We all know that famous basketball athletes and controversy can go hand-in-hand, but none have cause as much controversy as this list of the 5 most controversial NBA athletes of all time. These players are known for their antics on and off the court, providing their fans and the public with amusing and scary entertainment.
1. Dennis Rodman
He may be an American Hall of Famer, but he also best known for his crazy style. His behavior, dressing style, and makeup wearing cause a stir in the NBA for years. He shocked fans by wearing a white wedding dress on the court, fighting with referees and teammates, and changing his hair color almost every day. Rodman’s tattoos, piercings, and choice of attire didn’t help lighten his controversy any. Even though Dennis Rodman helped lead two different teams to multiple titles, most people don’t remember that about him; they remember his crazier moments on and off the court.
2. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is arguably one of the most well-known NBA players of all time. He is known for a variety of reasons, a few of them being his extreme dedication to the game and his natural talent. But with all eyes on him, it’s easy to see why he also became one of the most controversial players. In 2003, a sexual assault case against him made major headlines. Even though the case was eventually dropped, no one ever forgot about it. But that’s not it; he is also known for his famous feud with fellow player Shaquille O’Neal. Bryant has set a precedent for chasing “many other star players out of L.A.,” according to The Sportser, including Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and various coaches.
3. Charles Barkley
As part of the Dream Team, Charles Barkley was in the spotlight for quite some time. Even though he was a great player, fans and teammates alike were not a fan of his behavior. He got into a fight with another player and even spit on a young girl who was watching a game. For 8 straight years, the tension between Barkley and fans, coaches, and the media only grew. After leaving the team in 1992, he went on to do a controversial Nike commercial, adding fuel to the fire. Since his basketball days however, he has toned down his behavior and has become a well-known commentator.
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem was a good player, who seemed to be followed by controversy everywhere he went. Right from the moment he began playing, he receive a lot of media scrutiny. He made ill comments about his alma mater, UCLA, but people still loved him. According to Sporting News, “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s greatness and longevity tempered the perception of him, but he was a controversial player from the outset.” This NBA player also caught flack for his connections to certain Muslim leaders and more recently, his outspokenness on certain controversial topics.
5. Magic Johnson
Johnson became (and still is) one of the most controversial players in the NBA’s history, but not because of bad behavior or run-ins with the law. He dominated the courts for 12 years and then in 1991, he made an announcement that shook the world. Magic Johnson was the first-ever, well-known person to announce to the world that he was HIV positive. The timing couldn’t have been worse, as the eruption of AIDS in the 80s caused panic and discrimination. He was even asked to join the Dream Team in the 1992 Summer Olympics, but denied the offer because other players were fearful and concerned about his diagnosis.
Famous athletes must be superior at their craft, all while having the whole world watch them. For the players on this list, the world looked down on them as they created uncomfortable situations, made fools of themselves, and lived out some tragic fates. The controversial NBA players on this list will be forever remembered because of this.