Basketball has turned many players into legends and with their on-court skills and athletic prowess seeing them inducted into the Hall of Fame and lauded for their titles, career points, rebounds, assists, blocks, turnovers and more. But one stat that is often overlooked is fouls.
While it’s easy to categorise the players who top this list as dirty players, it would be a mistake. Fouls can be a mixture of technical, strategical, hot-headed and downright idiotic, but ‘dirty’ players tend to be among the best defensive players you’ll ever see. Here’s our list of the top ten most prolific players for fouling who’ve ever played the game.
This season, the Milwaukee Bucks are tipped as favourites to come out on top in the NBA betting odds. They will certainly want to keep the fouling to a minimum if that is to come true.
The Most Personal Fouls in NBA History
Personal Fouls: 4,267
Playing Career: 1981-1999
Buck Williams made 4 All-Defensive Teams and recorded 16,000 points and over 13,000 rebounds during his 17-year career. The 6'8" Forward was a fierce competitor and regarded by many as the best NBA player the New York Nets have ever had. When Williams retired in 1999, the Nets retired his number 52 jersey. That’s how good he was.
Personal Fouls: 4,383
Playing Career: 1984-2002
Hakeem Olajuwon is regarded one of the greatest defensive players of all time, winning 2 NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards and making 9 All-Defensive Teams. On top of that he won Olympic Gold, is a two-time NBA champion and was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Standing at 7’0” and 255 lbs, “Hakeem The Dream” was hugely popular with fans, with his impressive skills, great footwork and aggressive defense a characteristic of his play. He holds the NBA record for blocked shots (3,830) and is the only player to record more than 3,000 blocked shots and 2,000 steals in their career.
Personal Fouls: 4,421
Playing Career: 1984-2000
1 Hall of Fame Inductee
1 NBA Most Valuable Player
2 Olympic Gold Medals
Barkley is an 11-time NBA All-Star, Hall of Fame inductee and double Olympic Gold medallist. He’s also one of only four players to record more than 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 4,000 assists in a career. Only measuring 6’6”, although rumour has it that 6’4” may have been nearer the truth, the Forward would often have to fight against opponents who were half a foot taller than him. This made him an uncompromising, physical player, which combined with his lack of height, made fouls an unavoidable part of his game.
Personal Fouls: 4,443
Playing Career: 1976-1997
Parish is a Hall of Fame inductee, has 4 NBA titles, 9 All-Star Team appearances and 2 All-NBA appearances. At 7’1” Parish was a huge figure on the court and his aggressive defending saw him rack up a lot of fouls during his 21-year career.
Personal Fouls: 4,578
Playing Career: 1985-2004
The Mailman is a two-time Olympic Gold Medallist, Hall of Fame Inductee, 4 All-Defensive Team and 14 x NBA All-Star. He was also named the NBA's Most Valuable Player twice in his career and also earned All-NBA First Team honours for an incredible eleven consecutive seasons.
An aggressive, tall and physically strong player, Malone’s presence often caught opposing players off guard resulting in a foul being called against him. His long career saw him play 1,476 NBA games (sixth on the all-time list), and 1,471 starts (most all-time) and inevitably saw him amass a huge number of personal fouls to earn him a place on this list.
Personal Fouls: 4,657
Playing career: 1969–1989
The Hall of Fame inductee is one of the greatest players of all time with 6 titles and 6 NBA Most Valuable Player awards during his long career with the Milwaukee Bucks and the LA Lakers. He also boasts an incredible 19 x NBA All-Star and 2 x NBA Finals MVP awards.
While his list of achievements is hugely impressive, the center also tops the list of the most personal fouls committed, taking the top spot in a game against the Denver Nuggets in March 1987.
With a career spanning 20 years, personal fouls will inevitably add up, but if anything it proves Kareem was a true competitor who fought for every second he was on the court. That desire saw him make 11 All-Defensive Teams and a true NBA great.