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For some reason, it feels good to get under someone’s skin. When you’re bothersome and annoying and see another’s patience run out, it brings a satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. The NBA has had a number of players who revel in doing this, primarily to the superstars of the league. These aren’t the enforcers of basketball — they’re more likely to creep like mspy on an opponent’s huddle than inflict harm. Here are five players who enjoy being irritants.
Let’s begin with by whom this post is inspired. Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley takes his defensive stance along the line between tough and dirty. There is certainly no denying his effort as he was even the inaugural winner of the NBA’s Hustle Award. However, and this is also undeniable, that effort can and has been misconstrued as dirty. This dates back to his swipe on Russell Westbrook in the 2013 season while casually calling timeout, an incident that led to Westbrook tearing his meniscus. Beverley relishes being able to get on players’ nerves in an effort to take them out their games.
In this first round series against the Golden State Warriors, he asked head coach Doc Rivers if he could guard Kevin Durant — a player nearly a foot taller than him. In the first two games, both Durant and Beverley have been ejected and fouled out; a much bigger loss for the Warriors than the Clippers. While grit is one of those traits that is overused in sports, Beverley definitely carries a competitiveness that cannot be doused. I also understand how that bothers other players.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Lance Stephenson does not irritate on the defensive end. Rather, his on-court antics, especially while he’s playing well on offense, are what draw the ire of players and fans. However, we recall Stephenson infamously blowing in the ear of LeBron James while Lance played for the Indiana Pacers and LeBron played for the Miami Heat. LeBron just laughed of the ridiculousness of that action.
Currently, Stephenson has the best in-game celebration going and we hope he continues to play as if he’s “born ready” to show off.
Perhaps the first image of Dennis Rodman that pops into a random person’s mind or Google search includes tattoos, wildly-colored hair and piercings. Before that, Dennis Rodman was a spark of energy for the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons three decades ago. Rodman was the 1989-90 winner of the Defensive Player of the Year Award, drawing charges and diving for loose balls. He became arguably the game’s best post defender and was vital to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls winning the second trio of championships in the late 90s.
He learned a lot of his antics from Rick Mahorn, including the pinching and needling to frustrate the players he was defending. Rodman is a Hall of Famer, and definitely a Hall of Fame irritant.
Speaking of the Bad Boys Pistons, I have to mention Bill Laimbeer. As evidence, no further than Hall of Fame center Robert “The Chief” Parish. Parish played nearly all of his two decades in the NBA with the Boston Celtics, and those Celtics clashed with Laimbeer and the Pistons a lot during the 80s.
One time, Laimbeer irked Parish so much that Chief lost his cool and landed three punches on Laimbeer. Sure, this was during a time in he NBA where fighting was more accepted than it is now, but fights are usually broken up. The referees did nothing to diffuse the situation or help Laimbeer because, well, Laimbeer kind of had it coming.
Laimbeer was prepared for retaliation and understood the bigger effect he had on other players’ ability to concentrate solely on the game.
One of the more frustrating things about irritants is that when confronted, they further antagonize their targets while playing to officials as if they’re not doing anything wrong. Their efforts to break someone’s mental concentration amplify if there is any sign of weakness, and they celebrate when there isn’t anything their targets can do about it.
So let me tell you a not-so-big secret. This is exactly how Steph Curry plays basketball.
Curry isn’t a pest like the other players mentioned. He won’t particularly bother another player, as superstars like him have other responsibilities to the team’s success. But there is something about every long, contested three, every resulting shimmy and all the histrionics to his game that are all parts lovable, disrespectful and annoying.
For some, the worst part about it all is that he can’t be knocked down or made to eat his celebration because he’s so great. It’s annoying when those are great know it and let others around them know if. Boasting is a necessary part of life and sports, but that doesn’t omit that those who do can grow to be irritating.
So those are five all-time NBA irritants. If you think of others, leave them in the comments section. Happy NBA, folks.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse’s good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.