There have always been villains in basketball. In a game often celebrated for its sportsmanship and teamwork, figures disrupt the narrative with their tenacity, cunning plays, and at times, controversial antics. Whether it’s a trash-talking provocateur or a relentless competitor pushing the boundaries of fair play, basketball villains add a layer of intensity and intrigue to the sport. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, it was the bad-boy Pistons. In the 2000’s, it was players like Ron Artest and Kenyon Martin. But who is the biggest villain in today’s NBA?
When it comes to the Modern NBA and Villains, Draymond Green is usually one of the first and most common players named. In his 12 seasons in the league, Draymond has been ejected from nearly 20 games and has been suspended five times. In less than a week, Draymond has gotten into an altercation with Cavs guard Donovan Mitchell and nearly choked out Timberwolves big man Rudy Gobert, receiving a five-game suspension (without pay) for his actions. Draymond has been controversial on and off the court, stomping on the chest of Kings center Domantas Sabonis in the playoffs, punching former teammate Jordan Poole during a practice, and hitting LeBron James in the groin in the Finals. It has been reported that the majority of Green’s ejections have come in games superstar Steph Curry hasn’t played in. It has also been reported that Green has racked up nearly $2.2 M in fines throughout his career. Green’s reputation over the years and his message to critics have not helped in making a case that he isn’t a villain. As long as Draymond is an active player, he will be considered a villain by many.
In the last couple of seasons, Dillon Brooks has become more synonymous with an NBA villain. Going back to his days at Oregon, Brooks has been seen as a villain. In his six seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, Brooks was seen as one of the more arrogant and toxic players, not only to other teams but his team. He’s gotten in the face of other players, tripped players, argued with fans, and more. During the 2022 playoffs, Brooks played a significant role in Warriors guard Gary Payton II injuring his arm. Last season saw the former Memphis forward get into it with LeBron James, calling him old, hitting him in the groin, and avoiding talking to reporters after the team’s embarrassing loss to the Lakers in the playoffs. Memphis would make it clear they would not re-sign him, with Brooks saying the team used him as a scapegoat for their failure last season. Now in Houston, Brooks has continued to show why many see him as a villain. Unlike many of the others seen as villains, Brooks has embraced the villain role, saying he uses the hate from other players and fans to fuel his game.
Since 2010, LeBron James has been one of the biggest superstars and villains in the league. “The Decision” made him a villain not only in his hometown of Cleveland but across the league as well. During his time with the Miami Heat, LeBron’s status as a villain would only grow along with his list of accomplishments. Even after leaving Miami, LeBron has been seen as a villain for numerous reasons. The recruitment of other superstars by LeBron has heavily been criticized for years, as well as being known as one of the biggest floppers in the league. While he’s become less of a league-wide villain in recent years, his interactions with referees have made him more controversial in recent years. Criticizing referees to the point the official NBA Refs X (formerly known as Twitter) account apologized and said they would have sleepless nights, LeBron remains a controversial figure, even in year 21.
In the early 2010s, Kevin Durant was one of the most beloved stars in the league. Then he made a move that not only flipped the league upside down but made him the biggest villain for the rest of the decade. Joining the 73-9 Warriors after losing to them in the Western Conference Finals immediately made KD the biggest villain in the league at the time. Many were quick to criticize Durant for joining one of the most dominant teams in hopes of winning a championship, something he was able to do two out of his three seasons with the team. After leaving Golden State, Durant formed another superteam in Brooklyn and requested a trade to Phoenix to form another superteam. While the majority of NBA fans still love Durant, some see him as a villain and accuse him of being a ring chaser.
Going back to his time at Duke, Grayson Allen has been one of the most controversial basketball players, no matter the league. In college, he was known for dirty plays, tripping, and knocking players down. Upon coming to the league, not much has changed. Allen has continued to be one of the most villainous players in the NBA. Allen has been ejected from games and suspended for his actions on the court. In his most infamous dirty play, Allen pulled Alex Caruso down hard as he attempted a layup in a game between the Bucks and Bulls in early 2022. Caruso would fracture his wrist and be out more than six weeks while Allen could be seen smiling as he was ejected. He would be suspended a game, but is public enemy #1, especially when he plays in Chicago.