Throughout the history of the league, the NBA has celebrated the best players/performers of the game through countless awards and accolades, but what about the players who play the game on the edge night after night, guys who never back down from a challenge, and have your back no matter what happens on the court?
I’m talking about an NBA player who would go “H.A.M” at the drop of a dime, the worst of the worst attitudes on the court. Such players could easily work side jobs as bullies-for-hire, and would easily force you to walk on the other side of the street, or perhaps even utilize your body as a human punching bag. I refer to this batch of misfits as the “Goon Squad.”
I present to you my all-time list of the toughest and most brutal players in the history of the league. I’d like to dedicate this particular roster to all the little old ladies who have ever uttered the words, “that guy looks like trouble, I wonder what his problem is.” Ma’am, his only malfunction is living the life of a goon, simple as that.
How tough would the Detroit Pistons be without Bill Laimbeer? I highly doubt if the Pistons would have won back-to-back titles from 88-90 without a guy like Laimbeer punching and knocking players out of mid-air as if he was a WWE wrestler.
How tough was Laimbeer? Ask Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and Robert Parish– they all went toe-to-toe with the man in the plexiglass mask. Laimbeer and the Detroit Pistons a.k.a “The Bad Boys” were known throughout the league as dirty players. They bullied their way to multiple NBA titles; while some retired opposing players continue to hold grudges with several players from the 88-91 Pistons roster, Laimbeer will forever be known as a hard-fouler.
The shear look of him would force you to hand over your wallet, car keys, and run frantically in the opposite direction. Anthony Mason was nothing short of a pure goon, his size and strength allowed him to be among the toughest power forwards in the league in the late 1990s. Mason was a quadruple threat, he could shoot, rebound, dribble, and rip the limbs off of any player in the league. Anthony Mason is arguably one of the toughest players to have ever worn a NY Knicks uniform, and if he isn’t on your list of the toughest players ever, perhaps you should question your knowledge of the NBA.
How many players do you know of who can get away with wearing a wedding dress and still be considered a goon? Dennis Rodman literally rewrote the rules on how to be tough guy in the NBA.
What separated Rodman from the other goons is that he mastered the ability to play mind games–he knew exactly the right buttons to push in order to gain the advantage over the opposition.
Rodman was also a member of the Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” team, and alongside Bill Laimbeer, helped their team bully their way to back-to-back NBA titles. Rodman enjoyed a successful career with multiple teams, more notably the Chicago Bulls where he helped win three consecutive NBA titles from 1995-1998. One thing’s for sure, no matter what team Dennis Rodman was a member of, he was one of the toughest defenders on the court and one hell of a rebounder.
Barkley was mean and tough from the start – he was a 6 ft 6 in small forward who played the game more like a 6 ft 10 in power forward, and he never backed down from a challenge (ask Shaquille O’Neal). Barkley, the opposite of a role model, was more like the slayer of role models, which is the reason he makes my short list of players who I would bet on to win an MMA fight. Yes, Barkley was that thorough because he talked the talk and walk the walk. Barkley is the type of person you want on your side in a bar fight – don’t provoke him because he’ll definitely send you flying through a glass window, as he’s the leader of the Goon Squad.
The Micheal Myers of basketball, if there’s even a small possibility of a player storing a 12 inch machete in his locker it would be Charles Oakley.
If ever the NBA allowed prison rules, Charles Oakley would’ve been the number one overall pick in the draft. He is another player who is a constant reminder of how physical and competitive the power forward position was back in the early 90s.
When Oakley leaped toward the basket to grab the loose ball I’m sure he would’ve preferred nothing less than to deliver a karate chop to the back of head of the opponent. Nonetheless, Oakley was a great rebounder and solid scorer during his career with the Chicago Bulls and the NY Knicks.