    Check out this video to see what I mean. 

The Flip

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    Jason Kidd vs. Janero Pargo.

    In the 2008 NBA Playoffs, Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Kidd committed a flagrant foul on New Orleans Hornets guard Jannero Pargo that resulted in Pargo flipping over.

    No need to describe. Watch the video. 

The Jordan Rules

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    Michael Jordan vs. the Detroit Pistons.

    Led by Pistons tough guy Bill Laimbeer, there are too many hard fouls to choose from with the hurt they laid down on MJ. Pick your favorite. 

    Check out this video to see what I mean.

The Body Slam

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    In the 2009 NBA Playoffs, Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher delivered a body slam linebacker-style to Luis Scola as a retaliation of a hard foul and trash-talking Scola had done earlier in the game. 

    Check out this video to see what I'm talking about. 

Big Daddy to the Floor

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    In the 2006 NBA Finals, Dallas star Jerry Stackhouse made sure that Shaquille O’Neal didn’t score on a breakaway.

    This foul is old-school all the way.

    Check this video out. Daddy goes DOWN.

The Elbow

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    In December 1991, Isiah Thomas, one of the league's most loved superstars, was driving to the basket. Karl Malone "went for the ball" but somehow managed to hit Isiah's face so hard with an "unintentional" elbow that Thomas had to be carried off the floor. He received 40 stitches. Forty stitches!! He would go on to need plastic surgery.

    Malone was assessed a flagrant foul, given a $10,000 fine and a one-game suspension. Malone, of course, claimed it was an accident and did not mean to hurt Thomas.

    After the incident, he talked to Isiah and denied the elbow was deliberate and offered no apology.

    Check out this video to see what I mean about elbows.

The Hip Check

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    In the 2007 Playoffs, it looked like the Phoenix Suns would finally get by their bitter rival, the San Antonio Spurs.

    For years, Steve Nash and his Suns had come up short versus Tim Duncan and the Spurs.

    But 2007 seemed different. It really looked like Phoenix had the better team. And they were going up in the series until the final minutes of Game 4.

    That’s when the Spurs’ Robert Horry hip-checked Steve Nash into the scorer’s table.

    Both benches rose up off their seats, but Amar’e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw left Phoenix’s bench and got suspended for the next game. Their absence changed the series and resulted in the Spurs again slipping by the Suns. All because of Horry’s foul that sent the real message.

    Check out this video to see what this hip check was all about. 

The Choke

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    Kobe Bryant and Raja Bell.

    During a hotly contested playoff series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns, Kobe had been getting the best of Raja. That’s until the player had enough and decided to choke Bryant. 

    Check out this video to see this brutality in live action. Looks like I went to a prize fight and a basketball game broke out! 

The Clothesline

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    Kevin McHale & Kurt Rambis. 

    This foul is No. 1 because it was on the biggest stage and completely changed the complexion of the series.

    Game 4, 1984 NBA Finals.

    This was the foul that changed a series. Rambis had a breakaway layup and McHale didn’t just stop the score, he tore out the Lakers’ heart. He laid Rambis out. He grabbed him by the neck and threw him to the ground.

    The video tells it all.

    He sent a message. And it was received. The Lakers lost the series that they were favored in to the Celtics.

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