10 Most Controversial NBA Players 

Meet the ten most controversial NBA players in the history of the league and the events that spurred wide controversy during their careers.

10 Most Controversial NBA Players 

Most Controversial NBA Players

The NBA is where the most brilliant of basketball talents come together to compete for the ultimate crown of supremacy. We see promising youngsters evolve into legends of the sport, leading their franchises to titles and glory. Yet, there were certain figures in the league who have been involved in various controversial issues and incidents over the years. Today we take a look at the 10 most controversial NBA players in history.

Also Read: 10 Worst NBA Players of All-Time


Most Controversial NBA Players in History

  • Gilbert Arenas
  • Ja Morant
  • Dennis Rodman
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Charles Barkley
  • Chris Washburn
  • Karl Malone
  • Rubben Patterson
  • Javaris Crittenton
  • Eddie Johnson

10. Gilbert Arenas

Gilbert Arenas is best remembered for his locker room gun showdown with then-teammate Javaris Crittenton. In what could be the coldest gun incident in NBA history, Arenas challenged Crittenton to draw a gun on him after a heated altercation. Unbeknownst to Javaris, the four guns Arenas picked for the duel were all unloaded. 

Gilbert arenas
Arenas (Getty)

But to everyone’s surprise, Crittenton pulled out his own gun instead, which was, well, loaded. Without further ado, Javaris drew the cold barrel of the loaded gun at Arenas, fingers on the trigger. The entire locker room went silent, awaiting the inevitable aftermath. Fortunately, there was no bloodshed that night, but both Arenas and Crittenton were suspended from the league. To date, it remains one of the most controversial gun incidents in the history of the NBA. 

9. Ja Morant

The Inclusion of Ja Morant on the list perhaps wouldn’t be if not for his second gun controversy in question. The Memphis Grizzlies star has been involved in a multitude of off-court incidents that has, time and again, pulled him into a swirl of controversy. 

Ja morant, one of the Most controversial nba players
Ja Morant (Getty)

After flashing a gun during his Instagram live in a nightclub, Morant had to face the consequences with an eight-game suspension from the league. But in hardly over two months, the point guard was seen flashing a gun again – this time on a friend’s Instagram Live. Morant has also been involved in a handful of other controversial incidents in the past, where he was accused of beating a teenager, attacking a security guard, and yet another alleged case of illegal arms possession. 

Also Read: Ja Morant’s EXTREMELY SERIOUS potential penalty revealed by NBA executive

8. Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman has had one stellar career in the NBA, but the player was shrouded in just as much controversy, if not more. From his eccentric persona to unorthodox fashion, Rodman was a different specimen entirely. His personal life had been a constant controversy, and all his three marriages were poorly short-lived. 

Dennis Rodman in a wedding dress
Yes, that is Dennis Rodman, in a wedding dress (Getty)

Rodman had been arrested a handful of times on drink-and-drive cases and had to settle multiple sexual harassment suits off-court. His bold travels to direct national rivals, including North Korea and Russia, during times of political tension are another narrative of the athlete’s eccentricity.

The player is said to even have married himself in 1996 when he appeared in a bridal dress to his book signing. Rodman had also had a history of kicking cameramen, headbutting referees, and being rather rude to fans.

7. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant might as well be one of the most beloved basketball players in history, but even the star had been involved in some controversy during his career. Alleged to be unable to coexist with other stars, Bryant was often accused of deterring big names in the sport away from the franchise. 

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant (AP)

But perhaps the sensational incident that took the basketball world by storm was in 2003 when the Lakers legend was accused of r*ping a hotel employee. Although the allegation was later dropped, it spurred a controversy that raged on for quite long.

6. Charles Barkley 

Despite Charles Barkley’s sensational career, he had been subject to various incidents that gave rise to wide controversy. Once approached on the subject, Barkley remarked, “I don’t create controversies. They’re there long before I open my mouth. I just bring them to your attention.”

Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley (AFP)

From spitting on an innocent fan in the stands to serving five days in jail for drink-and-drive, Barkley has had his fair share of controversy during his career. Not to mention the time he hurled a man out the bar window – and why would he do that? Well, he felt the guy was bothering him.


5. Chris Washburn 

Chris Washburn’s short NBA career threw the player into the heat of controversy for his notorious history of drugs. Washburn’s tendency to lose focus on-court hastened his demise after the multiple failed drug tests.

Most controversial nba players
Washburn (Getty)

His poor career averages did him no favor either at 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. After three consecutive failed drug tests, Washburn was suspended from the league in 1988. Regardless of his short career, the Center remains one of the most controversial NBA players of his time.

4. Karl Malone

Karl Malone might as well be a Utah Jazz legend, but the athlete’s life had been one full of controversy. From impregnating his 13-year-old girlfriend, Gloria Bell, to denying the paternity of his twins with Bonita Ford, Malone had to settle quite a few out-of-court lawsuits. 

Karl malone
Malone (Getty)

He had also allegedly harassed Lakers legend Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vannesa Bryant, on multiple occasions that made her uncomfortable. Truly a formidable character, Malone perhaps isn’t condemned for his actions as much as he deserves. 

3. Rubben Patterson 

Rubben Patterson was never really a fan favorite back in his days and was often considered a menace in the locker room. His off-court persona put him at clash with pretty much everyone and the small forward had been arrested over 12 times on a variety of charges.

Most controversial nba players
Patterson (NBA)

However, he was convicted of his more serious offenses when his child’s caretaker filed a charge against him for sexual abuse. Following that, Patterson had to register himself as a sexual offender in 2000 on multiple occasions. The heat of controversy around the player just wouldn’t die out, and Patterson was again charged with domestic violence in 2002. 


He was shortly arrested, but later his wife dropped the charges after the two were divorced. That, however, wasn’t his last time behind bars, and the small forward had gotten himself arrested on more occasions in his later years.

2. Javaris Crittenton 

People remember Javaris Crittenton more for the controversy that surrounded the player than his on-court game. During his short and nondescript NBA career, Crittenton was involved in one of the most shocking locker room gun incidents with fellow teammate Gilbert Arenas. 

Most controversial nba players
Javaris Crittenton (Getty)

In the NBA, where arms possession itself is a serious offense, the audacity that Crittenton displayed by literally pointing a loaded gun in a heated altercation with Arenas is all but appalling. If that controversy was not enough to stain his repertoire, he would then go on to run over a 23-year-old woman and be convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Now serving prison time until 2036, Javaris Crittenton is surely one of the most controversial players in the history of the NBA.


1. Eddie Johnson 

Among the most controversial figures in the history of the sport, Eddie Johnson will surely make the top 3. Despite his sensational on-court prowess, Johnson’s drug addiction did the shooting guard a great disservice during his time in the NBA. Fast Eddie, as he was widely known, had failed the drug test time and again during his career and was eventually suspended from the league in 1987.

Most controversial nba players
Eddie Johnson (NBA)

But the most serious of Johnson’s offenses came after the shooting guard ended his professional career. Arrested on multiple occasions, Eddie’s criminal activities only multiplied. It was in 2008 when Johnson was convicted of sexual abuse on an 8-year old and was sentenced to life in prison. He died on October 26, 2020, of an illness while serving jail time.

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