Ron Artest cracks our list of the NBA's greatest villains

NBA Greatest Villains: Pests From The Past & Present

Basketball breeds a distinct type of agitator. These guys are in your face, talking trash and messing with your head. From the moment they roll out of bed in the morning, their sole objective is to set up shop in an opponent’s mind. After that, their unceasing pest-like energy spreads like wildfire.

Everyone does it differently – some guys talk tons of smack; others let their play do the talking. Here’s our list of the biggest NBA villains. 

A Blast From The Past

Oldheads love to ramble about basketball being gritter back in the day, and maybe there’s some truth to that. Let’s take a gander at some pioneers of NBA villainy.

Reggie Miller: The Knick Killer

The Hall-of-Fame shooting guard was at the pinnacle of consistency in his 18-year career with the Pacers, dropping buckets like it was nobody’s business and, at one time, holding the record for most three-pointers in NBA history. But there was a darker, snake-like side to Miller, and, whenever he played the Knicks, the serpent slithered out. 

Nothing embodies Miller’s wickedness quite like the 1994 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden, where the UCLA product carried his Pacers to a Game 7 win over the Knicks with a barrage of threes. After each trey, Miller tormented Knicks superfan Spike Lee, topping off his spicy taunts with a choking gesture. 

Ron Artest: Nobody’s Idea Of World Peace

There were inklings of impending basketball psychosis from the New York native’s early introduction to basketball. It’s unclear what Artest’s relation was to the incident or the victim, but he once recounted a story about a teenager from Queens, New York who was fatally stabbed with a broken leg from the scorer’s table after a disagreement at a Y.M.C.A. game. Strange stuff.

Artest’s most infamous moment came during the epic “Malice in the Palace” brawl in 2004, where Artest leaped into the stands to fist-fight Pistons fans, earning him an NBA-record 86-game suspension. By the end of his career, Artest upped his mischief by legally changing his name to “Metta World Peace” and promptly elbowing James Harden in the head, concussing the unsuspecting Thunder guard. The duality of man.

A villain? Yes. A nutjob? Also, yes. Keep this guy away from any G20 global summit meetings – his iteration of world peace doesn’t interest me much. 

Modern Day NBA Villains 

These aren’t your grandfather’s hardwood heathens!

Dillon Brooks: All Anger, All The Time

Brooks has always played with a chip on his shoulder – it’s like a superpower that catapults him to new heights in his voracious quest for non-stop knavery. He does things his way, leaning into his rogue attitude and happily encouraging all the haters to suck one.

This year, it was his brawl with NFL legend Shannon Sharpe that spilled from the sidelines onto the court. That opened everyone’s eyes to Brooks’ cavalier attitude. He’s the type of guy to kick out your grandma’s cane and steal her purse if it means getting his team closer to victory. 

The 27-year-old capped off his devilish 2023 campaign with a failed war of words vs LeBron James and the Lakers. From the get-go of this playoff series, Brooks tried – and failed – to get in The King’s head. The Grizz now want nothing to do with him, and after the fact, he swore he had no regrets. That’s the good stuff right there. A villain in victory, a villain in defeat. Always, always a villain.  

Draymond Green: The Knight Of Nut-Kickery

Draymond Green has generated scores of laughter in NBA circles, first for his swift, brick-like decline in play, but also for the outrageous ways he nestles under opponents’ skin. His propensity for kicking players in the groin reeks of pure madness – if only his exactitude on shots to the family jewels translated to any sort of accuracy from the field.

After beginning the offseason by sucker-punching teammate Jordan Poole, the 33-year-old tied Brooks for the league lead in technical fouls this season (18). A marvelous showing for one of the most hated NBA players of the modern era. At least his Warriors are still chugging for an NBA Title

Patrick Beverley: The Human Mosquito

If Patty Bev had a spirit animal, it would be a mosquito. Or maybe a tick. His unabashed antagonism and smothering defense give him a leg up over every foe he encounters. Beverley’s entire mojo is about riling up the other team’s favorite player and getting him to snap.

He’s a hilarious pawn in the grand scheme of human emotion, happy to fall on the sword and get ejected if someone like Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook exits with him. At 6-foot-1, the Arkansas product is mostly harmless, but that doesn’t stop him from cranking people’s blood pressure to boiling levels.