20 Dirtiest Athletes in Sports History

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Staff Writer


1. Ty Cobb
Cobb was a nasty, nasty dude who didn’t want to just beat his opponents, he wanted to crush and humiliate them until they wept bitter tears. Cobb thought nothing of stealing bases with his spikes up so he could inflict maximum damage on players trying to tag him. Cobb used to sharpen the spikes on his shoes to get them to the razor’s edge he needed to scare opponents. Even his own teammates hated him, which is why most baseball experts believe he’s the dirtiest major leaguer of all time.

2. Antonio Margarito
Margarito is a boxer whose reputation was forever tarnished in a 2009 bout with Shane Mosley, when it was discovered that he lined his gloves with plaster of Paris. Not only was this a dirty move, it was a potentially fatal one as Margarito’s punches could have done major damage to Mosley. He was suspended for 12 months and his career ended in 2011.

3. Gaylord Perry
Perry was a pitcher who had some wicked stuff, but it turns out that he was fond of doctoring his baseballs to provide them with more velocity and breaking power. Perry won more than 300 games in his long career, but the discovery that he was cheat, has sullied his reputation.

4. Reggie Miller
Miller was one of the greatest pure shooters in NBA history, but his method of getting open was to shove, throw elbows and intentionally land on a defender’s foot when he shot a three-pointer. Miller got away with a lot of his dirty play, because he did it within the context of action, making it much harder to detect.

5. Conrad Dobler
If you don’t believe Dobler was one of the dirtiest players in NFL history, perhaps the fact that Sports Illustrated once named him Pro Football’s Dirtiest Player will convince you. Although he was a Pro Bowl player, Dobler was known to deliver sucker punches to opposing players to disrupt their ability to play defense. Dobler was also a notorious tough guy who loved to fight.

6. Nigel de Jong
De Jong is a former player for the Dutch national team, who gained infamy when he karate-chopped Spanish star Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final, then doubled down on his dirty play by breaking the leg of Hatem Ben Arfa in a league game in the same year.

7. Rodney Harrison
Harrison is a former NFL defensive back who excelled at using every dirty trick in the book to flummox receivers. He admitted to hitting players before they caught the ball, and revealed that he used HGH–a banned performance enhancer–to recover from injuries, though everyone believes it was to gain a competitive advantage.

New England Patriots

8. Ndamukong Suh
Suh is a standout defensive lineman who is considered by most experts to be one of the top three defensemen in the NFL. But his propensity for dirty play is legendary, as he has twice been suspended and fined eight times during his five-year career. His preferred method of dirtiness is to stomp opposing players or kick them in the groin. It’s doubtful he will win any fair play awards in the near future.

9. Kevin Garnett
Garnett is a future Hall of Famer who has spent his entire career involved in questionable plays that cause havoc. He has been called a ‘studio tough guy’ by genuine tough guy Udonis Haslem, and the truth is, Garnett rarely backs up his dirty play when he’s confronted by another player. He’s considered a cheapshot athlete who is all bark and no bite.

10. Dwyane Wade
Wade was never known as a dirty player until a series of incidents in 2011 and 2012 that called into question whether he had lost his mind. In the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Wade’s aggressive defensive play on Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo resulted in a dislocated left elbow for Rondo. He also pushed point guard Darren Collison in the 2012 playoffs, and kicked point guard Ramon Sessions in the groin in another 2012 game.

11. Bill Romanowski
In addition to being an admitted steroid user, Romanowski was also a dirty player who loved to bite, gouge and hit players after they had been tackled. He also once dislocated a player’s elbow, spit in another player’s face and made several all-time dirty players’ list. Despite or because of his overly aggressive playing style, Romanowski won four Super Bowls out of the five in which he played, and was twice selected to the Pro Bowl.

12. Ron Artest
Artest, also known as Metta World Peace, is a former NBA player who was known for having a street-ball mentality that handcuffed opposing players when he played defense against them, especially if Artest could provoke them into making mental mistakes. Artest became infamous for an ugly brawl in a 2004 game when he was playing for the Indiana Pacers. Artest attacked a fan who had thrown a cup at him, and was suspended for more than 60 games. Showing that he hadn’t learned from his suspension, Artest threw a vicious elbow at James Harden in an April 2012 game that triggered a seven-game suspension.


13. Luis Suarez
Suarez is a goal-scoring machine for soccer powerhouse Barcelona, but he has a checkered past as a dirty player. He has been involved in multiple biting incidents in his career, including one in June 2014 for nine matches and four months after he bit an Italian player during a World Cup match between his Uruguay squad and the Italian team.


14. Chris Paul
Paul is a baby-faced assassin who obliterates opponents with his smarts, skills, trash talk and dirty play. Disliked for his penchant for whining to officials, Paul is known to hit opposing players in the groin, grab jerseys and generally play with an aggressiveness that crosses the line.

15. Bill Laimbeer
Laimbeer, the former Detroit Pistons center, specialized in playing mind games with opponents. He would pull every dirty trick in the book, including grabbing, punching and holding to keep someone from scoring. He was an irritant who knew that winning the mind game was the key to winning the basketball game. His tricks caught up to him in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, when Boston Celtics great Robert Parrish, destroyed Laimbeer with several punches that sent the Detroit center to the floor writhing in pain. Parrish was suspended for Game 6, but the Celtics had the last laugh by winning the series.

16. Charles Oakley
Oakley always rejected the idea that he was a dirty player, citing the old-school NBA as a man’s league where only the strongest survived. But Oakley, the enforcer for the Chicago Bulls and later the New York Knicks, was a player feared for his intense and over-the-edge defensive style, and his ability to back up his dirty play with a physical presence that intimidated all opponents. Famously, when Oakley played with the Bulls, he was Michael Jordan’s bodyguard, doling out punishment to anyone who went after His Airness.

Rick Madonik/Toronto Star

17. Bruce Bowen
Bowen was an elite defender for the San Antonio Spurs who was hated by nearly every opposing forward he ever guarded. Bowen’s favorite dirty trick was to step into a player’s space after he launched a shot, which meant that the player would land on Bowen and foul him or cause themselves an injury. Bowen was beloved by teammates and loathed by opposing players for his ruthless methods of playing defense.

18. Todd Bertuzzi
Bertuzzi makes this list for an ugly incident in a 2004 game when he played for the Vancouver Canucks against the Colorado Avalanche. In that game, Bertuzzi followed Avalanche player Steve Moore, and clocked him in the jaw, then drove his face into the ice. Moore broke his neck, suffered a serious concussion and had bouts of amnesia. Bertuzzi was suspended for 20 games, lost millions in salary and endorsements and settled out of court with Moore in 2014.

Richard Lam/The Associated Press

19. Dennis Rodman
Rodman won five NBA titles, but he specialized in playing psychological games with players he defended. He would grab, push and become such a pest that star players would often overreact to his tactics and retaliate, which would take them out of their game. Rodman was talented, but he made his name by bugging players so much that they would lose focus on the game.

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20. John Stockton
Stockton and his Utah Jazz teammate Karl Malone, are neck in neck for this last spot, but Stockton edges out Malone for the fact that he was much craftier in his dirty play. While Malone would just use his elbows to clear space, Stockton would set illegal screens, shove players in the back and clear out for a wide-open shot. Don’t let his choirboy face fool you: this guy was a ruthless killer on the court.